Rivals, part 8: May, Brendan and Wally

…Jim, do you feel like we’re forgetting something?

No.  Why?

I don’t know.  Just… I have this nagging feeling we’re supposed to have done something.

Probably nothing important.

Hmm.  Okay; if you say so.

Well, we never did do the last entry in that rivals series.  About Mrayndan and Wally.  So, I mean, it could be that.

The what now?

We were talking about all the rivals?  You know, like how you did that series on the Champions years ago?

…OH S#!T!

So what do you think of Mrayndan?

May and Brendan, in all their glory.
May and Brendan, in all their glory.

To be honest… meh?  They’re… ineffectual.  All they do is work on the Pokédex and they’re honestly not even good at that.

What makes you say that?

Well, in the original Ruby and Sapphire, May and Brendan just plain stop getting stronger about halfway through the game, capping out somewhere in the low 30s with respect to level, but that’s sort of a minor problem because we have Wally to act as the major “rival” character for competitive purposes at the end.  The real problem is that we never see them accomplish anything or even express any real opinions of importance, and they’re just kind of neglectful of whatever it is they supposedly think they’re doing.  Like, that last battle with them in Lilycove City comes just after they’ve been on a shopping spree, for goodness’ sake.

That’s a bit unfair – they do talk constantly about working on the Pokédex, and every battle you have with them is phrased as a “test” to make sure you’re raising your own Pokémon competently.  I think Mrayndan is the first step towards everything that you liked about Bianca – showing that Pokémon aren’t all about battles or badges, and that for some people they’re important for very different reasons, like research.  And there’s a lot of new dialogue in Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby that stresses their commitment to their father’s research much more effectively than the original games did too (and they’re a lot stronger).  Mrayndan is the first time they try to do any sort of world-building stuff with the rival characters… even if it is a bit haphazard.

I suppose so, but I will still contend that original recipe May and Brendan are nowhere near as effective at conveying that message as later rival characters, while managing to be much less interesting than Silver’s particular brand of the “obsessive pursuit of strength” theme that we’d been given in the previous generation.  Silver managed to add a lot more to the story and themes of the game, especially considering the more rudimentary standard of the second generation’s writing.

Yeah, yeah, we all know you have a crush on Silver. :-p

Oh, shut up.  What sticks out about May and Brendan for you?

Mostly, I remember May hitting on me for the entire game.

In the remakes, that is?

Yeah, on Omega Ruby.

Well, I think the entire game is a bit strong… I mean, that scene at the end, after defeating Steven, where you both go back to the pond outside Oldale Town where you had your first battle… that could definitely be read as having romantic undertones, but there’s nothing unambiguous.  What else did you have in mind?

Well, Sootopolis City, for one.  After everyone else has left, and it’s just you and May outside the Cave of Origin, and she says to you something about how you became trainers at about the same time and started out together, but then… where’s the quote…?  “I started to feel like you’d gone somewhere I can’t even reach. It’s pretty lonely, you know? Not! What would you think if I really said something like that?”  Which is basically the equivalent of sending someone a Facebook message saying “I like you” and then immediately following it with “whoops wrong person.”

May and Brendan in their ridiculous contest outfits.
May and Brendan in their ridiculous contest outfits.

Hahah!  Yeah, I guess some of that does potentially sound more-than-friendly.  Hmm, Bulbapedia doesn’t have Brendan’s version of that conversation… ah, it’ll be on Youtube somewhere… here it is.  “It seems like you’re just dashing ahead by yourself and leaving me behind… I feel like we’re not even on the same level anymore, you know?  It’s kinda lonely thinking like that…  Or it would be if I really thought that!”  Do you think that has the same undertones that you saw in May’s version?

I think it could… they’re pretty much the same, aren’t they?

In essence… I think the choice of words is potentially more suggestive in May’s dialogue.  “Somewhere I can’t reach” is a bit more personal, more emotional, than “not even on the same level,” and asking “what would you think if I really said something like that?” kind of stresses the possibility that you might have taken it another way.

