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Squirtle, I (Should) Choose You! Settling a Great Pokémon Debate with Science

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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In the fall of 1998 I stole a Pokémon trading card in Shanghai, China. It was a Kadabra, I remember now. It was slipped discretely from a child’s backpack and into my pocket. He noticed an hour or so later. I was discovered and interrogated, but I eventually lied my way out of it. The Kadabra was placed into a plastic binder filled with other cards, some “shiny”, some not. It was wrong to do, I know now, but at the time I didn’t care. I was nine-years old and I had to catch them all.

The first introduction to my future Pokémon obsession was to Pokémon Red/Blue when the games first came out for Nintendo’s GameBoy. Thanks to a timer attached to each play-through, I know that I have since spent full days training and battling in those virtual worlds. I had the games, I had the cards, I had the trading cables (the most genius/evil marketing scheme ever unleashed on a nine-year old). I was in China when Pokémon fever hit and I got it bad. But as I got older, I didn’t stay with it. My binder full of rares has since disappeared. I have refused to play the other games like the newest Pokémon X/Y out of some misplaced hipster angst. I have moved on from wanting to be the very best, like no one ever was.

But no matter what my relationship to Pokémon is now, I can’t deny that it was one of the driving forces in my nerdy life. And like any fanboy or girl who has ever played the original games, Pokémon was singular in that it provided me the first life-altering choice in my young life: Which of the starting Pokémon—Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur—should I pick? It felt like a digital “Sophie’s Choice,” with any decision rendering two Pokémon forever un-catchable, destined to be used against me by my rival.

So, for all the nerds who have forever wondered, for all the kids who will second-guess themselves for the rest of their lives, it’s time to direct the same dedication that drove me to steal a trading card towards answering the question once and for all, with science.

You Teach Me and I’ll Teach You

Recently, one of my favorite computing services—the amazingly useful WolframAlpha—decided to add the stats, pictures, and descriptions of over 600 Pokémon to its database. With so much data now at anyone’s disposal, it’s the perfect time to settle the age-old starting Pokémon question. But first, it might be interesting to see how Pokémon, from a data perspective, has changed since I first played back when the original games debuted. Using WolframAlpha’s data, I plotted the average (median) statistics for all Pokémon over the last five “generations” (everything up to the latest releases, X/Y):

Click to enlarge

Over time, it doesn’t look like Pokémon have changed much (unlike how science fiction starships have). In subsequent generations since Red/Blue there have been many“legendary” Pokémon that have likely pulled averages up a bit, but all the stats are in a pretty good grouping.

The next question to ask is the big one: What starting Pokémon should you have picked? Let’s start by looking at the statistics for all three starting Pokémon and their evolved forms:

Click to enlarge

In terms of starting stats, it looks like all the starting Pokémon are on a similar footing. And if you calculate the percentage increase for each statistic for the three Pokémon’s evolved forms—how much better they get the longer you train them—no Pokémon yet jumps out in front. The starting stats at least don’t appear to point the better initial investment. So, we have to look at other factors. Early game, you have two tough trainers to face, as well as a draining slog to make (Mt. Moon). Squirtle does have the highest starting defense, and its attacks will be super effective against the first gym and those on the Mt. Moon trek. However, Bulbasaur too will breeze past the first two gyms, so where does that leave us?

Your Pokémon’s stats aren’t the only thing that matters—whom you battle makes all the difference. Randomly running into a level 2 Rattata in the tall grass is a much better encounter than running into your rival with level 50 Pokémon who you totally forgot to prepare for. The main challenges you face in Pokémon Red/Blue are the gym leaders that you must eventually defeat. And in terms of which starting Pokémon you pick, the difficulty of the first few gyms varies greatly. So, which of the three Pokémon will give you the best chance against the gym leaders? I present you with an exhaustively created chart:

Click to enlarge

Against the first two gym leaders, Brock and Misty, Bulbasaur is the better choice. Its grass-type attacks totally destroy the water and rock type Pokémon of those gyms. Squirtle and its evolutions also have the upper hand on Brock and his rocks, but have a hard time against other water-type Pokémon. Charmander has a frustrating time with both. (I make the point about the first two gyms in particular because after Misty, your team really begins to take shape and you grab battlers to deal with a wide variety of threats, making the starting Pokémon’s type less important.)

