It doesn’t matter how experienced you may be with the Pokémon series. There’s always something that’ll trip you up. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a self-proclaimed Pokémon master since 1998, when you’d carry your Pikachu lunchbox to school and play the TCG every recess. You don’t know everything.
The fact is, the franchise has expanded a thousandfold. We’re just shy of that number of Pokémon, actually, including Mega forms and Alolan forms and all of those shenanigans. What happened to the good old days, when there were only 151 of them to remember?
Similarly, the type chart’s gone a little nutty on us too. Players of the original games found that the Psychic-type was far too powerful, weak only to feeble Bug-type moves (what were you going to do, try and off Alakazam with Twineedle?), so Dark was added with generation two. With Fairies and such running around nowadays, and dual-type Pokémon, it can be tough to keep track of weaknesses and resistances. Particularly with more obscure Pokémon.
Surely we all know the starter Pokémon inside out though, right? These guys are our stalwart companions, our first traveling buddies! We spend more time staring at their back sprites than we do at the clock before a prostate exam! Nope, the starters can still surprise us in all kinds of ridiculous ways.
If you don’t know about Typhlosion’s devastating secret, or which starter Pokémon can supposedly live for 10,000 years, you’d better buckle up and join this ride.
25 SOMETHING Happens To Bulbasaur At Birth
Here it is, friends. We’re kicking this party off the right way, with Bulbasaur. The true OG, numero uno in the Pokédex, it’s Bulbasaur. The Seed Pokémon, the little guy who Vine Whipped its way into our hearts in the 90s and has never been uprooted.
There it is, then. A reptilian, froggy sort of plant thing, a curious hybrid creature. This is nothing new to the Pokémon franchise, but there’s something truly odd about Bulbasaur’s origins. The Pokédex of Red and Blue states, “A strange seed was planted on its back at birth. The plant sprouts and grows with this Pokémon.”
What is this seed, I wonder? Why is it planted on the back of all Bulbasaur at birth? Don’t they get any say in the matter? I know I’d be happier without a huge flower bigger than my own body sprouting out of the back of my pants.
24 Pikachu Once Transformed Into Ash (Or Vice Versa)
There are hints throughout the series that humans are able to transform into Pokémon. One of Kadabra’s Pokédex entries cryptically states that a boy woke up one morning as a Kadabra. No fuss, no muss, no context, that’s all there was to it.
I can’t tell you exactly what this could mean, but there’s one thing I do know: Ash was once transformed into a Pikachu by Lily the witch. In the episode Hocus Pokémon (man, did that show come up with the sweetest puns), she purports to know a spell to make people think like a Pokémon.
One mistake later, and she instead creates the Ash/Pikachu abomination that fans have dubbed Ashachu.
So, um… there’s an interesting sight. Pikachu most definitely serves as your starter in Pokémon Yellow, incidentally, so I have zero regrets in including the little guy here.
23 How Do You Say Chikorita In Japanese?
The answer is: Chikorita. The thing about regional differences for gamers is, you’re never quite happy with what you get. I live in the UK, and the EU often get the poopy end of the stick in terms of releases. When a game makes its way to the West, there’s often an extra-long wait for Europeans. From a logical standpoint, this makes perfect sense (it’s time-consuming to translate a text-heavy title into English, Spanish, Italian and German, after all), but we reserve our right to whine about it nonetheless.
That’s all well and good, but something is often lost in that translation. When it comes to Pokémon names, there are some that just don’t pack the same punch. I’ve always preferred Tyranitar’s original Japanese name, Bangiras. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be happy to know that Chikorita is the only starting Pokémon evolution line whose names are the same in Japanese and English.
22 Chimchar Is Basically Human, Give Or Take
Well, sure, I guess you could say I’m reaching a little with this one. You’re going to have to employ a little suspension of disbelief for this one, like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie (how does he only reload his gun twice in two hours of non-stop shooting?), but stick with me. There is some logic to this.
Chimchar, as I’m sure you know, is one of the starter Pokémon of Sinnoh, and evolves into popular competitive pick Infernape.
