Evolution Of Pokemon Designs — Generation 3
The following article is a reproduction. The original article, and many more, can be found at RemptonGames.com
Hey everybody, welcome back to Rempton Games. Today, it’s time for Part 3 of my ongoing “Evolution of Pokemon Designs” series, where I will be taking a look at the designs of Pokemon from Generation 3, and seeing how they have changed from the previous generations. To do so, I’m gonna be looking at the background of these games, examine some of the common design trends among these Pokemon, look at how technological limitations and mechanical changes have influenced these designs, and finally show a direct comparison with the previous generation. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire were the third pair of main series Pokemon games, but when Red and Green were originally in development it was never planned to have three generations of games (much less 8). During early Pokemon development they only planned on releasing the initial games and maybe a sequel — that’s it. However, Generations 1 and 2 were both huge hits, and it was decided to continue with the series. However, by the time Ruby and Sapphire came out the Pokemon trend was beginning to die down, and many believed the “fad” to be over. For this reason, the developers were determined to make a successful game — if it failed, it could spell the end of the Pokemon franchise.
It’s fair to say that they succeeded — while these games didn’t quite reach the heights of popularity that the previous generations achieved, they were still incredibly successful and became the best selling games on the Gameboy Advanced.
These games weren’t without their criticisms, however. One of the biggest disappointments connected with Generation 3 is the inability to trade and transfer Pokemon from previous generations, because the Gameboy Advanced was unable to communicate with the Gameboy and Gameboy Color. Because of this, these games feel much more disconnected from previous games in the series. While Gold and Silver are basically direct sequels to Red and Green, Ruby and Sapphire are more like a soft reboot of the series, with very little connection to previous games. They take place in the brand new Hoenn region, where you are unable to return to Kanto or Johto from the previous games, and there is little to no reference to the story, characters, or locations from previous games.
This “soft reboot” philosophy can also be seen when looking at the Pokemon themselves, which are almost entirely unrelated to Pokemon from previous generations. While around 20% of the Pokemon in Generation 2 are evolutionary relatives of Pokemon in Generation 1, Generation 3 only has 2 new Pre-evolutions — Wynaut and Azuril, and no new evolutions. Because this game relies less on previous generations, the number of new Pokemon is larger as well — this game introduces 135 brand new Pokemon, bringing the total to 386.
That being said, many of the Pokemon in Generation 3 could be considered parallels to specific Gen 1 Pokemon. I’m not referring to Pokemon that share a similar niche that can be found in every Pokemon game, but those that have very specific similarities to previous Pokemon. Examples include Lairon and Aggron, which are very reminiscent of Rhyhorn and Rhydon, and Feebas and Milotic have strong parallels to Magikarp and Gyarados. You could also say that the Wurmple line is sort of a combination of the Caterpie and Weedle lines.
The Hoenn region, where these new games are set, is much different from the Kanto and Johto regions. While those regions were connected together, and represent a small part of a much larger continent, the Hoenn region is a self-contained island surrounded by water and other, smaller islands. It is much more tropical than previous regions, and the ocean makes up a large portion of the explorable part of the world.
In general, Generation 3 is a very mixed bag of designs. It has some very simple, almost minimalistic designs with Pokemon like Surskit, Skitty, Gardevoir, Luvdisc and Shuppet. Many of these minimalistic designs are also based off of simple spheres or oval shapes, such as Spheal, Wailmer, Swalot and Cascoon. However, this generation also has some very complex designs — more complex than the design would have been in previous generations. Examples of this include Glalie, Huntail, Armaldo, and Solrock. However, despite the wide range of designs available in this generation there are still a number of major themes that guide the designs.
One of the main themes of the Hoenn region is balance — specifically the balance between man and nature. The people of the Hoenn region are much more in-tune with nature, and generally try to live in harmony with it. The people of Forttree City, for example, make their homes in trees, while Pacifidlog is built upon a colony of Corsola. This theme goes so deeply that even the region itself sort of resembles the shape of a Yin-Yang symbol, which represents balance. The evil teams of these games — Team Aqua and Team Magma — are evil because they are trying to disrupt the balance of nature by either drying up the oceans to create more land or flooding the land to create more ocean.
