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  • Bella Terhune

Middle Starter Evolutions

Welcome back, Pokemon fans! I hope everyone had a great winter break. For this article, I’m focusing on the middle evolutions of starter Pokemon. These Pokemon are the vehicle between the adorable first stage starter and their powerful final evolution, and the transition between the two can get messy. Sometimes the resulting middle evolution doesn’t transition well between the first and final evolutions, and sometimes they just look awkward. Today I will be discussing each generation of middle evolutions of starter Pokemon in their standalone designs and their success as a bridge between the evolutionary line. Let’s get started!

Generation 1: Ivysaur, Charmeleon and Wartortle

Source: Pokemon Center

These three are a strong group of middle starter evolutions. Ivysaur transitions well between Bulbasaur and Venusaur with its growing size, opened bulb but closed flower and more serious demeanor compared to the adorable Bulbasaur. Its design looks great as well. Charmeleon has an interesting red color that it shares with neither Charmander nor Charizard, but it sets Charmeleon apart from the other two. Its single horn hints at Charizard’s two horns, and it starts adopting Charizard’s body plan minus the wings. Wartortle is strange in a good way. Its almost purple shade of blue and its furry ears and tail, although neither found on Squirtle nor Blastoise, are charming and set Wartortle apart from the rest of its evolutionary line. Squirtle is a small turtle while Blastoise is a big turtle with water cannons, so there was little room for variation in its transitional design; however, I think Wartortle plays that role quite well.

Generation 2: Bayleef, Quilava and Croconaw

Source: Pokemon Center

Bayleef, Quilava, and Croconaw are pretty normal middle evolutions bar for the quirky Croconaw. Johto’s starter Pokemon have simple designs, so no awkwardly elaborate transitions were needed. Bayleef gains the sauropod-like body shape of Meganium and expands upon Chikorita’s features with a longer head leaf and furled leaves around its neck. Its yellow body color also differentiates it from Chikorita and Meganium’s pale green body color. Quilava had an easy transition to make; Cyndaquil and Typhlosion are very similar design-wise. It evolves a longer body and shorter face while shooting flames from its head and backside instead of down its back like Cyndaquil. The three Johto fire starters only differ in their flame locations and body shapes, so Quilava makes itself stand out. Croconaw is kind of weird; its face and jaw are rounded rather than slim and crocodilian like Totodile and Feraligatr’s. The tan pattern on its torso looks like a caveman’s attire. Croconaw made itself look unique in body plan because it shares the exact same color scheme with its evolutionary line.

Generation 3: Grovyle, Combusken and Marshtomp

Source: Pokemon Center

Generation 3 starters are great transitions but not the greatest standalone designs. Grovyle is the best of the three in both categories. Treecko, Grovyle and Sceptile are agile forest lizards, and Grovyle’s athletic design best exemplifies this idea. Grovyle cements its connection to Sceptile with the leafy appendages and identical color schemes, but it’s red belly connects it back to Treecko as well. Combusken is clearly related to Torchic; they have the same color scheme and feather patterns. Although less obvious, Combusken is transitioning to Blaziken’s tall body shape, and Combusken’s feet look like Blaziken’s hands. Combusken itself, however, looks strange with its appendages, body shape and beak. Marshtomp, Mudkip and Swampert are well connected; although each sports a different shade of blue, they share similar design aspects like their fins, round faces and orange cheeks. Marshtomp may have strangely long arms and short legs, but they make sense considering Swampert’s long arms, wide hands and stocky legs. Marshtomp has a derpy face, but it’s kind of charming.

Generation 4: Grotle, Monferno and Prinplup

Source: Pokemon Center

Grotle, Monferno and Prinplup are strong starter middle evolutions. Grotle continues growing its shell, the plant matter on it and its cheek knobs to prepare for evolving into Torterra. It has a similar color scheme as Turtwig while accentuating the yellow rather than the green. Its design stands out from Turtwig and Torterra’s as the least turtle-like, but that quality makes Grotle unique! Monferno walks the line between cute and powerful well like any middle stage starter should. Its body shape is a good intermediary between the cute, big-headed Chimchar and the lithe Infernape. The blue and red face mask looks cool and connects to Infernape’s patterns and colors. Prinplup too has an excellent transitory design. It loses Piplup’s big head to achieve a more realistic penguin appearance similar to that of its evolution, Empoleon. Prinplup also gains tuxedo-like attire that differentiates it from its evolutionary line and makes it extra charming. Its new facial ornamentation sets up for Empoleon’s trident shaped facial ornamentation.

