On the eve of Scarlet & Violet's launch, I wrote about the challenge I had set myself for the game. Usually my first time in any mainline Pokemon game is a native run, meaning I only use Pokemon who are native to the region, and therefore new to Pokemon overall. This time around though, I was left with a problem. Having missed both New Pokemon Snap and Legends Arceus, my beloved Tsareena is back in Pokemon, so I need her – that means native run is kaput. Given that I chose Sprigatito as my starter, that was two Grass Pokemon. Easy peasy, I'll play as a gym leader, running Grass-types only. Unfortunately, one Pokemon has already disrupted my plans.
As you can explore a little more in Scarlet & Violet, it's easier to build a varied team early. Still, I had to catch some fodder in the first hour or so to bulk out the team until I could replace them with Grass-types, and that meant a lot of typical Route 1 Pokemon. Some Bug-types I was never going to keep, the usual cute-but-weak pushovers, you know the deal. One of these Pokemon was Lechonk, and that turned my world upside down.
Of course, I already knew Lechonk was in the game. Pokemon played its new 'mons close to its chest in the run-up to Scarlet & Violet, but Lechonk was still front and centre of the marketing. However, its evolution was not, and thus I had dismissed it. We have seen plenty of adorable Pokemon go through a process of uglification when they evolve, and it was natural to assume Lechonk would suffer the same fate. The little dabs of yellow around its eyes seemed to be harbingers of doom – the next in the Lechonk line, I assumed, would be a horrific grunting monster, with snot and drool dripping from its orifices, its face hidden by a swelling of its own fat. It was not a Pokemon I was thinking of paying even a moment’s notice to.
Enter Oinkologne. Lechonk's evolution is not a disgusting caricature of a pig, but instead a gorgeous cartoon interpretation of our farmyard friends. There's nothing all that special about it design wise – it's just a pig – but then Wooloo is just a sheep. For all Pokemon's flaws, which are numerous in Scarlet & Violet especially, when it nails a simple design there is no other game like it. Wooloo is not just a sheep. I can't quite explain how, when it so clearly is just a sheep. But Wooloo is not just a sheep. And Oinkologne is not just a pig.
The icon doesn't do it any favours, with its ear flopped over its face in an unsightly curl, but once you encounter Oinkologne in the wild or during a battle you realise it’s gorgeous. It's not very strong, but then my Grass team is being built for fun, not to move mountains. It raises a tough dilemma – do I abandon this theme for Oinkologne, or conjure a new theme? I can't possibly just catch random Pokemon, the game gets boring without something cohesive. And Oinkologne is pretty, but not 'break up with your wife' pretty, so Tsareena stays in the picture. So what do I do?
What I'm leaning towards, partially because it's a new experience and partially because of all that sweet, sweet #content I can write, is unfortunately leaving Oinkologne in the sty until my second playthrough, if I ever do one with a game this big and janky. I have thought of ways to make it fit. Tsareena is a mangosteen queen, so could it be Oinkologne and a bunch of food Pokemon? Could it be Tsareena and her dirty little paypigs, with Grumpig and the other vaguely piggy Pokemon involved too? Try to catch a shiny Oinkologne and take Tsareena's boots into account to make a team of different shades of pink? That last one is probably straining things a little bit.
Despite the distraction of Oinkologne, I will likely continue with my Grass gym leader strategy, but the whole affair highlights why, after so many missteps, broken promises, bugged launches, and dull games with slow gameplay, I keep coming back for more slop. Pokemon has Pokemon in it. It seems obvious, but the game remains unmatched.
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