One of the most exciting things about a new Pokemon generation is a fresh new batch o’ monsters, hot out of the oven. Ooh, it’s hot, put it on the counter! I always try to shield myself from most of the upcoming Pokemon on the roster so I can encounter them organically, and it always pays off when I see a fun lil guy hopping around a town like some kinda dingus. You can read about my thoughts on Pokemon Scarlet & Violet here, but in the meantime I’ve compiled a list of my favorite new mons from this generation. I didn’t include Paradox Pokemon for this list as I feel they are, like Ultra Beasts, their own thing, so we’re sticking to traditional fellows. With all that in mind, let’s dive in!
Scovillain is very strange because I think it could have just as easily ended up on my least favorite list as my favorite list. So, what is this. Like a tiny kaiju? Two heads that are two different kinds of peppers… okay. I’m trying to grasp onto what has made me so endeared to this frankly ugly weirdo that could easily be passed off as a C-tier Digimon. The typing is awesome, for sure. Fire/Grass is new and a chili pepper seems like the natural way to do it. Maybe it’s this X factor… when I first saw Scovillain in my game, I stopped, stared at it, and thought “is this in the wrong game.” I don’t think I ever saw another Pokemon in the wild for the first time and wondered if it had glitched its way in from my copy of Digimon Survive. I don’t think Scovillain particularly looks like a Pokemon, but maybe that’s why I’ve become so fond of it. It’s got a fun name as a reference to the Scoville Scale, which is used to measure the spiciness of peppers. Is it a dinosaur? I don’t know. I love it. Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Scovillain.
The second I saw this round guy in a pre-release trailer, I knew he would be a core member of my team. Although I do hate how Bellibolt was relegated to appearing on a livestream with possibly the worst Gym Leader of all time, Iono, even the cringe isn’t enough to stem the excitement. This electric frog has a plasma globe for a tummy, like you’d see at a science museum. Bellibolt is based off the Cuyaba dwarf frog, which also has a set of false eyes. That’s right! The big white globes are in fact not its eyes. The small yellow circles directly above the mouth are, as evidenced by the fact that the small yellow eyes blink and the white balls do not. Still, it is a sufficiently goofy, fun, and huggable design.
I’m mostly excited about Finizen because as a lifelong Pokemon player, we have been begging for a dolphin for decades now. Literally since Gen IV was announced and I was old enough to be on the internet on the Pokemon forums, I can tell you that a dolphin has been the number one fan request for an animal Pokemon. Gen VII, which is set in Hawaii, somehow did not feature a dolphin even though they are plentiful around the islands and almost felt like a slap in the face. Well, here we are in Spain, and the bottlenose dolphins that are commonly seen off the coast of the Iberian peninsula have made their way into the world of Pokemon at last. I do wish they had done a bit more on the design side, but overall they’re a joy to have bouncing around. I also always love learning more about Pokemon ecosystems, so the news that Barraskewda competes with them for food and Dragalge frequently prey on them piqued my interest.
Chien-Pao is one of the four legendary Pokemon introduced in what is this time a quartet, called the Treasures of Ruin. I’m sure fans will think of a better name to describe them, akin to Gen I’s Legendary Birds and Gen II’s Legendary Dogs. Regardless, I think Chien-Pao is easily the number one Pokemon in Gen IX based on sheer cool factor. It’s supposedly the physical embodiment of the hatred gathered in the broken blades that make up its teeth and can move 100 tons of snow with its mind. Since we are in Spain, I didn’t expect such a heavily Chinese-influence in the Legendary Pokemon, but I’m certainly not opposed to it. Chien-Pao is modeled after an ancient Chinese tradition called the hǔfú, or “tiger tally.” From Wikipedia: “It was through the tiger tally that the Emperors of China would authorize and delegate the power to his generals to command and dispatch an army.: 27 According to the Chinese tradition, the tiger was a symbol of valour; therefore, a tiger shaped symbolized the imperial command should be completed as promptly and as courageously as a tiger with the authorization of the emperor.” Also its teeth are swords and that’s super cool, tbh.
