Up until 6th Gen, we could only envision Pokémon as 2D artwork. You’d get to know them through a quick howl as they pop out of their Pokéball accompanied by a quick shake of their sprite. They’d never move all that much. Maybe if you watched the anime you developed a better sense of how they’d animate, but let’s face it: the Pokémon anime is mostly geared towards kids. Most of us stopped when we hit junior high school.
That’s what makes 6th Gen so special. No longer were Pokémon limited to the confines of 2D artwork. The shift to 3D character models made it easier for Game Freak to individually animate every single one. 6th Gen is the one that brought Pokémon to life for the masses. Because of this, we thought it would be nice to take a look at the best that X & Y had to offer. These were the first new Pokémon that were designed with 3D in mind. We had no preconceptions for how they should move around in our minds!
Forget that stereotype of the lazy panda! Sure, Pangoro doesn’t like to be bothered, but that’s only because, you know, whatever it’s got going on is probably more important than whatever stupid thing you’re annoying it with. Pangoro certainly isn’t lying around all day eating bamboo. In fact, the only bamboo Pangoro eats is the thin shoot he chews in his mouth which, let’s face it, he only does because it makes him look cool. However, that’s not to say Pangoro doesn’t have its morals. The only thing Pangoro hates more than being bothered is someone picking on something weaker than them. This sends Pangoro into a rage and will stop at nothing to see that injustice corrected.
Pangoro draws upon the Japanese archetype of the “bancho”, or what we might know as a street punk. It’s an odd connection to make with the traditionally docile view we have of pandas, but not one entirely out of left field. Bancho are often viewed as independent from the rest of society, as they’re viewed as misfits. This behavior is actually very similar to that of pandas, which tend to be loners and only meet up to mate. This makes Pangoro a more accurate depiction of pandas than how we envision them!
Despite being a mainstay of Pokémon for so long, fossil Pokémon rarely get that much attention. Sure, oldschool fans probably have a soft spot for Omanyte, Kabuto, and Aerodactyl, but that is mainly due to nostalgia for the original games. Few are going to cite them as their favorite or anything. Every Pokémon game after 2nd Gen has its own set of fossil Pokémon to choose from, but they never really caught on. They’ve always come off as novelty Pokémon.
That definitely changed in X & Y. Aurorus was different from past fossil Pokémon in that it actually resembled a dinosaur! Think about it: outside of Aerodactyl, all the fossil Pokémon we had seen were based on ancient bugs or creatures divorced from the dinosaurs we love. Aurorus visibly resembles an Amargasaurus, which, even if you don’t know that particular genus, you can tell is a Brontosaurus-type creature. Plus, it helps that Aurorus is absolutely adorable, distinguishing it further from its dino-brethren.
Look, bats are cool. Yet, somehow, Pokémon managed to drop the ball on this front. Zubat and Golbat are some of the most notoriously annoying Pokémon out there, showing up for what feels like 80% of every battle inside caves. Not only that, but they’re kind of doofy-looking. Crobat isn’t hated or anything, but it’s not exactly a stand-out either. The Zubat line was even replaced in Black & White with the even sillier Woobat line.
But, finally, in X & Y, we got our sweet bat Pokémon in Noivern. It’s a hybrid of a wyvern and a bat, combining the sonic speeds of the latter with the mythical powers of the former. Interestingly, even if nowadays there’s no real distinction between wyverns and dragons, Noivern harkens back to the original interpretation of the creature by giving it just two legs. Noivern is something of a modernization of the classic wyvern, fusing it with a creature we’re more familiar with while keeping it totally distinct from its draconic brothers.
While Pokémon designs are more often based on organic lifeforms, every now and then, one will come along that just looks like a random thing. And Aegislash might be the most obvious thing-like Pokémon out there. There’s a bit more thought to Aegislash than drawing a couple swords with a shield and calling it a day. In fact, the Japanese name Gildguard is a pun on Gilgamesh, the famed Mesopotamian myth. Because of that, Aegislash draws to mind weaponry possessed by spirits of ancient legends, risen again because society has failed to live up to the standards they once set.
Of course, what people actually know about Aegislash is that it’s one of the most overpowered non-legendary Pokémon out there. Aegislash’s signature move King Shield prevents all damage inflicted on it, lowers the Attack stat of Pokémon that make contact with it by half, and shifts Aegislash into its shield form. Its base form has unbelievably high attacking stats, while Aegislash’s shield form has incredible defensive moves. King’s Shield has made Aegislash into a completely dominant force in the competitive game, as the only Pokémon that can reliably counter it are legendary Pokémon. And even then, it’ll lay on the hurt without proper prediction.
Everyone loves the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They’re the king lizard; the top of the food chain from prehistory. It’s hard to imagine something more terrifying or powerful that has ever existed on this planet. They’re the ultimate power fantasy. When we watch Jurassic Park, we’re all waiting for the end when the T-Rex busts into the museum and wreaks havoc. Naturally, when Pokémon originally came out, everyone was hoping to train one for themselves.
Up until 6th Gen, people made do with T-Rex-like Pokémon like Charizard and Tyranitar. But finally, in X & Y, people’s
wishes finally came true with Tyrantrum. Tyrantrum was the second of two fossil Pokémon introduced in 6th Gen, and fans thankfully did not have to wait long to acquire one. You’d get the fossils as early as the second gym battle, and could revive said fossils very shortly afterwards. This meant you could nearly play through the entire game with a T-Rex, fulfilling a dream for many players that was long overdue.
