Another year, another round of Pokemon games. Those craft little elemental critters just can't be beat, with Black and White yet again topping the charts and claiming another generation to pad Nintendo's pockets with their parent's cash. Matt's already cast a nostalgic eye over Pokemon 15 years of dominance, and back in May of last year I ruminated on just why the Pokemon formula has endured for so long.
So I thought it'd be the perfect time for yet another trip down memory lane, remembering some of our favorite critters who started each of our adventures over the past fifteen years. From Red to Blue, Black to White, let's take a look back at The Top Ten Starter Pokemon!
It's a baby monkey, and it's rear end is ablaze! You'd be forgiven for expecting Chimchar to have a surly disposition - what with his ass being on fire - but he's a loyal little chimp who eventually evolves into the formidable Infernape, with the fire spreading from his gluteus maximus to his cranium. Pokemon are a sturdy bunch.
I'm adamant Nintendo have stolen my imaginary Pokemon art-book I pored over in the late 90s. In it, I imagined a fire-type starter who was a pig with a fiery, Charmander-esque tail. And now, twelve years on, it pops up in Pokemon Black and White. Coincidence? I think not. But I'll forgive Ninty, as Tepig is a great little critter. Still, not quite as good as my original design.
He's a lovable little lizard, munching on a twig and adopting his best bad ass pose, but Treecko is a decidedly tough critter, especially for a grass-type, which usually prefer to deal in life-sapping damage rather than all-out brawn. And what with the rest of most Pokemon titles' grass-types being on the flimsy side, having a critter like Treecko - who packs quite a punch in his latter stages - can turn the tide of many a battle.
Oh, Squirtle. You were our first introduction to water-types, with your cheeky grin and sturdy shell. For some reason, a seven year-old version of myself in the 90s who first picked up Pokemon Blue from a store shelf in Hammersmith, thought Squirtle was a frog. His tier-three evolution, the formidable Blastoise, featured on the front of that particular game. I thought he was a dog hiding inside a tank.
The follow-up to Squirtle, Totodile didn't disappoint, with his chunky jaws and comically lopsided head. Although I must admit, I picked Totodile from the off because I'd already glimpsed his final evolution, Feraligatr, a hunched-over, crocodilian monstrosity of a Pokemon. But Totodile proved his worth, and I was almost a little sad when he reached level 16 and had to evolve. Almost.
It's an otter clutching a shell to its chest. What's not love? Despite his adorable appearance, Oshawott is a cunning little combatant. I imagine he enjoys dining on his stomach while floating upturned, like all self-respecting otters. However, I'm a little stumped by his final evolution. Namely, because I have no idea what it is. Some sort of sword-wielding greyhound?
Cyndaquil has a lovably vulnerable look, with his squinting eyes and hunched, shrew-like back. Although any creature boasting a wreath of flames can't really be considered vulnerable. Cyndaquil was perhaps the best addition to the second round of starters, a perfect choice for newcomers and veterans alike with his fearsome range of fire-type moves. He was also very cute; which helps.
Poor, Bulbasaur. Despite his best efforts, he could never properly pronounce his name. He always missed out on the last syllable. But we'll forgiven him for this, because he was a terrific Pokemon, boasting perhaps the best design in the series. Part dinosaur, part flower, Bulbasaur sprouted a bulb on its back that allowed it to fire photosynthetic energy and unleash slashing vine-whips. Pretty nifty. grass Pokemon were never exactly brilliant, but in Venusaur a trainer had one of the best, hands-down.
It's a penguin. We love penguins. Their shuffling gait, their useless sheath of wings. Nintendo realized this, and threw in a water-type starter modeled after an adorable infant penguin. Now Piplup was quite mini and cute, no doubt. But he could throw down with the best of them. He also evolved into one of the most fearsome-looking Pokemon ever created; the mighty Empoleon.
It had to be Charmander. For one, I remember he was the Pokemon everyone chose back in the day. He was the go-to guy. He also evolved into Charizard, who was the most prized trading card in their debut launch. And he was a pretty fantastic starter, too. He liked his steaks well-done. Not to mention he's ridiculously cute.
We've obviously missed a few critters on this list, and Pikachu deserves an honorary mention, but who would you like to see on this list in particular? Go on, tell us. We know you still love Pokemon!