Right, so let’s not waste much time on Generation 4 now. We already covered the best it had to offer, but there is a slew of Pokemon that fall into the worst category easily here. Part of the problem is the overabundance of generic and gimmicky Pokemon. Monsters such as Burmy and Wormadon, Cherubi and Cherrim, Chatot and even Rotom fit into that category easily. Throw on top some mediocre design schemes and a lack of battle prowess, and you can sum up most of Gen 4 right there.
This article is one in a series we’re calling the Year of Pokemon, which celebrates the beloved pocket monsters and their many games.
As always, a few guidelines before we begin. First, no legendary Pokémon will be on this list. Second, only one Pokémon per evolutionary line will be showcased. Finally, the list will combine design aesthetics, competitive viability and overall impact as part of the criteria of their design.
So, without further ado, here are the six worst designed Pokémon of Generation 4.
Might as well start with the meme first.
It is probably a bit unfair to pick on Bibarel and its pre-evolution of Bidoof. It is designed, after all, to be a bit, well, doofy in its appearance. A beaver Pokemon is a good fit for the game, but Bibarel is just a fatter Bidoof.
Not much else to say honestly. It is generic as the “early game normal type” gets, compounded with oddly shaped eyes finishing off the goofy expression we knew it would get. Combine this with the buck teeth and chubby body, you have a Pokémon that is simple, yes, but also boring by any metric.
Bibarel is also boring as a battler, despite having some tools to help it in a fight. It’s Normal/Water typing is unique and actually pretty strong offensively and has access to three of the best abilities in the game: Simple, Unaware, and Moody. Moody can be extremely powerful; it randomly raises one of your stats by 2 while decreasing a stat by 1. Moody is a strong, if luck-based, ability that can lead to snowball effects easily for team—so much so it is banned in casual formats such as Smogon.
While it has the tools, Bibarel lacks the stats to abuse them, with its highest being an 85 attack. Even a strong movepool and access to support moves such as Curse, Amnesia, or Swords Dance, which Bibarel needs to rely on, give it little chance of surviving against powerful opponents.
I’m not going to lie, I find Vespiquen to be an underrated Pokémon. The queen bee is a fair tank, despite a crippling Bug/Flying weakness, and has a strong design to it with the honeycomb motif being a perfect aesthetic. Sadly, Vespiquen can’t save us from the horror that is Combee, perhaps the worst “gimmick” Pokémon in the entire game.
Generation 4 is chalk full of gimmicks, but what really sets it apart is Combee’s gender-only evolution. The rare female Combee is distinguished with an orange stripe across its third face. With a very rare 12.5% chance of finding a female, very few players, unless they are actively looking for it, would likely see Vespiquen for themselves as male Combee do not evolve whatsoever.
In one sense, this is good design. It does make sense for female Combee, being the queen Bees, of course, being the only ones able to evolve. This leaves the male Combee as the worker honeybees for it. So good on Gamefreak for going on a theme there.
That said, the final design is both weird and useless. We return to the Gen 1 motif of trios, this time three faces on a flying piece of honeycomb. What’s worse, Combee's terrible stats, offset by terrible typing and being able to lean only eight moves in-game (four of which are tutor moves) pretty much renders it useless. You can try to be clever and get a win or two with it, but when your best bet is trying a broken F.E.A.R strategy in Little Cup formats, you know you have problems.
The recent leak of the Pokémon Gold Spaceworld Demo was major news for fans of the franchise. For the first time ever, we were able to see behind the scenes of a game in progress, and with it, a slew of designs and concepts that Game Freak was tinkering on over twenty years ago. Many of the Pokémon from the Spaceworld demo have become major fan favorites thanks to their pretty solid designs, such as the shark known as Ikari or the beta design for Leafeon.
One of the gems revealed, however, was a Pokémon that made its debut as one of the many evolutions in Diamond and Pearl. The evolved form of Likitung we missed out on in Generation 2 was a scholarly-looking monster with a Fu Manchu mustache and its tongue as a scroll. While not the strongest design, it was clever looking.
What we got in the end was Lickilicky, which is a step down from the beta design.
Lickilicky was already coming from a strangely designed Pokémon in the form of Lickitung, but Game Freak pushed it further into the realm of being the poor man’s Snorlax in terms of theme and design. Lickilicky is fat, has a “bib” pattern across its neck, and eats a lot. That pretty much says it all for you, a pink Pokemon whose design reminds me of Quina Quen from Final Fantasy IX.
Battlewise, Lickilicky continues to be a poor man’s defensive tank. While it does sport excellent 110/95/95 defenses and a very wide movepool, Lickyilicky is often pigeon-holed into a defensive support Pokémon due to its low speed and mediocre attack stats. That said, it can perform well as a wallbreaker with boosted attack or a staller and cleric for a team in doubles. Its biggest weakness ultimately is being a jack-of-all-trades kind of Pokémon that can do any role you require it for but is ultimately going to be outclassed by a Pokémon specifically for that role.
