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Pokémon X and Y have to be the worst Pokémon main series games I have ever played.

(waits as internet erupts in outrage)

Okay have you guys calmed down now? How about now? Still going? It’s okay I’ll wait.

Feel better? Okay, I’ll continue.

I stand by that statement but I do have to offer two caveats.

The first is that even the worst Pokémon game is still really good and I did enjoy playing Pokémon X.

The second is that Pokémon X and Y are genuinely innovative and they’re trying to change what a Pokémon game can be.

Black, White and their sequels were basically the most polished and well executed version of a game that dates all the way back to the Red, Blue, Green, Yellow days of 1996.

This is a version of the game with sprites, an overhead view and Pokémon battles that have minimal sprite animation. A version of the game where you get given a choice of 3 starters from a Pokemon professor. A version of the game in which your either catch Pokémon and forfeit experience or grind them into the dust. A game in which you start off not being able to catch much but  a few Pidgeys and Rattatas and that when you walk into a cave mobs you with Zubats.

Black, White, B2 and W2 were basically the most perfect possible version of this game. The sprites were gorgeous, colourful, beautifully rendered and full of character but they were still sprites and short of hand animating every Pokémon’s every move they looked as good as they were going to. The story was clever and inventive and challenged the very core of what Pokémon is all about but it was a story that felt very grounded in the rules established by the Pokémon world in previous games. What’s more there were lots of small touches, refinements and improvements that just made the overall game experience better than anything before. Putting shops inside Pokécentres for example, or the BWT or taking away poison in the over world.

Having created basically the perfect Pokémon game the only thing you can do to go forward is to change what Pokémon is, to fundamentally alter what the base level of the games is about and throw loads of new innovations in there. And X and Y have dozens of new ideas and completely game changing shifts. The addition of Fairy type, the nerfing of weather, adding loads more variety of species to each area, Mega Evolution, experience on capture, Horde Battles, Sky Battles, the list goes on.

Some of these innovations are welcome and great improvements to the game. I love that we get more variety of species in each area, particularly early on. Whereas in most games you fight nothing but small birds and small rodents in the first few areas by the end of the second route I pretty much had a full team with a wide variety of types. That’s great, it makes the game interesting and varied from the off. Some of the changes are less well thought out. Horde Battles are basically something I avoided as much as possible. If I’m trying to get somewhere I quite like being able to one shot scrub enemy Pokémon and just get on with the story. Forcing me to attack 5 times doesn’t provide me with a greater challenge but it does drag out the time. Similarly Sky Battles are really ill conceived. They add no depth to the combat except to exclude a bunch of popular Pokémon and provide a much more limited meta game. If Sky Battles had some kind of movement mechanic they might be interesting but as it is I basically skipped them.

Some ideas are good but need more polish. The additional XP should be nice but X and Y were the worst scaling Pokémon games I have yet played. In every game I’ve ever played yet the badge limits to control monsters hasn’t been a factor. Designed properly you should have monsters that are roughly equal in level to your opponents at any time. The badge mechanic is to stop you just grinding out one powerful monster and dominating the game or trading in a level 100 beast from an old game. What it should not do is kick in when you’re playing normally . The gaps between gyms early on in X and Y are ridiculous. My Blaziken had made it past lvl 30 before I reached gym 2 and I was deliberately trying not to use him. Then once you’ve beaten the 8th gym there is a loooooong grind to lvl 100 and not many ways to gain the XP needed to get there. Black and White were probably the most perfectly balanced and scaled Pokémon games yet providing me with a real challenge when I reached the Elite 4 for the second time but lots of ways to gain more XP to beat them.

The biggest changes of course are the graphics, Mega Evolution and the Fairy Type.

In terms of the Graphics Pokémon has gone from a top down sprite game on a fixed grid to a 3D polygon game. This is a mixed blessing. In battles it works amazingly well. The new Pokémon especially take advantage of the opportunities for a greater range of animation and more integration between what the monster is doing and the attack. This is the best looking game for battles yet, surpassing the home console versions easily. In terms of the map it’s much more mixed. Generally it works roughly the same as any old game did with a largely top down viewpoint. Whenever it goes behind your character though it is a mess. Lumiose city is practically unplayable its so hard to navigate. The problem is there’s no camera button so it becomes really hard to orientate yourself in what is basically a big circle where everything looks the same. It’s a nightmare and I avoided going to that city like the plague. And that’s a shame because it is full of stuff to do and clearly the centrepiece of the game but I’m sorry X and Y I just couldn’t find anywhere in order to do stuff. In the end I had to resort to using an FAQ and riding cabs constantly.

Then there’s Mega Evolution

Evolution is where one Pokémon turns into a different Pokémon gaining a stat boost in the process, changing its appearance and sometimes gaining new typing or abilities.

Mega Evolution is the same in every respect but the following.

1. in normal evolution the Pokémon cannot change back to the Pokémon it was before, but Mega Evolution only lasts for the duration of a Pokémon battle.

2. Mega Evolution happens during a Pokémon battle.

3. In order to mega Evolve the Pokémon must hold a special stone and the trainer is required use a special device which looks an awful lot like a wrist watch.

I don’t like it.

It’s hard to explain why I don’t like Mega Evolution but it basically has something to do with the story function of evolution. Evolution in Pokémon is not like evolution in real life since it happens to individuals and not to the species as a whole. Evolution in Pokémon is more like metamorphosis or puberty, an irreversible change that happens to an animal as it gets older. That’s why we get things like Caterpie evolving into Metapod evolving into Butterfree. It mirrors the life cycle of a real caterpillar as it undergoes metamorphosis and turns into a butterfly.

It may not function exactly like something in real nature but it gestures towards it and helps reinforce the nature theme of Pokémon. This isn’t an RPG where levelling up is some kind of arbitrary mechanic but instead relates to an animal ageing and maturing.

It also allows for some cool story telling ideas built into what is ultimately just a game mechanic. Look at Magikarp to Gyarados or Feebas to Milotic which reference an ancient Chinese myth and the ugly duckling respectively. Cool evolutions can lead to some really cool Pokémon concepts. In fact Gen 6 actually has some of the most imaginative evolution mechanics I’ve seen in any games so far.

The key thing that cements the reality of this mechanic for me though is that it isn’t reversible. Once you’ve evolved that’s it, you can’t go back and whilst you always get a stat boost from evolution you can lose something in the change in appearance or even in a type or ability change.

Being reversible Mega Evolution is more like a form/forme change like when Rotom turns an electric ghost into an electric ghost possessing a washing machine, or a refigerator, etc. Or Cherrim opening up its leaves during the sunshine.

Form changes have been a part of the game since the 3rd Gen and I have never had a problem with them, in fact I actually really like them. The reason I like them over Mega Evolution is twofold.

Firstly Form changes usually only have an aesthetic change like Sawsbuck’s appearance changing with the season. When they do have an in-game effect it usually has an advantage and a drawback i.e. the various forms of Deoxys which sacrifice defense for speed as one example.

Secondly the form changes all said something about the Pokémon in question, they opened up a story telling ideas. Why can Deoxys change form? Because he’s virus themed and viruses mutate rapidly. Why does Sawsbuck change forms? Because his horns are tree branches and he’s showing the cycle of trees as season’s change.

Mega Evolution doesn’t do this. Every Pokémon that mega evolves does so in the same way, magic stone plus wristwatch and the designs don’t give any kind of storytelling idea other than slightly spikier version of existing monster.

What Mega Evolution most resembles is the concept of Henshin, or change, that you get in shows like Power Rangers or Kannen Rider. Think about it, with the wristwatch device, the magic stones, the special effects and the striking a pose doesn’t Mega Evolution remind you of the Power Rangers Morphin’ Sequences?

Once you realise that it becomes clear that Mega Evolution fits into a tradition of transforming and powering up that is huge in Japanese culture and all over anime and computer games. Super Saiyans in DBZ, Guyver, Digimon, Power Rangers, Gurren Lagann, Super Mario, and on and on and on.

And so whilst this is an accepted pat of anime story telling it isn’t something that has ever been part of Pokémon before and it has nothing to do with nature or mythology which is traditionally what inspires the designs and stories in Pokémon.

It’s taking a very un-Pokémon concept and inserting it into the game and it doesn’t make a good thematic fit.

It doesn’t help that it isn’t even really a very strong gameplay mechanic, a power-up with no real drawback doesn’t add much strategy to the game. In almost all cases why wouldn’t you just mega evolve any Pokémon you have that can? The only reason not to is if your Pokémon needs another item such as a leftovers to be viable.

It’s also weird that Nintendo generally gave these Mega Evolutions to Pokémon that were already very, very useable. Blaziken is only of only two non-legendaries to make it into the uber tier (well this was the case when I started writing this but now plenty of Megas and Aegislash have made this jump) and is so powerful he’s outright banned in some competitions, he did not need a Mega Evolution, neither did Garchomp or Mewtwo. Charizard appreciates the boost as does Mawile but for the most part these seem kind of superfluous.

Having said my piece let me now say that the presence of mega evolution doesn’t ruin the game for me. I don’t like it but I don’t have to use it and it is really a very minor part of the mythos.

So since we’ve talked about it so much lets review some of the Mega Evolution designs.

Mega Blastoise and Mega Venusaur

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One thing I should stress is that whilst I don’t like Mega Evolution as a concept that has no bearing on what I think about the designs. Most of the Mega designs are awesome and I kind of wish they just replaced the existing final stage of the monster in question. Mega Blastoise is a great example of this. Giant turtle with a cannon on its back is already a pretty neat idea but I always wondered why Blastoise had two cannons pointing at different angles. They couldn’t fire together at the same target and he’d have to angle his head out of line with his target to fire straight. Even as a kid I recognised that this was dumb. Mega Blastoise though has no such problem. His three cannons can all move so they can all aim at one target and his new one massive cannon fires straight ahead! Also his bigger cannon just looks more intimidating and overall his design looks more balanced. I’ve gotta give him points for his stlyin’ goatee too, the first in a theme of awesome beards that defines this generation.

As for Mega Venusaur…..sorry guy but you got screwed. An extra flower, extra leaves and some garlands does nothing to improve your ugly mug.

Mega Charizard Y and X

600px-006Charizard-Mega_Y charizard-mega-x

Most people’s favourite starter gets not one but two Mega Evolutions and both are awesome for different reasons.

Y fixes all the issues I had with original Charizard and in my head canon this is just what regular Charizard looks like now. My main issue was that Charmeleon had all these design elements going on, horns coming out the back of his elbows, a single horn on his head, etc that Charizard just drops. Y puts them back in though turning the elbow horns into arms wings and giving him a crown of horns that again looks more symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing than Charizard’s original horns. I love the bigger scalloped wings too which make it look much more like it could fly. And taking the patch of colour all the way up to the mouth avoids giving the impression that Charizard has a fat tummy like he did before. It’s just all around better than Charizard, more refined and improved and shows off just how far Sugimori has improved over the years.

Charizard X is awesome though because he is METAL AS FUCK! HE’S A BLACK DRAGON WITH AXE BLADE SHOULDERS AND SPIKES AND BLUE FIRE AND HE’S BLACK AND OH MY GOD I NEED TO PAINT MY ROOM BLACK AND LISTEN TO SOME SLAYER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mega Mewtwo X and Y

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The other OG to get two Mega Evos is Mewtwo one of the most complex Pokémon and one of the few to have a personality, motivation and character. The Mega Evos are one of the rare examples of a Mega Evo that implies a strategy. X gains a secondary fighting type when he evolves so the Evo is far more muscular with more powerful looking legs and arms, a shorter tail and big manly shoulder pads. Y in contrast just goes all out on the psychic power so the body gets smaller, the feet and arms become even less developed and the head becomes much larger combining with the tail. The contrast in designs really sells the contrast in abilities and both designs work. I prefer Y overall though even if that seems to be a controversial opinion. Everything about Y’s design seems to sell unbelievably strong psyker for me whereas there’s stuff in X’s design that either doesn’t work or just isn’t aesthetically pleasing. I hate his feet for starters which look gangly and weird for a fighting type. I also think his big purple diaper looks goofy and so do his shoulder pads.

I can’t let any discussion of Mewtwo’s Mega Evos slip though without mention Freiza. You know Freiza? The popular villain from Dragonball Z. Changes forms and looks at various stages like this.

Frieza 3 FRIEZA4 Full_Power_Frieza

Yeah there’s some inspiration going on there and I’m just going to leave it at that.

Mega Aggron and Mega Tyranitar

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One of the things I do like the in the Mega Evolutions is the idea that these monsters are somehow unnatural. That their evolution isn’t something to do with nature but something forced upon them by an outside force. Consequently many of the Mega designs look like the animal is exploding with power, almost deformed by the strength they now possess. I don’t think any two designs better express this than Mega Aggron and Mega Tyranitar. In both cases they take the design and basically add loads o spikes but they do it in a very clever way, turning design elements from the previous monster, like Tyranitar’s head spikes, into exaggerated versions of themselves. It looks intimidating, it looks effective and it really ties in with the Mega Evolution concept.

Mega Aggron I like because his ability makes him the ultimate tank. He has the highest base defence in the game and is immune to super effective attacks making him a wall. And he now looks like a wall, wider, stockier and dumpier than before. I find his weird linked head spikes going through holes to be fussy and cluttered but overall I like Mega Aggron. Mega Tyranitar similarly kicks Tyranitar’s ass. His design is just so much more balanced. Whereas before he was weirdly lacking in the head and shoulders department compared to his body and legs the addition of head and shoulder spikes makes him look more balanced and overall just bigger and more intimidating. I particularly like his chest face. I don’t understand why his tail now looks like a peeled banana but I’m happy overall.

Oh yeah and he totally looks like space Godzilla now too.SpaceGodzilla

Mega Gardevoir

 

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I’m on record as not liking Gardevoir because a disturingly high number of perverts on the internet seem to be sincerely sexually attracted to her. Putting her in a wedding dress does nothing to fix this issue.

Mega Heracross and Mega Pinsir

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Japan absolutely adores beetles, in particular two varieties of stag beetles they nickname Atlas and Goliath. Elementary school kids adore catching these things, putting them in boxes and making them fight each other. And now you understand why Bug Catchers are a thing in Pokémon games. Every Japanese man at some point in his life put on tiny, comfortable shorts, got a net and captured innocent beetles to fight for his own amusement.

As such I am not surprised Pinsir and Heracross got some Mega Love. Thing is, these both could work as just regular evolutions for these Pokémon who are just single stage evos in the game. They don;t have the exaggerated almost deformed thing going for them that many Megas do nor are they vastly improved versions of the original designs, they just look like what Sugimori’s sketch for an evolved Pinsir probably always looked like.

Of the two I like Heracross  more since his proportions, small head, short body, short legs and massive arms, really sell the idea of strength and power. That and I have no idea what the hell those orange things are in Pinsir’s design.

Mega Manectric

 

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Are you okay Mega Manectric because that looks really heavy. That, that can’t be good for your neck. Do we need to get nurse Joy to help you little guy?

Mega Aerodactyl

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Continuing our theme of awesome beards, Aerodactyl is positively satanic with that Van Dyke and the new spiky evil eyebrows help sell it too.

Mega Alakazam

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So the evolution line for Abra, Kadabra and Alakazam goes like this.

Starts with no spoon.

Gets both spoon and moustache.

Gets an extra spoon and an even bigger moustache.

Following that logic the only place to go with a Mega is multiple spoons and an epic hermit beard. And he pulls it off well. I particularly like the yoga pose.

Mega Alakazam, you can’t fault the logic.

Mega Kangaskhan

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On the one hand Mega Kangaskhan feels very natural. What’s the ultimate form of a Kangashkan? Why using it’s baby in its attacks. Makes perfect sense and helps fill in some gaps in the Kangaskhan life cycle.

On the other hand, I really wish the baby Kangaskhan looked more like a Cubone so that this bit of fan canon could be true.

cubone_marowak_kangaskhan_by_periculant-d34ejtb

Mega Blaziken and Mega Lucario

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Two examples where I massively prefer the mega form to the original design and wish this design just replaced it.

In Blaziken’s case I love Torchic and Combusken and despise Blaziken. May main complaints are that his hair is stupid, he had some weird feather cock thing going on, he didn’t look like a chicken and his hair is stupid. Well he still doesn’t look like a chicken but his feather cock is gone and his hair is much less stupid. In fact the change in shape to his chest and head balance his design much better giving approximately equal space to his body, head and legs. Unrealistic, yes but aesthetically pleasing. The new chest is more reminiscent of samurai garb too typing in with his martial arts theme. And the colour scheme just seems more dangerous and imposing.

Lucario is similarly much improved. I never got the love for the standing up, kick boxing dog before as he looked like a mess of randomly combined elements. I like Mega Lucario though. Like Blaziken his new shapes mean that space is more evenly distributed, the flare to his collar and dreadlocks add much needed visual interest to his head area and his slightly thicker, chunkier thighs balance out his height. Plus the addition of extra smaller spikes make the big hand, foot and chest spikes seem more organic. I like the change in colour scheme too which again seems darker and more imposing.

Mega Garchomp

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You know how adding the colour red and more spikes actually seemed to improve Lucario? Well it doesn’t work for everyone.

Plus the original scythes looked more badass, your Mega can’t be less badass, that makes no sense.

Mega Scizor

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Scyther was such a good design and whilst Scizor wasn’t better he still had charm. This though. It’s all square and boxy where it should be sleek and knife like. And those legs, they looks barely attached and just weird and angular. This is a mess of a design and all the worse because both Scyther and Scizor are really great designs.

Mega Gyarados

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You know how we all think Gyarados is bad ass? How he has such a cool, sleek design that just screams rage and power. Yeah. It is amazing how much of that is owed to his neck. For some reason get rid of his neck and he goes from being bad ass and dangerous to unbelievably derpy. Magikarp is, in fact, marginally less awkward looking than this.

Mega Abomasnow

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What I don’t like about Mega Abomasnow is that design concept has disappeared. Abomasnow is supposed to be a tree covered in snow but nothing about these shapes suggests that in the slightest. Divorced from the concept though and this is a nice design. It conveys power really effectively. The stocky design with the head in the centre suggests size and the hunched over pose where it can’t even support itself really suggests weight. The exploding effect caused by all the lines radiating from the centre says power too, almost as if Mega Abomasnow is nearly exploding with restrained strength. It’s a cool design but it isn’t Abomasnow.

Mega Meditite

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So Meditite is one of the worst design ever, combining slutty lips, hammer pants and the kind of hat stoned people who went to India once routinely wear.

Mega Meditite retains the  hammer pants and draws more attention to them, retains the slutty lips and replaces the dumb hat with, and I didn’t think this was possible, an even dumber hat. It also adds some scarves.

I suppose the logic is that Meditite is ridiculous so for the Mega we’re going to double down on the ridiculous? It kind of makes sense.

Mega Ampharos

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So Ampharos is an electric/pharoah/giraffe. What is the natural next step in that deeply confused concept?

Got it.

Pirate

Male Model from the cover of Harlequin romance. It was the missing link all along.

Mega Absol

 

600px-359Absol-Mega

I think everybody likes Absol. He has such a unique design. He doesn’t really look like any distinct animal you can name but he does look like an animal and his yin/yang thing was subtly but effectively incorporated into his design.

Mega Absol is more of the same really except they’ve really, really leaned heavy on the emo thing. Absol always had this emo aspect to his concept since he was the harbinger of disaster and as such people hated him. They’ve now refined that by making him a literal angel of death and giving him the hair cut of Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy. He pulls it off though.

Mega Mawile

 

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I’m on record as not really liking Mawile because on first glance it is nigh on impossible to tell what is going on. Namely that I know it has a second face but could never see it. Mega Mawile though, so much better. Getting rid of the forward facing top knot, adding a second mouth and having the mouths stand up just looks so much better. The mouths both more obviously read as hair and look more like they’re attached to Mawile.Plus the new mouth design looks more threatening. This is another Mega that should just replace the original.

Mega Gengar

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Mega Gengar is considered one of the game’s absolute power houses, banished to uber tier he is regarded as annoying, amazing and powerful.

It is a shame then that his design is horrendous.

What’s wrong with Mega Gengar, oh god what’s right with it? Let’s start with a list of design elements that seem to serve no purpose. What is that gold thing on his head? What are the arm things he suddenly has if they even are arms and similarly what is that weird tail thing? Why is he glowing from beneath? On good Pokémon designs I understand why something is there, it’s either a signifier of some meaningful element (i.e. Bulbasaur has a bulb because he is a grass type) or to improve the aesthetics (i.e.  Charizard has a band of a second colour on his chest to break up what would otherwise be a large flat space. On Mega Gengar though I have no idea what anything is doing.

Even worse he used to have a cleanly defined design concept, he looked like Celfable’s shadow, and now that has disappeared.

However the biggest sin Mega Gengar commits is that he is at worse poorly drawn or at most charitable drawn in a style that doesn’t match the other designs. By this I mean that the other Pokémon are drawn with a realistic approach with regards to perspective, whereas Mega Gengar is drawn more like a comic strip character. Judging from how his body and arms are presented Gengar is in 3/4 profile here so he’s looking at about a 45 degree angle to our left and down. The means we shouldn’t be able to see his whole mouth, it should curve round to the other side of his face where we can’t see. similarly his right eye should be lower and his left eye either higher or gone entirely. It just looks wrong and disconcerting.

Mega Gengar looks better in game but this is easily the worst artwork from Sugimori. Not only is it a bad design, it’s a bad drawing.

 

Mega Houndoom

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Remember back when Pokémon started and became the biggest thing on the planet? Remember the religious groups in America who saw it as a tool of Satan? Can you imagine how hard they would freak out if Mega Houndoom existed back then?

