Among all of the lauded gameplay philosophies found in the Pokemon series, one of its finest is the way in which you dictate your experience right from the jump. By choosing one of the three available starters, you will find some battles easier, and others far more difficult.
Back in those halcyon days on the humble Game Boy, this infamous decision was between the fire-breathing Charmander, the aquatic Squirtle, or the plant-like Bulbasaur. People had their preferences based on aesthetics, surely, though for some it was a simple matter of practicality; whereas Charmander would struggle against the earliest Gym Leaders, Bulbasaur was the preferred route for beginners.
Over the years, however, something curious began occurring amongst the fandom. A toxic deluge of memes came flooding in, levying the suggestion that Bulbasaur was the joke pick of the bunch; the one that was left behind to rot in Professor Oak’s lab.
Why this running gag caught on is anybody’s guess, though in large part it seems to come down to some sort of derision toward its final form, Venusaur. While the little Bulby boi tends to trounce popularity polls, often surpassing its Kanto brethren, its well upholstered evolution routinely lags behind. Broadly speaking, this could be as simple as people liking the Pokemon they saw on the box art, with western markets choosing between the Red Version or the Blue Version.
Whatever the reason, us Bulbasaur stans have seen it all and heard it all. We listen, we smile politely, we quietly hate you for your ignorance. Even when the very devs themselves shove another heaping of Charizard down our gullets with two Mega Evolutions or a featured role as the Galarian champion’s prized combatant.
For one thing, I don’t know how people couldn’t be obsessed with Venusaur, whose exquisite design seamlessly blends Animalia with nature — a stunning balance of monster and flower that is immediately recognizable and distinctive. I would say that the Michael Fassbender “perfection” meme is apt, were I not just as sick of Marvel as I am of Charizard.
More significantly, perhaps, is that on the front of competitive viability, Venusaur is generally just a better Pokemon. I know, it’s a shocking revelation, isn’t it? That this warty leaf frog would somehow trump a winged behemoth or the dude with literal cannons growing out of its back? It’s true, you see, and it comes down to a few factors.
Pairing the flammable Venusaur with the sun may sound like an awful idea, what with its boost to the strength of fire attacks, however its hidden ability of Chlorophyll doubles its speed in this condition. Tack on the fact that the technique Growth is twice as potent when sun is active, and you’ve got a fast, violent foliage assailant capable of sweeping entire rosters with its fury.
Conversely, Charizard has a crippling fear of rocks; Stealth Rock, specifically, which can hack off half of its HP just for turning up. It almost certainly has to come equipped with the hazard-negating Heavy-Duty Boots, or better still, not be used at all.
Meanwhile, Blastoise is just kind of… there. Its best role is in support of other, more interesting Pokemon, Yawning and Rapid Spinning like my grandfather when he’s had too much whisky.
So fearsome was the threat of Gigantamax Venusaur not so long ago, it was added to the VGC Series 6 ban list. That’s right, Game Freak took one look at the unstoppable monster they had created, and were forced to remove it from competitive battling just so everyone else stood a chance.
Truthfully, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I dislike Charizard or Blastoise. I’m as filthy a genwunner as anyone else, so everything Kantonian not named Exeggcute is okay in my book. What I am, however, is resentful, that my preferred imaginary animal is treated with such indignity, and I keep receipts on each and every time I feel slighted.
Pokken Tournament, which has no playable Venusaur but an actual chandelier instead? How dare you.
Pokemon GO, where Mega Charizard Y’s maximum CP is 5,037, compared to Mega Venusaur’s paltry 4,181? How dare you.
Pokemon Trading Card Game, which flaunted Charizard as some sort of all-encompassing holy grail? How dare you.
As eager as you are to forget about the growing numbers of the Bulbasaur army, I would like to make it clear… we never forget.