Ultra Beasts: The Concept

By Max. Optimizer. Released: 2019-11-16.
« Previous Article Next Article »
Ultra Beasts: The Concept artwork

Art by Tiki.


With the advent of the 8th generation of Pokémon games and with Generation 7 subsequently entering its final phase, I want to dedicate a retrospective to one of the elements that made the Generation 7 games both memorable and unique: the Ultra Beasts (UBs). In the first half of the following article I will address the general concept of the UBs and proceed to reevaluate the function they fulfil in the games. In the second half I will place individual emphasis on every single UB with trivia regarding their designs and names. Who knows? Maybe some of our readers will learn a new thing or two that will make them see the UBs with different eyes.

General Concept

The UBs are mysterious powerful creatures that appear whenever wormholes, the connection between their world and ours, occur in the sky above the Alola region. Game Freak skillfully managed to make these specific creatures stand out from the plethora of Pokémon we had encountered thus far by giving them literal otherworldly designs, as well as their own unique ability: Beast Boost. Another element that makes them stand out from regular Pokémon is the fact that the Rotom Dex cannot process and register the names of a UB during an encounter, only registering after a trainer has successfully captured one.

However, it is important to keep in mind that, despite their "alien" appearance, they still very well count as "Pokémon" game mechanics-wise: they have natures, the same maximum amount of 510 Effort Values (EVs) that can be invested across the stats, and the same maximum amount of 31 Individual Values (IVs) that a stat can have, their level caps at 100, and they only have common moves that we have already seen in the movepools of other Pokémon before.

The aforementioned natural spectactle of wormholes in the Alola region is due to the presence of Cosmog and its final evolutions, Solgaleo and Lunala, entities with powers that allow them to cross the interdimensional borders at will. Game Freak greatly managed to convey the sense of mystery here, since Pokémon like Cosmog, Cosmoem, Solgaleo, Lunala and even the mystifying Necrozma could in a sense also be classified as UBs. The line between "What is a Pokémon?", in the traditional sense, and "What is a UB?" is hence not clear cut and leaves some aspects up to individual personal interpretation among players. However, for the purpose of this article, I will not consider these Pokémon among the UBs.

The arrival of the UBs in the Alola region also shows the player that the region's four guardian deities, Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu, and Tapu Fini, fully deserve their title and that they courageously defend their territory and the people that inhabit it. It is said that these guardian deities had already been protecting their respective islands from the recurring surprise guests even long before the stories in SM and USM unfolded. Even the Kahunas get to show that they are not just ordinary Gym Leaders and that their duty does not end at the Island Trials, especially in the cutscenes depicting the outcome of Lusamine pressuring Cosmog into opening even more wormholes. The most plausible reason as to why the Tapu and the Kahunas cooperate in this scenario is the sheer lack of intel they have about these "alien" creatures that makes them want to stifle this potential threat before it can get out of control. Their intervention is primarily a precautionary measure because nobody had been able to capture an UB yet in order to fully research their nature and behavior.

However, not only the guardian deities had taken notice of the intruders. In order to efficiently fight the UBs, notable members of the Aether Foundation like Mohn, Lusamine, Wicke, and Faba started dedicating their lives to creating Type: Null", a literal "UB killer" chimera by adding cells of Pokémon of every single type to its DNA. Their plan of maximizing their chances of winning consisted in letting Silvally, Type: Null's evolution, take on the UBs as the perfect counter that can change in between typings freely when equipped with the matching Type Memory. Since Type: Null was unwilling to cooperate with the Aether Foundation, this project was quite literally put on ice, and the main focus of the foundation shifted to the attempt of capturing the UBs instead. Since regular Poké Balls (with the Master Ball being the only exception) only have a catch rate multiplier of 0.1x when trying to capture UBs, the foundation's research team had to invest a lot of resources into the development of a Poké Ball that suits the job much better: the Beast Ball, with a catch rate modifier of 5x for UBs. Funnily enough, the Beast Ball only has a catch rate multiplier of 0.1x when trying to catch regular Pokémon that are not UBs.

The presence of the UBs in the Alola region, as well as the related implications, do not lose the slightest bit of importance after the story has ended. As a matter of fact, these creatures make up the entirety of the postgame in the regular SM games, where the player gets to help in defending Alola. While the Kahunas repelled most of the UBs in the USM games, with the exception of Stakataka (UM) and Blacephalon (US), the same cannot be said about the first installments of the Generation 7 games. Once the player becomes the first champion of the Alola region, Looker, a member of the international police, reaches out to you with the request of assisting with the capture of the remaining UBs that are still terrorizing parts of the islands. Looker is accompanied by Anabel, the Frontier Brain from the Battle Frontier's Battle Tower in the Hoenn region. She is referred to as a "faller", meaning a human that has traversed a wormhole, much like a UB, and now functions as a UB bait for the international police, since the UBs are capable of sensing the energy of the wormhole that she fell through.

