And we’re back! It’s the final long list of this little project of mine. Today we’re ranking 51 of the blighters spread out over six games: Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, Ultra Moon, Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee. That’s right, this is the fifth time that the Kanto lot are being ranked.
Apart from this, you basically know the drill by now. They are ranked out of five in the following categories: difficulty, how much I like all of their rosters, the creativity of their rosters, how fashionable they are, and how much personality they have. There’s also a maximum of five bonus points up for grabs, giving each trainer a maximum of 30 points to get.
Here’s a quick list of all the lists in this project!
- Ranking the Gen I trainers
- Ranking the Gen II trainers
- Ranking the Gen III trainers
- Ranking the Gen IV trainers
- Ranking the Gen V trainers
- Ranking the Gen VI trainers
- Ranking the Gen VIII trainers
A disclaimer for this one: some of the trainers on this list are potential enemies in the Alolan Battle Tree. Here, they have a huge variety of Pokémon with difficult, competitive movesets. I ignore these teams and sets completely when the trainer has a team faced in the story, and for those trainers who are only fought in the tree they get the average score (a three) for difficulty, roster and creativity. Without further ado, the penultimate ranked list:
#51 – Tristan
I know right, who? Tristan is a bit of a ‘secret’ character in that he’s only encounterable as a random Title Defence match in the post-game of the Alola games. Once you become the champion you can take on random challengers, and Tristan is one possible opponent.
What’s pretty cool is that you encounter Tristan right at the beginning of your Pokémon journey, and facing off against a child with a decently powerful roster of Pokémon is quite fun. However, he’s still a character in a rather easy set of trainers without a unique appearance of his own, so he falters a little in last place on 9.5/30.
#49 – Sina
Returning from Generation VI with something of an expanded role and the reveal of their type-specialisations which were missing from the Kalos rosters, Sina and Dexio definitely fare better in Gen VII than previously. This is very much due to the fact that they can finally be battled. Unfortunately for the Ice-type trainer Sina, it is Dexio who gets to strut his stuff in Alola and have some high-level battles. Sina is stuck maxing out with a level 16 Glaceon if you don’t take her Battle Tree rosters into account, which we are not. As a result, she’s an early tie at 10.5/30.
#49 – Lt. Surge
The thundering American is back for his final showing in this project, the lowliest of Kanto Gym Leaders in this generation. Beginning a running theme for this list, Lt. Surge suffers from being an important trainer in possibly the easiest game to grace the mainline Pokémon lineup. Not only is he still critically weak to any Ground-type attacks and located next to a den of Diglett, the starters in these games are so powerful and get so much coverage that it’s basically impossible to lose against the first few gym leaders without trying. If that weren’t bad enough, Surge has never been one for being interesting. 10.5/30.
#48 – Brock
Another victim of the LGPE lack of difficulty, Brock also finds himself floundering around the pits of the list. He’s simply not the challenge he used to be and he’s less interesting as a result – more a roadbump than a roadblock. Pair that with a lacklustre new look and you have a recipe for not-success. Saying that though, I do enjoy that his rematch team features all three Kanto fossil Pokémon. That’s a nice touch. He gets an 11/50.
#47 – Bruno
Bruno was never going to fare well, being eternally the easiest Elite 4 member in history to overcome thanks to his Gen I and Gen II showings. Here he’s marginally better thanks to not having two bloody Onix, but overall he’s still a joke. He utilises some coverage but none of his Pokémon have 4 moves and the additions to his rematch team are… questionable at best. He’s also quite a big uglier now, with an animesque angry face that ruins what allure he once had. Surprisingly not at the bottom of the heap, Bruno gets 11.5/30.
#46 – Sabrina
Sabrina suffers in LGPE as she has in many of the Gens since her good showing in her initial appearance, and it’s because Psychic just isn’t as good anymore. There’s something to be said for her actually being smart and setting up some defences with a Mr. Mime with Screens and a Yawn/Calm Mind Slowbro but her ace, the Alakazam, has only Psychic and Night Shade. Two moves for a level 44 Gym Leader ace. Cannot forgive that. Can’t forgive that generic outfit either. 12.5/30.
#44 – Erika
Erika is likely my favourite of the Kanto leaders, and it’s quite sad to see her down here at the bottom of the list. There’s a running theme with these leaders: absolutely questionable moveset choices to pander to players who just aren’t good at games. To wit, she only uses one status move and her Weepinbell and Vileplume only have two attacking moves each. And there’s not even a Giga Drain in sight. That said, she gets a bit better in her rematch, where she at least gets to show off a Swords Dance Victreebel and a nice sweeper Vileplume set – though they are not likely to get a single turn off. In the end, Erika gets a 13/30.
#44 – Lana
Trial Captain of Akala Island, Lana is a Water-type specialist who is one of the more forgettable main trainers of the Alola games. She grants you access to the Lapras riding feature but that’s about it. Her team is quite easy to beat and, as much as I hate to say this about any team including a Chinchou, quite boring. It really frustrates me to see important trainers who are meant to be challenges walking around with empty move slots on their Pokémon. At least her post-game roster in USUM has some belters, such as a nice Skill Link Cloyster set and a decent ace in Araquanid. She’s equal to Erika on 13/30.
#38 – Archer
I quite enjoy the presence of Archer in LGPE. He’s another sign that Game Freak is willing to update the old story that we’ve all played so may times by bringing in a trainer from HGSS, where he was a high-ranking member of the fractured Team Rocket. In LGPE Archer gets to play a decent role, antagonising the player every now and then and even taking part in a Multi-Battle where you team up with Trace to fight him and a grunt.
