Welcome to Pokemon Designs, a new editorial series I will be bringing to you weekly here on Pokemon Dungeon, meant to discuss, analyze, and review the design and themes of the Pokemon rather than things like their battle stats and gameplay. I love monsters and creatures in general, so a big part of the appeal of the Pokemon series for me is simply the designs and the descriptions of how the Pokemon act. Even when it comes to playing the games, I tend to use Pokemon that I like the look and feel of, not the best and most powerful ones. As such, I will be bringing you these posts to talk about this aspect of the series in detail and give my input on the many Pokemon across the various Generations.
And there’s no better time to start than now, as an entire new Generation of Pokemon is about to arrive in X and Y! Gen VI promises to provide us with a lot of new Pokemon designs, so to start off Pokemon Designs, I will be reviewing the starters and then the legendaries they have shown us. These are going to be somewhat incomplete reviews, as we do not know of the starters’ evolutions, nor do we know anything else about these Pokemon other than their appearance, name, and type. So I will purely be reviewing their looks. A more complete review will come later. Let’s get started!
Chespin is probably the most creative of the three starter designs. Chespin is based on a hedgehog, though not immediately recognizable as one; to be honest, at first glance he looks something more like a cross between a meercat and a beaver. The hedgehog aspects comes in with Chespin’s spiky, grassy backside, but obviously he still deviates quite a bit from any recognizable animal biology, making his design largely original. That’s what I like about Chespin, and it puts him at a slight advantage over the other starters.
This cute little guy also deviates from grass starter tradition. Most blasphemously, he is not primarily green! Every grass starter until Chespin has been almost entirely green, so it’s a little surprising to see a design like this. Surprising, but certainly not unwelcome; it’s good to see some departure from the established grass starter formula. However, I feel like they attempted to make him feel more like other grass Pokemon by simply sticking some green on him, and I don’t think that was a good idea.
Chespin’s design is just a little too busy. Everything is fine with his torso; his body looks good and the design works well, including the green on his back and tail. But when you get to his head, the green nonsensically covers his head like a swim cap, spiking out in odd points and adding what I find to be an unnecessary clutter to an otherwise very tight, well-executed design. The simple cap-like shape of the green on his head seems cheap, as well, and I feel this design would have benefited from dropping the random spikes on the sides of his head in favor of a more orderly arrangement more towards the back, and possibly more recognizable head features… like, oh, I don’t know… ears? At least Chespin shouldn’t have the weird four points near the front of his head. What purpose do they even serve? I’ll tell you what purpose: They make his head look like Navi from Ocarina of Time, just with a hamster mask on (yes, I’m comparing him to another mammal). And a torso.
That said, Chespin is not a bad design, and I’m curious about what its evolutions might look like. Can we expect something spiky and frightening, or something bulky, round, and a bit endearing? Either way the little cosplaying, half-green, swimmer meerbeaver is a cute Pokemon and definitely the most inventive of the three Gen VI starters. Maybe his design is a little messy, but he’s too adorable to hate.
This little fire fox is unmistakably based on the fennec fox. I predict that Fennekin will be a fan favorite because it has the sleekest, prettiest, and most streamlined and pure design of the Gen VI starters. That said, I think that Fennekin is the least original of the Gen VI starters. In fact, it’s not really original at all.
If you compare Fennekin to its inspiration, it becomes immediately apparent that Fennekin isn’t anything more than a fox. It’s simply a stylized, brightly colored fennec fox with human-like eyes (as the vast majority of Pokemon have). There’s basically nothing creative in any way about this design. It’s bare-bones, and it’s honestly barely an original creature at all. It reminds me a lot of Charmander from Gen I, which was very much the same way: Charmander was a simple dinosaur or lizard, with virtually nothing original or creative about it, with just that simple touch of having the firey tail.
That said, Charmander was made interesting with the lore surrounding that tail. Maybe that will also be true of Fennekin as we learn more about the Pokemon, and of course we have yet to see what it evolves into. Certainly, Fennekin has appeal. It’s a cute fox, and that’s gonna be more than enough for most people. I also did call it pretty and sleek. And, for what it is, the design is very well-executed, which is why I called it streamlined; unlike with Chespin, there is no clutter. Everything about the Pokemon visually flows, without interruption or confusion. I just think that more effort could have been put into Fennekin to make it more interesting, and unless the evolutions are particularly intriguing, this is definitely not the starter I myself would choose.
At least there’s almost no chance Fennekin is another Fire/Fighting dual-type… right?
I am really not sure what to make of Froakie. He might be my favorite starter of this Generation. Maybe.
Hopefully I don’t need to tell you what animal Froakie is based on. This guy is sort of like the perfect fusion of the design philosophies of Fennekin and Chespin. Froakie is very, very obviously based on a frog, and it’s pretty much impossible to mistake this fact; many aspects of the design are distinctly frog-like, and the design doesn’t do a lot to deviate past that. On the other hand… what the actual hell is going on with all the white fluff? Like with Chespin, there’s a weird secondary element to Froakie’s design and color scheme in the white fluff, and it does serve to make the design a little busy. However, I would say that, in this case, the design is fine save for the little white balls on his nose, which drive me friggin’ crazy. But I guess I’m getting more used to those, too, the more I look at them.
Part of Froakie’s Japanese name comes from a word meaning foam or bubble, so clearly the white fluff is not actually some kind of fur or fleece, but is meant to bring to mind… well, foam and bubbles (though it’s totally unclear if the white stuff is some kind of coating, a sac or gland, or just flesh). There’s basically no way this Pokemon won’t know Bubble Beam, but I’m hoping they do something interesting with Froakie and have him really revolve around the concept of bubbles and froth beyond that one move. Doing so could make for a very original Water Pokemon concept.
Froakie’s colors and just general quirkiness attract me to him, along with the base animal; I like frogs by default more than foxes or hedgehogs… although for most people it’s probably going to be the exact opposite, and I think Froakie’s going to be the least-popular starter because of that. Despite my fondness for him, however, Froakie’s design does bug me. There’s the aforementioned white puffs on his nose, but I also find myself a bit irked by his head and eye shape, which just feels too… geometrical. The shapes, the curves, just seem too perfect to look right on the design to me. I’ve rarely liked the geometric Pokemon designs, but it’s especially bothering me here because the rest of Froakie’s design — his body, his puffy bubble sac things — isn’t really like that at all. It feels like an incongruity between his head and the rest of his body. So even though I like him, I’ll need to see what he turns into before I can decide if this is my Pokemon of choice this Generation or not.
Then again, perhaps the shape of the head won’t look so bad with the game’s 3D graphics. It might only bug me because of the angle in the artwork. Same might be true of Chespin… to a degree. I’ll have to see. Maybe it’s all about perspective!
All in all, these starters don’t seem like as quality of designs as those of the past. Gen V had some of my favorite starters ever even though I complain about a fair number of its other Pokemon, which makes me a little bit disappointed in this Generation’s offering so far. That said, we really don’t have a lot to go on, and these are very, very early judgments. Nothing can be said for sure until we know more about these Pokemon and see their evolutions. They are definitely not bad designs, though, don’t get me wrong! They’re all enjoyable Pokemon in their own ways.
So what about you? What are your first impressions of Chespin, Fennekin, and Froakie? Do you like the designs, or do they bug you? Which one is your favorite? And finally, what do you think their evolutions might look like? Think any of the evolutions will have dual-typing? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to next week when I take a look at Gen VI’s two new legendaries!