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What are the themes that Nintendo follows when developing new starters?

OrreMIDI

AKA Fakemon123
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Apr 2, 2017
Posts
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#1
Hey everyone! As I begin designing starters again, I am trying to be as accurate as possible to the official trends that Nintendo seems to follow. I think we all know of the most famous theme which would be that Fire starters are all animals in the Chinese zodiac. However, I've heard a few different ideas suggested for the other types. The general consensus is that Grass types are all prehistoric animals, however I became a bit confused when I discovered that Venusaur is not in fact any sort of dinosaur, but a frog. This may have been common knowledge, but I had never realized that Venusaur was based off a frog and not a type of dinosaur. And then for Water types I've always assumed it was just semi-aquatic animals, however recently I came upon a post claiming they were all based on weapons or fighters of sorts. I was wondering if any of you had any insight as to what the general consensus for this is? I've compiled a list of trends that people have claimed, and will put my findings below, with the exception of the Fire starters, because pretty much everyone agrees that it's the Chinese zodiac.

For Grass starters, they are based on prehistoric animals:
Venusaur - A prehistoric frog? Another more concrete suggestion is Pareiasaurs (Wikipedia claimed a visual resemblance)
Meganium - Sauropod
Sceptile - Dilophosaurus
Torterra - Ankylosaurus
Serperior - Titanoboa or some other prehistoric snake
Chesnaught - Glyptodon or another prehistoric porcupine-like animal?
Decidueye - Stilt Owl or another prehistoric owl
Rillaboom - A prehistoric primate, perhaps Dryopithecus or a more human-esque primate

For Water starters I'll list both the semi-aquatic animal and the weapon or fighter they are based on:
Blastoise - Turtle, canon, general or pirate idk
Feraligatr - Alligator/Crocodile, I've heard someone claim brass knuckles or a dagger or knife, though it's jaw is the most notible
Swampert - Axolotl, Japanese war fan
Empoleon - Emperor Penguin, trident, Emperor/Napoleon Bonaparte
Samurott - Otter, Samurai Sword, Samurai
Greninja - Frog, Ninja Star, Ninja
Primarina - Seal/Mermaid/Siren, Possibly its voice but I've also heard someone say a ball and chain
Inteleon - Lizard or Chameleon, Sniper/Spy

The biggest question I have is what the theme for the water starters is... Is it just as simple as any semi-aquatic animal, or is there more to it like the weapon/fighting theme? The hole in the semi-aquatic theme would be Inteleon if it is a chameleon, because I don't think chameleons are semi-aquatic. The holes in the weapon/fighter theme would be Feraligatr, Swampert is a stretch, and Primarina is a big stretch as well.

I've also heard that each pair of three starters has their own seperate theme, like the Kalos starters being RPG fighters, Alola being based off the circus, and Galar being based off entertainment. These again could be a bit of a stretch, so I'm not sure.

Well, what are your thoughts? Feel free to discuss below, and I'd love it if we could figure out what Nintendo uses for their base theme for all the starters. If not, we could come up with a general consensus on what we think a common theme could be.
 

TechSkylander1518

Wiki Dweeb
Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2017
Posts
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286
#2
For Grass starters, they are based on prehistoric animals:
Venusaur - A prehistoric frog? Another more concrete suggestion is Pareiasaurs (Wikipedia claimed a visual resemblance)
Meganium - Sauropod
Sceptile - Dilophosaurus
Torterra - Ankylosaurus
Serperior - Titanoboa or some other prehistoric snake
Chesnaught - Glyptodon or another prehistoric porcupine-like animal?
Decidueye - Stilt Owl or another prehistoric owl
Rillaboom - A prehistoric primate, perhaps Dryopithecus or a more human-esque primate
One criticism that I've heard of this theory is that there's a lot of prehistoric counterparts to various animals out there. You could actually almost argue the same for Fire-type starters.
  • Charmander- Dinosaurs
  • Cyndaquil-Glyptodon
  • Torchic-Jianianhualong tengi
  • Chimchar-prehistoric primate
  • Tepig-Entelodont
  • Fennekin-Vulpes qiuzhudingi
  • Litten-Smilodon
  • Scorbunny-Nuralagus
I've also heard that each pair of three starters has their own seperate theme, like the Kalos starters being RPG fighters, Alola being based off the circus, and Galar being based off entertainment. These again could be a bit of a stretch, so I'm not sure.
I know it's actually been confirmed that the Gen 5 starters were designed with specific cultures in mind. (x) There's also an interview that says Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle were chosen because these are small animals kept as pets. (x)

Personally, while I do believe in the Chinese Zodiac theory, I honestly don't think there's going to be a pattern to be found for Water and Grass types, which sounds weird, but I think it makes more sense when you look at the development of the Pokemon games. Pokemon wasn't originally conceived as a franchise lasting decades, it was just one game to start with, and GS were envisioned as a sequel, not the second in the series. So when designing the starter trio, they didn't really have any reason to come up with a tradition to follow. Grass Pokemon are animals in the grass, Water Pokemon are animals in the water, and it didn't need to be any more complicated than that.

