No matter what generation we started playing the main series Pokemon games, we all had to decide what partner to start our Pokemon journey with. There is a lot to take into consideration when choosing a starter Pokemon besides just type preferences and looks. It can determine how easy or difficult your journey will be for the first few gyms. Some starters even have a secondary type added when they evolve, which brings with it new strengths and weaknesses to deal with. However, for most of us during our very first playthrough of Pokemon, none of that really mattered. The most important trait, regardless of strength or downfalls, was that we liked them.
The very act of a Professor giving you a Pokemon is a powerful one. There is something special about receiving your first Pokemon as opposed to catching it, and being entrusted with taking care of it and raising it to it’s fullest potential.
Your rival also plays a role in the relationship between you and your starter, with his choice based on the fact that it has a type advantage over yours. It feels like there are high stakes during the first battle; I have never wanted my first experience with my starter to be a loss. And yet the battle is so restricted, usually only consisting of a weak physical move and a debuff, that a lucky critical hit means more than actual strategy. Still, this encounter seems designed to bring the player closer to their starter almost immediately, gives them a chance to defend their decision, and drives their desire to win against the rival even with a type disadvantage. Even to this day I have a tendency to pit my starter against my rivals throughout the game to prove who has the stronger team.
There is one game that breaks this tradition, and it’s in generation 1: Pokemon Yellow. When you go to Professor Oak’s lab to pick up your starter, you instead find his Grandson impatiently waiting for Oak’s return. There is a solitary Pokeball on the table, your future partner. However, you must see the professor before retrieving it, so you go out to look for him. As you reach the boundaries of Pallet Town, he spots you right as a wild Pokemon confronts you and catches it in a Pokeball. You both safely return to the lab, and the professor gives you the go-ahead to pick up your Starter Pokemon’s Pokeball when…
Your rival pushes you out of the way and takes the Pokemon for himself!
Instead, you are given the Pokemon that the Professor caught earlier, a Pikachu that is so untamed that it won’t even stay in its Pokeball. It does not so easily warm up to you as the traditional starters, even going to far as to frown whenever you talk to it. The dynamic between you and your rival is different, as the type advantage is actually set by how the player performs against him in the first few encounters. How his Eevee evolves depends on which battles you win or lose against him. He has three radically different roads for his beginner Pokemon, the same Pokemon that was suppose to be your partner. You on the other hand don’t even have the choice of evolving your beginner Pokemon; if you try, it only manages to get Pikachu very upset with you.
My very first Pokemon was a Bulbasaur in Pokemon Blue. I chose him because he was my favorite character from the anime, always helping Ash out of difficult situations with vine whip. I gave him the loving nickname of “Buddy” and I depended a lot on him for the rest of the game. I did a lot of stupid things during my first experience with Pokemon Blue, but I never once felt like I had “messed up” with my stater Pokemon. To this day, outside of playing Yellow, I find it very difficult to start with any other Pokemon besides Bulbasaur in Red and Blue or the Gen III remakes, and it remains my favorite Pokemon.
What was your very first Pokemon? Would you have been dead in the water without it during your first playthrough? Share your story with us in the comments below.