Mega Banette

 

 

 

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Speaking of child unfriendly, hey everyone it’s the gimp themed pokemon. Whose arms and legs are actually evil monstrous tongues. Because you’re never too young to learn about consensual S and M.

One of my running jokes is that the pokemon designs often reflect whatever the designer was looking at in his office that day. I wonder if that implies to the gimp mask pokemon.

 

The Fairy Type

The other massive change to the game in X and Y is the addition of a new typing, Fairy, the first new type since 2nd ed. This is a massive change but a very welcome one as it re-shuffles the meta game making long term threats like Hydreigon weaker whilst boosting some weaker monsters that have been languishing in lower tiers (Azumarill). It’s particularly welcome in that Fairies are Dragon killers and prior to 6th ed Dragons were easily the most over powered typing. With a massive suite of resistances, only two weaknesses and only one type that resists Dragon, Dragons were just the best typing on paper. And as one of their weaknesses is Dragon type the best way to kill them is often to have a Dragon yourself. Fairies having an immunity to Dragon attacks puts a solid counter on this but not so much that Dragon’s have been utterly nerfed, as can easily be seen by the fact that Garchomp is the most commonly used Pokémon in competitions.

In addition to nerfing Dragons, Fairies are pretty tough themselves. Most are specially defensive focused with a sideline in special attack and good neutral coverage. Xerneas using Moonblast can walk through teams until he reaches a special wall and the edge on Fighting and Dark types just makes them better. They lack a diverse movepool to make them as uber as Dragons but Fairies arrived as a top tier challenge. The effect of this is to create the need to try and get some Poison and Steel attacks onto your team to take out Fairies, and Steel and Poison are not normally considered attacking types so this shakes up the meta further.

My main complaint with Fairy types is that I don’t get the concept of the typing. With something like Water the concept is clear, this animal lives in or shoots water, make it a Water type. But what makes something a Fairy? It mostly seems to be the big pink blobs of previous generations like Clefable and Jigglypuff but then Chansey and Audino are big pink blobs and they didn’t get Fairy. Fairies in mythology are tied to elements and usually represent different flowers, rocks and other natural phenomena but that idea largely inspires Pokémon anyway and is way too broad for a typing. In practice the only common theme seems to be that Fairy types are cute, playful and free spirited so it reflects a personality more than an element. But then there are lots of cute playful Pokémonthat didn’t get fairy either (Pikachu, Plusle and Minun, Cherrim, Pachirisu) Fairy doesn’t seem to have a defined conceptual space and that bothers me.

Sylveon

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The first Fairy we ever saw sets the tone for most of the new Fairy designs in this generation. It’s pink, it’s cute, it’s covered in bows and frills and it references some stereotypically girly hobby or activity. In the case of Sylveon that would be the practice of dressing up your dog in cute outfits with little bows. It’s a nice spin on the eeveelutions = dog breeding thing without been too on the nose. Plus I just like Sylveon, it’s a balanced, striking design. One thing that does weird me out though is that the bows and ribbons are a part of her, like, made of flesh. Euuurggh,

Swirlix and Slurpuff

 

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Girly activity number 2, eating sweets. Yes, I know men enjoy cotton candy just as much as the womenfolk but in Japan going out for sweets is seen as a very stereotypically feminine thing to do, so we get the sweet pokemon. Unlike Vanillish, the ice cream monster, Swirlix and Slurpuff do have legs so they’re marginally less silly, only marginally though. And that gap gets wiped out by Slurpuff’s hilarious face. I can’t tell if he’s happy or suffering from a concussion.

Spritzee and Aromatisse

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Hey guys, did you realise that the Kalos region is supposed to be France? Oh, you did? What was your first clue? Was it that the region looks exactly like France? Maybe it was how the game seems to pack in every single stereotypical thing about France Gamefreak can think of. So we get fashion! art! fine dining restaurants! and perfume, personified by giving a cockatoo a big nose and making it pink. It kind of works but the lack of a mouth robs Spritzee of much of her personality.

Then we get to Aromatisse who personifies…can can dancers.

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I know I requested less sexy Pokémon but this, this is not what I wanted. Aromatisse is horrifying, her flirtatious leg haunts my nightmares. Can can dancers may be French but they are not suitable subject matter for a children’s computer game or as the basis for designing cute animals.

Flabebe, Floette and Florges

 

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The most Fairy looking fairy-type. For me the defining characteristic of a Fairy is that it’s a flower spirit. However, Pokémon already has the Grass type, about  a hundred designs of plants with faces so how do you convey Fairy? The solution hit upon here, of having an animal that sits on a flower, carries it and eventually wears it is ingenious. Beyond that though I don’t have nice things to say. I don’t understand Floette’s enormous eyebrows (the work on Florges as exaggerated eyelashes), I don’t understand Floette’s ear/hair, I think the faces for all three lack personality and generally these are pretty meh. Also minus one point for yet another Pokémon in a bra. No! Bad Nintendo. No!

Dedenne

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This generation’s electric rodent is Dedenne (his name is straight from Japan, it’s an onomatopoeia for the noise of electrical wires) and I think he’s great. I love designs that take an element and incorporate their element logically and interestingly and Dedenne is a textbook example of that. His whiskers turn into electrical transmission wires and his tail into a power cable and he looks like a cute, happy mouse. Sugimori can do this kind of thing in his sleep by now but I’ll always welcome this kind of design.

Klefki

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So I’ve started writing the entry for Klefki about 5 times now and each time it just devolves into rarge blargle OMG SO VERY VERY STUPID. Do I even have to write about it? We know it’s lazy, we know it’s dumb, we all hate it right? They didn’t even have the decency to put a spike on it. This is every lazy and horrible trend in pokemon design embodied in one beast, one horrible monstrosity that OMG SO VERY, VERY STUPID!!!!!!

Carbink, Diancie and Mega Diancie

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I’m not normally keen on the inanimate object style Pokémon but there are things you can do with it that I like. Geodude is one of my favourite Pokémon of all time despite being essentially a rock with arms but he has a couple of things going for him. 1. Limbs. 2. a face. 3. a personality. Carbink lacks all these things. It’s a rock with eyes, and eyes drawn in such a way that I can infer no personality. It’s just boring.

Diancie in contrast has limbs, has a face and has a personality and as such I like her. I don’t love her (I wonder where she got the dress from) but she’s okay. If you’re going to do Rock Fairy this is what a Rock Fairy looks like to me, cute, happy, perky with adorable jewels, pigtails and a big poofy dress (the rock). Like other Kalos Fairies she embodies the stereotypically girly notion of precious gems but they don’t go overboard with it in her design. That of course is because they saved the overboard for her Mega which…I like. If the design concept for the Megas is OTT version of the original then yeh, Mega Diancie certainly pulls that off.

Xerneas

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The legendary Pokémon for X is a fantastic design. He looks like a real animal but incorporates dozens of clever ideas and concepts. His X shape is subtly but effectively incorporated(if you can’t see it the X forms between the front legs and the crown of horns), the crown of horns are a striking visual in their own right but really connote the idea of some powerful forest spirit, his sword legs look cool and dangerous, his expression is imperious and proud and the colours in his horns suggest his Fairy typing without painting him pink.

In keeping with the theme for this generation of “plagiarism” I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen him before though.

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Chespin, Fennekin and Froakie

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So normally I review each evolutionary family as a whole but I thought I’d do something different this time. As news was coming out about Pokémon X and Y we got the starter monsters revealed as a trio, then their 2nd stage and finally they’re 3rd stages. I thought I’d replicate the impact somewhat here. So let’s look at these three on their own. Well, out of just this Fennekin is easily the winner. Fennekin is simply but she’s cute and the ear hair being turned into flames is one of those design elements I was discussing with regards to Dedenne. Chespin has more potential but I can’t work out what he is. Is he a squirrel? a chipmunk? a rat? He’s certainly some kind of rodent but I don’t know what. I can’t parse his hat as any kind of plant either. Normally it’s pretty clear what the plant aspect is meant to be but again, no clue.

Froakie meanwhile looks like Benjamin Franklin.

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You can never unsee it now.

Quilladin, Braixen and Frogadier

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BWA HA HA HA HA HA

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Just, oh my god, breathe. BWA HA HA HA HA HA! *gasp* inhale. BWA HA HA HA HA

Really? Really?? Do I even need to say anything? Look at him, just, stare at it. It is majestic in its awfulness.

You know what makes it better. The way its drawn here he looks like he’s fallen over and can’t get up. Like he’s lying on his back. And he’s just so gosh darned cheerful about it! Life has dealt Quilladin a bum hand but he is not going to let it get him down.

Frogadier is just kind of there. Oh and Nintendo, you don’t have to make the water starter always blue guys. We get that frogs = water without the help.

Braixen though is just awesome. She really reads as witch with only a few witchy icons but they work very well. I especially lover how her fur becomes a cute skirt. She looks like a teenager too which works for a 2nd stage. And I just love the flaming branch she uses. I like when Pokemon have natural weapons (Cubone, Leavanny) and a witches staff that shoots fire just feels like a natural fit.

Yes sir the Fennekin family definitely one the design lottery this time.

Chesnaught, Delphox and Greninja

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And then Delphox shits the bed.

She just looks ugly and awkward, there’s too much…stuff. Her design doesn’t feel flowy or balanced it feels baggy. I know she’s wearing a robe but it looks like she has just too much fur, and worse some of the fur doesn’t make sense as witch clothing like whatever is going on at her shoulders. Plus her ear hair is just ridiculous now, it doesn’t look like fire anymore it just looks ugly. What a tragic waste of a good design concept.

Chesnaught however, redeems himself. Revealing himself to be a hedgehog…groundhog…muskrat okay I still have no idea what animal he is, but he does at least look knightly now and suitably intimidating. His overall shape works now, still being rounded but now the round shapes are all in the shoulders and back which convey power rather than roly polly cuddly chubbiness. He still isn’t very planty though.

Greninja goes from meh to undisputed coolest design in this generation. He’s a ninja, always cool and like all the best designs they convey ninja without giving him anything that doesn’t also convey frog, it’s all in the pose, the colouring and the body shape. That and the tongue which is inspired. Turning his long frog tongue into a scarf is just a terrific idea, even if it does go back to this year’s theme of “plagiarism.”

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Playing one of the great enemy’s games were we Sugimori-san? Shame on you.

Greninja also retroactively makes Froakie make sense. To reflect the setting of Kalos we have our fairy tale character, the knight, the witch and the thief. The Ninja look subs for thief but Froakie looks like a stereotypical Japanese bandit.

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Bunnelby and Diggersby

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This years useless mammals you catch early in the game are a better effort that most generations. Rabbits are good animals to base designs on having several iconic features you can fiddle with, in this case the ears. And in my opinion turning the ears into hands is a neat little idea that works well. The Diggersby evolution of that concept I also dig, turning the ears into excavators and giving him a control panel to manouveour them.

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Other than the ears and Diggersby 5 o’clock shadow (another one for the beards list ) there isn’t a huge amount else going on here though.

Fletchling, Fletchinder and Talonflame

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Talonflame….?

Talonflame?

You didn’t even try did you localisation team? Talonflame is actually a really neat design, He’s a hawk, on fire!!! And he has warning stripes on his tail. He looks menacing and you just panicked didn’t you.

Talonflame.

Here are 10 more creative names for a bird on fire than Talonflame.

1. Falcook

2. Hawkindle

3. Falcomet

4. Napalcon

5. Scorchawk

6. Firaptor

7. Robinferno

8. Peregrill

9. Hinoraptor

10. KFC

Scatterbug, Spewpa and Vivillion

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God, do I have to?

Scatterbug and Spewpa are just a mess, somehow bland and cluttered at the same time and I have no idea what the high concept is behind them. Easily the worst caterpillar in all of Pokémon.

Vivillion though, I like, a lot. She’s themed around LCD televisions and consequently that’s why her wings look like patterns of pixels and why her antennae resemble digital TV antennae. She’s a nice twist on a butterfly design already but what really makes her is all the different wing patterns.

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Sure it’s a blatant ploy to make it feel like there are more designs in this Gen than there actually are but it’s kind of cool. I also like that the different designs are linked to different geographic regions. That’s something that’s true of real animals and so  it’s nice to see it incorporated into the games. It also forces you to trade internationally which is a nice way to big up the new GTS and Wonder Trade improvements.

 

Lileo and Pyroar

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So we have had a lion Pokémonbefore (the Shinx family) but Lileo and Pyroar are the first lion monsters that really resemble the animal. Again, considering how iconic lions are and how often they feature in children’s picture books I’m surprised it took us this long.

There isn’t a huge amount to say about these two, they’re basically just cartoony drawings of lions, I’d have liked a bit more fire integration personally.  The one cool bit of fire integration they have done is incorporate the Kanji for fire into the pattern of Pyroar’s mane.

Skiddo and Gogoat

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In contrast Skiddo and Gogoat are much more what I like. Animal they haven’t done before? Check. Element incorporated sensibly into the animal’s shape? Check. Lack of unecessary clutter? Check. Use of patterns to break up large areas of flat colour? Check. Everything I want and in addition to the element these two also have a secondary theme of being motorbikes. Can’t see it? Check the horns, Skiddo is meant to be a dirt bike and Gogoat has the swept back handlebars and backrest of an old school Harley chopper.

Pancham and Pangoro

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Another pair that tick all the boxes, animal we haven’t done, no flat blocks of colour, uncluttered design, element incorporated, etc. What really sells me on Pangoro though is his evolution mechanic. Pancham only evolves when he levels up and there is a dark type in your party. And when he does he goes from being slightly cocky troublemaking kid to a full on bancho.

What’s a bancho? Well it means delinquent or gang member, and they look like this.

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I love that, he only evolves when another dark type acts as bad influence on him. That’s such a fun idea and such a great example of how evolution can be used a story telling tool (and another reason why I hate Mega evolution.)

Furfrou

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Furfrou is a pokemon that exists for one reason and one reason only. As if there weren’t enough clues, may I remind you that the KALOS REGION IS MEANT TO BE FRANCE!

DO YOU GET IT YET?!!!

So of course we have to have a French poodle. But wait, Furfrou doesn’t look like a French poodle? Well he does when you take him to the hair dressers and pay to have him styled like thus.

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The concept of a customisable Pokémon design is one I quite like. I’m a big fan of Rotom for example and adding more options like that I think is a good thing. But beyond the gimmick there isn’t anything else to Furfrou.

Espurr and Meowstic

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Please enjoy some of the internet’s finest Espuur death stare Memes.

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Also female Meowstic has a beret becasue IT’S SET IN FRANCE!!! FRANCE!!!!! FRAAAAANNNNNNNNNNCE.

 

 

Honedge, Doublade and Aegislash

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So this is a much better way to do the “it’s set in France” thing. France of course has a long history of chivalry and knights and the chivalrous values to some extent are still relevant in France today. Doing something with knights is a good idea and Honedge is a truly fantastic idea. A ghost sword is just inherently cool. Weapons are cool and weapon themed monsters are cool but the idea of this ancient blade coming to life to fight again just resonates with so much personality.

You can ruin a good concept with bad design though but fortunately Honedge is great. I love how the scabbard works as face but also reads as believable scabbard design. I love how the ribbon becomes a hand grasping the blade and I love the eye that appears to be part of the scabbard but is in fact built into the hilt. It’s a great idea executed flawlessly.

Doublade and Aegislash I like less but I still like. I’ve never been a fan of the combine two together evolution style so Doublade gets points off for that and Aegislash’s handle doesn’t look like any sword handle I’ve ever seen but overall a fantastic set of designs.

 

Inkay and Malamar

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So these two are just weird. In case you don’t know, to evolve Inkay you actually have to turn your 3DS upside down. This is because Malamar is just Inkay upside down so the tentacles turn into Malamar’s hair and the head fins turn into Malamar’s legs.

It’s a very clever idea and takes great skill to pull off effectively as they have but I can’t say I’m in love with the actual design of either monster.

Binacle and Barbaracle

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So its fair to say that Binacle is dumb. It’s a hand stuck to a rock with a face. Worse, it’s two hands stuck to a rock and I never liked the designs that feature more than one monster since something about it just strains my credulity. For example, you hatch an egg, you should get one Binacle, not two and a rock.

That said your theme is barnacle pokemon. I’m impressed you did it this well.

Oh and in case you’re wondering why they look like hands, they look like a Goose Barnacle which is a variety native to Japan.

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In case you’re wondering why that’s in a bowl, it’s because it’s food. Japanese people will eat anything that comes out of the sea.

Barbaracle should be everything I hate. I hate monster designs where more than one animal comes together, I didn’t like Binacle and I don’t like anthro monsters but Barbaracle is just kind of brilliant.  Having each limb also be a head is just neat. This isn’t like having three Diglett’s hanging out somehow equals a new organism this is 5 different organisms working together as one monster. That makes Barbaracle a  siphonophore, a colony of specialised multi-cellular animals so closely integrated they cannot survive on their own, like a Portuguese man of war. It also makes perfect sense, you never see just one barnacle you always see a few sticking to one rock, but having them co-operate to turn that rock into a body is clever.

Plus he looks grumpy, and I love all the grumpy faced monsters.

Skrelp and Dragalge

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I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I completely understand why they have so many fish, that doesn’t mean any of them are interesting.

Clauncher and Clawitzer

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I fucking love this!!!!

Firstly Clawitzer is based on an animal which is inherently awesome. He’s a mantis shrimp and if you don’t know why they’re fantastic watch this video.

 

BTW Nintendo, the one time it would have made sense to colour your animal like a clown having an accident in a paint factory you chicken out and make it blue.

So a mantis shrimp has the fastest punch in the animal kingdom, it can punch so fast it literally makes explosions!!! So how do we exagerate and cartoonify that?

Let’s turn one of its claws into an enormous cannon which is also shaped like a shrimp!

Genius!

I love Clawitzer and everything about it except it’s boring blue colouring, I want my Mega Evolution with an even more enormous cannon and a tiny body still the same size and I want it now Game Freak!

Helioptile and Heliolisk

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I don’t know why but I’ve always had a thing for frilled lizards. I think I can trace it back to The Rescuers Down Under where a frilled lizard is one of the cast and I just always thought he looked cool. Heliolisk however is no frilled lizard. This is a frilled lizard.

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That pathetic wimpy thing Heliolisk has round his neck can’t compare. I get that it’s meant to be a sunburst but  don’t get why they’re sun themed in the first place. They’re an Electirc type, sun is more of a fire type thing.

Tyrunt and Tyrantrum

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and

Amaura and Aurorous

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It has taken us 6 generations to get the most obvious dinosaurs out of the way. A T-Rex and an Apatosaurus,  probably the most famous and iconic dinosaurs that every kid aged 6 knows about. Before we got to them we did ancient sea scorpions, archaeopteryx and even trilobites (all hail Lord Helix). And I can easily see why, Sugimori just doesn’t have any interesting ideas for what to do with a T-Rex and an Apatosaurus.

Tyrunt starts well, the proportions sell baby dinosaur well and he looks both cute and powerful. Tyrantrum though, it’s a T-Rex. Admittedly It’s a T-Rex with an awesome beard but aside from a head crest (which is okay) and a fur collar (which is baffling) it’s just so-so.

Aurorous is much better. The basic problem with an Apatosaur design is one of body proportions. To fit the shape into the size restrictions in Pokémon you end up with a massive gap between the head and body. Adding the fin helps this and balances out the design but turning the fin into the Aurora Borealis and the curve of the Apatosaurus’ neck into a snow covered mountain side is just inspired.

Hawlucha

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I think we’re all agreed that Hawlucha is everyone’s favourite design this generation right? I mean, it’s a luchador hawk. All luchadors are inherently awesome and have visually interesting designs and the choice of animal, a high flying beastie with an intense stare just suits it perfectly. This little guy just exudes personality.

Goomy, Sliggoo and Goodra

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Okay, let me spoil Goomy for you.

Those two adorable little dots. Those aren’t eyes, they’re nostrils. The cute green chubby cheeks? They’re its eyes. Instead of being a cute cuddly wuddly goofball Goomy is in fact creepy and alien.

So Goomy, Sliggo and Goodra are based on slugs, snails and a H R Geiger guest directed episode of My Little Pony respectively. You’re probably thinking, okay, snails, that means France again right. And you’d be right. But you might also be wondering why the hell they’re dragon type? Well, let me tell you all about the Lou Carlcolh.

From Wikipedia

Lou Carcolh, or the Carcolh, is a supposed mythical beast from French folklore. It was described as being both a serpent and mollusk at the same time, taking characteristics from both types of animals. Its massive and long body carried an enormous shell upon its back, much like a snail‘s shell, that was believed to live in underground caverns in southwest France. Its gaping mouth was surrounded by several long, hairy, and slime covered tentacles that could extend for miles. These appendages stretched out from the cave it inhabited for a long distance and laid upon the ground among its own viscous slime. They would ensnare and drag back to its abode anything within reach. It would then swallow the victim whole with its gigantic mouth.

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image taken from Atlas Games

And since Dragon type refers more to being based in myth than any physiological characteristics, Goodra is a dragon.

Also beard. Horrible slimy chinbeard but still, beard.

Phantump and Trevenant

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So is Gen 6 the generation of “I can’t believe it took them this long to do that idea?” Because evil tree seems pretty obvious. Evil tree is like on of the first 10 monster ideas I come up with when I’m DM-ing. Certainly way before evil mask, evil candle or evil keys.

That said the reason it may have taken this long is again that I don’t think Sugimori has anything new to add to the idea. Trevenant is a generic evil tree that could appear in anything from Final Fantasy to a Mario game. In fact, with the relatively realistic proportions and high level of detail it doesn’t even feel particularly like a Pokémon design.

Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist

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I showed my fiance Pumpkaboo’s design when X and Y first came out and I don’t think she’s stopped squeeing since. I personally don’t get it. I agree he has a cute, fat bottom and his name is inherently funny but I kind of find him creepy.

I also like that they avoided the obvious route when making a Jack O Lantern monster. The added bat touches really make Pumpkaboo his own monster and give him his own distinct feel.

Bergmite and Avalugg

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I do like these two. Avalugg in particular has such a unique design, the flattened top is so distinctive and so different from not only every other Pokémon but most monster designs in general. And in a weird way it makes him seem powerful and imposing. It’s also a nice spin on the idea that iceberg’s are small on top and huge underneath. Bergmite is all top and is small, Avalygg is all bottom and is huge. And in addition to that it references one of the more bat shit insane moments from history. Check his Pokédex entry.

“The way several Bergmite huddle on its back makes it look like an aircraft carrier made of ice.”

That is a reference to a plan the British had in WW2 to build aircraft carriers in the North Sea made out of Pykrete, a sort of frozen cement made of wood chipping. Pykrete is actually an amazingly durable material, about as strong as steel and very cheap to make….provided of course you keep it frozen, but that isn’t as hard as you might think. Ice is a great insulator and the original Pykrete aircraft carier took 3 years to melt. Yes, years. The Mythbusters once made a boat out of it. You can read more about it here and find out why it was ultimately scrapped.

Noibat and Noivern

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It is entirely possible to read Noivern’s ears as the eyes of an owl looking sideways, this marginally improves this dull ass design.

Also another fur collar. Going back over the designs I actually count 18 fur collars this generation. That compares with only 5 awesome beards and that is catastrophic.

Yveltal

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Fur collar number 19. I know why it is here though, it helps balance out the shape.

I really like Yveltal. I’m a sucker for a few things and birds with horns are one of them plus turning those wings into hands. Yveltal has not one, not two but three weird hand wings (beating previous champion Lugia) and his pose makes him look like one massive grasping talon reaching out to get you. It’s all very cool and intimidating helped further by the black and red colour scheme, the lack of a mouth (which is always scary) and the weird but sinister black veins. It also incorporates the Y shape subtly but effectively. Between Xerneas and Yveltal we got two great legendaries this generation. Also, Gen 6 gives us the fewest legendaries yet with just 3. Yveltal, Xerneas and Diancie. Yeah I know about Hoopa and Volcanion but until they officially release them I won’t be reviewing them because I won’t be able to get a decent image and…

I forgot one?

Which did I forg..ohh. Oh.

Zygarde

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Is a piece of shit.

You want more, okay. He’s a Ground/Dragon. Nothing on his design says ground or Dragon. His Z is barely there and the shape is ruined by his back crest which is just one of many design elements which signify nothing. Why the back crest? Why is he covered in hexagons? Why is he asymmetrical?  This design is a combination of elements that neither work individually nor as a whole, he’s crap and I didn’t want to end the generation on him so let’s look at Hawlucha again.

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So much win.

In general Gen 6 is a mix of trying too hard but failing and succeeding but being boring which applies to the gameplay as much as the designs. That said Gen 6 has staked out a course. The first 5 Pokemon were all in one evolutionary tree getting better and better. But now, now nothing will ever be the same again and franky, I’m excited to see what comes next.

 

 

It took me so long to do my entire set of Pokemon reviews (I wrote jokes and analysis for more than 649 entries, I’ve done something like 30,000 words on the damn things) that before I had even finished 6th generation had already been announced. We’ve seen a few Gen 6 monsters but the one that everyone seems most fascinated by is this guy.

Sylveon

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Which is a new Eeveelution. Although my dislike of new evolutions of old monsters is on record on this site and others I make an exception for Eeveelutions. The basic concept of Eevee, he’s a little squirrel dog with the potential to evolve into multiple types much like how dog breeders can get a lot of shapes out of the same basic genetic material, is fantastic and the only problem with it is he can’t evolve into every type yet. This is a problem, and I firmly believe Eevee should be given an evolution for every type in the game. I’m also not the only that feels this way; something I’ll get to later.

Because of that news of a new Eeveelution was greeted with much rejoicing by me.

And then I saw it.

Wow that thing is, girly, very, very girly. I mean not only is it pink but it has bows and ribbons, give it a my little pony and it’s the platonic ideal of a seven year old girl.

I actually don’t have a problem with the girly though, this is a fine design. Basic uncluttered body with a few distinguishing elements. My only gripe is the tail and ears haven’t been incorporated as well as other eeveelutions. With something like Jolteon the ears and tail scream electric type at you, same with Vaporeon and Leafeon. Ah but there’s the rub, what type is Sylveon?

When Nintendo released the image they intentionally kept the typing a secret, indeed they made a big deal out of it and the internet has been trying to figure out what type she is ever since. Based on appearance alone I’d have to go for normal type. There are plenty of Pokemon whose defining design characteristics are big pink ears, pinkness in general and girly touches like bows and ribbons. Chansey, Snubbul, Audino, Wigglytuff. These are all normal types. Thing is, giving a normal type evolution to a normal type Eevee is a bit boring and it doesn’t make sense for Nintendo to make a big deal out of a normal type so many people seem to think Sylveon is actually a new type.

I can buy that.

We haven’t had a new type since Gen 2 and Gen 6 looks to be a much bigger change to the core game mechanics than any since Gen 2.  We’re moving into 3 dimensional movement and polygonal displays (way to catch up with 1996 Pokemon. awww, I’m kidding. I loves ya.) and a big change isn’t out of the question. The trailer also makes a big deal out of light and sound with new Pokemon Xernias being bathed in light and Yvetal making a loud noise. The current theory is that all the Pokemon with similar designs to Sylveon, bows, pink, big ears could be moved into a new type called light, fairy or even sound. My only request is I’d still like to see some of the existing types get an Eeveelution. Like I said though, fans are ahead of me there and have come up with some Eeveelution concepts of their own. My favourite is this one.

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This guy is part of a set of Eeveelution designs I saw posted on pokememes.com . I couldn’t find the original artist so if anyone does know who drew these please let me know so I can credit them accordingly. Honestly these are the best fan Pokemon designs I’ve ever seen, they perfectly replicate Sugimori-San’s art style and the colouring quality and they show a lot of invention and thought.

My favourite of the bunch is the fighting type above. I like that its still recognisably a dog and still on four legs but that you can tell straight away this is a fighting type. A lot of that goes into the taped up legs which really says martial arts but other touches lie the shortened tail and ears and the scar sell the idea too. It’s a great design and I’d love to see it crop up in a future Pokemon game.

Second favourite is the flying type.

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Most flying type Eevee’s I’ve seen just go the lazy route and give it wings. This design does turn the tail into wings but what’s far cleverer is turning the furry puffs into clouds. Turning a poodle into clouds is again, recognisably a dog but also says flying type at you. The pose helps too since it appears to be flying but also looks like a happy dog running to greet its master.

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Ghost is another great one. We’ve got a lot of variety in dog body shapes here and I love the long floppy spaniel ears, something no other Eeveelution has. The ears folded down works well to suggest melancholy and helps it stand out from the others and sell the ghost idea too. Plus bandages is such a simple addition to make it a ghost but works so well.

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Poison is not a brilliant entry. Although a very attractive looking design a lot of people mistakenly thought this was the ghost type. That’s because not a lot here says poison. The one big poison symbol is turning Eevee’s fur ruff into a cloud of poisonous gas. That’s very clever and very striking but can be mis-read as suggesting a ghost type. Maybe making it a sickly black and yellow colour rather than purple would help.

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Ground is a hard type to define since so many ground types are so varied and it can be easily confused with the rock type. I’m not sure what individual element here says ground but something about the whole does suggest it. It’s also another striking and attractive design.

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Normal poses a challenge since there is nothing at all intrinsic to normal types. Instead they took the already normal type Eevee and just altered the proportions to make it look more like an adult and less childlike. So we have a large body, longer limbs and a smaller head in proportion to the rest of the body. Basic, but assured.

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Steel and Rock are pretty similar. Replace the ears, tail and ruff with something made of the element. They aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination but there’s nothing clever here. Maybe making them into a different kind of dog would help, like a bulldog for rock or a great dane for steel.

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Bug and Dragon are probably the only entries I don’t like and even they have features I think are good. I like how bug’s ears get turned into antennae and his extra eyes. I think the wings are overkill and more could be done with the tail such as making it a scorpion tail.

For Dragon I like the horns but again more could have been done with them making them proper Japanese dragon antlers. I’m not a fan of the tail or wings and think maybe turning the feet into claws would help. Also the colouration is a little similar to bug, steel and flying, why not something more dragony like an orange or green?

So a real Eeveelution and some fan Eeveelutions. And with that I’m all done with Pokemon stuff until we start getting a few more Gen 6 designs to critique.

Generation 5 is one of the more polarising generations with a lot of people really, really hating it. The common criticisms of it are that the designs are unoriginal, basically just re-dos of earlier monsters, and that some of the designs are just irredeemably stupid in concept such as an Ice Cream monster.

Whilst I can certainly understand these complaints I can’t agree with them. For me Generation 5 is a superb generation. Not only does it have tons of original ideas it also has polish. The designs strike a wonderful balance between the early, iconic stuff and the later more complicated designs without featuring tons of extraneous details. The colours aren’t overly fussy but pop and compliment each other. It’s just overall great.

Partly this is because Nintendo seemed to take to heart the criticisms of generation 4 and took a real back to basics approach with the games Black and White. For the first time since Red and Blue we get 150 all new monsters. No evolutions or prevolutions of older monsters and no monsters from original games appearing at all in this one, until much later in the game at the very least. In that sense it’s a lot like generation one. And that’s not the only Gen 1 throwback either, consequently you get a lot of homages to older designs. Now I know that I criticised the last generation for going to the RGBY well too much but the approach taken in Gen 5 is much better. These aren’t extra evolutions but a reinterpretation of a similar idea, and usually a more confident and developed interpretation to boot. I’ll discuss that aspect more in individual entries.

The other big design theme is the concept of New York. The Unova region is the first region not to be  based on Japan but rather New York and Manhattan. Consequently we get a lot less natural designs and a lot more monsters based on inanimate objects and human themes, reflecting the lack of nature in New York when compared to the nature obsessed Japanese. It opens up the conceptual palette a lot more and means that even when monsters are similar to older designs they usually have a few key differences to distinguish them.

Finally the games themselves are brilliant, indeed they may be my favourite Pokemon games. There are so many refinements and improvements that just massively improve the game. Moving the Pokemart into the Pokecenter is such a small thing but such a time saving thing that speeds up the more tedious aspects of the game. Making TM’s re-usable is brilliant and opens up the combat along with move tutors for really powerful but rare moves. Then there are the new innovations which aren’t gimmicks but add real depth to the game and much needed extra dimension, month cycles, battle subways, black/white tower, online functionality, Pokemon World Tournament, etc.

Gen 5 was in fact my entire inspiration for these articles since it got so much hate from a certain section of fandom and I love it so much that I honestly felt I had to speak up for it.

Victini

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What? Not a grass type starter? but, but every generation starts with a grass type!

Well usually but here we get the first of our (many, waaaaay too many) legendaries in the mold of Mew, Celebi, Jirachi etc we have the spirit of victory Victini.

His big theme is the letter V, for the fifth generation and also for victory. As such we get his big V ears and his v for victory gesture. I love that gesture, it is far and away my favourite thing about Victini because it is so very, very Japanese and I doubt most people pick up on it at all. You see Japanese people almost always do the v for victory thing in photos. Seriously go google Japanese teenagers (you might want to safe search it), first picture on my google images is a classroom full of kids doing that gesture.

You want some more examples…

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And let’s have some of me and random Japanese people

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The ini part of his name comes from genie and hence his hammer pants (I find it odd that at least two pokemon have hammer pants. One may be an accident but two is a conspiracy). I have no idea about his bum wings though.

Snivy, Servine, Serperior

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*slow clap*

well done localisation guys, well done. Serperior may be my favourite pun since Geodude.

You see a lot more variation in the grass type starters than the water and fires usually and Serperior and his brood is no exception. Taking the vine of ivy and turning it into a snake’s body with an ivy leaf on the tail is just inspired. It’s not just a great concept well executed either, there are tons of extra touches that turn this from a good design into a stellar one. I love Serperior’s expression, it looks so smug and haughty and with his name that does so much to convey personality. I love the high collar and how that also serves to make him look regal.I love how they turned the Ivy into fleur de lis. I love that we go from a snake with arms and legs to it losing its legs, possibly the only example in pokemon evolution of something that actually happened in real life evolution.* I love everything about this guy.

Mostly though i just love the fact that he’s pokemon David Bowie as the Goblin King.

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*contrary to popular belief Serperior does still have hands, they are folded behind his back in an imperious pose.

Tepig, Pignite, Emboar

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BEHOLD! The three best pun names the localisation team has EVER done.

Pignite guys, Pignite. Whomever dreamed that up deserves a raise.

The concept with these guys is hysterical. They’re pigs on fire. If you don’t get that it might help to know that I named my Emboar BBQ.

As if that wasn’t brilliant enough they also have a parallel gimmick of being different kinds of wrestlers. Tepig’s head colouring is meant to look like the caps Japanese boys wear at the school sports day for their various manly physical games like slapping each other and climbing poles.

Japan just doesn’t care about health and safety by the way guys, schools totally have a “let’s let the boys slap each other” event at sport’s day and nobody bats an eye lid. In the U.K. that would be a national scandal.

Pignite (love that name) is obviously meant to look like a pro wrestler or an olympic wrestler in the American style. In fact he looks a lot like Andre the Giant to my mind.

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Emboar obviously is a sumo wrestler and pig sumo wrestler is such an obvious and brilliant idea I’m amazed it took us this long to get some version of it. It certainly has more character than the boring anthro monster Makuhita.

Of the three I find Pignite to be the best, mostly because of Emboar’s fires. I can’t tell what they’re meant to be, a beard maybe? I certainly can’t parse them as anything a Sumo wrestler wears. Everything on Pignite though either says pig or wrestler.

Oshawott, Dewott and Samurott

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Of the three starters Oshawott definitely fairs the worst. Oshawott himself is pretty terrible, it’s an otter, but blue (btw Nintendo the water starter doesn’t have to be blue, we get that it’s water from the animal you choose usually) in a baby-grow for some reason. It’s not even cute, mostly because of the frowny face and dead, soulless eyes….

like a doll’s eyes..

never blinking…

knowing everything you did.

*ahem* anyway, Oshawott, not cute.

Dewott though is brilliant. He looks more like an otter for starters and his proportions and pose make him look like a martial artist. Well specifically he’s meant to be a samurai with the razor shells resembling the armour plates samurai have and his big whiskers looking like the fake intimidating moustache on a samurai helmet.  He looks badass, ready to throw some razor sharp clams and straight up cut a fool.

And then Samurott ruins everything.

Firstly it’s really weird that he goes from being bipedal to being quadrupedal. There’s nothing that prohibits that in actual evolution (although I don’t believe it has ever happened) but it seems counter-intuitive in pokemon evolution to go from being more human to more animalistic.

And whilst there is some samurai stuff kept the move to four legs just really cripples the samurai concept.  There’s also a ton of stuff that straight up doesn’t work, like the helmet. That doesn’t look like a samurai helmet. The guys called Samurott, just give him a samurai helmet and have him stand up and this would have worked much, much better.

Patrat and Watchdog

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Considering Watchdog is supposed to be a cross between a meerkat and a crossing guard (no really, check out what Japanese crossing guards wear below and look at Watchdog’s markings.) I find it amusing that Patrat looks stoned as hell. Again it’s all in the eyes, he is tweaking and is looking for munchies. I’d say he cleaned up his act but even in his narc uniform he still looks like he’s tripping balls. He must be a dirty cop.

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Lillipup, Herdier and Stoutland

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boring dog, boring dog THE MOST MAJESTIC MOUSTACHE I HAVE EVER BEHELD!

Gen 5 is resplendent with awesome moustaches actually but just look at that thing! It’s the length of his entire body! That is the platonic ideal of all facial hair. It is the single most manly thing I have yet seen and it isn’t even on a man.

Soutland most pull all the hot bitches* with that thing.

*not sexist, he’s a dog.

Purrloin and Liepard

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I’m sorry localisation team but there is such a thing as trying too hard. It’s a decent punning effort but I’m afraid it doesn’t do it for me.

Don’t be sad though, you still came up with Pignite. All is forgiven in my eyes after that.

Pansage, Pansear and Panpour

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Simisage, Simisear and Simipour

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Generation 5 also has a lot more linked designs than previous games including these monkeys. It’s a very simple design but similar in concept to Eevee, take a basic body shape (in this case a monkey) and make amendments to it that fit the elemental theme. So the colour, tail shape and head shape change to match the element. Nicely done and nicely executed. Although I do query why Pansage has brocolli on his head and Pansear has a cartoon poop on his.

But for the evolutions we get the added conceptual twist of making them musicians. So Pansage evolves into a 1950’s greaser complete with faux leather jacket and massive quiff, Panpour turns into a 1960’s doo wop/girl group singer and Pansear turns into Liberace….but fat.

It would have been perfectly fine to just do more adult looking versions of panpour,sage and sear but adding the musician gimmick just makes them that bit more interesting. It’s little touches like that make me wonder why people call this generation unoriginal.

Munna and Musharna

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There’s a lot of baggage to this design to unpack. Firstly Black and White introduced the dream world, an alternate dimension which can be made real using dream smoke harvested from Musharna. It’s just an online gaming feature basically but like any new thing they introduce they feel like they need a mascot Pokemon and Musharna is it.

They’re also both callbacks to earlier games. Waaaaay back in Red and Blue there is a comment from an NPC about wishing for a Pokemon with a floral print on it. And only fifteen years later they decided to follow up on that idea. Musharna is also a callback from an older game, Diamond and Pearl which mention a researcher looking into the prospect of a Pokemon that can link with dreams. This is all a bit fan service but it’s kind of mind blowing that Nintendo recognises it has a continuation of fans from fifteen years ago still playing who will enjoy these nods and winks.

Finally both designs are kind of a do-over of Hypno from the original games. Hypno was based on a Japanese myth about a monster that eats people’s dreams and the monster is usually depicted as a tapir like creature. Hypno though was not one of the more successful RGBY designs, being basically a tapir stood up. Munna and Musharna are much more distinctive creatures with more appealing designs even if they basically are still tapirs.

Pidove, Tranquill and Unfezant

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Speaking of do-overs, apparently enough people thought that Pidgey from RGBY looked nothing like a pidgeon, missing the point that he was a wood pidgeon, that they decided to do another pidgeon. Although rather than evolving into a bigger pidgeon with a punk rock haircut he evolves into a pheasant with a masquerade mask. These three are fine, if a bit fussy. The localisation team are trying to force the puns too much again though.

Blitzle and Zebstrika

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Zebra but with the white parts turned into lightning bolts is such a simple and inspired premise that I’m amazed it took until Gen 5 for it to happen. That said the execution is not perfect. I don’t like the shape of Zebstrika’s tail, just leaving it as a bolt would have been better than the spark ending. There’s also still a lot of curved white lines where I would have made them all straight with bolt shaped kinks. I also think Blitzle’s single mohawk-esque bolt is much better than Zebstrika’s two horn bolts.

Roggenrola, Boldore, Gigalith

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The localisation team must have been absolutely gutted when presented with the design that became Roggenrolla. Having already used the pun in Geodude Japan goes ahead and gives them a walking geode. What the hell are they supposed to do with that?!

Like Pidove before it this trio is another do-over of an RGBY monster, namely Geodude, Graveller and Golem. It’s sufficiently different to work as it’s own monster though. I love the use of geode’s as eyes, I also like the gem spikes which are intimidating and dangerous looking. The only thing I don’t like is the weird spike on Roggenrolla’s head which make’s it look like the spike is his head and is just confusing.

Woobat and Swoobat

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For years I though Woobat was an incredibly lazy design. Basically just a ball of fur with bat wings and inexplicable heart shaped nose. Then I saw these guys.

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I’ll quote my long suffering girlfriend’s reaction when she saw that picture;

“OH MY GOD LOOK AT THEM! They look like mini pigs. Mini pigs with fur.” and then she just made some squeeing noises. It went  on for a while but she seemed happy enough.

If anything the Pokemon version is butcher and more macho than the real animal.

Swoobat though is a total mess. He’s supposed to be a foxbat, hence the head, but they’ve kept the heart nose which now looks out of proportion and doesn’t match the head shape. I don’t get the thinking at all behind the collar or the tail. They look like they’re going for cute but it’s just loads of random elements shoved together. It totally lacks cohesion.

Drilbur and Excadrill

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Do-over of Diglett but Drilbur actually looks like a mole. A mole with giant steel drill hands, again that is such a strong concept I’m amazed it wasn’t done earlier.

Excadrill  unfortunately, is not so assured. This is a shame because in game he is an absolute monster, easily one of the most powerful beasties in the game (in fact a lot of competitive websites ban his use entirely). The body is just a larger more dangerous looking version of Drilbur which is fine but what spoils is it is the weird second head. I know what they’re going for, the idea is the extra drill looks like a larger more dangerous head with the real head hidden underneath. But the sizes and positions mean it doesn’t quite work.

Audino

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This generation’s big pink big eared girly monster to go with Clefable, Blissey and Wigglytuff only with….long ears?  I did some reading and apparently the ears are supposed to resemble stethoscopes so this is another nurse themed monster. Again I’ll stick that one in the “this is probably someone’s fetish” pile with Chansey.

