Focus On: Pokémon Designs


Pokémon designs. Possibly one of the most slated aspects of the entire Pokémon franchise. A high number of fans seem to agree with one another that over the span of Generations the designs of the Pokémon introduced have gradually gotten worse. With the First Generation being the best and Fifth the worst. But, is that really the case?

[spoiler show=”Read More…”]Kotaku has an interesting article that’s worth a read, feel free to quote and comment replies from Kotaku here too! We’re going to throw our own spin on it. Nostalgia goggles probably play a large part in the opinion that Kanto Pokémon are the best, it’s not just fans who have been with Pokémon since the start, it’s also late adopters or those who have picked up with later games. Back to the nostalgia goggles, it’s a pretty common thing to say that an older version of something is better than the up-to-date versions, look at well, anything with multiple instalments.

rotomCompare the the ‘backstory’ and reasoning behind Pokémon designs in newer Generations to the the earlier. Charizard, as cool as it is, is just a lizard-dragon thing with wings and fire on the tip of its tail. Magnemite is a magnet. And Rattata is a just a purple rat. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with simplicity,heck there are some amazing Pokémon from more recent generations who are so simple in design it’s a surprise they belong in their generation (as opposed to the rather simple Generation I). Rotom (not the best example, but hey, it’s Rotom) is a relatively simple Pokémon in terms of design but the reasoning behind its is clear, especially in its forms. It’s a poltergeist. An electrical one that possesses electrical appliances, check out Mechanos’ article on Rotom.

How many Pokémon from earlier generations can you explain their backstory by their appearance? They’re pretty much just animals, nothing wrong with that though. There are more recent Pokémon that are just animals, Lillipup for example doesn’t really have anything special about it, it’s just a puppy.

It seems each generation has a share of “just Pokémon”, Pokémon that aren’t Pokémon and Pokémon. Kanto has it’s fair share of terrible Pokémon, sure they’re unique and most people can recognise them but they really are terrible design-wise. Maybe we were spoiled early on in the Pokémon universe, but things change.

Taking a look at the reasoning behind the existence of a Pokémon is also an important point to make. From Generation III onwards the majority of Legendary Pokémon introduced have been deities, Dialga controls Time and so on… they’re all around for a reason–whether that reason is perhaps a bit stretched is all a matter of opinion. Compare that to earlier Legendary Pokémon, yes, they’re probably some of the most iconic but they’re better looking than their reasoning is.

There are countless reasons why newer/older Pokémon are better/worse (delete as appropriate) and this article would get incredibly long all of them were listed here. But the point is: Pokémon designs are not getting worse. They are in fact getting better. Sure some of them may look less like the Pokémon you’ve come to expect form earlier Generations, but design-wise Unova Pokémon are significantly superior to, say, Kanto Pokémon. Dismissing a Pokémon because it’s downright ugly isn’t the best way to go about things–although, we’re humans and that’s exactly what we do, Ludicolo springs to mind for me here.[/spoiler]

It really all does boil down to personal opinion, this entire article is my opinion, but I’d like to hear yours. What generation of Pokémon is your favourite, are the original 151 really the best and is that opinion based purely on nostalgia value? If you look at Pokémon designs in appearance, ‘backstory’ and reasoning you can see why, in this case newer Pokémon are superior. But voice your own opinions and what-not below, as well as giving me a run-down of why I’m wrong or why you like a certain Pokémon.

There’s no Rewind this week as the news flow has been pretty slow, but don’t forget to check back for our Christmas post and spread the word when it’s up!


  1. The thing I always liked about the first two/three generations is the notion that Pokemon are a part of nature – they are more or less natural creatures and animals in the world. While some have sentience, most are content living as animals in the real world do instead of in clans, villiages, etc. that other ‘Mon tropes fall into.
    Gen 1 has its share of WTF pokemon, like Poliwrath, for example, but you’re given the feel of creatures in a natural world (and summarily, the juxtaposition of Mewtwo being a created ‘mon).
    While Gen 1 and 2 had powerful pokemon, they didn’t jump up to Deistic Status. Gen 3 started looking very digimon-ish with design elements that seemed superfluous, and giving Kyogre/Groudon an elevated myth as ‘creator beings’, paving the way for the 4th generation gods.
    Personally, if a pokemon and pokedex entry are given backstory, then that should be explored in the games. While rotom has an interesting backstory, it isn’t something that you innately guess what it is on first appearance, and that goes for a lot of pokemon and legendaries past 3rd generation. Palkia is part water? How? (for example)
    The pokemon that I’ve loved from all generations so far are the ‘natural’ ones and the ones I’ve loathed have been the man-made ones (such as garbodor or vanilluxe) or the freaky human-looking ones (such as Medicham, Gothielle, or Conkeldurr)

  2. Each generation has had its share of great designs and awful designs. I think that any sort of “debate” between which generation had the best design is silly and completely subjective. People will have opinions on these things and trying to argue one way or another isn’t going to win people over to “Team First Gen” or “Team Post-Gen III.” That being said, I think some of my favorite designs are from Gen V (Krookadile and Chandelure being examples of amazing designs imo), but I always feel a certain nostalgia while looking back at past gens, even with Pokemon that I dislike (Like Jynx. I don’t think anybody likes Jynx.).

  3. Probably everyone including me would say the first 150 Pokemon was obviously the best, but personally I wouldn’t say they were getting worse, I like them as much as the rest.

