Pokemon Sword & Shield gives you three different rivals, which is an odd choice when you consider that one of them is a contender for the greatest ever. The first (and worst) of the bunch is Hop, the most obvious rival. You also share your journey at various times with Marnie, who acts as a halfway house between an actual rival and a helpful chump. Marnie wants to beat you, but it’s nothing personal. She’ll be your pal once she’s finished wiping the floor with Sobble. Bede, however, is a real, hardcore, dreams about your demise rival. Despite being the best rival since Silver, he’s often cut out of the story, and when you think of Sword & Shield’s rivals, he’s the one you think of last - this is a major problem, and you best fix it sharpish by reading on.

Pokemon rivals should be your rival. I know that sounds obvious, but since Pokemon games seem to frequently forget it, it’s worth repeating. They should be a challenger, a person who lives primarily to defeat you. I’m not suggesting they need to be flat 2D characters with no aims of their own - Pokemon has made the great leap to 3D and should remain there. Gary, Blue, or whatever swear word-based name you gave your rival in Gen 1 is the best example of this. At Silph Co., he is there to fight you. He doesn’t seem as if he only exists when you’re near him - he feels like a real character with a core motivation to be the very best, like no one ever was. But to do that, he has to humiliate you. He’s essentially a big Pokemon bully, waiting around the corner to trip you up, but instead of a wedgie, he’s got an Alakazam ready to batter you with spoons.


Related: Pokemon Sword & Shield Has The Best Characters In Series' HistorySilver, Gen 2’s rival, builds on this idea. While he’s not personally invested in giving you a metaphorical noogie, he’s also not interested in being your pal. He’s a literal criminal, only getting one of the starter ‘mons in the first place because he broke in and stole it. Silver’s story has depth and nuance, but he is clearly positioned as the Pokemon bad guy. This is what rivals should be like.

After Gen 2, the idea of rivalries fizzled out. Mostly your rival was another kid who got a starter at the same time as you. Maybe they were friendly, maybe they were helpful, maybe they were a bit meh. Whatever they were, they weren’t out to make a show of you. They might have fought you occasionally, but there was no desire to beat you. They didn’t want to pummel you into the earth, throw you in a locker, or pull your underwear up over your head. It all had the air of a preseason friendly, not a grudge match.

Our lead features editor has been replaying Sword & Shield, and he’s come to view Hop with a new respect. I say Hop can fuck off. Hop looked at Gen 7’s Hau and thought, ‘I am going to make it my mission to be more boring than Pokemon’s boringest bore ever to be boring’. By jove, he did it.

I know sometimes it’s nice to be nice, but jeez, there’s a limit. Hop is way too happy about the fact you beat him - he has zero investment in making your life a misery. Marnie is a little better in that she does care about beating you, but she’d still rather be your mate. Bede is a real throwback of a rival, and he deserves a lot more respect. With his traditional name, foppish hair, and posh affectation, Bede is clearly supposed to be a Tory. This might be the only time I describe a Tory as perfect for anything, but a Tory is a perfect choice for a rival in a British Pokemon game.

Great Pokemon rivals want to inflict suffering on children, love kicking the weakest when they’re down, and stand by while the world goes to shit as long as they can be king of the manure. Pokemon rivals are Tories through and through.

Side note for American readers who were previously confused when we claimed Amity Square was for Tories - Tories means something different in the UK. Like a posh Republican. Like Mitch McConnell if he sounded like Hugh Grant, aye? Anyway…

Bede is the perfect Pokemon rival just by virtue of the fact he hates you. What’s more, he’s very different to Blue and Silver, in that he shows this hatred through disdain. He’s not a bully or a criminal, he’s irritated by your existence. It’s a great twist on an old formula.

That’s not all, either. Bede also ends up having a strong narrative arc that’s more than just ‘I became the champ hahaha’. He’s wrapped up in every element of Galar’s big story events, with his theft of Rose’s Copperajah and the destruction of an ancient mural a key point in the narrative. He even goes on to become a Gym Leader in a way that’s well foreshadowed, entirely fitting, and adds a sense of freshness to the game’s already unique take on the Elite Four. Bede should be a legend in the Pokemon canon, and instead he’s a footnote, drowned out by Hop hatred and weird Marnie fanart.

Bede’s a Tory, but he’s a Tory villain, and that makes it okay. He probably thinks Eternatus was Jeremy Corbyn’s fault though.

Next: Pokemon Legends: Arceus Finally Makes Regional Variants Matter

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