Inside Pokémon’s Mezo Region: The Ambitious Fan Project With More Than 150 Unique Designs
Fanart and Pokémon practically go hand-in-hand. Just a quick Google search will reveal dozens — if not hundreds — of passionate fan projects inspired by Game Freak’s world of Pokémon. But one fan’s creation is taking off within the Pokémon community thanks to its strong resemblance to the Pokémon series’ original monster design philosophy. It’s called the Mezo region, and it’s a passion project that the creator, a DeviantArt user named Lugi-Oh, says has been in the works for over a decade.
The Mezo region is a Pokémon fan art project made up of designs for 170 unique Pokémon. Its origins can be traced all the way back to 2006, when Pokémon Diamond and Pearl came out. Lugi-Oh has always had a passion for character design, and wanted to create a Pokémon region himself. While it may seem like these characters belong in a Pokémon fan game, that’s not the case; Lugi-Oh says he started drawing these Pokémon just to get the designs and ideas out of his brain and onto paper. The project was never intended to be anything more than a fun art project for Pokémon fans to enjoy.
“Character design in general is what I have the most fun doing,” Lugi-Oh told IGN. “Pokémon just happens to be an endless playground for that. I loved the games and ever since they first made sequels with new Pokédexes, I wanted to make one of my own. I technically began this project back around the release of Diamond and Pearl. I would casually catalog ideas and scrap them every time a new Pokémon title came out with similar concepts. After the release of Sun and Moon I decided to revisit the idea as a personal design challenge, only this time without caring!”
Despite not appearing in a game of their own, the designs are taking off in the community, with fans saying they feel like Lugi-Oh’s creations belong in the world of Pokémon. Many Pokémon fans are leaving comments on Lugi-Oh’s profile, saying they are already picking which Pokémon they’d add to their party. Others say they’ve been checking out fake Pokémon designs for years, and the Mezo region is the best they’ve come across. This is partially due to the gorgeous, charming designs, but it’s also a testament to how cohesive the Mezo region feels, with commenters saying they can imagine these creatures all existing within the same ecosystem.
“I finished my ideation of 150 new [original] Pokémon and 20 regional forms shortly after the announcement of Sword and Shield,” Lugi-Oh explains, “but it was the shutdown in 2020 that actually gave me time to start illustrating.”
The Great Pokémon Interchange
Like other games in the series, Mezo’s Pokédex has the three traditional starters: a water, fire, and grass type. However, there are also three more starter Pokémon with ice, steel, and ground types to shake things up a bit, making for a total of six starter Pokémon. A highlight is Spagnoth, an adorable ground-type sloth that can stand toe-to-toe with the best starter Pokémon from the series’ history.
It’s far from just the starters, though. The Mezo Region has 150 new creatures, just like the original Kanto Pokédex that introduced us to classics like Pikachu, Squirtle, and Mewtwo. Lugi-Oh also takes a cue from modern Pokémon games, adding in 20 regional variations of pre-existing Pokémon as seen in Alola, Galar, and most recently, Pokémon Legends Arceus’ Hisui region.
Beyond the starters, there’s a normal-type guinea pig named Pigmea that eventually evolves into an adorable Capybara named Cuibara. There’s a stunning pterodactyl named Electerror, and a skeleton who has come to life called Calatrina. And for fans of Pokémon that resemble real-world objects, check out Voojoo, a pin cushion Pokémon that takes after a voodoo doll.
Character design in general is what I have the most fun doing. Pokémon just happens to be an endless playground for that.
“A good bit of my dex is inspired by prehistoric animals that migrated in the Great American Interchange, such as ground sloths, saber tooths, and terror birds,” Lugi-Oh says. “Between the settlements of the Antilles and pre-Columbian empires, the Caribbean was a vortex of world influences. The richness in cultural and biodiversity made it the most desirable area to base a Pokémon region. Its name comes from what was historically known as Mesoamerica, a region where the Neotropical and Nearctic biogeographic realms happen to meet.”
The Mezo region itself is meant to resemble North and South America, and is inspired in part by the real-life Great American Interchange that took place about 2.7 million years ago. In the real world, the Great American Interchange started when the land that is now known as Panama rose up from the sea floor, creating a bridge between North and South America. This allowed all sorts of different species to migrate from one continent to the other. Sounds like a pretty cool place to base a Pokémon region on.
In this hypothetical world, regional trainers can travel between the two continents, exploring lands inspired by both North and South America. The map also includes multiple islands, providing a varied experience for folks journeying throughout the Mezo region.
Luigi-Oh’s vision truly does feel like a fully-realized Pokémon region that would have fit in naturally right around the time of Pokémon’s third or fourth generation. And it’s not just the designs and the map — there are stats, abilities, heights, weights, and evolution requirements for every Pokémon he’s designed. He also designed the eight gym leaders you’d face in the region’s imaginary quest to become the Champion. You can take a look at all of the Pokémon below.
An homage to Ken Sugimori
Fan reception has been incredibly positive in the Pokémon community. Lugi-Oh is finding that as Game Freak’s new Pokémon designs have started to head in a different direction, his fans are turning to the Mezo Region to find the designs and character qualities that call back to the franchise’s early days.
“I’m no longer in the demographic that the Pokémon Company is trying to target,” Lugi-Oh said. “Obviously my approach is an homage to Ken Sugimori and [the] team’s foundational style. My favorite game was Pokémon Gold version, and I have this old, beat-up guidebook littered with beautiful watercolor monsters that I used to stare at for hours. That’s super nostalgic for me, but preference varies by personal experience… Honestly the variety of feedback I’ve gotten has made it so fun, and the overall love has been overwhelming. It just shows that if you make something that you genuinely like, someone else will like it too.”
If you’ve looked at these designs and are still dreaming of catching and training them yourself in a fan-made game, there are no plans for that to happen. Lugi-Oh has no projects in the works outside of the original art, although he may return and make more art featuring the characters out of appreciation for all of his followers.
“The only reason this exists was to get it out of my head,” Lugi-Oh said. “Nobody would be interested in making the Mezo Region as is, because it would take an incredibly ambitious team of people. In addition to my 150 characters, there are 300 pre-existing Pokémon that also live in the region!”
Even though we’ll never be able to explore the Mezo region ourselves, it’s fun to think about roaming around this imaginary Pokémon world with all of its unique creatures.
For more on Pokémon, check out our review of the latest official Pokémon game, Pokémon Legends Arceus. And, if you’re trying to catch ’em all in Hisui, take a look at our Pokémon Legends Arceus wiki guide. Finally, be sure to give Lugi-Oh a follow on Twitter and DeviantArt if you want to see everything that comes out of the Mezo Region.
Art used with the permission of Lugi-Oh
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN. You can find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant