Pokémon designs have come a long way in the last 20 years - from the simplistic but cute designs of Charmander, Squirtle, Bulbasaur and Pikachu to the more complex and occasionally confusing designs of the more recent starters.
Where the first-generation designs relied on word recognition (Water type? TURTLE. Fire type? DRAGON. Grass type? PLANT WITH A FACE.), the later generations have had to pick more and more obscure animals and, increasingly, concepts to design their Pokémon around.
There is a Pokémon that is an iceberg. Another that is a pig on a spring. There's Aromatisse, the personification of perfume. One is an ice cream that evolves into a double cone that evolves into a triple cone. And, of course, Garbodor - a literal, actual bag of trash. No one wants to capture and train a bag of trash. No one ever set out on a Pokémon journey inspired by Garbodor. No one wants to go to a prestigious Pokemon contest and have to summon a bag of trash to defend their honour. No one wants you, Garbodor.
Now, I'm not saying that the original 150 are without fault. Voltorb and Electrode are just balls with a color swap, Zubat turned a fairly cool animal into the Pokémon equivalent of a pigeon, and why are there two boring cocoon Pokémon? But the saving grace of the early games is that they really cared about their starter Pokémon.
The best way to design Pokémon is like this: One cute, one cool, and one in between. That way you get the best of all worlds - people who want adorable pets and people who want badass fighting monsters, and people who can't choose. Squirtle's cute, Charmander's cool, and Bulbasaur is somewhere in between. Chikorita's cute, Totodile is cool, and Cyndaquil is somewhere in between.
Take a hike, Popplio
And then it starts going downhill for the starters. Each generation has one or two appealingly cute designs - Torchic, Piplup, Tepig, Fennekin - but that only makes the bad ones more notable. Treecko isn't cool. Treecko a grumpy lizard that evolves into a slightly different but equally grumpy lizard. Chimchar is a derivative design - we've seen so many damn monkey Pokémon by this point that we've been trained to think monkey Pokémon suck.
Oshawott is the creepy younger kid that decided you were his mentor and followed you around, snot dripping from his lower face area, mouth permanently open, with that smell of packed lunch about him - plastic, soggy sandwiches and snack-sized salami. You don't want Oshawott. And Chespin is a perky idiot that evolves into a perky ball. Chespin sucks.
And now, we've seen Pokémon Sun and Moon's starters - the first metric with which we can judge the entire game. It's not the worst starter haul we've had in recent years, because the internet is already in love with the circular, smartly-dressed Rowlet and the grumpy-cat-on-fire aesthetic of Litten. But what about Popplio?
In true Pokémon tradition, Popplio is the one starter that hit every branch on the stupid tree on his way down. Popplio is a creepy clown sea lion, the kind of character that would definitely be the murderer in Phoenix Wright games, the sort of Pokémon that your mum would buy you because she vaguely understands the concept of Pokémon but not what's actually cool about it.
The sort of Pokémon that you'd hide in your bag at school out of shame but he'd probably escape anyway, leaving a trail of fishy drool behind him as he cheerfully "ARF ARF ARF"s his way around like a brain-damaged puppy.
Popplio is an embarrassment and I don't even care if he evolves into a walrus with laser-beam eyes; I want nothing to do with him. Pokémon starters are increasingly like the UK political parties: there are technically several to choose from, but at least one of them is so dire and useless that it's not really an option at all, and you sort of wish they hadn't tried so hard in the first place, because it's just a bit sad.
Sorry Popplio, you're the Liberal Democrats of Pokémon.
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