The close relations between apes and humans brings up a curious little slice of Poké-trivia: Chimchar is the only starter Pokémon to be part of the Human-Like egg group (a mechanic that determines which Pokémon species can breed with each other). I can’t help but think that’s an intentional little mini easter egg there.
21 Wartortle Can Supposedly Live For 10,000 Years
Over here in the real world, we’ve all heard the stories of the Galapagos Island giant tortoises. These great lumbering beasts have incredible longevity, and are some of the longest-lived animals on Earth. Their life expectancy is way over 100 years, and they’ve been documented as reaching close to 200.
What did Game Freak learn from this? Slap a shell on something, make it slow as a one-legged kitten with a limp, and it’ll live forever. If you’ve ever tried to take out a defensive Blastoise, with Rain Dish healing and all kinds of other shenanigans, you’ll know that all too well.
This isn’t about Blastoise, though, but its little sibling. According to Pokémon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum’s Pokédex, Wartortle “is said to live 10,000 years. Its furry tail is popular as a symbol of longevity.”
20 Frogadier Does Whatever A Spider-Man Can
Is there’s one thing the Pokédex is known for, it’s for playing fast and loose with logic. We’re told, for instance, that certain Fire types have a body temperature that rivals the center of the Sun, despite the fact that it’s a three-foot-tall slug. Or that Machamp (at 5’03”) can easily heft dump trucks into the air. Go home, logic, you are not welcome here.
Let’s check out another impossible Poké-feat. Frogadier, the first evolution of much-maligned start Froakie, is a pretty darn swift climber. Pokémon Y tells us that,
“Its swiftness is unparalleled. It can scale a tower of more than 2,000 feet in a minute's time.”
Sure it can, Game Freak. Sure it can. That’s just about the height of the Tokyo Skytree in Japan, the tallest tower (and second-tallest building period) in the world.
19 Braixen Is A Real Boy Scout
I’ll be straight with you guys, right here and now: I’m no survival expert. I’m a long darn way from Bear Grylls. When it comes to that sort of thing, my knowledge consists of playing Don’t Starve a fair bit and watching that episode of The Simpsons where Bart and Homer are lost in the woods. You won’t find me drinking my own stuff on a month-long nature hike, that’s for darn sure.
As you can imagine, then, I was no hotshot boy scout. Braixen, however, has all of that down pat. Instead of the impossible its-tail-is-perpetually-om-fire-some-darn-how logic that Pokémon often employs, this thing uses friction from its tail fur to light the stick in carries on fire, in the traditional fashion. A stick-ler (yep, I’m quite proud of that one) for old-fashioned ways.
18 Decidueye Is Like A Super-Anxious Robin Hood
When it comes to sharpshooters of the Pokémon world, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that Decidueye is up there with the best. If you’ve seen this thing’s exclusive Z move (Sinister Arrow Raid) in action, or fallen victim to its super tricksy combos in Pokkén Tournament, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Pokémon Sun and Moon’s dex entries paint an interesting picture of the creature. Sun attests to its amazing prowess, stating that “It fires arrow quills from its wings with such precision, they can pierce a pebble at distances over a hundred yards.” Straight to the Olympics with you then, guy. On the other hand, Moon adds:
“Although basically cool and cautious, when it's caught by surprise, it's seized by panic.”
Somehow, I don’t think these two traits go together too well. The postman’s likely to leave with an arrow through the eyeball if they knock unexpectedly.
17 Greninja Takes Things A Crazy-Step Further, Though
So, yes. As we just saw, Frogadier’s the kind of guy who can just go ahead and scale the freaking Tokyo Skytree in a minute flat. That is, as I think we can all agree, pretty darn fast, but is it enough for Game Freak? Of course, it isn’t. These guys are the masters of hyperbole, after all, and Froakie still has another evolution left. Take that ball and run with it, Greninja.
While still retaining all of its high-speed climbing abilities, greninja further has the power to produce razor-sharp throwing stars from water. This is the basis for its signature move, Water Shuriken, and these projectiles are strong enough to pierce through solid metal. In addition, Greninja can teleport in and out of existence and deliver flashy attacks like it’s freaking Dragon Ball Z.
