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Dark-type Reviews – Generation 3 Pokémon (Part 1)

Dark-type Gen 3 (Part 1) banner

In Generation 3, you will see that Dark-types are already part of the Pokémon ecosystem because they are seemly integrated in Hoenn, which is the player’s first venture into Generation 3. There are more Dark-types to meet, all spread out evenly into Hoenn. From the early patches containing Poochyena to the water-dwelling Carvanha and Sharpedo, Dark-types are more commonplace, compared to Johto where you normally don’t actually meet your first Dark-type until you can cross Kanto, making them seem special because of how rare they seem. It’s time to get on with the review!

Note: I didn’t manage to find Brendan or May’s height, so I set Brendan to 1.45m for this review. If you know May’s height, please tell, or else I will just put her at 1.3m tall.

Poochyena & Mightyena

Poochyena & Mightyena size comparison

Our first Pokémon to be reviewed is also one of the first Hoenn Pokémon you can meet in your journey. That’s right: these are your early-game Pokémon right here, because they have characteristics that make them easy-to-raise. Not only does Poochyena evolve into Mightyena early (at level 18), they are easy to breed and level up. If you want a good Pokémon to use early in your journey, you can try Poochyena for a while. Based on their name, they are based on a hyena, but they can also be based on a canine, as Poochyena’s name suggest. Indeed, their coloration is similar to the striped hyena. It’s not rare to see someone view wolf-based characteristics on them, as that animal seems to be a favorite to canine-lovers. I have a secret to tell you: I used to pronounce Poochyena as “pooch-yee-na” instead of “poo-chi-en-na” and Mightyena as “might-yee-na” instead of “migh-tee-en-na”, which was admittedly silly of me.

Poochyena is first met in Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire when Professor Birch was running in circles away from one, and during the chase he asks the player to choose their starter (the graphics for the selection was impressive at that time, I have to admit). In the PokéDex entries, it’s even said that the Poochyena bites and chases at anything that moves, and will proceed to chase it until it gets exhausted, which is what happened there. However, should the pursued be the one chasing, Poochyena will turn tail. If Birch knew this, he wouldn’t need your help, but that would also mean you don’t get your starter Pokémon! The same happens in the anime, although in the Pokémon Adventures manga, it’s a herd of Mightyena that’s doing the cornering instead.

Poochyena, like any canine, has an acute sense of smell. Should Poochyena fancy a snack, it will keep following it until it gets to the food. This would have given you the impression that it only eats meat, which is only part true. Thing is, Poochyena is an omnivore! While in theory, the Pokémon can eat greens, it’s never been shown, except for a Pokémon’s universal food: berries. Perhaps Sawsbuck will provide some nice meat salad anyhow. This is the case for the hyena, which eats anything too. With Poochyena’s large fangs for its body, any food it eats will not be a problem, except for the possibly tough and indigestible ones like minerals. It seems like common knowledge that hyenas are scavengers as shown in Lion King (as with any negative stereotype of that animal), for example, but that’s not exactly true. Yes, they did some scavenging, but that’s not their main method of food, because they perform pack hunts like other carnivore groups too.

As you would expect for a canine-based Pokémon and hyenas, these Pokémon are social animals that work together to hunt down a larger threat or prey (one PokéDex entry said that a group usually consists of around ten of them), as evidenced in their PokéDex entries and some instances in the anime and manga. They have a leader too, as is the case with real packs with an alpha male and alpha female. However, it’s probably alpha female since they are based on the hyena, whose leader is always a female because they are the dominating gender of their social circle, meaning the lowest ranking female dominates the highest ranking male. There’s also the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness games where there’s a team called Team Poochy consisting of three Poochyena who mainly chase any criminals.