Tinkaton is the only Pokemon this generation that, upon discovering it, made me wonder if it was an NPC with a quest. It was not. It beat the crap out of four of my Pokemon before I was able to catch it, and for that I will say “rude.” Tinkaton carries around a hammer weighing 220 lbs, uses it to golf boulders into the sky to kill flying Corviknights so they can loot the corpse for scraps, and then sleeps on its enormous corpse-hammer like a pillow. I would advice not to mess with this one if you’d like to keep your head attached to your body. Tinkaton is based off the duende, a creature of Spanish folklore that is similar to a dwarf and is typically a talented blacksmith. Although the pink is a little gender-normative, it’s always neat to see female-only Pokemon species that aren’t just “pretty flower” or “boobs.”
Garganacl is basically a walking salt lick, and coming from prime deer-hunting territory down in the Southeast I say that sounds crazy. But behold! Pokemon smell Garganacl as it lumbers around like a big oaf, nervously grinding its fingers together and leaving trails of purified salt. Smaller Pokemon will follow it and lick the salt off the ground, which is known to have healing properties and taste delicious. Garganacl is also a fascinating mix of cultural identities, taking its body from the Hebrew legend of the golem, its pyramid-like shape from the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia, and its eyes from Himalayan salt lamps. I am a huge sucker for gentle giants (Wailord is another top 5 Pokemon for me), so I’m actually a huge fan of this dumbo.
Kingambit is a tough one to tackle as well simply because it is another Pokemon that is just a guy. 90% of the time, the very humanoid ones like this don’t hit with me. But something about this design, while clearly a person, makes it just enough of a monster to not fall into the uncanny valley. The new Bisharp evolution is based off a daimyo, a feudal lord in Japan who commanded samurai. Maybe it’s because I just watched the absolutely terrible 2013 Keanu Reeves film 47 Ronin, or maybe it’s because I recently started replaying Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but I love the idea of a Pokemon that is canonically very stupid commanding armies of skilled fighters and sending them into battle to get their butts whipped. Kingambit is said by the dex entry to be a very poor strategist, instead tossing pawn after pawn at the enemy until they win or die. Just as advised in The Art of War, probably.
First off, look how bad ass this thing is. Yo. Aside from that, I think an evolution for Primeape makes a lot of sense, especially given its new Ghost/Fighting typing. What interests me most about Annihilape, besides its cool name, is the backstory of the Pokemon. According to the dex entries, Annihilape is said to be evolved from only the most hateful and violent Primapes. The Primape’s rage became too much to control and consumed its body, leaving nothing but the literal spirit of hatred behind. Annihilape is a cross between the ancient Basque spirit called a Basajaun, who was native to the Iberian Peninsula, combined with the Japanese demon of hate, the onryo. If you can’t tell, I love cross-culture inspirations for Pokemon. More!
2. Tatsugiri (ft. Dondozo)
While Tatsugiri is undeniably cute, I have to say my love for it grew much stronger after the interactions in the main story of the game where it is an important player. I don’t want to spoil that part for you, but when you head to the lake to fight the Dragon Titan, you’ll see. Regardless, Tatsugiri is obviously just sushi, specifically a hand-rolled type of sushi called nigirizushi, and is all the cuter for it. In addition, Tatsugiri is unexpectedly a Water/Dragon type, which definitely confused me when I first saw it. The reason it’s so high up on the list is, again, the fictional ecology. The tiny Tatsugiri live inside the mouth of Dondozo, the enormous blue catfish based on the wels catfish that was introduced to Spain. They live together in a symbiotic relationship called mouth-brooding, a real technique catfish use where they raise their young inside their mouths to keep them safe. Dondozo is also inspired by the Banyoles monster, a mythical lake monster from the Spanish Lake of Banyoles. In another added layer, Dondozo’s name includes “don”, the Spanish word for Lord and the title for important members of the mafia. Tatsugiri’s name is partially derived from “consigliere”, which is a Don’s “face man” and represents him in public settings until he’s needed. If you’ve gotten to this part of the story, you’ll understand how that all ties in.
Holy crap, look at it. Wooper’s new alternate evolution is a beautiful, bountiful, bubble boy that is so, so obviously made to sell plush dolls. And they will. Nintendo is going to sell millions of these toys. To me.
What are your favorite new Pokemon this gen? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to come back here for all things Pokemon Scarlet and Violet!