The vast majority of the images in this article come from scans twitter user Mixeli took of a Japanese player’s guide. You can see more of them in this thread: https://twitter.com/PokeliYT/status/1205572614204329989
The 8th generation Pokemon games, Pokemon Sword and Shield, had a pretty contentious debut, with a lot of people being pretty damn pissed that slightly less than half of the 900ish pokemon will be playable in the game. It’s made being a pokemon fan kinda suck because it’s impossible to avoid the discourse of whether or not the franchise is Ruined Forever.
Anyway, I’m NOT going to talk about Pokemon’s supposed ruination today. This is Monster Spotlight, not How I’d Ruin It. Instead, I’m just going to talk about many of the monsters that debuted this generation, because it may very well be my favorite gen since Kanto itself!
The Galar Six
My Tender-Hearted Child, My Super Spy, My Starter: The Sobble Line
Oh thank fuck we finally got a reptile starter again. And a lizard, too! We now have one lizard starter for each type – fire type Charmander, grass type Treecko, and water type Sobble. What a time to be alive!
The Sobble line is an interesting mix of chameleon and basilisk lizard (i.e. the Jesus lizard, since they’re capable of running across the surface of water). The chameleon influence is more prominent in Sobble’s first two stages, with its paws resembling the cute mits of real life chameleons and its tail having the telltale (heh) chameleon curl. The final form takes a bit more from the basilisk lizard, with its slender head, prominent dorsal fin, and overall lithe build.
A lot of people didn’t like Intelleon at first for its humanish features – the phrase “Furry bait” (scaly bait?) is thrown around a lot here. While I admittedly prefer my pokemon to be bestial more often than not, Intelleon grew on me the more I played with it. The “cape” sails on its back are what won me over – when it enters battle, Intelleon leaps out of its pokeball and glides to the ground, which always gets me pumped. Plus it’s just nice to have a lizard starter again.
My Corvid, My Squire, My Black Knight: The Corviknight Line
I love corvids and I love medieval knights, so putting Corviknight on my team was a no-brainer. The previous take on a corvid pokemon, the Murkrow line, went for stock cartoon crow traits, while this line feels a bit more like the real thing, giving it an edge in the competition for my favorite crow pokemon. The fact that its preceding stages also resemble blue jays in coloration is also a plus – did you know blue jays and crows are close relatives? It’s true! Blue Jays aren’t quite as smart as most of their fellow corvids, but they make up for it by having that beautiful plumage.
Anyway, Corviknight is easily my favorite early game bird pokemon, and one of my favorite pokemon overall.
My Baby, My Punk, My Rockstar: The Toxtricity Line
When I was searching through pokemon leaks to figure out my team, Toxtricity caught my eye, but didn’t make my initial cut. However, the game gives you its first form, Toxel, as an egg ala Togepii, and since I hadn’t gotten my full team yet, I figured what the hell, let’s keep the little guy around for a while till his spot is needed. And wouldn’t you know it, the punk rock toad grew on me. I mean, a punk rock frog man is already a pretty rad design, but Toxtricity’s animations give him even more personality, and I think most people would be hard pressed to box the lovable goblin once they’ve invested time in him.
Also, Toxtricity’s gigantomax form carries a guitar made of electricity and uses it like a cudgel. That’s rad as hell.
My Hognose, My Python, My Camping Enthusiast: The Sandaconda Line
POKEMON DOESN’T HAVE ENOUGH SNAKES. We’ve got dozens of fucking dogs in these series, but only a scant few snakes, and that’s a tragesty! A tragedy and a travesty in one! I knew we wouldn’t be getting any in Alola because Hawaii is famous for being one of the places in the world where there are no snakes (because snakephobic people think that’s a good thing, because they are dumb and bad), but I was holding out hope we’d get at least one wonderful snake this gen.
AND WE GOT THE BEST ONE! THE BEST SNAKE POKEMON!
