Pokemon Sword and Shield rivals continue a trend for the series. In both Black and White and X and Y, we had games where we weren’t the only challengers. We had multiple friends going on the journey with us. Here, we have three people going through similar circumstances: Bede, Hop, and Marnie. Each one has a different mindset and reason for trying to become Galar’s champion. Each one’s situation and story makes them memorable.
Editor’s Note: There will be some minor spoilers up until the Spikemuth Gym.
Hop is your friend. The two of you are generally interested in Pokemon as Pokemon Sword and Shield begin and are both big fans of his champion older brother, Leon. Growing up with a brother in the limelight has put a lot of pressure on him. He wants to be as successful. He doesn’t want to let his brother down. He wants to keep up and have fun with you, but doesn’t exactly have the strongest team yet. In fact, you’ll see his team grow and change as he works things out. He’s the epitome of growth and optimism.
What makes Hop and his story extraordinary is what he goes through. When the game begins, he has this enthusiasm that has him racing ahead of you at every turn. He’s determined to press onward and succeed. But he keeps falling behind. Bede beats him and leaves him feeling broken, so much so that Leon even comments on how changed he is after the experience. His best friend, the person who he’s lived next door to for years, is outpacing him. He keeps being beaten, and eventually falls behind in challenging gyms. He doesn’t give up. We see him handle these challenges and develop as a person. I don’t know about you, but I always rooted for him.
While Bede can be a jerk, especially after what he did to Hop and his constant antagonizing of the player, he has his moments. He is Chairman Rose’s pick for the Gym Challenge and is rather insufferable as a result. He has a superiority complex and constantly talks down to the player and Hop, even giving Hop something of an existential crisis as a result of his actions and verbal abuse. However, as Pokemon Sword and Shield goes on, we learn that he isn’t a stereotypical “evil” rival. Rather, he’s a product of unfortunate circumstances.
Bede is an orphan. He idolizes Rose and wants to prove his usefulness, because Rose is the one who brought him up. He is the only character sponsored by the chairman and trusted with a goal of collecting Wishing Stars. But he’s constantly beaten by the player. In the process of doing, well, what he thought Chairman Rose wanted, he was eliminated from the Gym Challenge. Its only once Opal sees his potential that we get to see the start of a new arc for the character, one which allows us to better appreciate everything he had been going through.
Then, we have Marnie. In older Pokemon games, there is a chance she could have been framed as a villain. After all, her Team Yell supporters are the ones who keep attacking you throughout the course of the adventure, in an attempt to improve her odds at becoming the champion, and impeding your progress. Here, she’s just another competitor with a dream. Even though she would be in line to potentially be a Gym Leader, she wants to do her best and become the Gym Challenge champion. She’s always courteous to you when you meet her and even offers to help you out.
This is especially notable during the Spikemuth Gym situation. When you get to town, it is closed off. Marnie is already there and knows things aren’t right. She helps you inside. After that, she decides to help handle the situation. When she hears what is going on and that Team Yell was responsible for locking things down to help her, she stands up to the group. She insists that wouldn’t be how she would want to win and does the right thing. Here, and in other situations, she proves she’s not only a good rival. This young woman you have only just met is also a good friend.
Pokemon Sword and Shield rivals give us three different perspectives to appreciate in addition to our own. Hop is our friend surrounded by people who seem to be catching on and doing better than he is. But, he doesn’t give up. He grows. Bede begins as a jerk, but he’s coming from a bad situation. Once he’s given a chance, he has a new possible future to pursue. Marnie is someone who could have taken advantage of her fanbase, but is a good and honorable person. Each one of these characters can be great in their own way.
Pokemon Sword and Shield is available for the Nintendo Switch.