Archer’s teams are nothing to write home about, but they do at least end up using all four move slots and having something of a coherent strategy. He can surprise a player with his Electrode’s Explosion and keep up the momentum with Golbat’s U-Turn for something of a rough start. Then again he can also be eradicated by the heinously awful difficulty curve of LGPE and never pose an iota of a challenge. For that he ends up the first of six 14/30 scoring trainers.
#38 – Archie
Along with his land-based alternative, Archie is back for USUM as part of the Rainbow Rocket storyline, along with every other evil team boss from Pokémon so far. These guys don’t really get to show off any personality and end up being simple but cool throwbacks.
For some reason, Archie is back to his utterly boring Gen III outfit and it’s such a shame after how great he looked during Gen VI. That said, he is now rocking a freaking Kyogre in his team – all of the Rainbow Rocket bosses are torn from versions of their games where they won, and this obviously involves them capturing the Box Legendary of their choice, usually. Facing off against legendaries is always a bit tricky so these guys tend to have inflated difficulty as a result. Archie ends up with 14/30 thanks to him losing all the improvements he accrued in Alpha Sapphire.
#38 – Maxie
Rather like Archie, Maxie has lost all the differences that he gained in Omega Ruby but gained a Groudon. While I like his Gen III look more than his Gen VI look, Groudon is a lot easier to take care of than Kyogre and thanks to that he’s ended up on the same score as his watery mate. The weather bosses suffer the worst from the Rainbow Rocket treatment, honestly, and both end up with 14/30.
#38 – Jessie & James
Another sign of Game Freak making an effort, Jessie and James are back in force from their days as easy minibosses from Pokémon Yellow – here they are still easy minibosses but they get to take part in some funny moments and are an even better reference to the famous anime duo – this time they accurately don’t make their Meowth fight and show themselves to be lazy Rocket members.
I really like this inclusion of Jessie and James, finally getting to take part in these games and use their signature Arbok and Weezing. They do however remain vastly underpowered enemies in a game full of easy foes thanks to only having one-type and for the most part, very underpowered movesets. It would have been quite cool if they had gotten some of their other anime team mates added to their roster, like Lickitung and Victreebell – that would definitely have bumped them up a little bit. This troublesome duo ends up another 14/30.
#38 – Kiawe
One of Alola’s multiple hot topless dudes, Kiawe is another Trial Captain like Lana. A Gym Leader in all but name, he ends up being an easy but fun fight in Sun and Moon and a… still easy but fun fight with higher levels in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. He shows off Alolan Marowak in both his battles and his trial, and he gets to provide the player some levity too with fun dialogue. All things said and done though, Kiawe is an unimpressive trainer who remains memorable thanks to his fun trial and great design. 14/30 is nothing to be sniffed at.
#38 – Misty
From fire to water, Misty is the fifth Kanto Gym Leader to grace the list. She trades her regular Staryu for a Psyduck here to make for a far more interesting roster and a neat little reference to the anime. In addition to that, she’s traded Water Pulse for the superior Scald and can actually be a bit of a surprise for the unsuspecting trainer. Her rematch team is also quite fun, featuring the very best Water-type Pokémon that Kanto has to offer, including the beautiful Dewgong.
Despite the positives, Misty flounders thanks to her most unexciting outfit yet and being the second leader in a set of games where you are just so likely to blitz through her team easily – especially if you chose Pikachu. Thanks to that, she gets 14/30.
#36 – Hapu
This diminutive Ground-type specialist is the first Kahuna on the list. I don’t really find much about her memorable except the size difference between her and her Mudsdale is probably the only reason she’s so short to begin with. In addition to that, she has an odd team of Pokémon that don’t really mesh together as a roster and I don’t like her design all that much.
Where she scores well is on how troublesome she could be to take down. She has some odd type-combinations on her team and her Mudsdale can be a doozy to take down thanks to uncharacteristically decent coverage and a random Counter. Other than that, she’s a bit generic and ends up with 14.5/30.
#36 – Faba
Like Colress before him, Faba is an evil-team scientist with a type-specialisation, this time Psychic. Faba is pretty cool. He’s got ‘camp villain energy’ and unironically uses a Bruxish, which I can respect. He’s a touch more prominent in the Ultra games where he gets to partake in some more deadly double battles too, and I always like double battles.
Roster-wise he gets to wield some pretty nice Pokémon. The aforementioned Bruxish is a camp new queen on the scene and he also has the very cool Alolan Raichu. Apart from this though he’s limited to old Kanto Pokémon which is… alright, I guess. His ace is a Hypno though, and that’s 100% creepy all the time, every time. I quite like Faba, but he’s just not fantastic, ya know? He ties with Hapu at 14.5/30.
#31 – Ilima
Ilima is quite neat-looking. At first, something seems off about the way he’s designed – he has this pretty flamboyant pink hair but a very neutral colour palette that kind of clashes but when you think about it, it really works; Ilima is a Normal-type specialist and those Pokémon are overwhelmingly brown or pink.
Ilima’s personality is very much ‘popular in high school but I’m nice, really’ and it’s kinda meh as far as characterisation goes. He does use a cool strategy in battle when you face off against him though – he uses a Smeargle which will know a move that is super-effective against your starter. I really like this twist to the usual formula for trainers who adapt their teams to your choices. When you get to face him at full power in the USUM post-game he kinda falters in power, using a Smeargle with the three elemental Hyper Beams which is… a choice. Ilima is the first 15/30 – perfectly average and normal.
