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.

The Beginning of the End

The second point where Unova splits, Opelucid City, has a massive “split” of its own, featuring the most notable “version difference” among all the cities of Unova. In Black, the metropolis is futuristic, boasting state-of-the-art technology, a population that likes change, and an electronic theme carried into the future by a keytar player near the Pokémon Center. In White, the city is primitive, its land not yet leveled, inhabited by people who value history, and accompanied by an ancient tune brought into the present by an erhu player.

And just as the hexagonal Unova loops upon itself, your story loops as well. Your adventure begins with the gift of a Pokédex, Juniper showing you the ropes, and Ghetsis delivering a speech in Accumula Town. Upon entering Opelucid City, Alder escorts you to where Ghetsis is holding another speech. There’s already a crowd gathered here, and off to the side you can make out Iris standing beside someone you haven’t yet met.

Alder whispers to you—or perhaps to himself—”Ghetsis… What a liar. Desperately trying to con everyone with his speech.” This time, you don’t need to hear Ghetsis’s speech to know that Alder is right. Ghetsis has been incredibly blatant in his deceitful plan to you. But most people, the average population listening in, don’t know this.

Ghetsis continues his speech: “That’s correct! Our lord N has combined his power with the legendary Dragon-type Pokémon and intends to create a new world. We herald the return of the hero of Unova, founder of this region.” At this, the crowd rustles. People are responding to the revival of the ancient hero, the resurrection of the founding dragon, the legend that began their very world, as any average person would—it’s a literally legendary event. Ghetsis continues, harkening back to the first speech you heard from him, all the way back in Accumula Town:

“Pokémon are different from people. They are living beings who contain unknown potential. They are living beings from whom we humans have much to learn. They are beings whose greatness we should acknowledge! Beings who should be freed from our oppression! We, Team Plasma, invite you to join us! We all want to create a new world where people and Pokémon are both free! Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you now… Please, release your Pokémon. And so I end my plea to you today. Thank you one and all for your attention.”

His speech over, Ghetsis and his grunts depart towards the north, in the direction of the Pokémon League. The crowd is in disarray. “Is it true? Have we been making Pokémon suffer?” “Hmm… Maybe we should release our Pokémon like Team Plasma says…” “No way! Without Pokémon, I’ll be lonely and sad!” Confused and polarized, yet lingering on what they just heard, the crowd disperses. Iris remarks to the man with her that the speech was very strange.

“The cooperation of people and Pokémon is how Unova came to exist to begin with,” the man responds. “If a Pokémon really didn’t want anything to do with humans, it would simply leave…” Players who’ve begun the side quest of sorts with the legendary Cobalion, Terrakion, and Virizion know this to be true. Pokémon can and have willfully separated themselves from people when they wanted to, barricading themselves in in such a way that not even other Pokémon can pass. But most have not, including the newly reawakened dragon by N’s side.

“Capturing a Pokémon in a Poké Ball,” the man continues, “doesn’t mean you’ve captured its heart.” At this, you and Alder approach the duo. Alder knows them both—Iris and Drayden—and of course they recognize the Champion himself. Alder quickly requests information on the legendary dragon, and Iris inquires as to which one. The group reaffirms the situation among themselves, including N’s goal of “set[ting] the two Dragon-type Pokémon against each other in battle to test his convictions.”

“Oh, no!” the childish but sensitive Iris proclaims. “The Dragon-type Pokémon get along so well!”

“That’s right, Iris,” Alder states plainly. “The ones who make Pokémon battle are the Trainers…” While it seems Alder may be conceding a point in N’s favor—that Pokémon such as the manifestations of yin and yang themselves, who cannot exist without each other, can be made to fight simply because of people—he continues with the typical series mantra: “And it’s so the Trainers and the Pokémon can get to know each other better.” And this is precisely why N has chosen to invite you to this battle—to get to know you and what you stand for, and to see if your convictions are strong enough to prove it is something worth believing in.

Alder’s resolve has now reignited. He tells you he shall return to the Pokémon League, determined to defeat N. “I’ll teach him about the beauty of this world, where Pokémon and Trainers live together in harmony!” Before heading off, he encourages you to obtain the final badge and make your way towards the League as well. Drayden and Iris head to their home where they will tell you all they know about the legendary dragons when you’re ready to advance the story.

