Pokemon Go has changed quite a bit since it first took the world by storm in the summer of 2016, and one of the biggest updates since launch has been the addition of Team Rocket. The nefarious trainers will guard certain PokeStops or else just drift overhead in a hot air balloon, challenging you to Pokemon battles. When they inevitably lose, they leave their weak Pokemon behind, ready for you to rescue it. There are a few different styles of Team Rocket trainers, but my favorite is Sierra, and she needs to be in a proper Pokemon game.
I’m not here to fight with Pokemon Go fans. I still play the game myself, slowly filling up my Dex by trading for regionals and completing special events. I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite mobile game ever, and it’s easily in my top ten games of the 2010s. But it’s not a proper Pokemon game. Where I draw the line on that distinction is iffy; I don’t think only main series games are ‘proper’, for example. New Pokemon Snap is a proper Pokemon game, so are Let’s Go and Mystery Dungeon. Pokemon Go, great as it is, just doesn’t feel narratively cohesive enough for me to consider it a proper game. I want to interact with characters outside of just battling them, I want to feel like the world is real. Pokemon Go’s whole schtick is introducing Pokemon into our real world, and so the internal reality of the game doesn’t feel real itself.
Anyway, I love Pokemon Go but it’s not a proper Pokemon game, so please put Sierra in a proper one, yeah?
Sierra is part of the Rocket Team Leaders, along with Cliff and Arlo. Cliff is just a meathead, and Arlo is basically what Mark Zuckerberg would be if he was a Twitch streamer. You can keep those two. Sierra though has a much sleeker design, with a high ponytail, painted lips, a coyly popped purple collar, and a stare that says “I am going to murder you and you will thank me for it.” Considering the other two leaders feel like rough drafts nobody bothered to take a second look at, Sierra’s design does a brilliant job of visual storytelling. Imagine if Megaera from Hades was a Pokemon trainer – that’s Sierra.
The actual storytelling of the game doesn’t back her up though. You fight Grunts (or Jessie and James) six times to face one of either Sierra, Cliff, or Arlo, then the cycle starts again. Occasionally Geovanni rocks up. There’s no real resolution, because Pokemon Go is designed to be played constantly. There’s no seasons or chapters or storylines – you just play and catch Pokemon. That’s it. And that’s fun – but it lets Sierra down.
The most storytelling comes from the Shadow Pokemon Team Rocket leaves behind. These are imbued with a dark energy, and it’s our job as trainers to purify them and ease their pain. The problem is, the game doesn’t really communicate this or give you any incentive to, so everyone leaves their ‘mons as Shadow Pokemon because it looks cooler.
I’m not really a fan of the new comedic rival teams – I liked it better when they were baddies. It’s the same with the overly friendly rivals. The stage is set for Sierra to be in a proper Pokemon game soon, and even if that means bringing Cliff and Arlo along for the ride, I’m so ready for it.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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