We finally come to Generation VIII. Personally, I like Gen VIII a lot. I enjoy the wild area, the quality-of-life improvements, max raid battles, and most importantly, the Pokemon and their designs.
Like Gen VII before it, a lot of care was put into the Pokemon this time around, with the entire roster of new Pokemon connected to the Galar Region—and ostensibly, England—in some form. This is the first Pokemon game where a Westerner, James Turner, was art director, and his style shows throughout. There are a lot of good designs in Sword and Shield, along with a few weak ones. So let’s go through some of the best and worst!
Best Design - Falinks
I’m starting with a personal favorite of mine because as a trained historian, a reference to the Roman occupation of the British Isles back in the 2nd century C.E. is always a win for me. What I love about Falinks is how thematic it is; it’s a group of small Pokemon who work together to give themselves power, effectively a marching formation of Roman soldiers, complete with design motifs based on Roman centurion armor. It’s simply a brilliant design that makes the concept of multiple monsters as one Pokemon work.
Falinks is also unique competitively. Though pure Fighting, it has a decent amount of coverage moves with the likes of Mega Horn, Iron Head, Close Combat, and Rock Slide at its disposal. Its stats are ultimately middling, with Base 100 Attack and Defense being the standouts, but its best move is the signature move No Retreat, which raises all of its stats by one, with the catch that it can’t flee from battle. Like everything else in its design, No Retreat is a reference to the tactics and mindset of the Roman Legion, and while it makes Falinks difficult to use, it can be quite potent in the right hands.
Worst Design - Carkoal
In doing all of these articles, I have never written about a Pokemon before who comes from a middle-staged evolution. I am frankly surprised it took this long to do so, but Carkoal is special, as the rest of its line, pre-evolution Rolycoly and the final evolution of Coalossal, are damn good designs that make Carkoal stand out even more. Simply put, Carkoal is a case of over-design mixed with a weird idea, a minecart Pokemon made out of rocks.
Look, a minecart Pokemon filled with coal is a cool idea, but Carkoal just doesn’t work. It sort of fits with the mobile motif they were going for with Rolycoly, but Carkoal takes it to such an extreme that the four-limbed, minecart shape of its rock body is just too much to handle. It looks like a Pokemon who swallowed a minecart, with a big goofy face attached to its front like an ornament. Carkoal is also a case where I can’t really talk about its battle prowess much; it has good defenses and abilities, so there may be a reason to use eviolite on it, but honestly that's best saved for other tanks.
Best Design - Frosmoth
If there were an award for the most graceful Pokemon design I have ever seen, Frosmoth is arguably at the top of that list. A pure white, furry moth with gorgeous blue eyes and a thick, curvy body, adorned with two giant, almost shining wings is a winner. Frosmoth for me is one of the best-designed Bug-types in the entire series, and its pre-evolution Snom is almost as popular as the likes of Pikachu at this point in terms of its cuteness.
Frosmoth looks elegant, but as a battler it can hit like a truck with a base 125 Special Attack. Its dual Ice/Bug-Typing is hard to use because it lacks solid Defensive utility, and its paltry base 65 Speed lets Frosmoth down in a fight. To compensate, its hidden ability, Ice Scales, halves the damage you get from Special Attacks. Along with powerful moves like Dazzling Gleam, Ice Beam, Quiver Dance, Aurora Veil, Bug Buzz, and Tailwind, Frosmoth can be versatile if it can overcome its Speed issues in a battle.
Worst Design - Duraludon
To this day I still have no idea what Duraludon is supposed to really be. I know it’s a short, stubby Steel/Dragon-Type looking monster, I know it’s based on the skyscraper The Shard in the United Kingdom, especially its Gigantamax form, but some of its design elements just baffle me. Why does Duraludon have a red lighter on its head? Why are its arms so stubby and sharp? Why does its face move in and out like your flicking something down? Duraludon is a hodge-podge design that defies the laws of even Pokemon nature to me; at least inorganic monsters like Klefki and Klinklang have a logic to them.
Duraludon is weird looking, but it does have good stats for competitive play. You have Base 115 Defense, 120 Special Attack, and Base 85 Speed, which is not good but usable. A powerful special attacker, Duraludon is best used as a sweeper ironically, boosting its Speed as high as possible and just punching some holes into opponents with its great defensive typing and coverage. At least when it comes to battling, Duraludon makes sense.
Best Design - Hatterene
A witch-like Pokemon in Galar was almost always a given, and thankfully the design for the Hatenna line is amazing. Clearly based on witches and fairies, the final evolution of Hatterene is both graceful and alluring. Throwing in tons of motifs regarding its hair and design, from the fairy tale Rapunzel to the witches of Spain, England, and even the Harionago in Japan. Along with a warm, pastel-color scheme, Hatterene is just gorgeous but offers a bit of a sinister side hidden underneath.
Hatterene is the quintessential user of Trick Room in Sword and Shield. Her base 29 Speed makes it pretty clear she is not going first without it, but her base 136 Special Attack allows her to pack a nice punch. Hatterene has some bulk to it, and its dual Psychic/Fairy-Typing is really good offensively; though she lacks diversity in her attacking choices. The real reason to use Hatterene is a mixed support attacker in Trick Room, offering some clever options to power through in a competitive matchup.
