Pokemon Reviews: Diamond, Pearl and Platinum

Without a doubt Generation 4 is the worst set of Pokemon designs. That’s not even an opinion, I can prove it using maths. Observe. This generation contains 89 actual Pokemon although thanks to the marvel of additional forms the number of designs is slightly higher. Of those 89 pokemon 14 are legendaries, the most of any game so far and a big leap from 10 in the last game and a mere 5 in the first game. Now I quite like legendaries and in 4th gen’s defence they do have some cool legendaries and the large amount of them is integral to the plot of the game. However, legendaries are supposed to be rare and exotic beasts, something extraordinary and special, making them more than an 8th of the game is definite overkill. The biggest crime by far though is that of the mere 89 pokemon a whopping 25 of those are either evolutions or prevolutions from an existing pokemon. Now I have stated before how much I hate that. It’s actually not a horrible idea to produce a new evolution for an existing pokemon but the problem is often the original pokemon isn’t available in the new game, so you have to trade from an older copy of the game and if you don’t have an older copy, well tough luck you can’t get these pokemon. And this time around they make up more than a quarter of the available designs. Now the idea here is that Diamond and Pearl were released after Fire Red and Leaf Green which were remakes of the earliest games, green and red, which did contain the original designs. That means a lot of these are available if you trade monsters from green and red. But not all of them are available in fire red and leaf green. And anyway why should you have to own and crucially pay for a different game to get enjoyment out of this one?! Pokemon has always had an element of that even at the start with some monsters in red not being available in blue and vice versa but that was always a small amount of monsters and you could always trade monsters in the same generation with a friend rather than having to own an older game. Diamond and Pearl just seems so much worse since the proportion of unavailable monsters is much higher. And they also have a diamond/pearl split in addition to requiring you to port monsters from an older game. Its blatantly mercenary and money grubbing and it leaves a horrendous taste in my mouth. Worse of the “original” Pokemon that are here many are clearly versions of older monsters. Torterra is Bulbasaur, Chimchar is Charmander, Starly is Pidgey, etc. Its in every way the wrong way to take the lessons learned in the third generation. That generation was characterised by overly complicated but quirky designs inspired by more abstract concepts like the weather, Japanese folklore, ancient dolls and lesser known animals. Here we’ve kept the overly complicated but Pokemon is beginning to eat itself, ripping off its own older designs and going back to the same idea well again and again. The game itself is great. The plot in particular is a stand out with a villain who doesn’t just want to run a criminal gang but wants to exploit powerful legendary Pokemon to literally remake the universe in his own image. As such many of the designs, especially in the legendaries are about aspects of reality, time, space and the human psyche. There is a big move towards more complex themes and ideas and its a better RPG because of it. Unfortunately the game doesn’t introduce anything new in terms of mechanics. Ruby and Sapphire added weather mechanics and double battles. Diamond and Pearl added nothing. Unless you count poffins or the underworld aka pointless mini games that nobody enjoys. Anyway enough bitching, lets look at some specific designs.

Turtwig, Grotle, Torterra

Sigh!

Basically it’s Bulbasaur again. And I like Bulbasaur guys, he might be my all time favourite. But another four legged reptile with a plant growing out of it’s back, really? At least this time it’s a tree and not a flower.

Actually I like Torterra quite a bit just because of the addition of the mountain, turning his back into a kind of bonsai landscape. It’s objectively a much better design than Venusaur whose flower was terrible and who had an ugly, ugly face. You can make similar argument for Turtwig and Grotle too actually, the execution for all three is fine it’s just that it’s an idea they already did. Like I said in my intro, this is a problem for the whole generation.

Chimchar, Monferno, Infernape

Chimchar’s kind of cute but, an animal with a tail on fire? That’s Charmander guys. Again the execution is probably objectively better than Charmander, it’s a cuter drawing, I like the way fire is subtly indicated in the hair style as well as overtly on the tail and I like the pose which conveys a lot of personality. The personality in question being, jokey, which works for a monkey.