If you want to hit the ground running then, Bulbasaur looks like the choice. However, like the starting stats, digging a bit deeper shows Squirtle’s overall advantages. Count up all the instances where each of the starting Pokémon have the upper hand (or at least an advantage) against the 12 gym leaders, and you find that while Bulbasaur might do great at the beginning of the game, it also will have the hardest time of all the Pokémon finishing off the rest of the leaders. Squirtle, on the other hand, has simultaneously the most advantages and the least amount of disadvantages against the leaders. Squirtle and its evolutions come out on top.

You won’t just be bubblebeaming your way through these bosses–you’re going to have to defend yourself. Which Pokémon has the best defensive chances against the gyms leaders? You guessed it, I have another chart:

Click to enlarge

Again we see that Charmander will have a hard time in those first two critical gyms, and both Bulbasaur and Squirtle will do a decent job defending against them. Bulbasaur in particular is well defended against the first four gyms. But overall, Bulbasaur and its evolutions have the most Pokémon with advantages against them, and Squirtle has the least. Squirtle also has the most amount of “normal” defensive matchups, meaning that most Pokémon won’t have the upper hand on the little turtle. Squirtle comes out on top.

There are other, less data driven reasons why Squirtle is the Pokémon to pick. Speedrunners—gamers who make a sport out of completing videogames in the least amount of time possible—also favor the little turtle. They note that Squirtle learns more type-specific moves faster than the other two, has the ability to learn a number of powerful moves like “Dig” and “Mega Punch” that the other starters cannot, and is the only starting Pokémon that can learn “Surf”, a vital technique needed to complete the game.

Pokémon enthusiats have challenged me on these points. They say that while Squirtle might make for an easier late game, Bulbasaur makes for a quick early game, and that Charmander is a rarer type of Pokémon (and more “badass”). Make sure to read the comments from readers below, as they contain some of the best Pokemon nerdery I’ve ever seen, and decide for yourself.

Based on the data, the advantages against the games’ bosses, and the advice from gamers who want a Pokémon that can help them beat the game as quickly as possible, the choice is clear: You should have picked Squirtle. Perhaps a third of you can now sigh with satisfaction, another third can start a giant, unassailable nerd-off, and the other third can lament attempting to use “ember” against a Geodude.

And while we are defending Pokémon with data, there is another question to good to pass up: Is Magikarp really the worst Pokémon? The short answer is maybe.

First of all, since subsequent generations of Pokémon have come out, Magikarp is no longer that bad of a battler in terms of total stats. Again using data from WolframAlpha’s Pokémon project, you can see that out of all the Pokémon with the lowest total statistics, Magikarp isn’t even in the five lowest:

However, total stats don’t mean very much if you can’t do anything with them. Magikarp’s speed pulls the total up without really providing an advantage, as one of my incredibly astute commenters points out:

Pokemon has a mechanic known as Same Type Attack Bonus (STAB) which grants a 1.5 multiplier to the power of the move if the movetype matches the type of the Pokemon. Sunkern, Azurill, Kricketot, and Ralts all have offensive moves that have STAB. Caterpie, Weedle, and Wurmple also have damaging moves early on and will evolve quickly as well as requiring less experience to gain levels in comparison to Magikarp (research EXP groups). As you mentioned in the article above, Magikarp does not learn its first damaging move until level 15, a weak, non-STAB move that is further hindered by its paltry attack. Of course, its evolution into Gyarados is the reason you put up with it.

But if you can put up with it, the floppy fish has the greatest stat increase of any Pokémon.