16 Blaziken Fused With Latias At Some Point
In any big franchise, where we’re talking video games, movies, books or a TV show, you’ll never quite get the full picture. Along the way, there are sure to be all kinds of things that ended up on the cutting room floor. Sometimes, you’ll find these as easter eggs or DVD extras, but usually, they’ll never see the light of day.
It’s a shame, because some of these things are real doozies. I love hearing about alternative endings for movies that were ultimately rejected, but this? This is on a whole new level.
What we’re looking at here, according to Bulbapedia, is a pre-alpha sketch of a rejected Pokémon design.
I don’t know about you, but Blazias (or Latiken if you prefer) is something I could definitely have gotten behind.
15 Blaziken Is Also Superman
Sadly, competitive-wise, starter Pokémon tend to be a little sub-par. Venusaur, Charizard and Blastoise all kind of became mainstays thanks to their Mega Evolutions, and the likes of Greninja have been tearing it up in recent years, but otherwise? They tend to be used early on in a new game’s release, for the novelty value, and they are phased out in favor of something more effective.
That’s not always the case, though, as I say. Blaziken is a real beast with its Speed Boost ability, so much so that it was banished to Ubers but competitive community Smogon. What you may not know is the terrifying extent of this thing’s abilities. According to Pokémon Sapphire, “It can easily clear a 30-story building in one leap.”
Come on now, leaping tall buildings in a single bound? What’s next, X-ray vision? A fancy costume with bright red underpants on the outside?
14 Chesnaught Is Not A Fighter To Mess With
Now, we all know of the sanctity of the Fire/Water/Grass trio. This has been the way of the games for two decades now, and it doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon. It’s just the best way to hammer the type chart into players’ brains right from the off. It’s the easiest way to boil it all down.
Of course Water beats Fire and Fire beats Grass. That’s the bedrock of Pokémon’s Rock Paper Scissors gameplay.
With the advent of dual types, even the starter trio was able to mix things up a bit. When it comes to Fire, they didn’t really bother, and we’ve been up to our navels in Fire/Fighting starters. When Chesnaught arrived in Pokémon X and Y, it was the first fully-evolved part-Fighting starter that wasn’t Fire. It’s also one of very few Grass/Fighting Pokémon in general.
13 Chesnaught Has Weaknesses Out The Wazzoo, But It Couldn't Care Less
Do you know why there are so few Grass/Fighting Pokémon? They’ll all become extinct, that’s why. Defensively, Grass is one of the most craptastic types in the game, in terms of weaknesses and resistances. Coupling it with Fighting leaves Chesnaught weak to freaking everything (more specifically, six things), giving it the most weaknesses of all starter Pokémon.
Does it care, though? You bet your velvet pantaloons it doesn’t. Chesnaught is designed to be a physical tank, and in the right team, it can shrug off hits like the darn Terminator. Omega Ruby reports that “Its Tackle is forceful enough to flip a 50-ton tank,” while Pokémon Y tells us that “When it takes a defensive posture with its fists guarding its face, it could withstand a bomb blast.”
Chesnaught, you have got to calm down. Imagine if this thing used an actual, decent attack, rather than the hilariously feeble Tackle.
12 Typhlosion Has A Powerful Secret
Don’t go running away with the false impression that I’m just talking smack about Typhlosion here. After all, this Johto starter is one of my favourites of all. It’s just got that effortless cool factor. It doesn’t have much else though, sadly.
Typhlosion is another Pokémon that’s usually outclassed in what it’s trying to do, and has had to try and find a home in the lower tiers. Its only niche lies in Choice Scarf Eruption spam, which is powerful but all-too-easily neutered. Or so you think.
The way Pokémon Y tells it, Typhosion “has a secret, devastating move.”
Just what this might be is such a secret that nobody has any clue what it is. I assume we’re just talking about Eruption, this being the Volcano Pokémon and all. Still, it sounds threatening, and I guess that’s something.
