Gary Oak. When one hears that name; or his other alias, Blue; feelings of hatred and anger stir up in gamers who grew up playing Pokemon from the series’ start. He was always a cocky jerk one step ahead of Ash (Red), saying mean things to him every time you battled, regardless of how badly you’d beat him and his Pokemon.
However, as more entries are added to the Pokemon series, the rivals in each subsequent game become less confrontational. In fact, they are downright pleasant now! Thankfully, series director Junichi Masuda shed some light as to how this change came to be in an interview with GameSpot.
From bullies to docile antagonists
Here are Masuda’s own words explaining the original rival concept:
I think the biggest reason that rivals were more of a jerk in the early days is that we were just limited in what we could express with the pixel graphics. There’s not much that you can do with that kind of little sprite on the screen, so we worked harder to characterize them through dialogue and give them certain personalities.
I kind of see where Masuda is coming from, but theoretically, you can still have aggressive dialogue in the more recent Pokemon titles, not to mention make rivals look mean in their demeanor with enhanced graphics. There has to be more to the erasure of jerk characters than just limited processing power.
Masuda offers more information regarding the change:
Also, because it’s just dialogue and there’s not a whole lot going on on the screen, it doesn’t give as harsh of an impression even if they’re jerks, I think. Now we have HD graphics and the visuals are much more impressive. If you also made him a jerk, the impression would be a lot stronger on players. Another thing, just my own personal take, is that it feels that people with those kinds of personalities these days are just not as accepted by players as they were back then.
To me, stronger impressions are not necessarily a bad thing. Furthermore, I believe that having a pushy rival motivates the player to train harder and become the very best like no one ever was. Nothing is more satisfying than showing up someone who is all talk, but again, that’s just me. I’m sure there are others who agree with Masuda’s more peaceful take on Pokemon opponents.
What do you wonderful readers think? Do you miss the jerk rivals of Pokemon’s past? Do you like the more friendly versions of them in the modern games? Let us know below!