Pokémon Trainer Red, and Other Protagonists
A more simple blog entry from me this time. Just some idea-sharing, really. Feel free to share your own ideas and opinions on the subject of "NPC protagonists" in the comments!
To start things off...
Red is you. You are Red. Never forget that.
Even if his party is different than yours, or you didn't use the name "Red," he is still you. In RGBY, you went off on a journey with Red as your avatar. Just because he appeared in GSC as an NPC doesn't change that.
In GSC--games that continued long past defeating the Champion (a stark contrast to RGBY)--something, someone, had to be your true final obstacle. So why not create a new character to play the part? Why did it have to be Red we faced at the very end of our generation 2 games and not some new, all-powerful trainer?
It's because Pokémon is about growing. This may sound a bit odd but please bear with me: someone tells you that a "powerful Pokémon trainer awaits challengers at the heart of the most brutal mountain-cave." This guy must obviously be the greatest Pokémon trainer in the world, right?
But wait...wasn't that me? I mean...at least, that's how I felt in my Red Version...
You trek through Mt. Silver and finally make it to the end. There, waiting, unmoving and not speaking, is Red.
This...he's...from my Blue Version, but...wasn't he...?
What happens is that, essentially, at the end of Mt. Silver you are not coming face-to-face with Red but rather face-to-face with yourself. To defeat Red is not only to defeat the greatest trainer but to overcome yourself and prove that you have grown and improved in the time between games. As epic as Steven Stone is, there's still something, some mysterious charm, that makes Red one of the most loved and admired characters, even if he says nothing and his "role" is filled by different characters each gen.
Now that Red has become a fan-favorite, we see him in more recent games, most notably in the PWT of B2W2. We have yet to see Leaf, Ethan, Dawn, or even Hilda and Hilbert outside of their home games.
But does this mean we will never see them? Not necessarily. With the wonderful addition of the Unova Link Memory Link feature in B2W2, games feel more interconnected than ever before. With narratives in the main-series Pokémon games being pushed further and further, we could very well see the return of some protagonists similar to how we faced Red. And with features such as Memory Link, these characters could even be given your names to make things feel even more personal.
I really hope to see these kinds of features utilized in the future. They could not only immerse players even deeper into the Pokémon world, but could give players even more feelings of strength and success--for what is more invigorating than knowing how vastly you've improved yourself as a person?