I love Kyogre’s visual direction so much. In the same vein as all of my favorite chimeras, you can pull out this element or that, and they all feed the same core concept despite their wide origins. The killer-whale spot pattern and shape. The enormous pinniped-like flippers. The split streamer-tail calling to mind everything from guppies and betta to common split-tail.
And this will be a feature on both of the Ancient Legendaries, but I adore how the red detailing works here. The color separation almost makes the upper blue layer feel like a layer of blubbery armor, and its use from head-to-tail makes the tattoo-like pattern on the flippers feel like a natural part of its body.
This just knocks it out of the park as a sort of “creature of the lost world”, the kind of kaiju I want to see get into a beat-down against Gamera.
Groudon, unfortunately, works much less well for me. I suppose it’s meant to evoke dinosaurs, or the idea of a land mammal, but it’s a bit too abstract to fit definitively into either category. In fact, I associated it with construction equipment as a lad given the massive claw on its tail and matching cow-catcher for a noggin. Just tell me this thing isn’t built to excavate as it “swims” through the earth.
I’m most confused by the spikes sticking out to the side – they don’t work for defending its back or belly, and would be obnoxious to try to slam into opponents with. They feel more like accessories just to make the design busier. And, you know what? Plenty of classic kaiju have something similar, so it’s hard to get too picky about them.
Kyogre’s still my favorite of the pair, but Groudon works well enough as to not be a disaster.
These two also mark the first time you’re required to go toe-to-to with a Legendary Pokémon to advance the game’s story. This means most players will have caught them by the final gym, and they’ll almost certainly stomp through the remaining challenges in the game. This is balanced out a bit in Ruby versions by having the last gym be Water-type, but these two are still at a distinct advantage over most other Pokémon in the game purely by the numbers in a way that, honestly, has put me off of ever using Legendary Pokémon on an in-game team.
And while we’re in The Stat Zone, a quick note that there’s no reason on Earth why the Ground-type (and occasionally Ground-and-Fire-type) Groudon should ever beat out Kyogre in a direct confrontation. There’s maybe an argument if the dice roll in Groudon’s favor for Drought to take effect and it happens to know Solar Beam, but for a pair locked into an eternal duel, one party sure is on the back foot.
And speaking of eternity, these two are explicitly Hebrew-Biblical in nature, meant to evoke the Leviathan and Behemoth, now-sleeping but ready to emerge and do battle at the end of days (depending on how you interpret the Bible’s vagueries). They even are said to go be at each other’s throats over a territorial conflict, because the sea was not large enough to contain them both. And guess why people want to get their hands on these land-growing and sea-expanding kaiju in-universe? The conflict between them – and by extension, Team Aqua and Team Magma – is just a child-friendly loosely-inspired-by take on the same story.
Between this and the Jewish influences in the titan trio (now quintet), there’s healthy dose of Western influence this generation where the Legendary Pokémon have previously and understandably leaned more toward Japanese and even Chinese folklore. Granted, there’s a bit more interpretation here; the Leviathan is usually characterized more as a sea-serpent and the Behemoth as more of an ox. But hey, the more they exercise creative freedom, the more things tend to stand out.
By the by, if you haven’t seen for their faux-Mega-Evolution Primal Forms, I encourage you to take a gander. Kyogre’s glowing aurora and Groudon’s internal magma are especially well-accentuated there, and it looks fantastic.
I’d also like to take one last detour to note that Groudon is literally “ground” and “don”, or land-lord. Take your rent disputes up with them, please.
These two are really solid “box-cover Legendary Pokémon”, which I always love but find hard to take out of the context of their original games. We don’t need them out of Reserve for every expedition, but when we cycle back to Hoenn, I’m always happy to see them.
Any and all appreciation for Kyogre and Groudon are welcome in the comments!