What’s up designers, and welcome back to Rempton Games. In today’s episode of Evolution of Pokemon design we take a look at the brand new Generation 9, better known as Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. As always, we will be looking at the common design trends and motifs of the Pokemon in this generation, how the themes and mechanics of this generation influence these designs, and how Gen 9 has changed from previous entries in the series. I will not be talking about the new Pokemon from Pokemon Legends: Arceus in this video, but let me know if you would like me to cover those in a future video. Also, I will be talking about all aspects of the new games, including new Pokemon, plot, etc, so if you haven’t finished playing yet you might want to come back to this video later. Without further ado, let’s get started.
As usual, let’s start by talking about the new Region where these games take place, as that tends to have a big influence on the Pokemon of these games. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet take place in the Paldea region, which is based on the Iberian Peninsula, although it also takes some influence from former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in North and South America such as Mexico and Brazil.
These inspirations greatly influenced the overall layout of the region, as well as a lot of the architecture and clothing that you can see throughout the game. It also influenced the designs of several Pokemon from the region, although the cultural theming was not as pervasive as the last few generations have been. Some examples include the Smoliv family, because Spain is the world’s largest produce of Olives, the Maschiff line which is based on the Spanish Mastiff, Capsakid and Scovillian are based on Chilli peppers which are commonly used in Spanish cuisine, and of course the various breeds of Tauros which reference traditional Spanish bullfighting, matadors, and Pamplona’s “Running of the Bulls”.
As with Generation 8, the designs of the starters are also influenced by the cultural inspiration for this region. Skeledirge seem to be based on Mexican Calaveras, or Sugar Skulls, associated with the “Dia De Muertos” celebration. Meowscarada seems to be based on a combination of Masquerades and Puss In Boots – which was originally an Italian fairy tale, but I guess they were inspired by the Shrek version. Finally, Quaquaval seems to be inspired by traditional Spanish dances such as Pasadoble and Flamenco, although he looks most similar to Brazilian Samba dancers.
Besides the cultural influences, it’s hard to say much about what sets the designs of this generation apart from previous gens – at least when it comes to the “normal” Pokemon of the Paldea region. I suppose it was inevitable after 9 generations, but it really feels like Pokemon is settling into a more consistent style, and sticking with it. Most of the Pokemon in this gen have big heads with large, round eyes, and a whole bunch of them have very round bodies in general. Overall Pokemon seems to have moved away almost entirely from the rough, rugged, naturalistic textures that defined the early generations and more towards smoother, rounded features. Also, this might be more of a rendering thing than a design thing, but most of the Pokemon in this generation almost feel like they were sculpted out of clay.
One notable thing is that Gen 9 does not continue a lot of the more unique design conventions of Generation 8 – most of which I wasn’t too fond of to begin with. Generation 8 had a tendency to “over concept” it’s Pokemon – trying to throw in a ton of ideas into a single Pokemon. The classic example of this is Dragapult, which has to resemble its biological inspiration while conveying “ghost type” (because it’s based on an extinct animal), while also resembling a modern stealth bomber and using it’s pre-evolved form as missiles. Gen 9 seems to have backed off on this, with each Pokemon usually only having 1 or 2 concepts behind it. And, to it’s credit, while Gen 9 does have a few designs that I would describe as “just a blank”, such as Bramblin or Flamigo, they are much less prevalent in this gen.
Scarlet and Violet introduce a new category of Pokemon – the “Paradox” Pokemon, which come from a different time. In Pokemon Scarlet all of these Pokemon are primitive ancestors of modern Pokemon, while in Violet all of these Pokemon are futuristic, robotic versions of the Pokemon. Each of these categories share a number of common design traits. All Past Pokemon are larger than their regular counterparts, and often have Yellow and Red “angry” eyes, longer, unkempt hair, spikes, and lizard-like tails. The future forms, on the other hand, all have a metallic sheen, often having glowing portions that resemble an LED screen, are more angular, and have visible body segments.
I’ll admit, my feelings about these Paradox Pokemon are mixed, and mostly negative. I’m not a big competitive battler, but they do seem to be pretty strong, at the very least. On the other hand, I HATE the naming convention, and wish that they were simply considered to be new “Forms” of older Pokemon – it just feels so lazy to slap a metallic texture on a Tyranitar and say it’s an entirely new Pokemon.
In addition to the Paradox forms and Regional forms, this generation also introduces “Convergent Evolution” Pokemon, which are Pokemon that look extremely similar to other species, but are technically unrelated, such as Tentacool and Toedscool. Similar to the “Paradox” Pokemon, I have no idea why Game Freak decided to treat Wiglet and Toedscool as brand new Pokemon, rather than regional forms of Tentacool and Diglet. It honestly feels extremely arbitrary.