If you can suffer the splashing long enough, you’ll end up with one of the best Pokémon you can get in Red/Blue—Gyarados. Of course, this is something that the Internet has known for a long time. Does a prolonged uselessness that bears dragon fruit make it worth it? <splash, splash>

Catch ‘Em All

Two years ago I traveled back overseas to visit a family member in China. I packed for the trip and the 12-hour flight ahead of me. Rummaging though a rarely used cabinet I saw it: my GameBoy Color and a dusty Pokémon Red cartridge. I ran upstairs to find some AA batteries. I blew on the inside of the cartridge to make sure it would work, flicked the ON switch, and was delighted by the intro animation that had been my childhood’s most consistent sight. As I ran through dungeons whose maps I didn’t need, I wondered if this was the time I would catch them all (including Mew, which yes, you can do). I never had before. Even with trading cables and a dedication that lead to playing in card tournaments where you get actual metal badges (I still have mine!), I only caught 148 out of the possible 151. I completed the game in 18 hours, reveling the whole time in blissful nostalgia.

The play-through was fun enough. I still keep the cartridge and the GameBoy as a “break this in case of a nerd-fire” kind of thing. For that last game, I picked Squirtle.

EDITED 10/24/13: Due to a large outpouring of “advice” from Pokemon enthusiasts, I have made substantial edits to the post to reflect Pokemon defenses, added actual base statistics (which WolframAlpha got wrong), and I clarified my position on Magikarp.

Kyle Hill About the Author: Kyle Hill is a freelance science writer and communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.



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  1. 1. portablepanda 10:42 am 10/22/2013

    While the stats don’t lie, you also have to consider the relative abundance of those pokemon types. Water and grass type pokemon are some of the most common types available, whereas fire is much more rare (let alone finding a good one). For example, in generation 1 (and their gen3 remakes) there are only 5 Fire pokemon (non-legendary, not charizard), and if you split into exclusives, there are only 3/4 in red/blue. Fortunately, this problem is alleviated with elemental punches/fangs. This trend also continues throughout each generation. In fact, some generations only have 2-3 fire pokemon (including the starter).

    So in essence, you should always heavily consider the fire starter. Especially in other generations where getting a good fighting type becomes harder to do as well, your starter can then reliably cover two very useful types that may be difficult to fill well.

    Also, Charizard and Blaziken are so baller.

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  2. 2. MajorSlax 3:55 pm 10/22/2013

    I just had a complete and utter nerdgasm while reading this. I have always been a water-pokemon user, and Squirtle has always been the best. My Safari in X/Y is water-type with, I hear, a really good offering (protean Forgadier). portablepanda makes a good point though.

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  3. 3. Krail 4:19 pm 10/22/2013

    An interesting analysis, but it has one major flaw. It fails to take in account what moves the pokemon learn. Pokemon frequently learn various moves of different types that make them far more versatile. Also, gym leaders’ Pokemon may learn moves that unexpectedly take advantage of your type weaknesses.

    This is especially important in your analysis of Magikarp. The fish’s uselessness is gauged primarily by its lack of options in battle, not by its stats. Until it hits level 15 and finally learns Tackle its only option is to flop around uselessly until it runs out of PP and can use Struggle.

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  4. 4. gzidde 5:31 pm 10/22/2013

    Thank you science, but I’m afraid that all the good trainers knew that already.

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  5. 5. Duckersmash 5:49 pm 10/22/2013

    Actually I had a different fatal flaw for consideration, and that was the defenses. Consider that in gym three, Bulbasaur and family all have are resistant to Electric Moves and thus have a definitive advantage over the Squirtle family, and Charizard specifically. Not really sure if there is a fair way to balance defense and attack in these calculations, but I think its something for thought.

