Sun and Moon Have Some Well-Designed Pokemon
Generation VII of Pokemon is a pretty good one. There is some fatigue in the formula settling in again, but the characters were top notch, the new Sci-Fi elements were unique, and the Alola setting is one that is both relaxing and inviting, more so than any generation before.
It is also home to some pretty good Pokemon designs. Since Generation VI, Pokemon has focused on smaller Pokedexes with less Pokemon, and Alola fits that description well. It is also the first time since Generation V that Game Freak went more thematic with the Pokemon designs, creating monsters that fit the Hawaiian-based setting. The question of course, is which were the best and worst designs of the generation? Let’s find out!
Best Design – Decidueye
Decidueye is the epitome of the cool starter Pokemon. The final evolution of the really popular Rowlett line, Decidueye is a mix between Robin Hood and a Pueo Owl when it comes to its look and theme. Its name is also pretty clever; deciduous refers to trees that lose their leaves before the end of the season, almost sort of ‘dying’ each season before sprouting new leaves. Decidueye is mysterious and foreboding, giving off a calm and cold demeanor with its piercing eyes and quick flicks of its wings.
Decidueye is another Grass/Ghost-type that struggles a bit due to mediocre defenses and a base 70 speed. It has dual 107/100 attacking stats, allowing it to strike on both stats as a mixed attacker. Its unique Long Reach ability allows physical moves to hit without touching the opponent, which is great against residual effects or items such as a Rocky Helmet. Tons of moves give it some versatility too, from Poltergeist, Skitter Smack, Grassy Slide, Knock Off, and its signature move, Spirit Shackle. Not the best starter to use in a fight, but certainly capable if you know how to use it.
Worst Design – Bruxish
Bruxish joins a long list of fish-like Pokemon that rarely stand out in each generation, but thanks to some notable exceptions, this time it is at least memorable. The problem is, it’s memorable in a bad way. Based on the state fish of Hawaii, the Reef Triggerfish, Bruxish is a victim of garish colors clashing that are supposed to look tropical and psychedelic, but instead come off as cringe-inducing and off-putting. Its shiny form, with the red, white, and green motif, at least has a clown thing going for it.
Oh, and the teeth are just… let’s move on.
As a battler, Bruxish is nothing special. It has base 105 Attack and 92 Speed, but everything else is base 70 or lower. With a high Attack stat, it lacks a lot of the physical presence that a dual Water/Psychic-type would have, with its best moves being Psychic Fangs and Liquidation. Some support utilities are present, like Ally Switch, Reflect, Light Screen, and After You, but it doesn’t have the speed or bulk to really take advantage of them.
Best Design – Golisopod
The Gyarados of Generation 7, Golisopod is the evolved form of the meek Wimpod, and boy does it make a great 180 when it comes to its evolution. Transforming from the decently designed but terrible Wimpod, Golisopod turns into a giant isopod with samurai armor motifs as armor plating. Golisopod is another Pokemon that exudes coolness, one that exudes power just in the way it looks.
Its stat boost from Wimpod is also dramatic. Base 125 Attack, 140 Defense, and 90 Special Defense is quite good, and its Bug/Water-typing gives it plenty of offensive presence, from First Impression to Liquidation, Sucker Punch and Leech Life. The biggest drawback is Golisopod’s ability, Emergency Exit, which forces it to switch out in battle if it’s health drops to half. This can be easily exploitable, but clever players can work around this weakness to deliver hard blows with ease.
Worst Design – Gumshoo
Gumshoos is the next in a long line of rodent-like Normal-types. The lore behind Gumshoos and its pre-evolution, Yungoos, is based on real-life issues regarding introducing predatory species to fight off a rodent population. Outside of that though, there really is little to go on with Gumshoos. While based on a mongoose, its design borders on ugly with the yellow tuft of hair across its top and chin just looking really out of place, like a glued-on toupee and beard.
Stat-wise there is nothing special about Gumshoos either, continuing the trend of fairly weak rodent Pokemon. Its 88 HP and 108 Attack stats are OK, but lack of defenses, and a lack of power with its moveset, lead it to relying heavily on Super Fang and several weaker moves for coverage, such as the elemental punches and fangs with base 65 and 75 power. Gumshoos offers almost nothing unique, except maybe having three great abilities in Adaptability, Stakeout, and Strong Jaw.
Best Design – Mimikyu
A Pokemon like Mimikyu shouldn’t work, but it does. Basically a mysterious, tragic Pokemon who can’t be seen by others or else it kills people, it hides itself by donning a sheet over its body in the shape of a Pikachu, because it ultimately just wants to be loved. The story alone is excellent in terms of lore building, but the design as a simple ghost-sheet costume from Halloween is just the cherry on top.