Sandaconda and its pre-evolution, Silicobra, are SUCH GOOD SNAKES. They’re based on some of my favorite snakes of all time – cobras, obviously, but there’s also a bit of the hognose snake in Silicobra’s design (cobras don’t have those upturned snouts, but hognose snakes can flatten their necks in a similar manner as cobras to make themselves appear longer), and Sandaconda’s design is a ball python. I mean, the markings and head shape match most known pythons (including the more dramatic and enormous Burmese and Reticulated pythons), but Sandaconda’s curled up body and shy expression immediately calls to mind the meekness that makes ball pythons so beloved by pet enthusiasts – and, y’know, wrapping themselves up in their coils for protection is what ball pythons are named for.
I’ve got a list of animals I’d love to have as pets some day, and both hognose snakes and ball pythons are at the top of it, so having a pokemon that was based on them was a no brainer. And my Sandaconda lived up to that promise excellently – not only was she a powerhouse on my team, with good attacks and bulky defenses, but she immediately established herself as a kind and affectionate creature in the Pokemon Camp feature (this gen’s version of Pokemon amie). My Sandaconda really loved camping, actually. She mentioned it alot in the little in game notes. God, I love that pokemon’s been adding mechanics to make the pokemon feel more and more like characters in their own right.
Anyway, Sandaconda is perfect and my sixth favorite pokemon of all time.
My Fairy, My Witch, My Trickster: The Hatterene Line
A lot of people have already written this line off as another “waifu” pokemon, but they’re missing out because Hatterene is fucking weird. She’s a little grey alien whose fantastic hair is forming a false body for her – look close and you can see her real body and her tiny little arms beneath her tresses. That’s really bonkers!
She’s also 1. a witch, 2. a fairy (type pokemon), and 3. found in the Pokemon universe’s equivalent Britain. She’s a British witch who’s also a fairy. A sorceress of the fay, if you will. A MORGAN LE FAY POKEMON. Morgan le Fay being my favorite character from Arthurian legend, I was obligated to have her on my team.
My Goblin, My Troll, My Ogre: The Grimmsnarl Line
Impidimp won my heart at first sight, being such a cute, funky little goblin with an obvious flair for mischief. His trolling of the audience during Nintendo’s promotional stream for Sword and Shield cemented my need to have the little bugger on my team, and the fact that he grows into a big hairy ogre – one of the most common monsters in British folklore – was an added benefit. Grimmsnarl is a really rugged looking monster, though like Hatterene there’s an implication that his body isn’t quite as big as it appears – those black talons are made of clotted hair, which occasionally comes apart when Grimmsnarl is swiping at its foes in combat. It’s just one of the many rad design details that a person would miss if they didn’t watch the animations of the pokemon in this generation!
Speaking of common monsters in British folklore, I was surprised I didn’t end up with any dragons on my team. It wasn’t for a lack of them, though…
The Runners Up
Ok, so, the Applin line begins as a worm in an apple – or rather, a wyrm in an apple. It then evolves into one of two pokemon – Flapple, a dragon who uses the rind of an apple as a protective shell AND as wings, and Appletun, a dragon whos back is an apple pie.
And if you aren’t charmed by that, you must be broken inside.
I mean, look at this cute little bastard. You thought those were ears? Nope, those were its snake-like eyestalks. Appletun is friggin’ adorable, I wish I could have found one during my playthrough (it was available during the main storyline, but its spawnrate is very low).
Not as low as the Dreepy line, though! Appearing only very late in the main storyline with a 1% spawn rate, you have to be a dedicated bastard to find one of these guys. Which is a shame, because look at it. The dreepy line is inspired by Diplocaulus, an extinct amphibian with an arrow-shaped skull. This might be why Dreepy is Dragon/Ghost type, and is definitely why the three stages resemble the growth cycle of a salamander (tiny forelimbs and no hindlimbs in stage one, developed arms and proto-legs in stage two, before finally having four fully developed limbs as an adult).
Dreepy’s evolved forms are both mentioned as feeling a need to carry baby dreepies along with them, apparently feeling nervous when they don’t have a baby to watch over (to the point that they’ll adopt other pokemon if no dreepies are available). I guess this makes up for the fact that Dragapult, the final form, shoots dreepies out of its helmet like arrows.
