Rivals are an essential part of the Pokemon series. Recurring characters who evolve alongside your adventures as a new trainer, presented as an equal even if they don’t always see you that way themselves. In recent games, however, these rivals have become a bit of a snap.
Take Hau from Pokemon Sun & Moon. When the two of you pick your starters, it will always pick the Pokémon that is most vulnerable to yours, giving you an advantage from the start. These friendlier, less aggressive rivals are just one of the many steps GameFreak has taken to meet the needs of new players as Pokemon’s appeal continues to expand. But with Pokemon Sword and Shield, the villainous and infamous legacy game rivals have finally made their long-awaited return – and the games are all the better because of it.
Enter the rivals
To balance the need to please veteran fans with the responsibility of welcoming newcomers, Pokemon Sword and Shield positions three adventurers with the same goal of becoming the champion of Galar. Hop, an old friend, also happens to be the brother of the Champion of the region and the rival you’ll see the most. He’s kind of a cheerful character struggling with self-esteem issues, and as luck should have it, Hop will pick the weaker starting Pokémon over yours. Marnie, on the other hand, is calm, cool, and collected, notable primarily for her goth / biker aesthetic and her legion of adoring fans. As cool as she is, however, she didn’t let her fame massage her ego, remaining polite and determined to become a champion for the whole adventure.
Finally, we have Bede. Like the main character and Hop, Bede is approved to take on the Gym Challenge but unlike these two (who are sponsored by Champion Leon), Bede is approved by President Rose. President Rose previously sponsored the current champion, Leon, and is in charge of the entire Gym Leader challenge. Bede aims to please President Rose desperately and in every way he can. As you can imagine, this creates drama throughout the game.
Bede marks the long-awaited return of a jerk rival to a Pokémon game, as evidenced by the time he boasts of being “the most elite of them all.” If that wasn’t enough, his cheeky “It’s downright criminal of you, wasting the time of someone as important as me” remains a favorite line out of the game.
Even after defeating him multiple times, Bede will still insist that he is stronger than you, claiming that he let you win on purpose. Of course it does, Bede. Of course you did. The air of denial that permeates his character really helps us enjoy kicking his Pokémon on the sidewalk all the more – his stuttering apology is an added bonus.
Bede the Baddie?
Now, we’re entering spoiler territory, so don’t read on if you haven’t completed Pokemon Sword and Shield yet. For those who want to learn more about Bede, however, here’s where his character arc gets a lot more interesting.
In order to help President Rose, whom he wants to impress so badly, Bede is tasked with gathering the wishing stars. While Bede dutifully accomplishes this task with no real malicious intent, it turns out that this seemingly mundane chore has always helped the real villains of games. Eventually, Bede destroys a historical monument in order to attain more wishing stars, causing him trouble and ultimately disqualifying him from the gym challenge. So now one of your rivals, the same who trashed the Championship Cup, loses their only chance for glory at the last minute.
With a whole new look, essentially a flaming pink football kit, Bede manages to make his way into the Champions Cup as the Gym Leader and meets the player on the pitch for what appears to be one last battle. Its team now consists of all Fairy-type Pokémon, getting rid of two of its psychic-types in the process – it’s a good way for Sword and Shield to take on the challenge against your most persistent rival.After visibly losing the battle, the audience in unison boosts Bede with another unintentionally hilarious line.
When I was hoping for the return of an imbecile rival, Bede is not what I had in mind, but the coming and going of him who insulted me, then the reversal of the fall of his team then of hearing the excuses come out of him reminded me of the good old days of sparring with Gary Oak and Silver. He is an insecure, sassy fool in pursuit of the title of Champion, which makes it easier to look at his misfortune. Towards the end, I couldn’t help but find him actually quite endearing. Bede isn’t the rival everyone wanted, but he’s the one we all deserve.