What saves this trio really is Infernape which is nothing like Charizard at all. The flaming hair is a nice touch, visually striking and even threatening and I love the elements shared with Chinese/Japanese art invoking a samurai-esque feel.

Piplup, Priplup, Empoleon

Easily the standout of the three starters. The water type starters have never really had much in common design wise and Piplup again doesn’t really match previous entries, it’s an original idea. That said it’s basically a cartoony penguin, not exactly an earth shatteringly original design but how can you hold anything against it when Piplup is just so cute. Look at that guy, he’s straight up adorable. I mean he’s a baby penguin, and if you can’t find it in your heart to love, nay, wub, a baby penguin then you sir have no soul.

I like Empoleon a lot too, I like the pattern of dots on all three turning into a full blown cravat on Empoleon, a subtle nod to how penguins are usually described as looking like they wear tuxedos. He also look’s like he’s wearing some kind of regency era coat. I like his crown too and how they link it in to beak and headress. Teamed with the high collar Empoleon has a lot of dignity and looks pretty imposing. I’m not a fan of the weird protrusions on his wings though which are a busy and distracting element.

Staryu, Staravia, Staraptor

Or this generations Pidgey, Pidgeotto and Pidgeot. Only starlings rather than wood pigeons. Meh. They’re unimaginative but fine. Whereas the Pidgey’s were just straight up cartoon birds these do have a shared design element of the star marking them out as fantasy creatures but they’re over cluttered designs with no real cool hook

Bidoof, Bibarel

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Bidoof, oh Bidoof. How could anyone not love you?

Although Bidoof seems to get a bit of a kicking online for looking stupid I honestly don’t know how you could not love the guy. I mean, yes, he does look dumb but that’s all part of the charm, he’s a loveable bucked tooth doofus you guys. It’s right there in the name.

And really the ridicule should be saved for Bibarel. Have you seen the expression on that guys face. You can practically hear him saying “duuuuuuuuuuuuuuh”. He’s a fat beaver with downs, why would you not want this on your team?

Kricketot, Kricketune

The first set of designs that I like without reservations. Both of these are working to a classic Pokemon formula, take an existing animal (in this case a cricket or some kind of beetle) add a theme (in this case music) and incorporate elements of the theme organically into the design. What I love about these two is just how many different musical elements have been added and how they can easily be read as musical or insect-like. Are the horns on Kricketot’s head tuning forks? Is that a moustache or musical notation? Claws or a violin bow?

Shinx, Luxio, Luxray

I can’t believe it took us four generations to get a lion Pokemon. Lions have got to be one of the most prominent animals in world culture. They are visually distinctive, have plenty of myths surrounding them and would basically make perfect Pokemon. It also took us till 4th gen to do hippos, penguins,  squirrels and scorpions all of which you’d think would come first before we doubled up on snakes and generic small birds. And even in 5th we’ve still not had tigers, gorillas, orangutans, flamingos, eagles or dozens of other famous animals. But hey, we’ve had an ice cream cone.

I think Shinx, Luxray and Luxio are okay but mostly I think they’re cluttered. They have a lot of design elements that don’t really scream lion or electricity to me which are repeated. Like the star patterning on the tail and Shinx’s ears. I guess it’s supposed to be electric in some way but it’s less like a flash and more like a burning fuse on the tail. Also the bands on the legs which increase from one, to two and then three. That’s a needless element, it doesn’t signify anything. Also the shape of the base of the tail and the mane eventually resembles a star too, again stars are more of a fire or psychic thing than they are electricity. And why are they blue? I do like Luxray though, he’s a nice sleek badass in overall silhouette even if he is a touch cluttered.

Budew and Roserade

Budew is a terrible, terrible pokemon. It’s a doodled smiley face with two stubby legs and some weird bud thing that looks like no plant I have ever seen.

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Roserade however is awesome. It’s tuxedo mask the Pokemon  of course but considering I have praised designs that look like Ultraman or Power Rangers before I really have no problem with that.

