Ghetsis’ original design from Black and White.

The Dark Council has convened, and by the will of my mysterious Patrons, my fate is ordained: we’re talking about Ghetsis, the villain of Pokémon: Black and WhiteBlack and White have always been games that I have very mixed feelings about, for all sorts of reasons, and Ghetsis and his role in the story are inextricable from those feelings.  I love the story of Black and White and their sequels; taken together I still think they have the best plot a core Pokémon game has yet produced (although more recent games have different strengths of their own).  I also think they’re deeply flawed and could easily have been so much more.  Ghetsis is a fantastic character – but he and his relationship with the games’ anti-hero (anti-villain?), N, are at the heart of what holds Black and White back.  I’ve talked about Team Plasma, N and Ghetsis before in places, but that was ages ago and some of that old stuff is a little patchy, so this has been a long time coming.  Let’s talk about what makes Ghetsis arguably the most evil character in Pokémon’s history and how he shapes the story of these now-classic entries in the series.

Continue reading “Ghetsis”

Some notes on Ghetsis’ design, and the colour indigo

I’m just finishing up a character study of Ghetsis, the villain of Pokémon: Black and White, at the behest of my shadowy masters on the Dark Council. I have some thoughts on his character design, which I didn’t want to put into the main piece because the visual design of the human characters isn’t really something I’m normally interested in and it wasn’t especially relevant to the thesis of the article, but I also don’t want to not post it at all because I think I might have noticed something new here. So… here’s… that!

Continue reading “Some notes on Ghetsis’ design, and the colour indigo”

Colress asks:

Your reaction when Ghetsis tried to hurt Lillie

I don’t know that I remember having any particular reaction at all, really.  Partly I was just never all that attached to Lillie – I mean, I wrote my playthrough journal of Moon version in-character as a protagonist who suspected her of being the villain for most of the game.  But also, to be perfectly honest I was never terribly immersed in the whole Team Rainbow Rocket thing, and I’ll probably talk about that at more length once I’ve finally finished reviewing all the Pokémon.

Squidward Tentacles asks:

I Could no longer….

Anyways, how do you think gamefreak would approach restoring Kyurem to the original Dragon?

My idea would be (as true to the seemingly benevolent natures of the protagonist in the games). Reshiram and Zekrom giving a piece of their essence, which would then be transformed into a mega stone for Kyurem

Well I am not Game Freak, as I have learned over the course of the last seven years, slowly, painfully and at great material and mystical cost.  What we actually know about any plans Game Freak may ever have had to release this Pokémon (let’s call it “Primal Kyurem” for the sake of argument – I think Primal Reversion is arguably a better analogy for what we’re doing than Mega Evolution) is that there is an unobtainable item lingering in the code of all the games from Black and White onwards, called the God Stone.  Aside from its grey colour, it looks exactly like the Light Stone and Dark Stone, the dormant forms of Reshiram and Zekrom, which are plot-critical items in the final versions of Black and White.  Not enough information is left in the finished games for us to deduce what the God Stone was intended to be for.  It might have been meant as a dormant form of Kyurem, but the name “God Stone” seems altogether too grand for a being as diminished and broken as Kyurem.  I suspect it is the item, created by somehow merging the Light and Dark Stones, that would be absorbed by Kyurem (as it absorbs the Light Stone or Dark Stone at the climax of Black or White 2) to restore it to its “primal” state.  But even if this is true, the notion was probably abandoned at a relatively early stage of the games’ development cycle. Continue reading “Squidward Tentacles asks:”

Pokémon Generations: Episodes 15 and 16

I’m a big fan of episode 16 of Generations; 15 is nothing special, but it covers characters who were already quite interesting, so it’s worth looking at anyway.  15 is the last of the generation V episodes, and focuses on the confrontation between N and Ghetsis in Black and White 2, while 16 is the beginning of generation VI, and is all about the characterisation of X and Y’s main antagonist, Lysandre.  15 follows the games quite closely, but 16 is a bit more exploratory, and it’s when Generations tries to depart a little from the games, and show the bits of backstory that we haven’t seen before, that it does its best work.  Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “Pokémon Generations: Episodes 15 and 16”

White 2 Playthrough Journal, episode 24: Absolute zero

Jim and I warp into a spacious office at the prow of the Team Plasma frigate, sparsely but tastefully furnished, and lined with monitors displaying live security feeds from around the ship.  The office’s sole occupant, a tall green-haired man in long, dark grey robes, has his back to us, his eyes fixed on one of the monitors.  Colress is visible going about his business on the security feed.  As if conscious of his observers, he glances up at the security camera and waves cheerily before returning to his consoles.  Ghetsis – for it is he – quietly curses Colress for his obsessive devotion to the principles of science, before turning around to greet us.

