Have I mentioned before the absolute joy I get that the Pokémon designers took the concept of “Fossil Pokémon” and repeatedly avoided defaulting straight to dinosaurs?
Well, that doesn’t make it less true.
Undersea life and plant life have always been full of oddities – the Venn diagram between them doubly so. So it stands to reason that a cartoony take on that would be downright alien. Like it would be one thing if those glowing, yellow Jawa-eyes were sunken down into a dark pit. But we can see here that the black spot inside her… head? is protruding outward. She looks like a dark, shadowy Kirby lodged inside a gummy chalice, crowned by eight tongue-feelers. Only a little haunted.
It’s bizarre, but in a way that feels just around the edge of what I’d buy as some deep-sea oddity. Have you been to a large aquarium recently? Those things get freaky.
Cradily just keeps it coming. Those feelers are a mane around a “head” that’s engulfed the black blob I’m assuming to be its main body. Plus some false eyes up top, and this thing looks like some eldritch muppet, a ruse that surely stuns potential prey in bafflement before Cradily attacks.
I kind of like these fun little stationary Pokémon. Cradily and Lileep are clearly built to be anchored to one spot, which admittedly causes some logisitical problems when you put them in an athletic competition or dungeon-crawling situation. Personally, though, I’d rather have some hand-wave-y logic as the trade-off for Pokémon with more unique situations and lifecycles. Gotta fill out those reef biomes somehow, and it is pretty fun to imagine Cradily doggy-paddling across land with those stumpy little lower limbs (which, come to think of it, may or may not take inspiration from the anti-erosion structures planted along Japan’s shores).
She’s admittedly another more defensive Pokémon, but really she’s pretty well-rounded aside from, well, being as slow as you’d expect for a stationary plant. It helps that half of her type weaknesses are to some pretty uncommon types in the main game, but otherwise she’s a bit high-maintenance for what she is, which feels like a bit of a shame. It might be easier to recommend her if her shot at a coveted water immunity wasn’t a hard-to-obtain Hidden Ability, but as it stands her strengths are a bit outside the single-player campaign.
…for example, in just being a fascinating crossover between a modern predatory tunicate and a stalked crinoid (a more plant-shaped relative of anenomes and starfish), possibly the most abundant kind of fossil that isn’t ammonite. And, much like Kabuto’s horseshoe crab, crinoids are incredibly stable as a class of animal, being around when Pangaea was still one continent and still being around in the present. It’s all the great, iconic bits about the first-generation fossils, but rolled into one and wearing the skin of a bizarre plant-beast.
The best and weirdest bit of her biology, though, aside from the fact that she canonically hobbles onto shore to hunt for food? Cradily secretes digestive acid from her tentacles, melting her prey alive so that she can slurp them down more easily (something that, coincidentally, the games haven’t mentioned directly for most of a decade). Usually this is more of a spider-y trait, but hey, she’s got eight “limbs” on her head, so, ah, close enough?
“Close enough” seems to be the order of the day, at that. The Pokédex entries for this pair are pretty inconsistent, with Lileep’s insisting that this is an extinct species only now revived through science, but Cradily’s wavering between that story and reading as though they still exist in the wild today.
I might not mind seeing some explanation for this – that some regional form of Lileep and Cradily still exist in the wild, but the species died out in other parts of the world – but that feels like a stretch. The simpler explanation is almost more fun – that we have a wired assumption in our heads that a fossil is automatically of a species that doesn’t exist any more. It’s a genuine thing to overlook – especially with the popular fan-theory that the pre-teen player characters are penning these entries personally – and the long long histories of life that aren’t land-based vertebrates can throw all sorts of fun wrenches like that in.
These two may be my personal favorite fossils just because of how wild they show prehistoric life to be, and I feel like there’s nothing else quite like them in the games. Necessary? Probably not. But a preferred part of the Reserve roster when a region lacks its own, bespoke fossils? Absolutely.
Any and all appreciation for Lileep and Cradily is welcome in the comments!