The last two weeks’ Generations shorts were… less inspiring to me than the previous couple, although I will admit that this may be partly because I have irrational hatred for Looker, who once again appears in a central role in episode 12. Then again, 12 at least does something different, even though I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to mean; 13 seems like it’s going back to Generations’ now-accustomed role as a cheerleader for the games. Let’s take a look.
This episode takes us to Stark Mountain, a remote volcano in northeastern Sinnoh. Here, Charon, a scientist and the last remaining Commander of Team Galactic, has successfully removed a powerful object known as the Magma Stone from its altar, thus summoning the legendary Pokémon Heatran, with the intention of causing untold volcanic devastation to the entire region. From the games, we know that this will allow him to make lots and lots of money. Somehow. His plan seems to rely on being able to use the threat of volcanic eruption to extort vast wealth from the cities of Sinnoh, which makes sense if you assume he has a way to command the legendary Pokémon – perhaps replacing and removing the Magma Stone as necessary to alternately calm and enrage Heatran. From the looks of how Generations portrays these events though… well, he might not have thought this all the way through. In fact he gives every appearance of having no plan at all beyond just waking Heatran up and hoping for the best. He and his Team Galactic grunts flee the moment Heatran appears and brings the magma chamber to life, and the only exposition he delivers is maniacal laughter about the destruction Heatran will bring. The fourth-generation player characters don’t show up; instead the trainer who intercedes is Buck, a young local trainer with a powerful Claydol who, in the games, accompanies you through Stark Mountain. When Heatran attacks, Claydol is only barely able to fend it off, even once Looker arrives with his surprisingly powerful Croagunk. Croagunk briefly manages to stagger Heatran with a swift jab in the nose, and also disables both of Charon’s grunts; Looker himself knocks out Charon with a quick karate chop to the base of his neck. Realising that Claydol and Croagunk can’t beat Heatran even together, Buck orders Claydol to levitate rocks and give him a path to jump around behind Heatran. As Croagunk hurls Mud Bombs to distract Heatran, Buck lifts up the fallen Magma Stone and slams it back into place on its altar. Heatran gives a last, mournful roar and then… just kinda dissolves into motes of sunlight? I… I think they might have killed it? Anyway, after that, the Team Galactic grunts frantically drag the still-unconscious Charon away from the scene, and Buck and Looker go outside to relax and debrief each other. I think Buck maybe kinda flirts with Looker a bit here, flippantly offering to “come and save you” if he’s ever in trouble. And then they get ready for a friendly battle, which we don’t see.
This just leaves me with some very confused questions about Heatran and the Magma Stone. Is the stone natural, artificial or mystical? Who put it there – Heatran itself, an ancient human civilisation trying to control it, Arceus or some other deity, or was it just always there, and Heatran found it and decided it was shiny? And what the hell was Charon thinking in Generations, given that he doesn’t appear to have any plan to control Heatran? In Diamond and Pearl, it’s Buck who takes the Magma Stone, because… because he thinks it’s cool, I guess? Heatran doesn’t subsequently appear until after his grandfather gets him to put the damn thing back (on the other hand it’s implied that failing to return the stone might cause… well, exactly what happens in this short; maybe the fact that it’s willing to indulge the player’s challenge is an indication that it’s actually happy now). Likewise, in Platinum, it’s only after Buck returns the stone stolen by Charon that Heatran appears. It seems like maybe Heatran just kinda likes to hang around the stone, and Charon hopes that this will amount to some degree of control over what it does. In Generations, just moving the stone off its altar, even though no one actually takes it away from Stark Mountain or does anything with it, drives Heatran absolutely ballistic, while putting it back causes it to… die, or be unsummoned, or whatever. So this makes it seem like the stone is somehow sealing or imprisoning Heatran within the volcano, or at the very least keeping it pacified. However it does that, it only works while the stone is physically sitting on the altar, which in turn suggests a vaguely ritualistic tone to the whole thing. Just keeping the stone nearby won’t do it, Charon doesn’t seem to think that holding onto it will help him, and Heatran doesn’t make any effort to return the stone to its rightful place.