In the Pokémon Adventures manga, the main character Ruby (Brendan look-alike) has a Poochyena that evolves into Mightyena later on. Ruby is more of a contest trainer, and each of his Pokémon takes part in each category. Guess what is the type of contest his Mightyena specializes in? The Cool contests. While Ruby is more of a contest trainer, he is secretly a great battler, so even with a Mightyena, he can win battles easily. Still, the Pokémon Adventures manga made Delibird dangerous, so make of that what you will.

In the anime, one of the occasions Mightyena appeared is in the sixth Pokémon movie with Max as a main character, and of course Jirachi. Here, Butler used Mightyena as a performing Pokémon, and it’s not surprising since he had ties with Team Magma, who mainly have this Pokémon. Speaking of this, Poochyena and Mightyena is the Pokémon of choice for any member in both Team Magma and Team Aqua, along with the Zubat family. Another instance of both appearing is in the Advanced Generation episode “A Bite to Remember”. In that episode, Max befriended a Poochyena so that it will evolve into a Mightyena, and this marks the first time May and Max seen an evolution. Poochyena never appeared in episodes outside Hoenn, sadly.

As an early-game Pokémon, Mightyena is unfortunately not suited for competitive battling for a number of reasons. First of all, the distribution of stats is not favorable because none of the stats are exceptional besides Attack, which is only average, giving Mightyena a case of being both frail and not so strong. This is bad because Dark was a Special type, which Mightyena doesn’t specialize, so Shadow Ball and Hidden Power were its only form of Physical coverage until Generation 4. At least in Generation 4 it has a pretty good set of coverage, even though a lot of the moves have low Base Power. To Mightyena’s credit though, all of its abilities are quite good.

If you would love to read a more elaborate origin of these Pokémon, be sure to read George Hutcheon’s “[URL=””]On the Origin of Species: Poochyena and Mightyena[/URL]”, which I find a very informative read, so be sure to give the article a go should your curiosity still leaves you hungry. I am confident that the article will convince you about the wonders of the hyena, because it tells of the positive things about said animal. It would be great if Bikini Miltank can churn even [B]one[/B] article at this time, because personally, I am famished for this kind of thing.

There will be another Pokémon who are early Dark-types, but we won’t be seeing who they are until Generation 5, and let me tell you now: they are largely criticised, and you know why? I will save that for the right time. For now, let’s enjoy the journey.

8 Medhyenas out of 10!
8 Grahyenas out of 10!

+ Well-researched origins
+ Positive portrayal of a hyena
+ Very good companion Pokémon
+ Notable role in Pokémon Adventures
– Appalling competitive value

Nuzleaf & Shiftry

Nuzleaf & Shiftry size comparison

While there are only two Pokémon in the evolution line mentioned, this is actually a three-staged evolution line, as Seedot is their pre-evolution. Seedot doesn’t look remotely related to them, in part because it is very plant-like compared to the human-like features of these Pokémon. Nuzleaf promoted the popularity of this family because it partly inspires the Nuzlocke challenge, where players are required to catch the first Pokémon they meet in any area, and any fainted Pokémon is treated as incapacitated. Nuzleaf evolves by using a Leaf Stone, and the other Dark-type to evolve using a stone is Murkrow, using the Dusk Stone. It’s not shown here, but both of these Pokémon have gender differences, indicated by Nuzleaf’s leaf and Shiftry’s hand leaves. However, Seedot doesn’t have any gender differences.

Nuzleaf and Shiftry are based on a [I]tengu[/I], a Japanese [I]yōkai[/I] (monster-spirit), just like its counterparts Lombre and Ludicolo (they are based on a [I]kappa[/I]). The most notable characteristic on a [I]tengu[/I] is its long nose, akin to Pinocchio, who incidentally is made of wood, so the association makes sense. While the [I]tengu[/I] is also depicted with red faces, only the shiny coloration of this family shows this (Shiftry is red all over). The Japanese name [I]tengu[/I] means “celestial dog”, so this is probably the reason this family is in the same breeding group as them, but a [I]tengu[/I] doesn’t look like a dog, but instead more like a raven, which is why their long noses might resemble beaks. However, this family is nothing like a raven at all because they don’t have wings or a beak (or the power of flight). Still, the [I]tengu[/I] has a human form, which is the basis of inspiration.

