Sunday, October 21, 2012

57. Primeape

I like Generation 1 as much as anyone, truly. But Primeape is a low point. I haven't written for this blog in months, and it might be for that reason; it's hard to get excited about writing a Mankey post, and then a Slightly Different Mankey post. Evolution was subtle with these two.

But it's interesting to see how Primeape sprites are designed in such a way to distinguish them from Mankey sprites. Primeape has four key features an artist has to incorporate:

-bigger, spikier
-wrist and ankle bands
-no tail
-a cross-popping vein

And it should not be taken for granted that all these sprites successfully include those. The anime, for instance, once failed on the first step by drawing a Primeape the same size as a Mankey.

Perhaps it's a pygmy Primeape.

Gen 1 sprites take the approach of emphasizing spikiness. They show fur with serious amplitude, as if Primeape is undergoing some kind of internal combustion. I think R/G actually has fur shooting off Primape's body. It's a nice touch, as if Primape's energy can't be contained by its frame. Gold and Silver, meanwhile, go with the volume approach. Their poofy torso-heads take up most of the sprite space. They have meaty digits and limbs. Their shading implies depth and roundness. They probably have the most convincing fur. All sprites Gen III and onward, of course, are bereft of artistic ideology.

The cross-popping vein is interesting—first of all, because it apparently shows up through fur (consistent with its use in manga, I suppose), and second of all, because it makes Primape probably the only pokemon to have, as an official part of its anatomy, an emotive icon of Japanese origin. I can't think of another; a snot bubble for a sleeping pokemon? A sweat drop for an exasperated pokemon? Scary Shiny Glasses for a plotting pokemon? A nosebleed for—well, there's good reason for that.

Could this be a remnant of early pokemon design, which was intended for a Japanese audience? These days, Game Freak is more conscious of having a global franchise, so it's hard to imagine them using imagery that western gamers might not “get;” a few pokemon are even designed by a Brit now. Not that cross-popping veins are obscure or anything. I'm pretty sure that's about as global an icon for anger as you're going to find, but I might just be saying that because I grew up with Toonami and VHS fansubs.

Primeape's angry vein and general disposition do give it a certain appeal, I won't deny it. People like it for the same reason they like the Tasmanian Devil, or the Incredible Hulk. If we're drawn to Snorlax because it's fat and lazy, we're drawn to Primeape because it's chaotic and empowered by temper tantrums. It was only on Ash's team for like two episodes, but that anime appearance still probably earned it a lot of fans. It got to win a martial arts tournament, despite lacking experience and expertise, simply by out-angering opponents. Primeape, you are an inspiration.

I'd wager Primeape has a lot more enthusiasts than Vigoroth, which is a similarly enraged ape pokemon (though actually sloths are not apes; they belong to the order Pilosa with anteaters and pangolins), despite Vigoroth having the more interesting design in my opinion. Apparently there is a rap artist who goes by "Primeape", so it passes the rapper name test. And it has been hacked into Brawl, though I imagine that is true of most pokemon by this point.

Well, now I'm coming around on Primeape too. If there's an underutilized side to this pokemon, it's Primeape's potential to be scary. I mean, apart from Pokedex entries promising that a pissed off Primeape will chase you “to the ends of the earth”, most representations of Primeape miss out on the fact that it's a ball of pure rage that will stop at nothing to cause serious bodily harm to things for virtually any reason. My favourite drawing of Primeape is for the Team Rocket set's Dark Primeape card. It's completely menacing.

There's just something about its obvious anger combined with restrained body language that suggests that thing is about to snap and kill someone. The fact that it's standing in some weird Salvador Dali land probably helps make the illustration unsettling. But seriously, there's no reason why sprites can't be posed that well.

To finish up my Primeape internet roundup, here is a nice Donkey Kong mashup, here is proof that Primeape can be cute, and honestly I have no idea what this means.

The Winner:

I pick this one for all the stuff I said about volume earlier, and because rearing it up is the best way to make Primeape look big and threatening. A lot of sprites put Primeape on one foot, with its limbs flailing, but this one does it while feeling the most heavy and grounded. It understands that Primeape exists in 3D space; compare it to HG/SS's flat sprite to see what I mean.

Gold and Silver mark the first time Primeape was on a gym leader team, or a team of any serious opponent (Bruno never used one), so it's fitting that their sprites are the strongest looking. Chuck is the only gym leader who battles with only two pokemon and is met later than 2nd in a region; you can thank Primeape for holding up its end of the bargain in that DynamicPunch duo with Poliwrath.


  1. Stumbled upon your blog during your downtime interval and subscribed; glad to see you're still doing this! Love your critiques and insights. It's refreshing to see an overarching view like this.


    ; w; And hey look, you made me unhate Primape.

    And is it just me, or does the R/G sprite for Primape's face look... Unnecessarily unsettling? e Ae

  3. Yes, yes, you're back! And just in time for my new Black/White 2!

    1. Er... my new Black/White 2 obsession, that is.

      (It seems I left a word out of my previous post; how embarrassing!)

  4. Yay you're back! I love this blog! Keep on writing!

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