Like with any of the core Pokemon games, Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver offers you a choice of three Starter Pokemon. There is Chikorita, the Grass Type, Cyndaquil, the Fire Type and Totodile, the Water type. Now back in 2000-01, I chose Totodile first for Gold because I thought he was the cutest and I liked his Donald Duck voice in the anime. I chose Cyndaquil next for Silver because I wanted a strong Fire Pokemon and by that time I knew Cyndaquil had the highest stat total of all seven starters in the first two generations (This has since changed). For Pokemon Crystal, I took Chikorita because well, that was what was left. However, in using all three I discovered each Pokemon had their own benefits and drawbacks besides their particular types, With the release of Heart Gold and Soul Silver, you’re going to have to choose one of these three again, so here’s a little primer for what is in store for you depending on which you take.
All three starters stick to a single type through all three of their evolutions meaning they will always have the same Types that they are strong against in terms of defense.
Chikorita is strong against Electric, Grass, Ground and Water Type moves.
Cyndaquil is strong against Bug, Fire, Grass, Ice and Steel Type moves.
Totodile is strong against Fire, Ice, Water and Steel moves.
Cyndaquil is stronger against more types than the other starters, which is a plus, but out of all the Types Fire is strong against, only Ice, Fire, and Grass really come up a lot. Chikorita is nice because Water and Electric moves are plentiful in both the game and in Player Vs. Player battles. At the same time Totodile is strong against three of the most commonly used move Types in the game. If you’re a defensive player, think about what Pokemon Types your friends use most and pick a starter that is protected against some, or all, of them.
Chikorita is weak against Bug, Fire, Flying, Ice and Poison attacks.
Cyndaquil is weak against Ground, Rock, and Water attacks.
Tototdile is weak against Electric and Grass attacks.
In terms of weaknesses, Totodile is your best bet. Although Electric attacks are very common in Player Vs. Player battles, they don’t show up a lot in the Joho Overworld. The same is true for Grass attacks, meaning if you’re just playing to get through the game, Totodile is best if this is where you are most concerned. Cyndaquil has one more weakness than Totodile, but only one of them is common. Sadly, Water Pokemon are the most plentiful in the game, meaning that statistically this is the WORST type Weakness to have. Chikorita is weak to a whopping five types, all of which are attack Types that are extremely common in Player Vs. Player battles. This means if you fight against your friends a lot, Chikorita will have the biggest disadvantage in terms of being hit with “super-effective” moves out of the three starters.
Something to think about is how common these Types are in the wild. Remember you want a solid and balanced team, so doubling or even tripling up on a time will often harm you more than it helps you. Water type Pokemon are the most common in the game, so if you’re interested in checking out Pokemon like the Red Gyarados, Lanturn, Corsola, or other Water Type Pokemon, you may want to forgo Totodile. Grass Pokemon are less common, but you can also get a Bellsprout right away in the game and a Hoppip soon after that. Fire Pokemon are exceptionally rare in Johto. You won’t find your first one in the wild until Routes 36 and 37 when you can pick up a Growlithe. That will be right before your fourth badge, so if you like Fire Pokemon, Cyndaquil will be your only chance for one for a large chunk of the game.
Like all Pokemon games, the realm of Johto has eight Gym Leaders that you’ll have to deal with.
Chikorita will be weak at the First Gym (Fawlkner-Flying), the second Gym (Bugsy-Bug), the fourth Gym (Morty-Ghost/Poison), the sixth Gym (Jasmine-Steel) and the seventh Gym (Pryce-Ice). That means Chikorita is in for an uphill battle for most of the game. There is not a SINGLE GYM in Johto that was Pokemon that are weak to Grass Type Moves, so choosing Chikorita is for the brave or those seeking a challenge at Gyms.
Conversely, Cyndaquil won’t be weak at a single gym but will be super-effective at the second Gym (Bugsy-Bug), sixth Gym (Jasmine-Steel) and the seventh Gym (Pryce-Ice). That’s three of the gyms Chikorita would be liability at. In terms of getting your badges, Cyndaquil is the best of the three.
Totodile is the middle ground here as he is neither strong not weak against any of the Gyms and their Pokemon. This makes him another solid and reliable Pokemon.
Chikorita and all its evolutions are the most balanced of all three Pokemon with nearly even scores in all stats. Its lowest stat is its speed, but even that is more than above average for a Pokemon. Its defensive stats are slightly higher than its offensive ones, but overall Chikorita is the Pokemon you would choose if you care mainly about your Pokemon’s stats. It has no weak areas and excels in both attacks, both defenses and speed. It’s a solid Pokemon through and through.
