With over 700 Pokemon now in existence, artist's block is bound to happen at some point.
Fact is, there's a lot of Pokemon. With the addition of Pokemon X and Y, over 700 Pokemon exist in the series. Character art director Ken Sugimori is responsible for managing the team that designs each Pokemon, and he admits to having particular trouble with the designs for the new pair of legendary Pokemon, Xerneas and Yveltal.
"I was talked with designing both of those, and I ran into a total wall in the process," Sugimori told Famitsu. "So I gave the task over to [fellow art designer Yusuke] Ohmura for a while, and once he made some headway on it, I took it back over to finish it off... I've designed a lot of the legendary Pokemon over the years, but for whatever reason, it was really hard to come up with the concepts this time around."
Both Xerneas and Yvletal are designed with their respective versions in mind; the antlers of Xerneas form the top part of an X, while Yveltal's wings, body, and tail form a Y.
Because Pokemon X and Y features 3D models, the art team had to finalize designs early in development. Most of their designs were completed by late 2012.
Sugimori added that Game Freak director Junichi Masuda told the art team to avoid creating concepts for Pokemon from their own minds. Instead the team traveled to Europe, France in particular, for inspiration. For example, 3D art director Takao Unno said wild hares inhabit mountainous regions of Europe, which led to the Pokemon Bunnelby. "I mean, it was to the point where you'd see rabbit holes butt right up against the road once you went out in the country," he said.
Certain Pokemon were easy to design. The new evolution for Eevee, fairy-type Sylveon was designed with cuteness in mind. "Generally speaking, with the straight-on cute Pokemon like that, you can leave those to [designer Atsuko] Nishida, and you'll never go wrong that way," Sugimori said. "What you see in the game is pretty much exactly what she submitted to me."
Pokemon X and Y added Pokemon designed after keys, swords, lions, and even a Pokemon that will only evolve if you hold your 3DS upside down. Designing so many Pokemon over the years has got to be taxing. Some come into life easily like Sylveon; others are less cooperative at first. Would we expect legendary Pokemon to behave any other way?