#31 – Wally
Oh how the mighty have fallen! I mean, it’s not exactly surprising considering he’s only a cameo-character with all of like, four lines thanks to being a Battle Tree-exclusive secret. Thanks to that, he doesn’t get to score highly for his moveset creativity or a bonus point for using a Mega that the other Mega users enjoy. Saying that, it’s neat that he can throw out Mega-Altaria, Mega-Garchomp or Mega-Gallade. What I do also like and score Wally highly for is his new look – he very much suits it and it’s speaks to me a confidence and comfort with travelling and fighting battles. Good for him – 15/30 isn’t bad for a cameo appearance.
#31 – Koga
In a game full of weak enemies who barely know how to spell ‘strategy’ let alone employ it, Koga stands out as a trainer who genuinely gets to use a neat, tried and true method for obliterating his gym’s challengers. With liberal usage of Toxic/Protect on three of his Pokémon and even Fly on his Golbat to further fish for poison damage, Koga definitely ranks as one of the smartest trainers in Kanto.
Saying that though, he’s still just Koga and therefore any Psychic type can probably bring him down without much fanfare. Heck, your Pikachu/Eevee probably could too. If only he was as interesting as his Adventures self, then we would be seeing a much higher score for him. He’s another 15/30, joining his co-workers Blaine and Agatha.
#31 – Blaine
Back in his scientist gear and striking some serious pose-age in his VS model animation, Blaine looks a lot better here than in his HGSS incarnation, which is definitely something. He gets to exhibit more of his personality too, and is a really endearing character.
These things save him from his piss-poor rosters. His initial team includes a Ninetales who only knows Fire Blast and Quick Attack, which is just hilariously awful. It’s not even a Drought Ninetales which would have been a massive boon to his team even with the awful attacks. His only decent Pokémon is his Arcanine, who gets Outrage and Crunch in addition to Flare Blitz, which is an impressive move. Even in his rematch roster, Blaine suffers from a really crippling weakness to Water-type attacks which is only so very slightly assuaged by a single Thunder Punch and a Solar Beam (on, yes, a Drought-less Ninetales). 15/30 is as much as this roster can hope to achieve.
#31 – Agatha
Agatha is another trainer who has fallen from grace somewhat – she just did not fare well in this Generation. For starters, her design is a little meh. She has a shawl now which makes her more of a ‘little old lady’ instead of the almost sinister, powerful elder who was so threatening in her older designs. Not just that, but her team is cursed by poor move choices. For a roster that could be so full of annoying and potent status moves the only ones she actually has are Glare on her Arbok and Will-O-Wisp on her Gengar. Five Poison-type Pokémon and no Toxic. No Confuse Ray or Supersonic. It’s cool that she gets an Alolan Marowak in her rematch team but it’s not really… enough. She’s our final 15/30.
#30 – Colress
Colress is back for a little bit of story relevance in Alola and he makes a decent showing of it. Not only does he serve as a reference to Gen V’s Genesect Drives and all that stuff, but his role in USUM is even bigger, taking part in the Necrozma arc and the Rainbow Rocket arc. Colress seems to be as beloved by the devs as Cynthia.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to face off against Colress’s cool Steel-type roster easily in these games, as he’s another Battle-Tree-only trainer like Wally. And while it doesn’t affect his scoring, I do find it odd that only three of the seven Pokémon he can utilise here are of his precious Steel-type. Oh well. Narrowly avoiding another six-way tie, Colress inches ahead at 15.5/30. Oh so slightly better than average, yay?
#28 – Cyrus
Like his other Rainbow Rocket compatriots, Cyrus follows a pretty standard template for his role in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. He gets a little spiel about his original plan and his outlook on the world, he gets to be a bit threatening, he has a big damn legendary and he just accepts defeat despite being the prison warden for a veritable God.
A neat detail is that the legendary he uses is based on which game you have: in Ultra Sun he has a Dialga, and Palkia in Ultra Moon. This is the same rule for the other Rainbow Rocket trainers too, apart from Archie and Maxie for obvious reasons. At the end of the day, Cyrus is just a fun boss with some inflated challenge scores thanks to having a cool legendary, decent coverage Pokémon and being part of an awesome throwback sequence. 16/30 makes Cyrus stand alone on this list.
#26 – Hau
Hau was a disappointing rival, I’ll say that much. I feel like his niche as a character has already been filled so completely by both personality-wise by the happy-go-lucky Gen VI rivals and the confidence-related arcs of Hugh and Barry. He also suffers by being one of the main sources of Alola’s horrific tendency to over-hand-hold, alongside Lillie (who luckily doesn’t count as a trainer for the purposes of ranking).
Roster-wise, Hau is pretty good. He uses an Alolan Raichu and an Eeveelution regardless of your starter, which are both things I really like. He rounds these out with a Komala (boring tbh) and a Crabominable (amazing). These choices are a little different (read: better) in the Ultra games where he even gets a Noivern and can perhaps pose a threat, especially during the Pokémon League.
Overall while not as offensively boring as the kids from Gen VI, Hau largely mucks through previously treaded water and just isn’t as interesting as the likes of Lillie and Gladion and their notable, significant character arcs. Game Freak’s insistence of having a rival who begins their journey with you/at the same time as you is definitely to Hau’s detriment. As a result, he ends up on a middling 16.5/30, equalling the grandfather who provides him with one of his only defining traits.
#26 – Hala
What you might consider the first true boss the Alola games, Hala makes a big impression on the game and remains relevant all the way to the end of the game. Not only is he the person who gives you your starter, he’s the introduction to the Island Trials and a key member of the new Alola Pokémon League – this dude has story relevance coming out the wazoo for someone who doesn’t take part in the whole Aether Foundation arc. And he’s a pretty fun character too, I get ‘jolly grandad’ vibes from him.
