Well, we finally hit Generation VI of Pokemon, the French-ified Pokemon X and Y.
When Pokemon X and Y first came out, I was impressed by the transition to 3D models and the large number of monsters in the Pokedex. Over time, however, I feel that X and Y ranks pretty low as a generation for the series. It lacks the narrative and solid world building of Generation 5, the charm and timelessness of Generation 2, and the few things it brought to the table were more gimmicky than anything else. This includes my most hated mechanic in the series: Mega Evolution.
Still, with a smaller crop of new Pokemon comes a set of Pokemon with great and not-so-great designs. So let’s go through them and as always, though this time we will be doing something different; we will be listing them together on one master list!
Best Design - Gourgeist
I am a sucker for ghostly pumpkins, and it was only a matter of time before Game Freak added an official pumpkin Pokemon into the series. Gourgeist is a great design due to the elements that make it unique. You have the all-black pumpkin, the jack-o-lantern lights and smile, the fact that the upper body is shaped like a ghostly candle; everything is in place for a winning design that is both cute yet sinister at the same time.
As a battler, Gourgeist is pretty good—depending on which size you get. Game Freak gave Gourgeist a unique gimmick where it comes in four sizes, though the only size really worth using is the XL-size due to the higher Attack and HP stat. Gourgeist is also the only Grass-type Pokemon who can learn Fire-type moves, though they are reliant on Gourgeist’s weaker special attack. You even have a signature move in Trick or Treat, a status move that turns your opponent into a Ghost-type. A lot of little tricks are hidden in this jack-o-lantern if you know how to use it.
Worst Design - Barbaracle
Barbaracle always annoyed me visually. It’s basically a smoothed rock with arms and legs sticking out of it. Its head is a hand with eyes and a spike, with additional eyes on the stalks on top too. It’s a bit messy and odd, and the unflattering brown colors does it no favors either. It’s a barnacle with eyes on each hand and leg, and it’s weird and unsettling.
I don’t mind weird in Pokemon, but Barbaracle fits the category of odd, multi-faced designs that just simply don’t work for me. Shame too, because Barbaracle is a pretty solid battler, with good physical Attack and solid Defense and Special Defense stats complimenting its Rock/Water-typing. It has a great movepool that offers a mix of power and support, and arguably one of the best moves in the game, Shell Smash, at its disposal. I would probably use Barbaracle more if it wasn’t so damn weird and off-putting.
Best Design - Greninja
Probably the poster boy of Generation VI, Greninja is one of the most memorable starter designs in the series. It definitely has the cool factor; you have a frog ninja with a scarfed tongue and a sleek, skinny body. It emphasizes two things about Greninja that are true to its nature as a battler; it’s fast and hits hard without you ever noticing it there.
Greninja is also super popular with the fans; coming in first in that Japanese 720 poll (which Simisear came in last on), along with guest appearances in Smash Bros. and even a separate form and ability with the incredibly broken Ash-Greninja variant. Battle-wise it's a powerful sweeper, movepool-wise it is varied and diverse, and ability-wise it has Protean, which allows it to change it’s typing to the corresponding moves it uses. To say the least, Greninja is damn good in a fight.
Worst Design - Carbink
Carbink is… OK. One of the new Fairy-types, Carbink is a cross between the mythical fairy Carbuncle and precious gems and stones. I like the theming, but what bothers me the most about Carbink is the small, pointed stone motif that kind of just… well, sits there. Literally, it is a rock with some gems attached to it. It also feels incomplete, like it is lacking an evolution or anything to make it stand out amongst the other non-evolved Pokemon in the game.
For a long time, people thought the legendary Diancie is an evolved form of Carbink… and while they are related and thematically close to each other, they are separate Pokemon. Carbink, also like its namesake, is a solid rock that sits there thanks to insane 150 base Defense and Special Defense. The big weakness is all of its other stats, including the HP, are at 50, so Carbink is, at best, a support Pokemon that doesn’t fit most competitive battles.
Best Design - Noivern
Noivern is one of the first Pokemon revealed from X and Y, back in the Black and White anime. To say the least, it made a pretty solid impression when we first saw it, thanks to its angular, bat like design. Like its namesake, a mix of the mythical Wyvern is also part of its design, along with the sound-based motifs such as its large, loudspeaker ears. Noivern is a busy design that works; it is solid, sleek, and stands out as a cool Pokemon.
Noivern is decent at a battler, though that is thanks to its blistering speed. The first Flying/Dragon-type, (as opposed to Flying being a secondary typing for everything) had a great 123 base Speed, and complemented by a respectable 97 Special Attack allows it to hit fast and loose against opponents. Noivern really shines in double contests with spread moves such as Boomburst and Heat Wave to offer coverage in a tight spot.