Timburr, Gurdurr, Conkeldurr

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Timburr has by far the best evolution gimmick I have ever seen. His 2 x 4 evolves with him into a girder and then concrete pillars. That makes,NO, SENSE, WHATSOEVER! I don’t know if I have to explain this guys but evolution doesn’t work that way. It makes perfect sense in the world of Pokemon evolution though and is so out there and crazy that I don’t know how you could not love it.

Unfortunately the monster holding the tool is not quite as inspired. Especially Gurdurr. Why is Gurdurr a clown? Because he is. He has a big red nose and curly hair. He might have disturbingly big and veiny arms but he is unmistakably a clown. A muscular clown wielding a steel girder….well it’s original at least.

Tympole, Palpitoad and Seismitoad

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OH MY GOD KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!!

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Arrrrrrrrrrrrrgh

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Good god that thing is hideous. I know it’s supposed to be headphones but the incredibly human face on the tadpole just freaks me out. That’s David Lynchian in it’s terror. Children should not be exposed to that. It looks like something anti-abortion protestors would have on a placard. Creepy.

And the other two evolutions look like frogs with huge cancerous growths.

Throh and Sawk

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This right here, this is the very definition of lazy. These are the platonic ideal of boring anthro monsters. They’re wearing clothes for gods sake, wild animals should not be wearing judo gi. Where did they get them from anyway? Do they rob dojo’s? Are they born with them on? Do they mug martial artists? What does a naked Throh look like? Actually never mind, I don’t want to know that last one.

Sewaddle, Swadloon and Leavanny

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Hey Throh and Sawk, here’s another wild animal wearing clothes. MADE FROM LEAVES. You see the difference, how one is plausible animal behaviour and one is drawing human’s and then messing up the face.

High concept aside these three aren’t great but I love Swadloon’s hilarious frowny face. For a bug all snuggled up in a rug he sure looks pissed off.

Venipede, Whirlipede and Scolipede

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Don’t these all just look bored? I think it’s the heavy lidded eye. They look less like they’re interested in battle and more like they just want to get it other with so they can go back to watching TV. It’s fitting because these are boring designs. It’s also rare that I ask this but can we have more detail on Scolipede please. His front looks like some kind of layers error in photoshop where they copied over everything except his front carapace.

Cottonee and Whimsicott

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Whimscott is adorable. Look at that happy face, that little guy just wants cuddles. And you know they’d be brilliant cuddles because he’d be so fluffy!

These two are great example of how you do a plant Pokemon right, they took cotton plants and decided that they looked a bit like sheep and boom, Pokemon right there. Sheep but with cotton instead of wool.

Petilil and Lilligant

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And here’s how you do plant pokemon boringly, it’s a nondescript plant shape with a face. Dull.

Basculin

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Second stab at a piranha does manage to look like a piranha, which is a plus, but like most fish pokemon is basically just a cartoony fish and so is dull.

Sandile, Krokorok and Krookodile

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Not actually based on a crocodile, despite all its name being crocodile puns, but a caimen. (see below you can tell due to the distinctive nose)

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These three are part of a baffling subset of Pokemon designs that take an animal that lives in the water but makes it a ground type…because….clever? I mean it’s an okay idea once but it seems to crop up repeatedly and it wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire to start with.

Also Krookodile’s nose looks like a dick. There, I said it. Are you all happy now?

Darumaka and Darmanitan

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Yay an attempt to get all intellectual and show off my knowledge of Japanese culture.

I mentioned that in this generation we got a lot more Pokemon based on inanimate objects and Darumaka is one of the first examples of this. Although he and his evolution both look kind of like monkeys they are in fact based on this.

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That’s a Daruma, a kind of Japanese doll based on a representation of the monk and Bodhisattva ( a Buddha who teaches rather than ascending) named Bodhidharma, credited with bringing the Japanese tradition of Zen Buddhism to China (obviously Buddhism originally came to Japan from India by way of China but Zen is a specific kind of Buddhism).

There are lots of legends regarding Bodhidharma  but the one pertinent to his doll is the following, from wikipedia;

Failing to make a favorable impression in Southern China, Bodhidharma is said to have travelled to the northern Chinese kingdom of Wei to the Shaolin Monastery. After either being refused entry to the shaolin temple or being ejected after a short time, he lived in a nearby cave, where he “faced a wall for nine years, not speaking for the entire time”.

The biographical tradition is littered with apocryphal tales about Bodhidharma’s life and circumstances. In one version of the story, he is said to have fallen asleep seven years into his nine years of wall-gazing. Becoming angry with himself, he cut off his eyelids to prevent it from happening again.[25] According to the legend, as his eyelids hit the floor the first tea plants sprang up; and thereafter tea would provide a stimulant to help keep students of Chán awake during meditation.[26]

The most popular account relates that Bodhidharma was admitted into the Shaolin temple after nine years in the cave and taught there for some time. However, other versions report that he “passed away, seated upright”;[21] or that he disappeared, leaving behind the Yi Jin Jing;[27] or that his legs atrophied after nine years of sitting,[28] which is why Japanese Bodhidharma dolls have no legs.

You’ll notice from my picture that the doll only has one eye. This is a Japanese tradition, the dolls come with both eyes blank, one is supposed to paint one pupil whilst making a wish and then the other once the wish comes true. These wishes are more in the style of New Year’s resolutions than desires so you might for instance wish to lose weight and then the blank eye stares at you accusingly until you do.

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Darumaka and Darmanitan are based on the doll (which has a very consistent stylised form) than the man himself. Darumaka is basically a Daruma doll with arms and legs but it’s such an unusual design for a doll that I really don’t mind that at all, I think Darumaka looks great.

Darmanitan is even better though taking the basic shape and re-interpreting it as a rounded ape like monster. It keeps all the cool unique design aspects of a Daruma but makes it look more like a viable animal.

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Darmanitan also has an alternate form called Zen Mode which is basically just a Daruma doll but blue, and considering you can get blue Darumas that is a touch on the lazy side.

Maractus

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It’s a cactus with a face, and we already have two of those. Did we need this?

Dwebble and Crustle

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Kind of this generation’s Paras being an insect with a big thing on its back but with a more thought out concept here that I’m amazed hasn’t been used before. It’s a hermit crab which instead of stealing a shell has stolen a rock. Simple idea, well executed. The evolution though is inspired as the rock turns into a massive slice of earth complete with geological layers. I feel like the logical leaps in evolutions in this generation have been more thought through and rather than just making a bigger uglier version of the prevolution there’s almost a kind of a joke to many of the changes.

Scraggy and Scrafty

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Scraggy and Scrafty are kind of a cute idea and an example of how stuff like Throh and Sawk could be handled better. What they’ve done is taken a human behaviour (hooligans that wear their pants really low) and looked around for an animal behaviour they can graft that onto (lizards shedding their skin). That’s neat, and it’s exactly how they should approach fighting types.

Alas that’s all the praise I have for these two, especially Scraggy whose face looks like a complete afterthought. Sugimori-san can draw lizards so why has he given us the emoticon for derp?

Sigilyph

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Sigilyph is a dream catcher turned into a Pokemon. It’s also an incoherent visual monstrosity that hurts to look at, but so are dream catchers.

Yamask and Cofragrigus

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Pokemon has occasionally dabbled in some dark themes. In previous generations we’ve had child stealing balloons, the animated dead husk of an insect’s shed skin that seeks to capture souls, the lord of nightmares, the god of the land of ghosts and whatever the hell is up with Lopunny. Ghost types in particular have always posed a tricky question, what exactly is a ghost type? Are they the ghosts of pokemon? Are they normal animals displaying behaviours we might associate with ghosts? Most of them appear to be haunting some kind of object so the shape and nature of the object distracts somewhat from this question.

Yamask, however, approaches the issue dead on. Yamask is unequivocally the soul of a dead human transformed into spectral form.

Observe the pokedex entry;

“Each of them carries a mask that used to be its face when it was human. Sometimes they look at it and cry. These Pokémon arose from the spirits of people interred in graves. Each retains memories of its former life.”

The implications of that are horrifying. These things used to be humans, people with hopes and dreams and other people who loved them. They’re now reduced to floating spectres that are captured and forced to do battle for the amusement of 10 year olds. They are enslaved by other people. Infinitely, because being ghosts already they will never die and know freedom. AND THEY REMEMBER BEING HUMAN! No wonder they cry. If they could talk they presumably would articulate the longing and pain they have, how they yearn to be free of their torment, but no, all they can say is their own name. Not even their human name but the name of the monster they have become, their slave name.

But you know what’s worse? All of those facts are known. They were worked out by researchers who put it in the Pokedex. That means that humans in the world of Pokemon are aware that when they die they can turn into a monster and aware that those monsters retain human feelings and yet go ahead and enslave them anyway.

Pokemon is pretty fucked up you guys.

Tirtuoga and Carracosta

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Carracosta’s mask makes me think he looks a little bit like a blue ninja turtle. Interesting fact, the ninja turtles wren’t turtles. As a rule of thumb turtles have flippers, tortoises have a foot and terrapins are semi-aquatic and have a kind of webbed clawed flipper. When you see them before they mutate the TMNT are actually terrapins.

All of which is a long way of saying I don’t have much to say about Tirtuoga and Carracosta.

Archen and Archeops

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Like Cranidos before them Archen and Archeops get points just for being based on one of my favourite dinosaurs, Archeopteryx.

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You might be looking at that artist’s impression and saying, “Adam, that’s a bird,” but that would be exactly why it is awesome. Archeopteryx is one of the earliest birds and one of the last dinosaurs and the strongest fossil evidence that dinosaurs did indeed evolve into birds.

Trubbish and Garbodor

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Of all the inanimate objects given a face in this generation my favourite is far and away Trubbish. That little guy just looks so cute. His eyes gazing up at you seems to imploringly ask, “why, why does everyone hate me? I only want love.” Awww Trubbish, it’s because you smell of garbage little dude. Don’t worry though, I love ya.

Zorua and Zoroark

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Zorua has one of the coolest in game abilities as at the beginning of fights it doesn’t look like itself but the last Pokemon on your team. It’s an illusion Pokemon casting spells to appear like something else.

There’s not much in the design to suggest that though, except really subtly. Zorua and Zoroark are based on foxes, known for being cunning and the expression on their faces really suggests an intelligence and sly quality. Beyond that though these are sleek, dangerous looking designs but they’re basically just cartoony foxes, one of which is stood up.

Minccino and Cinccino

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A chinchilla with a fashionable goatee and a chinchilla dressed up like a 1950’s hollywood starlet in elaborate furs. I find the idea of a furred animal wearing furs to be…conceptually troubling at best. This is one for the girls that like to squee at cute things with very little thought put into it.

Gothita, Gothorita and Gothitelle

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Now this, this is brilliant. Gohita and it’s evolutions are basically a boring anthro monster. But they’re a boring anthro monster based on something so bizarre that I can’t help but love it.  They’re based upon Gothic Lolita fashions. You might have read the word Gothic there and started picturing pale, thin boys in black jeans and cure t-shirts wearing eye liner and obsessing over death but that’s not really it at all. Gothic Lolita is a Japanese subb-culture and it’s less morbid and more about a fetishised version of Victorian fashion, taking the visual signifiers of that time period, lace, bows, petticoats and exaggerating them until you get something like, well, these;

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as you can see, we’re dealing with Tim Burton’s perfect women.

Gothita is not a great version of a Gothic Lolita Pokemon but that they tried at all is just magnificent.

Solosis, Duosion and Reuniclus

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This is a cell, undergoing mitosis.

Again, the concept here is so brilliant that the design doesn’t really matter to me but the design is spot on too. Simple and iconic and selling the high concept beautifully.

But this seems to be a design a lot of people hate, they don’t get why there is a gooey baby rabbit and have missed the point entirely. So let me explain, the green ball is the cell, the light green thing inside it is the nucelus, the “brain” of the cell as it were, those eyes, cytoplasm, that squiggly thing, the name escapes but that’s a cell component too.

And then the cell splits becoming two, starting with the nucleus splitting. Only in this case it doesn’t finish splitting so it now has two brains, hence greater psychic powers, and eventually it has three brains, not rabbit ears. And it looks like a baby because cells split during the development of embryos. Everything here has a purpose in serving the high concept and the high concept, abortion monster, is so fantastic that the design just flat out works. The only people who hate this monster are those that do not get the concept.

Ducklett and Swanna

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What I like with Swanna is that it’s dressed up in a swan lake ballet costume. So it’s a swan dressed as a swan. deep.

What i do not like about swanna is the feather bra, please stop suggesting Pokemon have breasts Nintendo it’s starting to get creepy.

Vanilite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe

vanillite vanillish vanilluxe

God dammit I just told you to stop putting bras on Pokemon!

If you don’t like 5th Gen Vanilluxe seems to be the prime example people use. And it is pretty indefensible, I’ve moaned before about designs that I didn’t think worked as real animals and you can’t make any sensible argument for the floating ice-cream cone.

But.

In a generation with a Gothic Lolita monster, an abortion monster, a walking candle and gears with faces ice cream cone with a face doesn’t really stand out. And they’re rapidly running out of ideas for ice types, beyond just taking an existing animal and making it white with some ice bits. It’s stupid, yes, but so adorably stupid that I can’t help but love it.

Deerling and Sawsbuck

deerling sawsbuck

As ever with a new feature comes a mascot Pokemon for it and this game introduces a season cycle. The idea being that with every change in season Deerling and Sawsbuck change to match it.

This is a great idea and whilst the execution on Deerling is meh the execution on Sawsbuck is fantastic. Turning his antlers into tree branches is a solid idea for  a plant type to start with and having those branches change like a tree changes in each season is just inspired. The actual animal underneath those branches is simple and uncluttered (so your eye is really drawn to the selling point, the antlers) but does subtly change season by season too. Sawsbuck is a terrific Pokemon, a real stand out of the generation.

Emolga

emolga

Why is this not an evolution for Pachirisu? It looks just like it except it flies. Dull.

Karrablast and Escavalier

karrablast escavalier

also

Shelmet and Accelgor

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Although not next to each other in the Pokedex I’m dealing with these four together because of their relationship with one another. You see Shelmet and Karrablast only evolve when traded with each other. Shelmet busts out of its shell and turns into Accelgor whilst Karrablast starts wearing the shell to become Escavalier. That’s a kind of clever idea but these designs aren’t great.

Shelmet just looks stupid, entirely because of the lips. Those lips are dumb and I don’t think I need to explain why. And I have no idea what Karrablast even is. Some googling suggests it’s supposed to be a carabid beetle, which it in no way resembles.

Escavalier is okay, I like his lance arms but that’s it.

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Accelgor however I do like since it is a homage to masked rider and as previously mentioned i am all for Pokemon based on elements of Japanese culture.

Foongus and Amoongus

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This generation’s do-over of Voltorb whose gimmick was that he looked like a Pokeball. Remember kids, if anyone accuses Gen 5 of being unoriginal you point out that Gen 1 contained a ball with a face and his evolution, a bigger ball with a face.

Foongus is not as good as Voltorb though since he only looks a Pokeball from above.

Fillish and Jellicent

frillishjellicent

The concept of these two is spooky as hell. They rule an underwater castle, made of the ruins of sunken ships, together as king and queen and surrounded by courtiers. That is brilliantly creepy  without straying into the horror of child abduction or infinite slavery.

I don’t have much to say about female Jellicent because i’m too in awe of male Jellicent;s tremendous facial hair. He rivals Stoutland for most magnificent Pokemon moustache.

Alomomola

alomomola

Sunfish are such odd looking creatures that they make perfect Pokemon without really needing many changes but Nintendo decided to make this a more conceptually complicated creature by turning its fins into hands.

They do this a lot actually, Lugia, Kyogre, they’re quite big on turning things that aren’t hands into them. And then you get guys like Wobuffet staring at his useless stumps and praying for digits. It’s like Arceus only had  a limited number of hands and it was first come first serve.

Oh and the name is pallindromic (reads the same forwards as backwards) for an animal with greater than regular symmetry, I’d be more impressed if the name meant anything.

Joltik and Galvantula

joltikgalvantula

How cute is Joltik? The answer is all the cute, he is all the cute there ever was. The smallest Pokemon ever is logically based on a tick. I would have found it impressive that they made a tick cute but to make a tick look that cute is some kind of miracle.

And then it turns into out and out nightmare fuel. That’s cruel Nintendo. Funny though.

Ferroseed and Ferrothorn

ferroseedferrothorn

Boy there sure are a lot of inanimate objects with faces in this generation.

Klink, Klang and Klinklang

klink klangklinklang

Yep, lot’s of inanimate objects with faces.

At least they didn’t feel the need to stick a horn on them.

Tynamo, Elektrik and Elektross

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Elektrik is based on a lamprey and since I am a cruel and sadistic man who enjoys tormenting others here is a photo of a lamprey’s face.

Boca_de_lamprea.1_-_Aquarium_Finisterrae

Oh you’ve seen it now, and you can never unsee it. Good luck sleeping tonight.

Elektross is based on a lamprey, but with arms, ARMS THAT ARE ALSO MOUTHS! That’s Lovecraftian in its horror.

Elgyem and Beheeyem

elgyembeheeyem

Little Green Man (LGM) and Bug Eyed Monster (BEM) here are boring anthro monsters with frankly bizarre heads. I get that Elgeeyem is supposed to look like a stylised “grey” alien but I don’t get the thinking behind Beheeyem at all.

Litwick, Lampent, Chandelure

litwicklampentchandelure

There are lots of ghost Pokemon that resemble objects and plenty of Pokemon this time around that are just inanimate objects with a face but what I appreciate about these three are the touches that elevate it above that concept. Like the pattern on Chandelur’s face that resembles a stitched mouth or the shape of Litwick’s wax resembling famous Japanese horror character Kitaro.

kitaro manga

Plus I just find candles to be quite spooky and ghostly things.

Axew, Fraxure and Haxorus

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Axew and Fraxure look stupid, mostly because they’re generic dinosaurs whose defining feature, the blades, just look tacked on rather than integrated.

The axe is much more integrated on Haxorus and giant dinosaur with an axe for a face is the kind of ten year old fantasy Pokemon should be indulging more often.

I have to question the colouring choice of making the axe red though. That makes it look like it’s slathered in the blood of Haxorus’s enemies. These are kid’s games right?

Cubchoo and Beartic

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When I first saw Ursaring way back in Gen 2 my initial reaction was that they’d missed a trick by not making the bear an ice type, since there are so few ice animals and polar bears are one of the more prominent examples. Well evidently they thought the same as years later we finally get our polar bear. But rather than being just a white bear they have to give it some extra gimmick so now we have a snotty bear cub whose snot freezes into icicles. Eh, it’s okay. I feel they’ve missed a trick with Beartic since his proportions look odd. His head and shoulders are really small and his legs and lower body really big. It’s the wrong way round really, if they want to sell big, powerful bear monster it really needs big wide shoulders, as it is it looks really gangly.

Cryogonal

cryogonal

Cryogonal is why I don’t get all the hate for Vanillite because he has all the same problems but is infinitely more boring. It’s an inanimate object that cannot possibly move, breed, eat or be anything approaching a real animal, with a face. But, whereas Vanillite had stacks of persoanlity Cryogonal has barely any, you can barely tell a face is there. And it is simply covered in distracting and busy lines. It’s not even a good drawing of a snowflake since it lacks fractal details and is pretty blocky really. I hate everything about this Pokemon.

Stunfisk

stunfisk

This generation’s Slowpoke aka the dumb looking guy. He does look dumb, but that’s on purpose so you can’t criticise it. What I can criticise is the upside down exclamation mark on his back. What’s that all about, is he Spanish?

Mienfoo and Mienshao

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THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD DO FIGHTING TYPES NINTENDO.

Here’s the high concept here, Chinese martial artist, so they have the long baggy sleeves associated with traditional Chinese dress and Mienshao has the long moustache associated with Chinese folk characters like Pei Mei (who you may remember from Kill Bill part 2) but rather than sticking it on a boring anthro monster they stuck it on a weasel and it suddenly works, so, much, better! Being based on a real animal just gives it so much more of a coherent visual identity and for my money makes the non animal aspects (sleeves and moustaches, and that’s number three in the awesome moustache team by the way) pop out more.

These are great designs, especially Mienshao who looks sleek and deadly and fast, has stacks of personality in his expression and has a beautifully and subtly suggested high concept.

And also a great moustache.

Druddigon

druddigon

So, that’s where all the horns and spikes they usually stick on animals went in this generation then? All on poor Druddigon.

Poor guy, he looks like a 90’s comic character, give him some skulls and and some pouches and he’d be right at home in Bloodstrike.

Golett and Golurk

golettgolurk

Yeah, you guys already used the name “Golem” on a creature that wasn’t a golem and have used the golem concept before but with more a creation myth thing going on, now you’re just doing a straight up golem. That’s a touch lazy guys.

Actually, to be fair the concept here still isn’t a straight up golem so much as an ancient robot. And whilst a golem was an ancient robot this is much more robotic, having gears and command symbols and glowing with energy. Ancient civilisations creating a robot is neat idea but its not very pokemon-esque at all. In fact there are a lot of things here that you don’t see very often in pokemon, like the patterns on the shoulder pads and fists, and the eyes which have kind of an Incan thing going on with them. But then the shape and the skirt is more Greek. They certainly do a good job of invoking ancient civilisations but I think the high concept might be too far out there for Pokemon. What about this is an animal?

Pawniard and Bisharp

pawniardbisharp

Of all the things I thought they’d make Pokemon out of, a pawn and a bishop from chess would have ranked really low down on my guesses.