Hala is also pretty consistent in his level of challenge over the game. As an Island Kahuna he can be a bit tough if you aren’t ready for surprisingly tough Fighting-type moves and some Dark-type coverage in case you try to be funny with Ghosts. As an Elite 4 he suffers a bit from Gen VII’s tendency to give important trainers Pokémon with less than four moves, so he is a pretty easy boss to overcome if you just try to exploit his weakness.
The teams he uses when he’s properly supposed to be a challenge though are quite good, with good physical coverage and a nice showing of EdgeQuake. Nice to see some competitive-quality thinking in-game. He matches up with his grandson on 16.5/30.
#25 – Dexio
A whole 24 places ahead of his partner in crime Sina, Dexio manages such a high level of competence thanks to actually having some high-level fights where he can show off his full roster of Psychic-type Pokémon. If Sina had the chance to do so outside of the Battle Tree she would no doubt be here too, as it stands though Dexio is about an important to the plot as Sina and largely serves as a proxy for introducing some game elements introduced in Generation VI: Zygarde and Mega-Evolution.
As a trainer Dexio favours the Eeveelution of his type specialty just like Sina, but also gets to show off his other impressive picks. In later fights he gets to use a very nice coverage Slowking, Screen Alolan Raichu and a Mega Alakazam. He’s a fun fight and even gets to use Zygarde 10% Forme against you in the Ultra games which is a very neat moment.
Overall, Dexio is a pretty cool legacy character who suits the laid-back style and has some cool fights to beat, so for that he gets 17/30.
#25 – Lorelei
Speaking of cool, Lorelei is up next. It’s very frustrating to see that precisely none of her Pokémon have four moves until her rematch roster and her movesets are largely underwhelming anyway, because Lorelei is one of my favourite trainers bar none. She has no great strategy to speak of this time – her Dewgong doesn’t have Rest, her Cloyster has Spike Cannon without Skill Link, and she uses her Lapras as a bloody sweeper. Just… honestly disrespectful to the player’s intelligence. Things get only slightly better in the rematch, with the addition of a neat Alolan Sandslash on the vastle overly-physical team and some more coverage moves for everyone, but she’s still a boring fight.
Where Lorelei always gains the big scores though are her design and her roster choices. I am a huge sucker for Water- and Ice-type Pokémon and I have no qualms about letting that favouritism show. Additionally, I have always liked Lorelei’s design – the smart dress and red hair is a sexy look that suits her personality as a sort of instructor-type. In my mind she’s like a redhead Quistis Trepe. At 17/30 she’s just .5 away from making the next block another six-way tie.
#20 – Mallow
Around place 20 is where usually I start having more good things to say about trainers than bad things in these really long lists. Mallow has a cool design, cool Pokémon, a trial that isn’t too bad and was the centre of a dirty meme about her possibly suggestive dialogue. When it comes right down to it though, there really isn’t much to say about her though. She’s the epitome of ‘yeah, pretty good I guess!’ and that’s okay. Mallow is neat. She gets a Mega Sceptile in the Battle Tree, that’s cool. She shares a tier with five others at 17.5/30.
#20 – Sophocles
Sophocles has what I’d consider an extremely strong design. You get so much from just his overall aesthetic that is true to his personality – he’s a nerdy kid in a Pokémon game. Thankfully he isn’t too obnoxious and he actually has a decent role to play as a Trial Captain. Somewhat oddly he doesn’t actually fight you in his role as Captain, preferring to let the Trial be the whole deal, but he does get to be battled as a Title Defence match where he shows off some predictable and boring Pokémon, such as Alolan Golem and Vikavolt.
In Ultra Sun, he’s fought as part of Mina’s trial where he uses a pared down version of his team and shows a little bit of ingenuity – employing a gimmicky Spiky Shield Togedemaru set and a decently strong Alolan Golem set. With a penchant for Sturdy and his Levitating Vikavolt he’s also quite hard to just steamroll through too, which is a big boon in games as largely simple and easy as the Alolan set. He never made that big an impression on me during gameplay but when scoring for this list he surprised me, snagging 17.5/30.
#20 – Nanu
After two Trial Captains comes Nanu, the Kahuna of Ula’ula Island. Nanu is a deeply cool character who specialises in the Dark-type and being a bit ineffective at dealing with Team Skull. I really do love his overall design – he seems like a jaded older man who is happy to just let life keep on trucking, even turning down a chance at Elite 4 membership, and I feel like I can already relate to that. He also wears sandals as part of his work uniform too. Respect.
His initial battle as a Kahuna aside (it’s a very easy section of the game.) he has some neat tricks during his post-game battle including a Sableye lead who uses Toxic, a Snarling Honchkrow and a Swagger Krookodile. Also, it’s pretty ironic that he uses a Krookodile and Honchkrow at all, isn’t it? Being a police officer? Hah. That aside, his ace is a Dark Garfield which is also an out-there pick for him and I like that too. I just can’t help but admire his characterisation and he gets a nice 17.5/30.
#20 – Molayne
Hot skinny nerd alert! Cousin and foil to Sophocles, Molayne is the former Trial Captain of the observatory where his cuz now runs the show. He’s a cheerful guy who is instantly friendly and rather likeable – which is par for the course in a game like Pokémon but it’s a nice change from the usually frosty nerdy characters these games like to use so much.
Molayne gets a nice glow-up mid generation like some other successful trainers like Wallace and ends up being one of the Elite 4 in the Ultra games, which is pretty neat for him. Before that though, he gets a pretty mediocre clash against the player in regular Sun and Moon and a generic Steel-type Title Defence match where his ace is confirmed to be the ultimate example of weird taste: Alolan Dugtrio.
