The Kalos Region, introduced in Pokemon X an Y, is one of the “short” generations, introducing fewer pokemon than, say, Hoenn or Unova. So why didn’t I put this with its fellow short regions, like Sinnoh, Johto, and Alola? Because I love the pokemon introduced in this gen so much that I’m going to talk about nearly every one of them. This generation also introduced my all time favorite pokemon forever and ever, so, slim though it may be, I’m gonna have a lot to gush about here.
Let’s dive in!
The Kalos Six
My Froggy, My Thief, My Starter: The Greninja Line
This was the first generation without a single reptile among the starters, but frogs are close and I was happy to not have to struggle with grass type, so Froakie was my Kalos starter of choice. And it’s a wonderful line, too – I included each stage because they’re all excellent frogs, yet very different kinds of frogs at the same time. Froakie reminds me of the tiny little tree frogs in my state that my dad called “peepers” (cause they make peeping noises), while Frogadier has a sleek head and body that remind me of leopard frogs, and Greninja combines the wilder aspects of tropical tree frogs with a bit of poison dart frog for good measure. I love their little scarves (Greninja using its tongue for a scarf is a delightfully weird and gross detail), and overall it’s an excellent starter line.
It’s weird to me that the starters who debuted in the same generation that brought us Mega Evolution don’t get Mega forms. None of the Gen 6 pokemon do, actually. Isn’t that weird? Greninja’s popular enough now where it’s doubly weird. Maybe a later game will give it the mega form it deserves.
My Cub, My Prince, My Pyromaniac: The Pyroar Line
While I allowed myself to play with a cross-generational team the first time I went through X and Y (in part because you can’t use the new Mega Evolution mechanic with any of the Gen 6 pokemon, and also for personal reasons I’ll elaborate on later), I enjoyed playing the game so much that I quickly went back and did another playthrough using just new pokemon as per my standard rules. While there were enough reptilian monsters this gen for me to not need to dig into some mammals, I couldn’t resist getting the new pokemon lions. I just think the design team did a really good job of capturing the essential elements of what makes lions cool – the piercing cat stares with those block, angular heads, the elaborate hair, a build that’s both muscular and powerful while still being lithe and speedy – and then put a bunch of weird pokemon twists on it. It’s not as weird as the Shinx line got, and arguably a little less creative for it, but sometimes you just want to have fun with a big pet lion, y’know?
Plus it fits the kind of heraldic/Arthurian theme of my Kalos team – very Yvain the Knight of the Lion, you know? (That’s a reference for all you fans of obscure Arthurian ballads out there).
My Clarent, My Caliburn, My Excalibur: The Aegislash Line
Again, another slightly strange choice for me to make, but once I realized my pokemon choices were gonna get a little Arthurian, it just made sense to have a magic sapient sword on my team. Cursed and/or living swords are such a fun and underrated fantasy trope – you don’t see them often outside of cheap paperback novels, which is shame, because a sword that talks is such a weird idea that can make for so many strange story choices. Also, any monster design that’s a cyclops is immediately appealing, that’s just a rule. Also also, its “arms” are tassels, and that’s adorable.
My Lizard, My Pal, My Surrogate: The Helilolisk Line
So, I’m going to get unnecessarily personal for a bit here, feel free to skip down to “With all that said, let’s just focus on Heliolisk’s design for a second,” it if you wish. Still here? Ok. In middle school, I got my first pet lizard, a bearded dragon who I named Spidey (because when he was young he’d sleep in weird poses that vaguely reminded me of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man covers). I loved that lizard, and in time my family grew to love him too. For twelve years he was the light of my life – and then, on the October of 2013, he passed away. I was twenty four at the time – he had been with me for literally half of my life, and now he was gone. To put it mildly, I was a fucking wreck when he passed away. I didn’t know what to do with myself – his cage remained in my room for a few weeks, a big gaping reminder of the empty spot in my heart.
Around that same time, Pokemon X and Y came out, and despite not making much money at the time, I picked it up out of a need for, just… something, y’know? And it turned out it was something I needed. X and Y introduced a bunch of new mechanics to make the “virtual pet” aspect of the game series far more involved, allowing you to feed and pet your pokemon to bond with them better. After having lost the main object of my affection for, again, half of my life at that point, this was… I dunno, therapeutic. It gave me back something I had lost. And the cherry on the top? One of the new pokemon is a lizard from the Agamid family – a frilled dragon lizard, sure, instead of a bearded dragon like Spidey, but it was close, dammit. More than close enough.
With all that said, let’s just focus on Heliolisk’s design for a second. Like Pyroar, it takes all the elements that make Frilled Dragons great and gives them a pokemon-y twist. You’ve got that nice triangular noggin, the jaunty little side to side run they do (lizard limbs are splayed out to the sides rather than positioned directly under the belly, which makes their running gait really goofy to look at in an adorable way), and those delicate little fingers! I like that its neck and head look like it’s wearing a coif or cowel when its frill is curled up – again, we’ve got a nice “medieval knights” vibe to a lot of the pokemon this time around. Just a lovely lizard.