This connects strongly with another sub-theme of these games, which is weather and climate. This is the first Pokemon game to show different weather effects in the overworld, including sandstorms, rain and heavy sunlight, and also added a new form of weather — hail. One of the places you fight the evil team is at a weather institute, and after defeating them you are given Castform — a Pokemon that changes types based on the weather. The three cover legendaries of this generation — Kyogre, Groudon, and Rayquaza — all have weather-based abilities in battle. In addition, Hoenn has a much larger range of different climates than the Kanto or Johto regions — it contains mountains, deserts, beaches, ocean, temperate forests and Rainforests.
Speaking of Legendary Pokemon, I believe that the Legendary Pokemon in these games also support these themes in another way. While it may be a bit of a stretch, all of the legendary Pokemon of this generation have designs that mix Organic and Technological designs. Kyogre, Groudon and Rayquaza all have technological, almost circuit-like designs on their bodies, and Rayquaza especially has fins that look like they belong on some sort of rocket or space-craft. Latios and Latias are dragons, but their designs also look similar to modern aircraft. Finally, the Regis have a decidedly artificial look to them, which makes sense seeing as they are not natural Pokemon — they were created by Regigigas.
These Legendary Pokemon also represent a further refinement of what Legendary Pokemon are — in this case, Kyogre, Groudon and Rayquaza are all embodiments of nature — the oceans, earth and sky — and their power is so immense that it can reshape the entire surface of the planet. These are the first legendary Pokemon that are basically embodiments of abstract concepts — a trend that will continue in future generations — and the pure power of these Pokemon in the lore of the games far exceeds anything that had come before.
Now that we have looked at some of the major themes of these games, let’s take a look at some of the general design trends among these Pokemon. The first thing to note is that Generation 3 is a bit of a mixed bag — while Generation 2 had a much more refined idea of what a Pokemon could be, and consisted almost entirely of elemental animals and plants, Gen 3 had a much larger range of different types of Pokemon. Most are still animal based, but many are humanoid (such as Blaziken, Gardevoir, Hariyama, and Medicham), based on inanimate objects like Claydol, Banette, and Chimecho, or have less specific, “Monstrous” designs such as Exploud, Duskull, Swalot and Metagross.
One specific thing I should note about the object inspired Pokemon of this generation. Unlike Gen 1 designs such as Voltorb and Magnemite, which basically just look like the objects they are made of, the object designs in Gen 3 are much more subtle. They definitely take inspiration from particular objects like wind-chimes or a possessed doll, but do not directly copy the appearance of those objects. This is relatively unique to this generation, as object-based Pokemon in other generations tend to resemble their inspirations more closely.
One design theme carried over from Generation 2 is the common usage of rings and circles as a design motif, and this trait is even more widespread in Ruby and Sapphire. Adding ring designs seems to be a go-to way of adding detail to blank spaces in the design, as can be seen on Pokemon such as Dustox, Makuhita, Camerupt, Claydol and Huntail. Circular spots seem to fill a similar purpose, and can be seen on Wailord, Spheal, Cradily, Medicham, Lairon and Shroomish.
Aside from these general rings and circles, there are some more specific uses of these motifs that are common among gen 3 Pokemon. Many Pokemon have complete or partial rings around their eyes. Examples include Sceptile, Seedot, Slakoth, Aron, Numel, Cacnea, Baltoy, and Kyogre. This could also be expanded to include the Mask-like designs around the eyes of Zigzagoon, Nuzleaf and Ludicolo.
Another specific usage of rings in these designs is very thin — usually single pixel — bands that go around part of the Pokemon’s body. This can be seen on Blaziken’s arms, Seedot’s hat, Nuzleaf’s legs, Shedinja’s shell, Walrein’s neck, and Dustclops’s….everything.
Rings and Circles aren’t the only designs used as motifs in this generation. Zigzag patterns are also common, and can be seen on Pokemon such as Ludicolo, Carvanha, Trapinch, Zangoose, Crawdaunt, Whiscash, Kecleon, and of course Zigzagoon.
In Generation 1 Many Pokemon had rough, uneven, organic shapes, and jagged, natural looking fur. Generation 2, for the most part, switched this up for smoother, more deliberate looking designs. Generation 3 somewhat combines these approaches — it has a good mix of very smooth, minimalistic designs as well as some more jagged designs. However, the jagged designs in Generation 3 differ from those in generation 1. In Gen 1, rough fur was added to furry Pokemon as a form of realism, and provided a number of different textures. In Gen 3, the jagged edges of the fur seem much more exaggerated and deliberate. For example, compare the rough, natural looking fur of Arcanine with the much more exaggerated look of Absol. Also, Gen 3 rarely uses the asymmetrical, organic shapes found in Gen 1. Compare the rough, knobbly claws of Kingler with the smoother, more symmetrical shapes of Crawdaunt. The exception is on more rocky-looking Pokemon like Beldum, Regirock, and Solrock.