Worst Design - Chesnaught
If Greninja is one of the best designed starters, its fellow starter Chesnaught is one of the worst. Basically a spiky hedgehog who transforms into a spiky chestnut, the Chespin line lacks the cool or cute factor of its starter counterparts, and is much more serious and subdued. The worst offender, however, is Chesnaught, an ugly design that is supposed to resemble a medieval knight, but comes across as a makeshift turtle with comically elongated arms and legs.
I get what they are going for, and thematically it works with the French-based Kalos region. Still, considering its dual Grass/Fighting-type leads to the most weaknesses of any starter in the series, plus its solid Defense offset by poor Special Defense, Chesnaught leaves a lot to be desired for a well-balanced battler. Ultimately it is just forgettable and unreliable as a Pokemon, the kiss of death for any starter line.
Best Design - Pyroar
Pyroar is a design that was a long-time coming for Pokemon: a lion- and lioness-design with some neat artistic flair to it. Pyroar is one of the few Pokemon to have sexual dimorphism, and its simple but subtle design motifs help it stick out as a cool little creature in the grand scheme of themes. For example, the mane on the male Pyroar contains the Fire Blast symbol (the 大, which means “large” or “great” in Japanese) is a subtle touch that I really love.
Pyroar is not the best battler out there, but it can hold its own in a fight. The Normal/Fire-typing is unique, it has good Special Attack and Speed, and its abilities offer some tricky strategies, from Unnerve knocking out berries to Rivalry playing around with Pokemon genders! The only real downside to Pyroar is the fact that its movepool is really bare-bones compared to other Fire-types, so it is hard to fit it into a team. Still, Pyroar is a great example of a simple but effective design that I wish Game Freak would explore more.
Worst Design - Espurr
I will be frank. The only reason Espurr is on this list is because of its creepy eyes. Yes, it is trying to be a cute kitten, but the big, almost expressionless eyes don’t resonate at all with me. Espurr is trying desperately to be cute, but is instead just more unnerving when it comes to its overall design, like a zombified kitten waiting to strike at a moment's notice.
It’s a shame too, as its evolved form in Meowstic is pretty decent, albeit a little generic considering they are just psychic cats. Ever notice Pokemon has a lot of creatures that are basically variants of a house cat? But I digress. Battle-wise, Epspurr is not the best choice for a pure Psychic-type in Little Cup; Abra has that distinction with better Speed and Special Attack to use. Ultimately, there is little reason to use Espurr in Little Cup, so it’s best just to move along to something different.
Best Design - Trevenant
The second of two Grass/Ghost-Types in Pokemon X and Y, I already talked about Gourgeist being a great design. Trevenant is no slouch either, coming in as a menacing-looking, petrified tree that is both a bit sinister and powerful looking at the same time. Trevenant is a Pokemon designed by James Turner, and it fits with his style of mixing multiple cultural references together with a ‘cool’ design aesthetic. In this case, the references are referring to dryads and Japanese kodama.
As a battler, Trevenant struggles a bit but has some decent utilities. Its harvest ability allows it to use berries constantly, especially in the sun, making it a solid pick for sun teams. It’s 110 Attack stat is pretty good, and moves like Horn Leech, Poltergeist, and Sucker Punch give it a leg up on the competition. It takes some skill to use Trevenant, but it is well worth a slot on your team if you are looking for a creepy tree.
Worst Design - Slurpuff
Slurpuff is another food-based Pokemon, though in this case I am not a fan of the entire line it’s from. Swirlix is one of the exclusive Fairy-types featured in X and Y, likely designed specifically to introduce the new type to players then with a fairly simple design. Slurpuff though is… just a cupcake with a face. Look, food Pokemon can work as good designs, I liked most of the Vanillite line for example. But here, it feels very forced and very artificial. Slurpuff is better off as a fighting foodon (there's a reference!) than a Pokemon.
Stat-wise, Slurpuff is a bit odd too, with balanced 80+ stats across everything except Speed. It’s pretty generic in this way, and relies heavily on more gimmicked sets to succeed in a fight. One of the more prominent ones is using its Unburden ability to give it a Speed boost, or using moves like Belly Drum to provide it a massive Attack stat. This works competitively at times, but it is not always viable, making Slurpuff a difficult Pokemon to use.
And there you have it, the 10 best and worst designed Pokemon from Generation VI! I may not like Gen VI that much, but like any Pokemon Generation, it does have its fans. The real question now is do you agree with our list here? Let us know by leaving your comments below, and I will see you next time!