The colour change and the incorporation of the roses directly into the monsters arms differentiate it enough from Tuxedo Mask that the design stands on its own. Plus romantic swashbuckling plant monster is just conceptually cool.

Cranidos and Rampardos

Other than being based upon a cool dinosaur to begin with (Pachycephalosaurus Wyomingensis, check it out below) I don’t have much to say about these two. They’re overly busy with lots of extraneous lines and patterns but the pose sells the core element. That big, hard, spiked head that is charging towards you.

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Sheildon and Bastiodon

Shieldon is a ceraptosian, aka one of the family of dinosaurs that Triceratops belongs to. However unlike Triceratops he doesn’t have a formidable beak or dangerous looking spikes. Instead his head looks a little bit like an old fashioned bed pan.

Bastiodon in contrast looks like a cross between a dinosaur, a bulldozer and Satan. It’s like construction equipment came to life and started rampaging around town. That thing looks straight up terrifying. The huge head, the short stubby legs, the spikes, the absolutely huge tusks. Its all danger and power and belligerence. I also love the colouring since it evokes a bulldozer so clearly.

Burmy, Wormadam and Mothim

I honestly have absolutely no idea.  That being the case I like to be informative and occasionally educational with these things so I went looking.

180px-Burmy_no_cloak

I found this picture of a Burmy which helps make a lot more sense out of its design at least. It is a caterpillar wrapped in some kind of grass cloak and what I originally took to be it’s nose is actually it’s beak. It’s a real problem however that I couldn’t initially tell what was going on here. I couldn’t tell that was a beak, that those things at the bottom weren’t legs, etc. That just speaks of clumsy design. Wormadam is also a terrible mess. Are those leaves supposed to be wings? Ears? Mothim is less confusing but is the least appealing of any of the moth/butterfly designs thus far due to the tiny body and large, rather uninteresting wings.

Combee and Vespiqueen

Firstly Combee is a terrific pun, well done localisation team.

Combee and Vespiqueen are absolutely fantastic high concept designs. What does everyone know about bees? Well they have a kind of hive mentality rather than individual intelligence. Making that literal by having them being conjoined bodies is a great idea and using the honeycomb pattern for the combined bodies is just inspired.

Vespiqueen I like less but she’s still a good design and an example of anthro monsters done right. She doesn’t look like a bee, she looks like a human queen in a ballgown, but the shape of the arms, the colouring and the honeycomb pattern all say bee and tie the two designs together. Simply inspired.

Pachirisu

I can’t believe it took this long to do a squirrel. Unfortunately it’s not particularly well executed. Like Shinx it’s overtly cluttered and busy with pointless spikes and for some reason it’s blue again. Beyond that it’s just a cartoony squirrel, no suggestion of electricity and no high concept.

Floatzel and Buizel

Another high concept done right. What’s an otter? Well basically a weasel in water right. So they went with a weazel wearing arm bands and a life vest. that’s a great way to communicate the water typing without resorting to having it be part made of water or colouring it blue. I also like the split tail. As well as reminding me of Tails from Sonic it’s yet another nod to Japanese mythology (multi-tailed foxes) but this time employed rather cleverly as a propeller. It’s another well thought out element that makes it look more alien and distinct. These two designs are also pretty streamlined and free of extraneous details for the most part.

Cherubi and Cherrim

cherubi cherrim

I want to know why Cherubi starts with two head but ends with one. Did it eat the other head? Is it like a conjoined twins in the womb thing? I mean the evolved Cherrim looks so cute, but behind those smiling eyes must be the soul of a cannibalistic monster.

Shellos and Gastrodon

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I have to admire at least the attempt to make sea slugs cute and interesting but giving them weird head ornaments isn’t the way to go.

Ambipom

ambipom

Possibly the besr example of lazy repetition I could ask for. Apiom was a monkey with a hand for a tail, and it had no evolution. So when it came time to look for new ideas, they decided to give it an evolution with two tails. No other real thought, just a second tail. Was there some kind of deadline guys? Were you so starved for ideas that, the same but more, was really the best you could run with?

