Wurmple is where it becomes pretty darned clear that we’re repeating archetypes at this point in the series, since she can more or less be described as “New Caterpie” from a gameplay perspective.
She at least gets some originality points for being something more of a silkworm or a spiky swallowtail-butterfly larva more than Caterpie‘s picturesque ur-caterpillar. She definitely feels a bit more unique for it, like she can coexist with Caterpie without the two stepping all over each other’s territory.
Neat to get another bug in the mix that isn’t all smooth carapaces on the outside; his bright, bumpy, prickly look is a nice change that benefits from cartoony reds and yellows. Not revolutionary, but a solid base.
Silcoon seems pretty boring on the surface, but I have enough questions about her that she holds my interest despite being more or less another “pupa” stage.
Silcoon is shown as often with “limbs” as without; do they imply that those are actually threads attached to tree branches (the TCG says yes), or does Silcoon literally have possibly-prehensile silk tendrils (which I say would be fun)?
We only see one of Silcoon’s eyes. Is it curled up and pressed against a hole in its cocoon, or are all of its insides loosely reforming as a puddle of goo, letting the eye float free?
Rounder than something like a Kakuna, but with enough unique features that she raises some fun ideas.
Beautifly never felt especially like a Pokémon that we needed – she’s more of a trade-off from Butterfree than something with a new identity.
Her eyes are just less interesting than Butterfree’s compound peepers, but she does get a fun proboscis that the 1996 model lacked. She has a more consistent color scheme, but it results in a lot of dark grey with a splash of color along the wings, which have a less interesting pattern to them in my opinion. But her wings have this fun, trailing extension from the lower half? And her stomach has a pale patch that I’m not sure makes sense for a butterfly?
She’s definitely a butterfly with a different impression than what Butterfree gave us. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different.
Silcoon, but angrier.
…okay, I have a lot of the same interesting questions here, but there’s the added wrinkle of Cascoon hinting at a shade of Poison Purple and being built with a Permanent Angry Glare. In a way, she feels like a whole-monster foreshadowing for her final form:
I said “foreshadowing”, but it’s not like Dustox is sinister or anything. Just look at her – she seems pleased as punch to be here!
While she doesn’t look flightworthy at all, I really appreciate Dustox as a chunkier “alternate evolution” to Beautifly. Where Beautifly is glamorous, Dustox is practical and straightforward, and I appreciate that. Still a wormy chassis, with grabby legs and eye-guards to shield her from dust and dust-based attacks, and even a pair of wings that could readily double as leafy camouflage.
This actually feels like the more natural evolution to the spiny Wurmple in its way, from the not-as-sinister-as-it-appears look to the low-key Poison element. I get that people may prefer Beautifly because she’s “prettier”, but Dustox has her own charm.
Unfortunately, Beautifly and Dustox both suffer from a common problem to Bug-types – you catch them at level three or so, they evolve early, and then drop off in usefulness very quickly. Definitely good for a disruption, but they don’t really carry much weight behind their attacks, and that makes them less fun to use moment-to-moment than something more straightforward.
The real hook behind this line is how they evolve. See, with most split-evolution families, there’s usually some good way to tell which evolution you’ll get – if not outright control it. Wurmple is almost a coin flip, but in a way that sneakily shows off just how much more complex Pokémon got in the hop from original Gameboy (and Color) hardware up to the GBA generation.
See, in the previous games, each Pokémon was only 32 bytes of storage – plus another 16 for its health and status if it was actually in your party. Almost all of those were just storing the their battle stat spread and known moves, with a few hidden numbers for stat growth.
Ruby & Sapphire ballooned this to 100 bytes, containing everything from the language setitng for the game it was caught in to “how many steps until this Pokémon heals from a one-off infection” to something called a Personality Value.
This isn’t quite the same thing as Nature, which is a snippy one-word adjective like “Jolly” or “Adamant” used to give each individual critter character. Rather, the personality value is 16 digits that the games use to generate a ton of other information about the Pokémon.
What letter is an Unown? Divide the number by 28, and take the remainder where 1=A, 2=B, and so on.
Find an NPC who wants to see “a very large Pokémon for its species”? The game has a whole math equation based on a combination of the monster’s stats and its personality to arbitrarily decide that.
Gender is no longer a coin flip. Whether a monster is an alternate “shiny” color is partially decided by this. And yes, even those Natures come from here. A hundred different individual characteristics of a Pokémon, all back-formed from the same four bytes of storage on the fly through math.
…and yes, whether Wurmple becomes a butterfly or a moth is also picked form here, more or less by whether a certain digit in that value is 0-4 or 5-9. This means that there are probably some math shenanigans you can do based on a Wurmple’s nature and gender to figure out if it’s more likely to turn into a Cascoon or a Silcoon, but it’s also a clever way of “flipping a coin” while making it so that Wormy the Wurmple will always evolve into the same thing, regardless of how much you try to save and restart to get the evolution you want.
I like this set, but at the end of the day they’re a five-unit family, and we don’t get a lot new from them design- or gameplay-wise that we haven’t already seen. They’re a little hard to justify, and while they sure are charming, I could as easily see the Wurmple lines being Retired for the most part.
Any and all appreciation for Wurmple, Silcoon, Beautifly, Cascoon, and Dustox is welcome in the comments!