Pokemon Character Reviews: Generation III
A common pick among fans for their very least favorite generation, I for one found Ruby and Sapphire pretty exciting and far more interesting than Gold and Silver when all was said and done...but do the humans stack up to this, too? Let's just see!
We're not exactly starting off with a bang, here. I can't remember anything of note about the third generation's professor, except that he's primarily a field researcher who follows Pokemon around in the wild. He's also the father of your rival, but in this game, your rival will simply be whichever player character you didn't pick between the "boy" and "girl" options, with the same interchangeable friendly rival dialog.
Referred to as "A Big Wave in Fighting," Brawly is the first fighting-type opponent in the series to have any theme beyond just some Strong Punchy Dude, as much of his training apparently comes from his surfing hobby and he also seems to be big into spelunking and cave exploration, even keeping his gym in total darkness as an added challenge to visitors.
You would think he'd also have some water type pokemon or water/fighting pokemon, and I suddenly realize how much I wish there were "dual type" gym leaders and elite four members in this series. That would have opened up SO much more variety, both in character concept and in challenge.
The "Rock-Loving Honors Student" is a little girl who's also a teacher, apparently an expert on archaeology and palaeontology who has written her own extensive reports on fossil pokemon. Neat, but she doesn't use fossil pokemon in battle, which would have been even neater. Instead, she just has Geodude and Nosepass, the latter being her main partner. In the manga, she even keeps Nosepass's pokeball inside a hollowed-out book. I definitely like the idea of associating rock type with an interest in higher education and the study of ancient history, and by now, there are so many more Pokemon that would fit in with her team. I'm surprised she didn't already have a Claydol, but I guess that isn't rock type, and this was the point at which they stopped letting gym leaders diverge at all from their given type.
The "Cheerfully Electrifying Man" is an electric type trainer known for being old and finding everything hilarious. I guess electrocuting people kinda falls in line with slapstick and practical jokery. He's also a bit of an engineering genius, which is also nicely thematic, who had his own plans to expand and improve his entire city. This is just a pipe dream in the original Ruby and Sapphire, but fully realized in the Omega Ruby and Sapphire remakes. In retrospect, that feels a lot like they already knew they'd be revisiting the region years later.
This one's redundant title is "One with a fiery passion that burns!" She seems like a fan favorite, and a big part of that is probably how they wrote her with relatably awkward dialog. She's a relatively new gym leader by the time of these games, and she tries hard to be cool and intimidating but can't quite keep her speeches straight and doesn't seem sure what kind of persona she wants to communicate as a gym leader. She even greets you with "Welcome! No, wait...PUNY TRAINER!"
Flannery's uncertainty and inexperience are also central to her anime debut, even allowing her gym to get increasingly trashed by her challengers and fall hopelessly behind in its maintenance without help. I think a lot of people identified with this because we've probably all been there when it came to something in our lives, and it's nice to know that Pokemon gym leaders can be imperfect people like us. Also, she uses TWO Slugma and a Torkoal, so her strategy is kind of hopeless, but her taste is pretty sound.
"A Man in Pursuit of Power." That's a little ominous, isn't it? Norman, however, is nothing but a normal-type gym leader, and wouldn't offer anything interesting to talk about if not for the fact that he's also your dad. Yeah, this was the first time and I believe still the last time in which the player character's father was even known at all, let alone an active presence in the storyline, and even a gym leader! His gym is located in your own town, but he won't let you in until you come back with at least four badges.
It's a novel idea, though nothing about him is otherwise outstanding. What do you expect from a normal dad named Norman who trains normal pokemon? What the heck did your mom even see in this guy? I guess it was one of those "well, he's stable and that's all that really matters" relationships. No wonder they spend all their time apart.
"The Bird User Taking Flight Into the World" is a flying type gym leader who really, really, really likes birds, like, a lot. She claims to have "become one with them" and always has something poetic and wistful to say about flight. She's pretty much a big ol nerdy bird furry who at one point climbs a radio tower just to stand in the wind for hours, nobody in the game mentioning that actually doing this would also slowly microwave your skin off.
There's not much more to Winona besides how hard she wants to be a bird, but at least that's something. We haven't seen a lot of humans that "envious" of Pokemon.