The inclusion of these “Paradox” Pokemon implies a “past vs future” or “tradition vs technology” theme, although the games don’t really do much with this idea. Playing Devil’s Advocate, there are a few aspects of this game that could be argued to play into this idea, although I’ll admit they are a bit of a stretch. On the past side, the Pokemon of this generation are much more connected to previous generations than they have been for quite a while – arguably since Generation 4. In addition to the many new forms of old Pokemon (or new Pokemon that are new forms in all but name), this is also the first generation to introduce brand new evolutions to older Pokemon since Generation 6 with Ananeurysm, Queensgambit, and the Dunsparce evolution everyone has been waiting for for over 20 years, Slightly Bigger Dunsparce.In addition, the “Treasures of Ruin” Legendary Pokemon are all ancient treatures that have been sealed away for a thousand year, which could be additional evidence for the “Past” theme.
For the “Future” theme, the evidence is more scarce. The game does experiment with new technologies by introducing the first (theoretically) open world in any Pokemon game, and adding *gasp* textures to the Pokemon. One of the Gym Leaders is also a streamer so…that’s something. Most of the “Futuristic” stuff about the game happens after you complete your three main questlines and venture down into the mysterious “Area Zero”. Here you discover that your game’s version of the Bisexual Dilemma has actually been an AI the whole time, and invented a time machine that brought the Paradox Pokemon to the modern time. This section has a lot of technology that we would consider “futuristic”, although given that time machines have existed in Pokemon since Gen 2, I’m not sure it is really that futuristic. Overall, if you are interested in exploring a Pokemon region that explores a theme of “Past and Future”, I would recommend the Mazah Region from the channel “Subjectively”.
The final group of designs we will look at today are the Legendary Pokemon of this generation, of which we got two sets. The first are the cover legendaries, Kuraidon and Miraidon. Giving credit where it’s due, I think both of these Pokemon have pretty impressive designs, looking cool and powerful. My main issue with these Legends is that the games don’t really make them feel special at all. You get them for free right away, and for most of the game they are basically filling the role of an old “HM Slave”. They also don’t really have any cool legends about them, or embody natural forces such as Land, Sea and Sky, Time and Space, or the Sun and Moon. They are just past and future forms of a Pokemon that modern humans ride like a bike. None of the other Paradox Pokemon are considered Legendary, so I’m not sure why it’s the case for Kuraidon and Miraidon.
The other set of Legends are much more interesting, in my opinion. Called “The Treasures of Ruin”, these four Pokemon are all possessed or cursed evil artifacts that were sealed away thousands of years ago, and have to be “unlocked” by seeking out and pulling a bunch of glowing stakes that are dotted throughout the region. Each one consists of an ancient treasure, which is it’s true body, and a false body that the treasure builds for itself out of various materials – rocks, plants, snow, and fire. I actually like these Pokemon quite a bit. Design-wise, they are all very different from one-another, but are all unified by being a combination of a man-made artifact and natural materials, which is pretty unique.
Mechanically, this Generation actually makes some pretty major changes to the standard Pokemon formula. The game is now a seamless open world where you can theoretically go anywhere, and accomplish objectives in whatever order you please. Do I think they actually handled the “open world” concept very well? Not really, but that’s a topic for a different video. They’ve also completely removed random tall grass encounters and forced trainer battles, so you never have to battle unless you want to…or if you accidentally run into one of the 10 million microscopic Pokemon that surround you at any given moment.
In addition to the normal gym challenge, Scarlet and Violet introduce two new “Questlines” for the player to complete – defeating Team Star by attacking all of their bases with the game’s new autobattle mechanic, and defeating “Titan” Pokemon, which are basically the “Totem” pokemon from Sun and Moon (but shhhhhhh don’t tell anyone).
Another technological upgrade that Pokemon made this generation were improvements to their textures and lighting. While this is mostly pretty subtle, different Pokemon do have different textures. Some have slight fur textures, while others have scales, but this is most obvious with metallic, transparent, and glowing surfaces. As with any advances in Pokemon technology, these improved textures bring with them the potential for new Pokemon designs. I think they took advantage of this in a few different ways – the Paradox Pokemon, especially the metallic Future Pokemon, really show off the new textures, and the Legendaries also have an interesting mix of textures on their bodies. They also showed this technology off with their new battle mechanic, Terastalization.
Terastalization is the new battle mechanic introduced this Generation. Each Pokemon has a “Tera Type”, and when they Terastalize they become that type. This completely replaces their previous types, although they still get STAB from moves of those types. Visually, Terastalization is very impressive – the Pokemon transforms into a cool, crystalline form that refracts light like a prism, and gets a cool hat. However, design-wise there isn’t much to say about Terastalization because, unlike Mega forms or Gigantimax, Terastalization works the same for all Pokemon and doesn’t come with any unique forms – at least for now.
However, Generation 9 is just getting started, and we will probably see a couple DLC expansions to these games over the next few years, like we did for Sword and Shield. These DLCs will hopefully explain more about Terastalization, Area Zero, and the Paradox Pokemon, and will probably also have even more new Pokemon. However, until then I would like to hear what you think about the Pokemon of this Generation. Because it’s still pretty new I haven’t had as much time to study and digest the designs, so it’s entirely possible that there are things that I missed or got wrong. If so, let me know in the comments!
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