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Generation 6 - Evolution of Pokemon Designs

We are finally back with the Evolution of Pokemon Designs series, this time focusing on Generation 6. As always we look at the designs of these Pokemon to see common themes and trends among them, and stylistic changes from previous generations.

Caleb Compton, Blogger

September 28, 2020

12 Min Read

The following article is a reproduction. The original article, and over 100 more, can be found at RemptonGames.com


What’s up designers, and welcome back to Rempton Games. We are back once again with another installment of the Evolution of Pokemon Design series, this time talking about Gen 6. As always we will be looking at the designs of Pokemon in this generation to see their common trends and motifs, and explore how the Pokemon designs have changed since previous generations. We will also be looking at the new mechanics, technological improvements, and themes of these games to see how they have influenced the design of Pokemon in this generation.

Before we jump into that, however, I just want to say thank you to everybody watching this. With school and work it can be difficult to find time to work on these videos, but the fact that people like you actually choose to watch the stuff I make makes it all worth it. This channel is still small, but we are growing and are almost to 500 subscribers! We are so close guys! If you could drop a like on this video, subscribe, or even share these videos with a friend to help us get over that hurdle I would be so grateful. With that out of the way, let’s talk Pokemon design.

Let’s begin by talking about the new Region that players get to explore – the Kalos region. Continuing with the trend started last generation of exploring areas outside of Japan, the Kalos region is based on France. However, unlike the previous generation it is still possible to find Pokemon from previous regions in the Kalos region, despite the fact that it takes place on an entirely separate continent.

Being based on France does present the opportunity for a number of new French themed Pokemon designs, however, or even designs that simply have a European flair. These include Aegislash, Furfrou, Aromatisse, Slurpuff and Delphox.

Not to get too side-tracked, but there are a handful of Gen 5 Pokemon that I always feel should have belonged to Gen 6 instead – particularly Karrablast, Escavalier, Shelmet, Accelgor, and the Musketeers Terrakion, Coballion, Virizion, and Keldeo. The former group is themed after European knights and snails, which would be much more thematic for a French inspired region than a New York inspired one, and the latter group is literally based on the Three Musketeers – a French Novel. Not only would it make sense thematically, but it would also have helped Gen 6 significantly. Gen 5 had the most new Pokemon of any generation with 156. Gen 6, on the other hand, introduces the fewest with only 72. Gen 6 also only introduces a single family of Bug type Pokemon, so it could use a few more, and it only has a single trio of Legendary Pokemon while Gen 5 has 3. It just would have evened things out a bit, ya know?

In addition to being based on France, the Kalos region also has a theme of “beauty”. The evil team of this region is team Flare, whose evil goal is to create a beautiful world by destroying everything that they consider “ugly”. Many other characters also play into this theme – Valerie, a gym leader, is also a fashion designer, while Grant is a style icon who set a new trend with his hairstyle and the champion Diantha is a famous movie star.

Aside from various characters being concerned with beauty or having very stylish jobs, this theme also fits into the games mechanically in a few different ways. First, this is the first game where you can customize the player’s appearance, with different clothes, hair, etc. However, that isn’t the only thing you can customize. You can also adjust the fur of the Pokemon Furfrou into 7 different fancy styles.

Given that Kalos is based on a country in Europe, the home of Fairy Tales, it is perhaps fitting that Generation 6 introduces the Fairy type to the game. The Fairy type is the first new type to be added to the game since Generation 2 in 1999, and was primarily added to help balance the type chart. Fairy type Pokemon are immune to Dragon type attacks, which helps add an additional check to the very powerful dragon type that was previously only weak to itself and Ice types. In addition, Fairy is weak to Steel and Poison types, which helps increase the usefulness of these types offensively.

As this was the first new type in a long time the fairy type had a lot of catching up to do, so in addition to changing the types of over 20 older Pokemon to make them into fairies, X and Y also introduce 13 brand new Fairy type Pokemon – making up over 18% of all new Pokemon introduced. These include Florges, Dedenne, Carbink, Klefki, Xerneas, and Sylveon.

Design-wise, the fairy type’s most immediately obvious visual trait is its association with the color pink. A lot of Fairy type Pokemon are pink, and a lot of older Pink Pokemon even had their types changed to become fairies. Aside from this, the fairy type also has an association with the moon, magical creatures including actual folklore fairies, and magic in general.

Sylveon also connects with another new feature of this generation – the Pokemon-amie. The Pokemon-amie allows players to play, feed and pet their Pokemon. The more you interact with your Pokemon, the more it raises a new stat – affection. As your Pokemon’s affection gets higher it gets certain bonuses in battle, like healing status effects so that its trainer doesn’t worry, or surviving attacks with 1 HP that would normally cause it to faint. This connects with Sylveon because in addition to knowing a fairy-type move, Eevee must reach a high level of affection in order to evolve into a Sylveon.

The fairy type isn’t the only thing that connects Kalos to fairy-tales. Carrying on from the previous few generations, the starters of X and Y all share a unifying theme – in this case, they are all based around traditional RPG character archetypes. Chesnaut is based on a warrior or a knight, Greninja is a thief or rogue, and Delphox is a magic user.

I mentioned earlier that X and Y introduced the Pokemon-amie and affection stat – however, these are far from the only new mechanics added in these games. This generation also introduced one of the biggest changes to Pokemon’s combat system in the history of the series with the addition of Mega Evolution. Mega Evolution is a special ability that certain fully evolved Pokemon can activate when holding a special stone, called a mega stone. This ability allows those Pokemon to change into new, more powerful Mega forms.

