Appreciating the Gen VI Rivals

Typhlosion

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For as long as they've been around, the four rival characters from X & Y (Calem/Serena, Shauna, Tierno, and Trevor) have pretty much been universally crapped on. Since I had only played Gen VI when I was about 14, and I didn't have the clearest memories of them, I accepted this stance without question. However, I recently completed a Wonderlocke of X, and at 20 years old, my opinion of them was completely changed. Now I would argue that they are actually some of the best, most well-developed rival characters in the main series. I'll briefly examine each of the rivals up to that point, looking at their motivations and goals.

:pidgeot: Blue -- This guy just about has no development whatsoever and only exists as an obstacle to the player. The poster boy of "I'll beat you next time 😡 ."

:feraligatr: Silver -- Goes from being a sore loser, to less of a sore loser.

:tropius: Brendan/May -- Has the questionable development of losing so hard to the player that they entirely give up being a Trainer. Wanting to complete the Pokedex and help the Professor (their dad) with his research makes them no different from the player.

:snorlax: Barry -- See what I wrote for Blue. The poster boy of "I'll beat you next time 😁 ."

:unfezant: BW Cheren -- Takes half the game to figure out that all he wants in life is to be strong. Whoop-de-doo, we're playing a fantasy RPG, don't we all.

:musharna: BW Bianca -- Half her character development of wanting to forge her own path belongs to her dad for changing his mind and allowing her to forge her own path.

:patrat: BW2 Cheren -- I wanted to say it was cool to see him grow up and get a life as a Gym Leader, a formal recognition of the strength he sought, but then I realized he literally just stole that from Blue's redemption arc.

:samurott: BW2 Bianca -- In this case it actually is cool to see her grow up and get a life. With so few true sequels in the main series, though, I can't say whether this makes her especially noteworthy.

:zoroark: N -- Does he count as a rival? Either way, his whole character is "You poor fool...wait...it turns out I was the poor fool all along!" And then making no effort whatsoever to fix his mistakes in favor of going AWOL.

:bouffalant: Hugh -- Easily the best rival character up to this point for not being completely one-dimensional, and probably the best one in all of the first six Gens. He's got a healthy rivalry with the player, but he turns vicious and narrowminded against Team Plasma. Eventually he learns to make some distinctions and grant some forgiveness. He's got the clear motivation of Purrloin, a goal he's able to see through to the end, backed up by some relatively fleshed-out family history. Postgame he makes a real change by helping old Team Plasma, while still keeping up a friendship with the player and pushing them to get stronger.

:absol: Calem/Serena -- They go in a very interesting direction by basically being the opposite of Silver. They start out as your average happy-go-lucky friendly rival, but become more and more flustered and upset over time that they keep losing to the player. Calem/Serena come from a family of respected Pokemon Trainers and are supposed to be the knowledgeable veteran figure of the group but this complete newbie consistently beats them into the ground. By the time you get to Victory Road their attitude is just resignation: they'll have another battle with you for old times' sake but they know they stand no chance of winning.

:delphox: Shauna -- Admittedly, her character is pretty weak. I don't think the fireworks scene helped anyone's impression of her. She at least shows some guts by the end of the story, though, following the player and the main rival into Team Flare HQ.

:crawdaunt: Tierno -- The goal of being a dancer is a nice character element. It's nice to see someone doing their own thing without their life completely revolving around the player. It's also nice that he shows up in the postgame with an alternative function to "please use me as a punching bag for a bit of daily/weekly EXP."

:aerodactyl: Trevor -- I think this guy is a lot deeper than he looks. For one thing, we actually see a bit of his history, thanks to his family's house in Lumiose City. The reason he wants to travel around Kalos with a Pokedex is because his parents left him and his sister behind to go traveling themselves. Like Brendan/May, Trevor's goal is completing the Pokedex, but he recognizes from the outset that the high-level battling might be best left to others. Still, that doesn't stop him from channeling his competitiveness into the Pokedex itself, using that as a kind of test to measure himself against the player the way others do with battles. He also has a unique post-game role, providing the player with information about Mega Evolution.

So there you have it. I'm not saying the four Gen VI rival characters are the best, but I do think they're better than most, and that they deserve a hell of a lot more credit than most people give them.
 
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Gokudera

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You mention Blue's redemption arc when talking about Barry but dont mention it in your Blue bio. But that is something to consider. He got his ass beat by Red mere hours after becoming Champion, and even his own grandfather shows his utter disagreement. This finally wakes him up and matures him. So then in Gold/Silver he is mature and a respected gym leader and researcher. It's not great, but it's a nice redemption for a rather arrogant butthead.

