One lunatic's love-hate relationship with the Pokémon franchise, and his addled musings on its rights, wrongs, ins and outs. Come one, come all, and indulge my delusions of grandeur as I inflict my opinions on anyone within shouting distance.
Every month, in accordance with dark prophecies written in the stars, I am fated to write an article on a topic chosen by my Dark Council, the conspiratorial conclave of readers who support me for at least $10/month on Patreon. This month, the decree of the Council was that I watch a video by Pokémon YouTuber Tama Hero (formerly Tamashii Hiroka) re-evaluating Pokémon: Ruby and Sapphire and use it as a springboard to revisit the characterisation of those games’ villains, Team Aqua and Team Magma. The video can be found here; you don’t have to watch it to understand everything I’m about to say, but I do think it’s worth your time if you like thinking deeply about Pokémon and game design. If you don’t know Ruby and Sapphire, the fifteen-second summary of Team Aqua and Team Magma is: Aqua likes the sea, Magma likes the land; they both want to wake up an ancient legendary Pokémon (Kyogre or Groudon, respectively) in order to “expand” the sea or land through floods or volcanic eruptions; they eventually succeed and very quickly wish they hadn’t; it’s now your job to clean up the mess.
So, I really liked this video. Jim the Editor didn’t, because it’s framed as a review but doesn’t really succeed at being impartial, which… is true, but not in my opinion particularly relevant. The way I see it, the ship has long since sailed on any kind of rating-oriented “review” of Ruby and Sapphire, but this discussion left me with a much clearer understanding of what those games were trying to do and a keener awareness of both their successes and failures in that attempt – and that, to me, is good media criticism, of the kind that I aspire to. Honestly, to me it often feels like saying at the end of a piece “I liked this Thing” or “I didn’t like this Thing” or “here is how much I liked this Thing out of 10” obscures a lot of what you actually thought about the Thing, which may be a lot more nuanced than your conclusion captures. I almost think there’s an argument for having no introduction or final summation at all, utterly refusing to give a condensed verdict just to force people to decide for themselves whether your analysis revealed more good points or bad points.
(There is a counterargument that this would needlessly cultivate an antagonistic relationship with one’s audience; however, the beauty of Pokémaniacal is that you bloodsuckers already know I plan to bring about the end of time so I can sacrifice you all to the dark gods I truly and ultimately serve, so really we have nothing to lose here.)
How do you think Team Aqua/Team Magma, as environmentalists/ecoterrorists, would react to Oreburgh City and its reliance on coal?
Well, are they environmentalists, though? Team Magma in Omega Ruby seem very much not to be; Maxie is a proponent of human progress at all costs. I don’t think he would be bothered by it in the slightest, and might even own shares in the bloody coal plant. Team Aqua is a different story, because they do have a kind of cultish devotion to the primordial purity of nature, but they also have a rather obsessive focus on the ocean, not the land or atmosphere, so while I suspect they’d be bothered by coal plants, it might not be high on their list of priorities.
The past two weeks have given us Generations’ view of Teams Magma and Aqua.
In the Team Magma episode, we see the organisation’s base being cracked open by Brendan, the male player character of the third generation games, in the company of his powerful Sceptile. Maxie and a collection of his grunts make their way calmly to the base’s submarine bay as Tabitha, one of the admins, monitors Brendan’s progress on a tablet. As the grunts board the submarine, Maxie addresses his other admin, Courtney, ordering her to stay behind. Courtney is taken aback at first, but warms to the idea when Maxie explains that he needs her to stop Brendan, apparently honoured by his trust in her, and prays that he will succeed in changing the world. While Tabitha and the grunts fire up the submarine and Courtney waits for her opponent, she stares at the red lights of the base’s emergency sirens and… kinda trips out? The brilliant red colour causes her to have what seems to be a vision of the future, or at least a possible future – Primal Groudon awakened, raising volcanoes, searing the land and ocean alike with devastating Solarbeams, and finally turning on Maxie and Tabitha as they try to stop it. Courtney is disturbed and shaken, but before she can process her vision, Brendan and Sceptile arrive, returning her focus to the present. As the submarine leaves, she taunts Brendan for being too late and prepares to battle, calling on her Camerupt (who… rears up and neighs like a horse…?). “There’s more work for me to do… I’m going to have to stop you. But now I just want to…” she giggles, “engage you and see what happens! I want to… analyse you!” She gives Brendan a wild-eyed grin and another manic giggle, and their battle begins.
In Ruby and Sapphire, we say goodbye to Team Rocket and are instead confronted with not one but two villainous organizations vying for supremacy on the island of Hoenn: Team Aqua and Team Magma. Sapphire pits you against Team Aqua while Team Magma exists on the edge of the plot and doesn’t really do anything, while the situation is reversed in Ruby. The more complicated plot of Emerald tosses you into confrontations with both teams, because really they’re both pretty crazy. See, Team Aqua and Team Magma aren’t simple criminals like Team Rocket and, theoretically anyway, they aren’t in it for the money. Their plans revolve around the climate of Hoenn and of the rest of the world – specifically, how it might be improved. Team Aqua love the sea, because the sea is where life began, and want to deepen the world’s oceans, while Team Magma love the land, because the land is where more diverse and complex life forms arose, and want to expand the world’s landmass. Continue reading “Team Aqua and Team Magma”→