Scripted Gaming – Pokemon’s Post-Game Problem (PART 2)
All right, I’m going to preface this, right now. Spoiler spoiler spoiler, spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler. Spoiler spoiler-
Good lord, the speculation this game produced. If I can say anything about Pokemon Sun & Moon, it was definitely the best marketed Pokemon game that has ever happened. As it should have been. 20th Anniversary and all that… god I feel old. But seriously. Just to list a few of the theories I’ve seen and heard:
“Wicke is the evil mastermind!”
“Lillie and Lusamine are UB-01 and UB-02!”
“No, no, UB-01 is made from Lillie’s DNA!” (This one was especially perplexing to me)
“Aether made all of the Ultra Beasts!”
“Sun & Moon is going to reboot the Pokemon Universe!”
Real talk. Why on Earth would they do something that polarizing for an anniversary game? People… really.
But I digress. What did we end up getting? A slightly more complex, but still business-as-usual Pokemon story. The changes to the gameplay segments were nice, though. It was refreshing not having to slog through gyms again (even though we totally did). I’ve not actually spoiled anything yet, so I’ll just say this now. If you haven’t played or haven’t beaten the game yet, this is your warning to click away now and power through it, post haste. This is gonna be spoiler heavy, talking not just about the main plot of the game, but also the post-game content. And there’ll be some theories of my own, along the way. Ready?
Lusamine’s evil. Or, rather, she’s more or less insane. Why’d I say that right away? Because, let’s be honest… it was obvious. White Knight organizations are seldom actually all that pure in fiction. And seriously… Team Skull is a bunch of wannabe gangsters. Do we really think they would’ve had the knowledge and resources at their disposal to be a threat at all? Even Team Rocket is better equipped than them to be bad news. Not to mention that, as you play the game, you quickly start to realize that literally the only person in Team Skull who isn’t a moron is Plumeria. Even the legitimate boss of the team is kind of an idiot. No. It was always going to be Aether. And I expected that. It’s just what the writer in me has come to expect. Besides, it’s basically flat out told to you within the first five minutes of turning on the game. The opening cutscene is Lillie fleeing from Aether employees. Some could have argued that maybe Lusamine wasn’t as in charge of Aether as she appeared and someone else was pulling the strings (a plot twist I’d have actually loved, but I’m fine with what we got), but in hindsight that would just be unlikely. The point is that Lusamine is bad news, and Team Skull is… not even really a red herring, so much as a flat out distraction. An obstacle that just gets in the way every now and again.
A lot of people were speculating that Lusamine, Lillie, and Gladion were all siblings. Well… they’d have been two-thirds correct. Lillie and Gladion are brother and sister. Probably twins, but that’s irrelevant. Meanwhile, Lusamine is their mother. If I’m honest, though, the way Lillie decides to deal with the problem (basically scolding Lusamine and wagging her finger at her), it probably would’ve made just as much sense if she were an older sibling. But then you learn something else a bit later that more or less makes it entirely necessary that Lusamine be the mother. I’ll get to that. The long and short of it is that Lusamine went crazy and became obsessed with Ultra Beasts because… reasons. She started hurting Pokemon to get what she wanted, which neither of her children could stand. So they both stole her latest experiments (Type: Null and Cosmog, respectively) and ran off with them.
You eventually have to go rescue Lillie from Aether, Lusamine goes into the world of the Ultra Beasts, you evolve Cosmog into whichever legendary is on the box art, and you go to get Lusamine outta there because however horrible she’s been, she’s still Lillie’s mother. In the end fight of the main campaign, you wind up battling it out with Lusamine, who’s fused with a Nihilego (UB-01). Now. As freaking awesome as it would have been to have to battle her, as in literally her, what actually happens is this just boosts all of her Pokemon. The battle isn’t especially hard. I’ve noticed that the Liligant is probably the biggest problem because of the speed boost, and the fact that almost the entire game has a god awful speed tier. After you win the battle, you return to Alola, catch the box art legendary, and Lillie heads off to go and help Lusamine recover, seeing as she’s been poisoned from the fusion with Nihilego. She attends your Championship festival after you beat the new Pokemon League, and eventually she leaves for Kanto to go on an adventure of her own… sigh…
I liked Lillie, man! Even if she was reduced to just standing in one place and saying the same line, over an over, I’d have liked to keep her around, blast it! But whatever, we’ll save that for another article. I will say, though, that her leaving was probably the second most feels inducing moment in the series, for me. The other one would be finding out why Aster (Zinnia’s Whismur) is named Aster… excuse me while I go cry in a corner for a bit.
