I Was Wrong About Team Star

Coming into Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, I wasn’t sold on Team Star. The evil teams have got significantly worse over the years, to the point where neither Team Skull nor Team Yell were the true villains of their respective stories. I’d love Pokemon to further explore how massive corporations and business conglomerates like the Aether Foundation and Macro Cosmos are the true evil of our world, but Gen 9 has given us rowdy schoolchildren again instead.

Then Game Freak revealed the bases. Much like our Editor-in-Chief Stacey Henley, I thought these sounded awful. Not only did I have to battle route trainers and who-knows-how-many Gym grunts, but whole bases full of evil no gooders too? Just grinding through the Silph Co. is bad enough, so I was completely done with Team Star before my game had even shipped.

When I started Pokemon Violet, I was heartened to learn that I could play it my way. That meant no Team Star. I hit the Titans as soon as possible, surprised at the touching story therein, and then mopped up the remaining Gyms before taking on the Pokemon League. However, that’s when a friend told me I needed to do the Team Star bases in order to proceed to the endgame. The sigh I let out was probably audible from Paldea, but at least I was drastically overleveled.

However, I’m here to admit I was wrong. While the bases aren’t exactly riveting, they’re not awful either. Instead of constant trainer battles with their slow turn-based battles and slower chit-chat before and after, you’re challenged to defeat 30 Pokemon in ten minutes using the new auto-battle feature. It’s a refreshing way to tackle the evil team, and utilises one of Gen 9’s best features in a way that is, dare I say it, fun.

Auto battling involves sending out your Pokemon to roam the overworld. They’ll fight any wild Pokemon they see, until they’re too tired to go on. In Team Star bases, these are technically grunts’ captured Pokemon, but it works just the same. Run through the base, send out your three chosen Pokemon to battle in real-time, and coax out the base’s leader for a more traditional fight. I was overleveled at this point, but the ten minutes to defeat 30 Pokemon is incredibly generous. It never took me more than 90 seconds, which was a refreshing change of pace after struggling to locate ten bloody Sunflora just to challenge Brassius.

The leaders are similarly easy battles, but at least they have interesting designs and plenty of character – far more than the Gym Leaders of Paldea, who are usually more interesting than the villains. Yes, you’ve got N and Ghetsis, but you can’t tell me Giovanni was actually an interesting character. Twice.

The storyline about bullying isn’t particularly revolutionary, and the multiple ‘twists’ were so telegraphed that I predicted them quicker than I routed the first base, but I admit, I had more fun with Team Star than I expected. The final battle was, again, ridiculously easy, but I’m a big fan of this new trend of key characters donning ridiculous disguises and your character seeing right through them. It’s stupid, but it made me smile.

Team Star’s storyline is better than I expected, and the gameplay aspect of raiding their bases isn’t half the slog I thought it’d be. My expectations were on the floor for this part of the game, but I’m glad they were exceeded. In a game this broken, that’s a small positive I can take away.

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