Worst Design - Eiscue
Eiscue is… well let’s get this out of the way. It is the worst-designed Pokemon in Sword and Shield if you ask me. It’s a gimmick Pokemon with a cool concept that never really rises to the level of what it should. The giant ice-cube head thing is OKbut off-putting, yet it is the ‘Noice Face’ form, where we see Eiscue’s short, stubby blue head, that sticks out like a sore thumb.
We have better penguin Pokemon frankly.
The gimmick Eiscue has is interesting. It’s all based on its Ice Face ability, which acts like a free Substitute for physical-moves only. Ice Face can also be refreshed in Hailstorms if Eiscue loses its ice-cube head. Admittedly, there is some play that the player can prepare for, but Eiscue has very low attacking stats, and while it gains a ton of Speed when in ‘Noice Face’ form, being a pure Ice-Type without much attacking power or utility is a death sentence. Eiscue is just too gimmicky to use.
Best Design - Impidimp
Impidimp is such a delightful little devil! When he was first revealed, Game Freak seemed to ignore the fact that it existed, yet they kept teasing him throughout the pre-released of Sword and Shield, never actually acknowledging him to the world. Impidimp is the first stage of the counterpart line to Hatterene, this time based on trolls and goblins in European folklore. I love the entire line for what it is, but Impidimp is pretty much perfect as a design; it is cute, mischievous, and you can tell it has a mean streak in it.
For battling, Impidimp is defined by the fact that it has the Prankster ability, allowing it to use status moves with priority. Impidimp has a decent amount of moves to abuse it with, including Thunder Wave, Reflect, Light Screen, Trick, and Nasty Plot to increase its base 55 Special Attack. It has some attacking options and good coverage due to being a Dark/Fairy-Type, but Impidimp is more of a trickster than a power hitter, and should be used as such for Little Cup.
Worst Design - Mr. Rime
I love regional forms. They are one of the best ideas to come out of Generation VII. And while I didn’t put any of them on my best or worst list (and it was close for a few) the idea is one that I hope Game Freak continues, like they did here with Sword and Shield. The new wrinkle to this is brand new evolutions too, which I am all for if it brings us something unique. Mr. Rime… is not that though. I get that Mr. Rime is based on Charlie Chaplin and a tap-dancing entertainer, but the entire design is too busy for me, especially the coat jacket with a giant pink button nose and white moustache. Why is that even there?
The other benefit for these new evolutions is how they make previous Pokemon more powerful, and in this front Mr. Rime has some tricks. Its stat distribution is pretty even, with 110 Special Attack and 100 Special Defense being the standouts. Mr. Rime has some offensive options, and its dual Psychic/Ice-typing is great for offense, but it is defensively frail and hard to use. It really shines by having a vast support movepool, with great options like Encore, Role Play, After You, Slack Off, Ally Switch, and Baton Pass to play around with, so there are some options if you are willing to experiment with Mr. Rime.
Best Design - Toxtricity
A punk-rock lizard which is an Electric/Poison-type? How can this design be bad in any way!? Punk being a major musical influence from Great Britain almost mandated a Pokemon to represent that, and thankfully the design of Toxtricity works on multiple levels. First, it is a simple design with hidden complexities, such as how Toxtricity strums their chest protrusions like a guitarist. You have little visual flairs such as the electric mohawks and spiked wrists that highlight Pokemon’s design influence. Finally, the Amped and Low-Key form give us two unique designs that visually and thematically fit with the Punk aesthetic.
As a fighter, Toxtricity is a solid powerhouse with Base 98/114 Attack and Special Attack. Its Electric/Poison-typing is defensively really solid, and offensively packs a punch. Toxtricity lacks coverage, but makes up for it with its Punk Rock ability, where sound-based moves, such as the Normal-type Boomburst, hits opponents harder while simultaneously halving damage given to Toxtricity. It also has slightly different movesets depending on the form you pick up, though it mostly plays the same as a powerful attacker.
Worst Design - Sandaconda
Sandaconda is on this list for one reason: The design itself can be a reference to animal abuse.
OK, to explain this, I need to point out that I doubt Game Freak actually had that in mind when designing Sandaconda. It is simply a coiled up snake with a shotgun-like nose; a bit generic in terms of how it looks, but simplicity is not always a bad thing. The animal abuse, however, comes from the fact that Sandaconda can represent the in-breeding of snakes that suffer from severe brain damage, leading snakes to be coiled up into a knot and slowly suffocate. Pokemon Youtuber Lockstin did a video all about this, and I highly recommend you watch it for more information.
Honestly, Sandaconda would not be on this list if it weren’t for this perspective. Again, I don’t blame Game Freak for this either, but instead we can blame real-life scammers and mills for ruining what would otherwise be a pretty generic Pokemon design. In truth, I had trouble picking a final bad design from Sword and Shield, but the potential for animal abuse, even if it is accidental, tipped it to be on this list.
Sorry to end on a down note, but we have now completed our lists for the best and worst designed Pokemon in each Generation! Well, we completed the lists of all the normal Pokemon at this point. There is one more group I want to go through, as there are some legendarily good and bad designs we can still talk about.
Until next time though, let us know what you think about this list. Do you agree with our choices? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.