I’ve been a fan of Pokemon since before I first picked up Pokemon Red all those years ago. Since then, I’ve made an effort to play at least one game from each generation of Pokemon games. While I don’t mind the repetitive aspects of the franchise, and I appreciate the changes they’ve made in terms of storytelling, multiplayer, and more, after 15 years of fighting gym leaders and saving the world I wanted to spice up my Pokemon experience.
Then I remembered this post I made back in 2010. The gist of it is that I always thought that the addition of Pokemon Contests was unfulfilled potential. While it’s presented in the anime as an alternative path for trainers who don’t care about Gym Leaders, in the games it always played second fiddle to the main path to the Elite Four. However, with the release of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire last year, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to change my approach: I would become a Pokemon Coordinator.
I would also play in Japanese because the Pokemon games give you the option to choose now. “Why not?” I thought.
What would a “Contest Run” of Pokemon entail? Essentially, rather than my primary motivation being gym badges, I would instead value the earning of contest ribbons. While I would fight the Gym Leaders, foil Team Magma, and more, these would be more means to an end. Instead of caring about my Pokemon’s battle stats, I would mainly focus on their essential Contest qualities: Beauty, Toughness, Coolness, Cleverness, and Cuteness.
When Steven asked me if I was motivated to take on the gyms, I even answered, “No.” He seemed quite surprised!
One outcome of this path is that my Pokemon almost perpetually had impractical movesets, whether for single or multi-player. To give you an idea, here are a couple of my Pokemon towards the end:
Albania the Swellow @Red Scarf
Chiba Mamoru the Masquerain @Pink Scarf
Those aren’t just the movesets of someone who has no idea what they’re doing, they’re chosen so that each Pokemon has 3 moves according to their Contest specialty, (Bubble, Water Sport, and Sweet Scent are all “cute” moves in Pokemon Contests), and even their items, the scarves, boost a Contest quality but provide no benefit in battles. It really made me feel like I was grooming my Pokemon to have little to no practical skills, and that they could only survive in the lofty world of pageantry.
Of course, as it was a single player campaign I didn’t put in a Smogon level of research into all of this. I’m sure that any TRUE Contest aficionados could tear me a new one. I mean my management of berries and blocks (the things you feed to your Pokemon to improve their contest stats) was terrible!
One cool new addition to Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire that made the Pokemon Contest path feel more significant was the introduction of a new character: a world-famous Contest Idol named Lisia (Lutia in Japanese). As the premiere Pokemon Coordinator and the one who sets you on your path to competing in Pokemon Contests, she becomes a motivating factor. Lisia was my goal, my aspiration, and the reason why I continued to make my Pokemon as clever and beautiful as possible. By the time I earned all 5 Master Rank contest ribbons and earned the chance to take on Lisia and her daunting Mega Altaria (Dragon Dance is amazing in Pokemon Contests), I had reached my own personal Pokemon League.
In the end, I became an overall Contest Master and even took on the Elite Four and Steven. Though I could also add “Pokemon Champion” to my list of achievements, in my heart it was more of a nice epilogue than the true climax of my journey.
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