LIZA & TATE
"The Mystic Combination" are psychic-type gym leaders who actually challenge the player to a double battle, a new feature introduced this generation. A pair of telepathic twins is a solid concept for a psychic gym, and they battle with a Solrock and Lunatone, respectively, which is also more interesting and thoughtful than the pokemon assigned to most other leaders. Their personalities are otherwise just a couple of regular kids who seem to have a lot of fun, and of course alternate each other's sentences. It's such a cartoony cliche going on here that I just have to give it an extra ball.
I...wow. That is some fanservice
Wallace has going on in the remake games. I mean, dang, the skin he's showing off, the ultra high-cut undershirt, the pose, the sailor hat, the silky giant scarf thing...his outfit from the original
Ruby and Sapphire wasn't anywhere near this daring, and it's nice to see them actually trying to make a male character this "sexy" for once.
Known as an "Artist, and lover of water," Wallace's whole theme even revolves around beauty and elegance, opening the battle with his Luvdisc
and ending it with his much more formidable Milotic.
Everything about this guy is something they were 200% more likely to have given to a female character and are still usually prone to, so I'm glad the much more recent third-gen remakes only doubled down on it harder.
Looks like Wallace really only got four balls because Sidney stole one! Stop that, Sidney!
I'm ashamed to say that until writing this review, I did not remember one single solitary character from these games, including what I now realize is quite plainly one of the best characters this side of Team Rocket. The first of this region's Elite Four, Sidney is a former street punk who never lost the fashion sense, his battle strategy is all-out aggressive offense and he specializes solely in nefarious dark types, but his personality is completely sweet, cheerful and encouraging. He cheers you on and praises you for beating him, he seems like he just loves being alive and he's happy to have fun no matter who wins or loses.
Even his taste in pokemon is exceptional, because it isn't just about using dark types. His team is described in-game as "The Dark Side's Beauties," so apparently he uses dark-type pokemon he thinks are pretty. In the original games this was a team of Mightyena, Shiftry, Cacturne, Sharpedo or Crawdaunt, and finally Absol, which would seem to be his main partner. In the Omega remakes, he drops Mightyena and Cacturne but gains a very fitting Scrafty, Mandibuzz and Zoroark.
They don't offer any background story on this guy, but it seems obvious, to me anyway, that he must have had a really rough life before he got where he was today, and he just refuses to let negativity bring him down anymore.
Not much can live up to the strong start that was Sidney, but Phoebe is a similarly surprising trainer, as she specializes in ghost type pokemon and a strategy to "confuse and confound." You would expect someone similarly spooky and eerie here, but instead you get a sweet, upbeat dancer proud of the deep bond she apparently has with terrifying Pokemon like Dusclops and TWO Banette who dresses in a bright, cheerful tropical motif. It's not as extreme and lovable a twist as her predecessor, but it's a twist all the same, she just generally seems like a lot of fun!
They really went all-out with the sheer style of this region's elite four, didn't they? Glacia is, of course, an ice type trainer, and she's also a "prim and proper," upper-class older woman, which honestly couldn't suit the ice type any better. Her original design
was a little more reserved and better communicated her age, but I really like the regal look of her updated artwork, even if I'm sure it was influenced by the overhyped Frozen
. It's too bad there's no snowman pokemon for her, but the remakes do give her a Vanilluxe, which is close enough in goofiness!
Finally, a dragon-type trainer boss with anything other than "cool and has dragons" going on. It's not much, granted, but a dragon-training old sea captain is still more developed of a concept than Lance or Basically Just Girl Lance. Apparently it was a dragon or dragons that saved his life, and he devoted the rest of his life to understanding them. You even get to ride his ship later!
The current champion of the pokemon league in Ruby and Sapphire, Steven Stone is a steel-type trainer who dresses awfully fancy for a guy who wanders around the wilderness looking for neat rocks. He loves collecting rare stones and minerals so much that he eventually steps down as champion in Pokemon Emerald, returning to his hobby while Wallace takes his place as champ. While his characterization is a bit thin, you gotta love a dapper badass so completely into a hobby most people find boring. In a world where some rocks are alive and breathe lightning, regular rock collecting must look even lamer, but Steven Stone doesn't care. He has a team full of prehistoric monsters and Metagross. Go ahead, make fun of his rock collection, you horrible bully. How dare YOU call that boring and lame like YOU just did! I was there!
