Boy oh boy is there mixed feelings on Feebas.
On one hand, she’s doing her job pretty passably. She’s pretty repulsive, unless you’re into the “ugly-cute” aesthetic, between her river-bottom scale pattern, sunken eyes, chunky lips and dull, frayed fins. She just looks… Eeyore-ish.
The main thing that gets me personally is that dorsal fin with the big hole in it. Surely that’s going to get torn apart? Even in a fantasy-forward setting, some bits of critter design still bug me – though Feebas does get some points back for those sweet vents on her underside. How often do we see visible gills here outside of sharks?
Anyway, it’s hard not to call her another Magikarp, kind of an uninteresting fish Pokémon with little utility, and that comparison only makes more sense on evolution:
Milotic: The Glow-Up Pokémon
Milotic just seems like a traditional beauty – obviously elegant, but simple and made of appealing shapes that make it immediately striking, even if you’re less a fan of its fleshy brown skin-tone. There’s a lot else going on here to love – that stained-glass-looking tail with a damsel’s fan for a fin, how she hides her gills under her long “hair”… for every embellishment, she seems to be making the right trade-offs (like a simplified mouth and low-touch color scheme) so as to not come across as gaudy.
It’s easy to overdue Pokémon intended to be “beautiful”, but with different coloration, this is the kind of majestic monster I might expect Dragonair to evolve into. That’s nothing but an endorsement from me.
And she’s a great team member, too. Nice and sturdy, barely on the underside of average speed, and really the only thing she sacrifices is Attack – which can be completely remediated by focusing on Special Attack moves. With access to a natural recovery move besides, Milotic feels incredibly reliable in the main game – if you can get her into your party.
My favorite bit about these guys is probably an unintentional bit of wordplay. You might expect an ugly child to grow up into a hag, or an ugly woman. So you’d expect an ugly fish to evolve into a hagfish, right? A hagfish is an eel-like fish, not too dissimilar from Milotic, though admittedly much closer to a catfish in its actual appeal. Also almost certainly not what the designers were going for – I doubt that joke works as well outside of English – but still a neat little hook.
There’s also a nice little moral in here about survivability – Feebas are supposedly incredibly hearty and resilient Pokémon – hence their ragged appearance. Depending on who you are, the entire process for evolving it could read as “polishing a hidden gem” or “self-improvement through perseverance” – and both work equally well in the end.
Speaking of, I guess my main problem with these guys is also the most infamous thing about them – that this family in particular is a pain in the butt to get your hands on. Back in the old days of Ruby & Sapphire, you needed to:
- Go to a very specific river
- By trial-and-error, find one of the only six “tiles” of the environment where you can catch Feebas by fishing
- One caught, create a pile of specific consumable items through a niche mini-game
- Feed enough of those to Feebas to max out a not-useful-in-battle statistic, then level it up.
Luckily later games have dummied away all of these in various ways – online trading makes getting a Feebas pretty trivial, and now you can evolve one by trading it with a specific item attached. Does it take away from the very specific set of requirements that made this family stick in players’ collective craw? Yes. Do I appreciate it anyway for streamlining one obtuse element from a bloated-by-nature series? Absolutely.
To that end, Feebas and Milotic are some of the more distinct Pokémon out of this entire generation, and it’s hard not to recognize that. It’s also hard to vouch for mono-type Water Pokémon as strictly necessary – this set shines largely in games where that wonky and indirect evolution process is an option. But these are super-recognizable and pretty much nail their execution, so if not a Must-Have, I find it hard to see them as anything less than a preferred part of the roster kept on Reserve.
Any and all appreciation for Feebas and Milotic is welcome in the comments!