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  6. 6. Cantras 6:02 pm 10/22/2013

    A few major flaws with this analysis. One, as Krail said, it fails to take into account the moves Pokemon learn, unexpected moves from opponents, and generally ignoring the defensive aspect of battling. This analysis is as if you’re just sticking to your Pokemon’s main type for moves per gym which is not a wise way to go about doing this. Similarly, it’s silly to think that some of these gyms have off-type moves that might counter you without you even knowing until it’s too late. Finally, you can’t give Squirtle a “Normal” in the Electric gym. Come on, now…

    Two, all properly trained starters are about equal in stats save for one category for each starter. Blastoise has the advantage in Defense, Venusaur has the advantage in Special, and Charizard has the advantage in speed. Squirtle just essentially “catches up” so I don’t see why that’s a pro to the argument. By the way, you’re also pulling stats from later games in the series as R/B didn’t differentiate between Special Defense and Special Attack. It was one unified stat so those two stats you’re pointing out on the chart are generally…not very useful for a R/B analysis.

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  7. 7. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 7:20 pm 10/22/2013

    These are all fantastic points.

    The main one seems to be that my chart ignored defenses. You can imagine what including offensive and defensive considerations in the same grid would do to the visualization–it would be a mess. I think many of you are exactly right; defense is important. However, I would still argue that the offensive advantages (and the high defensive stat) of Squirtle against the first two (arguably the most critical) gyms make the conclusion the same.

    Thanks for bringing the special stat separation to my attention. It seems as though the WolframAlpha database included all the stats, and I used them all for consistency. And for using the “catching up” as a pro-argument, my point was that, given the other benefits that come from starting off with Squirtle (powerful moves at low levels, ease of TM/HM learning, the benefits against the early gyms), Squirtle’s advantage effectively increases after his first evolution.

    These are the nerdiest comments I’ve ever answered. Awesome.

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  8. 8. pernilz 7:37 pm 10/22/2013

    so wrong

    what do I care if wartortle has the best % evolution? wartortle, ivysaur and carmeleon all have 405 stats points in total

    i.e. squirtle is the worst in terms of stats, 212 against 318 and 309
    so Azerbaijan is best country as its GDP per capita has the best growth rate? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(real)_per_capita_growth_rate)

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  9. 9. silentswordsman 8:49 pm 10/22/2013

    While I think this is a good analysis, there are some big flaws here. As others have mentioned, you did not factor in defensive capabilities and the special split. However, there is one thing that you really should have double-checked here, and that is Squirtle’s base stats. Those aren’t even close to the actual values. If this is taken directly from Wolfram Alpha, then someone needs to alert an editor. Also, the only reason Magikarp has a “high” base stat total is because of its speed, which isn’t overly helpful to it.

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  10. 10. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 9:26 pm 10/22/2013

    For those taking issue with my leaving out the defensive capabilities (which you can check using the same chart) does that change the overall conclusion? Also, while Magikarp may have a high speed that is deceptively keeping him from the bottom, do you argue that there is no other Pokemon that is worse (ie, the others on the list I provided)?

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  11. 11. bjuandy 11:16 pm 10/22/2013

    While I need to look at the actual movesets of each Pokemon held by the gym leaders, I can tell the advantages of the other pokemon on the list. Pokemon has a mechanic known as Same Type Attack Bonus (STAB) which grants a 1.5 multiplier to the power of the move if the movetype matches the type of the Pokemon. Sunkern, Azurill, Kricketot, and Ralts all have offensive moves that have STAB. Caterpie, Weedle, and Wurmple also have damaging moves early on and will evolve quickly as well as requiring less experience to gain levels in comparison to Magikarp (research EXP groups). As you mentioned in the article above, Magikarp does not learn its first damaging move until level 15, a weak, non-STAB move that is further hindered by its paltry attack. Of course, its evolution into Gyarados is the reason you put up with it.

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  12. 12. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 1:20 am 10/23/2013

    Good points (your knowledge is super effective!). It might be the case where you’d have to really dig into the cost/benefit of training versus payoff for each on the list.