The [I]tengu[/I] may even have a magical fan handy, which has the ability to stir up great winds, and this is the ability Shiftry has, based on the multitude of wind-based moves it can learn. The legend of the [I]tengu[/I]’s wind fan include another ability in them: growing and shrinking noses. If a [I]tengu[/I] has this business, you can be sure those looking to look like manga characters with small noses will love to have a treatment! To make the familiarity to the [I]tengu[/I] more evident, they even have sandals ([I]geta[/I]) with only one tooth, and guess what? Shiftry has feet resembling those!

Surely the Pokémon’s Dark-type had to make sense. This is of course true, because the [I]tengu[/I] is known to be a trickster by tricking people, sometimes being serious matters, like possessing people and being enemies to Buddhism in general. It looks to me like they are like goblins because of their similar tendency to play tricks on other, and Shiftry looks a little like one too. There are some stories to demonstrate their trickery or foul play like mentioning that you don’t mess with a [I]tengu[/I], like one story where a man tricked a [I]tengu[/I] by saying his bamboo can be used to see faraway places, and before the [I]tengu[/I] is duped, the man is given an invisibility cloak in exchange. Unfortunately, this proved to be a bad decision because the [I]tengu[/I]’s going for revenge. In a story I read, the invisibility effect wears off and he was exposed, but Wikipedia mentioned that the outcome of the story is that the [I]tengu[/I] got the better of the man in a game of riddles, and he was turned into a wolf as a result (not Mightyena, because it’s not a wolf). Similarly, Nuzleaf has its share of typical trickery, mainly scaring people and making them uneasy with the tune from its grass flute. Their noses seem to be their weak point, similar to how some dwarves hate it when their beard is meddled. Their trickery can be extended to their Hidden Ability Pickpocket, which as I explained in Sneasel’s review, allows them to steal items from the opposing Pokémon if they made contact and they don’t have any. Strangely, Seedot can perform this thievery too.

Shiftry is even stated to be the guardian of the forest, and a formidable one at that. It also rides chilly and wintry winds to arrive anywhere. You can say that while Shiftry is a wicked Pokémon, it is still a responsible kind of Pokémon. Even the Nuzleaf may lend a hand in avoiding unwanted guests in the forest.

Both of these Pokémon are part of Team Shiftry in the first pair of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games. Shiftry is naturally the leader of the team, and it initially does missions for profit (a motive that’s liable to fail for any business out there), but changes when it is scolded by Alakazam and is rescued from Zapdos by the player. Its appearance in the manga isn’t as notable, because it never took part in a large plot or role in a “round” save for a title called “Vs. Shiftry”.

In competitive battling, they are known for being Chlorophyll users because that’s what they do best, as Pickpocket and Early Bird are abilities that require good bulk, which neither has. This coincides with Growth’s buff this Generation, because unlike last time when it only boosted Special Attack by one stage, this time is boosts Attack by one stage as well, and two for both under the Sun. What a perfect synergy! Of course, if you focus only Physically or Specially, you can just use Swords Dance or Nasty Plot respectively. Explosion will be able to wrap things up by taking out the opposition, but it’s not as effective now in Generation 5 because its power is not doubled anymore. If it were, Shiftry would be even more of a threat because even Kyogre hated being blown in the face.

Being a Grass-type is indeed a great thing in some ways, because some of the best types are weak to it, especially Water, so you can get Giga Drain, Grass Knot, Seed Bomb or even Leaf Storm to provide your Grass STAB. That’s not mentioning the useful resistances to Water, Electric and Ground. It’s also a good thing Shiftry has a way to deal with Steel-types with Low Kick, Focus Blast or Nature Power (Earthquake). If you suspect any Fighting-types or Poison-types, perhaps Extrasensory will ward off their presence. If you have the dedication, you may use Hidden Power to round up any coverage you want.