Okay, I really can't believe I forgot about your "other rival" in this gen. While your main rival is either the boy or girl you didn't choose for your avatar, you got a secondary "rival" in this poor kid, who wants to become a Pokemon Master despite suffering an unspecified illness. That's why he's so small and pale. He's possibly dying of cancer, and you're gonna not only fight him, but have to beat him down to progress the game. Great. His main Pokemon is a Ralts that he eventually evolves into a Gardevoir, which I guess sort of represents a guardian angel for him. This is so far removed from either Gary or Silver, barely even qualifying as a "foe" but definitely making you more of the foreboding rival in his story.
Leaving Team Rocket behind until further notice, the third generation surprised us with not one, but two brand new villain teams, Aqua and Magma, each of which sought to control one of the two mascot legendary Pokemon and reshape the face of the planet. Team Aqua sought to raise sea levels and sink most of the land with the help of Kyogre, and this positively bonkers plan was the brainchild of Archie. Guy just really, really likes the ocean. Team Aqua in general seem like the more laid-back, more fun-loving of these two teams, though maybe I just think that because of they kinda dress like pirates. I do love their symbol, and how reminiscent it is of Koffing and Weezing.
Originally, Matt was a generic Team Aqua admin using the same sprite as some of Archie's other underlings, but was updated in the Omega Ruby and Sapphire games with his own personality, backstory and design. I like how he apparently can't keep his shirt untorn for very long before he just has to show off his muscles and his Team Aqua chest tattoo.
He apparently became undyingly loyal to Archie after the latter saved his life, and after you thwart Aqua's dumb plan to make more seawater, he tries to just do it himself.
I like the swagger in this illustration, but there's not much to Matt's counterpart, besides the fact that in the original games, the female admins of both teams opened EVERY statement with the same laugh. Even negative statements, even just "ouch," began with a hearty "Ahahahaha!" I feel like they should have kept this quirk for at least Shelly.
The leader of Team Magma and opposite of Archie in almost every way, Maxie is a calmer, more serious, more business-y villain who thinks he can use Groudon to shrink the oceans and create more land, which is still ridiculous, but it's also a lot more practical. People always want more land and are willing to pay quite a bit for it. The environment would suffer, yes, but the creation of more terrestrial living space would probably mean a massive expansion to human civilization world-wide, whereas Archie's dream vision of the future is basically Waterworld, an absolutely AWFUL movie.
That said, Maxie's also basically just a different Giovanni. Three balls for dressing like the devil, though.
Characters in Pokemon always follow masculine/feminine naming standards when they use actual, human first names, except for Tabitha here. Everything I know says it's traditionally a "girl's name." This sort of thing shouldn't matter anyway, and especially doesn't matter in a setting where people get named after bushes and trees, but Tabitha is so bland I couldn't think of any other subject to put here.
Okay, things get weird with this one. In the original games, Courtney had the same default dialog as Shelly, but in the remake games, she talks like a robot. She says things like "Target lock...completed." and ".....Analyzing" or "Deleting..." and generally speaks in stilted, technical, sci-fi android patterns, with the soul exception of sometimes saying, uh..."slurp" when she's defeated.
Was this only in the English version? I don't know. Either Courtney is supposed to be some kind of cyborg or she just likes to think she is. It's an interesting choice, anyway, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with Team Magma.
We're now on the characters added by Pokemon Emerald, and once Wallace ranks up to the regional champion, his position as gym leader is taken over by this suave as heck gentleman, who's apparently Wallace's "mentor" and taught him everything he knows about pokemon, art, and looking slick as heck. I don't necessarily want to stereotype and just assume that two extremely dapper men in a mentor-student relationship are probably also an item, but I know enough about anime and manga to feel strongly that their designer probably wanted us to get that very impression.
