We should always be allowed to name Pokemon rivals

We should always be allowed to name Pokemon rivals

The Pokemon video games have altered their approach to rivals over the years, yet there’s one major change that needs to be undone, as players should have the option to rename their enemy.

Rivals have been an important part of the Pokemon series since Gen 1, with Blue’s smugness being an ideal goal for players to complete the game, as robbing him of the Champion’s chair is one of the most satisfying moments in the story.

As time went on, the role of the rival character changed. They went from being jerks who fought you at every step to becoming friends who took part in pleasant competitions with you. This is to their detriment, especially when a key feature associated with rivals was removed.

The Pokemon rivals work best when they’re actual opponents who want to prove their worth by beating you, not by helping you achieve a mutual goal. This helpfulness has made a lot of the modern rivals feel interchangeable, especially as you can’t customize a key aspect of their character.

We should always be allowed to name Pokemon rivals

Naming a Pokemon rival has a similar effect to Nuzlocke Pokemon

Those who enjoy Pokemon challenge runs have almost certainly heard of Nuzlocke games, where the player must release a Pokemon after it faints in battle, while also being restricted in how many they can catch in each area.

One of the most common Nuzlocke rules is that you must nickname every Pokemon you catch. This helps you build a rapport with them, so that if they do “die” in battle, then you’re more likely to remember them than if they had their regular name.

The same is true of the rival characters. They’ll become more memorable if you give them something other than their default name. Even if it’s a rude word or an insult, it’s still something you’ll remember. Indeed, being able to rename Blue to Gary was cathartic for fans of the Pokemon anime, as it made it feel like you were beating the jerk from the TV show, rather than just the person who looked like him.

There’s no reason not to have renamable rivals

One frustrating aspect of modern Pokemon games is that they still don’t have voice acting. Adding voices would bring a ton of character to the many NPCs you encounter throughout the game, yet they’re all still silent. The Pokemon Company could certainly afford to localize the games into multiple languages, but it has yet to happen in a mainline title.


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One of the main benefits of no voice acting is having renamable characters, as it avoids the awkwardness of games where you’re just given a title, like the Dragon Age series. In fact, it might be the strongest argument against its inclusion, as naming the protagonist is part of what makes a Pokemon journey feel like your own.

However, the Pokemon games are still mute, so there’s no reason to not let the player choose their rivals name, at least until voice acting is finally implemented. The developers allowed you to do it in the Let’s Go games, but then removed it again for Gen 8-9!

The modern Pokemon rivals badly need some personality

Having customizable names will help make the modern rivals more interesting. Because let’s face it, the last interesting one was Silver.

Renaming your rivals allows players to leave their own stamp on a character. It’s your way of customizing one of your main foes to your liking, whether it’s using a name from someone in your own life who plays the Pokemon games or a character from a TV show. It’s all about putting some small part of yourself into an opponent.

Bede from Pokemon Sword & Shield came close to being a great rival, but unfortunately, his awesomeness was eclipsed by Hop, who took over a good chunk of the story with his boring sibling rivalry and his constant need to interrupt the player on their journey. Marnie may as well have not been in the game.

Too often, the modern Pokemon rivals fall into the rut of being too nice, relying on a sob story to make them appealing, or just being the character the player didn’t select.

I still remember the names I gave to Blue and Silver after all these years and even the one I gave to Trace, but I had to Google most of the other rivals to remember who they were. The Gen 6 rivals were especially forgettable, even though I loved Pokemon X & Y.

Gen 6 is a good example, as the rivals barely presented any kind of challenge in battle and acted more like travel companions. This also was when it felt like we had too many rivals, as their number grew over time, diminishing their value. It’s much better to have a single rival who can be your focus rather than diluting their screen time, which is a problem that Gen 8 also had. If you could name your rivals, then that would give you the chance to make them distinguishable from each other, rather than just being the mob of people who follow you around Kalos and Galar, like the dwarves in The Hobbit.

Taking away the ability to name rivals feels like an odd move, but it’s par for the course with Game Freak, as it seems lots of features get shuffled for seemingly no good reason.

The Pokemon games take away Pokemon, battle mechanics, post-game battle locations, the option to switch off the Exp. Share, and the ability to skip battle animations, all to the series’ detriment. The option to rename rivals doesn’t interfere with any voice acting, so why couldn’t it be left in for those who enjoyed it?

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