The Pokémon franchise has been enjoyed by millions of fans around the world, for over two decades.
If you grew up in the heights of late-nineties Pokémania, you probably didn’t just play the game. You collected the cards, used the lunch box with Pikachu’s grinning face on it, watched the show, slept beneath the bedsheets emblazoned with spooky-looking Drowzees and Hypnos (wait, that’s scary, forget we said that)… Pokémon wasn’t just a fandom. It was a way of life, and it still is for many of us.
Looking back at the early days of the franchise is a bittersweet experience, however. Yes, Pokémon Red and Blue blessed us with the original 151 Pokémon, a group that so-called ‘genwunners’ still insist are the only ones worth bothering with. With the benefit of hindsight, though, it’s clear that the early installments were in desperate need of all kinds of quality of life improvements (as we reported over on The Gamer).
It was generation IV that really kicked things into high gear. Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum brought us the (almost) unlimited bag system, which finally saved us from endless Resident Evil-style inventory-wrangling just to grab that Potion. The physical/special split was a real godsend too.
Most importantly, generation IV added a total of 107 new Pokémon to the mix. As always, they proved to be a mixed bag. From Wormadam to Staraptor, from Chatot to Froslass, let’s take a look at the Diamond, Pearl and Platinum Pokémon that are just irredeemable, along with the ones that are surprisingly good if given a chance.
You’d be forgiven for dismissing Burmy at first glance. Encountering it very early in the game, you’ll see it pop up on your screen for the first time and you’ll probably think, what the heck is this tiny little leafy hunk of uselessness? Excuse me while I don’t nab it for my team right away.
Now, we’re not saying that you should ever judge anything by appearances. All we’re saying is that you’re absolutely darn right on this one. While it’s quite neat that Burmy can adopt different forms depending on where it last battled (and evolve into one of three different forms of Wormadam as a result), it has a rough movepool and stats that are just as bad.
No, seriously. Stop that snarky sniggering. You won’t be laughing when a +6 Attack Bibarel with +6 Defense is rampaging through your team, like Godzilla through a delicate china replica of Tokyo.
Yes, Bidoof and Bibarel are notorious as one of the worst things that generation IV brought to the table, but there’s some incredible potential here. Thanks to the Simple ability (which doubles all stat boosts and drops), it just needs a couple of turns of Curse to become more powerful and tanky than something that looks this ridiculous ever has any right to be.
Of course, it isn’t easy to set that up, but in the right situation, Bibarel can be a powerhouse.
We know what you’re thinking, friends. Technically speaking, it isn’t really possible to ‘catch’ Phione. The polite thing would’ve been not to point that out and embarrass us in front of everybody.
What we’re getting at here is that there’s really no need for Phione to exist. It’s super confusing that it does, in fact. You see, Phione is the result of Manaphy breeding with a Ditto, and nobody knows why this legendary Pokémon can breed in the first place (it’s the only one that can).
If Phione a baby form of Manaphy or something? It doesn’t evolve into one, just keeps those sub-par stats forever.
They don’t call this beast the Big Boss Pokémon for nothing, friends.
Murkrow doesn’t look like much, does it? Its witch-like design is cool, if a little cliché, and it can do some fiendish things with its Prankster ability, but a powerhouse? Absolutely not.
Somewhere around the time, it used that Dusk Stone to evolve, however, it must’ve been binge-watching the Rocky movies or something. A good few training montages later, and Honchkrow was born.
At base 125 Attack, this thing is deceptively strong, and it learns a good mix of high-powered moves to get the job done. Throw in the Moxie ability (which gives it an Attack boost whenever it knocks out a Pokémon), and you’ve got a force of nature that can snowball quickly.
Its Speed is only base 70 and its Sucker Punch can be predictable, but if you can work around this, you’ll see what Honchkrow can really do.
Chatot’s a bit of a tough one to place. To be completely fair to the little guy, it’s surprisingly fast and has a reasonably potent Special Attack (base 91 and base 92 respectively). It can knock some heads when it really needs to, particularly when you consider that it has access to powerful moves like Hyper Voice right from the off.