Whatever else may be said about Ghetsis, you have to admit that his is a look which few men could pull off.  Whether Ghetsis himself manages to pull it off is perhaps open for debate, but his confidence is still admirable.  His wardrobe has undergone a marked shift from his time as active leader of Team Plasma.  Gone are the voluminous bright blue-and-gold robes with their curious battlement-patterned collar.  His new robes are far more sombre, though they retain the eye motif of his older clothing, and his green hair and red glass monocle are unchanged.  He seems older, somehow, and thinner, almost gaunt, and now walks with a cane – though I note, warily, that its handle seems modelled after the hilt of a sword.  Ghetsis once fooled all of Unova into believing he was a kindly old philosopher who just wanted to help Pokémon – feigning frailty to conceal a deadly weapon would hardly tax his powers of deception.  He doesn’t appear to have any plans to murder us today, though.  In fact, he has in mind something far worse – a private performance of one of his villainous monologues.  Ghetsis explains to us Kyurem’s true nature – it is a being of emptiness, which, by extension, makes it also a being of limitless potential, much as I had theorised long ago. It can act as a vessel for… well, pretty much anything, it would seem – including Ghetsis’ all-consuming ambition.  I politely raise a hand to ask a question about the underlying metaphysics of Ghetsis’ plans for world domination (I am particularly interested to ask how he knows that Kyurem will not simply drain his vital essence, leave him a withered husk, and then go on to conquer Unova itself) but he refuses to be interrupted, until a member of the Shadow Triad arrives to inform him that Kyurem has been moved off the ship.  Ghetsis leaves, proclaiming his triumph and ordering the Shadow Triad to deal with us, at which point Hugh arrives via the warp panel.

Entirely unfazed by the gravity of the situation he has just missed, Hugh demands to know where his sister’s Purrloin is.  Only mildly taken aback by this question, the ninja releases a Liepard, explaining that, although this is probably the Pokémon Hugh means, it will only obey his commands now, for “such is the fate of Pokémon that are trapped in Pokéballs.”  Hugh cries out that this must be someone else’s Pokémon.  Good grief, Hugh, this is not a moment to go into denial; Rood told us that the Shadow Triad probably had your sister’s Pokémon, and it’s not like they’d be carrying around a spare Liepard, just in case they wanted to mess with the vengeful brother of a trainer they stole a Purrloin from.  That’s… kind of a low percentage contingency there.  While Hugh stares, dumbstruck, the ninja muses that, if Ghetsis had been victorious two years ago and ‘Pokémon liberation’ had become a reality, even if only for the sake of Ghetsis’ ambition, Liepard might have returned to its original trainer in its own time.  Before I have time to dwell on what he seems to be saying, the rest of the Shadow Triad arrives.  Hugh is so preoccupied by Liepard’s apparent hostility towards him that he’s unable to do anything useful, so Jim and I battle the three ninjas ourselves.  Once dealt with, they vanish, as usual, but leave Liepard behind as a parting gift (possibly a deliberate stratagem on their part, since it keeps Hugh transfixed and unable to contribute anything whatsoever).  I admit to spacing out for a moment myself, watching them.  The Shadow Triad certainly seem to believe that Pokéballs really do enslave and control Pokémon – but is that just Ghetsis’ rhetoric talking?  They weren’t deceived by him the way the others were; they seem to have known all along that world domination was his intention, but could their minds still have been clouded by his rather adversarial view of the relationship between humans and Pokémon?  Jim interrupts my reverie with a snap of his fingers.  We still have a war to win.

Leaving the ship, we follow Ghetsis to the glacial cave at the very back of the giant chasm.  The place is eerily silent – no Kyurem in sight.  Ghetsis is standing, alone, in the back of the cavern.  This crater, he explains, the place where Kyurem fell from the sky, is where its power is strongest, strong enough to freeze the entire region.  He bangs his cane on the cave floor and calls Kyurem’s name, prompting the legendary Pokémon to appear from nowhere in a gust of blinding white wind, then orders Kyurem to Glaciate me and Jim.  Wait, what?  Has someone changed the rules of Pokémon battles on us?  Are we now allowed to attack other trainers directly?  When did this happen!?  I stammer out an indignant challenge, declaring that Ghetsis is violating section A23, clauses 1 through 6, of the Unova League Manual of Training Etiquette, which very clearly lists all of the Pokémon attacks it is permissible to order upon an unwilling human target.  Jim tries to summon his Magmar, Falk (perhaps a somewhat more practical course of action under the circumstances, admittedly), but our bodies are already unresponsive from the cold.  I make a mental note to strike first if I ever find myself in a similar situation in my next life, preferably using something big and scary with horns.

