The age-old question for many Pokémon fans has always been: Bulbasaur, Charmander or Squirtle? Everyone has an opinion on this, and we’ve even used science to answer the question of who the best starter is. Still, the debate is far from settled.
For the longest time, I couldn’t help but wonder what the people who actually make Pokémon think about all this. Might they have a different insight on what the best starter is? And last week, while interviewing Junichi Masuda, producer of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, and Shigeru Ohmori, planning director on the remakes, I got a fascinating take on the endless debate.
When I asked both men what the best starter is, Masuda immediately picked Bulbasaur without actually explaining why this was his choice. I pressed him — surely, Masuda must have a reason for picking Bulbasaur?
“He’s really cute, as a character,” Masuda explained as he laughed. “It’s kind of strange to say this, but it’s a very Pokémon-like Pokémon. It really kind of exemplifies what Pokémon is for me. It has that kind of monster-like creature, with a plant-like thing on its back — and I think that that simple combination exemplifies what Pokémon is all about.”
Masuda went on to explain that as Bulbasaur evolves, its Japanese name changes to create a “funny sounding name” that he appreciates. It’s not just the design or name that makes Bulbasaur so perfect for Masuda, though. He has fond memories of helping shape Bulbasaur into the Pokémon we know and love.
“I actually created all of the sounds and music in [Red and Blue], and I remember taking one sound and changing the waveforms [for Bulbasaur’s evolution] — taking this cute sound and making it sound cooler. So, it’s just kind of a memorable Pokémon for me,” Masuda reflected. “Of [the starters], its cry sounds the most like a monster to me,” Masuda added.
Here’s Bulbasaur’s cry in Red and Blue, if you’re curious:
And here’s Ivysaur, Bulbasaur’s evolution:
You can definitely hear what Masuda is talking about: while Ivysaur’s cry sounds very similar to Bulbasaur’s, there’s something more menacing about it too. Arguably, Bulbasaur is a smart choice, too — if you pick it in Red & Blue, you have an easier time at the start of the game.
Ohmori, meanwhile, had his own opinions.
“I always liked to choose the water-type Pokémon, so Squirtle is my choice. And even in Ruby and Sapphire, I chose Mudkip.”
Once Masuda heard what Ohmori’s favourite Pokémon from Ruby and Sapphire was, he couldn’t help but chime in with his favourite from that generation too.
“It’s definitely Torchic,” Masuda declared. “I’m a huge fan of Torchic. I don’t know if you saw the intro movie of Pokémon X & Y, but I really pushed to get Torchic in there because its one of my favourite Pokémon. And even back in the Game Boy Advance SP, when Nintendo was making that, I actually made a request to them to make a Torchic-coloured Game Boy Advanced SP.”
This might explain why Pokémon X & Y have the following scene:
And it explain why Torchic was the first Pokémon out of all the Hoenn starters to get a mega evolution too. We’re onto you, Masuda!
After reading all of this, I’m sure those of you in team Charmander are feeling kind of left out. So here’s to us, the fire reptile lovers — we get to be our very own character in Smash, and more importantly, we’re not rooting for the silly cabbage Pokémon.
Sorry, Masuda. It had to be said.*
*Oh god, I’m joking, please don’t be mad.