Greavard and Houndstone

Paldea brought us a dog made of bread as well as a dog made of Marlon Brando, and I really liked both of them. But the final domestic canid line of the region is not only the best one of the three, but to my personal sensibilities the best dog Pokemon in the franchise. Greavard is pure ghost type, a spooky dead dog that's said to be affectionate and friendly, but like most ghost types, steadily saps away the lifeforce of the living.

A ghost dog could have easily taken a more obvious and underwhelming route, an ostensibly "cooler" jackal-like or wolf-like animal with wispy fur or bone motifs, but Greavard is an endearingly messy, moppy little thing with shaggy bangs hiding its eyes (if it has any at all) and an ungainly oversized muzzle with jagged cartoon jaws. Its cool grey color scheme is acceptably dreary, topped with a growth atop its head resembling a candle with a purple flame. It kind of looks like the corpse of Hanna-Barbera's Muttley dredged out of a river, which I think might be the highest praise I've ever had for a cartoon dog design.

And while many charmingly odd, silly Pokemon designs might completely drop the ball when they evolve, Greavard actually really pays off.

I dare say Houndstone is quite possibly one of the best looking ghost Pokemon in the series, and that's a high standard. Inredibly high. There almost isn't a single forgettable ghost type in the franchise and few with a single aesthetic detail I'd have changed.

Expanding on my favorite characteristics of Greavard, Houndstone has a chunky, low-slung silhouette befitting of a creature that spends any significant amount of time creeping, lurking or perhaps skulking, its hunched body draped with long, wavy pale hair that nearly drags on the ground and still hides any hypothetical eyes, though there can't be that much room for any on its skull, which consists of 70% giant chunky lower jaw, and I'm so happy to be able to say SKULL.

The first Pokemon to have any visible bone in their designs were, of course, Cubone and Marowak, but those were only wearing skulls. The next was Houndoom, a dog with a skull-like forehead shield and some rib-like outgrowths. Next was the promising Duskull, an actual skull-faced ghost type, but its evolutions would drop the skull entirely. Last gen's Eternatus is aesthetically skeletal head to toe, but that isn't a part of its theme, and it's more like a radioactive space dragon whose anatomy resembles alien exoskeleton as much as it resembles weird, pink and purple bone.

Rumor has it that a lack of skeleton Pokemon can be chalked up to Chinese media restrictions, but that only applies to realistically human skeletons, and it isn't that hard a rule even then. There's really no accounting for the lack of bony pocket monsters in a world where skeletons are not only the most iconic spectral entities of all time, but unanimously understood to be so effortlessly cool looking, you can basically do no wrong the moment you strip most of the soft meat from a character design.

Why it took nearly thirty years to happen, I do not know, but Houndstone is a ghost type Pokemon consisting of a minimum 50% bare, white bone, and the other 50% is only ambiguous because it's covered by the hair. The jaws, tail, paws and legs are completely skeletal, and only black shadow prevents us from seeing any rib cage. I believe it's the rib cage that's actually ever considered too disturbing to Chinese censors, and so gets covered up by a little mummified flesh in a lot of overseas fantasy art. You may have noted the irony that this is much grosser than the bones by themselves, and even on Houndstone, the fur merely implies that there's a tattered sheet of dried skin still clinging to its dusty corpse.

So until further notice, this is the first Pokemon we can rightfully call a skeleton by any commonly acceptable definition, and I feel like it was worth the wait. It's such a perfectly gnarly, raggedy old bag of bone and hair that we still haven't gotten around to addressing how the candle on its head has been replaced with an entire little crumbly looking tombstone, which is as cool looking and gothic as it is dorky and silly, which just about sums up why this entire design works so well. It's technically the new grisliest creature in the series, and in higher resolution its design wouldn't look out of place in a soulslike horror title or the grainy photoshop accompanying some 2005 creepyasta. It is also at exactly the same time a completely huggable floppy-eared puppy doggy you could just as easily read like a wheezing cartoon grandpa, and the entire reason it's a ghost type is evidently that it's like a dog so faithful, even death couldn't stop it from watching over its loved ones.

This theming accounts for Houndstone's signature move, Last Respects, a ghost attack with a base power of 50 plus an additional 50 for every team member that's already fainted, giving it a base power of 300 if Houndstone is the last Pokemon standing. For non-players, it only takes 150 base power to knock out the average Pokemon in a single hit, and moves exceeding so much as 90 usually come with some sort of downside to balance them out. This is all before we factor the 50% damage boost all Pokemon give to moves of their own type, so that 300 would actually work out to 450 in practice, which positively nothing can survive unless it's a Normal-type Pokemon, which is simply immune to ghost damage. This is also the game in which you can "terrastalize" any Pokemon you want for another 50% power boost to their base element, and the first game that allows you to revive fainted Pokemon in multiplayer battle. Yes, this effect can be stacked, so if you have a Pawmot and a Rabsca in your team and they've both used Revival Blessing, that's another 100 power.

There's no scenario in which you would ever need this move's maximum possible damage output, but you can already boost it to obscene enough levels before you've lost your other five fighters. As long as all of its friends are dead, Houndstone is the deadliest Pokemon ever created...and why shouldn't it be, if it's also the deathliest?

All Scarlet/Violet sprite animations ripped by adamsb0303!