That’s the full extent of its usefulness, though, unless you want to throw in its signature move Chatter (which involved an odd mechanic that gave it a higher chance to Confuse the louder a recording through the microphone was). Outside of that, you’re better off waiting, because a far better music-note-based Pokémon was on the way next generation (Meloetta).
Water-types are the most numerous of all, so it’s no surprise that generation IV added a huge crop of new ones. We’ve already looked at Bibarel and Phione, but there were a lot more besides.
One of which was just about the most average and vanilla Water ‘mon you could possibly imagine: Finneon. Its design isn’t particularly bad (when it evolves into Lumineon, it’s quite graceful-looking), but it’s just… it’s a fish. A fish with middle-of-the-road stats right across the board.
Whichever role you choose from it, there’ll be another Pokémon that can probably do that job better. It’s not easy being a jack-of-all-trades in this franchise, friends.
Fundamentally, Luxray is very similar to Honchkrow. It boasts around the same level of Attack (base 120 in this case) and is pretty darn useful if you can work around its lackluster Speed (which is base 70, exactly the same as Honchkrow’s).
The trouble is, this Electric-type has no access to STAB priority. Or any priority at all, in fact, unless you want to breed Quick Attack onto it. Which you don’t. That definitely hurts its viability.
Nevertheless, it’s arguably one of the best Pokémon designs of generation IV, and it gets a surprising variety of moves to keep opponents off guard.
As was the case with Burmy, Bidoof and the like, alarm bells should be ringing in your head as soon as you catch sight of this thing. Granted, evolution does wonders for Pokémon, and the most pathetic-looking can become imposing (Magikarp into Gyarados, for instance), but some designs are just irredeemable.
Cherubi looks like the kind of Pokémon that will have to evolve six times just to become as threatening as a napping Weedle. Sadly, it evolves just once, and Cherrim really isn’t up to much either.
It has a totally adorable Sunshine form, which it adopts in the sun, but that’s as far as it goes.
If Nintendo has taught us anything, it’s that putting super-cute smiley faces on inanimate objects is the way forward. In the Mushroom Kingdom, clouds, hills and just about everything else sport a gleeful grin. It’s adorable and welcoming, and about the most Nintendo thing you’ll ever see.
Game Freak seems to have caught on to that whole concept too. The odd little honeycomb-bee-thing that is Combee has not one, but three happy little faces. Funnily enough, this does not translate to battling prowess.
Vespiquen has reasonably good defensive stats and some interesting moves, but it’s let down by its typing. Only female Combee can evolve, though, leaving the male ones without any of these redeeming qualities.
Gastrodon is a curious case. It’s one of those Pokémon that may not sound like very much on paper, but can perform amazingly well in the right circumstances.
Water/Ground is one of the best typings in the game, being weak only to Grass. It’s a 4x weakness, so it’ll faint if it so much as sees a blade of grass out of a car window (not that it can drive, being a slug, so we shouldn’t really have bothered bringing that up), but with careful use, this thing can be incredibly effective.
With access to Recover, too, it makes a great tank and is especially effective against rain teams (absorbing Water moves with Storm Drain). If they don’t have Ludicolo, they have a problem.
As we know, a lot of Pokémon designs take their inspiration from real-world animals. As such, fans of said animals are going to appreciate them. Was there a cat person in the world who didn’t pick Litten as their Pokémon Sun and Moon starter? No, no there wasn’t.
Some would probably draw the line at Purugly, though. While Glameow isn’t too bad a design (albeit, again, a little generic), it had clearly let itself go around the time it evolved. Purugly is a big, imposing Pokémon (“It is a brazen brute that barges its way into another Pokémon's nest and claims it as its own,” reports Pokémon Diamond’s Pokédex), and it’s really lackluster.
It’s faster than its chunky thighs would suggest, though, so it’s got that going for it.
Do you remember the early days of Pokémon X and Y, when we all caught Fletchling and immediately dismissed it? It sure got the last laugh when it gained access to its hidden ability. Talonflame was a monster in the early competitive scene, and Gale Wings had to be nerfed for Sun and Moon (it now only activates when Talonflame has full HP).
