Have you ever wondered how, year after year, the folks at Game Freak manage to conjure up weird and wonderful new Pokémon?
With a current Pokédex of well over 800 entries and at least 100 more to come with this year’s Sword and Shield, surely there’s been moments when the series’ character designers have hit a creative roadblock, right? The answer, as if there was any ever doubt, is a big fat yes. Talented they may be, but Tako Unno and Ken Sugimori have often found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to imagining new ‘Mons into existence.
As part of an interview with Nintendo Dream magazine (thanks, Dr. Lava), the pair discussed in great detail the creative process behind each Generation’s beloved starter Pokémon.
“The way we create the three starter Pokémon is usually very similar.” says Sugimori, adding that, “What’s most important is that the designs don’t resemble any pre-existing Pokémon, and that the motifs fit the elemental types – which is what always takes the longest amount of time.” For each of the three Fire, Water and Grass-types, Unno explains how, as the first Pokémon that players will be introduced to in any new game, motifs are always taken from real-world animals that are “familiar to everybody,” but that some are harder to come up with than others.
“We always struggle a lot with the Water-type,” reveals Sugimori, leaving Unno to elaborate. “We come up with all kinds of ideas, but if the motif isn’t well suited to a Water-type, it’s easy for the creature to end up looking strange. It can also happen with the Grass starter – for example, it’s weird if we end up with a Pokémon that’s just a dog with leaves growing out of it.”
The comments provide a fascinating insight into Pokémon’s tried and true design process, for sure, and accounts for why, oftentimes, many can feel derivative of each other. For starters, at the very least, the overlap and crossover between generations is somewhat intentional and, arguably, necessary to ensure fans new and old can make a connection between Game Freak’s creations and their real-world inspirations.
This year, Scorbunny, Sobble and Grookey take up the mantle of starter Pokémon for Sword and Shield and you’ve got little more than a month to decide which will be part of your team before release day on November 15th.