So this is a project I started on a forum for people who were fans of my YouTube videos, and it was a ton of fun to do, but I got through the first 50 and then just stopped for no discernible reason. But I seem to be doing a whole lot better about keeping up with my writing these days, so I’ve decided to resurrect it and give it another whirl in a more public space.
So here’s the deal. I will thoroughly assess and grade almost all of the current total of 720 Pokémon. I will tackle them based on their order in the National Pokédex (the one that covers all species across all games) without skipping. I will make a few blithe observations about each one, choose my favorite of its names (since many Pokémon, especially the less popular ones, have different names in different languages), and then award it a letter grade on the standard scale from A+ to F. All grades will be incredibly biased and based or not based on any, all, or none of the following criteria:
- Physical appearance
- Degree of utility in the video and/or card games
- Factoids that can be gleaned from a brief (<5min) Bulbapedia skim
- Any other completely baseless opinions and/or observations they happen to bring to mind
I would be remiss if I failed to admit that I am largely influenced in this venture by Lore Sjöberg and his “Ratings” columns, which were published on the Brunching Shuttlecocks website from 1997 to 2003 and have remained close to my heart ever since, although I highly doubt I can match his wit and brevity. If you have never read them, take a day or four off from work, peruse them all, and be mightily entertained.
That said: let’s do this.
Best Name: Bulbizarre (French)
I almost always start with ol’ Bulby when I fire up Red/Blue or Fire Red/Leaf Green. In the first game, your choice of starter Pokémon equated tidily to a difficulty setting of sorts: Bulbasaur = easy, Squirtle = normal, Charmander = hard. I chose not out of a personal desire not to be inconvenienced, but out of love. I love Bulbasaur. Not only can he steamroll the first two gym leaders, it’s also useful in catching the Legendary Birds. Seems like it would make a well-behaved pet, and also like it would be fragrant, in a good way. A
Best Name: Herbizarre (French)
Ivysaur is technically better than Bulbasaur, but you can’t help but feel as though something intangible yet precious has been lost when you evolve your Bulbasaur. It’s like when your kid starts speaking in complete sentences and you realize you’re never again going to hear the adorable malapropisms that you’ve come to love and even adopted as part of your vocabulary. To look at Ivysaur is to feel a profound sadness.
Is having a very tough time with puberty and would appreciate it if you wouldn’t harp on it, thank you very much. B
Best Name: Florizarre (and it’s France with the hat trick!)
Here are some unsourced facts about people who wear Hanes underwear: They wear jeans with elastic waists. They have terrible diets. They release wet farts that smell unfathomably awful. They have significant respiratory issues. If Venusaur was a human being, it would wear loose-fitting Hanes underwear. It would also have a dead-end job, a comb-over, and a beer gut. Venusaur is a bloated sack of crap with bad complexion. Just look at that dumb face. That’s the smile of someone who eats shards of glass coated with diarrhea for breakfast.
In addition to that glorious image, Venusaur has to wait a full turn before he can use his Solarbeam attack again, because it takes so much effort that he gets short of breath and his front left leg starts going numb. Venusaur is the mountain of feces that the sick Triceratops lays down in Jurassic Park. D
Best Name: Salameche (France, you are killin’ it today!)
You can’t spell Charmander without “charm”, though that’s probably just a coincidence. I always thought the story about Charmander dying if its tail flame goes out was bullcrap, though my reasoning for that would require a footnote so long I would have to type it out as a separate entry. I bet Charmander is lightly coated in some kind of weird lizard slime and you just can’t see it because of the streamlined anime design. For some reason it feels like it takes forever to make him even slightly useful. B-
BONUS GRADE. If you remember the early episodes of the anime, you might recall Charmander’s original trainer, Damian. Damian was a mega-dillhole who abandoned his Charmander in the rain, but he wore a 70s-style leather vest with tassels over a pink shirt, and somehow he PULLED IT OFF FLAWLESSLY. Damian is a terrible person with great fashion sense, which is an unfortunate combination, because that is a way snazzier ensemble than it has any right to be. However, I simply can’t abide the idea of any animal abuse, real or fictional, so Damian can’t score higher than a D- by default. That wardrobe is the only thing saving him from the ignominy of an F.