My Prizefighter of Antiquity, My Most Formidable Fighting Animal, My Royal Maneater of the Jungle, My Absolute Warlord of the Earth, My Tyrant Lizard King, and MY ALL TIME FAVORITE FUCKING POKEMON: THE TYRANTRUM LINE!
But you guessed that, didn’t you?
People have argued that pokemon doesn’t really need explicit dinosaur homages because “a lot of pokemon were dinosaurs already,” referring to creatures like Rhydon, Tyrannitar, and Aggron as the pre-established Dinosaurs in Pokemon canon. But as a connoisseur of monsters inspired by dinosaurs, I have to say this just doesn’t track. It’s like saying fans of arthropods should be satisfied because almost every generation has a new line of butterfly/moth inspired pokemon – there’s a big difference between a butterfly and a mantis, y’know?
And there’s a difference between a Godzilla/Gomora/Gorgo/Red King/Baragon/Varan/literally countless others style “Man in a rubber suit” dinosaur monster and, say, a Charles Knight/Ray Harryhausen style retro rex, and a difference between a Knight style retro rex and a Stan Winston/Jurassic Park style T.rex, and a difference between a Jurassic Park style T.rex and the bright pink fluffy T.rexes that don’t have a lot of fossil evidence to support their existence but zealous dinosaur fans insist are the only “correct” ones.
Here, let me illustrate:
You see how these are different, right? You see how these are very different creatures? How one has a HUGE head and tiny arms and those digitigrade legs, and the other is more upright and humanoid in proportions, with long arms and plantigrade feet?
We have a bunch of Godzilla-style dinosaur-inspired pokemon, yes, definitely true – because Pokemon is inspired by Ultraman, and Ultraman is full of Godzilla-style man-in-suit dinosaur-inspired monsters. But the world of dinosaur-inspired monsters has so many different shapes and body layouts than that – there’s room in Pokemon for some based on those other shapes.
And the classic T.rex body plan is just… I mean, I’m biased here, I am admittedly and openly being more subjective than I have EVER been in my life at this particular moment, which is saying something… but it’s one of the best body plans nature has ever come up with, aesthetically speaking. That big head, the curve of the upper jaw, those adorable tiny arms, the big powerful legs and tail… it’s marvelous, a work of art, the apex of nature’s creation.
And it took us seventeen years to get one in Pokemon. But you know what? It’s worth the wait.
Tyrunt is absolutely adorable. I haven’t fallen this hard for a first stage pokemon since Totodile. It’s cute as hell while still having hints of the raw power that will come later – namely in that bulky body and those big, snappy jaws. I also like that his upper jaw has a slightly beaky look to it – it reminds me of a lot of classic dragon designs, which suits his Rock/Dragon typing. Tyrunt is especially adorable in Pokemon Amie, the aforementioned game mechanic where you feed pokemon macaroons and pet them to show that you love them. He bobs his little head and waggles his tiny arms and sometimes he’s so happy he jumps in place! I love him, the adorable little scamp. I love him to bits.
Just like Spidey.
Tyrantrum, the final stage, has the tall order of being THE T.rex Pokemon. Tyrannosaurus Rex has perhaps the most cultural significance of any dinosaur, with an amount of symbolic meaning on par with classic heraldic beasts like lions and eagles. Those titles I gave the Tyrantrum line at the start of this ramble? All real titles that were given to Tyrannosaurus rex when it was first discovered – upon discovery, we built up an expectation of T.rex to be one of the most impressive creatures ever to walk the earth, and the decades of pop culture since has only reinforced that image. There is an expectation a T.rex pokemon has to meet that, say, a tapir pokemon wouldn’t have to worry about. It has to be grand.
And I think they nailed it.
Tyrantrum’s design not only takes all the real life elements that make T.rex iconic – that big noggin, those tiny little arms, the powerful legs and tail – but the pop culture traits of fictional T.rexes as well. He has a crown, a fancy high collar, and a beard to evoke the image of a stately European King. His killing jaws have huge teeth, with those of the upper jaw (which paleoartists often exaggerate when drawing real T.rexes) being particularly prominent. His armored scales have a distinct texture to draw your attention to them – this is a FIGHTING ANIMAL, AN ABSOLUTE WARLORD OF THE EARTH, A TYRANT KING OF LIZARDS! He is ARMORED for BATTLE, and that armor is ORNATE because he is KING!
I’ve wanted a pet T.rex for as long as I can remember, and in a small way, Pokemon granted that wish. They took what may be my favorite creature of all time and made it into a lovable battle monster. More than any other pokemon, Tyrantrum speaks directly to the core of me. My favorite, now and forever.
My Bat, My Wyvern, My Icing on the Cake: The Noivern Line
Ok, following my absolute favorite pokemon of all time is pretty hard, so to keep from underselling this line, let me say that if Tyrantrum wasn’t in this game, Noivern would be my favorite pokemon introduced this generation. Hell, I love Noivern so much that it makes my core six despite the fact that I already had a dragon type on this team. It makes this team less viable, but I don’t give a shit, Noivern is awesome!