Unfortunately for Nuzleaf, it doesn’t have some of the better moves Shiftry has despite being a Growth and Chlorophyll user, especially Leaf Storm and Focus Blast, and it’s frailer, so in Middle Play Nuzleaf isn’t the most useful Chlorophyll user out there even though there aren’t many middle-staged Dark-types (you won’t be seeing any until Generation 5, in fact).

As a whole, I would say that a Pokémon based on a [I]tengu[/I] is really cool, and surely Megaman fans would agree on this one. Shiftry is also a pretty cool Pokémon because of this, and also because it is a niche competitive Pokémon. As for Nuzleaf, it’s odd to see a fusion of this Pokémon and John Locke from Lost (talking about Nuzlocke, of course).

8 Pifeuils out of 10!
10 Tengulists out of 10!

+ Great Sun Pokémon in competitive battling
+ Shiftry has great wind-based abilities
+ [I]Tengu[/I]s are awesome
+ Shiftry has admirable qualities amidst its trickster nature
+ Nuzleaf has a degree of popularity due to Nuzlocke challenge
+ Somewhat easy to raise
– Egg Group oddity
– Relatively unimportant roles in the anime and manga


Cacturne size comparison

Cacturne evolves from Cacnea, but sadly Cacnea is a pure Grass-type. As its name suggests, Cacturne is active at night. Its Japanese name Noctus suggests this, and incidentally, the two parts of its name origin is reversed in English, with “Cac-” for English and “-tus” in Japanese for the word “Cactus”, while “Noc-” in Japanese and “-turne” in English for “Nocturne” (by the way, yes, Harry Potter’s Knockturn Alley is a pun of this word). Like Nuzleaf and Shiftry, Cacturne has gender differences, and the indicator is its belly spike (females have a larger spike than males).

Because of Cacturne’s nocturnal nature, you will expect it to be inactive during the day. This is very true, because it is said to be inactive during the day, where it will remain stationary to minimize loss of moisture in the sun, which is an important characteristic for any cactus. Only at night is Cacturne more active when the temperature drops, though it is typical in deserts to be very cold at that time of the day. The best time to find this Pokémon is in the night or dawn, if Platinum were to suggest this (not Diamond and Pearl, because it’s found at any time of the day).

Perhaps something that can be possibly eerie is Cacturne’s approach in attacking. You see, when a traveler wanders in the desert at night, Cacturne, in a pack, might follow this guy for food and when they are tired out, that’s their opportunity to strike. I have to say, even when I said that Dark-types typically fight in groups, as is the case with some like Houndoom, Sharpedo and Mightyena, Cacturne is not a Pokémon I expect to see fit this group.

Cacturne also resemble a scarecrow, which stems from its hat and its doll-like body. I have a feeling scarecrows are impractical these days because the traditional scarecrow would be ineffective deterrents and crows are unfazed by it. However, like technology, scarecrows have advanced as well, for they can have automatic noise guns powered up by propane gas to make repelling more effective. Still, there is a certain charm to the traditional human-like scarecrow because of their ragged look, and it’s interesting to note that “scarecrow festivals” exist, where folks sculpt scarecrows to show off annually. They can act as a makeshift doll, though impractical as it may be. Speaking of this, Cacturne does have some tricks to hit Flying-types hard, namely Thunder Punch and Rock Slide. Still, it’s strange how Cacturne doesn’t possess a strong force to eliminate Flying-types, making its job as a scarecrow not too effective. At the very least give it stronger attacks like Thunderbolt or Stone Edge, so that Cacturne can do its job better.

Cacturne is the first Pokémon to have an immunity to sandstorm even when its type is not compatible under that weather. This is due to its ability Sand Veil, which protects the Pokémon from sand damage and provides a much welcomed evasion boost. The PokéDex mentions how the immunity come by, stating that it is the result of spending its days in the desert for centuries, causing its blood to slowly evolve so that it is the same substance as the sand. Its Hidden Ability Water Absorb is incompatible with this nature, which may suggest that before this blood evolution, this was its ability. Since the Cacnea with this ability is found in the Rugged Mountain in the Dream World, it might suggest that the Pokémon initially reside in the mountains.

