Part II: The Chapters of Unova

For the anniversary of the release of Pokémon Black and White, we continue our tribute to the games. Part II focuses on the main storyline and its synthesis of narrative and gameplay.

Castle Succumbed to the Sands

Alder has gone ahead into the Relic Castle, and Cheren catches up to you as you descend into its sunken splendor. Here is Unovan history—”these ruins were the heart of civilization for people and Pokémon in the Unova region.”

Curious Trainers may have explored Desert Resort as early as after obtaining the Insect Badge from Burgh. At that point you could only venture slightly into the sunken castle, catching tantalizing glimpses at items just over one-way ledges, and your Dowsing Machine would howl at hidden items just out of reach. Now, it’s far more open to explore.

Like Dragonspiral Tower that you just departed, Relic Castle contains Pokémon you can find nowhere else—namely, the Spirit Pokémon Yamask and its evolution, the Coffin Pokémon Cofagrigus. Yamask were, according to the Pokédex, once people who have passed away and were buried in graves. They remember their past lives and sometimes look to their masks—which resemble their living faces—and cry. Cofagrigus, however, is far more spiteful, and devours people who get too close, including grave robbers. These Pokémon hint at the burial processes of the ancient Unovan people. Burial masks were used in ancient Egyptian burials to ensure souls could return to their bodies in the afterlife,1 and it seems to have worked in ancient Unova, in its own way.

But more than that, the Relic Castle hosts Unova’s original deity. Adventurous players who traveled to Route 18 prior to this point may have already hatched the Egg gifted by a Ranger there. The Ranger claims he found the Egg at Relic Castle, and it hatches into the Torch Pokémon, Larvesta. “Believed to have been born from the sun,” according to its Pokédex entry, Larvesta can’t even be found within the castle walls. Only after you’ve saved Unova from the threat of N and his dragon can you return here and find a single instance of its evolved form, the Sun Pokémon Volcarona.

Numerous ancient civilizations worshiped the sun due to its crucial role in sustaining life, and those that didn’t still held the sun in high regard, with the idea of heliocentricism—placing the sun at the center of the universe—gaining traction starting in the 1500’s.2 Of the civilizations that worshiped numerous gods, the sun god was usually the most supreme of them all.3 With the knowledge that Volcarona was seen as the sun to the ancient Unovan people, acting as a second sun when the world was darkened by volcanic ash, it’s no surprise that Volcarona has a room all to itself under this historic sunken castle and is so rare that it can be found nowhere else.

Even items can be filled with meaning, and a Sun Stone reminds you that this place is truly ancient, built upon a mythos perhaps even older than that of the founding of Unova. The walls crumble around you and the floor slips beneath. The only way forward is hinted by careful inspection of your surroundings so you may predict where you land once you commit to sliding into the flowing sand. Although it may seem the sands of time have stopped flowing for Relic Castle, it still marches on. From the birth of the Larvesta Egg representing the life cycle that so often encompasses time symbolism,4 to the future of the Unova region that is now ready to be molded, time marches forward.

But you can’t find Volcarona just yet—what you do find, rather, is Team Plasma. Ryoku of the Seven Sages waits deeper within the castle ruins, telling you that Ghetsis wants to test your strength here, just as he had in Chargestone Cave. But this time, Ghetsis has taken it upon himself to appear in person, and in the depths of the ruins faces down Alder.

You and Cheren run to Alder’s side. “It looks like everyone is here,” Ghetsis says, easily excluding Bianca, while N is off preparing to challenge the Pokémon League. Ghetsis continues to inform you that the stone you seek is, in fact, not here. He approaches you and congratulates you for being “chosen” by the king. While N is the hero actually chosen by Unova’s legendary Pokémon, the player is only “chosen” in that N has asked them to try to stop him at the Pokémon League. Later it becomes clear that Ghetsis is bringing you into this grand scheme solely because he believes his plan to be so foolproof that your interference will not make a difference.

“If you want to keep the world as it is, where Pokémon live alongside people,” Ghetsis declares, welcoming this unexpected development with open arms, “you must bring the other Dragon-type Pokémon spoken of in legend and battle with our king. Otherwise, Team Plasma will steal every Pokémon from every person in the world and release them all!” By now, this declaration should seem entirely in-character for Ghetsis, but it goes completely against N’s wishes.

Alder insists that he will stop N, but Ghetsis shrugs it off, claiming N has already deemed Alder to not be a threat. Naturally, this upsets Alder. “So you stayed behind just to tell me that?” he demands. “Just to make a fool of me?”

“Of course not,” Ghetsis assures him in his usual, two-faced way. “I’m doing this out of kindness. Yes, kindness. I’m making sure the Champion doesn’t get hurt for no reason.” These are the words N typically says about Pokémon battles, that there shouldn’t be battles since they hurt Pokémon without reason. As usual, Ghetsis puts a sinister spin on these words, stating that Alder shouldn’t bother trying to stop N when there’s no chance of his victory. But when there’s so much on the line, there is a reason to risk getting hurt, just as there’s reason to go out into the world and face challenges for the sake of learning and growing. Bianca may not be here with the player, Cheren, and Alder, but her storyline’s themes still prove relevant in the face of this impending danger.

But Ghetsis isn’t done speaking: “Granted, the moment when someone loses all hope… I really do love to watch that moment. Well then, farewell.”

After this horrifying declaration, Ghetsis pushes straight past you. Both you and Cheren turn to watch him go, but Alder remains completely still, eyes facing forward as Ghetsis leaves everyone behind. And at this it becomes clear why Ghetsis excluded N in this “gathering of everyone”—it’s not because N is preparing elsewhere, but because N is just a pawn to Ghetsis’s self-serving scheme.

Before Alder returns to the Pokémon League to prepare for his battle with N, he wonders aloud what N could possibly want. Although he poses it as a question, it acts as a confirmation of why N is going through with such a dangerous plan. “Could he be trying to prove he is right by winning the battle of the two dragons?” Unlike the egotistical Ghetsis, it’s not enough for N to just succeed. Because he wants to do what’s in the best interest for Pokémon, N has to be “right”—he has to earn his victory so that he’s certain he’s fighting for a cause that is right and just.

Suddenly, your Xtransceiver rings. It’s Professor Juniper, imploring you to return to Nacrene Museum immediately. While Cheren stays behind to look further, hoping that Ghetsis had been lying, you and Alder rush back to the museum.

1. Jack Tresidder, ed., The Complete Dictionary of Symbols (Chronicle Books, 2005).
2. Hans Biedermann, Dictionary of Symbolism, trans. James Hulbert (New York: Meridian, 1992).
3. Tresidder, The Complete Dictionary.
4. Tresidder, The Complete Dictionary.