“Reshiram, Fusion Flare!”

A brilliant red pulse of energy sweeps away Kyurem’s glacial chill as the white dragon Reshiram lands before us.  The long-lost hero of Unova, N, leaps from her back to confront Ghetsis.

“Took you long enough,” I mutter quietly.

N declares that he and Reshiram won’t allow the Pokémon of Unova to suffer at Ghetsis’ hands.  Reshiram, last I checked, is more powerful than Kyurem – significantly so – but Ghetsis’ confidence seems undiminished.  In fact, he claims that he wanted N and Reshiram here; it was all part of his plan.  With a flourish, he produces from his robes the devices that will supposedly bring him victory: the DNA Splicers.  These pyramidal spikes apparently slot into the strange glassy protrusions on Kyurem’s frozen wings.  I watch, unimpressed, as they float into their positions.  Now what?  N does not seem particularly overwhelmed either, and orders Reshiram to enter battle.  Kyurem responds by firing a barrage of purple lasers at her.  Wait, “DNA Splicers” actually means “Laser Cannons”?  Why did no one tell me this before?  If I’d known they did something useful I would have stolen the damn things myself!  This, Jim observes drily, is probably exactly why no-one told me this before.  Reshiram evades the lasers for a short time, but soon takes a direct hit.  The lasers appear to drain her energy somehow, reducing her to the helpless passive form of the Light Stone.

…well, $#!t.

Ghetsis commands Kyurem to absorb the Light Stone with… Absofusion?  Absofusion, that’s the name we’re going with?  Okay, whatever; get on with it.  Kyurem consumes the stone and, with much pomp and flair, transforms itself into a terrifying hybrid creature, its own body parts seamlessly mixed with Reshiram’s, that radiates power like a frozen star.  Ghetsis laughs his most villainous laugh as N looks on in horror at the abomination that was once his partner Pokémon.  I glance over at Jim as I brace myself for Glaciating death.  “Eh.  We had a good run, right?” I ask.  He shrugs and says something insulting about my mother.  I quietly remind him that, in the context of this playthrough journal, we are supposed to be brother and sister.  He shrugs again and reaffirms the sentiment.  Realising that we aren’t dead yet, we look back to Ghetsis.  He brags that his cane emits a special disruptor signal that will jam our Pokéballs, making it impossible to catch Kyurem.  Catch it?  Why would we be trying to-?  Wait.  Oh, so now he wants to battle?  Now he wants to fight fair?  Oh, whatever.  I step forward, cautiously, unclipping Jaime’s Pokéball from my belt and releasing the Samurott into the battlefield.  Surely Kyurem will be my toughest opponent yet; an ancient, legendary Pokémon with the power to freeze all of Unova, its formerly empty body overflowing with the pure essence of Truth itself, mingled with Ghetsis’ own boundless will to conquer.

Jaime marches forward, grits his teeth, takes a couple of Kyurem’s energy bursts, and smashes its face into the ground with a fierce Revenge attack.  Kyurem twitches a few times, then lies still.  With a sudden flash of blinding white light, Reshiram reappears, leaving Kyurem reduced to its original, empty form.  Everyone present stares, dumbstruck, as Kyurem makes a regretful croaking noise and slowly drags itself away to the back of the cavern.

Well.  That was anticlimactic.

Legendary Pokémon are, as a rule.  The fact is, even the most overpowered nonsense of a Pokémon can only do so much when plonked into a 6-on-1 situation and told to make the best of it, which is what battles with legendary Pokémon almost invariably involve.  Give that same Pokémon its default moveset, featuring the sheer impracticality that is Ice Burn, and you’ve got something that can, quite realistically, be taken down by a single Pokémon of your own without undue trouble (it doesn’t help that Ghetsis has, ironically, denied Kyurem the possibility of enjoying free turns while you uselessly stand there throwing Ultra Balls at it – for most legendary Pokémon, the best chance they have to hurt you).  Black and White fixed this problem rather ingeniously by making Reshiram/Zekrom an active part of the showdown with N, inviting you to face one of the dragons with the strength of a proper Pokémon team to back it up, while the other joins as your partner.  The impact of the battle on the player is strengthened, and the actual challenge of it is assimilated to the challenge of the battle with N.  Black 2 and White 2 have no such recourse, leaving us with the inescapable impression that Kyurem is simply not the world-ending threat Ghetsis thinks it is (bear in mind that this is Ghetsis’ endgame; just reaching this point was essentially the final critical step in his plan to conquer all of Unova) – an unfortunate weakness in their climax when compared with that of their predecessors.