Anyway, why did I decide to just flat out spoil the entire game for you? Because, my friends, it was relevant to the Post-Game… kind of. One of my biggest gripes with the main campaign of the game isn’t that it’s predictable. I’m a writer. I can predict literally anything by now. No, my biggest gripe was how “meh” Lusamine was as a villain. You don’t encounter her throughout the game, like with other big team bosses. You run into her once as an ally, early on. A little over halfway through the game, you fight her for the first time, then you go to battle her again, after basically going through Victory Road that isn’t called Victory Road, but is totally Victory Road. In that time you basically learn nothing about her that takes her character beyond just being completely bonkers. She, like Lysandre, is obsessed with beauty. Unlike him, however, she doesn’t aim to kill everyone. So there’s that. She instead chooses to abandon this world. Her obsession has effectively driven her insane. Lillie chalks up her character to one that gets bored easily, and fixates on whatever new thing catches her attention. That, of course, comes with its own slew of questions. For example. What happens when she gets bored of the Ultra Beasts?
This is where we get into the actual subject of the Post-Game content. And one rather important tidbit of information that the main campaign sees fit to completely leave out. Had this been brought up during the campaign, it’d have given us reason to sympathize with Lusamine in a sense, and would have made her character infinitely more interesting. Why? Because it legitimately makes her the first villain in the history of Pokemon to have an actual motivation that drives their goal, rather than just having a goal. When you speak to Gladion after beating the game, he flat out tells you that his and Lillie’s father, Lusamine’s husband, disappeared while researching these wormholes. Lusamine pored all of her energy and a great deal of Aether’s research into trying to find him and get him back. That’s his hope, at least. He says that’s what he tells himself in order to believe Lusamine isn’t just an outright awful person. And I believe it, frankly. You don’t include something like that, only to ignore it and its implications.
Lusamine pursued this so much that she grew absolutely obsessed, and taxed herself to the point of insanity, eventually forgetting what she was originally doing this for in the first place. She even went so far as to model her and Lillie’s outfits after the Ultra Beasts she’s already been studying and become so obsessed with (Pheromosa and Nihilego, respectively). And that is honestly much more interesting from a character standpoint than either of them actually being Ultra Beasts. When you enter Lusamine’s personal, uh… trophy room, you see that she has several Pokemon cryogenically frozen to preserve them. It’s part of her extremely obsessive and possessive personality. Nothing will ever take away that which she loves again, not even death. And that is why she’s so incredibly infuriated by Lillie and Gladion. In her mind, they scorned her love and abandoned her. So as far as she’s concerned, they’re less than dirt, at this point. All it took was one line to take Lusamine from being just another crazy woman with an annoyingly antagonistic personality, to an actual fascinating and somewhat sympathetic villain. Put in simpler terms, Lusamine is the single best villain we’ve had in any Pokemon game to date. A representation of obsession and how it can destroy a person. And you don’t find out until the post-game. This is easily my biggest gripe with Sun & Moon. It isn’t that Lillie left, despite my really liking her arc as well. It isn’t how superfluous Team Skull seems to be. It isn’t even how irritatingly slow most of the Pokemon I want to use are (Seriously, Gamefreak? Why on earth is the average speed tier of this generation Base 60?) Nope. It’s that Lusamine is an awesome villain… and you wouldn’t even know that until after you’ve beaten the game and have likely already formed a preconceived opinion of her that many people aren’t likely to shake. Ergh…
Anyway, let’s use this as the jumping-off point to talk about the rest of the post-game content. So… Looker’s back. Yeah, I might as well bring that up again. Seems that Looker is making his return to the post-game content, and this time he’s providing the post-game story, again. Unfortunately, it’s a marked step backwards from the godly levels of awesome that we get from the ORAS Delta Episode. Sigh.
Such a shame. It isn’t all bad, though. The post-game plot is centered around the arrival of the Ultra-Beasts, which have begun appearing around the region as a result of Lusamine’s machinations. Lusamine’s apparently not being pursued for prosecution because nothing she did was technically illegal. But… we’ll just disregard that little plot hole. Anyway, this tiny arc gives us quite a bit to play with, actually. For starters, it reintroduces us to someone I never thought we’d see again – Anabel.