As an Elite 4 member Molayne gets some more interesting additions to his team. While I’m not a fan of the Pokémon, a Klefki makes sense for him, and Bisharp is one of the Pokémon that I can’t help but think is rad. His strategy is a little all over the place though – his Klefki has Prankster to go along with Spikes and Thunder Wave which is great, but he has Screech on his specially attacking Magnezone and Fissure on his Dugtrio – extremely situational choices (read: bad choices). He gets a 17.5/30 for his efforts.
#20 – Grimsley
Sporting a fantastic new piece of kit, Grimsley is back to be briefly relevant as the source of the Sharpedo ride Pokémon and as a mini-celebrity in the world of Mantine Surfing. In case you can’t remember him, he’s one of Unova’s Elite 4 members, back to wreak havoc on the waves. He’s not very important in the grand scheme of things but he forgoes any chance of screwing up his battler scores by being exclusive to the Battle Tree, netting him 9 points (three average scores of 3) out of his total 17.5/30. And yes, his cool yukata gets him a perfect 5 in fashion. Sue me.
#19 – Green
One of two characters completely new to the Kanto region, Green is finally featured in a videogame for the first time in the 20 year gap between her first reveal as a character in the Pokémon Adventures manga to the release of the Let’s Go games (the female Gen III player character is Leaf, not Green).
Her role in the LGPE games is very small, but she does get to do some cool stuff. I mean, she gets a bonus point simply for finally existing, and also for being part of a certain trio in these games that makes something a little more canon-worthy – specifically the starter choices of Red, Blue and Green. Green, like her manga incarnation, uses a Blastoise (and a Clefable, notably) and I really like that, just like I like that Red and Blue also use their manga starters too as we’ll see later. In LGPE specifically she is introduced in the post-game quest to catch Mewtwo and can be battled after that quest in Cerulean city.
Her roster is pretty standard for what you’d expect at the post-game. Notable picks are her Will-O-Wisp Gengar, Dual Screens Clefable and a nasty Kangaskhan. She’s a surprisingly nice addition to the game that smacks of extra effort, and she’s a nice throwback to long-time lore fans. She starts us off into the teens at 18/30.
#18 – Ghetsis
Yet another Rainbow Rocketeer, Ghetsis remains as camp as ever and manages to be probably the first one to actually pose a threat thanks to his great team transported from Unova. Cofagrigus is a tanky monster no matter how you swing it, Bisharp has fantastic physical moves and his Hydreigon can be nasty. This isn’t even mentioning his legendary pick – Zekrom in Sun and Reshiram in Moon. They come decked out with their special moves and some basic coverage and manage to be quite the potent threat. Despite not getting to lecture the player with long soliloquies about the nature of man and dreams of ruling the world, Ghetsis gets a very respectable 18.5/30.
#15 – Olivia
Kahuna, Elite 4 member, business owner, is there nothing Olivia cannot do? Yes, provide a decent challenge. But that’s not her fault, she’s just an Alolan trainer.
Jokes aside, I really like Olivia – her design is fantastic and she oozes personality in her sparse opportunities to show it off. Getting a mid-game promotion tickles the right spot too, I love character development that takes place through gameplay. She’s got some good taste in Pokémon too – she’s a Rock-type specialist which makes so much sense considering she owns a jewellery shop. While her ace is a Lycanroc, she uses a lot of very ‘rock’-y Pokémon like Alolan Golem, Probopass, Gigalith and the glittery Carbink – which I think suits her a lot.
The Ultra games kinda mess around and give her the Hoenn fossils Armaldo and Cradily and I don’t think this works thematically for Olivia, but eh. Overall she isn’t a very challenging trainer but manages to impress by attempting a rather defensive strategy with some Reflect users, a Yawn Relicanth and Sand Stream Gigalith over her many teams in the two sets of games she’s in. She gives a good effort and reaps 19/20.
#15 – Acerola
The second of three Elite 4 members in this bracket, Acerola is another pretty cool trainer. She’s a friendly Ghost-type specialist just like Phoebe, except she has a decent amount of backstory handed to her – being part of the Alolan royal family for example.
Just like Sophocles, Acerola doesn’t battle the player as part of her trial but you are guaranteed to fight her as she’s promoted to the Elite 4. As a trainer Acerola makes some really nice Pokémon choices – I’m particularly fond of Dhelmise, Froslass and Palossand for her. She also gets to put Agatha to shame in the battle of the Ghost-type specialists of Gen VII by having an appropriate strategy. With two Confuse Ray users, an Amnesia/Baton Pass Drifblim and an Iron Defense Palossand you can be taken aback by this sudden foray into disruptive and defensive strategies – assuming she decides to employ them of course.
Acerola is a pretty great character who manages to not fall into the ‘obnoxiously precocious child’ archetype that I dislike so much. Ghost is a cool type and she’s a fun fight. With her other Elite 4 compatriots she gets a 19/20.
#15 – Kahili
The third Elite 4 in a row, I have to say I really like Kahili despite her abject lack of importance in the story compared to the vast majority of the other Alola characters on this list. Flying is my favourite type by far and I love the idea of a woman being so into golf that she brings her club to battles. I like her sporty design and the club that has the same colour-scheme as her ace Pokémon is truly a great little detail.
In battle, Kahili is as easy to overcome as the other members of the Elite 4 but I really do enjoy her team mates. Toucannon is a fantastic final-stage common bird Pokémon, Oricorio is one of the best additions to the entire Pokémon canon, and you can’t argue with a Sturdy Spikes Skarmory lead. You simply can’t. Kahili is just a very good example of an appealing character who doesn’t need a lot of narrative exposure to be compelling. 19/20.
