Pokemon Scarlet & Violet Did Kieran Dirty and It’s Tragic

Kieran had far more potential than solely existing to lose to the player trainer.
Pokemon Scarlet & Violet Kieran
Screenshot by Prima Games

The mainline Pokemon games follow the same traditional storyline with only a slight deviation depending on the threat that the region is facing. It makes sense that The Pokemon Company wouldn’t want to mess with a formula that works, but it does get a little stale. Especially when the story continually focuses on you, the player trainer, and your ability to beat everyone and become champion yet again.

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Yet, it’s not that there is anything overtly wrong with the player trainer overcoming the game’s obstacles and becoming victorious. But, in prior games outside of this, there was little character development beyond it. Sure, the player trainer did beat clarity into N, but it was the conclusion and didn’t ultimately matter.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet: The Teal Mask introduced us to siblings Carmine and Kieran. First impressions of the duo are that Carmine is running on pure adrenaline 24/7, and her little brother is a kind-hearted boy who sees the good in everyone. Which is really the point of the story in the DLC as it is Kieran who constantly defends Ogerpon, a victim of the town’s past and its present due to incorrect reporting of historical events. Unlike Carmine, Kieran is quick to befriend the player trainer, show them around his hometown, and explain its rich history. He seems to grow more confident with every interaction, and the player character could potentially become his first true friend.

This is short-lived, though. Although Kieran went out of his comfort zone and showed you notice but kindness, as soon as you learn a secret regarding Ogerpon, you agree to keep it between you, Carmine, and their grandfather. The sibling that disliked you from the start was the one that you partnered with, leaving kind-hearted Kieran and his love of Ogerpon in the dust. To make matters worse, Kieran overheard this exchange and knew you lied. So, decides to give you the opportunity to come clean, and you don’t because you’ve got Carmine now.

But the player trainer’s sudden friendship and preference for Carmine is only the beginning of Kieran’s deep descent into his manic-depressive state. He ends up stealing the Teal Mask in what can be assumed to be an attempt to aid Ogerpon himself, but the player trainer defeats him and wins the mask back. Even though Kieran decides to stay behind when the player trainer and Carmine go to retrieve the other three masks, he is still helpful, as he manages to turn town favor in Ogerpon’s direction, as they now believe the truth.

This is rather impressive when you think about how the last person who attempted this was labeled a heretic and how shy Kieran is in the first place. The cracks are healing, and the trio returns Ogerpon to its home. But, of course, Ogerpon wants to be with the player character now. The one who isn’t from the town, having just visited and learned about its history only days prior. Kieran, despite his constant support of Ogerpon, is rejected by it. This upsets him, and he demands a battle to see who should rightfully claim Ogerpon but loses. This pushes the young trainer past breaking point, and he locks himself in his room, telling himself that he will get stronger.

As much as it clearly is unfair for Kieran, at this point, I can understand why the player trainer came away victorious. Kieran is still shy and just beginning his journey. Of course, it is unfair that the sole outspoken Ogerpon supporter misses out, but it’s something one can forgive. At least until one considers the events of the second DLC, The Indigo Disk, and how it handles Kieran to the detriment of all the character growth they gave him.

You see, it is clear that between the events of both DLC, Kieran went back to Blueberry Academy and worked his butt off to grow stronger and stronger. In fact, he went from a meek trainer to the Champion. That’s no easy feat. He came out of his shell, which is clearly evident in his character design, as he is no longer a shy boy hiding behind his sister; he is strong and can stand alone. So, it makes sense that in The Teal Mask, he was hiding behind the hair covering his face, and in The Indigo Mask, it was tied back in a much more confident style.

So, regardless of the initial motive, Kieran has developed significantly as a character. I wouldn’t hesitate to see that this is the most growth of a non-playable character in a mainline Pokemon game. But the DLC is quick to squash it. Because, of course, the player character becomes a transfer student to Blueberry Academy. So, despite his personal successes, Kieran is now face-to-face with the player trainer in his own domain, which is naturally unnerving. It doesn’t take long, and the player character is ready to face Kieran in a battle to become the new Champion. The player character can run salt deep into the wound by choosing to use Ogerpon in the fight, which angers Kieran as he cannot handle the audacity to do such a thing. Naturally, the player character defeats Kieran, and all of his growth is immediately lost in that moment. To make matters worse, Drayton, who seemed to take pleasure in Kieran’s downfall, refers to him as an ex-Champion and continues to mention it going forward.

