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.

Surmounting the Final Summits

All of destiny’s gears have been put into motion—so much so that Route 10’s percussion continues even when you stop moving, unlike every other route. A river runs throughout the peaceful expanse, and there are some small bridges in place so you may cross them. But before you can step off the one leading eastward towards Victory Road, Cheren calls out to you.

If all goes wrong and Alder falls at the Pokémon League, it will be up to you to stand up to N, so Cheren instigates one last battle to make sure you’re up to the task. He and his Pokémon put their all into this clash, but we all know how it will end.

“Thank you. You are really great,” he says after the inevitable loss. “And I mean that sincerely. … If there is anything I can do to help in the battle with N, just say so…”

Bianca realizes—as she has for quite some time now—that there isn’t much she can do to help, either, and instead gives you some Max Revives. “Still, it’s kind of funny. Everyone’s so different. … Since we’ve met our Pokémon and walked the same roads together, a lot has happened… We’ve all changed a lot! We found out that the things we want to do and the things we can do are different for each of us, right? That’s what’s made our journey so worth it.” Bianca reinforces how, even though the paths you took were so similar, you’ve all grown into striking individuals. Each person has something only they can achieve, even if it’s more supportive in nature. And although the player is the one to most directly save the day and put an end to Team Plasma, you’ll discover in due time that your friends will also play a crucial role in your success, assisting in ways that only they are able to.

“…You are right that we’re all different and we should do the thing that we can do,” Cheren agrees. Then he turns to you. “There are as many truths and ideals as there are people and Pokémon. The most important thing is that we help one another out. That’s why people and Pokémon are always by each other’s side. That’s what I’ve come to think lately…” Cheren’s understanding of what’s important and how he can use his strength—specifically, to help others when they’re in need—is firmly established. Both he and Bianca have come a long way in discovering themselves on this adventure. When considering Pokémon as a coming-of-age story, with emphasis on leaving home at a certain age to explore the world, the narrative arcs of both Cheren and Bianca become all the more meaningful. You’ve seen firsthand both their struggles and their triumphs, and it has all come together with them developing into their own persons, complete with their own unique abilities. And Cheren’s understanding of the importance of helping others, combined with his and Bianca’s growth thanks to positive influence from the people around them, all tie back in with Black and White‘s theme of unity, of how when different people come together, the world can be made better.

Cheren then concludes, “If anything happens to you or Alder, I will do everything I can to help you. That’s why I have to keep training and getting stronger. Just…don’t be reckless, OK?” At that he runs off back in the direction of Opelucid. Bianca echoes the sentiment and wishes you luck before walking back.

At the end of Route 10 are the Badge Check Gates. “Open the gates and change history!” Each gate is opened by a different badge, starting from the Trio Badge all the way to the Legend Badge. Each room you pass through is based on the Gyms you’ve challenged, and adds a new layer to the background music track. In the Bolt Badge room stands an Ace Trainer, looking longingly at the giant doors etched with the design of the Quake Badge.

“Gates are placed at the border of one space and another space. In other words,” he explains, “gates mean that the world beyond here is a different world. It does feel like every time you pass through a gate, you’re going to a different world.” Throughout Unova, high-tech gates separate routes and cities from each other, while simultaneously connecting them. By passing through, you could continue on your journey, and each sports a monitor and electronic bulletin detailing nearby areas as well as other noteworthy news, furthering the connection between different places. The same occurs here at the final set of gates on your adventure—connecting each of your earned badges as well as tying Route 10 to the last stop before the Pokémon League. And in yet another example of the strong old-versus-new dichotomy theme the region has built up, these gates are far more primitive than the futuristic ones you’ve been accustomed to until now.

“But without the Quake Badge,” the Ace Trainer continues, “you cannot proceed.” Again unlike the gates leading up to this point, these aren’t gates that anyone can cross through. The gate separating you from this Ace Trainer, and most other Trainers right now, is the ownership of all eight Unova badges—proof of your successes that will grant you passage to the next stage of your story.

That stage is Victory Road, the final challenge before the Pokémon League. Every wild Pokémon encounter uses the “Strong Wild Pokémon” music variant to really drive home the fact that this place means business. You must traverse both the interior and exterior, sliding down the mountainside to make your way through this massive natural labyrinth. As always, HMs are not a necessity, but can lead the way to some shortcuts and worthwhile hidden items. And players who have encountered the legendary Cobalion earlier may find themselves face-to-face with another legendary within these caves. The wild Pokémon, Trainers, and puzzle-like exploration alike are the most challenging you’ve faced so far—and it only gets harder from here.

At the very top of Victory Road is the Pokémon League. So exclusive is this place that there are no challengers at all except for yourself. But that creates a new concern: just how far ahead is N?

In Unova, you may challenge the Elite Four in any order you wish. A small room at the center of the League has four stairways that lead to each member’s chamber—castle turrets to house each of the Elite Four, befitting their original Japanese title of “Four Heavenly Kings.” At the center stands an ancient statue whose left arm has crumbled away—the opposite of Ghetsis, whose right hand has been hidden ever since his appearance in Accumula Town. The statue raises its robed right arm as if to address the challengers here, just as N raised his right hand robed in white to address Team Plasma after his coronation. “Four great warriors form this Pokémon League,” the statue’s plaque reads. “If you can defeat these warriors with your courage and wisdom, you shall be led to the summit, where the strongest Champion awaits.” Now it is time to challenge the four who have guarded the Pokémon League since Alder’s departure.

You are indeed lagging behind N, as the Elite Four mentions him to you as you go along. The author, Shauntal, says she’s been inspired by a challenger who just came through. “‘Eyes brimming with dark flame, this man rejected everything other than himself in order to bring about one singular justice…'” It seems N is still not yet considering others’ perspectives, so it’s up to you to continue on and reach him before it’s too late. When facing the gambler, Grimsley, he shakes his head. “Man oh man… What is going on today? Challengers coming one right after another.” The fighter, Marshal, notes that “We are sworn to follow the Champion’s order to be neutral. So the rest is up to you.” It would appear that Alder still wants to protect Unova himself and not have to rely on—or place the responsibility on—you, despite the general consensus that Alder will be unable to stave off N.

Once you’ve bested each of the Elite Four, including the sleepyhead Caitlin, you may return back to their rooms to hear what they now have to say. Grimsley in particular wonders who exactly it is you’ll face at the apex of the Pokémon League—will it be the Champion, Alder? “Or, perhaps,” Grimsley muses, “that man called N has defeated him and taken his title.”

The hexagonal floor panels light up with each Elite Four member you defeat. Now that you’ve emerged victorious against them all, the statue glows with a blue aura to match. Inspecting it activates the statue, carrying you downward. It lands in a vast space reminiscent of the large underground opening in Relic Castle where you, Cheren, Alder, and Ghetsis all spoke, instilling a sense of consistency with the ancient Unovan architecture. Just as steps saw frequent usage in religious architecture due to their representation of “progress towards enlightenment,”1 countless stairs stand between you and the temple-like building that peeked behind the Elite Four area of the League. If the Elite Four’s housing is a castle holding kings and queens, the Champion’s room being a temple reflects how those kings and queens were bestowed these titles by a higher, divine figure2—the Champion in his temple.

If you check the statue again… “Nothing happens! It seems you can’t go back until you win.” Now you have no choice but to move forward towards the temple that houses the strongest Trainer in the region. But will it still be Alder who holds that title by the time you get there?

1. Jack Tresidder, ed., The Complete Dictionary of Symbols (Chronicle Books, 2005).
2. Tresidder, The Complete Dictionary.