Mmm, I agree, but I think that “being left behind” could be read that way as well; as Brendan being physically left behind and maybe feeling abandoned, more than simply being outclassed as a trainer.

True.  Oh, and this is definitely suggestive; after you emerge from the Hall of Fame and it’s time to go back home: “I just, uh… you know… We set out on this journey together, right?  So maybe we should finish it together too.  D-don’t go trying to read anything into it though!”

Awww, he’s so embarrassed about his crush.  And then after the whole Delta Episode shenanigans are taken care of, the two of you go to Mossdeep City to watch the meteor shower together.  I mean, if that’s not a romantic date, I don’t know what is.

All right, all right, you’ve made your point; May and Brendan are both totally hitting on you for the second half of the game.

Anything else you particularly want to bring up?

I did want to say, since we’ve been talking a lot about that scene anyway, that I really like May and Brendan showing up at Sootopolis City during the climax, which didn’t happen in the original Ruby and Sapphire.  It’s just a great character moment for them.  They have absolutely no idea what’s going on; they’ve kinda been thrown into the thick of this ridiculous cataclysmic event that could possibly lead to the end of the world and are so hugely out of their depth, but they are damn well going to stick it out and do whatever they can to help… even if they’re not really sure what that might be at the moment.  Anything else from you on these two?

I guess just that I think they more or less stop being “rivals” in the second half of the game – even if they are a lot more competent in the remakes.  I think it’s interesting that their role shifts; if you’d played the first and second generation games, with Blue and Silver, you’d expect Mrayndan to be a rival in the same kind of mould and compete with you throughout the whole game, but instead they lose interest in that, to a degree, and Wally emerges as kind of a dark horse rival.  Mrayndan ends up being much more of a counterbalance, like a Bianca to Wally’s Cheren, overall.  I think that shift is neat.

Well, that seems like a good opportunity to segue… is that how you say it?  Segue?

…did you just pronounce that seg-you?

What is it?  Seg-way?

Yes.

Isn’t that, like… a scooter?

Yes, it is; where do you think they got the name from?

Shut up.  It seems like a good opportunity to segue into talking about Wally.  He… doesn’t get much out of the remakes, does he?  I was really hoping he would get more screen time and characterisation and stuff, but there’s hardly anything.

Wally.
Wally.

Is there anything at all?  Aside from the bit with Zinnia stealing his Digivice in Delta Episode?

Of what I can remember… there’s, like, one extra scene, I think immediately after you beat Norman and get your fifth badge?  Wally takes you back to Mauville City, so you don’t have to walk all that way.

Well, that’s nice of him.

Certainly makes things a bit more convenient.  It also tells us explicitly that he’s leaving Verdanturf Town and going on a journey, which… to be honest, I’m not sure was totally necessary, because some of his relatives will mention to you that he’s left if you talk to them in the original games, but I guess that’s something you could potentially miss.  And in that same conversation he makes this… kind of weird, stammering request to be your rival.

Really?  What does he say, exactly?

“Could I call you my r-riv- Ah, never mind!  S-sorry!  It was nothing!”  He seems really embarrassed about it!

I guess being someone’s rival is a really personal thing for Pokémon trainers?

Maybe!  It sort of reminds me of the bit in X and Y, just after you properly meet Professor Sycamore and get your second starter Pokémon, where Serena (or Calem) asks you to go to a café with her for a bit so she can formally ask you to be her rival.

Well, I guess if it’s not obvious from the start, it makes… a little bit of sense to tell someone that you want to have that kind of competitive relationship with them – and Wally is the first “rival” character where that’s the case; Silver just always kind of hated you for some reason, and Blue had supposedly been your rival “since you were babies” according to Professor Oak.  And Mrayndan kind of stops being a proper rival, if they ever really were one to begin with.  I actually think it might have been more interesting if you and Wally had a very different kind of dynamic.

