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 King’s Castle Rises

N stands before Alder. “It’s over!” N decrees. “Never again will Pokémon be made to suffer or be held captive by humans. It’s all thanks to my friend, [the legendary dragon]!” Having just emerged victorious, N still credits his Pokémon, the one who put its safety on the line, as the source of his success, rather than himself, the Trainer who directed the strategy during battle.

Alder is completely crushed, but that doesn’t stop N’s verbal onslaught: “You may have the title of Champion… But you can’t stop me with just a title. Your soft heart has left you weak.” N, too, knows about Alder’s deceased Pokémon companion, and how it has caused Alder to not put his all into battle ever since—and it has now cost the Unova region its connection between people and Pokémon.

“As a Trainer who far outmatches the Champion,” N continues, now in Alder’s face, “I shall issue an order across Unova: Trainers of the world, free your Pokémon!”

Alder loses his composure entirely. “I beg you! Separating people from Pokémon… Do anything but that!”

“You and I both put our beliefs on the line and fought with all our strength,” N tells him—the same as he intends to do with you. “And I won. Do not say another word.” How frightening N is in this moment of his victory. “To the victor go the spoils” is the mantra upon which the entire Pokémon world is built, and N is now the ultimate victor. The only way he can be stopped is at the receiving end of defeat, and he knows it. Alder’s words will not go through to N now.

At last N notices you. “…I’ve been waiting. In the future I envisioned, you obtained a stone. And, indeed, you have. That [stone]… [My dragon] is responding to it. Stop. This is not suitable for the legendary dragons! From the ground, rise up! The castle of Team Plasma! Surround the Pokémon League!”

The ground around the entire League erupts. In direct contrast to the ancient, sunken Relic Castle, a new castle, dark and foreboding, rises, eclipsing the now-puny Pokémon League. Thirteen bridges shoot out from the walls and lodge themselves into the temple where N and Alder just fought. And just as the League’s inclusion of a temple symbolically references the divine nature of royalty, lightning, god-sent,1 crashes down above the new castle, heralding the new king.

“What has just appeared is Team Plasma’s castle,” N explains to you. Although in-game information labels it “N’s Castle” after its king, N remains humble. Just as his goals are for the sake of Pokémon rather than himself, he refers to the castle as Team Plasma’s rather than his own. “The king’s words will resound from the heights to all below. You must come to the castle, as well. Everything will be decided there. Whether Pokémon will be liberated from people, or whether Pokémon and people will live together… We will see whose belief is stronger… And our result will change the world.”

N departs up the bridge that has landed beside him. This is the bridge he extends to you, to connect him and yourself. While Alder’s pleas fall upon deaf ears, N opens himself up to you. Instead of taking this opportunity to move ahead and announce his decree to Unova, he gives you the opportunity to challenge him—because he knows there’s a chance that your convictions are absolute. And if not, he can enact the final steps of his plan without remorse.

“Mr. Alder, you’re a wreck. It’s not fitting for the Champion.” It’s Cheren. He, too, has defeated the Elite Four—his strength continues to grow even now, although you are the one who must put an end to N’s schemes. “I became stronger because I understood what I want to do,” Cheren says, finally coming to a conclusion of his own. “Tell N this… Some people grow stronger by being with Pokémon. My Pokémon and I are proof. Together, we learned and became stronger.”

“I… I lost,” Alder says, defeated both in battle and in spirit. “I should have been able to demonstrate the bond between me and my Pokémon. That would have shown that brat the worthlessness of his outrageous dreams.” This seems too harsh for Alder, the same man who insisted there are many different ways to look at the same subject, to say. He’s clearly at his wit’s end, distraught and utterly shaken, N’s Castle having risen from the ashes of his defeat. “So, his convictions were the real thing… Be careful. The ones who change the world are always the ones who pursued their dreams.”

Alder also has something he’d like for you to tell N: “Even if Pokémon and people are separated, nothing good will come of it.” Both he and Cheren have messages for N that only you, the silent protagonist, can convey to him. As such, it must come through the form of a battle, the ultimate battle N insists on hosting within his castle walls.

But surely you can’t leave Alder on his own now when he’s so vulnerable. “I’ll look after Alder,” Cheren asserts if you check on him. Here is part of Cheren’s role that only he can fulfill—knowing now that helping others in their time of need is the best way to use one’s strength, Cheren will stay behind and comfort Alder so you may advance.

And advance you must—crossing the bridge bringing you closer to N.

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