Feline Friday is my chance to celebrate famous cats across the arts, whether their origins are in gaming, film, anime, literature or anywhere else.
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FIRST APPEARANCE: POCKET MONSTERS Scarlet/Violet (2022)
It was the plucky little puss Meowth who ultimately kicked off Feline Friday back in March last year, and today, we are returning to the Pokemon well with the newest, toothiest kitty on the block. He bite big, so I highly discourage prey play.
Last weekend, the 2023 Pokemon World Championships took place in Yokohama, Japan. More than 250 eager trainers strutted their stuff across the three age brackets of the video game championships, and apparently there was also some card game stuff and a bunch of people on their mobile phones, I guess. Alas, still no love for the THINKChip Battle Stadium, aka the one authentic Pokemon experience.
For as much as I rag on Scarlet and Violet for their less than inspiring gameplay loop, I must give this generation its flowers on the competitive front. Watching the world’s finest duke it out, I have concluded that Terastallizing is a vastly more compelling addition to the metagame than the tepid kaiju facsimile that was Dynamaxing.
As is always the case, however, the spread of monsters on offer was less than diverse. Of the six teams that made it to the three Finals matches, literally all of them carried Rapid Strike Urshifu. Flutter Mane and the Spore-happy Amoonguss also proved popular, each appearing four times, while Heatran and Incarnate Tornadus claimed three roster spots apiece, alongside a frosty customer of the Felis variety.
Yep, it’s the Dark/Ice member of Paldea’s legendary Treasures of Ruin, Chien-Pao! Having only been introduced last year, there isn’t a breadth of information for me to regale you with on the Ruinous Pokemon, though it is in fact already a significant part of the franchise’s history.
Equipped with blazing speed, an exclusive ability in Sword of Ruin that lowers all other competitors’ defenses, and access to devastating techniques like its signature Ruination, it was apparently deemed to be too fearsome for its own good. Alongside its Treasure of Ruin brethren, it was one of the first (and so far only) Pokemon to have its stats lowered via an in-game patch.
Several Pokemon have had their competitive viability hamstrung by mechanical changes between the generations (hello Levitate Gengar and Protean Greninja), but to actually be knocked down a peg within your own debut game is quite the feat. Especially for me, who grew up with shit like MissingNo. just being a permanent oopsie.
Despite this indignation, Chien-Pao is not a threat to be taken lightly. True to its less than cooperative playstyle, this sabretooh snow leopard is known to frolic around avalanches without a care in the world. This sounds cute, until you learn that it was the one that caused said avalanches.
Its rebellious nature is perhaps a consequence of its creation, however, seeing as the Treasures of Ruin are sentient objects that came to life as a result of a monarch’s greed and the cruelty of mankind. In the case of Chien-Pao, its true form is that of a sword, and this is made all that much clearer when you take one glance at the fangs protruding from its maw.
Imagine if King Charles was just being a bit of a dick and then one day, the ceremonial sword named after his dead mother turned into an angry, six-foot-tall cat monster. That is literally how we ended up with Chien-Pao, albeit a less ornate form than what would likely spring forth from the £22,000 Lizzie.
Sprigatito may have been the whiskered apple of our eye when it was first revealed to usher in the ninth generation of Pokemon, and yet, it is Chien-Pao that has had the last laugh, muscling its way into the metagame by tearing its enemies asunder. About the only victory it can’t claim over Meowscarada is in the shank department, because damn, those legs simply cannot be beat.