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Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl: Which Starter is Best?

Patrick Bonifacio

The newest Pokemon games are now out for everyone to enjoy, in the form of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (BDSP), with the same familiar starter Pokemon from 2007. These remakes of the beloved Generation IV classics Pokemon Diamond and Pearl bring greatly enhanced graphics, quality of life changes, and updated gameplay mechanics.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Best Starter banner

Although all three are certainly viable, the starter Pokémon in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl still have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. (Image by The Pokémon Company)

But even with the new stuff around, the age-old Pokemon question remains: which starter should one pick? While there are only three available choices, each one has its own pros and cons, as well as unique characteristics that set them apart.

Of course, there’s also the issue of type advantages and disadvantages in terms of the Pokemon Gyms to consider in this regard. One starter might be better for the earlier gyms, while another might be better down the track.

If you’re struggling to choose the best starter Pokemon in BDSP, worry not — we’re here to break down each one and why we think you should select them.

True Equality: The Best Pokemon BDSP is All of Them

We get to give you the boring answer off the bat: all three starters are very much viable. The game is designed to accommodate all three in some way. Where their individual differences really come into play is in the timing of when they’re most effective.

As mentioned in the introduction to this guide, one starter might be less functional early on in the game, but given time turns into an absolute monster. Another might be better as a short-term, stopgap kind of pick, which falls off later in the game.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Best Starter picks

Image by ILCA / The Pokémon Company

But because Pokemon levels are a thing, any of the three starters can become strong with enough experience points. Type advantages can be negated with enough of a level advantage, after all, so if you don’t mind grinding a little bit, you can honestly choose whichever one you want. Our recommendations will be just that — suggestions that are based on each starter’s unique traits.

With that out of the way, let’s get into what each starter offers.

Chimchar: The Popular Choice

  • Type: Fire
  • Evolves into: Monferno (Fire/Fighting), Infernape (Fire/Fighting)
  • Recommended build: Mixed physical/special attacker

The fiery Chimp Pokemon known as Chimchar is perhaps the most popular pick in Generation IV — and we’d be willing to bet quite a lot on a survey on this. Statistically speaking (at least in an unofficial capacity), most players pick Fire starters, and Chimchar is no exception.

It’s easy to see why, honestly. Chimchar evolves into its next stage the fastest out of the three starters at level 14, compared to level 16 and level 18 for Piplup. This means it gets a significant boost in stats and a secondary Fighting type early on.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Best Starter Chimchar

Image by The Pokémon Company

And while its primary Fire typing means that the first gym has a type advantage against Chimchar (Rock versus Fire), its secondary typing after evolving alleviates this somewhat. Learning Mach Punch upon evolving makes things a bit easier too.

There’s also the issue of there being a serious lack of Fire type Pokemon in the Sinnoh region. Chimchar, Ponyta, Magby, and Houndour are the only notable ones available, and you don’t even get that last one until you unlock the Underground midway through the game. Ponyta has awful stats, and so does Magby.

Chimchar’s final stage Infernape is also just great overall as a Pokemon. Its base stats are the highest of the three starters, and Infernape is the fastest by a long shot. Its mixed offenses of 104 Attack and 104 Special Attack combined with its 108 Speed make it a fearsome offensive threat, able to cover both physically defensive and special defensive opponents. And its amazing movepool is just icing on the cake. Infernape has access to:

  • Close Combat
  • Mach Punch
  • Fire Blast
  • Flamethrower
  • Flare Blitz
  • Overheat
  • Gunk Shot
  • Earthquake
  • Stone Edge
  • Thunder Punch
  • Swords Dance
  • Nasty Plot

All of these are incredibly good options depending on what you want to do with Infernape. It’s hard to go wrong here, as this evolutionary line easily has the flexibility to be good from the start of the game all the way to the Pokemon League. If we had to pick the “objectively” best starter in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, it would be Chimchar.

Turtwig: Tanky, Hard-Hitting Turtle

  • Type: Grass
  • Evolves into: Grotle (Grass), Torterra (Grass/Ground)
  • Recommended build: Bulky physical attacker

Turtwig the Tiny Leaf Pokemon is the king of the early game in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. While it doesn’t evolve quite as quickly as Chimchar does, Turtwig turns into Grotle just two levels later than the Fire type starter.

All in all a reasonable difference that you won’t even notice all that much. It also practically destroys the first four gym leaders, three of whom have Pokemon that are either neutral or weak to Grass type moves.

