Woobat and Swoobat
Does everyone remember Zubat? The blood-sucking, supersonic-screaming, night-flying hell-beasts that used to fill your face whenever you set foot inside a cave in any Pokémon game ever? You all remember how annoying those things were?
They’re gone! Hah-HAH! Those horrible things are finally gone!
I am not really sure how I feel about what’s been left in their place, however. Meet Woobat and Swoobat, the new bat Pokémon of Black and White, which I think are supposed to be based on fruit bats, in contrast to the more sinister and evocative vampire bats that inspire Zubat’s design. I am going to start by acknowledging that, yes, it would be difficult to make a cute cartoon bat – for I believe cuteness was the designers’ aim here – without de-emphasising the traits that make it, y’know, bat-like and emphasising the traits it has in common with other small furry things like flying squirrels, but I have high expectations from the franchise that made a hunk of coral look friggin’ adorable. I initially labelled Woobat a “blind, buck-toothed airborne Furby,” which should give you a good idea of my first impressions of the thing, and Swoobat is, if that’s possible, even sillier-looking. I am, however, gradually warming to the idea that Pokémon are allowed to be a bit silly-looking sometimes; they can’t all be badass death machines or graceful paragons of serenity. Furthermore, in Swoobat’s case I am beginning to think that my first impressions of him may have been unfairly coloured by his in-game sprite, which is awful. Sugimori’s official art, shown here, is much nicer and while his particular kind of charm doesn’t really appeal to me, I am prepared to concede that Swoobat does have some. That weird scorpion-looking tail, though, is inexcusable – it seems really out of place on a Pokémon like this, even if it is supposed to form a heart-shape to play into Swoobat’s flavour as a romance-themed Pokémon. Yes, you heard that right: the Pokédex refers to Swoobat as the “Courting Pokémon” and even bothers to describe its mating habits – don’t worry; there’s nothing graphic. Apparently, courting male Swoobat emit ultrasonic waves that produce a dizzying high in those affected by them. This… could be read to have some unfortunate implications, but I’m not going to touch those with a Macedonian sarissa (it’s like a ten-foot pole, but twice as big and with a massive spike on the end). Regardless, I have to give points for originality in choosing a bat as the basis for a Pokémon with this kind of flavour because it’s certainly interesting. In short, we’ve had “bat Pokémon” before, but Woobat’s designers seem to have gone out of their way to make it as different from Zubat as possible, and what’s more it actually worked. I don’t know that I’d call these great Pokémon, but they’re not bad.