Pokémon Red and Blue have the best rival in the series
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Featured Image Credit: Nintendo / The Pokémon Company
It’s been 27 years since the first Pokémon games were released in Japan. Here in Europe, we had to wait until 1999 to get our hands on the iconic coloured cartridges of Red and Blue, but once we did, life changed forever. Also, if you were there for this moment in history, please join me in crumbling into dust.
These RPGs were something else back then. Sure, they seem a bit basic in some ways now (and maybe even then, come to think of it), but with Pokémon still very much new and exciting for Western audiences, these two Game Boy Color titles were special to a whole generation of gamers.
See the nostalgia-inducing trailer for Pokémon Red here
While there have been plenty of generations since, taking the number of critters to 1000, Pokémon Red and Blue (and Yellow for that matter) still set themselves apart from the numerous titles that have followed. One particular reason for this is their rival character.
Canonically known as Blue - but often named Gary due to the TV show, or ‘Poop’ because childhood humour is often sophisticated - this antagonist trainer is there to push you every step along the way as you strive to become the very best. like no one ever was.
Blue is aggressive, determined and not afraid to seize an opportunity. He’s always ready for a battle, even ambushing you when you’re clearly not going to be in prime condition at times, and this lack of honour is integral in many-a-champion. After all, any competitor has to get results if they want to keep on playing, right?
Sure it’s easy to write the fella off as a nepo baby thanks to his blue-tick-having grandfather, Professor Oak, but Blue really cares about Pokémon. Remember how he stops off to pay his respects at the Pokémon Tower in Lavender Town, even encouraging you to do the same thing. He’s respectful and that’s to be appreciated, especially when compared to Gen II’s Silver, who is basically no better than a member of Team Rocket.
This combination of commitment and courtesy stands Blue in good stead, and helps explain his rapid ascension to Pokémon League Champion, even if his reign over Kanto is cut short by the main character. Still, he got there, and that’s not something all rivals can do. (Looking at you again, Silver!)
Compared to all the rival characters that followed, in every subsequent generation, only Blue had all the hallmarks of greatness. He’s there from the beginning of your journey until the moment you become champion. He matches your ferocity and shares the same dream. He’s not one of those other rival types, like Steven Stone and Cynthia, who turn up later in the game. No, he’s putting the hours in throughout the whole experience, and making it to the top by trying to win every battle, unlike Scarlet and Violet’s Nemona, who did all that already and fields weak teams for the latest protagonist’s benefit.
After almost three decades of mainline Pokémon games, it’s clear that nobody comes close to Blue. This isn’t to say there have been other great rivals throughout the series, it’s merely acknowledging that the grandson of Oak is still the perfect opponent, and rightly so.