Pokemon Turtwig

Image by The Pokémon Company

Turtwig sports the lowest total base stats of all three starters when fully evolved, meaning just in terms of raw numbers it’s the least appealing of the choices. Where it makes up for its lack of stats, though, is in its high physical attributes. Both its Attack and Defense stats are above 100, making the final evolution Torterra an absolute beast physically.

In addition, Grotle will evolve into Torterra by the time you reach the Pastoria City gym, which is all about Water type Pokemon (weak to Grass). The evolutionary line being physically inclined also means that the physical attackers in the first four gyms won’t scratch it at all. Its base HP stat is nothing to sneeze at either. You can expect its health to grow quite large over the course of the game, which makes it even better at soaking hits for your team.

Torterra’s most glaring weakness, though, is its movepool. While it does learn Earthquake at level 32 (which is when Grotle evolves into Torterra), the rest of its learn set is terrible. Its only offensive Grass type physical move is Razor Leaf until level 32, when it learns Wood Hammer. But Wood Hammer causes recoil damage, which means it can be risky to use at times.

Fortunately, it does have access to Synthesis at level 39, which provides Torterra with a reliable form of health recovery. You can sort of spam Wood Hammer this way without having to worry about your health, but remember that recovering HP with Synthesis does take one turn.

We also have to mention Torterra’s dual Grass/Ground typing. This is probably one of the worst combinations in the whole game defensively. It means that Torterra has four whole weaknesses, with one (that being Ice) hitting it for quadruple damage. It also takes neutral damage from Water and Grass type moves, which means that two of Torterra’s previous resistances as Turtwig or Grotle just disappear completely.

If you feel like hunkering down like a stalwart turtle, you’ll have to account for this shortcoming.

Piplup: Solid, but Otherwise Unspectacular

  • Type: Water
  • Evolves into: Prinplup (Water), Empoleon (Steel)
  • Recommended build: Special attacker

Piplup the Penguin Pokemon serves as the middle ground, if you will, between the two other starters. It doesn’t excel at any one thing in the story, but is otherwise solid enough to put in the work as you progress. Piplup likewise sits in the middle when it comes to evolving into its second stage, so you won’t have to wait too long in this regard.

It stands equal with Monferno when it comes to evolving into its final stage, though. Prinplup evolves into Empoleon at level 36, so you’ll need to be patient after it evolves the first time

Pokemon Piplup

Image by The Pokémon Company

You do get quite a nice reward for being stoic in this case, as Empoleon’s Water/Steel typing is actually quite useful defensively. This type combination means that Empoleon has a whopping ten resistances, two of which decrease incoming damage by 75 percent.

Ice and Steel type moves will barely dent Empoleon, even with its somewhat mediocre Defense stat. Water/Steel does mean three key weaknesses, though, those being Electric, Fighting, and Ground.

Seeing as how Empoleon has a base Special Attack stat of 111, which means that pretty much the only viable path here is that of a special attacker. It’s a rather slow one at 60 base speed, but it’s easy enough to get around this flaw with a big enough level advantage.

Continuing with the middle ground theme here, Empoleon’s movepool is slightly above average. Prinplup learns Bubble Beam at level 19, which has a semi-decent base power of 65 for a move at that level. At level 33, it learns Brine, which has the same base power as Bubble Beam, but goes up to 97.5 power when the opponent’s health is below 50 percent.

Things really open up for Empoleon with moves from Technical Machines (TMs), though. Ice Beam, Scald, and Flash cannon are all great options. Ice Beam rips through Dragon types, which are common in the late game. Scald on the other hand cripples physical attackers if it procs the burn chance. Flash Cannon, meanwhile, is a fantastic coverage option against Rock and Fairy type Pokemon.

All in all, Piplup isn’t going to wow anyone, but its final evolution serves a compelling enough purpose. You’ll just have to catch the right Pokemon to help cover its weaknesses.


And there you have it! While we have our own takes on each Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Starter and their individual characteristics, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are both designed to accommodate all three just fine. You can choose to follow our advice here, or simply follow your heart and pick whichever starter calls to you.

Stay tuned to Hotspawn for more coverage of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl!

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick Bonifacio

Patrick has been playing Dota since the dawn of time, having started with the original custom game for WarCraft III. He primarily plays safe lane and solo mid, preferring to leave the glorious task of playing support to others.

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