For Tierno, I can see your point about him not just being a rival trainer, but his dancing has so little impact on the story and just seems there to give him a reason to exist.
And I feel pretty much the same about Trevor. It's nice to see a character that isnt just a "fight me!" Rival in Trevor and Tierno, but they're both incredibly inconsequential to the story, and have so little real character development outside of the basic "you're too strong, I could never match up to you", that they seem like an afterthought.

As for N, I absolutely disagree with you.
N kind of has an excuse to go AWOL.
He was adopted for the sole purpose of helping his evil father destroy the world.
His entire life was a lie. He just found out he was just an object to his father.
He was just a pawn. His father and the Sages were the ones at fault. N was just doing what his father told him because he trusted what he said. He didnt question his father's ideology or demands of hum bexause he truly loved and trusted his father. I dont feel he should answer for his crimes because he was essentially brainwashed by Ghetsis.
 
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Typhlosion

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You mention Blue's redemption arc when talking about Barry but dont mention it in your Blue bio. But that is something to consider. He got his ass beat by Red mere hours after becoming Champion, and even his own grandfather shows his utter disagreement. This finally wakes him up and matures him. So then in Gold/Silver he is mature and a respected gym leader and researcher. It's not great, but it's a nice redemption for a rather arrogant butthead.

For Tierno, I can see your point about him not just being a rival trainer, but his dancing has so little impact on the story and just seems there to give him a reason to exist.
And I feel pretty much the same about Trevor. It's nice to see a character that isnt just a "fight me!" Rival in Trevor and Tierno, but they're both incredibly inconsequential to the story, and have so little real character development outside of the basic "you're too strong, I could never match up to you", that they seem like an afterthought.
Most of the people on this list are just looking for a reason to exist. Why is Blue such a snotrag to begin with? We don't know. We never find out. He only ever changes once someone pounds the sense into his skull. Trevor and Tierno aren't miracles of storytelling but my main point with this thread is that they can certainly hold their own. At least they seem to think on their own.

As for N, I absolutely disagree with you.
N kind of has an excuse to go AWOL.
He was adopted for the sole purpose of helping his evil father destroy the world.
His entire life was a lie. He just found out he was just an object to his father.
He was just a pawn. His father and the Sages were the ones at fault. N was just doing what his father told him because he trusted what he said. He didnt question his father's ideology or demands of hum bexause he truly loved and trusted his father. I dont feel he should answer for his crimes because he was essentially brainwashed by Ghetsis.
I agree that N's not responsible for all the problems created by Team Plasma, but I still feel like him flying off into the sunset was a lame cop-out. Even if it wasn't "his" mess I feel like he could have helped clean up "the" mess.
 

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I think one big thing going against the rivals is a lack of individual presence. Aside from Calem/Serena, you don't really see them a ton outside of a group setting. You get the mansion scene with Shauna and off the top of my head that's about it. You mostly see the rivals grouped together, often times just to comment on the situation your in: their actual character moments are mostly just crammed into the beginning and end of the game. Ultimately they feel more like cheerleaders than well rounded characters.

Let's compare that to Cheren and Bianca from BW, who have a similar dynamic to the Gen 6 rivals. Cheren and Bianca show up constantly- way more than the Kalos rivals- and they often have more to do. Each character has a clearly defined arc that develops naturally throughout the game: Cheren is a perfectionist who struggles with his single-minded pursuit of being "the best", and Bianca is a ditz who comes into her own and ends up having to decide what she wants out of her life. These arcs are spread out through the whole game, with each character getting scenes dedicated to their struggles. They end the game as more developed characters than when they started, and for that alone they're superior to a lot of characters in this series.

They also just have more role in the story than the Kalos rivals (sans Calem). Cheren and Bianca help you take on Team Plasma multiple times, while Shauna, Trevor and Tierno just show up after you beat Lysandre to tell you how great you are. Again, the Gen 6 rivals are cheerleaders.
 

Typhlosion

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The Gen VI rivals aren't quite as static as you're making them out to be. Tierno battles the player alone on Route 5, Trevor shows up alone at the Frost Cavern to help the player take on Team Flare, and they have a Double Battle against the player together on Route 7. Plus, they again help the player fend off Team Flare during the final conflict, even if they're not explicitly doing it together. And why is that a bad thing? It's like the offensive line and the defensive line in football. They don't interact much, and while one side is on the field the other side is, yes, basically a bunch of cheerleaders, but they're all working together and pursuing their own versions of success.

Cheren and Bianca, meanwhile, are "Rah rah let's fight!" throughout the entire game. Even if their motivations and perspectives might change, the player can expect the exact same thing from them every time they show up regardless of where you are in the game.
 
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