    There isn’t a specific guideline as to WHAT a Pokemon SHOULD look like, but don’t get me wrong, the newest ones are a little… bizzare.
    Though I think Game Freak and Creature are running out of ideas for what’s to come.

  4. I’m probably going to get hate… but I would say Generation 4 had the best designs. Think about it, they already had 300+ Pokemon, coming up with another 120 or so would be a difficult feat for anyone. And yet, they came up with imaginative designs such as the Pixies, Staraptor, and Garchomp, as well as other amazing ones like Luxray.

  5. I think everyone can have their opinion about old and new generation designs but what bugs me is that “some” people criticize the newer generation just because it is new, and even some of them don’t know anything about how new Pokemon looks.

    I agree that with newer generations, they try to add backstory to each Pokemon but I don’t agree that Pokemon is getting better design-wise. While backstory seems a really good addition, it can only be completed with the overall look of the Pokemon.

    Finally, I want to say that I can’t think of any strictly increasing and decreasing graph of Pokemon designs. Cliche: Every generation has good and bad designs. Let’s say for me, Gen 3 has more good designs in it than other generations, but meanwhile Volcarona, which is Gen 5 Pokemon has the best Pokemon design ever with the completion of backstory.

  6. Ill never understand this old/new is better nonsense.

    There is no clear distinction besides the date, and there cannot be.
    Its always hundreds of unique creatures. And barely do they ever look alike, whether compared within a generation or between generations.

    You might as well use, shuffle all 649, then make 5 groups with no reasoning, and then argue which group is the best.

    There would be no difference were it not for nostalgia.

  7. I can’t stand it when people say that the designers at GameFreak are “running out of ideas.” There are hundreds of thousands of animals, objects, legends, myths, etc. upon which they can base Pokémon. In addition to this, they hire new designers with different ideas and styles to create new Pokémon. They will never, ever run out of ideas. Ever.

    To me, the fact that they’ve started basing Pokémon off of inanimate objects shows that they are getting more creative. Mixing things you wouldn’t expect to be sentient beings (like a chandelier, for example) with obvious animal-based Pokémon makes the games more diverse and interesting.

  8. I actually have more problem with Sugimori’s style..not the pokemon designs, but his style, in the first 2 Gen and also in the 3rd, Ken’s style was very sharp, the body detailes ware deep, but now his style is laking any body details, for example take Ponyta and Blitzle, both are based on creatures that have a very similar body structure, Ponyta’s body looks like a real Horse’s while on the other hand Blitzle looks like a doll !! Keldeo is another example, But Keldeo’s body have a little more details except he’s lacking the hooves joint ! which made his animation in the movie looks weird, the same goes for most of Gen 4-5 pokemon mostly 5th.

  9. I personally enjoy gen 3’s designs the most, with Gen 1-2 seeming very uninspired for many creatures, and gen 4-5 having cleverer designs that may be lost on quite a few people

  10. A lot of people like to say that Pokémon designs are straying away from being “natural” or like animals, but that’s been the case from the start. Think about these: Magnemite, Magneton, Voltorb, Electrode, Gastly, Haunter, Koffing, Weezing, Grimer, Muk, Geodude, Graveler, Golem, Jigglypuff, Porygon. And I could argue even for a few others that are ambiguous, but point is that these 15 Pokémon have no real animal-(or plant-)based origins for their designs. That’s 10% based on inanimate objects. The rest are rooted in more organic designs, but there’s still a good chunk that aren’t. And that’s the way it continues to be. It’s just more inanimate things being brought to life, alongside many other animals, plants, or mythic creatures. It’s not suddenly shifting from 10% to 75%, it’s roughly the same. I’m not gonna say any gen is better or worse; there are highlights and lowlights of each. My favorite Pokémon is Mew. That’s Gen I. But I like plenty of others across all gens.

  11. Well I think that gen I had the best designs, but when I first saw gen V, most of its Pokemon looked kinda stupid as if they ran out of ideas. They still look cool but to me, Pokemon was more of basing new creatures from the real world, so when Pokemon like keldeo or dialga were shown they seemed very unnatural.

  12. I’m a lover of all gens and all the styles they bring to the table. There is a beautiful simplicity found in the earlier games while the later pokemon look unique and interesting. I’ve read somewhere that the older gens were limited by graphics of the Gameboy, and as the series moved on to more powerful systems, it allowed for greater fidelity and thus more intricate designs.

  13. I think all of the generations have about an equal amount of good designs.

    I’m not a huge fan of Generation 4 but Luxray, Garchomp, and Giratina are amazing.

    And before anyone says that Game Freak is losing creativity let me remind you:

    a regular rat, a regular snake, a mole that turns into (wait for it) three moles, the same thing with a 2 headed bird and a magnet, a tadpole that turns into a tadpole that turns into another tadpole (seriously a frog/toad was as obvious as a butterfly), and a slime that turns into a bigger slime.

    Also, tons of pokemon were already created, just not put into the games yet like Gastrodon being moved from Gen 3 to Gen 4.

    Last thing, its important to look up the meaning behind pokemon you don’t know about. Things like Manaphy and Bronzong actually have deep meanings.

    1. Don’t say anything to Poliwag line, they stay as tadpole because when you use “water” stone on it you force it to say in water as a tadpole, on the other when you don’t use water stone and use king’s rock you let him finish its metamorphosis.

    2. Well you can’t say that about poliwag and caterpie because they represent the circle of life, and plus Pokemon wouldn’t be fun without evolution which is probably why Generation I has the most Pokemon evolution chains unlike some generations with basculin, amomola and even pinsir

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