Mega evolution is, in my opinion, one of the coolest additions to the Pokemon series. While some Pokemon who received mega evolutions were already quite powerful, such as Metagross or Salamence, many mega evolutions were give to Pokemon that were less used, such as Mawile, Kangaskhan, and Altaria, and turned these rarely used Pokemon into competitive power-houses. Mega evolution was a cool idea because it was more than just a stat boost – it basically allowed for a total redesign of the Pokemon, in both gameplay and appearance. Mega forms could rearrange a Pokemon’s stats, change their types, and even gain new abilities that totally shift the way these Pokemon are used.

New mega forms also allowed for new designs for older Pokemon, something that had never really been possible in the games up to this point. As the name would imply, most of these new forms are pretty over-the-top, taking elements of the original design and cranking them up to 11. You have a big flower on your back? EVEN BIGGER FLOWER. 2 Spoons? Now 5 spoons! 1 ponytail mouth? 2 PONYTAIL MOUTHS! Have some spikes! And some Fabio hair! ZIPPERS, MORE SPIKES, WHATEVER THE HECK THIS THING IS! BING BANG BOOM!

Mega evolutions design is big, loud, and with very few exceptions its only goal seems to be to crank up the “cool” factor as high as it can go. While this does result in some pretty cool designs – some of my personal favorites are Mega Banette, Diancie, Gengar (especially shiny) and Altaria, I think many of the mega designs end up being very cluttered, and even tacky. In many ways, Mega evolution takes a lot of the design philosophies of generation 4 and pushes them to their logical extremes, producing Pokemon so covered in details that it becomes difficult to even tell what is going on, or are so exaggerated that they just look ridiculous. Some of the worst offenders of this are Garchomp, Manectric, Medicham, Aerodactyl, Abomasnow, and especially Sharpedo.

One other interesting thing about Mega Pokemon, and possibly fairy type Pokemon, is that they represent a split in the Pokemon timeline – there is a Pokemon world with Mega evolution, and a world without. This generation is one of the first to really start expanding the concept of the Pokemon Multiverse, which is a topic that I am definitely planning to talk more about in a future video.

 In contrast to the complicated, bold designs of the Mega Pokemon, most of Gen 6s other designs are actually quite subdued. They tend to have pretty simple shapes and textures, and use relatively few colors on average. They also tend to be quite round – while there have always been round Pokemon, there is usually a mix of sharp, rough or jagged outlines as well. Over the past few generations, however, starting in Gen 4, many of these sharper lines have been replaced with softer, rounder shapes. In gen 6 there are almost no sharp lines in the designs of these Pokemon and smooth round edges are extremely common. Great examples of this include Fletchling, Gogoat, Swirlix, Goodra, Amaura, and Gourgeist, who all have very simple, rounded designs.

This roundness also carries into the eyes. I haven’t talked about Pokemon eyes for a few generations because, starting around gen 3, the variety of different eyes styles becomes so diverse that there are almost no clear trends to latch onto. However, one clear trend in this generation is a preference for rounder, simpler eye shapes that would almost make more sense in an American style cartoon than a traditional anime. Some good examples are Quilladin, Bunnelby, Litleo, Helioptile, and Goodra. While there are a handful of sharper, more aggressive looking designs such as Trevenant, Barbaracle and Tyrantrum, they are a clear minority in this generation.

This generation is the first in the series to make the switch from the DS to the 3DS, and one of the biggest technological shifts made in this generation was the switch from 2-dimensional sprites to 3-dimensional models for every Pokemon. While I can’t really say what effect this change had on the designs of new Pokemon, it did have a clear effect on the appearance of some older Pokemon. To generalize a bit, most of the colors in the 3D models in Gen 6 are much less saturated when compared to the previous sprites – some good examples are Starmie, Charizard, and especially Parasect. Given this, it’s possible that the colors of the new Pokemon are also going to be less vibrant than they would have been in previous generations.

One additional, although minor, change that was made possible by the 3DS hardware was Inkay’s evolution. Inkay evolves at level 30 or above if you hold your 3DS upside down. This is only possible with the device’s gyroscope, and would not have been an option on older hardware.

Finally, let’s talk about the legendary Pokemon of this generation. As mentioned before there is a bit of a shortage of Legendary Pokemon this time around – we only get the cover legendary trio of Xerneas, Yveltal and Zygarde – the fewest legendary Pokemon introduced into any generation. In addition, the actual legends around these Pokemon are a bit lacking. Xerneas represents life and is shaped like the letter X, while Yveltal represents death and is shaped like a Y. Zygarde is shaped like a Z, and is meant to keep order between the two. Pretty basic stuff, and very similar to something like Kyogre, Groudon and Rayquaza.

We also only get a handful of Mythic Pokemon with Hoopa, Diancie, and Volcanion. Volcanion is unique for being a water and fire type, but is otherwise quite forgettable. Diancie is interesting because it is a mutated form of Carbink, a non-legendary Pokemon. This somewhat connects with the idea that the legendary beasts Raikou, Entei and Suicune are actually mutated versions of Jolteon, Flareon and Vaporeon, and it makes you wonder if there are any other legendary Pokemon out there that were originally something else. This is something I would love to see explored with future legendary Pokemon as well. Finally, Hoopa is notable for its ability to create portals and wormholes, which only adds further fuel to the fire of my Pokemon Multiverse theory.

That’s all I have for this week. Thank you so much for watching, and I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic in the comments below. Is there any important trends that I missed? Do you agree with my analysis, or did I get it wrong? If you liked this video, make sure you give it a like and subscribe if you haven’t already. If you want to see more like this you should definitely check out the previous entries in this series, and I have a bunch of other videos as well like my previous one about the combat in the Paper Mario series. I also have over 100 articles on the Rempton Games blog which you can check out in the description down below. And join me next week for a new entry in my “History of Game Design” series. Until then, thank you so much for watching and I’ll see you all next time!

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