Thursday, 18 August 2011

Gothita, Gothorita and Gothitelle

I’ve just realised something: I’ve hit the halfway point!  I’ve done entries on seventy-seven Pokémon from the Black and White Pokédex now, and that leaves seventy-eight to go, and by the end of this entry it’ll be eighty down and seventy-five to go!  And you know what else?  I did Trubbish and Garbodor last week, so the worst is over already, because there’s no way anything Game Freak could possibly throw at me now could be as bad as that!  It’s all uphill from here, baby!

So, let’s see what today has in store for- oh Christ, it’s Gothitelle.
...now, don’t get me wrong.  These three don’t even hold a candle to Trubbish and Garbodor, who are my new empirical standard for awfulness; I now measure everything bad in my life in terms of how much less appalling it is than Trubbish and Garbodor, and the effect on my morale has been nothing short of miraculous.  However, the fact that Gothita, Gothorita and Gothitelle even exist tells me something very disturbing about Game Freak’s creature design department.  It tells me that one day, during the development of Black and White, one of the creature design guys stood up and said to his friends, in all seriousness,
“Hey guys, you know what this game really needs?  A creepy Goth chick Pokémon.”

I will readily admit that I have only the very vaguest understanding of the meaning of the term “GothLoli” and its place in Japanese pop culture.  I have come to learn in the course of my research that the word “Lolita” does not carry the same disturbing connotations in Japan as it does in the English-speaking countries upon which the novel of the same name has been inflicted; in fact it references a fashion characterised by demure, modest, almost Victorian clothing in the style mimicked by Gothitelle’s petticoats.  “GothLoli” is, apparently, a variant of this fashion that shares colours and motifs with Goth fashion: so lots of black and dull red, liberally sprinkled with crucifixes and bats.  Maybe if I were better-acquainted with modern Japanese culture I would “get” the influences at work in this design, but I think a lot is lost in translation, as it were.  This is what bothers me about a lot of my entries; many Pokémon designs include references to Japanese or wider Asian culture that go right over my head and, well, let’s be fair here, Pokémon is a Japanese game and I can hardly expect it to pander to my cultural sensibilities.  Nonetheless, I’m going to go out on a limb with this one and declare that Game Freak really should avoid pop culture references in Pokémon designs (I don’t mind references to traditional culture or mythology, but this stuff has to go).  They’ve gotten on perfectly well without them in the past and references to modern human subcultures are just jarring.  I’ve had a cursory look through the Pokédex for similar such references and I think the record demonstrates that this hasn’t ended well for them in the past; the most notable instance, of course, is Jynx, whom Game Freak has been not-so-subtly trying to disown ever since someone pointed out how much she looks like an actor in blackface.  Moreover, I suspect my own distaste for Gothitelle is a result of what’s known as the “uncanny valley” effect – the principle is that, the more human-like something appears, the more our attention is drawn to the fact that it’s not human.  At some point, the brain stops viewing a human-like image or construct as a nonhuman thing that has human traits and starts viewing it as a human that has gone horribly wrong.  After, again, a cursory look through the Pokédex, I think Gothitelle is more humanlike than any other Pokémon (with the possible exception of, again, Jynx) – and I suspect that’s not a good thing.

Aside from the weird Goth theme, these Psychic-types have a number of the usual traits one would expect from a Psychic Pokémon.  Gothita stare constantly at things no-one else can see, which... well, that could be because they can actually see what’s on your left shoulder just there, or it could be because they’re just really weird; I’m not sure.  Gothorita really takes a turn for the sinister, though; not unlike Hypno, they have powers of telepathic manipulation and have been known to control people to achieve their own enigmatic purposes.  Finally, Gothitelle possess advanced precognitive abilities; they can predict future events and human lifespans.  None of this is new for a Psychic-type; in and of themselves, they’re perfectly fun and interesting powers for a Pokémon to have, it’s just that they don’t particularly make Gothita, Gothorita and Gothitelle unique.  I must grudgingly concede that their preoccupation with astronomy is a bit more distinctive; they use the positions of the stars and planets to foretell the future and draw their powers from starlight, and distant stars are visible in the space around their bodies warped by their phenomenal psychic power.  It is, I must again grudgingly concede, pretty cool, but I wish it had been the focus of the design.

Just as they have much of the flavour of a typical Psychic-type, Gothita, Gothorita and Gothitelle don’t have a whole lot to offer in the way of unique powers either.  Gothitelle is remarkably similar to Gardevoir from Ruby and Sapphire, another three-stage Psychic Pokémon.  Both are put together as mainly support-oriented Pokémon with good defences against special attacks; the major points of difference in their stat lines are that Gothitelle sacrifices much of Gardevoir’s offensive power for stronger defence against physical attacks and that Gardevoir is significantly faster.  Their movepools are similar too; they both have the slate of support moves we’ve come to expect from Psychic-types like Reflect, Light Screen, Thunder Wave and Trick Room.  In this respect they’re not identical either but I feel Gardevoir comes off better – Gothitelle’s Mirror Coat can reflect back an energy attack at double strength if she survives being hit in the first place, which is a pretty cool trick, but the stuff Gardevoir can do that Gothitelle can’t is very cool too; notably she can inflict burns with Will’o’Wisp and heal herself (or allies) with Wish, which Gothitelle can only dream of doing (say, how come Gothitelle doesn’t get Moonlight for healing?).  Their offensive movepools are of lesser relevance anyway because they’re basically support Pokémon but again, Gardevoir is slightly better-off.  Gothitelle only wins out because of her Dream World ability (which, as so often with these things, isn’t actually available yet): Shadow Tag.  I talked about Shadow Tag when I did Chandelure’s entry and I don’t particularly want to rehash it, but all my concerns about the sheer power of being able to forbid opponents from switching are still lingering, just a bit less so because Gothitelle, unlike Chandelure, is really nothing special without Shadow Tag.  I suppose it’s nice that she has a niche but I really don’t know what Gothitelle is supposed to do with Pokémon she’s trapped, since she won’t generally have the power to simply destroy them outright and she isn’t fast enough to make setting up to sweep a reasonable option.

Everything about Gothitelle makes me want to ask one question: why the hell isn’t she a Dark-type?  It fits her flavour really well, which the designers clearly realised because she learns several Dark-type attacks, it would be a unique type combination – and quite a strong one, at that – and it would be a clear, no-nonsense point of distinction from Gardevoir.  Occasionally I see these incredibly obvious moves with no readily apparent downside that Game Freak have failed to take, and I shake my head in despair.  I don’t know that I’d be completely happy condemning the Goth chicks solely on aesthetic grounds, because of the cross-culture issue I talked about earlier, but luckily for me I see plenty of reason to condemn them on mechanical grounds, so this is precisely what I am going to do.

I hereby deny this Pokémon's right to exist!  Let it join Jynx in the pit with the other Pokémon We Don't Talk About!

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