What a goofy goober.
The first-and-foremost point of charm with her is that she seems perpetually confused. Those cartoony spiral-eyes, the constant wobble, even the wide, blank grin. This gal is just totally out of it, and is posed in her each and every depiction like she might topple over at any moment.
That’s about it, to be honest. She’s another one of those “ambiguous woodland mammals” that I secretly adore. Her color and name obviously say “red panda”, but her body plan – especially the head – is obviously more rabbit. Given that she’s originally found in dirty, sooty area, she may even be part bilby-bandicoot.
But none of it could possibly distract from those mesmerizing eyes.
Goodness, her ineffectual helplessness makes me want to take care of her just so she doesn’t end up breaking her nose tumbling over a rock.
Bad news for her fans, though, is that you could be drawn away by how she’s not got much going on battle-wise. Every one of her stats is even, all of them sub-par (though they amusingly add up to 360), and aside from Thrash and the 100%-chance-of-confusion Teeter Dance (both of which her passive ability could make her immune to), there’s not much of interest in her moveset. She’s just… not an especially compelling team member.
In fact, she’s just watered down even from her elevator pitch of “Pokémon centered around the Confusion status effect”. Of her three possible passive abilities, only one gives her the coveted immunity to the effect, and her other – lowering opponents’ accuracy in exchange for a chance to self-harm every turn – is a really iffy trade-off. They even took her unique Teeter Dance move and spread it to other Pokémon over the years, leaving her kind of just… there.
I might like to see a version of Spinda where she is perpetually-confused, but also confuses other Pokémon just by being on the field with them. Maybe add in a unique attack that has some fringe benefit when the attacker is confused, like tripping over her own feet and hitting the opponent harder instead of herself. But, unfortunately, that’s not the version of Spinda we have. Maybe that could be taken up by an evolution – goodness knows she could use one, though who knows how that would work visually.
The big design hook with Spinda, in case you’ve missed it, is that she has no concrete fur pattern. In some games like Go, this is down to a handful of curated patterns with differently-placed spots on her head, or even just one specimen for simplicity. In the mainline games, it could be one of a couple billion arrangements of its four spots based on the same abstract “personality value” that determines Wurmple’s evolution.
In the early days, there was a more finite number off patterns that one person could tell apart. But especially with higher-resolution models now, it’s fun to see just how many semi-unique versions of the creature you can distinguish. In fact, I still remember getting into a little competition with my little brother over who could capture more bespoke specimens of Spinda.
We gave up around the first hundred.
That said, I love how Spinda actually sticks to the bit. The Pokédex has threatened us before with Pokémon that in theory have multiple body patterns, but this is the one to really make that happen (outside that one time with Magikarp). Gotta give them a bit of credit for the follow-through, even if procedurally-generated Pokémon pelts obviously wouldn’t work in all cases.
I love what they’re going for with Spinda, I really do. But ultimately there’s just the one unique aspect of Spinda left standing, and even if it is a doozy, it feels like there are more fun and interesting Pokémon to collect unique forms of. I really wish there was more oomph to her concept in battle, since she’s certainly set up for it within the series, but without that it’s not too much of a surprise that Sword & Shield put her into Reserve.
Any and all appreciation for Spinda is welcome in the comments!