Tuesday, May 25, 2010

4. Charmander

I’ll confess: I was always a Charmander kid, myself. Maybe it’s a boy thing, fire being a bit more threatening than leaves and water. Maybe it was an affinity for lizards and dinosaurs, or the fact that Charmander has arguably the coolest final evolution among Kanto starters. Or maybe it’s because the path of Charmander is a path of diligence; the first two gyms in the game hold a type advantage against you, while your only type advantage comes in the fourth gym. Meanwhile the slackers with Squirtle and Bulbasaur breeze through the first gyms without having to bother with party balance. Tsk. I really resented the Generation III remakes giving Charmander Steel Claw early in his movelist, purely to give you something to fight Brock with. And they plant Mankeys in the grass near the Pokémon League gates, for more anti-rock firepower. Lame. Back in my day, you had to get past Brock with nothing but Ember, a Butterfree and Beedrill, and elbow grease.

All that said, Charmander hasn’t really had the best sprites over the years. In the very first games, there seems to be confusion over whether he’s supposed to be cute or vicious. His trademark flame tail actually grows smaller over time, from a fiery blaze to a flickering little candlelight in HG/SS. D:

Charmander, being dinosaur-ish, seems to suffer from a case of T-Rex arms. They’re too short to be useful. You get the sense that he’s trying to strike scary poses, but ends up looking like he’s asking for a hug (Yellow, FR/LG), swaying at a concert (Silver), totally floored by a surprise party (HG/SS), or saying ‘sup to one of his bros (Gold). D/P has a cool sprite, but I can’t quite figure it out; at first I thought it was doing a cool dodge or parry move, in the heat of battle, but then I noticed his eyes cast downwards and thought, maybe he’s just stomping around, y’know, practicing for when he’s a big stomping dragon. But given the other sprites, he’s probably just doing a little dance.

The Winner:


I know I said I’d leave out the animated ones, but this one has everything I look for. Its tail is in front, which is important—if you had a long, burning fire tail, where would you hold it to defend yourself? It’s not grandstanding or anything, but possessing of a quiet intensity. And it has just the right mix of cute and serious. Look it covered its mouth! d’awwww


  1. I just love the animated ones that are like this. They warm your heartorgans every time you look at your Pokemon team's stats.

  2. Man, there were Mankeys in Red and Blue as well! Don't pretend like that's a new development

  3. Anonymous person from four months ago: you couldn't find Mankeys in Red and Blue until route 5, below Cerulean, well after the Brock battle. But ever since Yellow, they've been dropped in your lap! Brock's way too easy now.

  4. D'aw, all the Charmanders! I always pick Charmander. Perhaps my friend (who I suspect was incredibly high at the time) gave the most logical reasoning behind choosing him:

    "Well, Bulbasaur turns into some kinda funny leaf guy. Squirtle turns into a pretty cool turtle. But Charmander... Charmander turns into a SWEET DRAGON. You gotta go with the dragon."

  5. Have you ever seen Sugimori's old artwork for charmander? I find it interesting how it's trying to look much more menacing than the newer art and sprites depict. It has a much longer face, it's fire is all big and spiky and it also has an expression that's like "I dare you to try to mess with me." And then the newer picture is just like "Yaaay I'm a charmander, come hug me and love me!"

    1. I'd say old Charmander still looks pretty friendly, but you are right about it being longer and spikier. Old Sugimori art tends to be more rough and angular in general. Sometimes I miss it!

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