While Lickilicky has a boring design, it at least has battle viability. The same cannot be said for Probopass, which lacks both a good design and viability thanks to several crucial weaknesses.
Probopass is another new evolution, this time for the pure Rock-type Nosepass. Based on the Easter Island Moai statues combined with a magnetic compass, the motif is actually pretty good on paper for a Pokémon design. What kills it is a problem of being over-designed than anything else.
To emphasize the magnetic, compass-like nature, a lot of the features of Probopass have been exaggerated to play off their motif. The magnetic “moustache” under its giant, north-pointing nose, the floating “mini-noses” around its body, the giant compass top across its head. Perhaps designed a bit differently, Probopass would have been better received, as it stands, it’s a good idea mired by too many aesthetics at once.
Where it hurts the most is in battle. Probopass is made to be a massive tank thanks to its gained Steel-typing and 145/150 Defense and Special Defense. What lets it down is its dual typing being Rock/Steel, one of the few types in the game that is stuck with 2 4x weaknesses, in this case Fighting and Ground, both common attacking types. Its 60 base HP also means it loses a ton of bulk, so Probopass struggles to stay on the field as a single STAB Earthquake often brings it close to death despite its massive defenses.
There are some tricks to mitigate this, namely Probopass having a unique movepool filled with psychic support moves and electric-type attacking moves. While this can cause damage to some of its threats, its low attacking stats again work against it. Probopass can make good use of its support movepool, but it is a Pokémon that struggles in the role it is given simply due to poor typing.
Pokémon is no stranger to having cats in its repertoire. Meowth and Persian are of course iconic, but cat-like Pokémon in each subsequent generation have generally weak designs. The biggest culprit is perhaps Purugly, a “pure ugly” design for a fat tabby cat.
In this case, it is by design, so I guess credit to Game Freak for that one. Purugly is supposed to look like the way it does for the sake of their own pun name. The overlarge ears, the bent whiskers, even the sour-looking scowl across its face pretty much says all you need to know about it. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s only a generic tabby cat is the problem. Like most of Generation 4, sort of just existing and being forgettable after you come across it.
Forgettable is also its battle abilities. Despite looking like a tank, Purugly is quite fast, sporting a strong 112 base Speed. The rest of its stats are mediocre at best, and what’s worse, it doesn’t have the best movepool to abuse its speed advantage well. Purugly's moveset is designed to lower player stats and stall by playing with its predominantly female gender. Moves such as Attract, Captivate, Charm, and Swagger are designed to annoy opponents, and while it has bad attacking stats, it does get access to both Foul Play and Super Fang, which ignore its attack stats when doing damage.
Purugly does have a niche this way as being a very off-putting, annoying Pokémon, but it relies heavily on annoying players. Other tools include priority moves such as Sucker Punch and Fake Out, plus the Defiant ability which boosts its attack by two stages for any status drop it receives. Even then, it is, at best, a longshot Pokémon in official and casual formats.
A skunk Pokémon is a perfect fit and was long overdue by Generation 4, but it was also a Pokémon that was underwhelming in the end. Much like Vespiquen, Stunky’s evolution, Skuntank, is decently designed. Invoking the pompadour hairstyle naturally with its tail is a clever way to showcase the more “punkish delinquent” vibe of the Pokémon, and it works as a simple but effective design scheme. Stunky however is not so lucky.
The reason being its face mostly. I can’t be the only one who sees a butt right?
Seriously, it’s just staring at you, plain as day. Maybe this was intentional? Maybe its not supposed to look like a butt? I really don’t know, but it kind of takes over every time I look at Stunky, as it stares back with its expressionless eyes.
I don’t want to turn Stunky into the butt of too many jokes, but its face aside, it is generic like most on this list. Stunky falls into the trap of a lot of the bad designs of Generation 4: they are simply boring Pokémon overshadowed by the better designed monsters ten-fold.
Battle-wise it is not much to write home about. Stunky has good speed and attack and works best at trapping Pokémon in Little Cup formats. Moves designed to trap include its STAB pursuit and sucker punch. It also is good at hazing, removing status and hazard removing thanks to Defog, It sadly has no recovery options and lacks a strong movepool outside of its standard STAB attacks. So, it can be useful, but it often is left behind due to the lack of good versatility.
And there you have it, another list done, and another Generation finished. As I said, Generation 4 has always been my least favorite in the franchise, but things are picking up next time as I cover what is, to me, the best Generation of Pokémon with Generation V. How will we navigate the good and bad with a massive 150+ Pokedex to sift through? Be sure to check it out next time when we cover the best designs of Generation 5 together.
Until then, see you around, and be sure to check out that article, and future articles in our Year of Pokémon here.