Magmar Versus Electabuzz Is Secretly Pokemon’s Best Story
For a series that has been around for 25 years, Pokemon doesn’t have too many long running arcs. Ash, Pikachu, Jessie, James, and Meowth each have character development and growth in the anime, but most characters are cycled out as Ash tours the world with each new season, and because none of them age, this development is limited. In the games, the issue is even worse.
Since full sequels aren’t really a thing in Pokemon, we start our stories over from scratch with each game; it doesn’t help that we always play out the same story each generation either. If you’re prepared to look for them though, Pokemon has some great stories hidden underneath the surface – and Magmar versus Electabuzz might be one of the best.
Electabuzz and Magmar have a long running feud that many casual players might have missed. This dates all the way back to their first outing, Pokemon Red & Pokemon Blue. Magmar was only available in Red, and Electabuzz in Blue, which instantly casts them as opposites. They weren’t the only version exclusives, but they are clearly the most iconic pair of the bunch.. Where Red players get Bellsprout, Blue players get Oddish. For Red’s Growlithe, Blue has Vulpix. One gets Scyther, the other gets Pinsir. Every exclusive has a clear trade-off, but Magmar and Electabuzz have grown their rivalry continuously.
Not only are they the best exclusive stat-wise, they also have a similar height and build, learn moves at the same rate as each other, and are both eccentrically designed bipedal Pokemon only found in distinct locations; the Mansion and the Power Plant. But while other ‘rivalries’ stopped at just being exclusives in different versions, Magmar and Electabuzz have kept up the fight. They both had baby ‘mons introduced in the same gen, and final evolutions introduced in the same gen too, both following the principles of similarity which tied together the original duo in the first place.
They aren’t the only rivalry across Pokemon. Version exclusives have continued to be one of the big factors in which side of the generational split players fall on, and there are some great stories to have emerged from that. Zangoose and Seviper, based on the mongoose and the snake, are depicted as natural enemies, and Pokemon has done a good job of building up this narrative through Pokemon Go events and PokeDex entries, but it still feels in the shadow of the OG head to head.
It’s hard to say who the victor in this two decade strong war between Magmar and Electabuzz is. Especially because so long as Pokemon keeps going, the war is still on, and the whole point of the rivalry is that they’re evenly matched. It probably comes down to personal preference, although despite preferring Electabuzz’s design, there are some areas Magmar has over it. Magmar’s battle with Charizard in the anime is arguably the best the series has ever seen, and a perfect example of why Pokemon games should be learning from the television series. Meanwhile, Electabuzz’s biggest contribution to the Pokemon canon is how it says its name. I mean, have a listen below. It’s easy to see why that ridiculousness has cemented itself in the fandom, but you’d have hoped that Electabuzz might have done something else worth paying attention to in 25 years.
I like to think of them as Peter Griffin and the Giant Chicken in Family Guy. If you’re unfamiliar with that – how? – the Giant Chicken is Peter’s long running nemesis. He shows up about once a season and they have an action packed battle full of stunts, explosions, and increasingly nonsensical storylines; I’d say they’re basically the Fast & Furious of Family Guy, but I think we’re getting too far away from Magmar and Electabuzz at this point. Anyway, in Family Guy, while Peter has this epic rivalry, none of the rest of the family – nobody else in the show, even – is aware that it’s even going on. Peter disappears for four minutes to get pummeled by a chicken, then steps back into the frame as if nothing happened. Electabuzz and Magmar might be the same, constantly whaling on each other – no moves, just a gritty street fight – while no one is looking, then going back to wandering in the background, Electabuzz muttering “elec-blblublblublblu…” to itself.
Part of me wants to see Pokemon as a series lean into this more, to build the background battles like this into more of the main narrative. But then, I’m not sure it would be the same. Family Guy occasionally tries to play the Giant Chicken straight and it just never works – the joy is in the unknown, in the ways it could be constantly coming to a boil, in where it might go next. Keeping it as an in-joke might actually be for the best, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Next: Pokemon Twilight Wings Proves That Galar Shouldn’t Be Left With Sword & Shield
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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