Shiny Pokemon are one of the highest badges of honour in the series. Their rarity makes them more desirable than any other, so much so that some players will pour hundreds of hours into collecting these rare creatures. Doing so has become a popular pastime in the franchise, as many streamers find that shiny hunting is among their most popular content.
For many years, shinies were ‘designed’ by simply switching the colour palette of a monster to the next available one in the game’s memory (with a few exceptions). However, from Generation VII onwards, more care & attention was paid to shinies. This has lead to several that improve with the altered colour scheme than their original one. Be it because they’re more lore-friendly, more thematically appropriate, or simply more pleasing to the eye, these shinies come out better than their originals.
When people malign Generation V for some of its more questionable Pokemon, Chandelure is often one of the examples pointed to. Many Ghost-types can fall into the category of “real thing that’s been possessed”, and some fans don’t appreciate this philosophy. On the other hand, it can be seen as proof that the designers go deeper than just putting a face on an inanimate object. The creative minds at Game Freak often have to work hard to work anthropomorphic features into them in clever ways. For example, its eyes looking like holes in the side of a lamp, of its arms being the prongs of the Chandelier.
While Chandelure’s purple flame makes for a spooky aura and pretty features, its shiny variant improves on this aspect significantly. Where the purple flame feels subdued and perhaps slightly calming, the orange flame gives a much more intimidating aura. The flames feel harsher, and the design feels overall a lot more aggressive in nature. While the creature doesn’t have a propensity for being particularly vicious, it is said by the Pokedex to “burn up the spirit” of anyone its flames touch.
The look of the final evolution of starter Pokemon is an interesting conundrum. The cuteness of the base form has to be converted into a cool factor, and the animal it gets based on has to make sense. However, where designers are the most greatly restricted is the colour scheme. The primary colour of all of the starters has to remain green for Grass-types, blue for Water-types and red/orange for Fire-types. This means that often thematic aspects can be lost due to the need for correct colouration.
One of the clearest examples is Greninja, a factor that its shiny thankfully improves upon. It seems obvious when looking at the name, but Greninja is indeed designed to be a Ninja. These are a type of person traditionally focused on remaining unseen, hiding in the shadows and striking when their targets don’t expect. This is made much harder for Greninja as it has to contend with a saturated blue look that most certainly wouldn’t blend into the shadow. Never fear, shiny Greninja to the rescue! Coloured in black, the “ninja” core of the design is fulfilled and makes more of a thematically improved creation.
The basis for a whopping eight Pokemon in its evolutions, Eevee is one of the most recognisable characters in the franchise. In recent years it has gotten a huge marketing push behind it, with it being the face of Let’s Go! Eevee, and in the anime, almost every one of Ash’s female companions has caught an Eevee at some point. Its aesthetic is perfect for marketing purposes, it has heaps of cute charm, and its light brown colouring makes it very inoffensive to look at. However, its shiny form makes a bold choice that is arguably an improvement.
Changing from a brown coat to a white coat improves Eevee in two major ways. Firstly, it makes it look like it’s snow-coated, and as we all know, “snowy” variations on animals are always cuter. Owls, Rabbits, Leopards, Tigers. It is an indisputable fact of nature that a snowy coat of fur makes for a cute animal. Secondly, it feels more thematically appropriate for how Eevee can evolve into almost anything. The pale white fur gives the impression of a blank canvas just waiting to be painted upon (metaphorically, don’t try to paint your Eevee). It’s something that can become whatever you want it to be, and this form exemplifies that.
While the designs of Reshiram & Zekrom are both very thematically appropriate, they can be a bit visually disappointing. Zekrom being all black and Reshiram being all white means they lack a certain level of intricacy. The creators did a good job of having their features make up for this deposit somewhat, but looking at them still gives the feeling that there could’ve been just a bit more oomph to make them more special. For an alternate feel, the most obvious place to look is their shinies.
