Aipom is one of those Pokémon that I can get and appreciate on a surface level, but he still kind of puts me off.
A monkey? Cool, we’ve already had a round, but primates are a wide family. What’s another when the last few were kinda baboony mish-mashes? One with a cartoonishly prehensile tail? Sure; that’s on-brand for Pokémon’s exaggerated zoology!
But that kooky grin, man.
I totally get it – a lot of monkeys just look off-kilter by default, hence the cute-but-wild tuft of hair. That smug little bastard face is on-point for a tricksy monkey, but it’s also upsettingly like those antique cymbal-clanging monkey toys. I don’t know that I want that tagging around with me for thirty hours of adventuring.
And to her signature feature: it works surprisingly well for me! That extra extremity isn’t exactly a hand – it’s some swollen, knobbly growth that’s approximating a hand, which is probably what Darwinian evolution would actually start doing if real monkeys got dependent enough on their tails. That’s way more interesting than just slapping a fifth, wigglier limb on the bum and calling ‘er good.
On the other end of that, her tail contains the only visible hand. Giving her five limbs probably would’ve pushed her design into fully-disturbing mode (as Hollywood would later prove), but if the designers are going to go for a bit of cryptozoology here, why not go all the way?
Ambipom is much less successful for me. Apparently the species cuts its own hair, because those are some aggressively straight bangs – not that they didn’t still massively miss a spot. And that hair is clearly growing out of her nose, too. Why else would it be purple on the inside? Gross.
I’m also not a fan of what’s happened to her signature feature – the hands look less like some hybrid of paw and gecko-pads now, but instead just seem to be inflated rubber gloves. Also, has she been slamming her fingers in doors? And what’s with the cuffs around her wrists? I have so many questions for the artists responsible.
Don’t get me wrong – not every monster needs to be traditionally adorable, and I like the idea of a new-world monkey that progressively grows more limbs as it ages. It has this sort of folklore feel to it, like the foxes that grow more and more tails until they’re flush with 1,000 of them.
This iteration of that idea just seems overthought, though – I would have rathered that Ambipom keep closer to her predecessor’s simplicity. A more streamlined simian would probably scale better to having ten limbs, at least, which is where this idea could get really wild.
It’s kind of a shame, considering that Aipom was just a lil’ bugger in a single-evolution line for a couple of generations, so most people passed her over. She desperately benefited from having an evolution; I’m unfortunately not keen on the one we got.
Ambipom benefits a lot from being as sneaky of a monster in the game as she looks. Great speed, good attack, and a passive ability that boosts lower-power attacks (which makes all those weird moves that damage-with-a-side-effect a very good option). Normal isn’t a super-inspiring type and her defenses aren’t great, but she’s got a ton of varied attacks that she can use fairly competently, which is the kind of range that’s great to have in the main game.
A lot of what you’d expect from Aipom is what you get – notably that they hang out in tree canopies 24/7 (you could originally only find them by shaking trees), and that they wrap that tail around branches to hang upside-down for bat-naps from a safe height. Handy!
What’s less handy is that Aipom and Ambipom rely on their tail-hands so much that, over the generations, their “real” limbs have atrophied away. Maybe that’s why their tail is the only visible “hand” on Aipom’s body, and even Ambipom’s feet don’t show skin any more. Now I want even more to see a Doctor-Octopus-like evolution of this fella that only interacts with the world with its tails.
The other thing that Ambipom does well is use the buddy system, both tying back into tribalism in animals and the not-unrelated key advantage of having limbs out your back: that you can’t easily be ambushed from behind. Presumably that’s why Ambipom have two tails: to actually use one and to hold a buddy’s “hand” as a lifeline with the other. Not that they couldn’t link themselves together before with one tail and just use their actual arms and legs. Nope; gotta use the “fun” limb for everything.
We’re going to get a lot of monkey ‘mon over the years, but none of them are ever going to hit on a specific aspect of monkey biology like Aipom does with her curious little tail. The series’ regular repetition of one family of animals on top of Ambipom being a very underwhelming design puts them into range to be Retired, though with Aipom’s general popularity in marketing and various movies, I doubt she’s realistically leaving the Reserve roster.
Any and all appreciation for Aipom and Ambipom is welcome in the comments!