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Wednesday 29/03/2017: Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink

October 14, 2013

Did Pokémon's Stories Play Their Better Cards Too Soon?

Okay, a kind of long title for a problem that seems to be a litte long to explain. As you probably know, the Pokémon franchise has a basic plot: Get your Starter Pokémon, collect eight badges, catch more Pokémon, battle the Elite 4, defeat your rival, roll the credits. However, there's always the second part of the plot, with the criminal team of the region.

In Kanto and Johto, it was Team Rocket. In Hoenn, there were Team Magma and Team Aqua. In Sinnoh, it was Team Galactic. In Unova, it was Team Plasma. In Kalos, it is Team Flare. We also had Cipher and Team Snagem in Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, two games from the third Generation. If you know that part of the plot for each Generation, you should already see what I mean. If you don't, well, just follow my explanation.

Let's see how it began. Team Rocket is a criminal organization that steals Pokémon, causes mischief all over Kanto and Johto, and has sometimes been doing acts that wouls equal to terrorism in our world. That's already some pretty heavy stuff, isn't it? I mean, it's an organization with well over a hundred members, if we consider all the Grunts in the games to be different people. It's a group that also has scientists. It's led by Giovanni. Then, in Generation 3, we got Team Aqua and Team Magma, two teams who were hell-bent on causing a gigantic natural catastrophe, in each case through the use of one of the three powerful Legendary Pokémon from that Gen: Team Magma wanted the world to dry up with Groudon, Team Aqua wanted the world to to be flooded by Kyogre. Those are pretty big goals. Then, if you're familiar with Gen 4, you know that Team Galactic's goal was to awake Dialga (or Palkia) in order to create a new universe. Or, rather, their leader Cyrus wanted to FREAKING ERASE THE WHOLE POKÉMON UNIVERSE IN ORDER TO CREATE A WORLD IN HIS IMAGE, A WORLD WITHOUT SPIRIT.

You see what I'm getting at? Did Pokémon's stories (on the aspect of the villainous teams) play their better cards too soon?

Let's take a look at the following criminal teams, Team Plasma and Team Flare. Team Plasma wanted to entirely separate mankind from Pokémon, which means they are against all Trainers, breeders, people using Pokémon as servants, others using them to work, whatever. And while the original leader N believed in this goal, his foster father Ghetsis wanted the Team to win so that he'd be the only one using any Pokémon, which would give him an advantage over everyone else, and he'd become the most powerful man in the region. As for Team Flare, Gen 6 just came out, so little is known yet about them, but so far we know they're aiming to make money, and also to "make the world beautiful". Whatever their plan is, be sure it involves the Legendary Pokémon in a way or another. Because that's what the later criminal teams have done starting with Gen 3.

Now, let's compare the teams. In each case, their goal is to achieve world domination. Or rather, it was, as none of them has actually succeeded thanks to the player. As for their goals, Team Rocket is your regular terrorist group, causing truble by terrorizing good-doing organizations. They caused trouble more to the people living in Kanto and Johto. Then Magma and Aqua went one step further: They decided to pretty much DESTROY THE PLANET'S ECOSYSTEM if their requests weren't listened to. Whoa, that's a pretty big leap in size of danger! ...Then came Team Galactic. Now, you see what I mean. Cipher was aiming for the destruction, through the Legendary Pokémon of Gen 4, not only of the planetm but THE ENTIRE GOD DAMN UNIVERSE, which implies that he would also have erased it in time, removing all that there was, all there is and all there will be. Just think about it. And then, re-create the world with him as the leader of the entire universe, with every single living being becoming his spitit-less puppet. ...Yeah, you can hardly go beyond that.

I mean, when you compare the "apocalypses", Aqua and Magma would have destroyed the world, and then Galactic would have destroyed the entire freaking universe, both physical and temporal. How big could the Pokémon franchise go after that? Potential multi-universal destruction? Potential destruction of all the universes? Yeah, really, there isn't much choice left for Pokémon after that. They went the farthest they could with the idea of criminal teams aiming for bigger and bigger goals. Likewise, it always struck me as odd that the most powerful Legendary pokémon of all were in the fourth Generation, while it was clear there would be more considering Pokémons popularity. And Galactic was only the third criminal team of all. What do we do after that? We look at the the games from another approach

As a result, you can also notice that Team Plasma's goal seems weak in comparison: free Pokémon from mankind. That's not an awful idea at first, though they extend their reach to al the people who use Pokémon, but also the people who respect or love them. This time, the team is aiming for a more psychological and social trouble, as removing entirely the Pokémon from mankind would cause mankind to be powerless against the wild Pokémon (Think about it: Oak makes a big deal about you even stepping in a grass patch in the very first game!). And then, we discover that Ghetsis wanted that so that he would be the only one with Pokémon, becoming the most powerful man in the world. Team Flare... we can't tell right now, but one thing's sure, they're also aiming for world domination in a way or another, this goes through Pokémon, and they are led by someone very powerful who'll get very close to achieving the Team's goal.

So, did Pokémon's stories play their better cards too soon, on the aspect of the criminal teams? ...Yes, but also no... It's complicated. You see, when a series feels the need to go to universal destruction levels of power, that's because all the other levels of destruction have been seen by preceding enemies. Rocket didn't destroy that much, Aqua and Magma wanted to destroy the earth, Galactic wanted to destroy the universe... That's the farthest they could go. So, what to do after that? Well, aim for a non-physical aspect of troublemaking. Psychological problems are just as important in many stories. Some movies have a big part that plays around with a character living through horrible things and having his psyche being completely torn apart. Yes, the psychological aspect is just as important, but that's the only way we could go after a goal like what happened in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.

So, did they play their better cards too soon? Technically, yes. You can't beat the Fourth Generation' Team Galactic in terms of villainous team. Unless the developers come up with a Team that wants multiversal destruction of all that exists even in the universes parallel to Pokémon. However, until then, we get more psychological-based teams, and in some ways, it's also very fine. It's just... well... not as great as the lengths other Teams in the past wanted to go. It still makes them threatening. And, in the end, that's what we need from the criminal teams in Pokémon.