The fact that UBs react to that energy is an indicator as to why they did not necessarily want to come to this world and that they're desperately looking for a means of returning home to their respective worlds in the Ultra Space. This implies that, despite the fact that UBs are considered "intruders", it does not necessarily mean that they are evil per se. At the end of the day they are also victims of the unpredictable nature of the wormholes, much like the fallers.

While we are already discussing the symbolism of the coin with two sides, the USM games, the second installment of the Generation 7 games, added the Ultra Recon Squad, a group of people from a different dimension that followed Necrozma all the way to the Alola region because it had stolen the light from their world. They use Poipole as their partner, a new UB that is exclusive to the USM games and the only UB that can actually evolve. This supports my previous argument about how UBs are not necessarily evil and that they are very well able to form peaceful bonds with other lifeforms.

Individual Case Studies

Now that we have discussed the general concept of the UBs, I also wanted to welcome the opportunity to place the emphasis on each UB individually and talk about what makes each one of them interesting and worth remembering.

Nihilego (UB-01 Symbiont)


Nihilego was one of the first UBs that were shown during the trailers for the regular SM games. This UB, resembling a jellyfish, immediately rose the attention of a lot of players because its shape significantly reminded them of Lillie, a mysterious girl that functioned as the right hand of Professor Kukui. A lot of speculation arose when people came up with the theory that UBs might actually capable of shapeshifting and imitating humans. Its codename "Symbiont" is a reference to the Greek word "symbiosis" (συμβίωσις), meaning "living together" and, when we remember its interaction with Lusamine, it becomes evidently clear as to why this specific codename was chosen. Its actual name "Nihilego" is composed of the two Latin words "nihil" (nothing) and "ego" (self), meaning that this UB has no true "self" and that it requires a host, much like a parasite. The squishy and flexible body can also be considered an indicator of the aforementioned theme.

Buzzwole (UB-02 Absorption)


When taking a look at this bodybuilder mosquito with access to the move Leech Life, it becomes immediately clear why its codename is "Absorption". The way in which some families of mosquitos manage to spread to countries outside of their original habitat because of international travel and hyper mobility is consistent with how Buzzwole travelled from Ultra Space to the Alola region. While it is pretty obvious why this UB is partly a Bug-type, the reason why it is also partly a Fighting-type is a lot more interesting. By definition, an intrusive species always tries to assert dominance by combatting the local competitors to continue its spread.

Pheromosa (UB-02 Beauty)


Pheromosa, much like Nihilego, is an interesting UB that originally led me and other Pokémon fans to believe that UBs are shapeshifters. The way it looks and acts makes it resemble Lusamine. Its codename "Beauty", as well as its actual name "Pheromosa" are both a reference to the female version of the Spanish adjective "hermosa", meaning "beautiful". The "Phero-" part of its actual name is a reference to pheromones, chemicals secreted through glands that function as a means of communication between members of the same species, especially in the world of insects. It hence makes sense as to why this cockroach-like and copepod-like UB is partly a Bug-type. Pheromosa's gaze and body posture also suggest a trace of narcissism.

Xurkitree (UB-03 Lightning)


Xurkitree's name is a corruption of the words "circuit" and "tree", as well as a homophone of "circuitry". Much like Nihilego and Pheromosa, Xurkitree was originally one of the reasons as to why people assumed that UBs are shapeshifters, since its head does not only resemble a Moravian star, but also Guzma's head. Interestingly enough, while all of the other UBs have a dual typing, Game Freak decided to make Xurkitree a pure Electric-type, hence making it stand out from the others in that regard.

Celesteela (UB-04 Blaster)

Celesteela is also an interesting case. This rocket-like UB is a reference to extraterrestrial Princess Kaguya (かぐや姫) from the Japanese folktale of "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter". The rocket engines look like bamboo, and the gold element inside is actually a reference to the gold that Kaguya's people hid inside bamboo, knowing that it was a valuable currency on Earth and that it would help her survive. The spacecraft theme is also related to the fact that Celesteela's English name, design, and Steel / Flying dual typing are also references to SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer), a Japanese lunar orbiter spacecraft that was launched on September 14th 2007 and was also nicknamed "Kaguya" (かぐや). Its Japanese name Tekkaguya (テッカグヤ) rounds off the reference nicely. It becomes clear why one can encounter this UB at the Malie Garden, an Asian garden in the midst of a Hawaii-based region, with the other catching location being the Haina Desert, a rocky desert that could be a reference to the moon.

