Pokemon Character Reviews: Generation II
Do I haaave to? Once its novelty wore off as Pokemon's first sequel and the third generation got so much weirder, it became painfully obvious how bland the second generation's new Pokemon really were as a whole, and the human cast isn't a whole lot better. A dark time for Pocket Monsters, I think.
I do at least like this generation's professor a fair bit. Oak is such a laid back older scientist, practically retired from any challenging work we've ever seen, while Elm is still relatively young, disorganized and overworked, a more relatable researcher who's up long hours at his computer completely forgetting to bathe or feed himself, which isn't a joke I'm making up but entirely canon according to the anime.
"The Elegant Master of Flying Pokemon" isn't all that interesting at first glance, but there are two and basically only two things he cares about in the entire world: birds, and his dad, neither of which he'll ever shut the hell up about. This game, to its credit, gave its new gym leaders a crapload of optional dialog, so we do have a little more to go by in evaluating these characters, and every last word out of this kid's mouth is usually either about how great he thinks birds are, how great he thinks his dad is, or how great his dad thinks birds are.
One feature I do miss from this game was that you had a little phone you could use to talk to other characters you've met and even hold rematches with past gym leaders, and Falkner actually asks you to "give him a call saturday morning if you want to hear about [his] dad."
If you decline, he laments that he thought you were "smarter than that," but that "you'll change your mind eventually." Jesus, kid, get another hobby, PLEASE.
Bugsy was the first bug-pokemon boss in the series, so I'm obligated to kind of like him. I guess it helps that he kind of looks like I did as a very young kid and similarly can't stop talking about how awesome he thinks insects are, which is why he's known as "The Walking Bug Pokemon Encyclopedia." As much as I can personally relate to that however, it's just not half as awkward, and therefore not half as entertaining, as Falkner's hopeless daddy issues.
The third gym leader in the game only trains normal type pokemon, and her official gym leader title is "The Incredibly Pretty Girl." Wow, how exciting, Whitney, I'm sure you totally didn't come up with that yourself.
The "Mystic Seer of the Future" is an all ghost-type gym leader, and that should entail someone fairly interesting here, but it doesn't. At all. Morty is so boring that the most interesting thing about him is that the English translation went with a play on "mortality" or "mortician," I guess.
This fighting type leader doesn't have a title like "The Fighting Type Master" or "The Brutal Bodybuilder;" instead, his title is the statement, "His Roaring Fists Do the Talking." I don't know what this would mean for pokemon battling if he's not physically beating up pokemon and/or their trainers himself. Forgettable fighty guy.
"The Steel Clad Defense Girl" is at least a bit of a step up from the previous leaders. It doesn't feel like anybody had a lot of fun coming up with the other leaders of this region like they did in the first generation, but Jasmine has the interesting twist of being a small, frail, very shy and nervous little girl who compensates by training steel Pokemon, still the toughest defensive type in the series, with her main Pokemon being the titanic Steelix. That's just a great character concept for the series all around. I love when a trainer's Pokemon are obviously there to make up for something they feel they lack, and I wish that was taken to further extremes. Like, where the heck are disabled people in the Pokemon world? Where are people who depend on their Pokemon because they can't walk or can't see?
"The Teacher of Winter's Harshness" is, of course, an ice type gym leader. He's also an old guy, and this defines much of his character. He loves to lecture younger people on making the most of their time on Earth and sort of uses winter and ice as a metaphor for getting closer to death. Jeez.
He actually has the lengthiest dialog the first time he calls you on the in-game phone, rambling about his grandkids and how his middle name is "Willow" and all the symbolic meaning he attributes to this and it basically seems like he wants to be everybody's grandpa. I like him and I hope he's okay.
"The Blessed User of Dragon Pokemon" is apparently Lance's cousin, and now you know the only two things about her. She suffers from that syndrome where a character looking and acting "cool" also means they never show any particularly noteworthy feelings about anything.
The first of the Indigo League Elite Four, Will is a psychic type trainer who dresses like a snazzy magician. I like how this English name works as a play on like, "willpower" or something. Otherwise there's not a lot for us to talk about here, he didn't even get much of an anime role at all.
Karen is the fourth and final member of the Elite Four, because the other two are just Koga and Bruno from the previous games after they ranked up a bit. That's an interesting idea and all, but it's not as exciting as four completely new characters could have been.
Karen is a dark-type leader, and I like that her visual motif doesn't make that too obvious, but you can tell she was probably a rebellious punk when she was younger. She even tells you how much she loves the "tough and wild" image of dark pokemon. I also appreciate that, even though they could have also given her a Sneasel to complete her collection of dark types, her team includes a Gengar and even a Vileplume! This might have been the last time Vileplume was treated as a "scary" Pokemon.
One thing I think everyone does miss most from Gold and Silver was the fact that, after beating the game, you could continue through every town and route from the first generation. Since Koga was promoted to an Elite Four member, his gym is now taken over by his daughter, Janine. Not much else to say here, though.
The postgame also allows you to take on what's left of Team Rocket, and fight a series of "Rocket Executives" upgraded from the "Rocket Admins" of Red and Blue. Originally, these bosses were still just generic interchangeable sprites with no distinct personalities or even names, but all this was changed in the Heartgold and Soulsilver remakes, so say hello to Archer, a Giovanni fanboy bent on finding his old boss. Not a terrible update, but neither is it terribly intriguing.
The second Team Rocket Admin is said to be the "scariest and cruelest," but his minions also really seem to look up to and even crush on him. Still, nothing too engaging going on here.
Much more fleshed out than his two peers, Heartgold and Soulsilver upgrade this interchangeable boss to a disarmingly friendly, even helpful boss who pegs himself as a "nice guy" and even hands over a key card for you, albeit under the notion you won't get much farther anyway.
Petrel is also a "master of disguise," or at least believes himself to be, doing a very transparent impression of the real Giovanni when you first encounter him. They really packed a lot of charm into this guy!
Sadly the closest thing any of the "bad guy teams" have gotten to a female leader, if you don't count Aether Foundation, and there never ends up being too much to Ariana other than being a serious, professional corporate boss. She does use a Gloom
in your first battle against her, so she gets some early brownie points from me even if she does eventually evolve it into Vileplume.
I will also say that I could have sworn Ariana was a lot bigger,
and she kind of is in the manga, but I thought I also remembered her being somewhat muscular? I suppose it's just a subconscious impression my brain gathered between the 'tude of her official illustration and a curvier design than they usually give anybody.
I see her Gloom is also a lady Gloom, though it bugs me that the gender difference they went with for Gloom was having one big polka dot on each petal. It really doesn't look as nice to me as the original scattered speckles.
Finally, we've got this games "rival" character, slightly more intimidating than Gary was. Silver begins the games as an outright villain, stealing his first pokemon and even shoving and threatening you in your encounters, though he eventually helps you take out Team Rocket, and in the remake games, it's revealed that he's Giovanni's son. The darker turn is interesting, but this kid was otherwise so forgettable, he never even made it to the anime.
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