Generations’ take on the whole thing makes me gravitate towards the Magma Stone being placed there either by one of the Pokémon world’s great cosmic powers (which would be odd, given that no one has ever claimed Heatran has a role in Pokémon’s cosmology; it doesn’t create volcanoes, it just kinda likes them), or by humans who were terrified of Heatran and created the stone with the help of assorted Rock and Fire Pokémon to serve as a magic seal, not unlike the Odd Keystone that imprisons Spiritomb. The games, on the other hand, lead me to believe that the Magma Stone is just some quirky little geological phenomenon that Heatran happens to like, thus inducing it to follow the stone’s owner around and maybe do things for them. Hell, maybe Magma Stones are what Heatran’s eggs look like (remember; Heatran is the only legendary Pokémon that can be either male or female) and it just gets pissed off when people raid its nest. So which is it? Generations sure as hell isn’t telling.
And… yeah, then last week there was another episode, which was about the Unova Gym Leaders’ showdown with the Seven Sages (minus Ghetsis) of Team Plasma at the Pokémon League from Black and White, and honestly I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, even by way of description. Iris shows up first in the company of her Druddigon and witnesses N’s castle rise from the earth around the palace of the Elite Four, more or less as we see it happen in the game (a feat of engineering which seems to involve at least some degree of literal magic). The Sages each proclaim their favourite aphorisms at her, before ordering the Team Plasma grunts to attack. Iris and Druddigon are perfectly willing to fight dozens of grunts alone, but are soon overwhelmed – until Clay’s Excadrill bursts out of the ground to guard Iris’ flank. Pretty much the whole of the rest of the short is each of the Gym Leaders appearing with one of their Pokémon, attacking some of the grunts’ Pokémon, striking a pose and delivering a one-liner (many of them quoting from the equivalent scene in the games, where they duel the Sages individually). Most of them arrive on the scene in a way that nicely reinforces their individual style, which I suppose is worth talking about (Clay and Lenora just kinda show up, though the appearance of Clay’s Excadrill, simultaneously taking down three Liepard about to attack Iris, is suitably dramatic). Elesa charges into battle on her Zebstrika – riding side-saddle, a form traditionally associated with women in elaborate clothing (not really necessary, since Elesa wears tights and not a dress, but appropriate for her as a model, someone who cares a great deal about clothing and appearance). Burgh and his Leavanny move in unison, fighting as though in a dance. Brycen enters the fray personally, attacking the Team Plasma grunts themselves with the various martial arts techniques he picked up in his movie career while his Beartic fights the enemy Pokémon. Skyla’s Swanna doesn’t actually enter battle at all, but strafes the whole Team Plasma formation with Air Slash attacks from far above. Drayden stares down a pair of charging Whirlipede, arms folded, completely stoic and unmoving, until his Haxorus jumps in front of him at the last moment to block their assault.
The mood of the whole thing is very different to the way the same scene occurs in the games. The player, already inside the castle, finds their path blocked by the Sages and faces the prospect of having to fight all six of them at once, until the Gym Leaders intervene – the player is free to move on, and the Gym Leaders, aside from being very powerful in their own right, actually have the Sages outnumbered at that point. In Generations, their opponents are… pretty much the whole of Team Plasma, all at once. The presence of the enormous castle as a backdrop, with the Sages watching from above like spectators to a gladiatorial contest, adds to the impression that the eight Gym Leaders are facing overwhelming odds. I have to admit, they’ve done a decent job in shifting the focus from the unseen player character to the NPCs, whose challenges are here allowed to take centre stage in a way that wasn’t really possible in the games. I still would have preferred to see Generations’ take on N’s partnership with his legendary dragon and his need for a rival to help fulfil his prophecies – but hey, we’ve still got another one or two fifth-generation episodes to go, and Black and White 2 have yet to be covered, so maybe my wish will yet be fulfilled. Only time will tell.