Best Name: Glutexo (German)
Here is my favorite Charmeleon card from the card game:
Because that’s who your mind turns to when you’re looking to fill out your electric deck—Charmeleon! Of course! Since we’re abandoning all logic and reason, let’s just give Squirtle Flame Blast! And Pikachu can have Razor Leaf! While we’re at it, let’s cancel gravity! Also, money’s not a thing anymore! B
Best Name: Lizardon (Japanese)
You could make a semi-compelling argument that more people remember Charizard from the card game than from the video game. I was in high school when the trading card game was at the peak of its popularity, and everyone flipped their lid for that holographic base-set Charizard with 120 HP. One kid in our neighboorhood even stole another kid’s, and had to make the WALK OF SHAME to return it. Charizard was a status symbol. Nobody cared if you had a Blastoise or a Venusaur, but if you had a Charizard, you had friends. Crappy friends, but friends nonetheless. In the years since, the game, much like the several hundred monsters in it, has evolved, and now you can get a Charizard with 230 HP that deals 300 damage. There are Stage 1 evolutions with more hit points than that old Charizard. But I’m getting way off track here. A-
BONUS GRADES. Below we see pictured both of Charizard’s Mega Evolutions, Mega Charizard X and Mega Charizard Y.
Imagine buying Pokémon Y and then seeing that image and realizing your game only features the one on the right and not the left. How would that not make you feel like a chump? I would have kicked myself for days if I bought Y and then saw this. Mega Charizard X can’t even keep all his fire in his mouth. He turns BLACK. He’s got butane flame brushing against the sides of his face and he doesn’t even flinch. He is ready to rain down DEATH on your STUPID FACE. Mega Charizard Y is just Charizard with pointier parts. LAME LAME LAME.
Mega Charizard X: A+
Mega Charizard Y: C-
Best Name: Schiggy (German)
Squirtle has a cool raspy voice that’s fun to imitate, and he always looks like a boss in those triangle shades they like to put on him. If I had a Squirtle, I would keep it outside the Pokéball because he looks like he waddles like a toddler, which is ultra-cute. Bubblebeam animation was always fun to watch in Gen 1. Squirtle, you’re all right. A-
Best Name: Kameil (Japanese)
Another one of those evolutions that just doesn’t inspire the same level of enthusiasm as its predecessor. Good increased intensity in the face, but the wings on the side of the head and the wavy tail? Not doin’ it for me. Also, the name rolls off your tongue about as pleasantly as a sheet of sandpaper. Waaaartooooortulllllll. Life would be so much easier if you could just say “Warturtle” and everyone understood what you were talking about, but there would always be that one person who would butt in and be like “it’s TOOOOR. War-TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOR-tle.” Screw that guy, I know he’s out there. C+
Best Name: Tortank (French)
You know how sometimes a celebrity who was fat will lose a lot of weight, and nine times out of ten you think they looked better when they were fat and you find yourself cruelly wishing they were still fat, even though good for them for taking a proactive stance toward improving their health? Blastoise is that one other time. He’s a functional fatty. He carries his weight well, and his size feels natural. Put it this way, between him and Venusaur, you know which one has to use the electric motor cart at Walmart.
Mega Blastoise is even cooler: his shoulder cannons move down to his arms, and he gets a single gigantic cannon on his back that extends farther outward than his face and will straight-up ERASE YOUR FUTURE. Excellent dude all around. Worth waiting through two lesser evolutions. A
Best Name: Lǜmáochóng (Chinese)
Caterpie is cool because it made Misty have a conniption fit about bugs like a big old weenie. I always have a little less respect for people who flip out when they see bugs instead of just grabbing the nearest shoe and doing the deed. String Shot is lame but not lame enough to erase any of Caterpie’s making-weenie-babies-freak-out cred.
Misty freaking out about Caterpie: F
Next Time: Metapod to Raticate
 There are actually 721, but #721, Volcanion, despite existing in the code for Pokémon X & Y, is not found in the game itself and has not as of this writing been officially announced by Nintendo, so I will not attempt to assess it.
 These facts are hidden well because they have Michael Jordan as their spokesperson, which successfully paints quite a different picture of their clientele.
 A gameplay mechanic added in the most recent (sixth) generation of games, whereby you can temporarily upgrade certain popular Pokémon into mega-evolutionary forms with heightened stats provided they are carrying a specialized stone that enables them to do so.
 Ironically, the English name is fun to pronounce in a French way, while the French name is more utilitarian but also somehow more fitting.