With the fifth generation upon us, we have once more seen that a bipedal, canine Pokémon was the first to be released to the public. This Pokémon, Zoroark, a play on Zorro and Dark has many similarities with its Jackal based brethren from Sinnoh, Lucario. Both for instance featured in a movie before they could be possibly obtained, and there similarity and what they’re based on isn’t very hard to comprehend. However are they really that similar? Or is Zoroark completely different to what was originally perceived of it?
Let’s look at some of Zoroark’s basics. It’s a Dark type Pokémon which evolves from its pre-evolution Zorua at Level 30, it is the star of its own movie (Zoroark: Master of Illusions), and as the title suggests Zoroark is very capable at disguising itself and creating illusions. Its ability ‘Illusion’ reflects this, copying the last Pokémon in the player’s party’s image and pretending to be that Pokémon. For instance, if the 6th Pokémon in your party was a Ferrothorn, when Zoroark is switched in it will appear as a Ferrothorn until it is damaged by an attacking move. While this makes it hard to switch Pokémon into random Pokémon, if Zoroark is uncovered it is rather predictable.
The ability to see an opponent’s team in Wi-Fi also nullifies his ability slightly as the opponent will be expecting Zoroark, wasting many good opportunity’s to switch in and wreak havoc. When switched in, the opponent will never truly know whether it’s a Zoroark or a different Pokémon, which gives Zoroark a certain edge, and until the Illusion ability is given to another Pokémon we won’t actually know how it compares. What we do know is that in this current metagame - both UU and OU - he’s been faring average, being UU in both Smogon and Pokémon Online (PO) tiers.
In Zoroark’s signature movie it appears as the mother (or "Meema" in Zorua’s words) of Zorua, a young Pokémon that joins Ash, Brock and Dawn in their travels to the Baccer World Cup in Crown City. However, Zoroark is captured at the start of the movie and forced to work and attack Crown City under the rule of the evil Grings Kodai, an entrepreneur that owes his success due to his ability to see into the future.
Kodai originally gained this power when he touched a Time Ripple under Crown City, which proceeded to kill all the vegetation around and in the city. Even though he knows it will happen again, he is determined to find the mythical Pokémon Celebi and gain more power. In true Anime style, a combination of the movie's mascot Pokémon and Ash’s help save the day, and Zorua and Zoroark head home to Unova. Waving goodbye Ash promises he’ll come to visit them in Unova one day, and in the credits we see Kodai heading off to jail.
It appears that the movie and game Zoroark seem to be have distinctly different personalities; the former being a defensive mother and the latter a dangerous trickster. But you can see the similarities in the two through both of their use of illusions. While Lucario was (and in competitive battling is) a headstrong attacker with the ability to abuse ‘Aura’, Zoroark is much more deceptive, using its abilities to fool its foes and lure them into traps. Their style of fighting is quite different, and Lucario is no more a trickster than Zoroark is a brave soldier.
Their similar typing—of both Dark and Fighting/Steel – only further prove this. Whilst similar in some aspects their relationship reflects the relationship of Gyarados and Milotic in many ways. In the Gyarados-Milotic relationship one is an aggressor and one a soother, and in the Zoroark-Lucario relationship one is a prankster and the other a noble fighter. The fact one is in the OU metagame and the others in the UU only further complements this. Zoroark is more the opposite of Lucario than its compliment.
Zoroark is a Pokémon that has risen in a similar aspect as a previous one, Lucario, and thus is constantly compared to its predecessor. However based on its appearance, its ability and its behavior, the similarities are clearly outweighed by the differences. Zoroark is not the second Lucario we originally thought it was, nor was it something that changed the metagame with its Illusion ability. While it certainly is distinct and is indeed a competent battler, it seems that Zoroark is more than happy to play it back from the shadows and be less of a Lucario and more of its own man. In an essence, that’s what makes Zoroark interesting.