Drifloon and Drifblim

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These are great designs. Although basically just taking an existing item (a balloon) and adding a face there are enough other touches and changes to make it stand as a monster, for example turning the string used to hold up the balloon into arms.

However, whilst these guys may look cute they really harbour a dark secret. From the pokedex entry;

“It is whispered that any child who mistakes DRIFLOON for a balloon and holds on to it could wind up missing.”

Drifloon is a kidnapper. An evil monster that steals children disguised as an innocent plaything. That is possibly too dark Nintendo. I’m not opposed to some dark themes in Pokemon but implied paedo…. actually I’m not sure what would be implied. What would a Drifloon do with a stolen child? The mind boggles frankly.

Buneary and Lopunny

bunearylopunny

*sigh*

Please, please, please stop making sexy Pokemon Nintendo. Please. I have nothing against furries. I don’t understand furries but they are welcome to have their own corner of the internet and do whatever they want in it. So long as it doesn’t  hurt people. But this, this is hurting people. You have made me contemplate Pokemon sexiness today and that was not something I wanted to do.

Just please, no more stripper boots.

Mismagius

mismagius

Misdreavus was dull but Mismagius is awesome. Although basically just a wiche’s hat and a cloak sometimes one evocative detail like that is all you really need.

Honchkrow

honchkrow

I think being next to Mismagius ( a witch) we’re supposed to read Honchkrow as a wizard, with the white fathers being a beard and the hat being a wizard’s hat. But I always thought he looked more like a gangster wearing a tuxedo. The name honch, as in head honcho, sort of implies that too. Is he a gangster wizard? Because that sounds awesome. In fact screw Pokemon I want a game about wizard gang wars right now.

I’ll wait…..

Glameow and Purguly

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They’ve done the ugly monster turns into gorgeous one trick before but now we get the reverse and, ye gods man! Ugly doesn’t begin to cover it.

Want me to make it worse for you. Okay, see the bulge under the body and the white markings on Purugly. That is supposed to resemble the kind of tabards older Japanese women often wear. That’s right, this is a pokemon themed around how the designer’s wife got fat and ugly after they got married. And I thought the child stealing balloon was dark, this guy needs therapy.

Chingling

chingling

I like this one a lot. Somebody at the design time clearly noticed that bells kind of have faces already and not much needs to be done to turn it into a monster except give it some arms and legs. I wish more designs worked on similar principles.

Stunky and Skuntank

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The best thing about this Pokemon by far, by far is that when it arrives in battle it issues forth a massive fart. I’m 26 years old and monsters using farts to attack their enemies is till fun. Can you imagine how brilliant that is when you’re 10?

Bronzor and Bronzong

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Pretty similar design to Chingling actually, take object, turn existing patterns into face only less well done since the faces are so bland and lacking in personality.

Bonsly

The first of a slew of baby Pokemon in this generation. There usually isn’t much to say about baby Pokemon, they’re “cute” versions of existing designs. They have the classic small fat bodies, disproportionately large heads and eyes we associate with babies and that evoke cuteness. Bonsley’s just well executed more of the same.

Mime Jr

Whilst Mr Mime might be my least favourite original gen 1 design I love Mime Jr, probably because he looks much more like a monster and less like a guy in a suit. It helps that his clown hat looks like his head rather than a hat. Actually it might be that he’s clown themed and I just hate clowns much, much less than I hate mimes.

Happiny

Is that really a Pokemon in a poodle skirt? Is that why she’s called Happiny, because of Happy Days? that seems like an odd reference for a Japanese guy to make. Tuxedo Mask, sure, but Grease?

Chatot

Making a parrot themed around sound is inspired. Unfortunately only the headcrest sells that in this design with the rest just being a generic parrot. I’m also not sure why it has the “not sure if” Fry Meme expression.

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Sprirtomb

“Oh shit! I just spilled my paints everywhere.”

“Wait Gary doesn’t it, kind of look like a face?”

“You’re right Steve it does.”