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  13. 13. the_common_walrus 5:21 pm 10/23/2013

    Squirtle’s Stats were input incorrectly. They should read

    Hp: 44
    Attack: 48
    Defense: 65
    Special Attack: 50
    Special Defense: 64
    Speed: 43
    Total: 314

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  14. 14. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 5:46 pm 10/23/2013

    Update coming later today!

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  15. 15. Cantras 7:31 pm 10/23/2013

    The defense argument does change the pacing of the early game a bit. Squirtle is going to wreck the first gym, but he’ll slow down vs. the water gym and struggle with grass gym and electric gyms (unless he picks up Dig, then Lt. Surge becomes a matter of speed…which likely will go to Lt. Surge’s Pokemon due to higher base speed stats on most electric types). Meanwhile Bulbasaur breezes through the first four gyms due to type advantages on both offense and defense.

    Besides, by the time you hit the 4th-5th gym, you’re going to have a diverse enough team to deal with anything else anyway, so what’s the difference?

    I’ll admit the end-game for Squirtle is loads easier since he just decimates Lance with Ice moves and his rival battle is easier than if you picked Bulbasaur (poor Bulbasaur gets 4 opponents that he’s weak against vs. Squirtle’s one…which he’ll have an answer for at this point as well).

    If you want an easier end game, go with Squirtle. If you want to breeze through the start of the game and get to better wild Pokemon faster, go with Bulbasaur. Quick side note: you need Cut to finish the game, too, so that Surf point also doesn’t mean a whole lot.

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  16. 16. Parthumax 11:36 am 10/24/2013

    Your reasoning it is not correct. If I have to choose the best pokemon would be bulbasaur, followed with charmander.

    Yes, charmander is a pain in the arse, but you are not considering that the whole idea of a pokemon TEAM is to have pokemon of several types.

    In pokemon red-blue there are lots of water pokemon with stats almost as high as squirtle, however, fire and grass pokemon seem to have very poor stats-moves on pokemon blue-red.

    Thus having a strong grass type or fire type would greatly turn the battles in your favour.

    Bulbasaur is the best starter in my opinion because it would alow to progress tremendously quick and net you other pokemons to cover your weaknesses. Also, almost any water pokemon with surf can have similar results a squirtle will have, since it is one of the most powerful moves in the game.

    Bulbasaur lets ou snowball quickly through the game, not only because of type, but also because of its moves. Leech seed is a great sustain for long cave runs at the beggining(else you’ll have to grind mt moon cave a lot), and razor leef and vine whip do massive damage. The best part is that you learn 2 of these 3 awesome attacks before you get to the first gym leader, and you probably have the third for the second or third one.

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  17. 17. KO_KO 3:21 pm 10/24/2013

    ” They note that Squirtle learns more type-specific moves faster than the other two, has the ability to learn a number of powerful moves like “Dig” and “Mega Punch” that the other starters cannot”

    False.

    Charmander and its evolutions have always been able to learn Mega Punch and Dig (TM01 and TM28 respectively). Bulbasaur is the only member of the trio that can’t use them.

    And what’s more, the slightly higher Attack stat and superior speed of the Charmander family means that it and its evolutions can actually utilize those specific moves BETTER than the Squirtle line can.

    As others have said this is impressive for the effort put in and hits a good nostalgic chord, but it’s got a lot of holes.

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  18. 18. doob10163 3:23 pm 10/24/2013

    Things wrong with the experiment at assuming the goal is to “complete the single player storyline as effectively as possible”:

    1) Ignores the fact that the most effective way of beating the game involves leveling only one pokemon and playing with it exclusively while having HM slaves to save time. This leads to a couple ramifications: One being that the stat for speed should not even be considered in the calculations involved with finishing the game (you will always go first). This also means your defensive stat is worth jack squat 90% of the time when you are OHKOing them with whatever move you choose to use. So the pure state comparison is baseless and misleading.

