The goal of every starter is to be a complex mixture of cute and cool Pokemon. No starter is entirely bad but almost all of them lag behind other pokemon when it comes to competitive ability. But the battle power of a starter must be reliable so it can carry you through difficult battles, it must give you unique features than no other Pokemon from their type can provide. It has become a tradition of sorts to have each Starter possessing their own signature(s) move(s). All the concepts above can be applied without too much problem to the newest starter trio: Decidueye, Primarina and Incineroar.
The Rowlet/Dartix/Decidueye line is the first grass starter to be based off a bird. This is funny when you think about birds singing in trees, building their nests over there and getting most of their food from them. And after pointing out such an oddity, is even stranger to think that instead of making Decidueye having feathers that are leaves almost no trait from his body points towards a vegetable origin. This is far from a first, but leaves looking like feathers is so painfully obvious that I expected to see it outside of Tropius. Visually… I’m not crazy about owls so the design is seviceable without me being crazy over it, it’s certainly not lazy and the changes over the evolutionary line have a certain nice logic. Typing-wise they threw everything out of the window, making it not only end up in a rather special type combination (Ghost/Grass in pretty neat) and coming not from a neutral Grass but from a Grass/Flying family. It’s a nice surprise, sort of a curve ball, that was pretty welcomed. Also I am for starters not getting humanoid bodies and while this has two legs and wings, that’s your average bird set up, so it gets a thumb up from me. Namewise… Decidueye is such a unreadable clumsy name to crown the otherwise decent naming of its prevolutions, it’s quite a shame actually. Decidueye just stripped Combusken out of his title of having the jankiest name out of every existing starter. Lucky me, the french name is ok.
Poplio/Brionne/Primarina is the second mammal water starter, just two generations after the Samurott line came to be. Samurott was an otter, Primarina is a seel and that’s totally different. Also different is the fact that Poplio and Brionne look kind of lame while in their Gen V counterpart the odd looking one is the third stage evolution. For me Poplio has too much of a simple design it seems very plainly blue with a very regular body form, but it doesn’t look “clean” as Dewgong (if anything it looks kind of derpy like Seel). Brionne has a decent design but I’m not crazy for a clown-based pokemon, she certainly has a good look for it, so I find it a fair effort. For whatever reason the clown theme seems to be dropped entirely and Primarine is more of a siren and maybe a kid’s show female entertainer. Her design is elegant and clean, but I think the sudden shift in thematics makes it a bit lame. Typing-wise she got an interesting combination too: Fairy/Water which comes with good defense and great STAB coverage. Without a doubt this starter line won the prize of having the better names of the lot, even if Brionne sounds just a bit too female for a pokemon line made out mostly by male pokemon. You could make an argument about Brionne and Primarina having a very womanly design too I guess, but since Pokemon are animals traits that look female for humans might not be so in their particular biology, so this kind of “gender leaning” is always excusable. Also males have the right to “look female”, don’t hate 🙂
Litten/Torracat/Incineroar is the line I am less excited about the trio, but hopefully they’ll grow on me like Infernape did after a while. I don’t really care for Litten’s design (too neutral/cat for my taste), the line tops it’s design prowess at Torracat and goes for a punchline with Incineroar, but the joke works for me, so I won’t hold it against them. I just… Don’t like the style they choose for this evolutionary line, is actually one of the most forgettable cat lines in the whole series, too cartoonish, too featureless (at least when Delcatty and Purugly are weird looking they go their way to look really weird). The typing of choice in the other hand is decent enough: Dark/Fire is not overused by any means and is a great offensive combination (and it’s not Fire/Fighting), I find it to be one of the most interesting Fire starters gameplay wise even after liking Delphox and Emboar quite a bit. And while I’m trying to be optimistic, I believe this was the big looser of the starters this generation. Namewise Litten is kind of a lame pun and Incineroar is not really an exciting name at all, Torracat is also my favorite name of the bunch. Once again they decided to go “humanoid” with the fire starter but at least they didn’t do a full house like in Gen VI.
As far as signature moves go, Decidueye’s Spirit Shackle is the only one that truly shines as having battle potential, with such a tactical typing you will find several opponents that would hate to get tagged and locked into the field, so it’s a great momentum pull. The others are kind of generic and will get brushed aside unless you decide to use the exclusive Z-move of your starter (it’s a safe bet to imagine that the signature moves will be needed to pull off such move).
All in all: decent enough designs and more variety in body types and typings makes it so these starters are great representatives of their generations and (at least for playing purposes) they will be popular choices for future gens.