Team Plasma may be gone, but the damage is done—some NPCs wonder aloud if they’ve truly been making their Pokémon suffer, and others feel if it will make their beloved Pokémon “a perfect being, [they] can’t help but let it go.” It may be easy enough for you or the Gym Leaders to dismiss what Ghetsis says, but he makes a strong point all the same, and the masses are becoming swayed by the credibility of N. After all, if the legendary dragon who founded the entire region has sided with him, how could he be wrong? Another townsperson confirms this mindset: “The legendary Pokémon is the symbol of Unova. Does that mean Team Plasma is right?” A young boy asks, “That person called N had the legendary Pokémon with him, so he has to be the legendary hero, right? He’s going to change the world, isn’t he?”

Even the woman who claimed she would be sad and lonely without Pokémon reconsiders her own stance by adding, “But am I only using my Pokémon, then…?”

Within one of Opelucid’s numerous houses, two people holding highly differing views on the situation from each other ask that you keep their words secret. “I’m really not very good as a Trainer,” the first one says, “So I think Team Plasma might have the right idea when they take Pokémon away from weak Trainers. I do feel sorry for the people who were robbed, though.” This makes sense, because if it wasn’t Team Plasma who stole these peoples’ Pokémon, it would be someone theoretically worse. At least Team Plasma simply releases their captured Pokémon, as evidenced by Bianca’s unharmed Munna in Castelia. But unfortunately, you know there’s more to Team Plasma’s scheme than meets the eye.

“I used to be part of Team Plasma,” the other whispers to you. “But it’s strange when everyone around you thinks the same way, isn’t it? So I left Team Plasma to think for myself about what I want to do.” This is also just as sensible, but again you know things aren’t always so black or white. Even within Team Plasma, not everyone thinks the same way—and it couldn’t be more blatant than with the differing goals of N and Ghetsis.

Just as the seasons cycle through, and the region of Unova loops around, your journey has brought you to Opelucid City—but the outcome is just as it was in Accumula Town. Ghetsis has captured the minds of the masses just as one would capture a Pokémon in a Poké Ball, and while some hearts resist, others are swayed.

The next course of action is to visit Drayden’s home, where he and Iris will divulge to you the most complete recount of the legend of the founding of the Unova region.

Reshiram and Zekrom were once the same Pokémon. Together with twin heroes, they brought the Unova region into existence. People and Pokémon lived together happily, but it did not last.

The older brother, seeking truth, and the younger brother, seeking ideals, had disagreements. They couldn’t even agree on how to determine which of them was correct in their disagreements.

The conflict of these humans caused the perfect dragon by their side to split into two separate beings—one joining the older brother, and the other siding with the younger brother. The black dragon sought a better world shaped by ideals, while the white dragon sought a better world led by truths.

Zekrom and Reshiram.

Although they were now different beings, they were still once the same, and neither could best the other in battle. Their plight continued ceaselessly until they were completely exhausted. The twin heroes determined neither side was more right than the other, and the fighting came to an end.

Until their sons began the conflict anew—and this time, Unova could not withstand the relentless lightning and fire, and was completely destroyed.

Reshiram and Zekrom disappeared.

“But, but… If people work with Pokémon in the right way, we don’t have to worry anymore about the world being destroyed. I mean, [the two dragons] worked hard for everyone and made a new region! So, it should be all right, I think,” says Iris.

“True. Pokémon cannot speak. People may hurt Pokémon even more by imposing their selfish thoughts on them. But, no matter what, Pokémon and people believe in each other, need each other, and will continue to live together…” says Drayden. Again N’s concerns are deemed valid, but the end result will never change: people and Pokémon must remain together. The unity of two different beings such as this is what makes the Pokémon world perfect.

Unfortunately, neither Drayden nor Iris know how to awaken the dragon who slumbers in your stone. All you can do now is challenge the Gym Leader and make your way to the Pokémon League.

After your victory against the region’s final Gym Leader, Professor Juniper arrives and shows you the way to Route 10, mirroring how she showed you around the Pokémon Center in Accumula Town. You don’t need her to show you around now, but it’s a kind gesture, and one that enforces the theme of unity. Your journey is coming to a close, but it reflects its beginning, that perfect Unovan loop. Before sending you off, she imparts one final gift on you—this time it’s not the Pokédex, but the Master Ball. From here, there is but one way forward, just as there had been when you set off from Nuvema Town all the way to Accumula.