With Pokemon X and Y having been in stores for several months now, many of you may already be well on your journey into the Kalos region - but for beginners, things can be a little bit overwhelming. If you didn't make your first foray into the Pokemon world with Pokemon Red and Blue, it's easy to forget quite how much depth there is to a Pokemon game when you're first finding your way around, from understanding the turn based battles, to learning how to catch your first 'mon, and, most importantly, assembling your very first team. With type match-ups and stats galore to keep in mind, not to mention the fact there's over 700 creatures to sift through when coming up with your perfect team, it can be tricky for a novice to know where to turn next.
And if we're totally honest with our shallow selves, we're pretty vain too. If you ask us, far too many of the 'mons look a bit... well, cack, creepy or ugly, when we want a team that looks good from the start, that doesn't evolve into some terrifyingly powerful yet hideously ugly monstrosity, and that'll last through at least a few battles before the obligatory trip to the Pokemon centre to nurse them back to health. Something that'll see us through from our first few battles with the gym leaders, all the way through to the Elite Four. And that's not an easy thing to do.
There's a simple rule you learn pretty early on, which is that the cuter the Pokemon, the more useless it is, and there are very few exceptions to that pattern. Creating a team that's strong enough almost inevitably leads to you making some sacrifices in the cute department - but it doesn't always have to be that way. With our penchant for cute things, thousands of Poke-hours under our collective belts and an almost obsessive level of knowledge, we've put our heads together to come up with the ultimate cute Pokemon team to take with you on your new journey into the Kalos region. A mixture of old favourites and new X and Y critters, these Pokemon are all a) catchable near the start of the game, b) cute, and c) strong enough to see you through to the end. So read on, and prepare to take on the Poke-world!
Location: Santalune Forest & Route 3
Potential Nickname: Thor, Sparky
The quintessential Electric Pokemon, TV star and undeniably cute, Pikachu is a pretty predictable choice - but he also packs a surprising punch, particularly when he learns Thunderbolt at level 29, a move which is both powerful and accurate. His above average speed is an asset too, as 9 times out of 10 it means you'll get to go first in battles, giving you a distinct advantage. Beyond his move set, Pikachu's innate 'Static' ability is also incredibly useful, as it gives you a chance of automatically paralysing any Pokemon that touches you, which may prevent them from taking their turn. Also capable of learning the HM move Strength (HMs teach moves that can be used outside of battle, mostly for helping you bypass obstacles in the game's landscape), he can be relied upon for shifting the massive stone cubes that may block your way in the land of Kalos later in the game too. And as a final added bonus, Pikachu is the only Pokemon to have his real 'Pika Pika' non-dial-up-modem-noise as a voice, both during battle, and in the virtual pet Pokemon Amie mode - just be wary of poking those charged up cheeks...
Found while walking in the grassy areas of the Santalune Forest and Route 3, Pikachu's can be a bit hard to come across - they're not programmed to appear very often, so it may take you a bit of searching to find one, usually at around level 4. As with most Pokemon, Pikachu becomes more powerful when evolved into it's final form of Raichu - even if he takes a bit of a hit in the cuteness stakes - but Pikachu is such a tough Pokemon, you may not want to bother. If you do decide to go ahead, you'll require a Thunderstone to evolve your Pikachu (which can be purchased from a shop in Lumiose City later in the game), but there's a bit of a catch to keep in mind, as once it's become a Raichu, it won't learn any more moves - even though Pikachu will learn new attacks up to Thunder at level 50. It's worth noting as well that if you can get your paws on a Light Ball item and give it to your Pikachu to hold, you'll actually be able to make Pikachu more powerful than any Raichu - the problem is they're a bit hard to find.
Location: Route 6
Potential Nickname: Deathbringer, Mr. Massacre, Psychosis Joe
Catapulted to internet meme-dom courtesy of Tumblr, Espurr is a fluffy purple cat-like Pokemon with some serious psychic power. Found fairly early on in the game, in the tall grass on either side of the route between Camphrier Town and Parfum Palace, Espurr's aren't too hard to come across, usually at around level 11 or 12. While it may not be as much of a necessity as the 'core' elemental types of fire, grass, water and electric, a psychic beastie is a nice addition for your two remaining slots, given it's advantages over the sometimes-awkward-to-hit fighting and poison types. In terms of HMs, Espurr and its evolved form, Meowstic can also both learn Cut, letting them slash through the thorny bushes that may block your path..
The interesting thing about Espurr is that upon evolving into Meowstic at level 25, it can take on one of two different forms depending on whether it's male or female. Females are white and learn more offensive, damage dealing moves, whilst males are a deep blue and learn more defensive, status-altering moves - although personally, we find the female to be the better of the two, learning offensive moves from of many different types outside of psychic (ours currently has ghost, bug and fairy moves in it's arsenal too), while the male's choice of moves seem comparatively a bit lacking. Of course, it all depends on your fighting style and the sorts of moves your other 'mons have learnt which Meowstic is the better choice - guy or gal.
Location: Route 3, Route 22
Potential Nickname: Mr. Blobby, Squishy
Ok, we're kind of biased here. An Azurill/Marill/Azumarill (Azurill evolves into a Marill, and Marill to Azumarill) has been our defacto water Pokemon in pretty much every game so far - we just love his blobby blueness, smiley happy face and the fact his fairly substantial HP can soak up a decent amount of damage when the situation calls for it. On the whole, it also has a pretty solid attack, putting a fair amount of whack behind it's moves - and if you can happen across an Azurill with 'Huge Power' as it's special ability, its even better, as this doubles his attack stat for even more oomph. Particular moves you might want to look out for are Superpower, an uber powerful fighting type move to put those steel types in their place, Play Rough, a new Fairy-type move that really does a number on those dragons, and (potentially) Aqua Ring, a move which cloaks your Pokemon in a watery veil to restore some HP each turn. He's also a pretty handy 'mon in terms of obstacle-tackling HMs, being able to learn Strength, Surf and Waterfall if need-be - the latter two are thoroughly decent Water-based attacks to boot, particularly in the case of Waterfall which marries up rather well with Azumarill's high physical attack.