“Well why don’t you just knock off early and submit that as your Pokemon design?”

“………GENIUS!”

Gible, Garbite and Garchomp

What’s scarier than a shark? A SHARK THAT CAN CLIMB OUT OF THE SEA AND CAN GET YOU ANYWHERE!!!!

These three have more to them than just that, admittedly brilliant, concept though. Gible is a great start with the huge mouth and tiny arms and legs. It’s a similar concept to the baby Pokemon but with a huge scary mouth, a nice little inversion of tropes there. Garbite and Garchomp are more humanly proportioned and look more threatening because of it. You might think I’d complain about the little extraneous spikes everywhere but I actually like them, specifically because they do serve a purpose. Firstly sharks have teeth on their skin, it helps them cut through water and whilst they aren’t literal chompers but rather a sandpaper texture this is a nice version of that idea. The positioning also evokes the idea of the whole body as one giant mouth. Although Garbite and Garchomp have mouths the red pattern on the chest and the teeth on the knees and arms make it appear as if they’re whole body is one big mouth coming at you and that all ties back in with Gible. These are smart well thought out designs that not just look cool but have a ton of neat ideas incorporated into them too.

Munchlax

He just looks so happy, strolling along there. He looks like he’s just about to burst into song.

“I wanna be, the very best, like no one ever was…”

Riolu and Lucario

These two are something of a fan favourite and Nintendo pushed them heavily as icons of this generation. I hate them, I just don’t understand anything about their concept or their execution. It’s a dog, stood up, with spikes on its hands and wearing shorts. What does that mean?!

The basic body shape and pose and the shorts suggests to me maybe a kickboxer but, but why make it a dog?

Oh….oh no.

No way.

Is it, maybe because kickboxing is popular in Thailand and Korea? Did you sneak a joke about Korean people eating dogs into a Pokemon game Nintendo?

I’m starting to think that maybe the “accidental” racism in Jynx was more intentional than I gave it credit for.

Hippopotus and Hippowdon

Like Gible this is an aquatic creature for some reason linked with the land. To that end I think that giving it a camo pattern is a cute way of suggesting a desert dwelling hippo.

When I look at Hippowdon all I get as far as is “OH god look at it’s red eyes! The satanic hippo is coming to eat me” and have to run away from my P.C. for a while until I think it’s safe.

Skorupi and Drapion

What an absolutely wasted opportunity. Scorpions! MOTHER FUCKING SCORPIONS! Scorpions, Nintendo, are one of the coolest animals on the planet. They have huge dangerous looking claws. They have enormous venomous tails. They’re sleek and badass with the body basically being a shiny after thought to those massive claws and tail. They are not, crucially, not, made of accordions.

Look at Skorupi, look at that mess. Instead of a dangerous sting it had some weird grabby thing. Instead of mighty claws it has tiny little stingers. It’s eyes look bizarre and make it look much more like a doodle than a creature that could exist. All of that is wasted but it all is second place to the frankly baffling decision to give it a body that looks like an accordion. That is all you see at first glance and it never gets any better.

Croagunk and Toxicroak

A cross between a poison dart frog and some kind of martial artist, although I can’t tell you what kind. There is a lot to like about these two and a lot that doesn’t make much sense. I love the subtle martial artist elements (the bandages and mouth guard/teeth), I like the dagger hands on Toxicroak and I like the facial expressions switching from goofy to sly and deadly. I don’t like the weird head spike though or the pattern of black lines which make it look as if Toxicroak is wearing some kind of harness.

Carnivine

Who wants a hug guys?

What, no, no, don’t let the big teeth scare you, Carnivine just wants cuddles.

Fineon and Lumenion

Does anyone like the fish Pokemon? I mean, I know Nintendo should make them since there are millions of species of fish and they come in lots of bizarre shapes and it would be weird if there weren’t any fish Pokemon but they’re all pretty uninspired and usually just consist of cartoony versions of whatever Ken Sugimori has in his fish tank at home. Plus I always found it weird to use them in battles. I mean most battles take place on land so how would the fish fight there? It would just be flopping about. With reptiles or amphibians they can come on land and blast jets of water or run over and tackle you, but what’s a Goldeen going to do in the desert?

