Rivals, part 6: Colress

Colress, in all his scientific glory.
Colress, in all his scientific glory.

Okay, I realise that we’re pushing it by including Colress in this series; it’s easy to come up with reasons to lump in N with the list of ‘rival’ characters, even though he behaves very differently to the rest of them, but Colress is very clearly not the same thing.  However, I don’t care and I want to talk about Colress, because shut up.

Nice reasoned argument there.

Thank you.

So, Colress.  Crazy mad scientist character.  I was underwhelmed by him, to be honest.  I mean, what does he even do?

I actually liked him!  I enjoyed the fact that he was working pretty much at right angles to what literally everyone else in the story was trying to do.

Remind me; what exactly was he supposedly trying to do?

Figure out the best way for Pokémon to become stronger.  He talks about it when you fight him on Team Plasma’s… ship-thing.  Basically he wants to know whether Pokémon are stronger when raised by kind trainers or by jerks.

Oh, here’s the line.  “What I desire is to bring out the entirety in Pokémon potential… if it means the strength must be brought out by the interactions between Pokémon and Trainers, then so be it! If it means you have to use a merciless approach, like Team Plasma’s, and force out all of the Pokémon’s power, then so be it! And yes, if the entire world is destroyed as a result, then so be it!”  Uh… “IF THE ENTIRE WORLD IS DESTROYED AS A RESULT”?  What… how… there wouldn’t even be any Pokémon left then!  What would be the point of that?

I think “if the entire world is destroyed as a result” is exaggeration on his part.  I took it as referring to the ‘worst-case scenario’ of Ghetsis winning, freezing Unova, and conquering the world – that is, their civilisation, the entire world as they know it being destroyed.  That was how I wrote Colress when we did our playthrough-review-thing of Black 2 and White 2, anyway – I interpreted him as believing that, if Ghetsis was right about the best way to make Pokémon strong, then their civilisation wasn’t worth protecting anyway because it was built on flawed ideals.  That’s maybe pushing a bit further than is strictly justified by the way the character is presented, though.

…definitely reaching.  But it does make some sense.  Hmm.  Just browsing his page on Bulbapedia… this is interesting, look at this; the derivation of his name…

Mmm-hmm.  From ‘colourless.’

But in almost every other language it’s ‘Achroma’ or something similar, from chroma in Greek with a privative alpha.  Except French; they call him Nikolai.  That’s quite good, actually; I think that’s the best one.  You get the same implied meaning, anyway, whichever one you pick.  But ‘Colress,’ really?  Eh…

Yeah, I think this is one character who should have just kept the Japanese name.  Achroma or Akuroma has a far nicer ring to it and makes just as much sense.

Choosing a name like that in the first place is striking, though.  I mean, in a series of games called Black and White, with opposition as a major theme.  It plays up the way he does his own thing for his own reasons, and he’s neither good nor evil.

Mmm.  I rather like the idea of him representing the fundamental amorality of science and knowledge.  Science isn’t good or evil; what matters is how you apply it.  Colress just takes that to the extreme; he wants to learn by experiment how to make Pokémon strong, and he’s completely dispassionate about the answer and its consequences.

How would you compare him to the Professors?  Because that’s basically what he is; he’s a scientist who studies Pokémon, just like they are.

Hmm.  That, and he’s supposed to be good with technology.  And now that you mention it he actually does take a similar kind of “mentor” role towards the player, or at least he tries to; he helps you out, he gives you advice.  You know, I would actually really like to see a game where the professor, the one who gives you your starter Pokémon, is the villain, or works for the villain.

Colress accompanied by his Magneton in the pre-release trailer for Black and White 2.
Colress accompanied by his Magneton in the pre-release trailer for Black and White 2.

What help and advice does he give you, though?  What interactions does he have with the player during the game? There’s the initial meeting in Castelia City; what else?

Well, he helps you get past the… weird… Crustle blockade… thing.  Outside of Castelia City.  Whatever the hell that was supposed to be about.  And then he competes in the tournament in Driftveil City, and he warns you not to attack Team Plasma because it’s too dangerous, tries to teach you and Hugh (well, mostly Hugh) more caution.

He makes some weird statements in Driftveil, just looking over the dialogue.  “All Trainers and Pokémon are bound to one another by Pokéballs.”  What?

Yeah, that’s something that comes up a couple of times in Black and White 2.  The Shadow Triad say something similar when you fight them for Hugh’s Liepard near the end of the game, and N talks about freeing Pokémon and humans from the tyranny of Pokéballs, or something like that, after you beat Ghetsis.

Which makes sense, I suppose, considering the themes of Black and White, and how they tried to show that there’s debate in the Pokémon world about whether Pokémon training is right.

Mmm.  I hadn’t noticed that Colress said anything along those lines before; that’s an interesting quote to add to the list…

And here’s another one. “As a researcher, it is the truth and the ideal way things should be that I seek.”  That’s an… interesting way of putting it, given what ‘truth’ and ‘ideals’ mean for Reshiram and Zekrom in Black and White.  He’s interested in both.