Azurills can be found while walking in the grass on route 3, or in the early part of route 22 (just take a right out of Santalune City, past the town's Pokemon Gym) - they're fairly rare though, so it may take a fair few battles before you stumble on one. The level at which Azurill evolves into it's next form can be a bit variable, as they evolve by friendship with their trainer - something you can increase through battling, using healing items and playing games in the Pokemon Amie virtual pet mode - and from there, your Pokemon will grow bunny ears as it transforms into an Azumarill at level 18, it's final form.
Location: Route 5
Potential Nickname: Baarry, Baabaara
Found on Route 5, Skiddos are most commonly found lurking in the purple flowers throughout the route (although they can also be found lurking in the grass too), on level 8 or 9. Learning a fairly wide range of grass type moves as he levels up and evolves into Gogoat at level 32, he makes a pretty solid addition to any team, with the health-stealing Horn Leech, ground-type Earthquake and the damage-dealing Leaf Blade being particular favourites. Another gem is the rather useful 'Milk Drink' move that Skiddo learns at level 50 (and Gogoat at level 58), which lets it recover up to half his health in one go, both inside and outside of battles - and yes, even male goats can learn this nifty recovery move. Our little grassy goat also has a useful special ability, 'Sap Sipper', which makes him immune to any incoming grass-type attacks, upping his already solid attack stat with each one that connects.
Somewhat hilariously, Skiddo can learn the HM Surf (and Strength) to help you during your adventures - although we're not quite sure how you'd get anywhere using a goat as a kind of makeshift boat. If nothing else, it kind of makes up for the fact you can't actually ride your own Skiddo around town, and instead have to pay $200 for the privilege of riding around on someone else's. Personally, we think he looks a touch to evil to be cute with those murderous red eyes and angry don't-mess-with-me expression, but then there's not really much choice for cute and cuddly grass Pokemon, perhaps with the exception of old 'mon Chikorita, Shaymin and the little fairy Celebi, none of which can be found in X and Y.
Location: Route 22
Potential Nickname: Simba, Nala
Another one with different male and female versions, the differences here are purely cosmetic - Litleo's are all pretty much identical, but upon evolution at level 35 male Pyroars get a massive red and orange mane, while the females get a fiery quiff going on. Unlike the Espurrs/Meowstic's mentioned above, both male and female Pyroars learn the exact same moves at the exact same levels, so there's no need to worry about which one you catch.
Location: Route 7
Potential Nickname: Tiny, Tiddles
Snorlax isn't really conventionally cute - but he has a big heart. Well, big everything really. With humongous HP reserves, serious special defence and an attack power that's not to be sniffed at, he's a force to be reckoned with in many battles. A great one to bring out to absorb hits, he can take more than a licking and keep on ticking - and when it comes to dishing out punishment himself, he's no slouch either. Pretty much any physical attack is a safe bet, such as the heavy hitters Body Slam and Heavy Slam, a steel-type move that does greater damage the more Snorlax outweighs it's foe, or the dark-type Crunch - Snorlax also has access to Belly Drum, a move which doubles your already deadly attack power at a cost of half your health. Another interesting combo to try out is the pairing of Rest, which lets him recover health over two turns, at the cost of going to sleep, and Sleep Talk, which lets Snorlax use a random move while he naps - set up his remaining slots with a couple of formidable attacks like Body Slam and Crunch, and even a sleeping Snorlax becomes a formidable foe.
How to nab yourself a Snorlax is a bit more unusual in X and Y than the other 'mons in the list so far - about halfway along Route 7, on your way out of Camphrier Town, a sleeping Snorlax is lying in the way, and it's up to you to retrieve the Poke Flute from a nearby mansion to rouse him from his nap. As you'd expect from a Pokemon famed for it's sleeping ability, he's not a happy bunny when he wakes, and you'll find yourself slap bang in the middle of a battle with a level 15 Snorlax. This one can be a bit of a challenge, but if you keep chipping away at his health, hit him with a status move like sleep or paralysis and hurl a few Great Balls once he's down in the red, you should be fine. As you can probably guess from his sheer bulkiness, Snorlax is a dab hand with the HM move strength, while he also seems to make an excellent flotation device too, capable of learning the move Surf too - both of which are handy to have when you're out and about on your adventures.
And there you have it - a nice little starter team that should be able to hold it's own against most of what Pokemon X and Y throws at you. As time goes on, you may find you have to change your critters around a bit to suit, particularly when you reach the 4th Gym and gain access to the Fly HM - while not really a necessity to your adventure, being able to take to the skies to skip between cities is certainly handy. If you happen to need to fly somewhere, we suggest you swap out either Snorlax or Espurr for a flying type, such as the brightly coloured Chatot, a solid, dependable Pidgey or perhaps a Woobat. Pokemon teams aren't set in stone though - if you fancy a Squirtle instead of a Marill, lust after a Jigglypuff or need to fit in a fabulous Magikarp, feel free. We won't judge, and after all, part of the fun of the Pokemon series is exploring and experimenting, working out what works best for you.