11 Incineroar Is A Little Slow On The Uptake
If you’ve been around the Pokémon series for more than about a half hour, you’ll have at least some kind of grasp on how evolution works. When certain Pokémon reach the level/friendship threshold/some other criteria, they’ll evolve into their next form. It might change typing or gain new moves, but generally, it’s going to be a more powerful version of its predecessor.
Come on, Incineroar. You must know the fundamentals by now. What are you doing?
Curiously, Litten’s final evolution is the only starter Pokémon with a base stat decrease as it evolves. Incineroar’s base speed is 30 lower than that of Torracat, and 10 lower than even Litten. I get that generation seven is an overall slower metagame than previously, but you can’t go pulling things like this, Incineroar.
10 But Incineroar Does Have One Of The Most Terrifying-Sounding Signature Moves Ever
The justification for Incineroar’s lack of speed, I guess, is that the Heel Pokémon really isn’t about that life. As its title suggests, this thing is based on a professional wrestler, more specifically a heel. These are the ‘bad guys’ of the sport, whose job was to serve as a character foil to the good guys (known as faces).
Heels elicit a reaction from the crowd by cheating, or otherwise being d-bags.
It’s no surprise, then, that Incineroar has exclusive access (almost exclusive, until Ultra Sun and Moon’s move tutors came along) to the vicious move Throat Chop. This is a horrific concept for an attack; a powerful Dark move targeted at the opponent’s throat which prevents the target from using sound-based moves for three turns. You may never have heard of it and have probably never seen it, but ouch.
9 The Sinnoh Starters Are Against Each Other In More Ways Than One
So, as we’ve long since established, the starter Pokémon trinity of Grass, Water and Fire is as old as the series itself. It serves a crucial purpose and is unlikely ever to be changed. Fans have suggested similar type combinations that would also fill the three starters’ role, but this is the iconic trio.
Starting with Sinnoh, though, Game Freak branched out a little with the formula. With Diamond and Pearl, each starter’s secondary typing countered the starter that was their primary weakness. Empoleon’s Steel typing doesn’t fit the mold, but to make up for that, Torterra’s Ground typing is super effective on both Empoleon and Infernape. Granted, the poor guy is the slowest starter Pokémon ever created, but if it does get an Earthquake or two off in time, both its ‘rivals’ are in some serious trouble.
8 The Kalos Starters Are The Most ‘Perfect’ Ever Made
We’re not talking strictly on appearances alone, I hasten to add. As you might remember, a lot of fans felt some kind of way about Froakie, in particular, and snarked on the poor little frog relentlessly. They snarked like the snarking snarksters of snark that they are. Granted, they were singing an entirely different tune once Greninja and its hidden ability Protean became available, but that doesn’t make it right.
What I mean here is that Chesnaught, Delphox, and Greninja just define everything they’re supposed to be.
They totally emphasize the fact that they’re polar opposites but equals. With Greninja’s Water/Dark typing, Delphox’s Fire/Psychic typing and Chesnaught being Grass/Fighting, their STABs work perfectly against each other (bar Greninja being entirely immune to Psychic rather than simply resisting it). I just don’t think Game Freak get enough props for these three.
7 Somewhere In Bizarro World, Poipole Is A Starter Pokémon
I don’t know about you, but the design of the Ultra Beasts has never quite sat well with me. I totally get what they were trying to achieve with them (that they’re from another world and aren’t supposed to ‘fit’ with the regular Pokémon we know), but still. They’re just a little too shonky looking for my taste. What’s the deal with Guzzlord? Or Stakataka? That’s some straight-up nutso design if ever I’ve seen it.
Poipole, on the other hand, I’m totally on board with. I’m not quite convinced by its evolution, but Poipole itself looks great. It reminds me of Azelf, Mesprit, and Uxie, in all the right ways.
Even if you’ve played through Ultra Sun and Moon, you might have missed Poipole’s super interesting Pokédex entry: “This Ultra Beast is well enough liked to be chosen as a first partner in its own world.”
It’s a starter.