    2) Also ignores the fact that pokemon can learn TMs and other moves that are not within their typings to achieve faster kills on pokemon that are weak to it. Important moves of note are earthquake, dig, ice beam, etc. Most of these you wouldn’t use in a speedrun per se but understanding this even for a casual playthrough is important to lay out.

    3) Again, ignores the use of items in the game that can benefit pokemon to give full sweeps to entire teams (he was viewing their effectiveness versus gym leaders) things such as x-attack and x-speed come to mind

    4) Also ignores manipulation of computer AI to give free stat boosts in order to achieve a OHKO sweep on the computer team.

    5) ignores power spikes that are given in the game to actually defeat these gym leaders. Bulbasaur doesn’t get vine whip until very very late, like maybe ~50 or more wild pokemon to kill before you get an easy win versus brock with vine whip. The time invested into that is not worth the time you would have spent struggling elsewhere with squirtle. Actually, there is a LOT of that they aren’t even bothering considering.

    I may be getting really nitpicky about this but its kind of bollocks to me that a SCIENTIFIC article about a game is not solid science and is published as SCIENCE when someone that knows anything about game theory at all can give a more comprehensive and academically interesting answer than just shoving typings and stats on a graph and saying that X is better because of Y.

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  19. 19. Cantras 4:46 pm 10/24/2013

    You’re pulling type charts from later generations for your attack/defense charts, by the way. Type matchups shifted in later generations. It doesn’t change your information too much, just thought I would mention that since stuff like fighting, poison, bug, ghost, and psychic had their strengths and weaknesses shifted around. Also, Bulbasaur is Grass/Poison from the get go. Poison gym will be normal vs. Bulbasaur while Psychic gym and the Ice trainer in the Elite 4 will be super effective.

    Agatha in the Elite 4 is questionable save for Golbat. She has some psychic moves on her Pokemon but they require a sleep move to land before they can be used. They have Hypnosis but that’s a 60% of landing. Hypnosis is rendered useless if there’s a Substitute out which the Substitute + Leech Seed combo is pretty common on Venusaur. Heck, Sleep Powder (75% accuracy) + Substitute + Leech Seed is one of the most annoying stall tactics in the game. Additionally, you can totally play a Pokeflute and instantly wake up a Pokemon to counteract the sleep immediately after.

    Also, we’re only speaking in terms of speeding through the entirety of the game so far. Let me quickly shift it to a “completionist”, Gotta Catch ‘Em All perspective. Bulbasaur’s line provides utility while Squirtle is just a straight-forward cannon. Status effects like paralysis and sleep affect catch rates for Pokemon. I’d much rather have a Venusaur with Sleep Powder or Poison Powder to help do a complete clear of the game.

    Capture Rate = [(1÷ MaxHP × 3) + ((CatchRate × BallRate × Status#) ÷ 3)] ÷ 256

    This is the catch rate formula and the “Status#” is a multiplier for catch rates. Sleep and Poison add a 2 or a 1.5 respectively to that equation in place of the 1 normally there. While Squirtle is capable of freezing (a modifier of “2″), it’s only a 10% chance. Both Bulbasaur and Squirtle can learn Body Slam which provides Paralysis (1.5 modifier) but at a 30% chance.

    Combining that with his early game superiority, Bulbasaur is better at getting through the early gyms (which gets you out of what I like to call “The Pidgey Zone” faster), adds more capture utility to your team than the other two starters (which is great for legendaries), and is a plant dinosaur. I think that argument speaks for itself.

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  20. 20. Cantras 5:05 pm 10/24/2013

    My mistake, the weaknesses didn’t shift as much as I thought. Bug was quadruple effective vs. Bulbasaur in Gen I, though, and then only normally effective from that point on.