All of this is distracting attention from the fact that I don’t have much to say here. Ermmm Finneon’s tail looks like a butterfly. That’s, kind of clever, I guess.

Mantyke

That sure is a baby manta-ray, yup.

Snover and Abomasnow

The brown parts on Snover are meant to be roots but with the overall body shape and colouring they make it look like this Pokemon is a miniature snow covered mountain. That’s the kind of duality of design that I like.

Weavile

Sigh, from here on in folks it’s all legendaries and new evolutions for old Pokemon. Some of these aren’t bad designs by any stretch of the imagination but again after the success of Gen 3 it’s a shame to see them go back to the well and rework old ideas rather than come up with something new. Weavile is a new evolution for Sneasel and I’ll be honest I don’t get it. Sneasel already had feathers for no reason I could discern and now Weavile adds more and turns them into some kind of head dress. In fact he looks a little bit like an Aztec. Is that racist? I don’t even know anymore.

Magnezone

A huge improvement on Magneton. Having the three magnemite fuse together rather than just hanging out near each other is much more imaginative and more focused. I also like this design a lot, I like the flying saucer shape and I love the single main eye. It’s alien and imposing.

Lickilicky

There’s stuff I like here, I like the body pattern evoking a bib and I quite like how fat he has gotten, it sells a gluttonous eating monster quite well. I don’t understand the Jehri Curl though or why his tongue got shorter. And really localistion team, Lickilicky? This guy was named on Friday afternoon wasn’t he?

Rhyperior

Bwa ha, ha ha.

Sorry, I’ll just…

BWA HA HA HA HA!

Alright, whose bright idea was it to combine Rhydon with the Michelin man?

Actually there are a lot of clever things going on with Rhyperior. His nose is a drill, his arms are jack hammers, his tail is a wrecking ball, the orange patterning on his head is supposed to be ear protectors and on his body a hi-vis jacket. Basically he’s a burly construction worker with his tools built right into his body. That’s a great idea but if I hadn’t explained that would you have spotted it? No, because this design is an overly cluttered jumbled up mess. Nice try guys but maybe work a little harder next time.

Tangrowrth

Exactly the same as Tangela but bigger and with some of the tentacles extended to make arms. Lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy.

Electivre

I love Elekid and hate Electabuzz and Electivre is a resounding meh. What worked in Elekid is the electrical elements were obvious and well incorporated into the body shape. Here he just has two plugs stuck to his back.

Magmortar

I’ve made fun of the previous two Magby/Magmar evolutions for being magma ducks with goofy faces. Well, you fixed one issue at least, he isn’t a duck. Instead he’s a fat guy with a hilarious face in a unitard and guns for hands. I don’t think there is a single redeeming feature of this design.

Togekiss

Togekiss looks a lot like Togepi, since Togepi was basically and egg and here we have a flying egg, but almost nothing like Togetic. Togetic had wings and arms, a long neck, etc. I much prefer Togekiss but it’s odd nonetheless.

Also do you think he misses having hands? He doesn’t look like he does.

Yanmega

I think I might have to replace the “just stick a horn on it” gag with “eh we’ll just cover it in spikes” at this point.

Leafeon and Glaceon

Unlike other pokemon I think are going back to the old well too many times I love new Eeveelutions. I want ones for every type. Leafeon and Glaceon are clear examples why. Strong clearly focused designs free of extraneous elements.

Gliscor

How do you make a flying bat/scorpion monster even scarier? You make it look like Dracula, complete with fangs, hypnotic eyes and cape. No criticism here that is inspired.

Mamoswine

I really like this one a lot. It’s a pig mammoth. Not exactly earth shattering but a simple well executed concept.

Porygon Z

I liked Porygon 2 well enough. I liked how the move from square pixels to rounded ones suggested an improvement in computer graphics and how the sequel name sounded artificial and linked in with its computer program roots. This though? What do the floating limbs or the Z title add? It’s just copying an earlier idea without improving on it.