Zekrom’s shiny isn’t anything special. The different shades of black get more variation, but ultimately, it doesn’t add anything to the original. This stands in stark contrast to Reshiram. The change is very small, but it improves it immensely. The rings around its neck & tail turn from white to gold. That’s it as far as changes go, but that small colour distinction has a huge impact overall. Reshiram’s build and face have a regal feel, and that little touch of gold takes that idea and pushes it as far as it will go. It’s such a simple and obvious change, but it’s one of the most obvious examples of a shiny Pokemon’s design being an improvement, and Zekrom should’ve had something similar.
When it came to designing for the tropical island of Alola, a haunted sandcastle must’ve been one of the most obvious ideas. Alola’s Pokemon are notable for feeling more thematically appropriate to the region than any other, so an obvious choice like this was the correct one. Sandygast’s look is simple and pleasing enough to be cute while still having the haunting and disturbing edge to it that all Ghost-type Pokemon should.
The improvements of Sandygast’s shiny push the fear factor to its limit while still staying thematically sound to the world around it. The choice to use black sand is a very clever move. Firstly, it makes it look like Sandygast is sucking the life out of the world around it. Its main motivation is to build and grow itself to be bigger with as much sand as it can find. The blackness gives the impression that it’s draining the world around it of all its essence, even something as lifeless as sand is turned. Secondly, there is a black sand beach in the region. Very few shinies have such clear justification in the lore of the world, but Sandygast fits right in with locations in Alola.
Serving as Generation III’s Pseudo-Legendary Pokemon, Metagross is one of the most menacing-looking monsters out there. With an IQ of over 4000, a brain like a super-computer, massive metal arms that could crush anything, and psychic powers, Metagross is an unstoppable monster. Its arms and body look carefully molded as if it has refined itself to have the most efficient body for its purpose. The red eyes are burning with threat, made all the more intimidating with the cross over its face.
The shiny looks to highlight some of its best aspects. The metallic blue of the original is switched out with a bright and bold silver. This look makes Metagross not only look more valuable and special but stronger too. Then its claws and cross on its face turn yellow. While these might not have any lore-friendly explanation, they become greater highlights, and the contrast in colours works well between the yellow and silver. This is one so beloved that it is frequently seen in the anime, with later appearances of Steven Stone’s Metagross having been retconned to be shiny.
The being of life and cover star for Pokemon X, Xerneas, is one of the most majestic characters in the franchise. Its deer-based design gives it a delicate and caring look, fitting for a creature that gives life. However, it still has some sharp edges and is large and intimidating enough to be clearly seen as a formidable opponent in battle. Generation VI was the first to introduce the Fairy-type into the games, and Xerneas is arguably the perfect creature (alongside Sylveon) to represent what that type is all about.
Its shiny manages to push this idea much further. The blue on its head and back grow much brighter and more vibrant, like the very concept of colour if pouring out of it, helped when its multicoloured horns light up in battle. The biggest change, though, is its body switching from black to white. Xerneas is meant to stand as a polar opposite to its counterpart, Yveltal, which makes it weird that both of them use black as their base colour. Not only is white a more appropriate colour for the embodiment of life in the Pokemon world, but it would make Xerneas’ blue & white stand in even clearer contrast to Yveltal’s red & black.
Aegislash and its pre-evolutions have proved to be some of Generation VI’s more controversial Pokemon. Many fans see it as an impressive design that stays true to the concept it’s based on while having enough visually interesting elements to become something new. On the other hand, many other fans see it as another example of a lazy creation, anthropomorphizing yet another inanimate object, slapping a face on it and saying it’s “possessed”.
What both camps can agree on, however, is that the shiny form looks vastly different from the original in the best possible way. The gold is removed from the blade entirely, replaced with black metal, like it’s the sword of a dark knight. The gold instead acts as a highlight on the shield, which works perfectly with the black base layer and the red highlights in the middle. Then there is the best aspect, the red outline. The silver outline which originally served as a strange tip on the sword is now coated blood-red. This has improved Aegilslash from looking like something a king might hang on their wall to something a dark and vicious villain would carry as their weapon, dripping in their enemy’s blood.