"DOME ACE" TUCKER
Okay, when I said Wallace was dressed how they would usually dress a female character, I wasn't even aware of Tucker rocking both sparkly wings and purple pigtails. Did they just hire a professional fashion designer for this generation? Everyone's outfits are SO bold, in many cases even before the remake games injected them with even more personality.
Tucker's character is kind of a showboating superstar, and one of the "Frontier Brains" introduced in Emerald. These are special trainers who challenge you in a new post-game "Battle Frontier." Each of these has their own special arena, such as Tucker's "Battle Dome," and their teams aren't just themed around a single type. Tucker, for instance, uses a high-powered mix of fully evolved starters, pseudo-legendaries and even the actual legendary pokemon, Latias. He's also, naturally, the kind of guy who brags about himself before every match, but he does know how to lose with grace and congratulate you on being almost as awesome as he is.
"ARENA TYCOON" GRETA
Greta is supposedly known for being "blunt" and "fierce," even telling you how weak you look before battle. She carries a "fighting type trainer" vibe and is even reinvented as such in the anime, but her only fighting Pokemon in-game are Heracross, sometimes switched out for Breloom. Her most constant companion is an Umbreon, and she'll use either Gengar or Shedinja in another slot. Dark, Ghost, and Fighting...there's actually a pattern of elemental advantages there, so it's not completely random. Not that interesting of a character, though.
"FACTORY HEAD" NOLAND
Noland is in charge of the "Battle Factory," apparently also a place where research is conducted on Pokemon moves. His pokemon team is actually random every time, along with the player's, supposedly for the sake of these research experiments. It's also kind of fun in general when we come across a Pokemon trainer who also has a sort of blue-collar "day job" besides just monster battles. Makes a lot of other trainers look kind of behind in life.
"PALACE MAVEN" SPENSER
You can already guess this guy's entire personality by looking at him; a kindly old monk sort of trainer and an herbal healer. Eh. His main pokemon seems to be Slaking, since it's the only one he doesn't change between matches.
"PYRAMID KING" BRANDON
Finally, another one that's at least a little interesting! He doesn't look that special, but Brandon is an archaeologist and adventurer, a kind of Indiana Jones character, who apparently also had a television show in pursuit of legendary Pokemon, so he's also kind of the Pokemon equivalent to a Bigfoot hunter! Also interesting is the fact that in your first match against him, he uses all three of the "regis." Regirock, Registeel and Regice.
"SALON MAIDEN" ANABEL
There's not a lot to this character initially, just a kind of sweet girl who uses a fairly unrelated mix of Pokemon, but for whatever reason, Sun and Moon decided to give this extremely random character a relatively epic new life as a special investigator of Ultra Beasts, apparently found washed ashore on Alola ten years later with amnesia and a special affinity for Ultra Wormholes. What the heck happened to her!? We don't know, and there's no telling if it's going to be expanded upon any further in later games. It sure is a heck of a lot more intriguing than anything we usually get up to with our own character, though.
"PIKE QUEEN" LUCY
I decided to save the best "Frontier Brain" for last. After so many gentle-mannered, optimistic characters it's honestly kind of refreshing to run into one that's kind of an asshole. Lucy is completely no-nonsense, pissed as hell for you to even be bothering her with your presence and even more pissed when she loses. She even boasts - GASP - that she...she "trampled flowers" to get where she was. UNTHINKABLE!!!
What's really interesting about Lucy, though, besides how awesome she dresses, is that she exclusively trains serpentine Pokemon. These include Gyarados, Steelix, Milotic, her main pal Seviper, and more surprisingly a Shuckle, which I hadn't thought of as really snakelike or wormlike before, but I guess it counts! This is a surprisingly rare instance of a Pokemon trainer with a pure anatomical or visual pattern to their team, and it feels a lot more relatable than those who go for just a certain type or certain strategy.
In the anime, it's also revealed that Lucy keeps a bunch of pet Pokemon at home who happen to all have squinty eyes, like a Snorlax and a Piloswine, and immediately falls in love with Brock for the same reason. While the anime also kind of dropped her hardass persona, I still want to think of her as the same exact character, and it's just adorable that the Scary Snake Queen has a soft spot for a guy because he looks like her pet piggy.
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