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Opinion: Nobody Asked - A Maniacal Engineer's Thoughts on Scarlet and Violet - Part 4: Time For Some Positivity

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Nobody Asked Maniacal Engineer
I realise that so far in this series it probably seems as though I dislike Scarlet and Violet, and that, in general, I have nothing positive to say about those games. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While I am dubious of the insane release schedule for new Pokémon games, and the subsequent detriment that was caused due to the overambitious goal of creating the first fully open world Pokémon game, there are many redeeming qualities about the games themselves. Let’s start with the basics. I really love a lot of the characters introduced in these games. Standout characters for me are Nemona, Arven, Clavell, Hassel, and Larry, but there are plenty of other characters that I love as well. I could probably write an entire article for each character, just gushing about how much I like them, but I’ll settle for just doing a single article on them all together and just hit the highlights.

Nemona may seem fairly one dimensional at first glance, and, admittedly, she is very obsessed with battling. But take a closer look at her character, and you see that there’s a lot more depth to it. First and foremost, she’s a very interesting twist on the “friendly rival” concept that’s been around basically since Bianca in Black/White. While Bianca served as an excellent contrast to Cheren, and rivals like Hau and Hop showcase their struggles and their own personal Pokémon journeys alongside the player, with you learning and growing together with them, Nemona fulfills a completely different role to these past rivals. The game goes out of its way to tell you right off the bat that she’s already a Champion, but that she sees the potential in you immediately, and it's ignited her battle passion. She chooses her starter as the one weak to yours not because she’s unaware of type matchups, but because she doesn’t want to scare you off from battling too early on. She acts as your mentor and cheerleader as she journeys through the Paldea Region, raising up her new starter alongside you. And, when you finally defeat the Gym Leaders, and take out the Elite Four, she couldn’t be prouder, or more ecstatic. That final battle against her is the perfect climax for her story arc.

But then comes the 4th arc, and everything thereafter, and this is where a lot of the depth to Nemona’s character comes into play. Much like some of us get obsessed over one thing or another, Nemona is hyper focused on battling. That drive, combined with relatively absent parents, led Nemona down her own path, and she became a battling prodigy. Her skills drove a wedge between her and other people, as they all spitefully claimed that Nemona’s prowess was due to her upper class status. Nemona felt forced to put limits on herself, until she met you. In you, Nemona finally finds someone whom she can battle at her full strength, and actually experience a challenge.

It’s also worth noting that, to my knowledge, this is the very first time that the game will actually accept a loss to the rival character and continue the story. I believe in all previous games, if you lose to your rival, you must redo that battle until you win. If you lose to Nemona, that’s it, the game just moves on.

Angry Arven
Moving on to Arven, he starts out as an abrasive jerk, who battles you, foists a Poké Ball on you, and runs off when questioned. He then ropes you into joining him on his quest for the Herba Mystica (which, as an aside, is a clever way to continue to use the HM abbreviation), without much of an explanation. But, as you journey together and get to know him better, you learn that he is more than just the snobbish son of a famous Pokémon Professor, and that being the child of a renowned researcher is not easy. Arven’s backstory hearkens back to a famous line from Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz: “it all began on the day of my actual birth. Both of my parents failed to show up.” The literal lack of care from either parental figure means that Arven basically had to raise himself, with only his Mabosstiff for company.

Arven’s character is extremely well developed. The neglect from his parents perfectly explains why Arven’s cooking skills, though somewhat sloppy, are impeccable. He developed a passion for cooking out of sheer necessity. His abrasive nature and cautious attitude are because he was betrayed by the two people who should have had unconditional love for him, namely his parents. But, when he gets to know a person, his absolute loyalty and dedication to his friends is specifically because he does not want to be like his parents. He needs the human connection that his friends provide, and he wants to be a better friend than his parents were parents. Finally, his anger towards the sandwich legendary is because he holds that Pokémon responsible for driving his parent back to the Area Zero labs and leaving him with nobody except Mabosstiff for company. Arven’s dedication and desperation to protect those whom he cares about shows that he is truly a better person than his parents, no matter what scientific contributions they may have made.

Not Clavell
Clavell was the standout character for me during the ★ Starfall Street ★ arc. It’s established that Clavell only recently took over as head of the academy, and that he takes his job very seriously. This is showcased within the first few minutes of the game, when he, personally, shows up to get you your admission papers to the academy, after a screw up delayed their arrival. Similarly, he takes personal responsibility in trying to reach out to the Team Star Bosses, to convince them to return to school, but he does so in a way where he can try to reach them on their level, even if his sense of fashion is a bit cheugy. That and his open mindedness are truly the marks of an outstanding educator. Though he was not advertised as such, I view Clavell as being more of the regional professor for Paldea than either Sada or Turo, with how he acts as a mentor figure not just for the player, but for all the students of the academy.

Elite Four Hassel
As for Hassel, a lot of the reasons I like him are similar to why I like Clavell. As a teacher, Hassel strives to inspire his students, and ignite a passion in them for art. I will definitely say, as an engineer, and someone who doesn’t view himself as being particularly creative or “artsy,” Hassel’s classes were surprisingly fun and informative. Despite his statements at the beginning of his first class, there are important life skills that one gets from his lessons. He teaches his students about critical thinking, and, especially since art is very subjective, reminds his students constantly that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers when it comes to beauty.

Hassel takes his roles both as an educator and an Elite Four member seriously, and refuses to hold back when you face off against him as the final hurdle in the Elite Four challenge. When you defeat him, he doesn’t get angry, or jealous, he cries tears of joy. He is truly happy at your success, and, once again, that is the mark of a good educator. As someone who has had resentful and spiteful teachers, one of whom nearly pushed me completely out of the STEM path, I appreciate the qualities of good educators, wherever they may be found. Though, it is admittedly a sad state of affairs when fictional teachers are better than IRL teachers.

Hassel’s left-handedness and his wonderful teaching assistant, Professor Gible, are both positive points in his favor, as well.

Elite Four Larry
Good old Larry is the most relatable character in any Pokémon game. You first meet him at the Treasure Eatery, as one of its regular customers. He’s so ordinary that he almost literally blends into the background, but, once you’ve fulfilled the Gym Test, his reveal as the Gym Leader was a hilarious, and unexpected, surprise. In a world filled with flashy, colorful, and bombastic outfits and personalities, Larry’s more down to earth and contemplative nature is definitely a welcome, and hilarious, contrast.

Maniacal Engineer - signing off
As much as we fantasize about living in the world of Pokémon, and we all think that life would be a lot more fun with Pokémon by our side, Larry and his business suit serve as a reminder that soul crushing jobs and just struggling to get by in life are still a thing. Also, even if we, as outsiders, look at a job like being a Gym Leader or an Elite Four member as something really cool, it becomes a lot less fun when it’s your job. In a way, I feel the same way about streaming. It’s a lot of fun for me to do right now as a hobby and something I do at my own leisure. But, were I to abandon the lucrative field of automation and robotics to become a streamer, it would come with all the obligations and stresses of a job. My livelihood and ability to put food on the table would literally become dependent on something that I once did for fun. Streaming would become a chore, instead of a stress relief, and I imagine that I, as an introvert, would burn out very quickly.

As I previously mentioned, there are many characters aside from the above that I like. But these are the ones whose personalities, designs, or character arcs stood out for me the most. One thing Scarlet and Violet did very well was creating very compelling characters, and good characters serve as an excellent foundation to a great story. But that’s another article for another time.
Maniacal Engineer

Maniacal Engineer

Bulbagarden Multimedia Executive
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