These two are out and out messes. Pawniard is shaped basically like a pawn but seems to have been inflicted with a variant of 90’s “spikes everywhere” disease known as “blades everywhere.”

I mean the head one is okay, the hand ones are fine, but the chest ones? They look dumb and add nothing.

Bisharp is even worse, he looks nothing like a a bishop, has even more extraneous blades and also has a fourth colour added which just makes it even more busy.

Bouffalant

bouffalant

This is a buffalo with an afro, a buffalafro if you will. There is nothing about that, that isn’t amazing.

Rufflet and Braviary

ruffletbraviary

Native Americans have feathers in their headdresses, let’s do a bird that looks like a  Native American brave. That’s a fine concept  okay execution except, again, Braviary has weird proportions. His neck is too long and his legs too long to be a convincing eagle, he looks more like a stork/eagle hybrid and I have no idea why.

Vullaby and Mandibuzz

vullabymandibuzz

That baby is wearing a human skull as a diaper.

Soooo how does that work then? Because when you hatch a Vullaby it already has the skull. Is it like a death’s head moth thing and it only looks like a skull but is just part of Vullaby? Or is the first thing a Vullaby does in this life dismember a human to hide its shame?

Either way it seems very cute for something wearing! a! fucking! skull!

Mandibuzz has a btucher’s apron and a bone thorugh its top knot which I’d say would be racist, but its a vulture, not a person. So I guess it gets away with it.

Heatmor and Durant

heatmordurant

I’m less surprised that t took us 5 generations to do an ant than some of the other animals that took this long (seriously still no tiger, cheetah, panda or gorilla still) because, well, ants are tiny and kind of hard to make monsters from. The solution they came up with was not that inspired, just make a regular ant bigger and colour it so it looks like steel.

Heatmor fares a bit better since steel ant implies a difficult challenge for an anteater and making his tongue flame was an elegant solution. The rest of his design is a mish-mash of pointless elements though, what’s up with his wrist bands? And I don’t even want to know what’s going with his crotch.

Deino, Zweilous and Hydreigon

deinozweiloushydreigon

Two words, bad and ass.

Let’s get the dull stuff out of the way first, we have a monster who goes from one head, to two, to three and the name is a riff on the german counting system, ein, zwei, drei. That in itself is awesome. The monster that concept was attached to is a generic dragon but that’s fine since the aim is to focus on the heads. The execution of the heads is great, especially as the closed pattern opens up like bus on a flower coming into bloom. I also like how much Deino looks like a Beatle.

Really though this trio is all about Zweilous, a three headed dragon with scary torn wings and terrifying eyes swooping down from the sky to rain destruction upon you. He’s even a rare example of something with what seems to be an extraneous line but that I can point to and explain, the purple liens break up what would otherwise be a boring expanse of blue.

Okay, he’s a shameless rip off of King Ghidora.

king-ghidorah

But you know what, King Ghidora is my favourite Kaiju. So if you’re going to rip something off, rip off the best.

Larvesta and Volcarona

larvestavolcarona

It’s a caterpillar and a moth done in a cartoony style. What is there to say. My only comment is I like that the fire typing is subtly incorporated in the sun pattern on the wings and….head spike, things rather than just making it bright red. Volcarona is a fantastic Pokemon in game but a lackluster design.

Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion

cobalionterrakionvirizion

The next (after Victini) of a whopping 13 different legendaries introduced in this generation (still less than Diamond, Pearl and Platinum at 14 though) featuring two completely separate trinities of characters what we have here is the three musketeers re-imagined as deer/antelopes. The three muske-deers if you will. That’s a neat idea, the three musketeers are a classic trio of characters with distinct personalities, the fat boozer, the classy womanizer and the more serious and heroic one reflected respectively in Terrakion, Virizion and Cobalion. I also like the idea of linking the sword fighting the musketeers were famous for with the horns of a deer/antelope.

What I like the most about this trinity though is that these look like three different animals but they also look like a trinity with enough shared elements to link them together. Pokemon has done this before of course, the legendary birds and legendary dogs were examples of this but they’ve also messed it up before (Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf). Even the shared elements though suggest personality rather than being copied across. All three have a shoe design but Cobalion has spats, reflecting his classy nature, Terrakion has sandals suggesting Japanese martial artists and Virizion has feminine boots. Similarly all three have horns, but Cobalion’s are high and proud, Terakions massive and curved forward and bulky and Virizion’s curved and feminine.

These are strong individual designs but really shine as a trio.

Keldeo

keldeo-resolute keldeo-ordinary

And to go with the three musketeers we have Dartagnian, the younger more impetuous wannabe member.

On its own this is not a terribly brilliant design. We have a unicorn with the tail replaced with a wave design, something similar to Rapidash but much less well executed, particularly because of the bright red mane which detracts from the water theme.

But teamed with the three muskedeers the design sings a lot more, how do you do a younger, weaker version of the muskedeers? You give it only one horn. boom, instant symbolism, the rest of the design really takes care of itself after that.

For some reason we get two versions of Keldeo, a normal form on the right and a Resolute form on the left. I vastly prefer the resolute form .For starters the horn is much clearer and more prominent and as that is the main symbolic element it really should be. On the normal form the weird blue bits don’t really look like anything, they just detract from the middle horn and make it look like Keldeo has some kind of armoured forehead. Also the pose and facial expression on the resolute form just says Dartagnian to me more.

Tornadus, Thundrus and Landorus

tornadus-incarnate   landorus-incarnatethundurus-incarnate

And here we get our next trio, and one of the laziest things Pokemon has ever done. This is exactly the opposite way to do a trio and the far worst one. The three muskedeers were three different animals with shared design elements. This is the same monster with a pallette swap and some design elements shifted. It looks like a copy-paste and it is terrible.

I’m not a huge fan of the monster design once to be honest, let alone three times. It’s a riff on Fujin and Raijin the Japanese gods of wind and thunder who are usually represented thus.

fujin_raijin1

As you can see they’ve taken that basic design and shifted some elements around. Rather than standing on the cloud the cloud becomes a bottom half and the row of drums or bag of wind turns into a kind of tail/tentacle feature. It’s not bad in concept but in execution it has a serious problem. It just looks too much like a guy. I think this might be what I dislike about Anthro monsters. You capture these guys and put them in a ball. I find it much easier to do that to a cat or dog based monster than something that looks like a guy, complete with arms folded and another fantastic moustache. That feels too close to slavery.

Fortunately Nintendo solved that problem by revealing these are illusionary forms of these monsters and actually they really look like this.

tornadus-therianlandorus-therianthundurus-therian

So this is much better. For starters they look like animals and like the Muskedeers they look like different animals with shared design elements. It’s just now the design elements are problematic. The shared design elements seem to be clouds, those tail/tentacles and bitching moustaches. But now it’s not clear that they’re supposed to refer to Fujin and Raijin. If you looked at Tornadus you would see bird, you would see cloud but you would never think Japanese wind god. It’s as if the uninspired designs had to exist for these better ones to make sense, and if that’s the case you just need to start over again as clearly this is an ill conceived concept Nintendo.

They have other problems too, most notably Thundurus’s bra, belly button piercing and low hipped pants. He’s dressed like a stripper, and it’s bad enough that they’re doing sexy Pokemon again but he still has the moustache! That, that’s just confusing.

Reshiram and Zekrom

reshiramzekrom

It really says a lot that about how the quality of the colouring has improved that we can have a monster that’s only white coloured and another that’s only black coloured and yet they still make sense, can have highlights and levels of shading on them. And I suppose with the game being called “Black and White” they have to at least try and do a mono-colour design, kudos for pulling it off.

Beyond that I don’t have much complimentary to say here. These are two fairly generic video game dragons. They don’t look like Pokemon, they have too many extraneous lines and no obvious high concept hook to be a Pokemon, they look more like a Digimon or hell a Yu-Gi-Oh design. The one distinctive feature of them, the generator/jet engine tail is poorly conceived and poorly integrated. You have a sleek silhouette on Zekrom that looks like some sort of dangerous super fast dragon and than give him a massive fat arse, it spoils it.

Of the two I prefer Zekrom though since I like his wings better  I prefer his reptilian face to Reshiram’s fox face and he lacks Reshiram’s disturbing feather cock.

Kyurem

   

kyurem-normal

Well this is an absolute mess.

I honestly don’t know where to start with how bad this is. He has all the same problems as Zekrom and Reshiram, (fat arse, cluttered lines) without the saving grace of being monocolour and with a few new problems to boot. Like his gimpy arms. Or how the pose makes it look like his right wing is smaller. I didn’t think perspective mistakes would be a thing I’d criticise a professional artist for but, just look at it. It’s even worse in game I assure you. And what on earth are the weird glass tips on the end of his wings meant to be?

You know what’s even worse, Kyurem is meant to reference 9/11. Yes, the terror attacks on New York, that 9/11. You see this generation is based on New York and Kyurem is said to have fallen from the sky. He lives in a scarred and destroyed area of Unova destroyed by his impact, that’s supposed to be ground zero and he’s supposed to look like a plane. I can kind of see the plane design, especially if you focus on the lighter grey elements, but just, Jesus. Way to keep it classy Japan. 9/11 is really something I want to think about in my children’s video game.

Ah ha, but, like Torandus, Thundurus and Landorus Kyurem got a second set of forms in Black and White 2.  So maybe like that trio he has a terrible design here as part of some link to a better design coming.

Let’s see.

kyurem-blackkyurem-white

Sigh.

So the idea here is that Kyurem, Reshiram and Zekrom used to be the same monster. Years ago the three split with Zekrom and Reshiram becoming two halves of the same coin and Kyurem a kind of withered husk they left behind. But in the second game an item called the DNA splicer is found allowing Zekrom or Reshiram to recombine with Kyurem.

I think the nicest thing I can say is that they should do look like a fused together monster. There are better ways to do that involving visual cohesion and thought but, sure, you could just slap different bits of each monster together and call it a day, that works too.

Meloetta

meloetta-pirouettemeloetta-aria

Oh thank god a good one.

Meloetta is a boring anthro monster (trademarked) but one with a gimmick and clever integration of the gimmick is really all an anthro design needs to elevate it to decent. In Meloetta’s case she’s music based and much of her design is based around musical notation, especially her arms and her hair (which is simply sheet music coloured in). The two separate forms sell two different ways of enjoying music, aria is a singer complete with dramatic gestures and a radio mike and pirouette form is a ballet dancer complete with tutu skirt. Everything else is pretty much a straight line suggesting legs and a head. It’s not the best design but it’s absolutely fine.

Genesect

genesect

This is a Kabutops.

And above is what happens when a team of criminals turns one into a cybernetic uber-predator.

Genesect is one of only two Pokemon designs that just straight up have a gun strapped to them, the other being Blastoise. And while Blastoise having cannons makes little sense in Gensect’s case it is because bad guys strapped a cannon on it. This raises the question of if you’re allowed to strap guns to Pokemon in organised Pokemon leagues. I’d assume not or you’d see a lot of suicide bombing Rattata, unless nobody thought to do it before now.

This is a gimmick Pokemon, the gimmick being, it has a gun on its back and really the design all works to sell that, the hunched pose, the minimal details on the legs and arms. The only other element we really need to care about is the face which looks dangerous and evil, especially with the double pupils in the eyes. This is not the best design but it achieves out what it wants to do comfortably.

Oh and it can turn into a spaceship too.

m02

I want my transforming Genesect toy and I want it now, so I imagine that’s mission accomplished for the design team on that one.

Overall Gen 5 is easily my favourite generation. Although people moan about the ice cream monster and the garbage monster really there’s worse or similarly bad designs in other generations. Most of the bad Pokemon here are either copies of each other (the Tornadus trio) or stuck with unnecessary details (Pawniard) not rip offs of older designs. Most of the variations on older designs, (Munna, Pidove, Drillbur) are vast improvements on the originals or at least distinct enough to be their own monster not just a rip off. Then we get original ideas that are fantastic, like fiery wrestling pigs, evil chandeliers, the three muskedeers and Dartagnian. It’s  a great balance between originality and classic ideas and I love this generation.

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

.

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.

TuxedoMaskSmall

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

shellosgastrodon

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

drifloondrifblim

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

glameowpurugly

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

stunkyskuntank

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

bronzorbronzong

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.

The second generation of pokemon designs had a lot to live up to. The first 151 designs had been a phenomena, plastered all over everything from cards to lunchboxes, from kid’s pyjamas to planes, yes planes. Pokemon was one of the most successful merchandising franchises of all time and now the pressure was on to do it all over again.  The original game had no pressure at all, it was expected to fail. The Gameboy was an old system about to be replaced by the Gameboy Color, Pokemon was not expected to do much of anything so just turning a profit would have been nice. Nobody expected it to be the hit was, indeed the original game (Green) never made it to America since it was embarrassingly glitchy. Instead once it was clear how much of a success it was in Japan the improved Blue version was put together and that’s what went overseas.

With the second generation however lead designer Ken Sugimori had a huge responsibility on his hands.

Under the circumstances you could forgive the designers for playing it safe, mostly going with the old guard and just adding a few new Pokemon. But no, we got 100 completely new designs. What’s more we also got completely new concepts like baby Pokemon and Pokemon breeding. We also get a shift into a different design aesthetic, the Pokemon designs in this generation straddle a line between the simpler monsters of gen 1 and the more complicated monsters of gen 3.

Gold, Silver and Crystal represent possibly the highlight of the franchise as games. Keeping all the elements that worked from the original they upgraded the graphics, story, music and interfaces. Menu’s were easier to navigate, movement became easier, choosing moves became easier with a summary of what attacks did. They even added two new elements and balanced the over powered psychic types. Every change they made was a considerable improvement and so this game stands head and shoulders above the first.

If I have a criticism of the game, and the designs, it’s the introduction of evolutions for monsters from the previous generation. I’ll get to that more when specific examples arise.

But whilst the games are phenomenal, what about the designs. Well lets have a look.

Chikorita, Bayleef and Meganium

Well, it’s no Bulbasaur.

These three are fine but they demonstrate a laziness in design and a willingness to copy what went before that generally isn’t true of most monsters in Gold and Silver. It’s some kind of generic reptilian monster with a leaf on its head. The plant elements aren’t integrated as well as Bulbasaur and the monster is just generic. Bayleef is the same and also suffers from a terrible name. Meganium works though, the shape of his head and his antenna resemble a stamen and it’s positioned in relation to his flower where a stamen would be a on a real flower. Here we have integration of the plant and the monster, with the others we don’t.

What you’re getting though is a feeling of, that worked before lets do it again. So where Bulbasaur was a reptile with plant bits, we get another reptile with plant bits. Fortunately the other starters are a move away from this.

Cyndaquill, Quilava and Typhlosion

Cyndaquill is a neat little design. Take a hedgehog and replace the spikes with fire, voila, instant monster. He’s also really cute, especially the way his eyes are drawn. Bu then Quilava immediately spoils it by looking nothing like a hedgehog or porcupine and moving the flames so they no longer work as spikes but look more like a tail. I do love his mohawk though. Typhlosion, unfortunately, doesn’t even have the mohawk but is just a generic monster with fire at his collar.

Totodile, Croconaw and Feraligator

Pretty much as generic as they come unfortunately. Anthropomorphic, cartoony crocodiles. They don’t have a strong unified theme or any specific design sense at all. It’s just a well drawn cartoony crocodile. Unfortunately that’s going to apply to a lot of monsters in this generation.

Sentret and Furret

Without a doubt they’re the Rattata of this generation but unlike Rattata they’re not randomly purple! In fact they have sensible markings  and colours, gasp! Considering we got a blue crocodile as the last design that’s something of a surprise. Furrett (the evolution) is dull as dishwater, a cartoony drawing of an ermine/ mink that’s fine (it passes the butterfree test) but is uninteresting. Sentret I like  because it introduces the idea of the animals name, pose and persoanlity all tying in. This is a monster that acts as a sentry, standing on its tail to give it a wider field of vision. At heart this is just a cartoony raccoon but that one change gives it a gimmick to build attacks around and a sense of personality. That’s the kind of thing I want from Pokemon design.

Hoothoot and Noctowl

Again Noctowl (the evolution) is a real owl drawn in a cartoony fashion. I have nothing to say about it at all. Hoothoot however is a winner of a design. Gold and Silver introduced the concept of time in the game, adding monsters that could only be caught in the morning, day or night. Owls, obviously, come out at night. And they’ve tied that idea into hoothoot’s design by turning the feathery eyebrows many owls have into hands on a clock. That turns his whole face into a kind of clock and again grants a gimmick and a personality into what is otherwise just a cutesy drawing of an owl. I also like the whole standing on one leg thing. It’s nicked from flamingos and has nothing to do with owls but it gives him a nice symmetry and an odd alien look.

Ledyba and Ledian

This time around Ledyba is our boring butterfree-esque cartoony ladybug. Ledian instead looks like a power ranger. I don’t know why but the concept of insect themed super heroes punching people properly amuses me so Ledian is a winner in my book.

Spinarak and Ariados

Our first two examples of “stick a horn on it” design showing the finest traditions of lazy design are alive and well into the next generation. I will give props to Spinarak for the hilarious frowny face markings, well done.

Crobat

Zubat and Golbat are probably my two most hated monsters from the original games. Moreso for how freaking annoying they are in the game but also partly because the designs look more like doodles than a real creature. So it pains me to say this but Crobat is pretty good. Both in game terms and in design. The head and body look like something a real creature might have. Sure it lacks a neck but you can kind of tell where its head ends and its body begins, whereas Golbat just looked like a mouth with wings. Also the addition of the extra set of wings just gave it enough to make it look alien, different and visually interesting.

Chinchou and Lanturn

This is my third draft of this post and I still haven’t come up with anything interesting to say about either of these.

Pichu

And here we get to the baby Pokemon.

Gold and Silver introduced the concept of eggs. Pokemon could breed with each other (even with another species of Pokemon which is kinky as all get out) and in so doing would lay an egg. Most would hatch into the lowest possible evolution of that monster, so breed two Venusaurs and you get a Bulbasaur, breed two Meganiums and get a Chikorita and so on. Baby Pokemon are monsters only obtainable by breeding, not something you can catch in the wild.  Hence we get Pichu, the baby form of Pikachu. All the baby forms are designed to be cute, being, well, babies. Thus they have more soft edges, big soulful eyes, large heads in proportion to their bodies and no fangs, claws or other dangerous elements. Pichu as a ctuesified version of Pikachu works well. On his own the design falls flat lacking the lightning motifs of the shock rat and not looking like the real animal it is meant to resemble. But as an infant form of Pikachu it looks spot on.

Cleffa and Igglybuff

2 more utterly adorable baby forms. Cleffa is pretty cute and I love the star motif but Igglybuff is adorable! Mostly because that is the happiest looking Pokemon I have ever seen, look at his face! He looks so excited to see you. He’s like a 5 year old kid at christmas. Also Igglybuff is the most adorable word in existence. Just saying it makes you sound like a baby. Try it, try it now. See, I told you. You sounded like a baby and it put a smile on your face didn’t it?

Togepi and Togetic

As Pikachu was to Gen 1 they tried to make Togepi to Gen 2. This is the guy who became the icon for this generation. What did this generation introduce? Eggs? Well then here’s a walking egg.  It’s a strong concept actually and much better executed than Exxegcute since, well it actually looks like an egg shell he has there. Plus the idea of an infant monster still wearing its shell is kind of cool and it gives Togepi, what’s the magic word, personality. We’re also amping up the cute here with his happy face huge head and stubby limbs.

Togetic I can’t make head nor tail of though. The body is a lump, the legs and arms are still stumps but now what was the body in the previous evolution has been stretched out on a long neck and made into a head. It looks like a gangly teenager. Togetic, like a child actor, was best when he was small and cute and is now downright annoying since puberty has struck hard and struck fast.

Natu and Xatu

 

Named for Atu, the Samoan version of Adam or the first man in their mythology. Xatu, the evolved form, obviously looks like a totem pole, which is slightly confusing to me because as far as I know Samoans don’t build totem poles, but then what do I know. These are both very distinctive and striking designs with a lot more complexity than we usually see in Pokemon designs, at least in Gen 1 and 2 and they foreshadow the switch to a more complicated design aesthetic we’ll get next generation.

Mareep, Flaafy and Ampharos

Mareep and Flaafy I get. It’s a sheep, and what’s an evolved sheep? A sheep that has been shorn. The electric typing is a nice gimmick too, the idea being that it builds up static in it’s coat and then releases it as electric bolts. Overall these two pass the Butterfree test. Whilst not having an amazing concept they’re strongly executed cartoony versions of real animals.

Ampharos though, I don’t get at all. Since when does a sheep evolve into a giraffe? Because that’s what it looks like, a giraffe. I actually grew up around lots of sheep and I don’t recall seeing one Giraffe on the Yorkshire Dales. Although you can see a lot of llamas, but that’s another story. Actually Ampharos isn’t supposed to be a sheep at all but a Pharaoh, which, I guess I can kind of see but it’s very subtle. And what the hell do Pharaohs have to do with electricity or Sheep? Sheep aren’t even native to Egypt are they. Cows and Goats yes but you don’t get Sheep in such a hot climate. I guess that’s why all the wool has fallen off.

Bellossom

Bellossom is the first of a very, very bad trend in Pokemon design. Final evolutions for Pokemon from a previous game. By this I mean Pokemon that did not have a final evolution, or already have a final evolution in their last generation getting a new one in the current generation requiring some kind of item to activate it. In this case a sun stone. My problem with this is that it requires you to get Pokemon from the last game, and trading from older games is a bitch (less so now but it used to be horrendous.). This is less annoying in Gold and Silver since all the Pokemon you need to catch to get the new Evolutions are available in Gold and Silver but it will be a real problem in later games.

