When most people think “Pokémon villain” they think of Team Rocket, as Team Rocket served as the antagonists for the first two generations of Pokémon, and continue to serve as antagonists in the Pokémon anime. However, for Pokémon fans who primarily enjoy the Pokémon video games, Team Rocket haven’t held the villainous spotlight since Heart Gold and Soul Silver.
Team Flare, the newest ensemble of Pokémon bad guys, while interesting in concept, were pretty uninteresting overall. A team lead by a brilliant and fashionable scientist driven mad by his desire to turn the world into a beautiful place should have been threatening, but due to the abysmally low difficulty level of Pokémon X and Y, and the spotty characterization of Lysandre and his goons had a distinct lack of flare. These issues, coupled with the fact doomsday lasers aren’t all that scary when manned by a bunch of dorks in goofy red suits, make
Team Flare rank pretty low on the scale of Pokémon baddies.
This issue was also present in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. While I was a huge fan of the aesthetic re-designs of Team Aqua and Team Magma, they ultimately only received a bit more characterization than their pixelated counterparts on the Game Boy Advance.
Thankfully, our drought of fearsome foes in the Pokémon universe seems to be over, with the unveiling of Team Skull, in Pokémon Sun and Moon.
Team Skull are just the gang of criminals that Alola needed, with visual similarities to eastern European thugs and Japanese street gangs, Team Skull’s aesthetic is much more grounded in reality, making them more intimidating than the technologically advanced pirates and mad scientists we battled in the past few Pokémon games.
Team Skull also has the advantage of being in a full 3D game. Sun and Moon’s graphical stylings, which are on par with games like Pokémon XD, give the artists at Game Freak many more opportunities to characterize the gang. Even in the small amount of footage we have, we can see how Guzma, the team leader, is both physically intimidating the way he stares down the muscular Kukui, and also confident in the way he squats and nonchalantly motions his Ariados to attack in battle. We can also see how expressive the team skull grunts are, they way they talk with their hands and strike a pose before battling.
It remains to be seen if Team Skull, and Pokémon Sun and Moon in general will offer up any sort of challenging gameplay, but based on the unique and charming characters and Pokémon we have seen so far, in the words of Guy Fieri “We’re riding this bus to flavortown!”