Just look at this little stinker. A gecko and his bulbous suction-cup fingers could easily look like a complete and utter nerdling, but the designers took that ball and ran in the opposite direction, trying very hard for the “cool, sporty kid” look. Man, how often do monster designers succeed in something like that without slapping on tertiary features like sunglasses?
There’s a splash of orange-red to make him vibrant, yellow eyes to keep him feeling properly lizard-y despite walking on two legs, and some manner of split tail going on to reinforce that he’s a plant critter (and to play on a real-life animal literally named “the leaf-tailed gecko”). None of these elements are loud or obvious, but they all contribute in a satisfying way to an instantly-recognizable “spunky Grass-type” critter.
Exactly the kind of thing you want as one of your starting monsters.
The polls are in, and everyone agrees: Grovyle is one cool customer.
Middle evolutions in general have a history of looking kinda dorky, but Treecko already dodged the goober pile once and, gosh darnit, he’s done it again. Just from this one bit of art, I get the idea that this smug punk hangs out in jungle canopies, waiting to dive-bomb any Weedle that gets too close and cut it to bits.
This admittedly zig-zags a bit as an evolution, but it’s hard to get too picky when that energetic little gecko grows up and goes full raptor, from hooked claws to a more sleek and angular body to leaf-feathers.
Yes, feathers. Consider Grovyle your go-to model of how feathered dinos could look hella rad. Double-duty as camouflage and a feature that streams behind him as he darts about? It plays on the common sense that flowing scarves and capes are Pretty Cool, but streamlines it down to make sense on, once again, a predatory dinosaur.
It feels like a breath of fresh air to have a Grass-type be an active hunter, since so far we’ve gotten a lot of herbivores, photosynthesizers, and trappers, but frankly I’m digging the change of pace. And it’s nice to have a lizard that doesn’t end up going full-Dragon-type, either! Novelty points all around!
Oh, and did I mention that this dude has an action feature? Those leaf-feathers bristle outward and become arm-mounted blades, in a move that feels absolutely tailor-made to make every ten-year-old-boy’s eyes sparkle with admiration. Grovyle is easily the monster in this family with the most “cool factor”, and he’s doesn’t get that much more complicated than Treecko to do it. Great stuff.
I’m going to be real with you: Sceptile drops the ball for me.
His body plan seems to throw Grovyle’s mobility out the window, complete with a big old fern strapped to his tush to weigh him down. His bright chest is down to his jaw and a belly-stripe, and the leaves on his arms have lost definition. And he’s… wearing pants now, I guess? The end result is a clunky lizard who’s so overwhelmingly, sickly green that it’s discolored what are clearly claws on his feet.
I’ll grant you that, when he’s posed right, Sceptile can look really cool, like he could both stalk you and take you in a head-on fight. But from the front, like you’ll see in all his key art and in-game-battle appearances, he just looks bottom-heavy. I’m going to have to chalk that up to how his wide legs hide his trunk, making him look less like one long lizard and more like his lower limbs are all bolted on. Poor guy’s just never shown from a flattering angle.
He’s not shown with sensible respect to how he behaves in the games, either. Especially looking at Grovyle (and knowing that he used to have a blade-centric signature move), you’d expect these to be physical critters. Instead, Sceptile is something of a glass cannon with a focus on Special Attack – though he’s no physical pushover, which is good, because he gets quite a lot of moveset variety from that side of the table. Plenty to play with here.
Those seed pods on Sceptile’s back have had me going back and forth for years, though. My initial assumption was that they were, like other vestigial growths on other Grass Pokémon, used to spread spores and status-effect powders. Two holes in this notion: “back-first” isn’t a useful attack vector for a predator, and Sceptile doesn’t naturally learn any powder- or scent-based moves.
Instead, Sceptile is functionally growing his own seed-snacks, packing those pods with nutrition to replenish both himself and any plant life he comes across. As it turns out, Sceptile is more or less a freelance forest-preservation worker in his spare time, undertaking his own personal little tree-cultivation projects that he takes great pride in. And do you know what? Good for him. It doubly makes sense for Hoenn, a region so in-tune with its natural resources that an entire city is built out of treehouses just to avoid destructive logging.
Of course, the obvious follow-up question is: was this always a Sceptilian behavior, or is it a learned adaptation to combat human-driven forestation? It wouldn’t be the first or the last time a Pokémon developed explicitly in response to looming human epansion.
Either way, it also gives Sceptile a much better tie back into “plant life” than just having a shrub-bum. Those seed bulbs are almost certainly a play on how real-life legumes store little nodules of nitrogen in their roots, harvested from bacteria in the earth itself. Sceptile, though, is explicitly fueled by photosynthesis – so instead of storing little nitrogen nuggets, he’s got little light-bombs strapped to his back, from which he can unleash the power of the sun.
Sunny D, there’s still an advertising opportunity here.
A parting shot about Treecko: it’s kind of weird that he even has those goofy round toe-pads since he doesn’t use them to climb. He’s supposedly got velcro-like hooks on the bottom of his feet that he uses instead, so apparently those pads are just for show to make him look more like a recognizable gecko to ten-year-olds. But even those hooks aren’t totally biologically accurate.
Rather, they’re an approximation of setae, a feature of a few climbing animals and, as another Grass-type connection, of some plants and funguses. Setae are more or less very stiff hairs built into the feet or roots of these organisms, so thin in some cases as to be made up of a single cell width-wise. This means that they’re not hooks, per se, and aren’t even mechanical at all.
Break out your textbooks, kiddos, because geckos are powered by Van der Waals forces, so small that they cling to things at a molecular level. How, exactly? Ionic, but not quite electronic; chemical, but not reactionary. Van der Waals is its own kettle of fish, and such a basic force that a lot of description boils down to “it just is“.
But some geckos can cling to surfaces like Teflon through electrostatic forces. That’s right, suckers, geckos are (in some cases, and just a little bit) powered like magnets. In fact, there’s still argument in the last decade about whether geckos cling more by static or more by Walls-driven forces. It turns out, zoology and physics are ever-developing, and there are legitimately ongoing curiosities to solve.
…good luck explaining to a kid, though, when a significant chunk of fully-grown adults (myself included, until I wrote this), couldn’t tell you a thing about Van der Walls. In the face of that, “barbed feet” sure isn’t the worst compromise.
My personal wishy-washy feelings on Sceptile aside, this certainly isn’t a bad batch of monsters. We already have one if not two reptilian grass-type starter monsters on the list already, though, which makes these a little redundant. I can’t see the series ever wholesale retiring any creature that was “my first Pokémon” to a good chunk of the fanbase, though, so I can easily see this guy dropping on and off the roster from Reserve status.
Any and all appreciation for Treecko, Grovyle, and Sceptile is welcome in the comments!