#14 – Plumeria
Resident bad-girl admin of Team Skull is here to just narrowly miss out on a top 10 placement. Plumeria is a good example of how the oft-maligned (in this project of mine, at least) position of Admin can be done really well. Plumeria gets proper effort dedicated to developing her character and while her narrative encounters are about as easy as the other Admins of the series, she even gets to strut her stuff as a Title Defence battle and as a Battle Tree opponent. To me, this shows that the game considers her a lot more important than Admins of games past.
Plumeria is this game’s Poison-type specialist, sporting a nifty Salazzle as her ace and even getting to flex a Gengar, Crobat and Alolan Muk in her Title Defence battle. Her strategy is pretty standard for her typing – she has Toxic and some moves to capitalise on Toxic such as Protect, Fly and Recover – these will stall her enemies out as they slowly fade from the worsening damage. It’s very similar to Koga’s strategy, but she’s so much better at it. She ends up with 19.5/30.
#13 – Lysandre
Rainbow Rocket gets stylish with this blast from the very recent past. Lysandre is just another standard past evil team leader who inches ahead of the rest by having Pokémon that I like and utilising a Mega-Evolved Gyarados in addition to either Xerneas or Yveltal. For reference he probably gets more than he deserves just for having a Mienshao, which I find is a criminally underrated Pokémon. Apart from that, there’s nothing much else to say. His battle is a refreshing moment of difficulty in an easy generation and it’s a shame that this sequence didn’t let the RRs get some more development. He so, so narrowly misses out on the tied top 10 with a round 20/30.
#10 – Guzma
Beginning a threeway of tenth placements is Guzma, our resident bad boy evil team leader. With a very unique manner of speaking and almost affable brand of violent outburst Guzma is a pretty likeable villain. Like a father to a brood of hooligans, Guzma gets to have hidden depths and is likely the Pokémon villain with the most thought put into his characterisation so far, I reckon. He has a clouded history that serves as his Freudian excuse for turning to badness and a shock relation to the other evil team of the Alolan games, which is very neat. I really, really like Guzma.
As the resident Bug-type user, Guzma is pretty fun to face off against in battle, surprisingly! Golisopod has its fun gimmick with First Impression and Emergency Exit and it’s always nice to see a trainer attempt to seriously use a Masquerain – one of my nostalgic favourites from the RSE days that I could never get to work properly. He peaks in Sun and Moon with a pretty standard team of coverage-based Bug-types including a Technician Bullet Punch Scizor, but in the Ultra games he shines – his bugs get better moves, he gets to play on the side of good in a Multi-Battle with the player, he gets added to the Title Defence roster and he’s a fixture in the Battle Tree finally. Guzma gets prolific exposure in these games.
With good Pokémon choices, a decent level of difficulty and sense of team composition and a fantastic blend of backstory and intra-narrative development Guzma gets a very respectable 20.5/30.
#10 – Red
Good old Silent Protagonist Ground Zero is here in tenth place largely in thanks to how prolific he is in this generation. He gets not one but two very distinct appearances in Gen VII. In Alola we get to see accomplished ‘Battle Legend’ Red who has grown up into a handsome trainer on holiday with his definitely-husband, Blue. He gets to show off his skills at the Battle Tree, sporting the three Kanto starters, his trusty Light Ball Pikachu, and Lapras and Snorlax – exemplifying his tendency to have rosters made up of gifted Pokémon and guaranteed encounters.
In LGPE we get to see a different incarnation of Red. This time, he still has his Pikachu, Lapras and Snorlax but now adds a Venusaur to his roster as the new ‘canon’ starter that also matches up with his manga self. Here he could basically be any age from a young teenager to an adult thanks to the chibified style that these games have, so they are ostensibly different characters altogether.
But then again, they aren’t. They are of course, as silent as Link, Crono, Serge, Mario etc. etc. Selective mutism goes only so far when trying to build a character whose personality really should go beyond ‘he is a strong trainer’. And that is why he’s here at tenth place with 20.5/30 instead of higher up like (spoilers) Blue.
#10 – Lance
The final Elite 4 member on this list: Lance does alright in LGPE. He is of course, cursed by the odd decision makers of the devs as so many other trainers are in these games – for example having a Seadra in a game where Kingdra seemingly doesn’t exist, and not having any Pokémon with 4 moves until his rematch. The rematch however is pretty cool though, with his Aerodactyl and Alolan Exeggutor being notable threats and a hefty Mega Charizard X exerting its pressure on the player’s psyche. It’s a very badass lineup that gets Lance some brownie points.
In addition, is this not the coolest Lance has ever looked? I love this design for him as it really sums up his personality in this day and age. He’s not the drama queen he once was, yes, but now this trainer who has a cape not for flair but because it makes him look imposing and threatening. Which he isn’t, but the thought is there. He matches up to Red and Guzma on 20.5/30.
#9 – Anabel
Much like Grimsley, Dexio and Sina, you may need to be reminded about who Anabel actually is. She originates all the way back in Generation III where she was the Tower Tycoon of the Battle Frontier and had barely any characterisation and absolutely no relevance to… anything, really. Despite this, she managed to get a truly impressive sixth place in her previous showing and now comes close to that in a far more competitive generation, stacked against more interesting, diverse trainers.
Sporting a very suave, brand new look, Anabel is one of the stars of the Ultra Beast arc of the Sun and Moon games, and is implied to be plucked directly from her placement in the Gen III games (as opposed to any Gen VI or VII version of Anabel, or whatever the Pokémon timelines do, I forget) and that’s a pretty cool throwback. She joins Looker and Nanu in Pokémon’s version of Interpol and ends up testing the player’s team out to see if they can be relied upon during this side quest. This arc is missing from USUM but she remains there as a cameo and getting some Battle Tree action too, where she characteristically uses legendary Pokémon.
