A staple of the Pokemon series are the rivals. The recurring characters that progress 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 something of a pushover.
Take Hau from Pokemon Sun & Moon (opens in new tab). As you both choose your starters, he will always choose the Pokemon most vulnerable to yours, granting you an advantage from the get go. These friendlier, less aggressive rivals are one of several measures that GameFreak has taken to cater to new players as Pokemon's appeal continues to broaden. But with Pokemon Sword and Shield (opens in new tab), the mean, nefarious rivals of the legacy games finally made their long awaited return – and the games are all the better because of it.
Enter the rivals
This is the news we've been waiting decades for! New Pokemon Snap is the sequel fans wanted, but never expected to exist (opens in new tab)
To balance the need to please veteran fans against the responsibility to welcome newcomers, Pokemon Sword and Shield positions three adventurers pursuing the same goal of becoming Galar's Champion. Hop, an old friend, also happens to be the brother to the region's Champion and the rival you'll be seeing the most. He's a happy-go-lucky sort of character dealing with issues of self-esteem and, as luck should have it, Hop will choose the starter Pokemon weakest against yours. Marnie, meanwhile, is calm, cool and collected, notable mainly for her goth/biker aesthetic and legion of adoring fans. As cool as she is, however, she hasn't let her fame massage her ego, remaining polite and fixated on becoming a Champion for the entire adventure.
Finally, we have Bede. Like the main character and Hop, Bede is endorsed to take the Gym Challenge but, unlike those two (who are sponsored by Champion Leon), Bede is endorsed by Chairman Rose. Chairman Rose previously sponsored the current Champion, Leon, and is in charge of the entire Gym Leader challenge. Bede aims to please Chairman Rose desperately and in whichever way he can. As you can imagine, this sets up some drama throughout the course of the game.
Bede marks the long awaited return of a jerk rival in a Pokemon game, as evidenced from the moment he boasts of being "the most elite of all". If that weren't enough, his sassy "It's positively criminal of you, wasting the time of someone as important as I am" remains a favourite line out of the game.
Even after defeating him several times, Bede will still insist he's stronger than you, claiming that he let you win on purpose. Sure you did, Bede. Sure you did. The air of denialism that permeates his character really helps us to enjoy kicking his Pokemon to the curb all the more – his stuttering excuses are an added bonus.
Bede the Baddie?
Now we're entering spoiler territory, so don't read on if you're yet to complete Pokemon Sword and Shield. For those curious to learn more about Bede, however, here's where his character arc gets far more interesting.
In order to help Chairman Rose, whom he wants to impress so much, Bede is tasked with gathering wishing stars. While Bede dutifully performs this task without any real malicious intention, it turns out that this seemingly banal chore has been helping the true villains of the games all along. Eventually, Bede destroys a historical monument in order to attain more wishing stars, landing him in trouble and ultimately disqualifying him from the gym challenge. So now, one of your rivals, the very same one who has trashed talked his way to the Championship Cup, loses his one opportunity for glory at the last minute. Of course, Bede isn't stopped that easily, as Fairy-type Gym Leader Opal, sees potential in his pink coat (arguably purple) and trains him to become the new Ballonlea Gym Leader through a rigorous boot camp which appears to consist of little more than relentless quizzes on, and battles with, Fairy-type Pokemon. Poor guy.
With a brand new look, essentially a pink flamboyant football kit, Bede manages to claw his way back into the Champions Cup as a Gym Leader and meets the player on the pitch for what seems to be one last battle. His team now consists of all Fairy-type Pokemon, getting rid of two of his Psychic-Types in the process – it's a nice way for Sword and Shield to shift the challenge against your most persistent rival. Bede's journey up until this point hasn't been conventional, but you have to admire his fighting spirit and perseverance. After obviously losing the battle the audience in unison spur Bede on with another unintentionally hilarious line, "Don't retire! Just restart your career!" Which he does.
When I was hoping for the return of a jerk rival, Bede is not what I first had in mind, but the back and forth of him insulting me and then the reversal of taking his team down and then hearing the excuses coming out of him reminded me of the good ole days of sparring with Gary Oak and Silver. He's an insecure, sassy, jerk chasing the title of Champion which makes watching his misfortune all the more better. That being said, as the game goes on, through said misfortune and hilarious turn of events we see his strong willed nature and his will to keep pushing shine through, no matter how embarrassing. Towards the end I couldn't help but find him actually quite endearing. Bede isn't the jerk rival everyone wanted, but he's one we all deserve.
Want to give the game a try for yourself? Here are the best Pokemon Shield prices and Pokemon Sword deals (opens in new tab) for Switch.