Slakoth, Vigoroth, Slaking

#287 – Slakoth

Yup, sure is a cartoon sloth.

People love sloths for all sorts of great reasons, to be sure, and this is hardly a bad sloth. Very messy fur, dopey grin, heavy-lidded eyes and all. She’s just… a little plain.

I mean, I get it, this thing is just plain cute, which is fine. I guess I’m just a bit miffed that we missed the opportunity for a Normal/Grass type here; sloths famously have molds and algae growing in their fur, which seems like the most natural thing in the world to translate to a Pokémon design. And while that would maybe distract a little bit from the family’s main theme, it’s not like we haven’t had Pokémon that spin multiple plates before.

Speaking of, this is arguably the first time where a Pokémon’s passive ability is crucial to their identity – more on that in a moment. The thing to know for now is that Slakoth is so gul-derned slow that she can’t move every other turn. Very sloth-y.

Parting shot: I don’t know whether or not to adore that noodly arm of hers; the absolute lack of bone in a mammal is both frightening and deeply intriguing.

#288 – Vigoroth

Slakoth woke up, and now she’s raring to go. So raring that she literally can’t fall asleep under normal circumstances.

The sudden shift to a white color scheme (that won’t stay long) is a little jarring, as is the crest on her head (that also won’t stay long). In a lot of ways, Vigoroth is just the odd one out of this family, and I kind of appreciate that the deliberately fast-and-loud one is the designated weirdo.

I think the designers’ goal here was to make a middle stage that players might want to deliberately not evolve, since she’s got that vitality and aggression to her. It kind of works, at that, but her next stage is hard to ignore:

#289 – Slaking

Slaking is back to her old basic-stage ways, and can’t be bothered to even stand up straight most of the time, let alone attack. She’s not even slow any more; she just refuses to move half the time.

Part giant sloth, part pun on “King Kong” and literally “slacking”, this thing is an absolute beast hung up by her own life choices. We’re again back at a “cartoon animal” look, complete with five-fingered hands, which isn’t exactly my favorite – though I do like the heart-shaped nose. I just like my monsters to be a bit more abstract and fantastical, and that isn’t quite what this line is going for.

That said, aside from the inherent lower visibility of him not being a first-generation monster, I feel like Slaking should be a more prominent “big mood” Pokémon for people. A monster that used to have a lot of energy but now just wants to laze around all day? Slaking is just Aging Problems, The Pokémon.

She’s also a very weird one to try and use in the main game. That passive ability kind of balances out the fact that Slaking’s stats are stupid for a non-legendary monster; tanky amounts of health, above-average speed in spite of herself, and some of the highest natural attack power in the game.

Slaking really shines in two-on-two match – maybe in a Battle Tower situation where you can suppress that passive ability and really get going. But you don’t see many of those in the single-player campaign, and that extra turn is annoying enough to sit through that people might even favor Vigoroth (which, granted, isn’t the worst choice).

In fact, it’s nearly impossible to talk about Slaking without mentioning that “every-other-turn” mechanic, and it makes this line something of a turning point for the Pokédex as a whole for me.

The series has had to get creative in the past to make certain Pokémon behave unique. Unown‘s many, many forms. Ditto‘s and Smeargle‘s sole natural “moves”. Wobuffet‘s and Sudowoodo‘s very specific combinations of traits. But as often as not, “lore” and “gameplay” were kind of hard to marry together on 8-bit systems, so you ended up with monsters that had unique traits on paper but kind of plain in practice.

Passive abilities are the shim that cracks that wide open.

From here on out, we start to see a lot of Pokémon that are tied to central “gimmick” that drives their identity. We’re still going to see creativity on that front in other ways, but passive abilities are a powerful tool to make a monster “stick out” compared to its peers. And that memorability is key when the series is pushing past 350 creatures already in just this generation.

I may still be a bit miffed about the loss of a Mossy Sloth – maybe that’s something a regional variant can take care of – but Slaking and her ilk don’t actually seem to show up that often for how unique they are. They don’t tend to show up natively in the games very much – basically in Hoenn and then in a scant few post-game situations elsewhere – and are entirely absent in Sword & Shield.

These three are very much a fun novelty, and I wouldn’t want to see them go away entirely. But as-is, the series has already proven out that they can stand to stay in Reserve.

Any and all appreciation for Slakoth, Vigoroth, and Slaking is welcome in the comments!

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