Pokemon Platinum Version :: Picking Your Starter Pokemon
Like in all previous Pokemon games, your first pokemon, or starter pokemon, will be your best friend throughout the game. Time and time again, you will be relying on your starter to handle some of the toughest opponents. For that reason, it is important that you pick the best starter out of the three available choices. Do you take the Grass/Ground pokemon Turtwig, Fire/Fighting Chimchar, or Water/Steel Piplup?
The Stubborn and Snappy Turtwig
Being a part of a Ground-type pokemon family, Turtwig has the best Attack and Defense stats among the starters. Turtwig evolves late, turning into Grotle at level 18, but he learns the Dark attack Bite at level 21, which will give you something to use against Fantina in the third gym.
Unfortunately Turtwig and his evolutions are very slow, which can be annoying. As well, he has the usual weaknesses against Fire and Bug pokemon but, luckily, is immune to Electric attacks. As well, his third form comes the earliest, as he [KWLINK 14980]evolves[/KWLINK again at level 32. Turtwig is great for beginners and people looking for an easy time through the game.[/p]
The Agile Fire Monkey: Chimchar
As noted in the header above, Chimchar is the fastest of the three starting pokemon. He also boast a decent Attack and Special Attack stat and evolves the earliest, turning into Monferno at level 14. He evolves again at level 36, which is the norm for starting pokemon.
Chimchar is brilliant in some elemental match up, acquiring both Fire and Fighting attacks after he evolves. But, for the same reasons, he suffers in other match ups, especially against Flying and Psychic pokemon. In particular, his poor regular and Special Defense makes him a bit tricky to use throughout the game.
In Diamond and Pearl, many people picked Chimchar because of his general elemental advantage against most of the gyms and because of the fact that there weren't many fire pokemon to be seen in the game. However, Platinum has quite a few fire pokemon up for grabs so it is not as important anymore to take Chimchar at the start. In fact, if you are thinking about trading later, it might be better to select someone else.
The Stumbling but Lovable Piplup
Piplup is the slowest to evolve overall, with his first evolution taking place at level 16 and the second one at level 36. His Special Attack and Defense stats are better than the other starters and his other stats are nothing to sneeze at either. Piplup learns a good variety of moves that are very handy to have.
Once Piplup evolves into Empoleon, he will be part Steel type and will have a great elemental advantage over the majority of pokemon, having only a few weakness and a lot of resistances. If it weren't for the fact that he doesn't do that well in some gyms, Piplup would be a great choice for both beginners and experienced players.
Some Things to Consider
If you have friends that also have Platinum, you should work with them so that you each have a different starter. Remember that you can breed pokemon with a Ditto, so you can rely on your friends to trade to you the starters that you are missing. Similarly, if you or your friends have Diamond or Pearl, you should avoid getting the starters that are already around if your goal is to Catch 'Em All.
Some people really like to breed and trade pokemon. Getting a female starter is actually quite difficult, about one in eight will be female. If you want to get something with good trade value to start, you might want to think about restarting the game over and over until you get a female to start.
Unlike some of the previous Pokemon games, the difficulty of the game won't be affected much by your choice of starter. You will be able to catch new pokemon early on and will have a chance to train enough to cover any elemental weakness that your starter has. However, your starter will usually be the strongest pokemon of your team, which does make it still somewhat important to pick a good one, just not as much as with the previous Pokemon games.
Platinum is different than Diamond and Pearl in that you will fight some gyms in a different order. Notably, the Ghost gym is now third, which means you will need to train up a good pokemon to take care of Fantina's Gengar. Here is a quick breakdown of the gyms and how the starters fare against them.
From this simple comparison, it is easy to see that Chimchar is probably the most useful for the majority of the game while Piplup won't see too much gym action. However, do remember that you will be able to pick up a lot of great pokemon along the way to make a well-balanced team so don't worry too much if you picked a different starter.