Is someone at Game Freak a wrestling fan? With Pikachu Libre and Hawlucha both added in 6th Gen, it’s hard to believe otherwise! Hawlucha is perhaps most known from the anime, as Ash managed to acquire one during the X & Y arc of the anime. However, while Ash tends to catch a lot of Pokémon over the course of the series, there are very few that he bonded with quite like Hawlucha. This is probably because during X & Y, The Pokémon Company cut down on how many Pokémon Ash would catch over the course of the series, giving more screen time to the ones he’d stick with.
Of course, there’s no way Hawlucha wouldn’t have been popular with or without the anime. People took one look at that design and fell in love. Fighting/Flying was an unheard of type combination before X & Y, so people were excited about the possibilities. Plus, the flamboyant stylings of Lucha Libre fighters just blended so naturally with birds that it’s almost a wonder why it took them so long to make the connection. Hawlucha also gained some attention thanks to its exclusive move Flying Press, which simultaneously deals Fighting-type and Flying-type damage!
It was only supposed to be X & Y’s version of Pidgey. You can find Fletchling, the first of Talonflame’s pre-evolutions, just about anywhere. Really, the only difference was that Game Freak wanted to mix it up a bit. Rather than being the standard Normal/Flying Pokémon you find at the beginning of every single Pokémon game, Talonflame is Fire/Flying. This was a nice compromise for how difficult Fire Pokémon are to find compared to Water and Grass, meaning players who started with Chespin or Froakie wouldn’t have to struggle to fill that slot like past fans of Water and Grass.
We doubt Game Freak realized what they were doing when they gave Talonflame Gale Wings as a Hidden Ability. Gale Wings, for those not in the know, gives priority to Flying-type moves. This ability meant that Talonflame could come out and use an incredibly strong Flying-type move like Brave Bird to shut down its opposition without worrying about speed differences. Talonflame ended up becoming massively popular in the competitive scene because of that, and was one of the only times that the starting bird Pokémon ended up so viable.
Somewhere around the early 2010s, fennec foxes became more widely known. Maybe it was due to the rising presence of the internet, maybe people were getting sick of Caturday; we don’t know. All we do know is that suddenly fennec foxes were the new hotness. And, frankly, Game Freak wasn’t about to miss out on capitalizing on trends. This led to Fennekin; arguably the cutest starter Pokémon out there. Immediately upon its unveiling, Fennekin was the quick favorite of the three starters.
Naturally, Game Freak was quick on marketing Fennekin. In the X & Y arc of the anime, Serena received one from Professor Sycamore and Fennekin was her constant companion until it evolved into Braxian. How could anyone not absolutely adore those poofy ears that erupt into flame? That pointy little snout that you just want to give a poke? It’s so cuddly that it’s simply made for plushies. It’s only natural that it’d be the most popular of the starter Pokémon of 6th gen, right?
Well, we’ll get into that in a bit.
Good ol’ reliable Eevee. Not just one of the most popular Pokémon since the beginning of the series, but also consistently one of the most relevant. Eevee is always brought out when Game Freak and The Pokémon Company need to hype up a new feature or mechanic for a new generation. In fact, Sylveon was one of the very first 6th Gen Pokémon revealed to the public. However, even though new typings for Eeveelutions (as they are often called) are a big deal, Game Freak was hesitant to say anything about it at first. What was the deal?
Fairy was eventually revealed as Sylveon’s type. These were introduced into 6th Gen as a long needed counterbalance to Dragon-types. This was the first new type that Pokémon had seen in over 10 years, making Sylveon not just a big deal for Eevee, but for the entire Pokémon franchise. Sylveon was the world’s introduction to Fairy-types, and as a result has made a huge impact on the fandom. Plus, with those ribbons and doe eyes, Sylveon’s easily the cutest evolution of the already adorable Eevee. It’s just building on what we already love.
Remember when we said Fennekin had to be the most popular of the X & Y starters? Yeah, turns out that title belongs to Greninja. This ninja frog uses its own tongue as a scarf. We’re not entirely sure why either outside of the demonstrable fact that ninja scarves are totally sick. Not only that, but Greninja can compress water into shurikens. Not just any shurikens either; they’re so strong that Greninja can shred metal just by tossing them.
The Pokémon Company must have understood how popular Greninja was going to be because in the anime, Ash actually starts
with Froakie. Froakie turns out as one of his strongest Pokémon when it evolves into Greninja. This is because of the introduction of Bond Phenomenon, which boosts Greninja’s strength to incredible levels. Bond Phenomenon was eventually introduced into the games, where players could obtain a Greninja that could transform into Ash-Greninja by playing the demo for Sun & Moon. This marks one of the only times the anime has been officially recognized by the games.
Greninja is remarkable in that if you were to ask anyone to name a Pokémon that didn’t come from the original games, Greninja is probably one of the first ones who would come up. Its popularity with kids is nearly unmatched with anyone else outside of possibly Lucario. In fact, Smash Bros director Masahiro Sakurai once famously remarked that, before Pokémon X & Y were revealed to the public, he requested Greninja to be a new Pokémon representative for the next Smash Bros before Game Freak had even finalized its name because he could tell Greninja was going to be big. He was right.
6th Gen is only one generation old now. Even with Sun & Moon out, X & Y is still very fresh on our minds. As a result, the Pokémon mentioned above may not be quite as popular down the line. However, as of now, these are who we feel currently dominate the zeitgeist of 6th Gen.
Do you disagree? Did we miss one of your favorites? Are you a diehard Chespin fan and want to give us what-for? Well, please let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!