Wednesday, June 2, 2010

12. Butterfree

It seems Butterfree exists to be incredibly useful for a short while and then abandoned forever. It happens across all mediums—I’m continuing to pretend to have no nostalgic loyalty to the anime, but even “let’s train a Pikachu forever and never have it evolve” Ash Ketchum lets go of his in an episode that can only be described as a bolt of emotional catharsis for an entire generation of shut-ins and autistic children.

nooo don’t go Butterfree you’ll throw off the party balance

In the games, of course, they tend to be crammed permanently and unceremoniously into a storage box somewhere around the second or third gym. I mean, at least Ash’s was out getting laid. What is Pokémon trying to teach us? The ephemeral nature of all good partnerships? The astringent bodily limits we are dealt in life? Are we all merely Butterfrees, dreaming we are human? If a Butterfree flaps its wings in Kanto, does it—okay I’ll stop

Butterfree’s design is one of those that kind of cheats by taking an already pretty awesome animal—in this case Aporia crataegi

(that noise you hear is the very last vapors of masculinity rushing out of this site, as if through an open airlock)

and tweaking it only slightly, to avoid nature’s copyright claim I guess. So in theory it should be hard to draw a bad Butterfree sprite when you have such an ample reference point—though the Gameboy Advance generation makes a pretty good go at it. Way to make Butterfree’s wings look practically vestigial, dorks

The Winner:
Red and Blue

Since I’m holding these up to the real-life Butterfree above, this is clearly the way to go. Back when Butterfree wasn’t Barney purple. Back when it had a mystical aura—the first fully evolved pokemon you get, the first with psychic attacks. Maybe it’s just the lack of color, but this sprite always had a big, imposing, yet fragile, otherworldly quality to it. Not too bad for a bug. It’s like they took something that should have been common and routine and turned it into the Ghost Orchid of Pokémon sprites.

The wings are obviously of utmost importance here, and this one really nails the detail in that department. More than the others, it looks like a pair of wings that happens to have a creature attached to it—not the other way around. The space allotted to them is huge, second only to Red and Green’s, which doesn’t have the finished quality. I try to judge these things free of nostalgia, and usually the original Gameboy art doesn’t hold up, but Butterfree is the exception. I’d say it has earned durability in at least this respect.


  1. Uh yeah, R/S and FR/LG look really horrible. All the other ones are pretty good; seems like it's hard to mess up Butterfree. This is also one of the rare times where the Gold sprite is just a coloured update of the R/B sprite.

  2. Hey you're right, they're pretty darn similar. R/B's has more detail though

  3. I'd say Diamond/Pearl is my favorite, followed by Red/Blue. Red/Green is kinda scary...

  4. I just noticed Butterfree's wings get smaller over the generations.
    Personally, I found in Red and Blue that if you keep your Butterfree properly leveled, it's actually really good. Plus, if you start with Charmander chances are you're going to be relying on Butterfree's Confusion to defeat Brock.

  5. The ones from the gameboy advance do look small, but that's because of the point of view - they were trying to give it a more "actiony" pose, charging towards the opponent. Kinda like the Silver sprite, but they went a bit too far. Butterfree doesn't really have any moves like that, it mostly releases diseased spores and sends psychic waves from afar while it just floats around.

  6. The crumpled wings are odd, but I like how the Red and Green sprites emphasize Butterfree putting its hands together, like it's saying, "Yes, yes, good, EXCELLENT. All is going according to plan."

  7. Pokemon - Emerald - Hack (all pokemons) GBA ROM+SAVE+CHEAT