Onix and Steelix

Thirty feet long in the pokedex and even bigger looking in its anime appearances, Onix is remembered by many as the one gigantic pokemon of the original dex, which is particularly interesting for one that never evolved from any smaller, baby-sized form.

The concept of a burrowing serpent with a segmented body of boulders has a very basic coolness to it, while Onix's literally and figuratively stony expression gives it a distinct personality, neither too cutesy nor too ferocious. It really gives the impression of an incredibly ancient creature, a wise and solemn beast that lives deep down in the Earth for centuries at a time. While often compared to a snake or a worm, its face always reminded me of a tortoise more than anything else. I guess it's that toothless, rounded beak.

According to the pokedex, Onix has a "magnet in its brain" which acts as a compass. This is one of those pokemon facts that sounds weird and fantastical, except that there are real, actual animals whose magnetic teeth serve the same purpose, to name just one real-world use of naturally evolved magnetic navigation.

I like Onix a whole lot. It just has this really fundamental, broad appeal to it, and its sort of slow, somber countenance is a little different from the personalities we're more used to. I give it a four, though my wife would probably give it a five or six.

Onix was given an evolved form in the second generation, Steelix, seemingly more to show off the new "steel" type than for any other reason, and my feelings on Steelix are a lot more mixed. It's still pretty cool, I definitely like its more exaggerated proportions, with a small, tapering body trailing off an enormous, monstrous stone head. It almost looks like a big, living flail crossed with an incomplete fish skeleton.

Unfortunately, I feel like Steelix just loses that certain spark of personality we see in Onix. I know I seem to say that a lot, but I guess it's because "more evolved" pokemon trend heavily towards looking "meaner," and the result is that an awful lot of them also come out feeling kind of the same. Why y'all get so old and bitter, pokemons?!

Thus, I give Steelix a separate three-ball rating. Cool, but a little too predictably cool.

...And then there's "Mega" Steelix. Wow. What a mess. There are some megas with thoughtful, attractive designs and then there are the megas that don't know what the hell they should do to build on their base, so they just slap on a bunch of gaudy, extraneous details and call it a day. The only really cool, fun thing about Mega Steelix is that its head is obviously meant to look like a shovel, but this single thoughtful characteristic is kind of oughtweighed by the excess of its fin-like chin projections, protruding quartz crystals, clashing blue-ringed segments and orbiting diamond shards. These details just don't feel like they have any synergy together or play into a single, cohesive idea other than "rock related stuff." Boo.

Nobody can even make a smoothly animated sprite out of Mega Steelix, because its silly orbiting shard things loop at an entirely different speed from its body!

Congrats, Mega Steelix, you are our very first one-ball rating...but you didn't have to be. I can see an idea here, and I'm going to at least lightly explore it.


Whenever we give a pokemon only one ball - or maybe just whenever I feel like it - I'll be doodling a rough, hasty vision of how I'd personally improve its design.

The shovel motif is the one thing Mega Steelix improves from regular Steelix, so I've trimmed off the unnecessary frills and basically given it back its old body with one major adjustment: its two largest segments are now roughly fist-shaped, as though someone is holding and using the gigantic shovel.

Unless the "fists" are a differently-colored rock from the other segments, this might be a tad too subtle, so I'll even let it keep the silly orbiting bits. Those can at least be rationalized as an effect of its magnetic brain kicking into overdrive.

The giant, murderous shovel that could have been...