A salamander with a head like a B-52 is worth finding, even if that 1% spawn rate makes finding it SUPER FRUSTRATING.
If you’ve followed this site for a while, you’ve probably gleaned that I love old paleo-art, and particularly love monsters inspired by outdated paleontology. It’s just very mythic, y’know? Misidentified squids become Krakens, misidentified pythons become dragons, so why not have outdated dinosaur reconstructions become monster archetypes of their own?
Well, the fossil pokemon this time around take that idea up to eleven. In Galar, you meet a particularly unscrupulous scientist who will take two incomplete fossils and slap them together haphazardly before bringing the resulting hybrid to life. The result is a mix of black comedy, extreme nerdery, and wonderful creature design, with a quartet of frankenstein hodge podges for you to choose from. Arctozolt and Dracozolt are half velociraptor, half over-sized pair of pants (plesiosaur pants or stegosaur pants, respectively), while Arctovish and Dracovish are even more bizarre. Arctofish doesn’t look too off at first, being made from two aquatic organisms, but eventually you realize its head was put on upside down jesus christ.
Dracovish wins prize, though, by not only having the most fucked up anatomy, but being an homage to one of the more infamous paleontological mistakes in the real world. You see, a distant relative of mine, Edward Drinker Cope, was one of the earliest paleontologists, and discovered a vast number of prehistoric species in his lifetime. However, when reconstructing the plesiosaur Elasmosaurus, Cope made the assumption that the long collection of vertebrae on one end of its body was its tail, while the short collection on the other end was its neck – you know, the way most creatures work. But a colleague pointed out that it was the other way around just after Cope sent his proposed reconstruction in for peer review, and Cope’s rival, Othniel Marsh, quickly jumped in to ridicule Cope for his mistake, and many people only know Edward Drinker Cope as “the guy who put the skull on the wrong end of the elasmosaurus.”
And, well, Dracovish is a mistake whose head is on the tip of a tail, rather than where the head should go.
The “vish” part of these hybrids is also explicitly based on the dunkleosteus, a type of fish who we only know from fossilized skulls (because, it is believed, the rest of the dunkleosteus’s skeleton was made of cartilage instead of bone). I think that’s a clever detail, since a lot of paleontology mistakes arise from prehistoric creatures defying our conventional understanding of biology.
While I ultimately didn’t put any of these guys on my team, I think these are objectively some of the most clever ideas Pokemon has ever come up with, and an excellent addition to the fossil pokemon lineup.
The Drednaw line is pretty much what it looks like – i.e. a big gnarly snapping turtle. When the first announcements for Sword and Shield came out I honestly considered putting one of these on my team despite knowing I’d already have a water type in the Sobble line – both because I was prepared for there to not be that many reptiles, and because this design is just extremely good. The Gigantomax version of Drednaw, which is basically as close to Gamera as copyright law will allow Pokemon to get, added to my resolve, but ultimately Sword and Shield gave me so many good options that I didn’t need to double up. Still, it’s a marvelous turtle, and I’d love to train one someday.
Duraladon is another excellent kaiju-y pokemon introduced this generation, being explicitly set up as a new rival for the Godzilla-inspired Tyrannitar. At first everyone assumed Duraladon was thus meant to be a MechaGodzilla homage, but its Dynamax form gives their rivalry a different meaning: Duraladon is a building, Godzilla’s natural prey. It’s also a dragon that’s also a laser gun, and that’s fun as hell too.
Our final runner up is the Baraskewda line, a pair of big snappy fish with adorable smiles. Why do Pokemon games always either have me struggling to find one Water type I like, or have, like, three different choices I love and struggle to pick one out of? Space them out, Pokemon, I beg you.
More Great Galar Pokemon
One of Galar’s regional bug-type pokemon, the Orbeetle line has decent typing and weird but wonderful designs. The Gigantomax form of Orbeetle is what made me cover them here – I love the idea of a flying saucer being a monster in its own right, and Gigantomax Orbeetle is an excellent take on that concept.