It doesn’t end there as Briar, Carmine, Kieran, and the player trainer explore Area Zero to learn more of its secrets and to discover Terapagos. Which Kieran hopes to catch to make up for missing out on Ogerpon and to prove himself finally. They do find Terapagos, but of course, it too chooses the player trainer over him, and he instantaneously freaks out and catches it in a Master Ball. A win for Kieran that is short-lived due to Briar convincing him to not only battle the player trainer with Terapagos but also to use his Tera Orb on it. Which he does and loses control of Terapagos putting them all in danger.

This causes him to have a breakdown, and he then has to listen to his sister continue to berate him while he is struggling. In the end, Kieran aids the player trainer, who then catches Terapagos, and they return to Blueberry Academy, where he apologizes.

But does it have to happen this way? It makes sense that the player needs to come out on top, as that is generally how games work. It just seems that the extent that which Kieran was built up only to be knocked down repeatedly for the benefit of the player character was more than it needed to be. Kieran did not need all of his development undone for the sake of the player. Especially when his growth was significant.

Putting aside the player catching both Ogerpon and Terapagos, I don’t see why it was necessary for many of the other events to have unfolded as they did. Of course, the Pokemon games are rather RPG-lite, but it would have been nice to have been able to have to choose whether or not you wanted to keep the secret from Kieran in The Teal Mask. He knew and could handle it anyway. He didn’t have to be cast aside for Carmine.

His growth as a trainer in The Indigo Disk could have been retained as well. At this point, it wouldn’t have bothered me if there had been a scripted interruption during the fight where Briar wanted to discuss the Area Zero expedition with the group. It makes sense to leave Kieran as the Champion, especially when the player trainer is just an exchange student anyway. Plus, he could have still had the epiphany that they were attempting to achieve, whilst still maintaining his Champion seat. Then, he could have gone back and treated his fellow trainers with respect and made a cultural difference going forward. He didn’t need to be beaten into a pulp.

In a short period of time, this young child lost his first good friend to his sister who didn’t even like said friend, was lied to, beaten by his friend, the Legendary Pokemon that he always defended refused him as a trainer, and he lost a battle again. He then worked hard to become Champion, only to lose that to the same trainer, and finally caught a Legendary Pokemon, only to be manipulated into using it in battle in a dangerous way and then had his sister continue to insult him. And in the end, you watch your old friend catch that one, too. Leaving you with nothing but a list of unfortunate experiences and a broken heart.

Kieran is a great character, and it is fantastic to see the games include more character development than usual. But I think the narrative could dive a little deeper. The player trainer doesn’t need to win all of the time. Look at the anime; Ash Ketchum definitely loses more than his fair share of events. But it just makes the win even greater. Going forward, it would be great to see more characters with stories that extend far beyond how they were originally introduced and are allowed to celebrate their own victories. The player character doesn’t need to overshadow everyone, everywhere, and at every time.

It’s cliche, it’s unoriginal, and Pokemon Scarlet & Violet were so close to doing something different and making something great.

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Author
Priscilla Wells
Priscilla is both the weekend editor and a freelance writer at Prima Games. She began working at Prima Games in early 2023. Prior to this, she spent nine years writing for both her own personal gaming blog, and other related websites. Priscilla has grown up playing video games, and most often plays her PS5 and Nintendo Switch consoles. You can find her playing Final Fantasy XIV, RuneScape, Pokemon GO, or lost in the latest RPG to release. She is an Australian living in the United States with her American husband, three children, and her Basset Hound. Before moving to the United States, Priscilla obtained a Bachelors of Secondary Education majoring in English and Japanese Language. This allowed her to teach English and Japanese in a high school setting. You can follow her on Twitter/X at @Cilllah