Generation 5: Servine, Pignite and Dewott

Source: Pokemon Center

Generation 5 is where the job of a middle stage starter starts getting tougher, but these three do pretty well. Servine grows longer, shortens its limbs, and grows more leafy features to prepare for its evolution into the serpentine Serperior. Snivy, Servine and Serperior share a color scheme, but Servine’s transitory body shape helps it stand out. Pignite has a tough transition to make; Tepig is a cute, quadrupedal pig while Emboar is a stocky, bipedal boar. Pignite looks like an egg with ears and appendages stuck on, but it has a strong design otherwise. The color scheme brings these three Pokemon together, and Pignite’s wrestling singlet pattern contributes to its buff look. Dewott had to transition from the adorable, bipedal Oshawott to the indescribable, quadrupedal Samurott. Dewott looks much closer to Oshawott with their clamshells and otter-like designs. Not much connects Dewott and Samurott than their shell-based weapons and the same dark blue color. At least Dewott pulls off a unique look.

Generation 6: Quilladin, Braixen and Frogadier

Source: Pokemon Center

Generation 6 has some well-designed starter middle evolutions. Quilladin, like Pignite, looks like an egg with appendages stuck onto it. However, the design does convey Quilladin’s armored appearance, a uniting feature of its evolutionary line. Chespin and Quilladin share a color scheme, but I think Quilladin should have incorporated Chesnaught’s color scheme of white, pale yellow and green into its design. Braixen shares its color scheme with Fennekin and Delphox. Braixen grows its ear fluff, fur and tail to prepare for Delphox’s immense fur. Braixen transitions well from the quadrupedalism of its pre-evolution to the bipedalism of its evolution, a transition that has become common in starter Pokemon evolutionary chains. Frogadier is simple yet cool. It gains a darker color scheme based on Froakie’s colors that also connects to Greninja’s colors. Its head flattens as well to transition to Greninja, and its growing bubble scarf expands upon Froakie’s while foreshadowing Greninja’s tongue scarf.

Generation 7: Dartrix, Torracat, and Brionne

Source: Pokemon Center

As first and final stage starters are becoming so different design-wise, the middle evolutions have a harder time making that transition. Rowlet, Dartrix, and Decidueye share little more than a general color scheme and grass owl theme. Dartrix goes for a dapper look with its leafy hair and bow tie. It did not even bother trying to connect to Decidueye’s ghost archer aesthetic. Torracat must make the transition from the kitten-like Litten to bipedal, wrestling Incineroar. Luckily, Torracat has it easier because all three Pokemon are clearly connected by their felinity, color scheme and patterning. Torracat buffens up and becomes more serious while remaining quadrupedal. Brionne made do with the required transition. Popplio is a cute sea lion while Primarina is a feminine, humanoid, singing sea lion. Brionne’s pale blue is in between Popplio’s blue and Primarina’s white. Brionne also looks more feminine while retaining a normal sea lion appearance.

Generation 8: Thwackey, Raboot and Drizzile

Source: Nintendo Soup

These three do their jobs as transition Pokemon all right. Thwackey has a unique yet relevant color scheme; its yellow-green body is the same color as Grookey’s eye mask, and it incorporates Rillaboom’s colors in its dark green and brown arms and ears. The orange accents also look nice. However, its design looks closer to Grookey than to Rillaboom. Raboot shares the red and yellow with its evolutionary line, but I think it should have switched out the grays for Scorbunny’s white and Cinderace’s navy to better connect them all. Its design fits in well with the line’s athletic soccer rabbit idea. Drizzile correlates poorly with the rest of its evolutionary line. Sobble is a cute, teary-eyed lizard; Inteleon is a slim, James Bond type spy lizard and Drizzile looks like an edgy teenager. Drizzile’s moody color scheme looks nice, but it also could have kept Sobble and Inteleon’s lighter blue and yellow to fit in with them better.

I hope you all enjoyed reading my starter middle evolution analysis! It’s hard to be a middle evolution; one can’t be so different that it doesn’t fit in with its evolutionary line, but it can’t be so similar that it’s barely its own Pokemon. Although I had some critiques, I have to commend the Pokemon designers for doing their jobs so well. As I’ve learned in writing this article, designing middle evolutions is not an easy job. I hope you all enjoyed my article, and I’ll be back soon with some more Pokemon content!



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