The Snom line doesn’t have as good a type combination as Orbeetle, but it makes up for it by being friggin’ adorable, and that’s enough for me.
We already had an excellent group of centipede (or maybe milipede?) pokemon with the Venipede line in Gen 5, but there’s room in my heart for more than that, and the Centiscorch is a wildly different but equally excellent take on the concept. The Gigantomax form of Centiscorch (sorry I don’t have a picture of it) also has a vague Asian dragon motiff, which is really rad.
I think this gen may have some of my favorite early game mammal pokemon too – The Wooloo line is adorable, and while Pokemon wasn’t exactly hurting for foxes, the Thievul line feels more traditionally fox-y than all its predecessors. Foxes are also just incredibly important animals in British folklore, so it wouldn’t feel right not to have them here in Galar.
The Clobberpus line has a boxing octopus that evolves into a luchador octopus. That should be all you need to know to love it.
Also, can we appreciate how weird Pokemon’s takes on elephants are? In a lot of ways the Copperajah line here feels the least strange of all their takes (given that previous elephants included the living tire Donphan and the half mammoth/half boar Mammoswine lines), and yet it’s still extremely weird, with a color scheme I doubt anyone would have expected from an elephant monster. I love it.
I’ve seen Coalossal get a lot of hate, but I love it. It’s the most Ultraman monster-y design this generation, and that’s a good thing. It’ll be a sad day when Pokemon abandons weird, gimicky Ultraman monster style designs.
Falinks looks like the kind of enemy you’d fight in, like, Super Mario or Kirby or Bubble Bobble. It’s like it got lost on the way to a platformer and ended up in the new Pokemon game. Again, I love it, it’s cute and clever and something Pokemon never really had before.
In the parlance of our times, I love Cramorant because it looks like it has only one brain cell.
New Twists on Old Friends
Before this article ends, I want to talk about how this gen paid tribute to some old monsters. The Gigantomax forms – this gen’s take on Mega Evolution, although mechanically it works somewhat differently – give certain pokemon new and more kaiju-y designs, as you’ve seen above. Two of my favorites got Gigantomax forms – Charizard become a living inferno that combines elements of its two mega designs with a sort of phoenix motiff that’s very cool, while sweet Lapras becomes a towering sea serpent that’s also a cruise ship and also an iceberg, vaguely bringing to mind the various European sea monsters that are mistaken for islands (personally I’m reminded of Jasconius, the ambivalent leviathan from St. Brendan’s Voyage, though given Lapras has a shell it’s probably intended as an homage to the island turtles of Greco-Roman mythology, Fastitocalon and Aspidochelone). They’re both lovely and I appreciate that Gamefreak made these designs explicitly for me.
Alola introduced the idea of regional forms, i.e. design variants of old pokemon that are specific to a new region. Galar added onto that concept by introducing region-specific evolutions, a few of which I’ve shown here. Some are alternate final forms – Galarian Yamask haunts a broken set of stone runes instead of a sarcophagus, and thus evolves into Runegrigus instead, while Galarian Meowths turn into the Viking-like Perrserker instead of Persians. My favorite of these new evolutions is Obstagoon, which evolves from Galarian Linoones (who up till now were the final forms of their line). Bringing Linoone in was a no-brainer, as it’s a badger-inspired pokemon, and badgers are as important to British culture as foxes, and giving it a regional form so it could better resemble a British badger was also a pretty obvious choice. But turning it into a heavy metal rocker? That’s a work of genius.
A Conclusion (For Now)
Well, this is it. Until the next new gen comes out, the Monster Spotlight won’t be turning to the pokemon franchise again. I hope you enjoyed this look at some of my favorite monsters from the franchise, and maybe it’s inspired you to reflect on which ones you love the most, and why. I hope you don’t take the absence of certain pokemon here as a condemnation – as far as I’m concerned, every pokemon is a good pokemon.
Till next time, friends!