Monday, April 23, 2012

53. Persian

Time has not been kind to Persian. It used to be imposing, elegant, predatory—a worthy evolution to Meowth, a mountain lion with refinement. Then the next four generations happened. And now it is a cartoon. It's got that person-colour and uniform texture you normally see in like, cheap cat costumes. After Meowth, it seems to have few ideas worked into it, and anticipating pokemon like Liepard, it just looks plain. I think Hobbes probably has more design elements of note.

Not that Persian has to be Complicated Carl. But check its first two GameBoy sprites: aren't they slick? Note the scary-looking claws, the sharply angled eyes and ears, the Siamese colouration on the legs and tail. Now there was a fierce cat. These days they've rounded off everything, so it looks like a Disney character. Even Ken Sugimori is guilty of toning things down a bit.

Come back to me Ken! Sure his Persian is a bit more anatomical now, but at the cost of its whiskers, attitude, and cool, distinctive eyes.

Not that anyone cares, because no one plays Persian anymore, if they ever did. It's got a 440 in base stats, and most of that is speed. They could have bumped up its Sp. Defense after the Gen II Special split, given that it's so special and fancy, but they did not. It loses Meowth's Pickup ability upon evolution, which isn't until lv28. It almost exclusively learns Normal and Dark attacks. In Gen I, its entire learn set consisted of Fury Swipes (lv37) and Slash (lv 51). My, were those different times.

Persian also never appeared in the wild during the main quest of Pokemon games. The only time I can remember a trainer battling with one is Geovanni in Yellow. It just seems conspicuously absent from the entire franchise. Any worse and it would be a Chatot-level, gimmicky bit of world-building designed only so the anime could parody that James Bond villain for the bazillionth time in pop culture.

I have a bone to pick with its name too. It's pretty clearly based on Siamese cats, not Persian ones. Here's the two breeds, for the sake of cat pictures on my blog comparison:

They know it too, since its species name is “Siamese cat” in Japanese. I'm guessing they were going for the “purr” pun without spelling it, which wouldn't fly in today's Pokemon. Obviously every cat pokemon needs “purr” or “meow” in its English name—Purrloin, Purugly, Glameow, Meowth. Otherwise we wouldn't notice that they're cats. Come on, Nintendo localisers, work on your puns. Throw a “feline” or “gato” in there, something. I'm waiting for them to introduce a super fuzzy, actual Persian cat pokemon and name it Siameowse just to balance things out.

Incidentally, I get Persian (Pokemon) as the 4th result for a Google search of the word “Persian.” That's amazing. Persia had an empire for over 200 years and comprised 44% of the world's population, and it's still neck and neck in Google hits with an underused pokemon. Take that, Xerxes?

But Bulbapedia has more to say about its Siamese cat origin. They also liken it to the “Carbuncle, a Latin-American mythological beast which had a jewel on its forehead.” Woah, Carbuncle? The obscure bit of folklore mostly mentioned by Jorge Luis Borges? The one that reads emotions and shoots beams of light, and its facial bling is really valuable but you can't get it unless you have no desire for wealth in your heart or whatever. That Carbuncle? Not the skin infection, gemstone, or Final Fantasy summon Carbuncle. I'm kind of impressed. Bulbapedia's editors must really be up on their myths to make that connectio— oh.

Well apparently it is also a hot Yu-gi-oh property. What makes this card hilarious is not only how it resembles an Eeveelution (though it predates Espeon, at least), but also how “Crystal Beast Ruby Carbuncle” sounds like something you would make up if you wanted to make fun of Yu-gi-oh names.

The Carbuncle thing does make sense, though. I always thought Persian's jewel was just supposed to be like, a bindi. Something to tie Persian into the middle east / south Asian vibe given by its name. But I do not think people adorn their Siamese cats with bindis, at least not to my extensive knowledge from watching Sagwa: The Chinese Siamese Cat. Mostly it just served the purpose of letting me imagine Persian could shoot laser beams out of its head, along with Golduck, Tentac(rue)ool, and Slowking. Sadly, Persian was never shown demonstrating this power, but don't laugh; that's essentially the purpose of the move Power Gem now, so someone at Game Freak was thinking my way.

I guess taking a cue from mythology and replacing Meowth's kabon with a gemstone actually was pretty clever design at the time. I still don't like how they've handled Persian ever since though.

The Winner:

Yellow produces some fun sprites. With the last games coming on the same hardware, but years in between to develop the universe, some Yellow pokemon sprites really had style worked into them (see also: Blastoise). This one keeps the claws and mostly angular look of the original sprites, but with a better gemstone, overall detail, and that great pose, the likes of which we never see in Pokemon games anymore. Just an awesome sprite.

It also doesn't hurt that this Persian is ingrained in my head from its appearance in Geovanni's teams in Yellow. It's one of the few attempts to make Persian look cool, combined with the only attempt to make Persian relevant.


  1. Hey dude, another awesome post! I was actually hoping you'd pick the Yellow sprite XD I only play the original games (that makes me sound like a pokemon snob, but they're really the only ones I like), so I never realised how they un-cool'd Persian. I always thought it was kick-ass, but I didn't like Meowth enough to get one. For me, being Giovanni's prize pokemon (in the anime at least) made it awesome enough for me. Looking forward to the next entry!


  2. Hmmph. Nintendo is good at making first gen pokemon suck D:

  3. After C, it kinda' went down hill, huh? BW's is okay, I just feel that the feet & head are too dainty. ;T This was another excellent post! Can't wait to read the next one!!

  4. I agree, C was the beginning of the end for Persian =/

    Rhysman (Can't be bothered making an account, so I'm just gonna sign my posts :p )

    1. Yeah, Crystal and back are the best. :P I'm normally not one for liking the first two sprites, they actually aren't bad here. :P

      lol Rhysman, there's an option to type in a name. :P Click "Name/URL". Type in Rhysman and leave URL blank. Viola! That's what I do. :P

      Keep up the good work, Sprite Guy! :)

  5. How...did I miss that?! Haha thanks Gemini!

  6. They gave Persian the move Nasty Plot in the most recent generations, so I know a few people who exploit that.

  7. Honestly, the more "anatomical" art you see in newer gens for Persian actually look much more awkward. It's got a really ugly german shepherd slope to its back, and its proportions just aren't "catty" enough. A cat has a a longish, sloping back and stocky legs - the most recent art is the exact opposite.

    And the recent sugimori art is, in all honesty, even uglier than the sprites. The shoulder/upper arm of the persian hang so low below its chest that they're almost parallel with the femur and tibia, which is so very wrong if you look at an actual big cat or any other carnivoran. There's no way it could stalk prey or run properly. Poor thing looks anorexic, too, compared to the more muscular or at least big-boned appearance of early persians.

    1. It's nice to have someone who actually knows things about cat anatomy to sort of validate my opinions!

  8. I always thought that the gem was to indicate psychic abilities, like Golduck, Staryu, and Espeon, but come to think of it it doesn't really have any psychic moves or anything.

  9. It's annoying that Game Freak gives us about 2 cat pokemon each generation and then makes them crappier than they already were. Of course, we get around 8 dog pokemon each gen that just get cooler.
    Too bad I am a cat lover and it hurts to even use them

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