Sunday, January 30, 2011

38. Ninetales

The above image contains 99 tails. And they barely all fit. It may be considered a matter of respect to Ninetales that they did indeed illustrate every one.

Wait—scratch that. The two Gameboy Advance versions have only seven visible tails each. This of course earns them immediate disdain.

No, I am not done rambling about kitsune; the fox with nine tails is a pretty common representation of the animal/legend, nine being the maximum number of tails they can grow. Ninetales could not be based on this any more explicitly. By some accounts, kitsune grow a new tail once for every 100 years that they live, and when they reach nine, they turn white or gold in colour and gain the ability to see and hear everything (omniscience—forgot that in my list of kitsune abilities in the last post, darn). Does this dynamic remind you of anything? Like... leveling up? Learning new abilities? Evolution? Japan: where even ancient folklore abides by RPG rules.

The attacks Vulpix and Ninetales learn have changed over the years, from pretty much Ember and Fire Spin to supernatural ones like Will-O-Wisp, Grudge, and Extrasensory. I think that's a pretty cool instance of the game designers retconning a pokemon's style, after realising they hadn't fleshed it out as well as they could have the first time around. Of course, now the fox-pokemon-with-weird-moves role is filled by Zorua and Zoroark, so that may be it for Ninetales' attention. Also, it's another one of those Pokemon that evolves with a stone and won't learn any attacks afterward. Come on, Nintendo! Lore says it evolves and learns new stuff by getting older; if any pokemon should evolve by level up it's Ninetales! And explain how this is fair [nerd rant ahead]: Arcanine, who is basically Ninetales' counterpart (fire pokemon, evolves by fire stone, always version exclusive for each other), gets the highest non-pseudolegendary base state total of all pokemon, and a kickass signature attack learned post evolution, in ExtremeSpeed, which does 80 damage with double priority, and what does Ninetales get? Zilch. Routine stats, and it could learn crappy Fire Spin in Gen. II and III, but even that has been taken away now. What's up with the favouritism, when Ninetales is such an equally sexy pokemon?

Anyway, it wouldn't stop me from proudly rolling with Ninetales in my party, if I didn't usually pick Charmander/Cyndaquil and play Gold instead of Silver. Ah well.

The Winner:

You can't throw a stone at your computer screen without hitting a beautiful Ninetales sprite on this page (I don't recommend that, by the way), so I really have to delve into the nitpicky here. For one, the inclusion of all its big, fluffy tails can sometimes make Ninetales look a little heavy. How in the world could its butt muscles support all those things? How does it run? Ninetales' tails clearly benefit from a more stylized, weightless look, as you can see in like every instance of artwork done for it ever

As well as fanart like this and this and hey, even Pokemon Stadium got it right:

But instead all these sprites go the route of elaborate, ornamental heaps of tails that look way too carefully arranged to be believable.

Furthermore, you have to get Ninetales' head to look sufficiently dignified, and I don't think a big ol' smirk really does that, and neither does making it look small and hyena-like, as FR/LG does. And its mane needs to be cool and elegant without looking like it has too much hairspray in it. Platinum does all these pretty well; it's got a definite sleekness. You can also appreciate how they went back and improved on the D/P sprite just for the release of Platinum. Gold and Silver's sprites come close behind, for their spacey black eyes.


  1. Funny thing ninetails got Drought as a DW ability so it's fire blast is now even more deadly.

  2. I have to say I didn't think about Ninetales much until I played PMD: Blue Rescue Team, in which it's a legendary Pokemon, but now it's one of my favorites. Though personally I like the gold and silver sprites because I like the black eyes better than the red, which makes it look like it's possessed by a demon or something.

  3. I have to go with Fire Red, and I think it's kind of dumb to discount them just because only seven tails are shown. In fact, I think that's a large part of why I find the FR sprite so aesthetically pleasing. In many of the sprites Ninetales' back leg isn't shown - that doesn't mean it's not there, it just means they didn't try to cram too much into a small space. Nine huge, bushy tails is demanding - it just makes the sprite look cramped up, in my opinion.

    I also like the R/G sprite. It's obviously not the -best- sprite, but it's a nice take. Nice action pose and small tails.

  4. Nine tails= Rippoff of nine LIVES.

  5. I have a Ninetales figure, for some reason it only has 7 tails X3

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