Mimikyu has the unique Disguise ability, which acts like a free Substitute any time it is hit by a physical move. Not only does this add to it’s already fairly tanky 80/105 Defense and Special Defense, but its 96 Speed and 90 Attack, along with its dual Fairy/Ghost-typing, give it a lot of power that makes it a great competitive battler. Move-wise it has a ton of options, with powerful priority in Shadow Sneak to more oddball power moves like Play Rough, Wood Hammer, and Phantom Force.
Worst Design – Palossand
When I first saw Palossand, I have to admit I kind of laughed at how goofy it looked. The idea of a living sandcastle is arguably pretty clever, and making it haunted is a good excuse to make it move around. What bothers me I guess is how it is a bit over-designed; the various shells caked onto the face, the really flexible castle towers moving like giant tentacles; even the shovel, a key part of its lore as a Ghost-type, just feels out of place as the ‘flag’ of the castle.
There are not a lot of bad designs in Sun and Moon, and Palossand is one that is borderline brilliant depending on who you ask. Heck, as a battler it’s pretty damn good too. 100 Special Attack with base 110 Defense, combined with good abilities like Water Compaction which help it when hit with Water-type attacks, give it a fair amount of bulk that is hard to contend with. Its really low Speed is the biggest problem, but hard-hitting moves like Shadow Ball, utility like Scorching Sands, and recovery like Shore Up give Palossand longevity, making it another case of a weirdly designed Pokemon with good competitive viability.
Best Design – Poipole
The Ultra Beasts were a controversial addition to the Pokemon series. The idea of inter-dimensional Pokemon from parallel universes is a bit goofy, but the alien-like designs and the sci-fi motif fits well with Pokemon as a franchise. The Ultra Beasts have odd designs, but if I had to pick one that looks great, it has to be the cute-looking Poipole, a poison-type that resembles a bee larva mixed with a deadly syringe.
Poipole is mysterious but alluring, a strong combination that makes it alien-looking sure, but appealing. As the only pre-evolved Ultra Beast, Poipole has an even stat distribution across the board, but its pure Poison-typing gives it some defensive advantages. It is held back by a fairly barren movepool, but its combination of stats and its Ultra Beast status actually have it banned from Smogon’s Little Cup play. That certainly says something about Poipole!
Worst Design – Shiinotic
Shiinotic is a psychedelic mushroom that, for all intents and purposes, is weird-looking. A bioluminescent mushroom with some Fairy motifs to compliment its Grass/Fairy-typing, Shiinotic’s happy-face smile and puffy, elongated body are pretty off-putting, despite trying to be kind and alluring. The giant, bulbous head that covers its top almost like a sombrero constantly makes it look like it’s off balance and tipping over. It’s a design that is all over the place frankly, one that is trying to be cute but comes across as incredibly awkward.
At base 405, Shiinotic has pretty low stats for a fully evolved Pokemon. Its Special Attack and Special Defense are the only highlights at base 90 and 100, respectively, and its movepool had, at the time, a signature ability with Strength Sap that made the mushroom worth using. Strength Sap has been given to a ton of other Pokemon now though, making it hard for Shiinotic to find a team slot, though it does have a few tricks up its sleeve such as Spore, Pollen Puff, Dazzling Gleam, and Amnesia to play around with.
Best Design – Rockruff
If Pokemon Sun and Moon had an exclusive mascot, Rockruff would likely be the Pokemon to fit the bill! An adorable pure Rock-type based on a Hawiian Poi Dog, Rockruff is a cute puppy with lovely little motifs, from its pointed rock-like collar to its light tan coloration across its head and tail. Rockruff was immediately popular, and the fact that it has three different evolutions with the various forms of Lycanroc only add to its popularity.
Rockruff is cute, but competitively it’s a bit lacking due to not having the movepool to take advantage of its stats. It’s high 65/60 Attack and Speed for Little Cup are boons, but often runs Rock Slide, Stone Edge, Crunch, Play Rough, or Iron Head in some combination as its only attacking moves, and it’s frail otherwise due to being a pure Rock type. Still, Rockruff is always worth playing around with, even if it is a one-trick puppy.
Worst Design – Wishiwashi
Look, I like sardines, but it doesn’t mean it makes a good Pokemon. It is a small, wimpy-looking monster with a sad face and expression of fear attached to it. Its color scheme is OK but a bit generic as far as fish Pokemon go. Wishiwashi is a gimmick Pokemon that happens to transform into one of the most powerful Pokemon in the series thanks to its Schooling ability, but its design doesn’t improve, if you ask me, after now turning into a giant fish monstrosity that is part submarine for some reason. The idea is there, but the Schooling form of Wishiwashi always seemed like a solid blob of fish instead of fish in unison, a missed opportunity likely brought on by hardware limitations.
Wishiwashi is objectively one of the weakest Pokemon in the game in terms of stats, but its Schooling ability turns into one of the strongest with over 130 base stats across all of its Attack and Defenses. Its Speed drops however, and its HP doesn’t change, plus Schooling deactivates if it drops to half health. So it’s really hard to use properly and incredibly vulnerable to wear and tear, making it hard to justify a team slot.