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Picking a starter Pokémon in Scarlet and Violet messed with my emotions

Are you sure you want Fuecoco?

An image of a trainer holding Fuecoco from Pokémon in Scarlet and Violet on her shoulder. Both she and Fuecoco are smiling. Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo via Polygon
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

I’m convinced the good developers at Game Freak are trying to mess with my emotions when it comes to picking a starter in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.

In pretty much every mainline Pokémon game (save Pokémon Yellow) each trainer starts their journey by picking one of three Pokémon to start their journey with. Choosing your starter has never been an easy decision; whichever Pokémon you go with is the first creature to join you on your journey, and because of that they get special attention and cooler designs. Even then, in all my years of playing Pokémon, I never struggled with the decision quite as much as I did when I had to pick one in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.

This is because, for the first time in franchise history, the game makes you spend time with all of them before making a decision.

In the past, you might be presented with an option of three Pokémon in a lab, and you’d simply pick the one that looked best. But in Scarlet and Violet academy director Clavell shows up to your home and tells you it’s time to pick a starter before you attend the local academy. Instead of picking a Pokémon on the spot, you get to spend time with all three of them and then you pick.

Sprigatito (a green weed cat), Quaxly (a blue duck with a funny hair style), Fuecoco (a small, red gator). Image: Game Freak/Nintendo, The Pokémon Company

You take a short walk with all three of them. As you stroll, you get to see a bit of each starter’s personality. The grass-type Sprigatito stops to smell the flowers, Quaxly gets lost in the view of the ocean, and Fuecoco stares at a random sign.

But that’s not even what’s hardest. Afterwards there’s a little cut scene where you see them all playing in the yard of a home where each gets a little character moment. Fuecoco, for example, takes interest in an orange on the ground but then sneezes and accidentally roasts it. It was like each Pokémon was actively being as cute and charming as possible in an effort to sway me, and let me tell you, it made the decision difficult.

I went in wanting either Sprigatito or Fuecoco, but after seeing his goofy personality, I chose Fuecoco. Even then, I wanted to take all three of them home with me. So even if some fans disagreed about how much they liked the final evolutions, I can confidently say they are adorable at the start — so cute that it makes the decision to pick just one very difficult.