Ask Chris #290: Picking A Starter Pokemon
Q: Which starter are you going to choose in Pokemon Sun and Moon, and why? -- @MikePogdor
A: You know, there's a part of me that really wants to hold off and weigh all the available options equally before I make this decision. Even if I'm not the kind of person to calculate who's going to give me the best type advantage when it comes time to battle my way through the gym leaders and teach the Elite Four a brutal lesson in humility, I should at least wait to see what their final evolutions --- you know, the ones I'm going to be stuck with through about 90% of the game --- are going to be before I commit.
But like pretty much everyone else, I've already decided. I mean, there could be one of these things that literally evolved into a hundred dollar bill and somehow popped off the screen and directly into my wallet, but if that thing didn't start out life as a tiny little bird wearing a leaf as a bowtie, then folks, I am never going to know about it.
That's right, y'all: I have chosen Rowlet to be my starter in the next generation, and in all honesty, it wasn't a difficult decision. The second I saw those three, I knew that one was going to be my newest friend. The thing is, it might not be for the reasons you think.
For one thing, it's not like I hate the other Pokémon on offer in Sun and Moon. I don't generally heck with cats like Litten in real life --- I am both highly allergic and completely mystified that so many people are okay with just having a box of gravel and animal poop inside your own house, but you do you I guess --- but it's not like I'm going to be sneezing my way through a fight with Team Rocket I picked it.
And really, while it's basically super gross that Litten is an oily little monster that licks its own oil-soaked fur and then horks it up on its enemies, that's not the grossest thing that a Pokémon has ever done. I mean, there's one of those things that's literally a semi-sentient garbage heap that has gotten so rotten and fetid that it burst out of the bag someone tried to cram it in, so in the grand scheme of things, on-fire hairballs aren't so bad.
Heck, now that I'm thinking about it, it's not even the grossest thing that a starter Pokémon has done. Remember how in the last generation, there was that weird little blue frog that evolved into a super-badass ninja with an awesome Kamen Rider scarf?
Remember how that "scarf" was actually its tongue, just constantly hanging out of his mouth, flapping in the breeze, wrapped around his own dang neck? You can have all the hard-water throwing stars you want, friend, but that is gross. Compared to that, napalm hairballs are just fine.
By the same token, I don't hate Popplio either, although in the ten days since the new starters were revealed, he has certainly become something of a... divisive character.
That said, I'm not actually sure that Popplio's quite as unloved as his reputation would have you believe. I mean, yes, I did tell a friend of mine that I liked Popplio and she responded with a dismissive snort --- she literally snorted --- and said, "I suppose someone has to," but I've honestly seen way more people launching into impassioned defenses of Popplio and swearing that they will love him forever and protect him from the cruelties of the world than people saying that they didn't like him.
Personally, I see a lot of potential here, but there's also a big stumbling block --- and they're actually drawn from the exact same thing: It's a clown. On the one hand, people tend to have a pretty strong aversion to clowns in all their various forms, but on the other, I cannot wait to see what this thing evolves into. I assume they're going to go with a more traditional take, maybe playing up the circus-style acrobatics, or possibly even leaning hard into some weird animal-fighting version of commedia dell'arte where it becomes Sealequin or something.
But --- and I want to stress that I do not actually want this to happen --- what if it hits that third evolution and comes out looking like the Joker, poisoning and stabbing your opponents' Ponyta just to show them that the world of Pokémon is chaotic and unpredictable?
Again, I think that is neither likely nor a good idea, but stranger things have happened in this world of Pocket Monsters. If they can do something like Yamask, a ghost that holds its own face and silently cries at the horror of its afterlife taking orders from a plucky ten year-old, then what's going to stop them from going full-on supervillain with it?
In the end, though, neither one of those was going to make the cut for me. It was always going to be Rowlet.
I'll admit that part of that is just because it's so darn cute. I mean, yes, he's dual type and that's pretty cool, and yes, it's finally time to switch things up to another Grass-type starter (I've been sticking with Fire since Gen II), but when you get right down to it, that little bowtie? That's the reason. You've got some kitten covered in oil and a soggy Pagliacci and I'm supposed to not pick the one who bothered to dress up for the occasion? C'mon, get serious.
There is, however, one more crucial factor. We don't really know much about the events of Sun and Moon just yet, but we do at least have a look at the Legendary Pokémon that are going to be coming up, and for those of you who haven't played the games, this is a very important aspect of going through them.
See, the Legendaries are always in a class of their own, to the point where some players even consider it bad form to actually keep them in your party once they've been captured. Personally, I'm of the mind that if I put all the effort in to slug it out with, I don't know, a giant dog that can control time or whatever, and then trap him in a ball that I can carry around in my pocket, you can be darned sure that I'm going to make use of him.
But that's beside the point. What I'm getting at here is that while the stated purpose of each Pokémon journey is to become champion of the League, you're also inevitably going to run up against one of those Legendaries in order to save the world. There's one in each game, and for what should probably be obvious reasons, I'm leaning towards Moon, which features a gigantic, awesome-looking cosmic bat.
I don't know what that thing is, but I do know that I am going to make it my friend if it kills the both of us, so I need to focus on defeating it so that we can become best pals. And if there's one thing I've learned about animals from reading comics --- and let's be real here, there is only one thing that I've learned about animals from reading comics --- it is this:
Owls eat bats.