It was 1998 and I was only seven years old, but I still remember so clearly walking in the door from school and seeing my mom standing there with a big smile on her face. She told me she’d gotten a surprise for me while I was away, but as my excitement grew I managed to catch my little brother out of the corner of my eye sitting on the couch with something in his hands. Upon further inspection, it was a blue box with the words “Pokémon Blue Version” etched prominently onto the front and a now all too familiar turtle sitting rather menacingly underneath. Turning my attention back to my mother, I realized that she was clutching Pokémon Red Version.
That was my first introduction to the original North American Pokémon games and their cover monsters: Blastoise and Charizard.
A few weeks later while I was back in school, I realized there was something of a debate during recess regarding whether or not Blastoise could beat Charizard and vice versa. Evidently, the kids began to back the mascot featured on whichever version they received, seeing it as a personal insult if they were told that their monster was inferior. In actuality, Blastoise was almost always going to beat out Charizard simply because the fully-evolved Water-type has the advantage over all Fire-types – Charmander’s final form included. As a result, the games were never really a satisfactory form of settling the debate.
As the years rolled on, hundreds of additional Pocket Monsters were introduced and Blastoise appeared to have fallen by the wayside in terms of the character’s placing in marketing. While the popularity for the original Kanto starters and their evolutions has remained steadfast amongst core fans, Charizard has emerged as a top contender for one of the most popular Pokémon of all time.
This unwavering fandom backing Charizard has allowed the character to appear as a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. and made the monster a no-brainer for inclusion in a Pokémon-dedicated fight title, Pokken Tournament. As the game’s base roster was announced on Wii U, it seemed clear that Blastoise wouldn’t be joining the fray. Even news of a Switch port brought with it the realization that Sun and Moon‘s Decidueye would be the only truly new combatant, joining the four previously Japan-only arcade fighters Scizor, Empoleon, Croagunk, and Darkrai.
Hope seemed lost, but then something funny happened. A 15-minute Nintendo Direct Mini seemingly dropped out of the sky (albeit after ample speculation) and announced that Pokken Tournament would be receiving additional downloadable content in the form of two additional fighters. Aegislash was the first newcomer confirmed to be joining the fray (presumably delighting fans of Pokémon X and Y), and then in a nonchalant moment Nintendo confirmed that Blastoise would be the last known Poke joining the playable ranks of Pokken.
Blastoise will be laying claim to a spot on the Pokken Tournament roster alongside its rival Charizard this March, and it appears as if the Red vs. Blue debate can reach a wondrous crescendo at long last. Additionally, one of the greatest parts about the Bandai Namco-developed fighting game is that it doesn’t factor the weaknesses of each individual Pokémon into the combat, so the fully-evolved starters can clash sans any sort of type advantage – making for a fair fight between the pair at long last.
Admittedly, chances are that fans will never truly reach an agreement on which Kanto starter is the greatest – especially since some fans are keen to back up the oft overlooked Bulbasaur – but there’s something truly special about knowing that Charizard and Blastoise can finally square off on an even playing field. A tribute to North America’s original Pokémon versions has finally arrived and fans have a right to be excited.
Maybe my rose-tinted glasses are getting the best of me in this moment, but there’s something delightfully full circle about the thought of taking control of Charizard to battle my little brother’s Blastoise. Maybe I’ll try to convince him to do just that when the add-on finally drops.
Pokken Tournament is currently available on Wii U and Nintendo Switch. Aegislash and Blastoise will only be made available as paid DLC for the Nintendo Switch version, but arrive on January 31, 2018 and March 23, 2018, respectively.
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