    These were the only type-related things changed after Gen I: “Ghost-type attacks are super effective against Psychic Pokémon. Poison attacks do normal damage to Bug Pokémon, Bug attacks now do half damage to the Poison Pokémon. Ice attacks are now ineffective against Fire Pokémon”

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  21. 21. Kyle Hill in reply to Kyle Hill 5:11 pm 10/24/2013

    Cantras, you are a pokedex of knowledge. Note that while the charts that I crafted were based on the common effectiveness charts you’ll see, I did average effectiveness here. For example, I had to assume that a pokemon would use an attack of each type against an opponent, and “averaged” those (e.g., “super” and “not very” averaged out to “normal”).

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  22. 22. ilvaldi 12:17 am 10/25/2013

    Hey Kyle! I really enjoyed reading your article here and it was so provocative that I actually made an account just to give a reply.

    I found some problems with your article and figured I should list them. I’ll mention later on what I think you should include in your data findings.

    First of all, I found the first chart of each generations’ stat medians confusing. I would like to know how you obtained the medians of each generation in that chart. It’s odd, because there shouldn’t be differences in stat averages between Gen I and Pokemon Yellow, but the chart notes that there are. The plummet/spike in Special Defense and Special Attack are rather alarming, considering those two stats didn’t exist in Gen I or Yellow.

    Second of all, I find the notion of “averaging” type advantages/disadvantages gravely misleading in the subsequent two charts. The way you calculated the advantages by “canceling out” weaknesses (i.e., Dewgong was ice/water so it had a “neutral” advantage in terms of offense against Venusaur who was weak to ice, but resistant to water). This is misleading because the A.I. in the game, though primitive by its Assembly Code, was at least smart enough to use the proper type advantage move against the Pokemon’s weakness. In essence, a Pokemon such as Dewgong would not be at a “neutral” disposition in terms of its offense against Venusaur. It would legitimately have an advantage. And considering how poorly construed the game’s balance was with its top-down design, a super-effective move would more or less be a one-hit-knock out against a Pokemon, unless there was a significant level gap.

    Third of all, though certain Pokemon’s typings did put them at an advantage, their move pools could certainly be their bane. Case and point: Gengar, who had a great Special stat, but since ghost type moves at the time were categorized as being used by the Attack stat, Gengar was unable to effectively use STAB moves (because his Attack stat was atrocious). Likewise, Pokemon like Gyarados, at the time of Gen I, was formidable even against Blastoise because of its diverse move pool and possession of a base 100 Special stat, making it a competent sweeper that could utilize Thunderbolt, Ice Beam, Surf, and Flamethrower (there were no Pokemon at the time that had a resistance to any of these four moves).

    Fourth of all, correct me if I’m wrong, Bulbasaur and Ivysaur were Grass/Poison types since Gen I. They were never at any point pure Grass types (you may want to change your charts to reflect this just in case if I’m right).

    I think rather than having the charts focused on Pokemon types, you should focus more on move types instead, and which Pokemon are in possession of what moves. Because the implementation of STAB back in Gen I was not relevant enough until the Special Attack/Special Defense split in Gen II, it is a trivial matter to note that a Lapras was at a “disadvantage” against Blastoise because none of its STAB moves were effective. By and large, it was more important to know that a Lapras could know a move that was super effective against Blastoise (i.e. Thunderbolt).

    And while speaking about STAB, I thought it be interesting to note that through the generations, this particular mechanic became more and more important. By Gen IV, it became EXTREMELY important when moves were no longer considered to be a Special Attack or Attack-type move by their typing, but rather by how they were actually used. Hyper beam, for example, since it involved shooting a beam, no longer had its damage determined by the Attack stat (originally this was the case because all “Normal” type moves were treated as such), but by its special attack stat. Thus, this made several types, such as Ghost Pokemon and Ghost-type moves, prevalent, radically changing the game’s metagame strategy significantly.