That aside Bellossom is fine. I love the fact that she looks like a hula girl. It’s a nice integration of monster and flower elements and it’s colourful. Considering Gold and Silver was the first game to be in colour you’d think more designs would use colour this strikingly.

Marill and Azumarill

Marill looks like a buoy crossed with a mouse. It’s kind of the Pikachu of this generation being a cute mousey animal design crossed with a strong elemental theme. Not much to say there. Azumarill however makes no sense, it doesn’t look like a buoy any more but instead a ball with rabbit ears. Because when I think of the beach I think of rabbits.

Sudowoodo

Sudowoodo is awesome. Firstly it looks like a sculpted Japanese cedar and that’s awesome. Secondly it has a face that’s so goofy it circles past stupid and goes straight back to awesome. Thirdly it kind of looks like a dick and balls with its two branches being the balls and the body being the dick. I didn’t see it myself at first but the first time I whipped Sudowoodo out whilst battling my girlfriend she burst into laughter at the cock monster I had just unveiled. Finally my favourite thing about Sudowoodo is that it isn’t a tree. It’s made of rock and only looks like a tree to confuse people. That’s an amazing concept for a pokemon. Sudowoodo, the lying rock hard tree cock monster.

Politoed

Politoed is another alternate final evolution, this time instead of Poliwrath. Unlike Poliwhirl and Poliwrath it actually looks like a frog, a frog with a coat hanger attached to its head. The curled hair is actually a reference to a Japanese myth about the king of frogs so I’ll let it slide but frog with coat hanger is not exactly an evocative design.

Hoppip, Skiploom and Jumpluff.

The prize for this trio goes to the localisation team and the awesome names. Hop, Skip and Jump, nice pun guys. I also like how the evolution mirrors the growth of a dandelion, from leaves, to a flower, to a ball of seeds. The actual monster itself is not especially well thought out being essentially a ball with ears, and in the final evolution not even having those. Oh and dead soulless eyes that stare  into you and speak of the endless void at the heart of the universe. Honestly, look at Hoppip’s face. He might be smiling but he’s dead inside.

Aipom

It’s a monkey with a hand on its tail. And two tiny useless arms. The tail would be a useful adaptation, much like the prehensile tails many real world monkey species have, if only nature hadn’t cruelly mocked it with such useless stubby appendages. How can it play the violin like this! In fact the pokedex entry even draws attention to this.

“It lives high among the treetops. It can use its tail as freely and cleverly as its hands.”

What hands? The only thing those little stubs can be used for is interpretive dance.

All kidding aside I like gimmick designs and this one goes  step further by not just grafting a gimmick (powerful tail based attacks) onto a generic monster but instead a cartoon monkey.

Sunkern, and Sunflora

Wow, you worked long and hard on those names didn’t you localisation team. I bet it took you all of, oh, 5 minutes to turn sunflower into sunflora. That’s almost as long as it took the designer to crap out a drawing a sunflower with a smiley face.

Yanma

Yanma has an even worse name since they didn’t even bother to come up with one. Yanma is literally the Japanese for dragonfly. If you’re going to be this lazy why bother even coming up with English names?

Wooper and Quagsire

For years I had no idea what the hell Wooper and Quagsire were meant to be except that Quagsire was some kind of newt and Wooper for some reason had TV antennae sticking out of its head.

Then I moved to Japan. And in every science classroom in every school I worked in there was one of these.

I have no idea what the English name is but in Japanese that is known as an Upa Rupa. And the awesome corona of blood read around its head is its gills. The reason they’re in every science classroom is to show kids how gill structures work as these are one of the few animals on earth with external gill structures.

Even more awesomely Quagsire turned out be a Pokemon version of this guy.

That’s the Japanese Giant Salamander, the largest amphibian on earth. Native to Japan and China these are incredibly rare animals who live very quiet and sedentary lives never straying far from the streams and cave mouths they live in. They have no gills but live their lives entirely in water only breaching the surface to take a breath. They can grow up to 5 feet in length and live for up to 80 years! Not facts I often associate with salamanders.

Wooper and Quagsire are nowhere near as cool as the animals they’re inspired by but they work as strong designs just by being based on such weird creatures.

Espeon and Umbreon

2 more evolutions of Eevee, the weird squirrel dog that can evolve into pokemon of a different elemental type much like you can breed dogs into all manner of shapes and sizes. And apparently breed them into a cat. I mean seriously guys, Espeon is a cat. It has a tail like a cat (well except for the prong thing) ears like a cat and a face like a cat. I get what they were going for, Umbreon and Espeon are opposites. One is night the other day, one psychic the other dark and one a dog, the other a cat. But its weird that all the other Eevee forms are clearly dogs and Espeon so clearly isn’t.

Murkrow

Murkrow is a crow with a witches hat for a head. That is pokemon design perfection. We’ve got a recognisable real animal done in a cartoony style but adding one strong element that gives it personality, implies its powers and attacks and marks it out as clearly a fantasy creature. I love me some Murkrow.

Slowking

Another alternate final evolution, this time for Slowpoke. If the Shellder bites the Slowpoke’s head instead of its tail that Slowpoke gains a fancy hat and ruff and becomes super intelligent. Although that super intelligence disappears if it loses its hat. I love that. I love that Slowpoke, the poster child for stupid monsters turns into a idiot savant with the addition of a poisonous clam hat. That’s such a completely ridiculous idea that it becomes a sort of anti-genius. And the hand clasped behind its back pose just tops it all wonderfully.

Misdreavus

A generic ghost with a nice necklace. Meh.

Unoun

Unoun is actually one pokemon with 26 different possible forms, and if you think I’m going to upload all 26 possible forms then I’m sorry but no, not going to happen. Those 26 forms make up an ancient alphabet and there is a mini-game in Gold and Silver where you have to catch all the forms of Unoun to decipher the alphabet. I like the alphabet idea and it is kind of cool to have some sort of eldritch monster tied into the ancient past and the key to unlocking ancient secrets but the execution of the design is very disappointing.  We basically have an eye and some lines. There’s minimalism and then there’s drawing a load of squiggles and passing it off as a monster. I usually like my Pokemon to look a bit more like viable creatures not a floating eye and some squiggles.

Wobuffet

Wobuffet is the pokemon version of those punching toys you got as a kid. Basically a giant balloon with a weight at the bottom that when you hit it would bounce back up again to be hit some more. That’s a brilliant gimmick for a monster and this is about as well executed as you could ask for. It looks something like a real creature that could potentially exist and considering the starting point for the design that’s a big achievement. What is weird though is the tail with eyes, although the pokdedex implies that Wobuffet’s real brain lies in its tail and that’s why it can be struck in its head/body so easily. The only goofy part of the design for me is that pose makes it look like he’s holding up his useless squared off limbs and screaming “why god, why, why curse me with no feet and useless arms?!”

Giraffarig

Hats off to the naming guys here, It’s a two headed monster so they went ahead and gave it a palindromic name. A palindrome is a word that reads the same forwards as backwards and here we have a monster that you can’t tell if it is coming or going. Well you can, since the tail brain is differently shaped but you get the idea.

Pineco and Forretress

Yup, that’s a pinecone with eyes and a…what the fuck is that thing meant to be anyway? It looks like some kind of robot defense drone in a sci-fi game, what does that have to do with pinecones?

Dunsparce

Poor, poor derpy dunsparce. I don’t use the word retarded for comedy because I know it offends but, c’mon, look at this guys face. He definitely needs a ride on the special bus. He is the living embodiment of derp. I don’t even know what to say about this guy other than that he looks ridiculous and useless and I feel sorry for him and his tiny stubby wings. I sort of want to cuddle the poor useless little grub. It’s okay Dunsparce, you may be goofy as all get out but I still loves ya.

Gligar

What’s more terrifying that a scorpion? A flying scorpion! Woah, guys that might actually be too scary for the kids. Better give him a ridiculous goofy expression, make him stick out his tongue or something.

Seriously though Gligar is a scoprion bat, I point that out because actually there’s not many pokemon that are a combination of two different real world animals despite it being such an obvious design idea.

Steelix

For some reason Steelix doesn’t bother me as much as Onix despite them having much of the same problems. I guess its because the drawing makes the individual segments look more connected to each other and makes it look  more like an actual snake. The new head shape is cooler and much improved on onix as well.

Snubbul and Granbull

Snubbul is a bulldog in a dress. Granbull may look slightly more bad ass (bad assness offset by his lovely lavender hue though) but Snubbul is a bulldog in a pink and blue spotty dress. I can’t begin to imagine who thought this was a good idea.

Qwillfish

Well executed cartoony blowfish. The only thing to note is his hilariously pissed of expression. It’s like when a 5 year old looks mad and somehow adorable at the same time. Qwillfish used pout, it’s not very effective.

Scizor

This metal coated evolution of Scyhter has a worse name and loses the cool scythe hands but is still a strong design. The smoothed lines and red colours make him look like something out of Kannen Rider or a Power Ranger. You get a lot of cute pokemon designs and a lot of cartoony ones but very few that look so sleek and dangerous as this.

Shuckle

Shuckle is a rock with what I think are supposed to be legs. Are you sure this is a design guys? Because I think the designer might have just been idly doodling and it was used in the game by mistake.

Herracross

On the topic of Kanen rider we get an anthropomorphic stag beetle ( a kabuto in Japanese) that looks like it could be a kanen rider villain with only a few changes to make it grosser and more organic.

Sneasel

I don’t know what this is. Weasels don’t have claws like this and have longer bodies so it doesn’t look remotely like a weasel. And it appears to have feathers despite being generally mammalian. It’s kind of a cool design, sleek and dangerous with a facical expression that shows an emotion other than goofy indifference or inane grinning but I have no idea what the animal or theme here is at all.

Teddiursa and Ursaring

Guys you just drew a bear. You forgot to turn it into a Pokemon. No, no sorry adding a ring to its tummy and weird fronds on its arm doesn’t count. At least stick a horn on it or something.

Slugma and Magcargo

What would a magma slug evolve into? A magma slug with a rock shell to make a magma/rock snail. I love logical evolutions like this. I don’t have much to say about the design itself except that its a neat concept well executed.

Swinub and Piloswine

In contrast I don’t get this evolution at all. Swinub basically looks like a hedgehog or a hamster or some small rodenty thing. Maybe a lemming because of the colouration. Whereas Piloswine is a yak/mammoth cross? I’m not following the connection between lemming and yak guys except for living in cold environments. Also are eyes at a premium now? Did we use them all up drawing the Unouns so there are no eyes to spare for Swinub?

Corsola

Corsola, because when I think of battling monsters, I think of coral. You know, the animal that spends it’s entire life encase immmobile in a piece of rock growing like a plant. Well known for being badass.

That is kind of unfair considering there are plenty of plant and rock pokemon but there is something about coral that just seems so passive and wimpy. Corsola is a fine execution of a fairly naff idea.

Remoraid and Octillery

Okay now they’re just pissing about.

How is Octillery an evolution of Remoraid? HOW?!!! One is a fish and the other is a friggin octopus. There is literally nothing in common, they share not one common feature. Shape, colour, style of eye, number of limbs. FISH DON’T TURN INTO OCTOPUSES! This is just…I don’t even….it just makes no sense whatsoever.

Individually they aren’t too bad, remoraid is a remora with a horn stuck on it (keeping it original pokemon) and octillery is an octopus with 4 tentacles which, well okay that’s kind of stupid too but….but I just can’t get over the fact that Octillery is Remoraid’s evolution. Why?

Delibird

It’s Santa Claus the Pokemon. This is a pretty damn awesome design actually, it looks like a penguin, it looks like Santa but the Santa elements are subtly incorporated so it still looks something like a bird that could exist. We’ve got North Pole and South Pole joining together in perfect harmony here.

Mantine

Mantine’s best design feature is the tiny Remoraid swimming underneath it. Hey you know what would have made more sense. If Remoraid evolved into Mantine. It would still be stupid but it would make a hell of a lot more sense.

Skarmory

A bird made of steel is a pretty awesome idea for a Pokemon. So much so that when I was a kid inventing my own Pokemon it was one of the first original concepts I came up with. Unfortunately the execution suuuuuuuuucks. Lets start with the head, first of all it has some kinf of weird split head thing going with a separate top and bottom half as if it’s entire skull is beak. That’s just weird and offputting. Then it has a horn on its head, which, sigh, is lazy in the extreme. It has teeth in its beak which is stupid. Its wings…don’t look like wings, they stick out at a weird angle and just look ike a load of razors slapped on the side. Its tail looks like the can opening attachment on a swiss army knife was rammed into its bottom and overall it doesn’t look sleek and swift and cool like it should but fat and dopey with a body shape like a pear. So much wasted potential.

Houndour and Houndoom

Houndour and Houndoom suddenly take a turn for the dark. I mean Houndoom is literally a satanic hellhound complete with forked tail, rib cage, skull necklace and horns, and it breathes fire. And in another good use of colouring the colouration makes them look like rottweilers the second most satanic of all dogs (the first being poodles). 2 strong designs here.

Kingdra

Kingdra has muttonchop wings and otherwise nothing else worth discussing.

Phanphy and Donphan

Phanphy and Donphan. Phanphy is just adorable, completely and utterly squee in every way shape and form. The cutest feature by far is the pose which suggests some kind of adorable stumbling waddle like many baby animals have. Cuteness personified. In contrast Donphan looks intimidating as hell. It’s basically a cross between an elephant and a road tire but the squat lowered profile gives it this sense of bulk.

Porygon 2

Whereas the original porygon was blocky and made of regular shapes this one is smoother and rounder but is otherwise the exact same design. And that’s a brilliant idea for the computer program referencing how improved computer graphics have gone from simple blocky designs to gradually smoother and more realistic ones. I like the name too which has a real artificial sense.

Stantler

I know stantler’s antlers are supposed to look like eyes but all I see are two fish swimming into its head.

Smeargle

Smeargle is an example of a gimmick pokemon done right. The gimmick is that the tail becomes a paintbrush but the shape of the head suggesting a beret and the stripes just add so much more and really sell it as the artist pokemon.

Little do we now that it is all a scam as smeargle is actually the perfect date rapist.

Tyrogue and Hitmonchan

Tyrogue is yet another boring anthro-fighting type with no themed features, except possibly the athletic supports on the arms. Hitmochan is decently executed gimmick pokemon (he does capoeira so he fights on his head) but again is generally a dull anthro monster. Tyrogue is named for Mike Tyson despite not being a boxer and Hitmonchan is named for Jackie Chan despite Jackie Chan not practising Capoeira. Well it makes as much sense as naming a boxer after Jackie Chan I suppose.

Smoochums

Smoochums

*appluads* well done Japan your perversion has extended to pokemon. You actually made a sexy baby.

A sexy baby.

I mean, look at it, look at the pose. The hands on hips, the coquettish head tilt, the name Smoochums? This monster is trying to seduce you.

AND ITS IN A DIAPER FOR DECENCY’S SAKE.

And they know this is wrong, you know how they know this is wrong? Because it’s the baby form of the racist blackface pokemon from the first game. You think they made the sexy baby and the racist monster linked by mistake? No, at this point they’re deliberately trying to fuck with people. This Pokemon is a big middle finger from the design team. It practically screams, “come on, call us out on this, we dare you.”

Elekid

Whilst I despise Electabuzz I LOVE Elekid. I love everything about this design. I love the expression on his face, he looks bad ass like he’s ticked and someone’s going to pay. But he’s so cute and small that his expression becomes adorable. And his theming WORKS. the random line are reduced so you can actually make out the lightning bolt, and his ears make him look like an electric plug. It’s an awesome little design and vastly superior to his evolution.

Magby

This on the other hand is still a fire duck, and I still hate it.

Miltank

Miltank is a big pink anthro cow, and that is fine. What makes it weird is that a lot of miltank’s attacks are love/attraction based, causing other Pokemon to fall in love with her. That combined with very visible teats and the pink colouring makes me think that somebody somewhere in the design team has a cow fetish they’re working through. Good luck with sorting that out guy but please stop inflicting your fetishes on us.

Blissey

I described Chancey, the monster Blissey evolves from as a fetish for someone since it was a pink nurse carrying an egg and it gave me creepy nurse fetish vibes. Here they’ve added a skirt and poofier hair which kind of confirms my suspicions as far as I’m concerned.

The Three Legendary Dogs, Raikou, Entei and Suicine


Whilst these are three very cool designs I don’t like them as much as the thee legendary birds for a variety of reasons.

First these are really complicated and cluttered designs. All of them have a headcrfest and some kind of muzzle feature, a back/hair/mane thing, a tail and markings on their fur as well as the bodyshape, fur and overall colour. That’s a lot of disparate elements and in my mind it makes them look busy.

Secondly the themes aren’t as strong. So Suicine is ice themed, hence the icicle on its head and the ice markings, so what does the big purple mane represent? Similarly Entei is volcano themed hence the smoke tail and fire head crest, but what are his jagged wing tuft things?

Finally I hate them for how they’re caught in the game. Unlike the legendary birds who stay in one spot until you meet them and catch them these three roam the continent and you encounter them randomly, and then when you encounter them they immediately run away making them bastard hard to catch. It would be fine if they stayed and fought but instead they flee constantly so you either need to constantly have a monster with the ability to stop them fleeing at the head of your team or be really, really, lucky with your ultra balls.

Larvitar, Pupitar and Tyrannitar.

Just look at how pissed off Larvitar is, for something so adorable it sure is badass.

I don’t really get what’s going on with these three. They have a lot of shared elements but the elements appear to be meaningless. They have these weird cut out bits which signify…something? They all have this ribbed section in their chest which signifies…something? And they’re all spiky which signifies…spikes. It’s supposed to be a rock dinosaur but nothing about it says rock or mountain at all to me.

Lugia

Lugia is awesome. As well as being sleek, slick and streamlined he just has a few oddly compelling features. Like his hand wings. The way they’re designed they’re clearly hands with four fingers and  a thumb but in certain other poses swept behind Lugia they look just like wingtips. I don’t know what is going on with the back spikes though.

I also have to say I love this pose, it looks like he’s going “hey wobuffet, check out these hands! Betcha wish you had a pair of hands like this doncha. I’m not even supposed to have hands, I’m a bird! Ha, ha, loser”

Ho-Oh

Other than being named after the noise Snoop Dogg makes when being suprised by a lady (Ho? Oh!) I have little to say. Somebody just straight up drew a crane here, and then gave it a stupid hair cut. And if stupid hair cuts count as pokemon design we’re going to have to start including pop stars in these lists.

It is also thus far the only pokemon with a hyphen in its name.

Celebi

Celebi is this generations Mew, the pokemon only obtainable at a Nintendo event. Celebi is supposed to be a Pokemon empowered by time and capable of time travel, so of course to represent that they made…an onion fairy. They had quite a lot of options to represent time, stars, clocks, the sun and moon, a blue phone box. But instead they went for an onion, with wings.

I… don’t get it.

CONCLUSIONS

Gold and Silver is the generation of evolutions that either make no sense (Remoraid to Octillery) or are a downstep from the previous strong design (Hoothoot to Noctowl). It’s also the generation that introduced more cartoony animals (Ursaring) and less gimmick monsters and abstract monsters. In fact there’s a general move away from theme all together, the Tyrannitar monsters, Celebi and Ursaring are all examples of okay designs without a strong theme in the design at all. We’re also getting a lot more complicated designs. The one change for the better for me is less anthro monsters, the use of animals as the basis even for gimmick monsters just makes for stronger design overall in my opinion. I also like the baby monsters even if they are part of a larger problem of adding evolutions to older designs.

After a long hiatus welcome folks to Mummyboon. This site originated as a place for me to describe my life in Japan, post photos and tell stories about the things I did, places I went and foods I ate. Since coming to the U.K. I have been much poorer and have travelled to less interesting places and eaten much less interesting things.

As such the site has now morphed into a place where I intend to write about anything and everything that strikes my fancy, that might be short stories, review of comics or computer games, or humorous list features. Mostly it just exists as a place to practice my writing and develop my craft, if anyone other than family members and friends stumbles across my work, well then that’s a bonus.

My opening salvo in the resurrected Mummyboon is a feature reviewing the weird and wondrous designs of pokemon, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM! Yes, all 649! I must be stupid.

Pokemon should require no explanation at this stage, and if it does, well you know where wikipedia is.  But seriously pokemon might just be the most merchandised product on the planet, there is a pokemon version of everything, from the expected like computer games and anime, to the obvious spin offs like pencils, backpacks and pencil shapes to the frankly mind boggling like a plane and a special train. Yes, there is a pokemon airplane, gaze upon its majesty.

What has made pokemon so popular? Hell if I know. However, one reason is definitely the strong design sense of the monsters themselves. Unlike similar games like digimon or monster rancher pokemon don’t differ in art styles or design aesthetic, they all look like they belong to the same world rather than an individually strongly designed set of monsters that clash when put together. Also whilst a lot of pokemon designs consists of taking an animal or everyday item and producing a cartoony version of it plenty of the designs exhibit a spark of originality that really elevates them. Often this is a pun or gimmick that gives the monster not just a design but suggests a personality a way it acts and thinks.

Full disclosure, this is kind of blatantly stolen from Chris vs Pokemon over at the wonderful the ISB by Chris Sims. I loved those occasional forays into commenting on the bizarre inventinve genius of pokemon designs and its a shame that the feature, like most of the non comics related content Chris Sims used to write, seems to have gone the way of the dinos. It’s also partly a reaction to all the bitching and moaning people have been doing ever since Black and White came out about the quality of the designs in this generation. People have called them everything from lame, uninspired, unoriginal, pointlessly busy and oddly bizarre. Frankly I feel that’s just nostalgia talking. The original 151 pokemon designs were far from perfect and included a few massive clunkers and some unoriginal entries as well as some moments of pure genius. This series is a tribute to pokemon in all their weird, wonderful and occasionaly horrendously designed glory.