Staraptor is another exception to the old 'Route One Flying-Types are crapola' rule. Starly doesn’t look like much, but this thing’s high Attack, great Speed, and very heavy-hitting moves make it a force to be reckoned with. Give it a Choice Scarf or Choice Band, and you’ve got a very strong offensive force on your hands.
Brave Bird and Double-Edge, with a Reckless boost on top? That’s going to launch foes into the year 3000 (where, we hear, not much has changed, but they live underwater).
Now, this is nothing new. Poor old Bug-types have gotten an unfortunate rap since the days of Pokémon Red and Blue, when they had very little worthwhile representation. When Twin Needle is about the best move you can muster, you know you’ve got one heck of a problem on your hands.
Over time, great Bug-types like Volcarona and Scizor have been added, as well as monstrous moves like Megahorn. There are still hilariously bad Bug-types being thrown in there too, though (it’s tradition, after all), and Kricketot is definitely one of them.
The best thing this evolution line has to offer is Kricketune’s cry, which is like having your ears caressed by a traveling troupe of angels.
Pokémon with unique type combinations will always be appreciated by fans. We’re looking at a roster of around a thousand Pokémon now, which makes a ‘mon that is still completely different something special.
Ice and Ghost is a combination only Froslass has, and it’s an interesting Pokémon all around. Its inspiration seems to be the Yuki-onna (an ice spirit from Japanese folklore), a being that is also exclusively female. There’s a real mystical quality to Froslass as a result.
It cannot take a hit, and it’s lacking offensively too, but it has a lot of tricks up the sleeves of its kimono. It’s very fast, has equal Attack and Special Attack, and has access to tricky moves like Spikes and Destiny Bond. Historically, it’s been an excellent offensive lead.
What did we say about Game Freak and happy little faces? Once again, you’ve got to give cute points where they’re due, and Mantyke deserves a whole truckload of them.
Nevertheless, we can’t get caught up in these things. Mantyke and Mantine are rare Water/Flying Pokémon, so that’s neat, but how much do they have to offer?
Mantine does have very high Special Defense and recently-buffed HP, so you could go the specially tanky route. It learns Roost, which is a huge boon there, and can support the team quite well with Tailwind and Wide Guard. It’s become quite popular in competitive play more recently, but the years of obscurity beforehand definitely count against it here.
Hippowdon’s another interesting case. We don’t just mean that its female form’s coloration is dramatically different from the male, tricking our younger selves into thinking we had a shiny Pokémon on our hands when we totally didn’t. That is true though, and lots of us still haven’t forgiven Game Freak for it.
What we’re getting at here is the fact that has been a big deal in the meta. It’s an excellent physical tank and has much more utility than simply being a Sand Stream machine. However, Tyranitar’s very existence really hurts Hippowdon, being the premier sandstorm-bringer around these parts.
As we’ve said, Pokémon Red and Blue can be quite rough to replay these days. Iconic as it is, it really hasn’t aged all that brilliantly, lacking crucial series mechanics that we take for granted today. Breeding, for instance.
Baby Pokémon were first introduced in Generation II, and Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum would later swell their ranks a little more. One that you really don’t need to bother with is Mime Jr, the baby form of the similarly-irrelevant Mr. Mime. This bizarre Pokémon has a nice selection of utility moves, but it’s not fast or offensive enough to really get the job done.
When you do see it in battle (which you won’t), it’ll probably be doing something niche like Baton Pass chains. Even being retconned to Psychic/Fairy didn’t seem to help it much.
That’s right, friends. The starter Pokémon of Diamond and Pearl are here, they’re now, and they’re actually pretty darn good.
You can never quite tell with starter Pokémon, can you? As soon as the new trio for Pokémon Sword and Shield were revealed, the debate over their final evolutions, their typing, and their viability began in earnest. It’s fruitless until we actually get to see them in action, though. Everybody doubted Froakie at first, and what a monster Greninja turned out to be!
Turtwig, Piplup, and Chimchar don’t tend to be players’ favorite starter trio, but they’re all good Pokémon (Torterra being debatable). While Fire/Fighting is totally tedious by now, Infernape has proven to be an excellent and versatile Pokémon, and the Grass/Ground Torterra and Water/Steel Empoleon are different enough to each bring something unusual to the table.