As I explain all of this, N and Jim nodding thoughtfully at all the right moments, Ghetsis himself is rapidly losing his cool.  As I pause for breath, preparing to launch into a discussion of the place of legendary Pokémon in the background of the game world, he gives a strangled screech and bangs his cane on the ground.  Geez; with all the monologues he gives, you’d think he’d have the common decency to sit quietly through someone else’s.  Alas, Ghetsis would rather throw a tantrum.  It’s not over, he declares; he’ll just have to recapture Kyurem and try again – after he’s dealt with us.  I point out, as gently as I can, that if Kyurem didn’t work the first time, there’s no reason to think it’d work the second, which just prompts Ghetsis to scream and release his opening Pokémon, a Cofagrigus.  I offer to let Jim handle this one, but he gracefully declines and allows me to have the honour.

Ghetsis… well, I’m not going to lie; he’s really let himself go.  Most of the changes to his team since the last time we saw him are of fairly little consequence.  Gone are Bouffalant and Bisharp, with Drapion and Toxicroak appearing in their places, but this is really just a physical attacker for a physical attacker and a physical tank for a physical tank.  Cofagrigus, Seismitoad and Eelektross seem to be more or less unchanged.  The great loss is his Hydreigon.  It’s still on his team, sure, but a shadow of its former self: Ghetsis’ Hydreigon was once an unholy terror that abused its monstrous special attack stat to the fullest possible extent with a spread of terrifying energy-based moves, but now it’s been saddled with some weird-ass physical attacker moveset and forced to rely on the 75% accurate Dragon Rush as its primary move.  I feel like Ghetsis, of all people, shouldn’t need to be told that this is at best a very metagamey way to use a Hydreigon.  He becomes more irrational with each of his Pokémon that falls, eventually dissolving into a self-aggrandising tantrum when his Hydreigon collapses.  N attempts to calm Ghetsis down, addressing him (with obvious pain in his eyes) as ‘father,’ but Ghetsis just rants about how N is a freak, and not even a real person.  As he slips further into incoherence, one of the Shadow Triad appears to retrieve Ghetsis.  That was the last we ever saw of him.

All in all… as I said, the whole sequence has rather a feel of anticlimax about it.  I have to admit, though, that there is something a little sad about Ghetsis’ eventual end.  Most Pokémon villains get to go out with some dignity – Giovanni gracefully acknowledges your superiority and retires, Maxie and Archie come to understand how they went wrong and even get a nice little redemption scene on Mt. Pyre, and Cyrus vows revenge as he disappears into the distortion world.  Ghetsis… Ghetsis collapses into self-destructive rage, to the point where his most loyal servants feel they need to restrain him for his own good.  The shock to his psyche is clearly massive, and we’re left wondering whether he’ll ever fully recover.  I don’t think I’d go so far as to call it ‘poignant’ or ‘tragic,’ but I can’t deny feeling a little sympathy for him.  Overall, I think that the climax of the original Black and White was better done in a number of ways, but it’s very fitting that a game whose strength was the ambiguous nature of its antagonists should take the one truly irredeemable figure among them and give him such a pitiable fate.

Well.  Time to move on with life, I guess.

Team Plasma


I’ll start by giving you the short version.

There’s this group of hardline animal rights activists who dress up as mediaeval knights and-

Yeah, you’re right; that does sound stupid.

The truth is, just like Team Galactic, Team Plasma are pretty silly.  The grunts wear costumes that look like mediaeval tunics and chainmail (and yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re meant to look like) and they don’t help matters by using “Plasmaaaaa!” as their battle-cry (it gets worse when one of them decides to coin an adjective to describe anything bad for Team Plasma: “Plasbad”).  As for their leader, Ghetsis… well, he looks like he’s accidentally stumbled in from a high fantasy setting, wearing an enormous blue-and-yellow robe with huge eye-like patterns embroidered on it and some kind of angular monocle made from red glass; the whole ensemble simply defies description and is lacking only a ludicrously ornate sceptre to complete the image (his colleagues, the other six of the so-called “Seven Sages,” wear mercifully plain clothing which, while very old-fashioned, would not seem horribly out-of-place on oriental wise men).  The only explanation I can think of for making Ghetsis so ridiculously over-the-top is that Game Freak wanted to make absolutely sure that the kids would know when playing the game that he’s the bad guy – because, believe it or not, if you don’t already know that anything called a “Team” in Pokémon is a bad guy, you might not immediately realise it.  Continue reading “Team Plasma”