Bulbasaur, Ivysaur and Venusaur 

Bulbasaur’s pokedex entry is 001, he is the first pokemon ever recorded and frankly they got it right first time and have never improved since. He’s just a perfect little monster and a perfect statement of itnent for pokemon. He’s a part plant dinosaur monster. Nowadays we’re all kind of used to the idea that you can have part vegetable monsters running around shooting leaves at each other but at the time this was a pretty original idea. Not wholly original but certainly different. If you were tasked to come up with an aggressive beasty for a fighting monster game would you think flower bulbs? His design is perfectly balanced not overpowering the flower bits or the dinosaur bits, they work in equal harmony and he just has an aesthetically pleasing simple confident design. Plus I have to give props to the localisation team for the name. Bulbasaur is obviously a portmanteau of bulb and dinosaur but it also contains the word bulbous referring to this guys cute fat tubby cheeks. Look at that face! Couldn’t you just eat it up with a spoon.
 
Ivysaur kind of works, he’s a teenaged bulbasaur, the bulb unfolds to show a flower which is a logical progression and the body looks older and more vicious. The name is less inventive but again a logical progression.
 
But Venusaur, damn Venusaur puberty hit you hard.

Firstly what is wrong with your head, whereas the other two evolutions look cute you got whacked by every branch when you fell out of the ugly tree. It’s also waaaay bigger in proportion to the rest of the body than the other two forms. Similarly the flower looks dinky and also the final evolution of the flower just looks ugly and lame too. A big ugly disappointment here.

Charmander, Charmeleon and Charizard

Charmander was always a popular one amongst kids growing up but looking back with the eyes of an adult there isn’t much going on here. It’s a gecko, stood up, with its tail on fire. The only original feature here is the flaming tail which is admittedly a cool idea but they do it better in the same generation with Ponyta. And the name isn’t clever either.

Charmeleon fairs much better with a sleek cool and dangerous design although if you ask me Nintendo missed a trick by not adding fire to the other pointy bits.

Charizard is by far the best of this trio though. It’s not gonna win any points for originality but hey, you can’t go wrong with a classic western style dragon, and it feels like a logical progression from the other two forms too. Charizard is just pure badass through and through.

Also how weird is it that this guy above is considered a dragon but Charizard is not.

Squirtle, Wartortle, Blastoise

    

Squirtle again is not gonna win any points for originality. It’s a turtle, stood up, and blue. Sigh. It doesn’t even have a cool elemental feature like charmander did but instead a wussy little weird tail thing. I will give points to the localisation team for a good name here though as squirtle is not only the obvious squirt + turtle portmanteau but also that tail kind of looks like a squirrel tail too.

Wartortle however is just a mess. What on earth is going on with ear things, or that tail. What do they represent? I guess I can kind of see the tail being a wave but it doesn’t work at all. Nor does the name, I can see that they mean you to read it as water but for me it always evokes war and what does that have to do with anything?!

Blastoise is kind of a cool design on his own but fails as an evolution of the previous too. Even his name is different with the other two being turtles and him a tortoise. The only unifying element between squirtle and wartortle is the watery tail thing, which Blastoise doesn’t have, instead he has water cannons. Admittedly the water cannons are infinitely cooler so Blastoise gets a pass.

Caterpie, Metapod and Butterfree

Caterpie is possibly the worst drawing of a caterpillar I have ever seen. Why is it 4 legged? Why does it have a tv antenna stuck on its head? Is it digitally enabled or will it stop working once the digital switch over starts?

Metapod not exactly the most dyanmic or inspiring of pokemon and mostly loved by pokefans everywhere for learning the move harden. Cue a million immature 10 years olds naming their pokemon penis so they can read “penis used harden”. I’ll warn everyone right now incidentally, I promise no maturity whatsoever in these reviews.

Butterfree is actually one of my all time faves less so for the design than the role it plays in the games. Early on it learns a turn of useful moves including some psychic attacks so for the first 2 – 3 gyms its actually a bit of a powerhouse. It stops working in the middle of the game though. The design is quite cool though, simple and clean, something Gen 1 pokemon have in spades and that gets abandoned later on. Butterfree is quite easy for kids to draw and looks enough like a butterfly whilst also being a dstinct somewhat alien creature. That is the essence of good pokemon design, can I draw it and can I tell what animal its supposed to be.

Weedle, Kakuna and Beedrill

Weedle belongs to the “stick a horn on it” school of pokemon design. This school has a simple design ethos. Follow the three step plan and you two can make a pokemon. Step 1. take an existing animal. Step 2. Stick a horn on it. Step 3. Profit.

Kakuna everything I said about Metapod except somehow Kakuna looks kind of badass, or possibly like a strressed out Japanese salaryman.

Beedrill is awesome sauce. Again everything I said about butterfree applies, simple design easy to copy but very much it’s own creature, primarily because of the sting arms which are just cool.

Pidgey, Pigeotto and Pidgeot

  

Lazy lazy lazy lazy. Lazy name and lazy design.

Pidgeot and Pidgeotto more of the same really, I’m including the two together because they have the wrong names. Surely everyone can see that the porgression should go pidgey, pidgeot, pidgeotto. In fact they make this mistake in the anime dub constantly. Who made this mistake and were they fired for it? Also I love pidgeot’s hair, that do is slick.

Rattata and Ratticate

I don’t think anybody likes rattata, It’s function in the games is purely and simply to be annoying. Nobody uses them in fights they just exist like the vermin they’re based on. About the only value they represent to the world is for easy xp at the start of the game and easy catches for if you’re trying to get all three starters through trades. Oh and they’re purple, because…..because fuck it why not. That counts as originality right? If we just take an existing animal and make it a different colour that should be fine right? Hmmmmm, maybe we should stick a horn on it to be certain.

Ratticate in contrast  is not just worthless but ugly. Ugly and with a stupid face.

Spearow and Fearow

Spearow, its pidgey but not cute and so similar that why even bother?

Oh because it has this…thing as an evolution. What is fearow meant to be? The crest on its head makes it look like some kind of angry vengeful rooster only the rest of the body doesn’t match that at all. Also Fearow is definitely a 3 in the morning, deadline tomorrow, fuck it this’ll do effort from the localisation team. Spearow is a sparrow + spear portmanteau but Fearow doesn’t work at all.

Ekans and Arbok

Ekans is snake backward, that is literally the only interesting thing about this pokemon. They didn’t even stick a horn on it.

And Arbok is Kobra backwards, but they already did that joke once so Arbok is somehow worse.

Pikachu

Pikachu…

where do you start

I have a very much love hate relationship with Pikachu. Obviously as the mascot for the games I have a lot of affection for the little guy, he stands for pokemon and as I have a lot of love for these games that extends to Pikachu. But he is also so freakin’ annoying. The voice is annoying, the fact that he’s EVERYWHERE is annoying and oh don’t get me started on how annoying he is in Smash Bros. The shock rat is practically banned when I play Smash Bros.

But, taken at face value you can see why they picked him to be the mascot. It’s a very strong and very original design. He’s based on an animal but an obscure one, a Pika actually (not a mouse) and he’s really really cute. Pika as well as being an animal is also the Japanese onomatopeia for electricity sparking so of course they incorporated electric elements like the colour and lightning bolt tail. And these are incorporated organically rather than just being bolted on. The design is clean and simple and again, easy to draw. It’s a good strong design with a neat premise and a good punning name.

But he’s banned from Smash Bros, unless we mute the irritating git.

Also check out pikachu in the original games and now.

Man Pikachu lost a lot of weight, I’m slightly concerned he’s developed an eating disorder since becoming famous. Expect him to check in the Betty Ford clinic any day now.

Raichu

Pikachu’s electric motifs are incorporated subtly and organically into the monster design. Raichu…not so much. They basically took Pikachu painted him orange and then slapped lightning bolts wherever they had the space. This looks like a first draft of pikachu before they worked out the kinks.

Sandshrew and Sandslash

I am oddly fond of Sandshrew, he’s a shrew, made of bricks. That’s a nice simply uncluttered concept and a nice simple uncluttered design. You know what you’re getting with Sandshrew and that’s honesty, integrity and a shrew made of bricks.

I don’t have much to say about Sandslash except to tell him that Sonic the Hedgehog called and he’s pissed you stole his look bro.

Nidoran Nidorino Nidorina Nidoqueen and Nidoking

I don’t have a huge amount to say about these designs either. They’re pretty generic and uninspiring. About the only interesting thing about them is that in Generation 1 Nidoran is the only pokemon that came in two genders. Then this was made into a slightly squicky fact when it was pointed out to me that Nidoran is meant to resemble a rabbit, and what is the one thing everyone knows about rabbits? Ewwww, I don’t really want to think about Pokemon fucking thank you very much Nintendo. Actually weirdly when breeding was introduced as a proper mechanic Nidoqueen and Nidoking turn out not to be able to breed with each other which….is too stupid for English words.

Clefairy and Clefable

Clefairy is, I think, extracted directly from the brains of 5 year old girls. It’s soft, fuzzy, round, pink, a fairy and magical, from the moon, that’s a doll/pet. The only thing missing is a unicorn.

Clefable is a stretched clefairy, I don’t think this was an intentional design I think this was a photocopying error.

Vulpix and Ninetales

 

Vulpix and Ninetales are based on the Japanese myth of Kitsune, magical foxes with shape changing abilities that disguise themselves as human women and basically fuck around with Japanese farmers. There are hundreds of myths and legends regarding Kitsune in Japanese mythology, that they’re the messengers of the gods, that as they grow older their tales split signifying that they are becoming more powerful, hundreds. And Nintendo did nothing interesting with any of them, instead they made a fire breathing fox with extra tails. What a waste.

Jigglypuff and Wigglytuff

Jigglypuff is a pink ball and Wigglytuff is a bean bag chair with ears. Jigglytuff does get props for having his own personality in the anime, he’s a singer who loves to perform but his songs put people to sleep, this pisses him off so he draws on them. It’s not much of a character but it’s a damn sight more than Wigglytuff has.

Zubat and Golbat

 

Zubat is the only Pokemon ever invented that’s more annoying than Rattata. You know why? Because you can avoid Rattata, you just don’t walk in the grass. But Zubat! Step into that cave and one will attack you approximately EVERY FUCKING SQUARE!

I hate everything about the fucker, I hate it’s lack of a face, I hate it’s lack of legs, I hate it, hate it, hate it!

Golbat is somehow worse though. Someone literally drew a mean face and added wings and feet. At least Zubat looks like a bat, this thing looks an abberation before god. Seriously where is it’s body? Where does it put the food it eats? How does it use feet that are at the side of its head? This thing mystifies me.

Oddish, Gloom and Vileplume

Oddish is another Pokemon I like a lot, it’s cute, it’s a simple design but reflective of what its meant to be (a raddish). Not much to say here.

Gloom is weird but again I like it. The design is meant to evoke carnivorous tropical plants. The drooling represents the sap they extrude to lure flies into them but the designers have used it to suggest character and make Gloom look like a bit of a moron. That’s actually really cool, most pokemon designs don’t obviously communicate a personality like this one. And it still works as an evolution of Oddish.

Finally vileplume completes a trio of nice designs, based on the infamous  Rafflesia arnoldii the largest single flower in the world that takes months to develop but blooms for only a few days and also stinks of rotting meat. Vileplume is basically a drawing of that but with a body to match the evolutions of gloom and oddish. Not as cool as gloom but this is a nice little trio.

Paras and Parasect

Paras is like Bulbasaur only lamer in every conceivable way. Instead of a dinosaur a crab, instead of a flower mushrooms. Yay

Parsect is much, much better. I love the integration of the mushroom with the body to form a continuous shape. It makes it much more unique and makes it a more balanced design. Plus its a reference to that creepy fungus that turns ants into zombies, and zombie ants are always cool.

Venonat and Venomoth

Although Venonat is an ugly little bugger the design works, nice and simple evocative of the animal it’s aiming for but with enough distinctive fantasy elements to make it a Pokemon. Strong entry.

Okay so here’s what’s weird about Venomoth, take a look at it, now look at Venonat, now look at Caterpie and Butterfree.

Clearly Venonat should evolve into Butterfree and Caterpie into Venomoth, Venonat and Butterfree both have compound eyes and antenna whereas Caterpie and Venomoth both have that weird tv antennae and eyes with pupils.

Diglett and Dugtrio

Diglett is such a brazenly awful design you kind of have to admire it. Partly that’s intentional, the fact that you can’t see the body is the joke they intended and every illustration of Diglett ever has him sicking his head out of the ground like this. But that head design is scrawled off in seconds. That is a kids doodle and nothing else. Diglett you’re so bad you’re actually kind of awesome.

Dugtrio however, sigh. I despise pokemon whose evolution is just that they have 3 of them together. Fortunately so does everyone else so outside of gen 1 this stops happening. But did Diglett really need an evolution? Diglett? The design is a joke for god’s sake, how does adding 2 more improve the joke in any way shape or form?

Meowth and Persian

Meowth looks like a manekinekko, a statue you often see in Japanese shops and restaurants of a cat holding a coin and beckoning customers in. They are supposed to bring good luck and bring lots of money into the property. Appropriately Meowth learns a move that gets you money when used. The design isn’t particularly strong but is basically fine, it evokes what it means to, is uncluttered but generally uninspiring.

Persian is just flat out disappointing. Meowth at least had personality (money grubbing) this is just, boring. The only remotely clever bit is that coin has upgraded to a jewel but basically somebody just drew a Persian cat and said “good enough.” At least they didn’t slap a horn on it.

Psyduck and Golduck

Psyduck, like Gloom, is a design that just screams personality. Psyduck is a luckless dork, you can see if straight away in his face, in the way he holds his hand partly from the headache and partly from shame and those eyes. Those are the eyes of a man who has had life tread on him repeatedly for decades but has endured. I love psyduck.

Golduck is fine I guess. It’s a sleek design in fact he looks kind of cool and badass but he’s kind of a disappointment after psyduck since he retains none of the goofy charm of the prevolution. Also the pokedex says he resembles the Japanese monster kappa. Here are how kappa are usually drawn.

Okay other than the head, ish, and the duck beak I’m not seeing it.

Mankey and Primeape

Mankey is an angry monkey with a pig nose, one from the “combine two animals randomly” school of design I feel.

Primeape is like Mankey but with badass heavy metal accessories. After this pokemon match he’s off to the mosh pit to head bang to slayer bro.

Growlithe and Arcanine

 

Growlithe is a tiger dog that breathes fire, another one from the random animal combiner I think although it is another okay design.

Arcanine does a nice job of having the hair tufts evoke flame without being obvious and the face design does look like a really inviting big goofy dog. Strong design.

Poliwag, Poliwhirl and Poliwrath


First of all I think it’s kind of brave of Nintendo to name a pokemon after a pollywog, considering the name has unfortunate racist associations.

For years I struggled to think how Nintendo looked at a tadpole and a frog and came up with this design, I mean poliwag does look like a tadpole but the other two evolutions look nothing like frogs at all, and that weird spiral design seemed to have been tacked on from nowhere. I mean the design is fine on its own but it isn’t evocative of frogs in the slightest.

Then I saw this picture.

and after that it made a lot more sense.

Abra, Kadabra and Alakazam

First off well done to the naming team that’s an excellent pun. Although considering the Japanese version is called Yunghelor a reference to famous psychic spoon bender Yuri Geller it might actually be taking second place.

There’s elements of these three I like. I like the idea of using a spoon to convey psychic power, I like the moustache harkening back to stage magicians and I like the expression of the face but, the monster these elements are stuck on is juts kind of an abstract mess that looks like nothing in particular. Not brilliant but okay.

Machop, Machoke and Machamp

I despise Machop. First off I hate any and all pokemon designs that are basically just “ a guy”. And there are loads. I prefer my monsters to be based on insects, mammals, birds, fish, inanimate objects, etc than humans. I find nothing lazier than taking a humanoid shape (2 arms 2 legs stood up, roughly human proportions) and just fudging it to make a monster. And what a dull monster Machop is. He’s just a basic human shape but with visible ribs and some kind of head crest, the head crest is the only thing to differentiate him from a blob of humanoid putty and it in no way is evocative of anything about this monster. He’s supposed to be a fighting type but nothing about him says fighting except the name. And the name is awful too. Why ma? I get chop from the fighting move but just adding ma to the front is almost digimon esquemon inmon namingmon techniquemon.

Machamp is marginally better since I do like the bulging muscles and pro wrestling belt but…. why does a wild animal have a pro wrestling belt?

Machoke is the best of the lot since the addition of the extra arms makes it look like a frigging monster and not a lump of putty.

Bellsprout, Weepinbell and Victribell

I think it’s kind of disgusting that Nintendo made a pokemon out of a male sex toy, let alone 3 evolutions of it.

Tentacool and Tentacruel

Tentacool is more annoying than Ratata, not as annoying as zubat (nothing is) but for me not in their league since I actually like the design. Specifically I like the fake eyes and mouth on the top part. That’s something real animals do in nature all the time, make their arse look like their face and vice versa and it’s nice to see a pokemon design evoke nature like this. Other than that trick its fairly meh but it’s sleek, uncluttered, easy to draw, etc.

Tentacruel of course is drawn in such a way as to ruin that nice fake face idea and adds a big pointy nose/ hook thing. Because of course jellyfish have big noses, famous for it they are.

Geodude, Graveller and Golem

Firstly, bravo naming team, bravo. A pun on geode, well done you all. It’s a rock with arms and a face. Again as a statement of purpose its a strong one. Yeah some of our monsters are just rocks, we don’t care, anything can be a Pokemon, even a rock. For a simple idea gGeodude is pulled off quite well he’s a very distinctive rock and again has bags of personality, you can’t look at this Pokemon and not picture an incredibly grumpy old man shaking his fists in impotent rage at those kids on his lawn. Oh if only he had legs he’d see to them.

Graveller has less personality but is actually my fave of the three for no other reason than I think it looks cool. It’s a boulder, with arms and legs, can’t go wrong there.

Golem though just makes no sense. His two prevolutions are sentient rocks whereas he is some kind of lizard/dinosaur thing encased in rock….rocks don’t turn into lizards nintendo, they just, they just don’t. Also he appears to have lost two limbs which must have been a bit of a blow.

Ponyta and Rapidash

Ponyta is a simple idea done well, we’re going to take a horse but replace the mane, tail and fetlocks with billowing flame. Awesome! That’s a great original idea and a very strong visual and Ponyta is simply a strong execution of that idea.

Rapidash however is Ponyta but with a horn stuck on it. Sigh. Horns do not equal fantasy Nintendo.

Slowpoke and Slowbro

Slowpoke is awesome, he’s an idiot Pokemon, a complete and utter total buffoon, with vast psychic powers. That’s hilarious  and even if I can’t even hazard a guess as to what kind of animal he’s supposed to be I love him and his goofy, stupid face. He is herp personified.

Slowbro if anything has an even better face and a better name, he’s slow, bro. But he is also deeply confusing. That shell on his tail is supposed to be a Shellder, but it looks nothing like a Shellder meaning that the Shellder evolves when it bites a Slowpoke. That makes as much sense as anything regarding Pokemon evolution but since Slowbro and Slowpoke look basically the same doesn’t that make this technically an evolution of Shellder?

Magnemite and Magneton

I usually have no problem with the inanimate object designs but something about Magnemite bugs me, something about how all the elements seem separate. And I have nothing to say about Magneton I didn’t say in the Dugtrio entry.

Farfetch’d

Farfetch’d has to be one of the odder concepts for a pokemon going, he’s a fairly realistically drawn duck but…holding a leek. Wow, a leek. Get it? Because duck cooked with leeks is a popular dish in asia. Yeah, this one is definitely the result of a drunk designer looking at his dinner and becoming, for want of a better word, inspired. We really need a word for inspirations that are unutterably awful, badspired? Unspired? Outspired? Yeah I vote for outspired. Farfetch’d is an outspirational design.

Doduo and Dodrio

Another one I don’t have much to say about, the gimmick is cool and well executed, it fits the Butterfree test, the evolution is logical. It’s competent designs like this that made Pokemon such a winner in the first place.

Seel

Seel, a more classic example of “stick a horn on it” design you will not find.

Dewgong

Really, really? Was Seel crying out for an evolution? The one that was basically a seal drawn in a cartoony fashion with a horn on its head, what inspired idea do you have for its evolution. Oh, you just drew basically the same animal at a different angle. This is beyond lazy it’s actually verging on slothful. Your pokemon design is actually one of the seven deadly sins. It’s that bad, it’s biblically bad.

Grimer and Muk

Grimer, people pick on grimer for being basically a blob but, well, why not. A sentient blob of pollution is a really strong idea for a monster, oozing towards you inexorably melting everything below it in poisonous acids. It definitely didn’t warrant an evolution that was basically “the same, but bigger” though.

Shellder and Cloyster

I got nothing on Shellder guys, sorry,….it’s a shell, and a tongue….I got nothing.

Cloyster looks a vagina. There, I said it. Admittedly an evil and pointy vagina but a vagina nonethless. You can see outer labia, inner labia and a big ol spiky clit. This is Gen1, a kids game and right there it is, a vagina monster. Well played Japan, well played.

Gastly, Haunter and Gengar

Aside from the terrible English name Ghastly is okay, he’s one pokemon you can’t say much about because his design works and evokes what it’s meant to without being particularly great. Same goes for Haunter. Gengar though is interesting because for years I struggled to figure out what it was meant to be until somebody pointed out to me that it looks like the shadow of a Clefable.