Kartana (UB-04 Blade)


Kartana's actual name is obviously a reference to the katanas, famous swords that were used by the samurai during Japan's feudal era. While this reference, as well as its codename, explain why it is partly a Steel-type, the fact that it is also partly a Grass-type could very well be a reference to the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (草薙の剣), a legendary sword of white metallic color that appears in many texts of Japanese folklore. Its name translates to "Grass-Cutting Sword" and allegedly exists in real life, hidden away in a shrine. The fact that it is also a reference to origami, the Japanese art of folding paper, also explains why this UB is quite literally as thin as paper when it comes to its specially defensive side Special Defense.

Guzzlord (UB-05 Glutton)


Guzzlord's name, formed with the words "guzzle" and "lord", as well as its codename "Glutton", already greatly express its voracious nature. The fact that this UB is part Dark type and has a seemingly endless pharynx that can consume everything that gets too close to it reflects the theme of "black holes" that are said to be able to grow when absorbing surrounding mass, including other black holes. Guzzlord is a literal "black body", meaning a physical body that can absorb radiation in all frequencies, including light of course. Finally, with the analysis of the aforementioned themes of destruction and their incorporation, it comes as no surprise as to why this UB can be encounter at the Ultra Ruin, a completely demolished city without any trace of life.

Poipole (UB Adhesive) & Naganadel (UB Stinger)

Poipole Naganadel

As I already mentioned earlier in this article, Poipole is a unique UB in the sense of where it can actually evolve (into Naganadel). Their names are respectively composed of the words "poison" and "pole" and "nāga", a serpetine deity in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and "nadel", the German word for "needle", obviously referencing its giant stinger that also explains its codename. This USM-exclusive UB is also unique in the sense that it did not come to the Alola region through the wormholes like the others but was brought there as a Poipole by the Ultra Recon Squad.

Stakataka (UB Assembly)


Fittingly enough, its regular name "Stakataka" is most definitely a combination of the verbs "to stack" and "to attack". In the same vein, its codename also references the fact that it is assembled of many living entities in the forms of bricks. This is consistent with how some regular Pokémon also get together in order to form new Pokémon, such as Magnemites forming a Magneton and Beldums forming a Metang before the Metangs themselves form a Metagross. As I already said earlier in this article, while the UBs undeniably look alien from the outside, they still feature a whole lot of elements that are typical for Pokémon in the traditional sense upon closer inspection. Stakataka is also a prime example of how the 3DS's capabilities allow the designers to implement more complex Pokémon animations: its body is a lot more movable than one might think and one can see the bricks shifting around, revealing the eyes that are hidden in its core in the process.

Blacephalon (UB Burst)


Finally, last but not least we have Blacephalon, the colorful clown-like UB that is seemingly juggling with invisible balls. However, do not let yourself get fooled by its playful and seemingly harmless appearance! This clown is no laughing matter! It can cause fireworks by removing its head and making it explode like a giant firecracker. The fact that it can easily remove (and also regrow) its head seems to be a reference to the rokurokubi (ろくろ首, 轆轤首), a yōkai from Japanese folklore that can also take off their heads. In the same vein, this little gimmick, in addition to the fact that it is partly a Ghost-type, reminds me of the "Nearly Headless Nick" character from the Harry Potter books! Its name is composed of the words "blaze" and the Ancient Greek word kephalḗ (κεφαλή), meaning "head". This UB is unique in the sense where it has an own unique signature move: Mind Blown, a 150 BP move that causes Blacephalon to take damage equal to half of its maximum HP rounded up when used. The designers greatly managed to use the animation of said move, as well as Blacephalon's general movements, to bring out the comical nature of this Pokémon. Unlike with many other Pokémon, its animations have a lot more personality to them, and the Pokémon is not just bobbing back and forth.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, I hope that this article managed to explain how the UBs functioned as an important intriguing driving force throughout the story in Generation 7, affecting both local Pokémon and humans. After having studied the themes behind their designs, names, and typings, it becomes clear that Game Freak managed to implement a great number of clever references to science and mythology from our real world. Maybe they are not as "alien" as we originally perceived them? The UBs brought some new interesting things to the table and were definitely a highlight of this generation.

HTML by Ryota Mitarai.
« Previous Article Next Article »