How do you mean?

Like, if your character continued the ‘mentor’ role that Norman assigns to you when you first meet Wally in Petalburg City, and you help him to develop as a trainer in a variety of ways.  I think it would have been really cool, for instance, to have Wally fight with you in a double battle in the Mossdeep Gym.

Wally unleashes his inner badass with Mega Gallade.
Wally unleashes his inner badass with Mega Gallade.

Hmm… yeah, that might be really interesting.  They kind of use that initially as a way of slipping in a how-to-catch-Pokémon tutorial – they frame it as you teaching Wally to catch Pokémon, but really it’s the other way around (assuming you somehow haven’t already figured it out by the time you reach Petalburg).  It could be cool to include other tutorial elements that way – like how to use TMs, initially, or later on, things like building a team; you could even help Wally choose Pokémon to complement his Ralts’ abilities.

And each of those is opportunities to throw in more characterisation and development, which he’s kind of lacking at the moment.

Well, not “lacking,” exactly; he definitely grows a hell of a lot as a person!  We just don’t really get to see it…

He becomes more confident, but that’s sort of it.  He’s not involved enough in the story to see much other than that he starts off timid, and becomes more courageous.  There’s nothing else to him.

Do we necessarily need more than that, though?  I actually like Wally much better as a predecessor to Bianca, in that he’s someone who’s able to become a more confident, decisive, self-assured person purely through the opportunities that he gains by being with Pokémon.  That, and he kind of reminds me of a post I see circulating around Tumblr sometimes, about the idea of Pokémon helping disabled people (echolocating Zubat as seeing-eye Pokémon, Mr. Mime learning sign language, Lucario sensing an epileptic seizure before it happens with their aura-sight, that sort of thing).

Well, Wally’s hardly ‘disabled,’ he has, like, asthma or something.  And his Pokémon don’t directly help; his problems sort of clear up on their own once they move him to Verdanturf Town where the air is cleaner.

It hardly exhausts the creative possibilities, I admit, but the point is that Wally is physically frail and might have difficulty travelling in the real world (as well as probably feeling rather insecure about doing so).  It’s just a rudimentary example of something that might be cool to see more of in future.  What else did Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby add to him…?  Well, they had his Ralts evolve into a Gallade instead of a Gardevoir.  Do you think there’s any particular reason to that, beyond just wanting to show off Gallade’s sparkly new Mega form?

Rule 34.

…I’m sorry?

They were sick of all the Rule 34 about Gardevoir.  Think about it – Wally is a young boy who sets off on a coming-of-age journey, and the partner Pokémon he gets in the process is a Gardevoir…

…oh god.  Oh god.  Oh god.  Never bring that up again.  No.  Stop talking.

Seriously, though… probably not much to read into it.  I think Gallade is a better fit for the person they want to show him becoming, or at least the direction he moves in – becoming less introspective, bolder, more courageous.  That, and Mega Gardevoir was already Diantha’s partner in X and Y.  I don’t think it has anything to do with Wally being male, at any rate.

There was one last thing I wanted to highlight, and I literally only remember this because I was just rereading my notes on my Alpha Sapphire playthrough, but although Wally doesn’t get much more screen time in the remakes, they did add one little detail that I thought was really neat.

Oh?

In his house, in Petalburg City, there’s a notebook or a diary or something on his desk, and when you examine it you get the message “it looks like someone has written and erased in it over and over again.”  It’s tiny but I really like it, because it gives you this little observation about Wally’s character – that his lack of self-confidence makes him unwilling to commit to anything he’s written.  Which is subtle and makes perfect sense given what we already know about him.

Meh.

Oh, fine, just dismiss my ridiculous nerdy “close-reading video games” nonsense.  It’s not like I put effort into it or invest self-worth in it or anything like that.

:-p

I hate you.

I know.

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