    Secondly, I think you should also consider average stats at given points in the game. For example, what are the average HP, Attack, Defense, Special, and Speed stats for a Venusaur that a player has trained and battled with throughout the whole game be at upon reaching the Elite Four? I consider this information very relevant at examining the three starters, because it informs us of the statistical advantages they have against the A.I. at given points in the game. For example, if the expected minimum for Blastoise’s speed stat by the time it reaches the Elite Four is still greater than any of the Elite Four’s and Champion’s Pokemon’s speed stat, it is worthy to note that Blastoise will be able to attack first in battle all the time, ensuring it could knock out an opponent’s Pokemon before the opponent has a chance to knock it out. And considering that Blastoise back then only had a base Special of 85, he was extremely susceptible to any of the Elite Four’s Pokemon that carried Thunderbolt and a lethal base Special of 100 or over (fortunately, the only Pokemon at the Elite Four that fulfilled those requirements and also had a higher base Speed stat was your rival’s Venusaur).

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  23. 23. ilvaldi 12:32 am 10/25/2013

    @ doob10163: I think you’re mistaken about Bulbasaur learning Vine Whip so late. If you’re going with an “only one Pokemon to train” strategy, Bulbasaur should well be at a level where he could learn Vine Whip (in Generation I, this was level 13). Furthermore, leech seed was ridiculously broken back in Red/Blue since it used the same assembly register for the counter in Toxic such that a substitute/leech seed/toxic combo was nearly an auto-win against any opponent, regardless of what type or Pokemon was being thrown at you.

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  24. 24. ilvaldi 12:33 am 10/25/2013

    Leech seed, by the way, was the first move that Bulbasaur could learn in the game, which is why I brought that up in the previous comment. Vine Whip came second.

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  25. 25. 14444 9:28 am 10/31/2013

    Interesting read yet woefully incomplete research. Based on popularity, fire type starters are preferred over the other types due to flexibility in move sets. Charizard is the only one of the 3 starters in later generations that can literally take on any type, save legendary/high leveled water types. In Gold and Silver, Typhlosion was a powerhouse, even against Feraligatr, falling short when going up against Misty after the Elite 4. In the Hoenn region, Blaziken is the ONLY starter that can take on the Elite 4 solo, with the rest of the team filled with pokemons to provide a buffer for Blaziken in the event it faints. When it comes to stats alone, water types tend to have the edge because they are more well rounded. Grass types are only good for STAB moves: their special are on par with Psychic types. In terms of offensive power, fire types are far more powerful, with Blaziken especially. I had a Blaziken, who at level 100, had over 300 attack and 250 special attack while speed was at a measly 200. I also had a Swampert which had all stats around 180-200. I had a Sceptile with about 280 speed and 275 special attack at level 100. If it were a long, drawn out fights, like those against legendary pokemons, water types have the edge, being more well rounded for both offensive and defensive aspects of battle. In short and devastating fights, fire types have the advantage, with the ability to dole out huge amounts of damage in 1 or 2 moves. Grass types, although heavily altered between defense and speed over the 3 generations I’ve mentioned, are highly defensive in nature, with good stats for defense and higher hp than water types. There is no way this can be proven unless everyone who plays pokemon band together to conduct the experiment whereby they record the stats of their starters at every level, record the nature, record the win/loss ratio (which affects the happiness of the pokemon and tends to affect stat gains) and record the moves learnt to deal with the Elite 4, the benchmark for this experiment. It will take years before it can finally be proven scientifically that one starter is superior to another seeing as to how DV’s vary, how natures can vary and how many battles the pokemon is subject to.

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  26. 26. laquariusdelorean14 3:16 pm 10/31/2013

    the dragon are blue

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  27. 27. Raphael Jorand 8:37 am 11/2/2013

    I said this since the first year I played Pokemon, but everybody told me I was a liar and the choice didn’t have consequences.
    But when you had played the game, it’s easy to see that te first gym leader is a “rock” kind, easy to defeat with water and grass, but not at all with fire.
    You can also see that there is a gym leader for fire, for water but … not for grass..
    Those only two things are enough to understand that start with fire is not a good plan while start with water is a good choice …

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