And considering how Black and White try so hard to set up truth and ideals as opposed forces…

They are not.  Not in any world are they opposed.

I think that’s sort of the point, in a way.  When you take all the fifth-generation games together, I’m convinced that the actual message is that the ‘opposed forces’ of the original Black and White have no reason to be opposed at all.  And maybe implicitly, that the other dualities those games focus on don’t have to be in opposition either.

Nature/civilisation, progress/tradition…

…and so on.

Anyway, what else is there?  He explains why Terrakion challenges you and what its agenda is, which is… not really important to the plot at all, actually, but it’s something.  And then at the same time he gives you the energiser thing to move the Crustle, near the end of the game.

Yeah, I kinda count that as one thing with moving the Crustle outside Castelia City.  And I would just like to point out that his energiser device is incredibly $#!tty.  After you use it once, it literally explodes.

Well, he’s a scientist; that doesn’t mean he’s an inventor, necessarily.  Could you build a mass spectrometer to analyse a piece of ancient glass?  That’s what you’re studying.

I… could give it a shot.  Maybe.  It… it might also explode. Yeah… yeah, all right, fine, point taken; he’s not a machinist.  But hang on, isn’t he also supposed to be responsible for the flying frigate and all that technology too, though?

I don’t think he ever claims to be.  Nor does anyone else attribute it to him.

I kinda thought maybe it was supposed to be implied.  Y’know, since they don’t have all that stuff in Black and White.

Eh.  That’s pushing it.  Team Plasma changes a lot between the two sets of games, and Colress’ leadership isn’t responsible for everything.

Ah, fine.  I’ll let the exploding remote slide, then.

He seems to me like he’s an academic early in his career; like a PhD student or something.

That… that would actually explain an awful lot.  He’s completely devoted to his work, to the exclusion of all else, he’s weirdly idealistic, and he’s willing to promote extremely radical theoretical positions… In short, he’s a postdoc.

He definitely could be a postdoc.  Some poor unsuspecting person has given him grant money, and he’s going to get results and a publication by any means necessary.  Even if it means destroying the world and using highly questionable research methodologies.

Well, he’s… sort of going about it in a scientific manner.  He has a definite hypothesis… well, he has several hypotheses…

…which is extremely problematic…

…and he sets up the kids as a control group to compare to Team Plasma.

I’d like to know what ethics committee approved his research proposal and how he managed to pull that off.  Does the fact that he’s using Team Plasma as much as, or more than, he’s using you make him more or less evil?

Between him, Ghetsis, Rood, Zinzolin, Team Plasma, N, and the dubious moral standing of Pokémon training in general in the 5th generation, I think we’re so many levels into shades-of-grey morality here that it’s probably both.  And I think any ethics committee responsible for Pokémon researchers would either just approve everything or quickly go insane.

You know what I’d like to have?  A Pokémon University game, about becoming a Pokémon Professor and doing research.

How would that work, exactly?  You’d start as a student and work your way up to graduating and being unleashed on the unsuspecting world?

I’d see it working kind of like how Johto and Kanto did in Gold and Silver, where the first half of the game is moving through progressively tougher challenges as you prove yourself as a student, and then in the second half you get sent out to do actual research and the game goes much less linear.

And what would you be doing?  What would be your aim?

Well, I think it would actually make a much more sensible way of framing the Pokédex quest than the traditional story.  Your project as a student, and eventually a Professor, is to gather and confirm data about all the different Pokémon species.  You could even have jokes about how the current version of the Pokédex is “misleading” because budget constraints meant they couldn’t hire proper researchers.

Hah!  Okay, I admit, the entire game would almost be worth it just for that.  Back to Colress, though.  Do you want to say anything about the endgame stuff, where he takes the frigate and hangs out near Nuvema Town with the remaining Team Plasma grunts?

He gets a nice ending, I suppose.  Finally figures out what he’s been trying to for the entire game – the best way to raise Pokémon.  That’s satisfying.

Confirms his hypothesis with accumulated empirical evidence, like a good scientist.  And I think it’s probably important to the game’s themes that “science” eventually winds up siding with you over Team Plasma.

Where does that leave him?  What’s he going to do now?

“The invisible force that exists between you and your Pokémon… This time I will determine what it is!” he says, when you have a rematch with him after the end of the Team Plasma storyline.  He’s figured out which way of raising Pokémon is best; now he wants to know why.  He needs to find the mechanism.

So he’s just trying to grab another round of funding.  Bastard.

I think that just about wraps Colress up, then…

So what’s next?  I haven’t played X or Y.  I could just sit here and say “mmm, yes, that’s very true” from time to time while you talk about that set of rivals.

Eh.  I’ll probably just do it by myself, more in the style of my old Champion reviews.  It’ll be quicker, not having to sort out a time for us to Skype.  Then there’s only one more – May, Brendan and Wally, complete with all their new lines and appearances from Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby.

Ah, yes.  Bay and Mrendan.  I’ll look forward to it.

Naturally.

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