Welp, it finally happened. After mostly dodging dinos for more diverse prehistoric life, we finally have dinosaur fossils in the Pokémon lineup.
And there’s nothing wrong with that! There’s good reason why Jurassic Park is popular, and why the Tyranosaurs are just generally accepted as “cool” – to the point where potentially the most powerful non-legendary Johto Pokémon is partially based on one.
But even here the designers are doing a bit of a zig-zag, and giving us a pachycephalosaur – something similar enough to scratch that raptor or T-Rex itch, but with more of a personality that lets her fit a specific design niche. In this case: to get really really good at headbutting things. I do have a soft spot for these ‘mon that more-or-less have exactly one job.
The blue-on-gray is a great way of emphasizing Craniados’ head dome and splashing a bit of color in there while keeping the whole monster looking old and earthy. Especially with the firmer ridges around her nose and sawtooth edges around her design, she looks like she’s still partly made of the rock that you dug the fossil out of – and the blue head-dome especially looks like one of the gems from Sinnoh’s underground mining mini-game. That’s probably why these are coming right after the most common ‘mons in the ‘dex, too; Sinnoh let you get your hands on these surprisingly early, which probably informs Craniados’ relative straightforward-ness compared to her peers.
She’s just a great all-around dino-tyke, playfully energetic and filling in a role we expect of the series without pulling from the most obvious place in the world to do so. Excellent compromise for a first-ish dinosaur.
Rampardos feels overly-bulky to me, like if you pushed her over she’d just roll around and never be able to get back up on two legs again. Not to mention that lowered neck and aggressive hunch; I’m imagining the S-shape to the spine on this thing and wincing at the thought.
Go do some yoga, Rampardos.
That said, especially with the spike-collar and kneepads, she looks like just enough “too much” to be a silly charicature of a giant, bulky, kinda-dopey dinosaur predator. Hey, maybe that bulbous body is all just cushioning to protect her neck from that oomph behind a direct impact – albeit that might sell a bit better if her head was supported a bit better. Maybe there’s an anime episode out there that shows how her collarbone acts as a shock absorber or something.
As-is, she’s not my cup of tea, but she makes for a good Big Brute monster for those who like that sort of thing.
She’s a great staple in the main games, though; as noted, Craniados appears surprisingly early for a fossil, and gets a passive ability that lets her ignore enemies’ passive abilities when dealing damage to really simplify things for newer or forgetful players. Her defenses are a bit low for a Rock-type, but her attack is so stupidly high that she just makes a great hammer to throw out there and take things down in one hit – assuming she survives whatever inevitably hits her first. Great fun in the main campaign.
My only lore notes here is an unfortunate take in the Moon & Ultra Moon Pokédex entries that plays on certain dinosaurs’ famously small-by-proportion brains. In particular, it notes that Rampardos’ brain got smaller after evolution to make more space for a solid foot-thick skull dome, resulting in it actively becoming dumber. And, not to get anywhere near the icky history of actual cranium-measuring, but that’s not especially how any form of measured intelligence works. Sure, I get that it’s an easy visualization and metaphor for younger players to grasp, but it’s also so woefully incorrect.
As is, for that matter, was a lot of speculative paleontology, from mis-placed bone reconstructions to the missing of feather-quills and all manner of knowledge gaps. But that’s a problem better-illustrated by a monster much later down the line. See you there in 2026.
I already miss the trend of fossils representing the less-explored Cambrian, Paleozoic, and even cross-aeon-spanning species, and that’s 100% a personal bias toward Paleontology Hipsterism. But considering the fullness of the Pokédex and kids’ tendencies toward? This isn’t a bad way to introduce the dinos. I do think she’s a little bit Replaceable in the scheme of things – we already have Headbutt-focused monsters and will eventually have other dinosaurs – but that’s more to do with scope creep at this point; at worst, she’s inoffensive and harmless to have in the back pocket.
Any and all appreciation for Craniados and Rampardos is welcome in the comments!