As long-time Pokémon players will know, Sudowoodo has been lurking around and pretending to be a tree for some time now. It was introduced in Pokémon Gold and Silver but wouldn’t get a baby form of its own until Generation IV.
That baby form is Bonsly, a Pokémon that the world never knew it needed (wait, scratch that knew). Similarly to its evolved form, it has high Attack and Defense but is sorely lacking in everything else. These are traits that plague Rock-types generally, and it’s the same old story: abysmal Speed, coupled with the fact that Rock is weak to absolutely everything ever, means that it’s going to struggle to achieve much.
Now, fair’s fair, we can’t get too snarky-happy here. Lickylicky isn’t an especially bad Pokémon. Not by the standards of some we’ve seen over the course of this rundown, for sure. It’s got decent all-around stats and can take hits and dish them right back with interest in the lower tiers.
That’s the issue here, though. Of all the Pokémon that were in need of an evolved form this generation, how was it that Lickitung got the nod? Lickilicky is a peculiar-looking beast by anyone’s standards, and it’s another unfortunate jack of all trades type, often outclassed.
That’s right, friends. Like Froslass, Rotom is another highly unorthodox Ghost-type (Ghost/Electric), but it has even more tricks up its sleeve than she does.
In its standard form, Rotom is another reasonably fast, reasonably strong special attacker, with a nice sideline in spreading status around. The trouble is, you very rarely see vanilla Rotom, because it has one of the handiest Pokémon party tricks in franchise history: it can ‘possess’ various household appliances (in a specific area in each game), changing its appearance and typing as a result.
The ever-popular Wash Rotom is one high-profile example, but you also have unconventional choices like Frost Rotom (the Electric/Ice refrigerator) and Mow Rotom (the Electric/Grass lawnmower).
Depending on which form you pick, Rotom can be incredibly underrated.
If you’ve even dabbled in competitive Pokémon in recent years, you’ll surely be familiar with the menace that is Chansey/Blissey. Whoever it was that created the Eviolite (an item that boosts Defense and Special Defense when given to a Pokémon that isn’t fully evolved) had no idea of the evil they had just unleashed on the world.
None of this is Happiny’s fault, granted. It’s just a feeble little baby Pokémon which is, again, too darn cute to handle. Still, so many of us have memories of Softboiled, Minimize, and other shenanigans, and would be content never to see this whole evolution line ever again.
So, yes. Generation IV threw several new baby Pokémon into the mix, as well as a healthy dose of newly evolved forms. Rhyperior was one of these evolutions, and it’s proven quite a controversial one.
Rhyperior takes everything it means to be a Rock-type and dials it up to eleven. Its Attack and Defense is sky high, and it’s got some considerable HP too.
It’s never really been rated very highly, though, for reasons that we’ve also already been through: it’s super slow, and it’s also Rock- and Ground-type. This compounds some of those weaknesses, resulting in key vulnerabilities to Water and Grass.
To get anything much out of Rhyperior, you’re going to need to support it with Trick Room or the like.
Like its fellow Steel and Psychic types, Bronzong definitely took a hit with the recent nerf. It’s now weak to Dark and Ghost moves rather than neutral, and probably feeling a little resentful about the whole situation.
Nevertheless, it continues to be a very solid pick in the lower tiers, sporting an excellent combination of raw stats, handy support movepool, and useful abilities. It’s most often seen firing off a surprisingly powerful Gyro Ball with its hilariously low Speed, or otherwise benefitting from its super-slow nature as a Trick Room setter.
It’s one of those Pokémon that doesn’t exactly set the competitive world alight but continues to humbly plod on and perform well.
Speaking of Steel-types, if any Pokémon has ever successfully masqueraded as one, it’s probably Chingling and Chimecho. Just look at them. They’re totally Psychic/Steel like Bronzong, except they aren’t. They’re pure Psychic.
Regardless, both members of this line are just utterly sub-par. Chimecho’s stats are rather solid all around (a base Special Attack and Special Defense of 95 and 90 respectively aren’t too bad), but it’s just not suited to using them. The best it can really do is run an awkward sort of supportive set, and there are a lot of Pokémon better suited to that role. Sorry, Chimecho.