Let’s go back to a simpler time for a second, almost two decades back to when Windows 98 was blowing our minds, DreamWorks were trying their best to prove that Antz wasn’t just a rip-off of A Bug’s Life but most importantly, a certain pocket monster phenomenon was beginning to gain traction. Most of us were confronted with the toughest choice we’d ever have the pain of facing: Squirtle, Bulbasaur or Charmander, which Pokémon starter do you pick?
Pokémon starters are without question one of the most important factors when presented with any new Pokémon game. They set the template for the addictive adventure to come, build up a bond and relationship that will last 40 plus hours (maybe more) and remain a staple of anyone’s core Pokémon team throughout the forthcoming journey, whether that’s through Kanto, Johto or most recently Kalos. But are the initial Pokémon starters becoming less and less memorable with each new iteration?
To be fair, this is a problem that is not only starting to plague the Pokémon starters, but all of the new types and breeds presented in each new game. It’s an unavoidable side effect of dilution plain and simple, through no fault of Gamefreak. It makes sense for them as developers to provide players with fresh and more inventive styles of Pokémon, it’s one of the few new aspects fans can expect from each Pokémon game. Who doesn’t want to track down a new and previously unseen breed of Pokémon and (you guessed it!) catch em all? There certainly doesn’t seem to be any reinvention of the formulaic story!
Keeping with the Pokémon starters specifically for the time being, back in 1998 Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander are still so memorable, partially because they were the first but also because they were somewhat recognisable. They drew inspiration from other real animal breeds such as turtles, salamanders and dinosaurs. Try telling me what real world animal Victini is meant to be? You can’t without probably Googling it and this is a major problem, possibly being a reason why as each generation continues, Pokémon starters are much more throw away. They are less identifiable and thus we’re less attached!
Of course there will always be the diehard Pokémon fan dedicated to committing all 726 (soon to be more) Pokémon to memory, but as far as the average or dare I say it “casual” gamer is concerned, the most recent Pokémon starters are more likely to be recognised simply as “the water Pokémon” as opposed to Squirtle, a bad ass tortoise who at 3rd evolution gains two awesome water cannons on its back!
Pokémon Sun and Moon released in 2016 and makes a bit more of an attempt to make the Pokémon starters much more memorable, taking the designs back to basics. Rowlet, Litten and Popplio all have what it takes to maybe achieve the same sense of fan favouritism as say a Chikorita, Cyndiquil or Totodile, but like most things only time will tell if their popularity will last.
The debate surrounding the Pokémon Sun and Moon starters sparked much debate online when they were originally revealed, indicating that Pokémon fans are still interested in the new starters, but shortly after release their impact could still quickly die away. Final stage evolutions most certainly influence how memorable particular Pokémon starters can be too, Greninja got its own amiibo after all. Yet these still remain unknown!
What are your favourite Pokémon starters? And do they stand the test of time when compared to the original Pokémon?