Sunday, July 1, 2012

55. Golduck

Golduck has the first pokemon design origin I ever knew. I was about six, and able to brag that Golduck was based on kappa, the reptilian river spirits in Japanese folklore. Remembering this today, it's puzzling how I made that connection so quickly. Then I saw the Pokedex entry from Red and Blue.

“Often seen swimming elegantly by lakeshores. It is often mistaken for the Japanese monster Kappa.”

BAM. I love it when they name drop the pokemon's real-world equivalent in the Pokedex entry. It's like a gift; it grounds Pokemon in reality and nudges you in the direction of finding out more. I wish they did it more often. “Vileplume: the Flower Pokemon. It is often mistaken for Rafflesia, the corpse-smelling parasite and world's largest flower. Yeah that's right. Look it up bitches.”

What's more, I ALSO actually knew what a kappa was, thanks to that one episode of Arthur where Sue Ellen gets spooked and schools everyone on creepy world mythology. A kappa makes a memorable (and in hindsight, kinda racially insensitive) appearance and Buster tricks it into spilling its head cup by going “Look! A five dollar bill!”

Because the way you defeat them is getting them to bend over. Like kitsune, they're associated with nature and exhibit behaviour ranging from playful trickery to straightforward evil, committing murder and abduction and rape. That bit wasn't mentioned on Arthur though.

The major way Golduck deviates from this origin is it doesn't have a head cup full of life-source water. It has the opposite of that. It has a bunch of spikes. Kappa are often depicted with a sort of lily pad on their head, which stores the water for them. Hmm... remind you of another pokemon?

Lombre's got the resemblance especially, with the claws and sneaky expression, and pokedex entries about being mischievous and tugging on fishing lines. They all have hard kappa beaks. I like it when Game Freak is not afraid to take a design inspiration they've used already and flesh it out a little further. Not to derail this post, but what a cool evolutionary line this is. They go from lily pad/amphibian thing to lily pad/kappa/sombrero to lily pad/kappa/sombrero/poncho/pineapple/party times. I... what? What just happened?

I suppose Golduck is also missing the kappa turtle shell. You take that turtle shell, claws, penchant for kidnapping women, and change the vowel in its name, and hey presto! You've got another Nintendo property.

Have you seen that image of Bowser comprising the three final starter evolutions? Well, now you know the truth: Bowser's pretty much Golduck. He's like Psyduck's third evolution.

Golduck doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles though. I've always looked at its sprites and seen nothing but coolness: it's angular, it's got attitude. It looks fast and stealthy and dangerous, with those webs and claws, and intelligent, with those sharp eyes. It's got a little bit of an ugly duckling narrative to it, the way it evolves from fat yellow Psyduck. Not to the extent of Ducklett/Swanna, who I feel were designed deliberately poorly and well, respectively. But it's inspiring, the way dysfunctional Psyduck ultimately becomes something worth reckoning. And so the appeal to Pokemon's target demographic is complete. One day we'll all be awesome Golducks, YOU'LL SEE.

There is a troubling fan art trend with Golduck, however. Because of its cool looks and somewhat anthropomorphic body, it apparently holds a lot of appeal for the pseudo-furry (scaly? feathery?) crowd. And so a google search will yield a plethora of results with faces drawn like this:

Dreamworks Face. Dreamworks Face everywhere

Is nothing safe? Is nothing sacred? Combine this with the fact that most artists can't make a bill look good (it's difficult), and you have a Mighty Ducks situation. It shouldn't make me like Golduck any less to know there are drawings like this being done, and yet... it sort of does. At least Paras will probably never be subjected to this.

Maybe I just need a palate cleanser. Here's Gary Motherf***ing Oak riding a right proper Golduck like a surfboard.

Finally, we have a return of the inexplicable forehead jewel from Persian. Not being based on a carbuncle, Golduck makes even less sense with it. And it can't even learn Power Gem! Crushed are my dreams of Golduck being able to fire laser beams out of its foreh—OH MY GOD

That is some Gundam Wing sh**. “Golduck: The Duck Pokemon. Its head laser has enough force to part the ocean. The ebb and flow of the earth's tides are actually caused by Golduck firing their lasers miles offshore.”

The Winner:

Most of these sprites work pretty well. FR/LG has a hunched over, lurking look to it. R/G and R/B are classics, with especially human looking eyes and especially hexagonal beaks. In general, it's probably best for Golduck's beak to be closed and its lower hinge obscured or nearly obscured; Platinum and HG/SS probably do the least for me. Again, I may just be scarred by the Mighty Ducks.

Yes, Silver's bill is fat and shaped like a shovel. But in a way it looks... tougher? And the whole sprite has a nice sense of movement to it, a better line of action than the others. And of course, I appreciate the high contrast lighting for a sense of depth. Check out the brow over Golduck's left eye. That's four pixels of highlight, in a Tetris block shape. Yet they do their job perfectly.

Now that is how you draw a Golduck head.


  1. Golduck has always been one of my favourites because a slight corruption of an existing myth is way more fun than playing it straight

  2. I think you might be reading too much into the fanart, dude. (Except for the third from the left. Ick.)

  3. Nice to see another update!Keep up the good work man :)

  4. Golduck from yellow was always badass. I thought he would be more powerful in the game :'(

  5. I've always thought they swapped the names and that golduck would fit better with psyduck because he's golden and a duck, while psyduck would work better with golduck because he has a psychic type look with that gem on his head

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