Ah, a fan-favorite.
And not for no reason.
His whole color scheme feels very cartoonish, his entire body is awkwardly wide-set, and those fins are just entirely too tall for his tiny body. His whole family even has something of a broad, Muppet-y mouth. It all conspires to stick him square in the “endearing toddler” niche, which he fits perfectly well. Just look at those big, expectant eyes. You kind of just want to make sure he’s well taken-care of.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the basis for Mudkip is probably the least obvious of all the starting Pokémon so far. Most of the spice in there is from salamanders – and those are recognizable mainly as either fairytale fire-lizards or a favorite pet of quirky internet-age folks. Then there’s a little bit of lungfish, and boy howdy, there’s an animal people don’t think about much more than they have to. Really, Mudkip is primarily a mudpuppy salamander, but his name will always point people toward mudskippers, which he doesn’t even look directly like. Nonetheless, he’s a cool concoction that results in something looking entirely fresh.
He’s at once a little foreign and something you’re immediately fond of, which makes him a delightful fantasy monster. Ten points to Mudkip.
Mudkip, but grown up to teenage stage.
Okay, there’s a little more than that here. He’s definitely more streamlined in some ways, with more flippery forelegs for digging with and a bright orange spot on his stomach for predators to immediately find and target him.
I do like some of the developments – the darker mohawk-like fin is a great look for a middle-stage evolution, the split fins give the impression of better mobility on two legs, and his eyes feel more “fishy”, for lack of a better word. Not a bad direction to take Mudkip.
I’m just now noticing the light-blue patch about his chin, though. I kind of wish they’d taken it all the way down to his stomach – having two conflicting patches of color on his underside – or front, given he’s fully standing – doesn’t sit quite right with me. The bright orange patch does help break things up, but I’m not entirely convinced that we need it considering what we’re about to get:
I used to think Swampert was a real goober.
I’ve more than come around on him.
The big, wide-set stance feels like the natural conclusion of Mudkip’s “wide toddler” look. His big ol’ tail-fin makes for a great rudder, his cheeks are spikier, and they’ve gratefully fixed his belly-patch to a more sensible color. As a broad idea, I like Marshtomp, especially since we don’t have a lot of mud-dwellers in the roster yet.
The orange padding on his limbs feels a little odd at a glance, though. They almost look like bits of bouyant material, which doesn’t feel right for something that wants to live down low in the mud. Maybe they’re just that – padding to help fend off any predators snapping at his limbs.
My biggest criticism is mostly with his key art at this point. Poor fella looks cross-eyed. Take that away, though, and I love the blend of “hefty, powerful herbivore” and “gnarly bottom-feeder”. Good stuff.
He’s also great stuff in the games, especially in single-player. His only weakness is to the (admittedly common) Grass-type, he gets full immunity – and even advantage over – Water’s typical weakness to Electric, and all his stats (save speed) are at or above average. He’ll need healing up, but otherwise Swampert is more or less a bulldozer. Everybody loves bulldozers.
The only real other note I have on this family – aside from their apparently ludicrous physical strength – is that Marshtomp’s head-fin is something of a visual gag. Rather than a mohawk, it’s designed to resemble one of those gladiator helmets with a big ol’ crest up top. Supposedly the helmet was named after a type of fish, but that would’ve happened far back enough that written history was spotty, and the name would’ve come from a saltwater fish, which makes the connection to a mudpuppy tentative at best. Maybe that reference would’ve been better used on a seahorse Pokémon with the motif of a soldier on horseback?
Mudkip is something of an internet darling, and ranked #1 on more than one poll of fans’ favorite starter Pokémon. You’d be crazy to ditch him. But at the same time, I hold firm to by belief that starter Pokémon should be Reserved for special occasions and kept most strongly associated with their home regions. Never sad to see this kid – a good meme never really dies, after all. I just don’t need him in every game.
Any and all appreciation for Mudkip, Marshtomp, and Swampert is welcome in the comments!