Every hero has “their” villain. While a protagonist might face off against a myriad number of foes before their journey is done, there is always one that stands out among the rest as the perfect foil. Final Fantasy 7‘s Cloud has Sephiroth, Mario has Bowser, and in the case of Ash Ketchum, famed Pokemon trainer, there is Team Rocket.
Few villains manage to become iconic while also being downright terrible at their jobs, but Team Rocket is one of scarce number who have made it despite the organization’s failings. The bumbling duo of Jessie and James from the Pokemon anime have come to characterize how many people remember Team Rocket, but the group is actually a huge player in the plot of both Pokemon Red and Blue and Pokemon Silver and Gold. It has been a long time since fans have seen them in a new, mainline Pokemon title, however, and Team Rocket’s return in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon is a big deal. The implications of Team Rocket showing up in Alola—and possibly beyond Alola as well—are many, but here are some of the most exciting ones.
For the most memorable group of villains in Pokemon history, Team Rocket has actually been absent for a long time. The last time Team Rocket starred as the antagonists in a non-remake Pokemon title was in 1999, when the group was experimenting on Pokemon in all kinds of cruel ways. Team Rocket was last seen attempting to force Magikarps to evolve using sound waves that were painful for the Water-type critter, and if they’re coming back, there are a lot of possibilities as to why. They’ve been gone for over a decade—who knows what terrible experiments and crimes Team Rocket has prepared for Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon with that kind of time to plot it.
The Pokemon video games have a lot of strengths, but interesting villains aren’t one of them. Who can forget Team Magma, whose diabolical plan was to expand the world’s landmass? What about Team Skull, the organization that just wants to make enough money to get by?
By comparison, Team Rocket is absolutely fascinating. They have an on-again, off-again leader who is one of the most mysterious men in the Pokemon universe, and they have also hatched plots straight out of science fiction or superhero comics in efforts to take over the world. Team Rocket is also one of the few groups that hasn’t waffled on its intentions, remaining a prominent antagonist to both the player character and Ash in the anime.
For better or worse, Team Rocket will always be associated with the Kanto region of Pokemon, home of the original roster of 150 creatures. Nintendo and Game Freak definitely know this, and it wouldn’t surprise us if the return of Team Rocket also heralded the return of many other old school Pokemon and characters from the Kanto region. After all, with roots in the original games, it would make sense for some of Team Rocket to keep the Pokemon they made famous, like Weezing, Meowth, Zubat, and more.
The Most Interesting Man in the Pokemon Universe might make an appearance after a long break from the games, and that’s big news for fans of the series. Giovanni is the former gym leader of Viridian City, the father of Silver, the leader of Team Rocket, and has also been involved in some complicated time travel plots in HeartGold and SoulSilver. He’s also something of a fan favorite (at least as far as villains go), as he has been featured prominently in the anime and some of the Pokemon feature films as well.
This one is by far the biggest stretch on this list, but it is definitely one worth discussing. There’s bound to be a sequel to Red and Blue at some point in the future—it would surely be too much of a guaranteed success for Nintendo to avoid forever. If that’s the case, then the reintroduction of Team Rocket in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon could be setting up players to refamiliarize themselves with the organization ahead of an even more prominent role, perhaps in a Nintendo Switch Pokemon title in the future.
Whatever the organization’s role in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, however, Team Rocket is an iconic piece of Pokemon history that will be welcomed back with open arms by fans of the series. It will be fascinating to see where they stand in the newest iterations of the game, and whether or not they will become an even bigger feature as the series looks to expand beyond the Nintendo 3DS.
Pokemon Ultra Sun and Pokemon Ultra Moon arrive exclusively for Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 2DS platforms on November 17, 2017.