In battle, Anabel is a pretty generic, diverse fighter. She does however use competitive-worthy sets with some quirky picks such as Disable on her Alakazam and Quick Attack instead of Ice Shard on her Weavile. Nevertheless, it’s really cool to face off against a Frontier Brain outside of the Battle Frontier and her heavy involvement in an important post-game sidequest ensures Anabel a favourable score of 21/30.
#8 – Trace
I like Trace despite myself. On the surface he is just another rather generic rival who will make most players wonder where the heck Blue has gotten to, but I found that Trace really does fit very well into the narrative of Kanto and is very much a positive addition. Like Green, but moreso.
Not only is Trace a little less sure of himself than most other rivals in the series, he gets a pretty basic and satisfying character arc that reaches a bit of a crux in Lavender Town where he gets involved in the previously minor story concerning the Cubone and its dead mother. Trace adds the Cubone to his party (something that Blue allegedly did in the original story but that we never saw evidence of) and becomes more personally invested in taking down Team Rocket than Blue ever had any right to be. We get to fight alongside him in a Multi-Battle against Archer, which is something I always appreciate, and he is basically just a well-needed shakeup to the stale Kanto formula that is appreciated upon this fifth journey through the region.
Trace gets a much different roster of Pokémon than Blue did, adding the aforementioned Cubone to his team along with a Rapidash and a Slowbro. He retains the Pidgeot, and uses the starter Pokémon that is not available in the game you are playing – what’s extra neat is that in LGE he will always evolve his Eevee into Jolteon so his ace will always be Electric-type. It’s the little things. I wouldn’t say he’s ever all that challenging until you see him at his best in the post-game rematches where his coverage moves are great and he gets to utilise a little bit of utility with Reflect, U-Turn, Light Screen etc.
Trace is a really good rival. That’s about it, really. Pretty deserving of his 21.5/30.
#6 – Ryuki
I like to think that when designing the Alola games they were almost finished with everything and suddenly they realised they forgot to include a Dragon-type specialist, so they threw some darts onto the same board that led them to “Flying-Type Specialist Pro Golfer” and ended up with “Dragon-type Rock Guitarist” and slapped him into the game as a random Title Defence opponent. Ryuki gets a larger role in USUM as the leader of an unofficial ‘Kantonian-style’ gym where he gets a little bit of actual character development, revealing his dream to become a real Gym Leader.
In battle, Ryuki has a surprisingly diverse roster of dragons. He of course uses the resident pseudo-legend Kommo-o but also uses Drampa and Turtonator to great effect, gaining some much-needed coverage. He is probably one of the trainers with the most potential to be dangerous, too, getting some properly powerful movesets in his post-game teams in USUM.
While he’s not as important in the long run as any of the higher-ranking trainers, Ryuki exemplifies how much good Pokémon and good design can make you memorable, getting 22/30.
#6 – Blue
Blue is consistently a high-ranking trainer in these lists, it seems. Just like Red, he hits many of the same positives by being in both sets of games in this gen, having a very appealing design in Alola and getting to show off his manga starter in LGPE. He ranks so much higher because he uh… speaks. And gets to drop by the player a lot in the Kanto games and give advice and tips. He does suffer a little bit simply by not being the rival this time, but he still managed to top Trace so it obviously doesn’t hinder him that much.
In battle Blue is rather predictable – he has his classic picks of Alakazam, Gyarados and Exeggutor and sports a Mega Charizard Y (to contrast Lance’s Mega Charizard X). He largely relies on basic coverage moves but does make some questionable choices such as Stomp on his Exeggutor and Iron Tail on Aerodactyl. His battles are more ‘fun’ than challenging like Red and Green, and I do appreciate that in a game that is quite the celebration of the Kanto legacy. Old-timer Blue equals newcomer Ryuki on 22/30.
#4 – Mina
The final member of the Alola Island Trial Challenge Circuit Championship on this list is Mina, resident Fairy-type specialist. In stark contrast to the glorious, glamourous camp of Valerie, Mina exemplifies more ‘fey’ qualities being quite artistic, flighty and whimsical. I really like this about her and her laidback nature is really welcome at the point in the games when you meet her – where things are getting serious and you can really appreciate a moment of levity.
Mina’s roster suits her really well, I think. Her Granbull is rooted in her backstory as a Snubull owner and I can’t help but see Shiinotic’s expression as a fair representation of Mina’s whole… deal. Plus, Ribombee is one of my top 10 favourite Pokémon of all time so she wins some points there. Her movesets aren’t the most inventive but she does make use of a Dual Screen Klefki and a Spore/Dream Eater Shiinotic.
What’s really cool is Mina also ends up being featured in LGPE! Much like other region-hopping trainers like Jasmine in DPPt and Maylene in HGSS, Mina can be found in Vermilion City bemoaning that she missed her trip on the S.S. Anne. You can fight her there once a day, and she uses her usual Wigglytuff alongside a new duo of Mr. Mime and a very cool Alolan Ninetales which is just a really slick reference to her region of origin.
Overall, I just vibe heavily with Mina and that’s probably why she scored so highly by my metrics. I do have to admit I do also like the meme that is associated with Mina. Yeah, that one. Cool. 22.5/30.
#4 – Lusamine
Oh boy, this is a VILLAIN. I do really enjoy a villain in a game for children who is willing to do some properly heinous things, such as killing a legendary Pokémon or simply being utterly abusive towards a child. With two slightly different character arcs depending on whether you play SM or USUM, Lusamine gets a ton of backstory and development which is very nice. She drives the story forwards heavily and is even the driving force behind the player’s involvement in the Rainbow Rocket arc.
And how many characters can you say have successfully actually been merged with a legendary Pokémon? Yeah. Super cool part of the game.
