Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl arrive on Nintendo Switch on November 19, which means now’s the perfect time to start thinking about which starter you’re going to pick. Staying true to the Diamond and Pearl originals from 2006, trainers will be able to select from Turtwig, Chimchar, and Piplup as the first member of their party. Want to know which of these three starters is the best choice overall? Or which is the best for you given your approach to the games? It’s a tough decision, but that’s what we’re here to figure out.
It should be noted that, even though we are about to rank the three starters featured in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, none of the selections are necessarily bad. Pokémon games are designed as some of the most accessible RPGs on the market. If you really like the look of the cute penguin, then go for it. That being said, for anyone who prefers to eke out every single stat point they possibly can and optimize their teams, the monster to choose here is obvious.
By the numbers, all three of these starters end up with a stat total of 530, putting them on a fairly equal footing with one another. At that point, it’s just a matter of how the typings match up in a given battle, move pools, and stat distributions. With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s get to the ranking.
The worst pick is still good
- Type: Water (Water/Steel Evolved)
- Evolves Into: Prinplup (level 16) and Empoleon (level 36)
Piplup is the worst starter in Diamond and Pearl, not necessarily for its stats but more as a victim of the region they’re in. While your watery bird will no doubt fare very well against Roark and the first Rock-based gym, you’ll be at the behest of typing mismatches later in the game when it comes to facing Gardenia, Maylene, and Crasher Wake. While only one of those typings is a double miss with Gardenia, the other two starters perform much better in these later battles.
Piplup’s eventual Water/Steel typing as Empoleon is quite unique, but it’s such an odd combination that it doesn’t really end up being that useful in a battle against others. Steel does, however, offer a slight defensive advantage against special and normal attacks compared to the other starters. The main problem, though, is that the Sinnoh region is so flush with effective Water-type options that it’s possible to find plenty of alternatives to Empoleon as you progress. Something like a Gyrados or Whiscash should do well enough and provide a similar kind of firepower.
The balanced option
- Type: Grass (Grass/Ground when evolved)
- Evolves Into: Grotle (level 18) and Torterra (level 32)
If you like turtles, then Turtwig is a very solid choice. He’s got one of the most unique typings in the entire extended Pokédex and has solid HP, defense, and attack stats. When it comes to Diamond and Pearl specifically, his typing makes him a strong competitor across multiple of the early-game gyms. If you’re the type of trainer who prefers a decent all-around mascot for your team, Turtwig is the way to go.
His only major drawback is that his few weaknesses are serious whoppers. Because you’ll be dealing with Grass and Ground as your base types, he’ll inherit quadruple weakness stats against Flying and Ice attacks because both ground and grass have a weakness to those types. If you encounter any opponents that fit that bill, it becomes really easy to be one-shot killed by any special attack from them. Torterra also isn’t as fast as our top starter either.
The best option
- Type: Fire (Fire/Fighting when evolved)
- Evolves Into: Monferno (level 14) and Infernape (level 36)
Both from a competitive and casual level, Chimchar is the very best starter in Diamond and Pearl. For a frame of reference, this monster ends up being fairly similar to a fully leveled Charizard that can sweep entire teams without batting an eye. Between the Fire-based attack in Flare Blitz and the Fighting attack Close Combat, both being 100 percent accurate and dealing 120 damage, it’s easy to see why this ‘mon is so incredibly powerful. It also doesn’t hurt that Infernape becomes very fast as well, which means he’ll act before opponents, knocking them out with a haymaker before they can even act.
Infernape does have its weaknesses in that it's got some pretty low defensive stats and will absolutely struggle during your first Rock-based gym battle. However, provided you can work past that initial hurdle, your lovable little monkey will consistently shred later in the game.