Aside from these general design trends, new technology also influenced the designs of this generation. The jump from the Gameboy Advanced marked a significant technological improvement that massively improved the visual capabilities of these games, and basically eliminated limitations regarding color. Sprites can now have a much larger amount of colors on a single sprite, and there are many more colors available. This also allows for overall more colorful Pokemon. Beautifly, for instance, has 5 major colors, which would have been impossible in previous generations. However, there really aren’t that many examples of this, as Pokemon rarely have more than 4 major colors.
That being said, the additional colors still make the sprites look more appealing, as they can be used for shading to add depth. These improved visuals are also, I believe, responsible for a major design trend of this generation , which is the trend of using bold, contrasting colors in a Pokemon’s design. Common contrasting colors found in this generation include red and green on Grovyle, Dustox, Breloom, Gardevoir, Flygon, Kecleon, red and blue on Pokemon such as Tailow, Nosepass, Volbeat, Crawdaunt, Milotic, Kyogre, Chimecho, Salamence and blue and orange with Swampert, Peliper, Masquerain, Hariyama, Huntail, Deoxys — and these are by no means exhaustive lists. Other contrasting color schemes, such as purple and yellow, can also be found.
The sprites are also slightly higher resolution — Pokemon Sprites in the first 2 generations were 56 * 56 pixels, Sprites in this game are 64 * 64 pixels. This results in around 1.3 times as many pixels in each sprite. This is not a massive increase, but can allow for the addition of small details such as the red spot on Relicanth’s back, The braille patterns on the Regi’s faces, and Nuzleafs….nipples.
This new technology also supports a number of new mechanics, and these mechanics in turn influenced the designs of several Pokemon. While Generation 3 introduced a number of new mechanics, such as Contests, Secret Bases, and Natures, the new mechanic that influenced designs the most is the addition of unique Abilities to each Pokemon.
These abilities do a wide range of things, such as boosting stats in certain weather or making the Pokemon immune to particular status effects. While most common abilities are relatively minor, some abilities can completely shape the way a Pokemon is used. When it comes to Pokemon design, it is often a chicken and egg sort of situation — was the ability designed for the Pokemon, or was the Pokemon created to fit the ability? While we can’t know for sure, there are a number of Pokemon where I believe the ability strongly influenced the design.
The clearest example is Castform, whose ability allows it to change into different forms in battle based on the weather, which also makes it the first Pokemon that can switch forms mid-battle. Another example is Kecleon — a chameleon Pokemon whose ability lets it change types when it receives damage. Shedinja has the unique ability wonder-guard, which makes it basically untouchable except for by super effective attacks. While the relationship between the design and the ability is less clear for Shedinja than for a Pokemon like Kecleon, the ability and design of this Pokemon is so unique that they must be connected somehow. Finally, Slaking is a massive sloth, and it’s ability only allows it to move every other turn. This ability likely not only influenced Slaking’s visual design, but also allowed it to have significantly higher stats than would normally be allowed on a non-legendary Pokemon since it’s such a significant downside.
Finally, like last time I would like to take a moment to directly compare Pokemon from Gen 3 with Pokemon from previous generations that share a similar role.
Gen 2 — Chickorita, Totodile, Cyndaquil, Gen 3 — Torchic, Mudkip, Treecko
Gen 2 — Hoot-hoot and Noctowl, Gen 3 — Tailow and Swellow
Gen 2 — Sentret and Furret, Gen 3 — Zigzagoon and Linoone
Gen 2 — Pichu, Gen 3 — Plusle and Minun
Gen 1 — Kingler and Krabby, Gen 3 Corphish and Crawdaunt
Gen 1 — Omanyte and Omastar, Gen 3 Lileep and Cradily
Gen 1 — Kabuto and Kabutops, Gen 3 — Anorith and Armaldo
Gen 1 — Jynx, Gen 3 Gardevoir
Gen 2 — Tyranitar, Pupitar, Larvitar, Gen 3 — Bagon, Shelgon, Salamence
Gen 2 — Ho-oh and Lugia, Gen 3 Kyogre, Groudon and Rayquaza
Gen 2 — Suicune, Entei and Raikou, Gen 3 Regirock, Regice, Registeel
Until Next Time!
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