In battle, Lusamine uses a really cool roster of beautiful Pokémon. Clefable, Lilligant, Mismagius, Milotic and Bewear are all very pretty, feminine and adorable Pokémon that coincidentally are also powerful as all hell. Despite this, in SM Lusamine suffers from the 3-move-max syndrome that so many Gen VII have. Luckily this is solved in USUM, but it’s not really until the USUM’s addition of her inclusion as a Title Defence opponent that we see her at full power. Lusamine is not afraid to sacrifice coverage for alternative methods of battle – she has a Charm Clefable, Stun Spore Lilligant and even a questionable Icy Wind Milotic, all ready to weaken your party before attempting a sweep with a powerful Bewear loaded to the teeth with coverage.
Thanks to her incredibly impressive importance to the narrative, compelling character arc and cool, over the top design, Lusamine gets a brilliant 22.5/30.
#3 – Professor Kukui
I feel like after half the world thirsted after Sycamore it really was only a matter of time until we saw a Pokémon Professor’s bare chest. I am not complaining. While Sycamore’s inclusion as a fully-fledged opponent is quite a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, Kukui gets to play around on the battlefield one heck of a lot more! Not only does he get to be a Title Defence opponent and Battle Tree opponent, he even gets a totally over-the-top secret identity as a masked luchador called ‘The Royal’ who can be faced in the Battle Royal.
Kukui is larger than life and a great force for positivity in the Alolan games. His personality is infectious in the best way and he’s one of the more fun Professors of the series. He blends a laidback attitude with a generosity and studiousness that makes him a deeper character than so many other characters I’ve looked at during this project.
As a Title Defence opponent Kukui uses the starter that neither you nor Hau picked, and I like that. In addition to that he uses the Lycanroc form that Olivia doesn’t and an Alolan Ninetales which is just a bloody beautiful design and always fun to see. As befitting a Professor of Pokémon, Kukui is also one of the most competent trainers of the region. He uses Stealth Rock and Whirlwind! That is so rare in-game! He has a Thunder Wave/Mirror Coat Magnezone! His Battle Royal team is designed to screw you over with liberal use of Protect, a Snorlax with Self-Destruct and a very nasty Nasty Plot Alolan Ninetales set. It’s so satisfying to see and is how a Professor definitely should be designed. With his battle prowess and fantastically portrayed characterisation Kukui is a proud third place with 25/30.
#2 – Gladion
I love rivals. I love villains. What’s this? A rival who is also a villain? Good gravy!
Gladion is great. He has strong links to both of the bad guy teams of Alola, is encountered many times over the course of the narrative, undergoes a morality shift, remains a moody foil to the cheery Hau and the frankly quite haunted Lillie, and is just a great example of a character arc that seems modelled closely on Silver’s way back in GSC and HGSS. If it weren’t for the existence of the player character, it would be easily argued that Lillie and Gladion are the game’s true deuteragonists and his development is very satisfying to watch.
Gladion has some stand-out moments as a foe. One very minor one is the first battle against him in USUM where he leads with his Zorua – in case you don’t know, Zorua’s ability Illusion allows it to take the appearance of the Pokémon in the last slot of your party. In this fight he sends out what looks like a Zubat but is in-fact a ruse to bait out a Psychic-type attack that will utterly fail against the Dark-type Zorua. This strategy isn’t repeated but it’s such a nice touch. This taking advantage of a Pokémon’s ability doesn’t end there either, Gladion’s ace is a Type:Null which eventually evolves into a Silvally – a Pokémon that changes its type depending on the item it is holding rather like Arceus. Gladion will change which type he makes his Silvally to be super-effective against your starter, which is a fantastic attention to detail.
As a rival in a modern game Gladion rarely gets the chance to be a tough opponent, but his team as a Title Defence challenger is genuinely impressive. He still utilises a Zoroark, has the very rare Porygon-Z and has powerful team mates in Crobat and Lucario. While he’s a purely offensive player, you still need to be on your toes thanks to his great coverage moves that wouldn’t be out of place in competitive play. Gladion makes for a satisfying challenger and this is a great capstone to his development as a character and a trainer – he narrowly misses out on the top spot with his impressive 26/30.
#1 – Giovanni
Who else but the ultimate villain of both USUM and LGPE to take the top spot? Generation VII might as well be Giovanni’s generation, thanks to his massive narrative importance in Kanto and being the mastermind behind the plan that uses all the other team leaders in Alola, placing him at the top of the food chain. He is the leader of Team Rocket in one, and Rainbow Rocket in another – no other character has come close to the sheer amount of evil influence this dude has and I cannot help but seriously respect that.
What is particularly noticeable is that he is a step above even his evil brethren when it comes to strategy. He uses a Smooth Rock Sandstorm Dugtrio in Alola, a very rare sight in the strategically shallow generation that I love to see. His Nido pair each specialise in a different type of attack, and his Rhydon is now a full Rhyperior – and then there is Mewtwo. One of the most overpowered Pokémon in existence, taking down Giovanni means taking down a Mega Mewtwo X (Ultra Sun) or Mega Mewtwo Y (Ultra Moon) which is absolutely no mean feat. He puts up far less of a fight in Kanto but I don’t hold that against him when he can absolutely wreck shit with his Mewtwo in Alola.
Yeah, Giovanni is rather a flat character from beginning to end but there’s a whole legacy to his journey at this point. he began life as a surprise gym leader in an RPG’s auspicious rise to success, gained a family member, became an iconic character both on the page and on the screen inclusive. It is only fitting that he be the evil Pokémon trainer. He’s a legend amongst legends and absolutely deserves his placement here, reaching the highest score yet at 27.5/30.
And that’s 283 trainers ranked. One more update left, folks. Exciting stuff.