That’s actually really clever and very subtly done.

Onix

I never liked Onix because I don’t get how he works, are those rocks separate? Are they linked? How does he move if they’re separate? I know its weird that I don’t pick on other monsters that clearly don’t make sense biologically (like geodude) but something about his design just seems weird and off to me.

Drowzee and Hypno

Drowzee is based on a Japanese monster that sneaks into people’s rooms at night and eats their dreams. And also a tapir. That’s perfectly fine, it’s a nice mix of design and gimmick and his moves in game back up his concept. However what is going on with his evolution? What is a Hypno? A lazy anthro monster is what it is.

Krabby and Kingler

We’re deep into, not much to say, territory here.  Both of these designs are perfectly fine hitting the Butterfree test of “can I draw it?” and “can I recognise the animal?” but there is nothing inspiring about either of them.

Voltorb and Electrode

If anybody ever tells you that the original designs are full of originality and the new ones are just basically taking an everyday object and making it into a monster; show them voltorb. It’s a ball. Just, a ball….with a face. Now admittedly there is something of a gag to Voltorb, it looks like a Pokeball and has the move self destruct allowing it to explode. So unsuspecting trainers pick it up thinking it is a Pokeball and instead get a nasty surprise. That’s fine and all but then…

why the hell does it need an evolution that is basically a bigger ball.

A bigger ball.

….this is supposed to be originality folks.

Execgute and Execgutor

God I hate Execgute. Everything about it is just so confused and muddled. First of all it isn’t an egg Pokemon it’s a seed Pokemon. Secondly it’s not one Pokemon but six, but oh wait, they’re in telepathic link with each other so really it kind of is one Pokemon. But then why are some broken? Are they always like that? Is it meant to be broken, can it survive like that? Out of every six is one brother always broken? This Pokemon just confuses me deeply.

Exxegutor just confuses me more, do all 6 evolve and combine together, which is odd, or does one evolve into one exxegutor and the others go away? This pokemon just raises more and more questions.

Also that face is irredeemably goofy.

Cubone and Marowak

I like Cubone a lot, less so for the design than for the pokedex entry, check this out.

“Wears the skull of its deceased mother. Its cries echo inside the skull and come out as a sad melody.”

How messed up is that? It wears the skull of its dead mother. That’s beyond morbid and moving into vaguely creepy territory. But is also raises many questions. Does this happen to every Cubone? Does this mean that Cubone mothers (or marowak’s I guess) all die shortly after childbirth? If that’s the case how do you get more Cubone’s. Well actually one theory is that a Cubone mother is actually a Kangashkan, check this out.

Another thing I like about Cubone is that he’s one of the few pokemon to carry a weapon, a dinosaur weilding a bone club is a pretty neat idea and it makes him distinctive from most other Pokemon, even in later generations.

Marowak is much less interesting mainly because the skull Cubone wears is supposed to fuse with it’s real head as it evolves into Marowak. I know its silly to talk about common sense when dealing with dinosaur monsters wearing skulls that magically transform into slightly different dinosaur monsters but something about that idea just defies my own suspension of disbelief. Yes I can buy a dinosaur monster wearing it’s dead parent’s remains like a hat but not that it’s own head would organically fuse with said hat. And that may be the strangest sentence I have ever been called upon to type.

Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan

Hitmonlee is an abstract humanoid monster with nothing of interest to it at all and a silly name.

Hitmonchan is an abstract humanoid monster with nothing of interest to it and an even sillier name. Seriously the joke is that Hitmonchan is named after Jackie Chan and Hitmonlee after Bruce Lee, that makes some sense for Bruce Lee since he was famous for kicking but Jackie Chan is more famous for hitting people with ladders than boxing. He should be Hitmonali or Hitmontyson or something like that.

Lickitung

Generic abstract dinosaury monster with a really long tongue. I actually kind of like these single gimmick monsters, there’s something simplistic about their design that just kind of works for the gaming concept. This monster has a long tongue so all it’s attacks will be tongue based. Also the best thing about Lickitung’s existence is this screen cap.

Moving on.

Koffing and Weezing

I’m never sure what Koffing is meant to be. He looks a bit like a sea mine but he’s supposed to be a flying bag of smoke. Is he modelled after a germ maybe? Confusion aside it’s a nice strong design, simple, clean lines, evocative of the idea of poison (particularly the skull and crossbones) and again with plenty of personality. Look at this guy, he’s adorable, he just wants to goof around and mess stuff up. He’s like poison but cuddlier.

Weezing is the sole, SOLE exception to the 3 pokemon togther = an evolution rule since he actually works as an evolution. This is because the other two heads look like they’re growing out of the main head. This idea of a kind of mutation rather than evolution works well for a poison themed monster or if he’s supposed to be germ themed it looks like cells splitting and dividing.

Ryhorn and Rydon

Ryhorn is just a mess of extraneous lines. It’s really hard in the actual computer game sprites to get a sense of what shape this thing is supposed to be. You can make out the horn and the fact that it sweeps off to either side making a kind of u-shape on the head but beyond that it’s just a mess of spikes. Not great.

Rydon is an improvement  since you can actually see what it’s supposed to look like but is still nobody’s favourite.

Plus it’s called ride on and has what appears to be a phallic symbol for a nose, make your own jokes people.

Chansey

Chansey is a big pink ball carrying an egg with long pink hair and that works as a nurse. I’m fairly certain this is a fetish for somebody.

Tangela

Tangela. What I love about Tangela is that technically you can’t see the Pokemon at all. The face is completely obscure in darkness, all you can see is the vines it uses to surround itself with and hide it’s face away. That’s a great concept and this is a slick execution of that idea.

Kangashkan

Kangashkan, my abiding memory of this monster is that it was UNBELIEVABLY rare and hard to catch in the games since you could only catch it in the safari zone and it would run away at the drop of a hat. I hated this thing purely for that and an uninspired design doesn’t help it either.

Horsea and Seadra

They pass the Butterfree test and that’s all you can say for them really.

Goldeen and Seaking

Slap a horn on it design at it’s finest.

Staryu and Starmie

I don’t think there is anything interesting about star fish the actual animal or starfish the fighting pocket monster and the application of girly gems doesn’t fix that at all. Actually that’s probably being unfair to real starfish who at least have the ability to regrow limbs if damaged. That’s kind of neat.

Mr Mime

Mr Mime, Mr Mime howfore dost thou suck, let me count the ways

  1. everybody hates mimes
  2. you’re the most egregious example of abstract humanoid design I have ever seen
  3. everybody hates mimes
  4. the expression on your face is eminently punchable
  5. everybody hates mimes
  6. the weird pointy haired boss hairstyle you have going on
  7. everybody hates mimes
  8. the pointy curly shoes
  9. everybody hates mimes
Scyther

Scyther is the byword in sleek badassitude, is badassitude a word? It is now, Scyther just declared it. This is the Chuck Norris of Pokemon, not because it’s an overplayed and tired internet meme but because everything about it screams I will come and kick your ass and you have zero chance buddy. I mean it has swords for hands. Nothing quite pleases my inner 6 year old like sword hands and it puts Scyther in the rareified company of wolverine and Shredder.

Jynx

A black face opera singing Pokemon. They can’t actually show this on american TV without recolouring it a violent purple hue. Jynx is walking evidence that Japan just doesn’t understand racism at all. Now plenty of people in Japan are proper racists, or more correctly, proper xenophobes, convinced that Japanese people are superior in almost every respect and prepared to drive black vans around Tokyo announcing this on loudspeakers but the vast majority of Japanese people would be perfectly nice and polite to anyone regardless of race or ethnicity. But the fact is the vast majority are also really racist without intending to be so, because their media and culture is woefully lacking in coverage of the world outside of Japan and so they think it’s perfectly acceptable to dress up in blackface and do things like this.

Jinx is therefore one of the more abstractly inspired Pokemon since she’s the walking embodiment of unintentional Japanese racism.

There’s plenty more racist designs by the way, just not in Generation 1.

Electabuzz

What the hell is this? What is it supposed to be, did somebody mess up whilst drawing Pikachu and just decide to submit it anyway? What is this design meant to evoke?

Magmar

Magmar, because when I think fire monster I immediately think of a duck, yup, duck’s well known for loving magma. Hence the well known expression, like molten magma off a duck’s back.

Pinsir

And I thought Cloyster was a scary vagina monster but looking at that thing’s mouth has just made little Adam retreat up into my body faster than you can say vagina dentata.

Tauros

Tauros is completely dull except for one fact.

It was the one pokemon I never caught.

My pokedex contained 149 pokemon and the only guy I never got was Tauros. Like Kangashkhan he was only available in the safari zone and like Kangashkhan he was skittish as hell and would run away before you could catch him. I wasted hours and hours of my life going after that thing before Gold and Silver came out and I decided to just give up, accept defeat and move on with my life.

So when I see Tauros I don’t see a cartoony bull looking at me, oh no, I see a failed and wasted childhood staring into me, mocking me, laughing cruelly at my childish efforts.

Magikarp and Gyarados

Everyone, and I mean everyone loves these two. The heart of it being that Magikarp is completely and utterly useless. It knows one move, splash, which does no damage whatsoever. It’s completely useless in a fight, it can’t be eaten and just look at that face. That is a dopey, ugly, unloveable face.

And then it evolves into this.

Badass personified. A giant sea serpent with moves like dragon rage that sweep everything before it away in a tidal wave of fury and anger.

Magikarp into Gyarados is like the ugly duckling story as pokemon. Or better yet the Charles Atlas ads in the back of 1960’s comics. Are you a skinny pathetic weakling always losing fights, well if you can just make it to level 25 you can turn all that repressed anger back on the bully’s and destroy their posteriors totally.

There are some weird things about gyarados though. Why isn’t it a water dragon? It learns dragon type moves, it looks like a dragon, why not a dragon? Instead it’s a water/flying, but it learns no flying moves whatsoever so derives no benefit from flying at all just an additional weakness to rock attacks it wouldn’t normally have.

Lapras

For years I thought Lapras wasn’t actually introduced until generation 2. I have no idea why I thought this since the surfing animation in gen 1 is a Lapras and he’s in the credits for the original TV show but memory is a funny thing. I can see why I may have thought this since Lapras is kind of boring. I mean it’s fine and all, the design is perfectly solid but it’s just basically a pleisaur with a shell on its back and no more clever ideas than that.

Ditto

I love ditto. He’s pure gimmick but what a gimmick. He. only learns one move, transform, which allows him to turn into an exact copy of the Pokemon he’s fighting. Unfortunately this means he’s completely useless in fights since his moves are always not very effective and can’t gain type advantage. From Gold and Silver onwards though the real use of ditto became apparent. Ditto is a dirty, dirty slut who will fuck anything that moves. Yup, Ditto will breed with any Pokemon in the game, of either gender. Ditto doesn’t care, he takes it anyway he can get it. Look at that cute little pile of purple splooge, he is having the nastiest and most varied sex life you can possibly imagine. Skank.

Eevee, Vaporeon, Jolteon and Flareon

Eevee is again a gimmick pokemon but a great gimmick .Eevee himself is a cute little squirrel/dog thing, a nice design but nothing special. No what makes Eevee great is his ability to transform into, originally, 3 different evolutions (and now up to 7). This is a nice riff on dog breeding and the endless variety of dog shapes people have been able to come up with and is also a fine example (like ditto) of playing with the mechanics of the game itself to come up with an original idea for a monster. The 3 evolutions themselves are all pretty cool, they all look like dogs, they’re all clearly evocative of the element they’re linked too, they’re also pretty cool designs individually only enhanced by the eevee concept. My favourite is Jolteon because I think he has a really sleek and dangerous looking design.

Porygon


Porygon is a digital pokemon, which is a dumb idea to start with. He looks like nothing in particular and has no personality. Plus this is the guy responsible for giving all those Japanese kids seizures. Basically beyond those dull lifeless eyes there is a sadistic monster, plotting something.

The Fossil Pokemon, Omanyte, Omastar, Kabuto, Kabutops and Aerodactyl

I don’t have much to say about any of these, they’re all competent designs (Kabutops is the coolest) but the concept behind them, fossilised pokemon brought back to life, is pretty neat and differentiates them from other monsters pretty cleverly.

Snorlax

Snorlax is another pokemon everyone loves. Again it’s a fairly abstract design but enlivened by a great gimmick, he’s a fat sleeping monster. So big and so fat that he actually poses a blockage to traffic. Hes a got a great simple design a neat concept and scores of personality. I mean who wouldn’t want to fight with a giant tub of lard whose moves actually allow it to fall asleep in the middle of a battle.

The Three Legendary Birds, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres

There’s not a huge amount to say about these guys, they’re slick designs, they’re all evocative of the element they’re linked to, they’re just baseline cool. My fave is Zapdos, both because his design is spiky (I like spiky electric types apparently) and because in game his typing is a great combination. Electric types are weak against ground but he has flying moves to take out ground types and flying types are weak against electricity but being an electric/flying he has no such weakness.

Dratini, Dragonair and Dragonite

Dratini and Dragonair are fine and all but nothing special. However Dragonite is hilariously awful. The other two are sleek and elegant, this guy looks like barney the dinosaur’s retarded cousin. Look at that face. That is a face that had to repeat a school year, possibly twice. He reminds me of lenny from of mice and men.

Mewtwo

Mewtwo looks like a science experiment gone wrong, an unholy genetic aberration. Which is exactly what they were going for so well done design team. I also love his name, Mewtwo works as a clone of Mew and sounds exactly something artificial and created in a lab. Mewtwo’s design is fine not too crowded but full of little touches which suggest his artificial origin (like the weird neck tube) but what really makes him stand out is his back story. Mewtwo is the villain of the first Pokemon movie and really one of the only Pokemon intelligent enough to actually be a stand alone villain rather than just a tool for somebody else. His origins as an artificial being of immense power is of course a riff on, well take your pick, Frankenstein, Pinnochio, Star Trek’s Data, etc but whilst it may not be an original idea it is a gimmick shared by no other Pokemon so it makes him stand out and grants him a lot of personality. In fact I think Mewtwo qualifies as not really a monster but a character in his own right with his own emotions, desires and character arc something you can only really say about Ash’s Pikachu otherwise and that’s only in the TV Show and not the games. He’s also bastard hard and easily the most powerful monster in the games for the first two generations.

MEW

Mew has quite a few cool qualities but all of them are meta qualities to do with the game such as the fact that he’s the 151st Pokemon only obtainable at special events, or the fact that he can learn every HM and TM in the game. These are all cool unique things about Mew but they’re all just ways he’s weird in terms of game mechanics, there’s nothing intrinsic about Mew himself that’s very cool, his design is meh and unlike Mewtwo he doesn’t have any kind of character or personality.

And that’s all 151 original pokemon reviewed, mocked and discussed. I hope to get the Pokemon from Gold and Silver up here next month but stay tuned because non-pokemon related Mummyboon content will be up at least once a week between then and now.


















Pokémon And All Respective Names are Trademark & © of Nintendo 1996-2012

Our day was started bright and early with a failed trip to find a famous coffee house. Which made me sad.

That failure aside though we set off towards teramachi or temple row to look at, what else, temples.

We started with a temple whose name I absolutely do not know. I didn’t note it down and it isn’t my guidebook so…whoops. But I do know that it is on teramachi and it is bright red and done in a largely Chinese style.

It also had a nice Chinese lady inside who was making beads and who seemed rather disappointed at the poor turnout. She explained that the temple doesn’t usually get a lot of foreign visitors but mostly Japanese and Chinese ones. When I suggested that the poor turn out was probably because the Japanese were all spending time with their families for Obon she told me the opposite was true. Usually Obon was their busiest time of year as families are supposed to visit shrines together. This was quite sad news for me. I have been hearing stories for years about how the Buddhist temples are struggling to keep their income high enough to maintain the temples. Although the big and famous places draw a lot of attention from tourists, if perfectly pleasant but small temples like this one are in danger of closing that is a real shame.

Continuing the theme of the trip our old lady was only too happy to show us around the temple and explain some of the features to us. The most striking of these was a male and female dolphin fish pictured above (male) and below (female). I see male dolphin fish very often in Japanese architecture but this is the first time I have ever seen a female version. Apparently the ball in the mouth of the male represents male desire whilst the female is supposed to bring fertility and easy pregnancy. Both examples shown here are actually drums used in ceremonies at the temple.

Can I just point out how weird it is that every source translates this animal’s name as a dolphin fish? It shares not one characteristic with a dolphin at all. Dolphins have no scales, their tails are horizontal not vertical, they have different heads and bodies and the dolphin fish lacks a dorsal fin. At least the female version looks a little bit like a malformed whale but the male one looks like nothing so much as a dragon fish. What on earth it has to do with dolphins I will never understand.

By far the finest feature of this particular temple was its lovely gardens a few pictures of which are shown here.

Moving on from our mystery temple we moved onto a separate street to have a look at the famous “Meganebashi” or “Spectacles Bridge;” so called because the reflections in the water make it look like a pair of glasses. Apparently it is one of the oldest examples of an arched stone bridge in Japan. Sadly it is nowhere near as impressive as that fact sounds.

Here is Fran, pointing at her spectacles on Spectacles Bridge.

Moving back onto teramachi our next location was Sofukji (not to be confused with Shofuku-ji) one of the more spectacular, unusual and famous temples in Nagasaki.

Shofuku-ji was another Chinese temple that adopted the official Japanese form of Buddhism but it still has many examples of its Chinese heritage left behind such as the Ming style gate in spectacular red colours.

The main attraction of this temple is this giant pot in the courtyard. Nagasaki was once ravaged by a great famine that left many of the poor citizenry starving. The head of the temple along with a pioneering female philanthropist (pictured below) collected donations every day to make a gigantic cauldron of porridge that they would distribute to the poor. During one particularly bad winter this food aid was feeding more than a 1000 people a day and helping them stay alive.

Again, with such history and such an important social role it really is a shame that Buddhist temples are beginning to die out in Japan.

One of the things I noticed about the temple which struck me as unusual was the decorative bats that I spotted in a few places. Apparently bats are something of a symbol of good luck in Nagasaki, and nowhere else in Japan, for reasons that were not explained to me.

Our next two temples were Yasakusa and Kiyomizu which aren’t interesting in the slightest except that they bare the names of two much more famous temples in Kyoto which are also close together. This was another theme of travelling in Kyushu. In Kansai it is very rare for a name to be duplicated for two or more places but on the island there were all kinds of places with names we recognized from Kobe, Kyoto or Tokyo.

Lunchtime and we moved off temple row and into a more city like part of the city.

But first a quick stop in Shian-bashi area. Shian-bashi was, and still is to a lesser extent the red light or “pleasure” district of Nagasaki. In former times it was separated from the main city by a bridge. This bridge, known as the bridge of pondering gave its name to the area. Why the bridge of pondering? Well apparently in days of old men would pause for a second on the bridge and debate whether to press on or return to their wives at home. Seized by the spirit of the ages I also decided to ponder for a moment before pressing on in search of food, drink and cake.

Cake! Yes, cake. In fact not just any cake but the infamous Castella at the even more infamous Fukusaya Castella cake shop. Castella is a kind of sweet sponge cake introduced to Japan by the Portuguese. The origins of the name are widely debated but are believe to come from an area of Portugal with the similar sounding name of Castile. However confusingly Castile was then a part of Spain and in Castile they don’t make Castella.

Fukusaya Castella has being making this cake and operating as a shop continuously since 1624! That is an astonishingly long time for any shop to operate, let alone in one location and in the same building (albeit heavily renovated inside). I would be interested to know if anything in the U.K. even comes close but I doubt it. To put that in perspective imagine a Tudor building being used for its original purposes continuously for nearly 400years!

The shop is somewhat small and Spartan inside but that is because it basically consists of a counter and three stools. All of the activity goes on in the bakery itself, all they need the shop for is to sell you their one and only product, cake.

And what a cake it is. Honestly it may be the most perfect cake I have ever eaten. This is the platonic ideal of cake. There is no decoration, no icing or butter or any messing around, it is just pure sponge. But it is the nicest sponge I have ever eaten and I suspect it is impossible to make a sponge cake taste any better. It was moist, fluffy, sweet but not too sweet, with a deliciously complex after taste. It was just perfect. Utterly perfect.

Oh and look, more bats. I wonder what they are all about.

Full of cake and properly rested we decided to climb to Suwa-jinja.

It was a long climb. If nothing else a trip to Nagasaki will help you keep fit as there is simply no way to avoid climbing hundreds and thousands of steps.

Suwa-jinja lacked the cool Chinese influenced architecture of most Nagasaki temples and shrines but made up for it with its own unique attraction. Komainu, or prayer dogs.

These dogs are features of pretty much any Asian temple. They always stand in pairs, one with his mouth closed and the other with his mouth open. One is taking a breath and the other is breathing out but this breathing is in sync, as if they are taking the same breath. This concept of harmony so perfect that one breathes in while the other breathes out is known as “wa” and is a central idea in Japanese culture.

Furthermore one dog is always female whilst the other is male. Usually the male breathes in, an act of life and the female breathes out, an act of death symbolising the cyclical nature of life due to resurrection.

Komainu are descended from Chinese foo dogs or lion dogs which had the same purpose and are also displayed at temples but do not have the associations with wa.

Suwa-jinja is covered in hundreds of these dogs all over the place with radically different artistic styles and designs.

Some of the dogs even have special features such as this one, the kappa komainu.

And barring a failed trip to a temple we eventually got to later on (I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow), a bath and a delicious dinner at an Izakaya that specialised in pork was all we did that day.

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