So why does Fire get a pattern? Because animals don't live in fire, so when it became a possibility that starter trios would be a recurring theme, something else would need to be used as a nice starting point. This is why Cyndaquil fits so loosely into the Zodiac theory- it wasn't a planned goal, it was just an afterthought.

(Additionally, HelixChamber has a post saying that Wartortle originally had an evo independent of Blastoise, which would make it seem like cannons were never a factor in Squirtle's design. But this would contradict Nishida's statement that she started from Blastoise and worked back, so... I dunno)
 
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OrreMIDI

OrreMIDI

AKA Fakemon123
Member
Joined
Apr 2, 2017
Posts
83
Likes
113
#3
One criticism that I've heard of this theory is that there's a lot of prehistoric counterparts to various animals out there. You could actually almost argue the same for Fire-type starters.
  • Charmander- Dinosaurs
  • Cyndaquil-Glyptodon
  • Torchic-Jianianhualong tengi
  • Chimchar-prehistoric primate
  • Tepig-Entelodont
  • Fennekin-Vulpes qiuzhudingi
  • Litten-Smilodon
  • Scorbunny-Nuralagus

I know it's actually been confirmed that the Gen 5 starters were designed with specific cultures in mind. (x) There's also an interview that says Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle were chosen because these are small animals kept as pets. (x)

Personally, while I do believe in the Chinese Zodiac theory, I honestly don't think there's going to be a pattern to be found for Water and Grass types, which sounds weird, but I think it makes more sense when you look at the development of the Pokemon games. Pokemon wasn't originally conceived as a franchise lasting decades, it was just one game to start with, and GS were envisioned as a sequel, not the second in the series. So when designing the starter trio, they didn't really have any reason to come up with a tradition to follow. Grass Pokemon are animals in the grass, Water Pokemon are animals in the water, and it didn't need to be any more complicated than that.

So why does Fire get a pattern? Because animals don't live in fire, so when it became a possibility that starter trios would be a recurring theme, something else would need to be used as a nice starting point. This is why Cyndaquil fits so loosely into the Zodiac theory- it wasn't a planned goal, it was just an afterthought.

(Additionally, HelixChamber has a post saying that Wartortle originally had an evo independent of Blastoise, which would make it seem like cannons were never a factor in Squirtle's design. But this would contradict Nishida's statement that she started from Blastoise and worked back, so... I dunno)
Thanks for the extensive reply! It does make sense that they wouldn’t have made the original starters with anything in mind to follow, same with the Gen 2 starters, as they didn’t foresee it becoming this big. However, perhaps as they created more and more titles they developed at least some sort of trend? Though it doesn’t make sense that they’d limit themselves to having to follow a trend. Maybe it’s as simple as each starter trio is just related to each other and not other generations as well. Like how the original ones are meant to be tiny pets, the Gen 5 one was different cultures, and so on. I guess there isn’t really a formula you should follow when making starters, but I do think that overtime it’s possible something could’ve developed, even if it wasn’t present for the original games? Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on it, as it really helps me when I’m deciding on starter designs! :)
 

TechSkylander1518

Wiki Dweeb
Member
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Mar 24, 2017
Posts
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286
#4
Glad I could help! Like I said before, I do think that there was an intended trend with Fire-types and the zodiac. (I think that a good indicator that Game Freak was looking to make connections with Fire-types is that both Infernape and Emboar are based on characters from Journey to the West, which is pretty specific to just happen by chance) But I genuinely think that was just to get a new pool of animals to pull from, so there didn't need to be one for Grass and Water.
 

Michael

That One Guy
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Joined
Feb 25, 2018
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86
#5
One trend I've noticed is that every fire starter's final evolution (apart from Flareon in Yellow but that doesn't really count) is bipedal. Just something interesting to keep in mind.
 
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