In the anime, Cacturne’s is Harley’s (May’s rival) main Pokémon, and it is easy to tell because Harley dresses up in Cacturne’s clothes. Harley is a fan-favorite character among the anime fans because of his eccentricity and comical maliciousness. He even teamed up with Team Rocket once lending them his Cacturne (and Banette, but that’s not important), and interestingly, Cacturne loves hugging Jessie, which is a fate that James shared during his times with his Cacnea. In fact, Advanced Generation viewers often give him credit for making the series much more enjoyable. Perhaps they made the right decision to give Cacturne to Harley (or is the other way around: design someone to inherit Cacturne?), because I consider Cacturne to be a quirky Pokémon, and Harley’s somewhat of a guy who can play dirty if he wants to, like Cacturne, making them a perfect match. In the Pokémon Adventures manga, however, Cacturne is owned by someone far less crazy, and this guy is Wally.

In competitive battling, Cacturne is a risky Pokémon to use, because it is frail and slow. However, by making use of its immunity and evasion boost, you can make Substitutes until the opponent missed, providing a window of opportunity to do something. Cacturne also has a high Attack and Special Attack, providing ways to hit hard, and thankfully Cacturne has the moves to do this. One can employ the Focus Punch and Sucker Punch combo to hit the opponent hard whether or not they attack, but that’s not the only thing it can do. You can also use Seed Bomb, Low Kick and Focus Blast for other attacks. Cacturne has the distinction of being the only Dark-type with Spikes, but this specialty is actually more notable as a Grass-type because Cacturne is a suitable parent for plants who can inherit Spikes because this family is the only one who learns this move naturally.

If there’s one ability I would have loved Cacturne to have, it’s Sand Rush, because it will both retain Cacturne’s natural sandstorm immunity and provide a huge buff to its support capabilities. Water Absorb is good and all, but Sand Rush is where we’re at. With this, Cacturne can be a nice cushion to Tyranitar’s Water, Grass and Ground weaknesses while providing Spikes or Leech Seed, similar to Ferrothorn but faster (Cacturne is Ferroseed’s best parent to inherit both moves). In addition to this, there’s Disable to stop a Choice attacker from being useful, Destiny Bond to remove a potential counter if played right, and boost one of your stats with Swords Dance, Growth or Nasty Plot like Shiftry, although Growth doesn’t have a huge increase in Cacturne’s home weather.

Well, Cacturne’s more interesting than I thought. It’s such a funny Pokémon because it looks like both a cactus and a scarecrow, can breed with Human-like Pokémon (including Spinda), has an ability that reveals what it was before it became one with the sand, and it has an all-around quirky appearance. In fact, it must have been a sight to see a herd of Cacturne marching together with a traveler dancing (it can learn Teeter Dance from Spinda). I find the Pokémon to be entertaining, despite being underwhelmed with some things, particularly the missed opportunity with providing this Pokémon Sand Rush.

9 Bamseon-ins out of 10!

+ Scarecrow origin is remotely fascinating
+ Unique attribute of being immune to Sandstorm despite its type
+ All-around quirky Pokémon in terms of mannerism and appearance
+ Good choice of trainer to give Cacturne to in the anime (Harley)
+ Easy to draw, in my opinion
+ Good mix of Grass-type and Dark-type characteristics
± Got some competitive battling potential, although it can prove to be underwhelming
– Sand Rush would have made this Pokémon a lot better
– Time of the day activity in the games is inconsistent

That’s all for the first half of Dark-types in Generation 3. I think we got off a good start for this one. Our next feature will be covering the other half of Dark-types, and if you perform the process of elimination, you can guess who goes next. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I have writing it.

Thanks for reading.

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