It’s time once again to put on your vest, turn your cap backwards, and set out to catch ‘em all. Pokémon Sun and Moon are here, and they’re pretty great. Nothing stirs up nostalgia like a new entry in Game Freak’s monster-catching series, so now’s a good time to ask: Which Pokémon starter is your favorite? Are you digging the dapper Rowlet? Are you still one-hundred percent loyal to your little Charmander? Sound off!
I dunno about starters, but let me tell you about Tropius. By which I mean "reprint a blog post I wrote five years ago."
Why is Tropius great? Well, let’s see. It’s a brontosaurus, so that’s nice. But it’s also a palm tree. Its fronds form wings, which means it is a flying brontosaurus. As brontos were herbivorous dinosaurs, this makes Tropius a cannibal. And reading its profile, I realize its beard is actually made of bananas that began to sprout there because it likes bananas so much that it ate them all them time and its body eventually started just growing them itself. This of course makes no damn sense, but that just lends to its brilliance. It’s a self-cannibalizing flying dinosaur, and that is fantastic. This is exactly the sort of bizarre foolishness that makes Pokémon worth bothering with in the first place.
The thing that really bugs me about these games — well, one of the things that bugs me — is that the really fun and interesting creatures don’t show up until pretty late in the adventure, at which point it’s far too much trouble to make them viable party members. So I’m rounding up a team of creatures more interesting than the ones the games want me to use in proper sequence — such as Tropius, Spoink, and other assorted oddballs that apparently no one ever actually uses — so I can import them as early as possible and play the next chapter of the series my own dang way.
From everything I’ve read, Tropius is kind of worthless in the games, yeah. But by crackie, it’s a flying palm tree dinosaur that eats its own banana beard, and I will find a way to make it a viable team member. The heck with you min-maxers and you balance-obsessed trainers alike; this is how these games are meant to be played.
I'll make an admission: I don't think the Red and Blue starters are really all that. Yep, Charmander evolves into a dragon. Squirtle evolves into a larger tortoise (with hydro cannons on its back!) They've held up well, but from a design and usability standpoint, I think they're outshined by all the Hoenn starters as well as Greninja.
Having dropped that grenade, my personal favorite starter is Chimchar: the little fire monkey that debuted in Diamond and Pearl. Funnily enough, I didn't like it at first, even choosing Turtwig in my initial playthrough, but I fell in love when I saw its final form: a totally badass chimp that borrows its aesthetic from Journey to the West. It helped that Infernape was one of the best monsters in Diamond and Pearl, its power and flexibility allowing it to fill a wide variety of roles.
What's funny is that Pokémon's starters is that they are rarely very good in the competitive game. True, Venusaur, Swampert, Greninja, Sceptile, and Infernape have all made dents at various points; but more often than not, the likes of Emboar and even Blastoise get outshined by other monsters. Infernape bucked that trend back in Diamond and Pearl; and while it's fallen off since, it still has a soft spot in my heart. It was so fast and powerful and downright cool that I couldn't help loving it. Not coincidentally, Diamond and Pearl was my favorite competitive metagame.
Since Heart Gold and Soul Silver, my faithful Infernape Char has followed me from game to game, helping me to win the Battle Frontier, conquer the Pokémon World Tournament, and win more than my share of competitive battles. It even got to be a movie star at one point in Black 2/White 2, which was quietly one of my favorite Pokémon features ever. In breeding my Infernape, I even managed to luck out and get a shiny Chimchar, which likewise follows me from game to game (hilariously, I almost released it before realizing why its color looked a little off).
When Pokémon Bank becomes compatible with Sun and Moon, I will happily transfer over Infernape and begin my journey to capture the Ultra Beasts. After 10 years, it's still my favorite Pokemon ever.
I’ll always have a soft spot for my very first starter, which was Charmander. I remember looking at that little guy in Nintendo Power, observing what he evolves into, and saying to myself “Yeah, I need some of that.” But if you held a Pokemon equipped with TM15 to my head and said “Name your favorite starter right this second,” I’d probably say “Totodile.”
Yeah, I really dig the Water-type starter from Pokemon Gold and Silver. I just … have a weakness for tiny alligators, all right? I like vicious little water-dragons that can potentially take your arm despite being the size of a pomeranian.
Totodile gradually evolves into the voracious Feraligatr, but for my money, the blue dude peaks as soon as it exits Professor Elm’s lab all tucked in your arms like the teeny tiny sweet baby it is.
Pokémon? Oh dear. I'm totally the wrong person to ask this question. Somehow, I've managed to make it through the last two decades without actually playing a Pokémon game. The thing is, I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy what they have to offer. I love the turn-based pet battle system in World of Warcraft, which apparently features very similar play mechanics: You pick a roster of three pets, each of which has its own strengths and vulnerabilities, and try to wipe out your opponent's team using each pet's limited selection of strategic moves. It's simple, but a lot of fun. It sounds like Pokémon is a more complex version of that, but with a proper story, and a cast of characters to interact with. I can definitely see the appeal in that. Maybe one of these days I'll get around to trying it out...