Nature is scary, especially when its flora and fauna are capable of supernatural feats. The Pokémon Company wants to make sure we don’t forget this harsh reality in the next Pokémon Sword and Shield expansion, which introduces a terrifying new addition to the Slowpoke family.
This piece first ran on Kotaku Australia on September 30, 2020. It has been retimed as a weekend read (and because Galarian Slowking continues to live in my head rent-free).
As the name suggests, Galarian Slowking is a variant of the classic Pokémon found only in the region in which Sword and Shield are set. It bears a few similarities to the original Slowking, specifically wearing a symbiotic Shellder as a crown, but the relationship between the psychic and its headwear is a bit more sinister in Galar. I’ll let the official Pokémon website explain this unfortunate creature’s origins:
A Shellder bite set off a reaction between the chemicals secreted by Galarian Slowpoke’s brain and the spices inside its body, causing Slowpoke to gain the Poison type as it evolved into Galarian Slowking. The Shellder’s intelligence also skyrocketed, giving the Shellder psychic powers that put other Psychic-type Pokémon to shame.
While Shellder is a pretty unassuming Pokémon, all things considered, it’s revealed its true colours here. Not only has it turned the dopey Slowpoke into a walking flesh-bundle of chemical waste, but it’s also thrown in some sort of psychic manipulation or brainwashing for good measure. Galarian Slowking have been described as “uttering incantations” to speak with each other and may even “chant mysterious spells” in battle.
“Exactly what these Slowking are saying has yet to be fully understood,” the Pokémon website continues. If I had to guess, it’s probably some variation of its own name like every other Pokémon, but what do I know. We’re obviously dealing with some deep evil here.
Slowpoke as a species has long been mired in misery. They were introduced in the original Pokémon Red and Blue as incredibly stupid salamander-hippopotamus hybrids whose brains worked so slow that there was a five-second delay on external stimuli. And to evolve into a Slowbro, they need to have a Shellder latch onto their tails, which in turn completely removes their ability to feel pain. That’s not good!
That suffering only compounded in Silver and Gold, which included a major plot point about Team Rocket harvesting Slowpoke tails as a delicacy. It’s treated as an atrocity in those games, but subsequent installments treat the practice as vital for several dishes without a hint of irony. Don’t even get me started on Slowbro’s mega evolution, which causes the Shellder to completely encase and slowly digest the poor thing. Even beneath layers of stupidity and numbness, that’s got to be a frightening experience.
Galarian Slowking is just the latest in a long line of horrors The Pokémon Company has inflicted on the Slowpoke species. My only hope is that they find a modicum of peace after having their minds overtaken by their parasitic companions.