The New Zygarde Form is a Reminder of How Hard it is to Design a Good Pokémon

With some 720 monsters now in the Pokedex, there were bound to be some misses. This is one of them.

Analysis by Kat Bailey, .

As of right now there are approximately 720 Pokémon - roughly five times the original count of 151. Their designs have encompassed the good, the bad, and the terrifying. But as Zygarde's new form reminds us, continually coming up with new ideas for Pokémon is really hard.

In case you missed it, Zygarde's new forms were revealed a couple days ago. They run the gamut from cell-like to dog-like to... Well, judge for yourself.

Barring the weird mix of colors, it's not actually that dissimilar from your typical Pokémon design tropes. The monsters have been trending toward the sleek, almost plastic look seen in Zygarde's new form since at least Pokémon Black and White. The long arm shields/wings bring to mind, weirdly enough, Lopunny from Diamond and Pearl. In many respects, it fits right in.

In many other respects, though, it doesn't work. I'm not going to sit here and try to break down its design for you, because franky, I'm not an artist. But to my untrained eye, it looks messy, not the least because of its rather random red, green, and blue color palette. It's an appreciable step back from the original Zygarde, which meshed the look of a snake and a slug into a distinctive looking monster. With the new form, I have no idea what I'm looking at.

But after some 720 monsters, it's not surprising to see Game Freak reaching a bit. They more or less exhausted all of the common animals and mythical creature archetypes in the first 250 or so designs. They've regularly gone back to birds, dogs, and cats over the years, but their other designs have gotten quite a bit more esoteric, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The intial shift was evident in Ruby and Sapphire, which introduced monsters like Latios and Latias - dragons who look vaguely like jet planes. And it's gone on from there.

What's impressive, I suppose, is that Game Freak has managed to keep the design quality comparatively high over the years. Among their stable designers, Game Freak has benefited from the talents of Ken Sugimori and Atsuko Nishida from the very beginner - designers of many of the most memorable monsters. It was Nishida who created Pikachu, the plump yellow rat who would become as ubiquitous Mickey Mouse. Both of them are still at it, with Nishida being responsible for Sylveon, and Sugimori developing Xerneas and Yveltal.

It's their talents, and a host of others, that have propelled Pokémon over the years. Good as the games have been over the years, their memorable (and very marketable) designs have helped to put it over the top and make it the global machine that it remains today. The new Zygarde form is just a reminder of the degree of difficulty in coming up with yet more unique designs.

It's honestly hard to say where the series will go from here. It will continue, of course. Sales remain brisk, the anime is still (!) going after more than 15 years, and Game Freak keeps cranking out new monsters. But this is also the first year since 2008 that we won't be getting a new game to play. Game Freak, it seems, is considering its options with this series. Pokémon Go is evidence enough of that. And with the explosion of Yokai Watch in Japan, they are wise to do so, as they now have some real competition.

For almost 20 years now, though, they've managed admirably to keep cranking out memorable monsters. And though the new Zygarde form is definitely a clunker, there will undoubtedly be many more to come.

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Comments 13

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  • Avatar for LGscoundrel #1 LGscoundrel 3 years ago
    Every generation has its bad designs but personally I felt things veered into overdesign starting with Diamond/Pearl. The first three generations had more of a charming simplicity to their monsters in my opinion.

    I would be completely onboard with Game Freak making new games without introducing any new monsters. Especially since the freshness of the Kalos region sort of stole the show from the new monsters in X/Y.Edited 2 times. Last edited September 2015 by LGscoundrel
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #2 benjaminlu86 3 years ago
    It's Imperfect Cell...
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  • Avatar for Zankoku #3 Zankoku 3 years ago
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  • Avatar for Namevah #4 Namevah 3 years ago
    I could see that as a bad Mega Man X boss, too. Weird design.
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  • Avatar for ol\'dirty\'bus\'stop #5 ol\'dirty\'bus\'stop 3 years ago
    I like it.
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #6 nadiaoxford 3 years ago
    I actually really like this one's dog form, so there's that.
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  • Avatar for jbobo89 #7 jbobo89 3 years ago
    I've always wondered what the process for creating new Pokemon was and where the artists inspiration comes from. While nothing tops the original Pokemon designs it's fun to see what they come out with next.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #8 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago
    Last gen gave us Aurorus, so they're still going to have ringers in Gen 7. Believe.
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #9 Tetragrammaton 3 years ago
    Aw man, I saw another Zygarde that looked pretty cool. This is not pretty cool, even the main body looks silly. Should have stuck to the Regi-blank look. Or gone full godzilla.
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  • Avatar for D0rf #10 D0rf 3 years ago
    zygardes forms are based on loki's children.
    10% is fenrir, 50% is nidhoggr and the last one is hel.

    the perfect form does look dumb though, but atleast it's thematically consistent.
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #11 CK20XX 3 years ago
    Notice how the colors mimic those of Xerneas and Yveltal. Zygarde is supposed to be more powerful than both of them in this form.

    I'm more disappointed because this and its other forms are a lot of effort poured into a pokemon that's going to be so unfairly powerful that it'll be banned in every competitive circle. I'd like to see more effort put into rebalancing the game so battles don't revolve around Stealth Rock and Mega evolutions aren't either too powerful or not worth the trouble. I want to see function over flash.
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  • Avatar for shaunbrendan13 #12 shaunbrendan13 3 years ago
    I know, how dare they get away from the inspiring first gen designs! Like Seel, or Krabby, or Voltorb, or Jynx! I mean geez they have absolutely no ideas left!

    News flash: the designs are getting better. For every Blastoise or Mewtwo in gen 1 you have four oddishes. Looking at gen 6, the only one I call bs on is klefki.

    Let's take a look at this new zygarde. You've got the humanshape, which is debatably the most unnatural part of it, but then you remember that this is a pokemon that's building its own body, why couldn't it look like a human? Nobody batted an eye at hitmonchan. You've got the face in the middle, which is reminiscent of its core, cell, and 50 % forms. Then the coloring, which most people have a problem with, but I like it. It follows the red/green/blue theme that he has used since forever, while also calling back the powers of xerneas and yveltal, life and death respectively. Both are a part of nature and the balance of the ecosystem, which is Zygarde's entire purpose. Bringing us to the wings, which remind me of measuring scales. Life and death, each in equal measure, to create a balanced ecosystem.
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  • Avatar for margodomonic88 #13 margodomonic88 3 years ago
    Fuck you, inept hoe.
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