Gallade

A male version of Gardevoir and whilst she was all soft wavy lines and curves he is all sharp angles and slats. And a poop filled diaper apparently. Gallade is a bit of a disaster really, a bunch of randomly connected elements that signify nothing.

Probopass

Hoo boy.

I think at this point the accidental racism excuse is starting to look flimsy.

He’s meant to be a compass with his big nose pointing north. And those weird chicken things on his shoulders are the other compass points. But all you’ll see, all you will ever see is the stereotype of a Jewish man. And it’s on purpose guys, they wouldn’t have added a hat and moustache if it wasn’t. Honestly Nintendo did you learn nothing from Jynx? I mean personally stuff like this doesn’t offend me but I’m flabbergasted that you would make the same mistake twice. Are you just fucking with us? Is that it?

Dusknoir

His torso is a frowny face and he has a stupid hat. Next.

Froslass

Whilst Froslass is million times better than Glalie there are a lot of things here that are just weird.

So she’s supposed to be the ghost of a girl that wandered in the mountains and froze to death. Why make that an evolution then? That, that just doesn’t work, you can’t change from something that isn’t a ghost into something that is except by dying. And if it’s a girl why the ugly face? And why are her arms and her kimono sleeves actually her ears? There’s a good idea here but it doesn’t shine through.

Rotom

Rotom may come from the “stick a horn on it” school but he gets a pass because he is awesome. The basic Rotom is a face with a horn and two lightning bolts. That’s overtly simplistic but again it gets a pass because Rotom’s alternate forms are so brilliant. His high concept is that he’s a kind of electric spirit that possess household appliances and brings them to life. To that end his simplicity works because you can take something like a fridge, add his spike, face and energy aura to it and get something that is clearly Rotom but also clearly a fridge. That’s just ingenious. Rotom is easily the highlight of this generation. As to which form I like best? I like the lawnmower best as the blades of the lawnmower get transformed into deadly teeth.

Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf

Basically the same monster design three times with a different headdress. Nothing about these creatures design really suggests their high concept, that they embody the properties of knowledge, emotion and will but they do look like abstract mystical creatures. They are kind of similar to Mew in body shape which was another abstract mystical beast. All told they’re kind of dull but not incompetent.

Dialga

Dialga is literally the creature responsible for creating and maintaining time itself. It’s special moves relate to its ability to control time. It’s a godlike creature that literally shapes the universe around it. So where are all the cool element’s in its design that evoke time? Where are the clocks, stars, hourglasses, etc? Simply put there are none, for the legendaries in this generation Nintendo decided to go with an abstract design that looks impressive but doesn’t really convey the specific power of the creature just the sense that it is powerful and godlike.

I’d say the Dialga design does a good job of conveying power. The proportions, the massive headress, the armour, the facial expression; they all suggest a formidable quality. It is once again, however, overly busy and full of extraneous elements.

Palkia

Palkia has the same problems as Dialga. Nothing about it suggests its role as controller of space. It’s also less successful at looking intimidating, partly because its pink but also because of the stupid head find and the porportions. Mostly because it’s pink though.

Heatran

I dunno about this guy really. I like his face which has a sort of cutely grumpy thing going on similar to Geodude but his body is waaaaay too stumpy and his little stubby tail is adorable when it really, really shouldn’t be.

Regigigas

I don’t know what it is but something about Regigigas is just hilarious to me. He’s supposed to be the creator of the continent the game is set on and he’s also supposed to link in with the golems from the last game. They successfully made him look like the golems (not hard since all they had to do was give him dots for a face) but does anything about this guy say “creates continent” to you? Maybe his dinky little trees, but certainly not his weird techno piping, his zebra colouring or the flashing lights on his chest. It’s almost like he was designed using Madlibs.

So Ken, today’s challenge is to make a techno-zebra-golem-tree-slot machine-monster. You have ten minutes, do your best.

