I think the first time I played the first game, I was a Meowth. I ended up quitting that file (Meowth sucks) and starting a new one, and I got Cyndaquil.
I remember I always used to abuse the stat-raising minerals (zinc, iron, the like) on a recruited team member. I remember one game I recruited a Meditite in Mt. Steel (i think, my memory of the gameplay is a bit hazy) and every time I found/bought a stat-raising mineral, I'd give it to the Meditite. By the time I had beaten the main storyline and was able to change the lead member of my team, I would evolve the Meditite into Medichan and make it the leader, and just absolutely wipe out everything with it