6 Meanwhile, In Alola, Meowth Is EVERYONE’S Starter
So, yes. I have all kinds of questions about starter Poipole. What are the alternatives? Is there a gym challenge sort of deal on its world, or an island challenge? Now that’s a game Nintendo need to release.
Let’s make this the Pokémon Stars that everyone was expecting before the reveal of Ultra Sun and Moon.
Never mind all of that right now, though. What’s really important is that, if you take the time to explore everywhere in the Ultra games, you’ll be rewarded with all kinds of side quests and little scenes. One of them sees Nanu training newbies for their own island challenges, and offering them a choice of… three different Alolan Meowths as their starters. It’s not a scene to take seriously, granted, but I did enjoy this little aside. Suddenly, Popplio doesn’t seem so bad.
5 Starter Turtles Are Not Ash’s Friends
Like a lot of gamers, I’m a hugely nostalgic person. I have at least ten past-gen consoles all rigged up by my TV, and they all see frequent use. It’s like freaking spaghetti junction with all those wires back there, and probably a fire hazard too, but it’s totally worth it.
As such, when I think of Ash’s rival in the anime, Gary is the only guy that comes to mind. Ah, those happy homework-dodging days I spent watching the show. We all know that Gary was a proud Squirtle trainer, but what about Paul, all those years later in the Diamond and Pearl arc? When this guy busted out that Turtwig, it must have brought back all kinds of memories. If a turtle phobia is a thing, this is how they start.
4 When The Kanto Starters Hit Back Out Of No-Darn-Where
Speaking of nostalgically-minded gamers, the original trio still holds a special place in our hearts. However much we might like future starter Pokémon, or those of the six generations that came after Red and Blue, they just won’t be Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle.
In the same way as Doctor Who fans will never forget their first Doctor, you can never quite let go of your first starter either.
Whether you chose Charmander or you chose wrongly (I’m mostly joking), you know that feeling I’m talking about.
You can forgive Game Freak, then, for going full fanservice in Pokémon X and Y. Your visit Professor Sycamore’s lab marked the first time that another generation’s starters were given away in-game.
3 Crouching Treecko, Hidden Dragon
Speaking of favourite starters, I’ve never really been a fan of Treecko. Grass-type starters, in general, haven’t historically been my bag, come to that.
In the last couple of years, however, Treecko has grown on me exponentially. Why? Because freaking Mega Sceptile, that’s why. This might not even crack most people’s top ten favourite megas, but I really do find it a blast to use. It’s an excellent cleaner, and Grass/Dragon is such a unique typing (shared only with Alolan Exeggutor).
The thing is, we really should have seen Ol’ Christmas Tree Tail coming. Treecko and its evolved forms are, after all, the only Grass-types in the Dragon egg group. I was getting curious as to why a little iguana was lumped in there.
2 Pokémon Ranger’s Starters That Aren’t Starters At All
We all know that most classic of classic jokes: When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar. Now, thundering along in the next carriage of the same train of thought, let’s ponder this one:
When is a starter not a starter?
As we saw earlier, Professor Sycamore lets you choose from Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur when you visit his lab in Pokémon X and Y. This is later in the game, so they’re both starters and… not starters at all.
You may not know that the same is true of Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia. In this title, you pick from Munchlax, Pachirisu, and Starly as your first companion. Later, you get access to generation four’s starter trio. So who’s the starter and who isn’t?
1 I Heard You Really, Really Like Mudkip
Fame is a curious thing. There was a time, long ago, when the word truly meant something. When beardly Vikings would gather around fires and tell stories of true heroes, legendary deeds. Their stories were mostly just lies and crapola, but the heroes were true heroes.
Fame should be earned, is what I’m getting at here. Our famous people should be the doctors and nurses who work absurd shifts to save lives. Not celebrities who go viral because of some meme or other.
I’m going to make an exception for Mudkip, though, because it’s adorable and I heard you like it. As Bulbapedia reports, Nintendo of Europe conducted a poll to see which starter Pokémon was most popular, and, of course, Mudkip took first place (Typhlosion and Blastoise were runners-up).
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