So what’s the big deal? Well, in this game, Anabel is actually not the Frontier Brain we know and love. Instead, she’s part of the International Police. In fact, she’s Looker’s boss… which has got to be hard on his pride, but I digress. There’s not a terrible lot to her in this, sadly. But there is some information floating around her that leads to some rather interesting implications. In this game, Anabel is a “Faller,” which is someone who’s been through these portals to the other others before. As such, they’re bathed in the radiation, which attracts Ultra Beasts. In short, her role in this plan is to be the bait for the things. Except now that you’ve also been through these things, that’s your role as well. Wait… doesn’t that mean… oh god. Lillie better git gud, and fast. But anyway, this isn’t all that interesting, by itself. Except that they make a passing reference to her being in charge of “watching over some tower in Hoenn,” and that she’s lost her memories. All right, this is where Pokemon Multiverse theory comes into play. I’ll justassume we’ve all played ORAS. For anyone who has… the Battle Frontier isn’t a thing in it. The Battle Tower isn’t even a thing. Instead they have the Battle Resort. So what does this mean? Anabel isn’t from this world. Somehow, Anabel traveled through the wormholes, through the world of the Ultra Beasts, and was spit out in an alternate universe. One in which there may well be another Anabel running around. This Anabel? This is the Anabel we all know and love (or hate, depending on your experience with her and that freaking Salamence). The one from Pokemon Emerald. More than anything, her presence confirms that Pokemon isn’t just dealing with other dimensions, it’s dealing with alternate universes. Multiverse theory. And if I know multiverse theory, the world of Pokemon is very soon going to be in the middle of its own Crisis.
But why am I wasting your time with all of this speculation and theorizing? Because, my friends, it speaks volumes of Pokemon’s problem with post-game content. For all that speculation, there are still a ton of plot threads that just aren’t explored to their full potential, or are just left unfinished. The biggest problem with pretty much all the Pokemon post-game segments aside from Gold/Silver/Crystal’s and the Delta Episode, is that they’re ludicrously unsatisfying. They don’t give you anything more that unfinished plot threads, theory fodder, and some new battle features. Even the Gen 2 post-game content is only satisfying in the gameplay sense. And this is where I think Pokemon is behind the curb. There’s no doubt in my mind that a lot of this is just flat out not going to come up again in future games. I’m sure that if and when the follow-up game hits the Switch, it’ll expand on some things, and possibly even add a new post-game story. Who knows? Maybe it’ll even be an outright sequel game, like Black 2 and White 2 (just hopefully better than either of the former). But there’s still stuff that just isn’t going to be getting mentioned again. There will still be plot threads left loose, and there will still be concepts that are just begging to be explored further. Not everyone who plays Pokemon does it competitively. And if Pokemon games didn’t have such ludicrously high replay value, this would be faaar more irritating. But this is where Pokemon, being a narrative game, could very much benefit by taking pages from the books of other popular Nintendo franchises. What do I mean by this? Give Pokemon some DLC, dang it!
When it comes to DLC, pretty much no one can doubt that Nintendo has it pretty much down. A lot of the DLC they offer is free (or insanely inexpensive), when it comes to things as simple new maps or weapons. Smash Bros. 4, anyone? Heck, Splatoon just gave you the DLC, and Splatoon barely has a plot. Then we look at actual narrative games, like Fire Emblem and Legend of Zelda – games whose DLC actually adds to the experiences of the games therein, be that in the form of new characters in Legend of Zelda, or entirely new story bits (and maps) in Fire Emblem. Why is Pokemon, which is just a narratively driven as the former (if not more, in some respects), left out of this? Pokemon DLC would allow for these types of things to be fully explored. Obviously some things will be left to speculation, as some things really are better left in mystery. But it’s already more or less been proven to work for Pokemon in the past. Pokemon Heart Gold & Soul Silver basically did have DLC, however minimal it was, and it actually delved pretty heavily into the characters of Silver and Giovanni. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it expanded on what was there already. This is the kind of stuff that’d take Pokemon to a whole other level, in terms of the main series games and their post-game content. One-note plot fetch quests like the one driving the Pokemon Sun & Moon post-game will only sate people for so long, so why not? It’d be a fitting, I think.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll eventually get this thing down, and we’ll have a truly immersive Pokemon game on our hands. One that’s worthy of being called the very best. Anyway, enough of my aimless rambling. As always, thanks for reading, guys.
Keep up the awesome, and take care