Shroomish definitely attended The The Sentret-Furret School for Emoticon Faces.
While I’m iffy on typecasting an entire species, I do love how much personality this squat lad has to him. Waddling around on those two legs, permanently grouchy – he almost looks like a drab Kirby character to me. And if I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a hundred times: the Pokémon who don’t have a Standard Animal Body Plan add so much more design diversity pound-for-pound than Electric Mice.
Shroomish is just one of those designs that, even though I don’t think about him terribly often, he just makes me happy when I look at him. It’s hard to quantify that.
Breloom always struck me as a little odd.
I totally get what he’s going for now, but I’d argue that a design I have to “get” retroactively isn’t a mark in its favor. Then again, there’s definitely an appeal to these designs that seem a little alien at first glance. After all, real living things are often capital-W Weird; fantasy life should be doubly so.
And Breloom is endearing in that way. Those vacant eyes, the seemingly-mismatched limbs, the weirdly giant claws – even a funny little literal mushroom-cap. I’m never quite sure what to make of Breloom, but honestly I’d much rather have that situation than a more direct translation of an existing animal. High creativity marks for this wonky kangaroo fungus.
Not to mention that he’s fun to pal around with in the games. Grass-and-Fighting is a unique type combo, but it cripples him in the face of ever-present birds and he doesn’t get a super-wide movepool to leverage. That said, he does what he does really well – crazy-high attack for a two-stage monster and a few good options to blindly hammer away with – plus he starts with some nice status-afflicting options for catching other monsters. Even his subpar defenses can be written off with clever use of his passive ability.
Breloom can hold his own.
So, Shroomish is pretty obviously a mushroom going by his name. But, as opposed to our other fungus friend so far, he doesn’t sit on an obviously-recognizable toadstool design. Shroomish is more of a Puffball (maybe even an Earth Star), which is I think what the series was trying to evoke all along with the various Grass-type “status spore” moves. Spitting poison clouds as a defense feels like quintessential Pokémon behavior, and it’s kind of the core thing a puffball ‘shroom is known for.
Breloom is a bit more recognizably “cartoon ‘shroom” with his literal cap (teehee), but he also goes for a second, less-obvious dinosaur theme. Shroomish has just a little bit of a Yoshi-egg pattern (one that generic Pokémon eggs share), and Breloom takes after both a very specific dino and after grab-bag of dino parts, what with his ankylo-tail and raptor-ish limbs and claws.
It’s a weird marriage of ideas, but not the weirdest – funguses are a pretty long-lived category of life, and by our best reckoning (since soft fungus doesn’t leave a great fossil record), they were in positive abundance around the Triassic when dinosaurs were just starting to come into their own. They definitely belong in a more complicated view of The Before Times – and that’s a theme that the rest of Generation III is going to carry forward.
They also both represent how categories are just a little bit arbitrary and made-up. Fungues are an entirely separate kingdom of life than plants, but without fail humans will put them into the “plant” category, anyway, including the Grass-type Pokémon bucket. And there’s no concrete, evolution-based definition of “dinosaur” that doesn’t also include a pigeon or chicken somewhere, but people tend to only talk about them in the same sentence if they pull a “well, actually” out of it.
All of which is going to absolutely go over the core audience’s heads, for sure – but that doesn’t make these two any less clever conceptually.
Speaking of, while his bright red nails are goofy, I kind of do love the oversized claws on Breloom. I imagine him digging out nests to “plant” his offspring that way, which feels like such a perfect union of plant lifecycles and animal behavior. Great stuff, classic Pokémon biology.
The Grass type is surprisingly rife with inventive monsters, and Shroomish and Breloom exemplify that perfectly. Unfortunately, they don’t seem super-popular – they’ve been missing from the last few generations of games, which points to them being generally Retired designs. But if I had my druthers, I’d will them back into a Reserve cycle based on style points alone.
Any and all appreciation for Shroomish and Breloom is welcome in the comments!