Giratina

Giratina is the third of a trio with Dialga and Palkia, responsible for the spirit world. Unlike the other two his serpentine appearance and weird shredded wings do actually hint at a ghostly nature. He shares many design elements with the other two so they do look unified but he’s by far the best. Imposing and characterful. I much prefer his alternate form to his regular 6 legged form though since those stumpy little feet are goofy as hell and the snake body is much creepier.

Cresselia

Was this a dare? Did they have a competition to make a pokemon using only crescent shapes? Well, mission nearly completed guys, well done.

Phione and Manaphy

These two are controversial since officially they are considered legendaries but one of the rules for being a legendary is that you can’t breed. Yet the only way you can get a Phione is to breed an egg from a Manaphy. It’s even odder that Nintendo would change the rules for this since the two designs are almost identical, the only real difference being the pattern on the eyes. Did this really warrant two stabs at the same idea? Surely one would have been sufficient.

You may be asking, “What the hell are these strange blue things anyway?” oh you weren’t? Well tough because I’m telling you anyway. Phione and Manaphy are Cliones, a kind of slug often called Sea Angels. Here’s one for you;

220px-Sea_angel

Once again this is an animal Japanese people are very familiar with and that features heavily in their television and culture but which isn’t well known in the West.

The actual designs here are surprisingly decent attempts to translate the strange shape of a Clione into something more traditionally cute.

Darkrai

Hey Drakrai, the 80’s called, they want their shoulder pads back.

Shaymin

Like Togekiss and Togetic these are two perfectly good designs that seem weird to be shared by the same creature. Shaymin is a grass hedgehog and the first design is literally this. That is a surprisingly realistic drawing a hedgehog with leaves instead of spikes and a large flower placed where a woman might wear one, just behind the ear. Simple, iconic, distinctive and basically everything I like in a Pokemon design. Shaymin’s alternate form happens when it wears the sky charm. Firslty it turns into a much cartoonier design, large anime eyes, a disproportionate head, spiky anime hair style, a more human expression on the face. The flower turns into a funky scarf and  for some incredibly random reason the hair also grows wing/ears. What is with this generation and ears being used for other things?

I think both designs are great however, I find it weird that such a realistic drawing and such a cartoony one are variations on the same creature.

Arceus

Arceus is the creator of the entire Pokemon universe. As such he has to fit in visually with Dialga, Palkia and Giratina. They do share many elements, the head shape from Palkia, body shape of Dialga, neck spikes from Giratina and of course the repeated device of the metal piping. On Arceus they look more balanced and less cluttered though. I suspect he was designed first and the others patterned after him exaggerating certain traits. He’s still very abstract but when you’re dealing with the creator of all time and space what signifiers can you use really? So long as he looks wise and powerful, both of which I think the design conveys, then that’s all you need really.

In conclusion I actually like many of the designs in this generation a lot, despite the clutter and complexity. Its main failing in my book is that it tried to recapture the success of older designs too often instead of coming up with original ideas. Fortunately Nintendo seemed to agree since in the next game we got 150 completely new beasties with no new evolutions or baby forms of existing monsters.

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2 comments
  1. Miguel said:

    Excuse me but you are totally wrong saying taht Diamond and Pearl dosen’t included anything in mechanics, this game change the attacks into physical and special depending on the attack itself and not by the type and taht was a HUGE change, really can’t believe that you forgot something like that.

    Like

    • You are of course correct and basically I forgot that this happened in DPP.

      In my defense though I wrote that “the game doesn’t introduce anything new in terms of mechanics” and technically that’s still correct. Physical/Special splits already existed dating back to the very first game it’s just that DPP changed how the physical/special split worked by allocating it on an attack by attack basis rather than it being linked to the type of the attack. So it’s changing an old mechanic rather than introducing a new mechanic whereas abilities, hold items, weather, double/triples/rotation/sky battles, etc were all brand new mechanics when they were introduced.

      You are still right though, this change was a big deal in how pokemon actually function in battle.

      Like

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