Typhlosion is similar in that all of its stats are above average for a Pokemon, but it is primarily an offensive Pokemon. Typhlosion has lower defensive stats than a Chikorita, but it has higher attack stats. Its speed is also higher. It has the highest Special Attack and Speed of the three Starter Pokemon in its final evolution, but also the lowest Defense and Special Defense.
Totodile’s final evolution of Feraligatr is a physical attacker. It has the highest Hit Points and Attack stats of all three Starters, but it also has the lowest Speed and Special Attack. This can be a major problem as nearly every powerful Water Type move uses the Special Attack stat. Surf, Hydro Pump, and Hydro Cannon are all moves that can’t reach their maximum potential with the Totodile family. Instead, you’ll have to settle for moves like Waterfall, Dive or Aqua Tail if you want a Water move that uses the Attack stat. You’ll have to do some creative moveset decisions to give Totodile a diverse set of moves o that he can actually make use of his stats.
We’re not going to cover TM’s, HM’s, Move Tutors or Egg Moves, because there’s a good chance you might not get some of them. Instead we’re going to look at what each Pokemon learns naturally for control purposes.
The Chikorita family gets to have a STAB move right out of the gate at level 6 with the awesome Razor Leaf. This will be your primary attack for much of the game and as it is so powerful, it helps to make up for some of the Pokemon’s other weaknesses. The fact it learns the healing move Synthesis at level 11 helps even more and showcases the Chikorita family as strong defensive Pokemon. These two moves will keep Chikorita alive where its defenses might otherwise fail it. It also learns solid attack moves like Petal Dance, Magical Leaf, Body Slam and Solarbeam. It doesn’t naturally learn a wide array of Attack types naturally, but what it does learn are reliable and powerful Grass and Normal ones. The Chikorita family also learns a vast array of defensive moves like Reflect, Light Screen, Safeguard and Aromatherapy. This will allow you to take even more advantage of this Pokemon’s high defensive stats. Just remember you need to have SOME attacks in order to take out your opponent.
Cyndaquil learns its first Fire move at level 10 with Ember. It’s not as awesome as Razor Leaf, but Cyndaquil’s high special attack makes up for it. Its next Fire move is Flame Wheel, but you can pass on that as it uses Attack instead of Special Attack. Its best Fire moves are much later in the game. Lava Plume, Flamethrower and Eruption are all moves Typhlosion can take full advantage of and really lay some hurt down on its opponent. Cyndaquil’s evolutions don’t learn a lot of non-Fire Type attacks naturally. It can learn Swift, Quick Attack, and Double Edge in addition to the Tackle it starts with, but Swift will definitely be a nice move to have at times, especially in the midpoint of your Johto badge collection. It’s also worth noting it can naturally learn the Rock move Rollout, which can not only get quite powerful, but it can also throw your opponent for a loop as they probably won’t expect it.
As mentioned earlier, Totodile is a bit tricky as Water moves tend to use Special Attack scores and all three of its evolutions are actually low in that stat. It learns Water Gun at level 6, but it won’t really get a move it can truly use properly until it is Feraligatr at Level 50 with Aqua Tail. I should also point out that this evolutionary chain doesn’t learn another Water based attack between Water Gun and Aqua Tail, so expect long stretches where Totodile’s STAB moves are exceptionally weak unless you get a strong TM or HM. To make up for this huge deficiency, this evolutionary chain learns a lot of powerful moves outside its Type. This helps make your Totodile the most balanced in terms of natural learned moves, but you’ll still have that weakness with STAB moves for a whopping 44 levels. The best moves Totodile learns naturally are Bite (a Dark attack), Crunch (another Dark Move), Ice Fang (Ice, which will really help in the 8th Gym, which are all Dragons), Slash (Normal) and Superpower (Fighting). Just these moves alone gives Totodile a chance to do super-effective damage against a wide range of Pokemon. It’s Water moves may be pretty weak, but out of all three Starters, Totodile is the best in terms of being offensively effective with its natural moveset.
As we’ve seen, all three Starters have their own specific strengths and weaknesses. While going through this article did you see a particular category that struck you as extremely important? Then you should probably go for the Pokemon that excels there and shy away from the one that is weakest. However, it can come down to simple preference. As I said in the beginning of the article, I originally chose Totodile way back when simply because I liked the design of the character and that was all that matter to me. No matter what you base your starter selection on, just make sure to raise them the best you can as it’ll be your primary Pokemon for most of the game.