Like, the mix of bat and dragon imagery works really well – of course, dragons are often portrayed as having batlike wings, so it’s not like that’s a super unlikely combination, but there’s a lot more bat influence in this design than dragons normally have, and it just works really well. The ears that resemble speakers are an excellent additional touch, giving Noivern a great music/sound theme on top of the dragon and bat motifs. Just a splendid dragon pokemon, easily one of the best!
The Aurorus line does for sauropods what the Tyrantrum line does for T.rexes, showcasing the unique aspects of that body plan while giving it a good Pokemon-y twist. There’s a sort of reptilian elegance that Sauropods perfected, and Aurorus showcases it perfectly, with the giant head frills (inspired by real life sauropod Amargasaurus) only adding to its magnificence. Aurorus was a serious contender for my team, but X and Y makes you choose between it and Tyrantrum, and nothing beats Tyrantrum. Nothing.
Another ice type, Avalugg feels like a callback to Kanto’s “the perfect evolution of all living things is a lizard” approach to monster design. Evolving from a tiny little icicle monster, Avalugg is a lizard/turtle/iceberg/aircraft carrier? pokemon, with a wedge shaped head that reminds me of both skinks and monitor lizards. It’s a weird and wild design that I think is highly underrated. If pure ice type pokemon didn’t have a thousand weaknesses, it would have made my team.
The Trevenant and Gourgeist lines gave us pokemon that evoke classic Gothic Horror/Halloweeny imagery – a wicked, animate tree, and a living jack-o-lantern (that’s also maybe a bat?). They’re adorably spooky monsters, and Trevenant’s first form, Phantump, has one of the saddest/creepiest backstories in the history of pokedex entries.
I’m also very fond of the Spritzee line, which goes from a cute bird to a just-as-cute goblin wearing a Venetian bird mask. They’ve got a slightly creepy edge that made them my favorite fairy type pokemon for a while, though they were dethroned in subsequent generations.
Also, in a generation that introduced an excellent take on a big cat, we get the Espurr line, which gives us really cute little housecats as well. I like how very French the female Meostic loks, too, and the fact that these cats have a secret second pair of eyes hidden in their ears (exposed only during a few specific attack animations) is icing on the cake.
More Fine Kalos Pokemon
The Clawitzer and Dragalge lines shine a spotlight on some fairly obscure sea creatures – snapping shrimp and sea dragons, respectively – which is one of the reason pokemon’s bestiary is so fun to explore. A lot of people are probably drawn in by the pokemon based on popular animals like lions and T.rexes, and as a result become aware of other strange real world creatures like these two. Their designs have excellent twists as well, with Clawitzer’s punching claw becoming a gigantic claw-gun, and Dragalge growing from a seahorse-like fish to a full on sea serpent whose kelp-like fins can sink ships.
Vivillon, the early game bug type line for Kalos, is similar to butterfree in many respects, but does just enough differently to still stand out in my mind. It’s got a really sweet face with distinctive eyes, and its gimmick of having, like, twenty different wing patterns that varied depending on where in the real world your pokemon game came from is cool as hell (if frustrating for pokemon collectors who want every variation).
The psuedo legendary this generation is in the vein of Dragonite, and like Dragonite, the Goodra line is divisive because of small but crucial differences between its first and final stages. The goofy, squiggly smile of Goomy and Sliggoo is pretty iconic and cute, and I can understand why people are disappointed that they get dropped for a more traditionally cute face in the final evolution. On its own, though, I think Goodra is really cute, the fact that it’s this cute while also being covered in slime and a super powerful pseudo legendary is pretty fun to me. A Goodra would have a good chance to defeat powerhouses like Salamence and Garchomp, and that’s pretty cool. I’ve got enough love in my heart for all three stages of this line at any rate.
Hawlucha and the Malomar line are both two of the more bonkers concepts this generation, which is the arbitrary reason I’m putting them together here. Malomar is a squid that isn’t water type, who you evolve from Inkay by literally turning your 3DS upside down. Hawlucha, on the other hand, is a luchador hawk who is the only pokemon (to my knowledge) who knows a move that deals two types of elemental damage simultaneously. I love how Hawlucha’s wing feathers double as a cape, and how genuinely devious Malomar looks.
Finally, Some Legendaries
Yvetal is a big, gnarly vulture/eagle/bird of prey from Hell, and straddles the line of being complex enough to feel “Legendary” without being so complex that it’s hard to parse its design. Its exaggerated grim-dark design makes it look especially cute when you feed it macaroons, too.
Zygarde, the secret Legendary of this gen, is also pretty rad, being a sort of cobra/flatworm hybrid that’s also got a sort of hydra/naga thing going on with that fan of extra necks behind its central head. Zygarde can also turn into a dog and a gundam, if you so desire, which is weird but fun.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about Hoopa and Volcanion. They’re both Mythic pokemon, which means you can only get them in promotional events, which in turn means that you’re really only going to use them in the post game, so I don’t have a deep personal attachment to them or anything. I just think they look neat.