Pokemon Masters is The Pokemon Company's answer to Fire Emblem Heroes. In Fire Emblem Heroes, you roll for fan favorite characters across the series and plop them into small skirmishes. Pokemon Masters, essentially, does the same thing; only with the famous Pokemon trainers of series past instead, with real-time three-on-three battles to boot.
Just last week, we got extensive hands-on time with the upcoming game, which is headed to phones sometime this summer. While I found the battles a bit too chaotic compared to the more strategic turn-based system of the RPGs proper, it does give players a chance to see their favorite trainers interact with one another. It even has its own fan fiction-like premise: some mastermind has gathered trainers from all regions together to compete in the Pokemon Masters League, on the mysterious artificially made island of Pasio.
Pokemon Masters has its fair share of original characters, like the customizable hero's frenemy Paulo, whose companion Pokemon is Rockruff. Your own companion Pokemon is Pikachu, but the more trainers you befriend-or rather, collect-the more you can swap out members of your party. You don't have to have the original protagonist in your party at all times. Heck, you can even have two Brocks if you want, thanks to the special alternate Sygma Suit Brock, which gives him a different outfit and Pokemon.
The real stars of Pokemon Masters are the familiar trainers from Pokemon history. While many are Elite Four members, others are characters you may meet in a more fleeting fashion-like, say, a Pokemon Gym leader. Pokemon Masters wants to give everyone a chance to shine. Or at least 65 of them, which is the number of trainers in the game at launch. Here are seven in particular that we're glad to see in Pokemon Masters.
Original Game: Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire
Norman made his Pokemon debut in Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. Unlike the Pokemon games before, Norman was a Gym Leader with a very personal tie to the protagonist: he was their father. It was a shocking revelation because, one, he looks relatively young, and two, it was a new thing for the series.
Norman's companion Pokemon is the one he's associated with the most: Slaking, the big lazy dude. Perhaps it's indicative of his parenting style too, as he's really slacking in the present father department. I mean look at him: he's a Gym leader up in Petalburg City. He barely bats an eye at potentially kicking his kid's ass in a Pokemon battle, and trust me, he kicked all of our asses the first few times we took him up on the challenge. For that, he's a unique presence in Pokemon Masters, especially considering his son Brendan and Treecko make an appearance-even if we don't know if his intimidating power will stay true in Pokemon Masters.
Original Game: Pokemon Gold and Silver
Whitney is something of an Asuka Langely Soryu-type of character. She's overly confident and sassy like the Neon Genesis Evangelion star, but when she meets defeat, she throws a fit. In Pokemon Gold and Silver, she initially even refuses to reward you with the Goldenrod City Gym Badge.
She also infamously has one of the most annoying Pokemon: Miltank. Miltank is a huge cow with two particularly nasty abilities: Milk Drink and Rollout. Milk Drink restores up to 50% of Miltank's HP, and when coupled with Rollout, which gradually increases Miltank's attack power each turn, the big cow is practically unstoppable.
In Pokemon Masters, abilities are paired down to two moves that run on cooldown timers, and then a special Sync move where the trainer and Pokemon team up for a powerful blow. I didn't spot if Miltank has these specific powers in Pokemon Masters, but considering how ubiquitous the moves are to the character, it'd be a shock if they weren't.
Original Game: Pokemon Crystal
Kris was the first female playable character to come to the Pokemon series, with her perky teal pigtails and yellow bicycle shorts ready to rumble with the very best. In Pokemon Masters, the Johto-region character model has been obviously upgraded, though she's still instantly recognizable. And it's been a long time since she's even been referenced, as she's only ever appeared in Pokemon Crystal.
In the anime, Kris has an adaptation in the character Marina, who has a lighter blue shade of hair. Their pigtails, and starter Pokemon options though, are the same. Marina's Pokemon is a Totodile, so it wouldn't be a stretch to assume Kris' will also be a Totodile in Pokemon Masters. (Arguably, also the best of Crystal's starters. Sorry Chikorita, it's the truth.) It's been 19 years since we last saw Kris, so her appearance in Pokemon Masters is long overdue.
Original Game: Pokemon Gold and Silver
You know how some people look like their dogs? That's Clair from Gold and Silver and her Pokemon Kingdra. Clair has long flowing blue hair that she ties up in a ponytail, adjacent to Kingdra, the final evolution of the unassuming Horsea. Her cousin is Lance, a regular staple of the Elite Four across the Pokemon generations. But Clair is stuck at ol' Blackthorn Gym, the final gym badge needed before venturing to the Indigo Plateau.
She's an old blood type of trainer. Her family embrace Dragon-type Pokemon, including her cousin Lance. She, similarly, is a little pompous in this regard. Like Whitney, she also requires some pushing before actually giving the child protagonist their deserved badge.
Original Game: Pokemon Black and White
Iris has a really adorable character design that translates perfectly for her Pokemon Masters appearance. She, like Clair, is another Dragon-type focused trainer. In Pokemon White, she's the Gym Leader at Opelucid Gym. While she still appears in Pokemon Black, in that game she's more just a NPC you can befriend and get an ability from.
In Black and White 2, Iris gets a huge promotion: she's the Pokemon League Champion. Her outfit in Pokemon Masters is her Pokemon White one, but just as in Black and White 2, her loyal Haxorus is at her side. In Pokemon Masters, you'll be able to get to know each trainer better through original side stories. Some stories will even lead to a Pokemon evolving, which can only happen in scripted situations. One of Iris' stories recently got a tease on the Pokemon Masters Twitter, showing her Haxorus training for an upcoming tournament.
Original Game: Pokemon Diamond and Pearl
Flint is a formidable opponent of the Sinnoh Elite Four. He's trained in Fire-type Pokemon, chiefly with his Infernape. He's also close friends with Volkner, Sunyshore City's gym leader. In Pokemon Platinum, Volkner and Flint even briefly team up.
Flint's most iconic attribute though is his hair: a fluffy red afro. So many Pokemon hairstyles are spiked or tied up in giant pigtails or ponytails, that it's refreshing to see a dude who just keeps his hair natural. Or perms it, you never know. We don't judge.
Original Game: Pokemon Gold and Silver
Janine, like Kris, is another Pokemon trainer we haven't seen for some time. She's the Gym leader for Fuchsia City in the Gold, Silver, HeartGold, and SoulSilver games, but otherwise, she appeared in a tournament in Black and White 2 and not much else. She's never even had an anime appearance, though she did pop up in the manga Pokemon Adventures.
She's the daughter of Koga, the gym leader of Fuchsia City in FireRed and LeafGreen. When Koga moves onward to the Elite Four, Janine is put in charge of the gym. Like her father, she deals in Poison-type Pokemon, notably with her trusty Crobat at her side.
While Pokemon Masters is trading heavily in popular fan favorites, such as Cynthia from Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, to even recent characters like Hau from Sun and Moon, it's neat to see the long-forgotten trainers getting their long earned due.
"About how we chose the trainers, we of course considered how popular certain trainers have been in the past, but also the Pokemon series has a really long and storied history," says producer Yu Sasaki through a translator in our group Q&A. "So we wanted to make sure that we'd be able to appeal to all the different fans throughout the lifetime of the Pokemon series. We wanted to make sure we weren't only taking trainers or Pokemon from just one of the iterations. We wanted to make sure that we really covered the broad spectrum."
Sasaki adds that in selecting the trainers for the launch of Pokemon Masters-as DeNA assures more trainers will be added on a regular basis, alluding to potentially at a monthly cadence with regular events-the team also looked at trainers' personalities. It had to make sense for these trainers to venture to the island of Pasio in pursuit of the Pokemon Masters League in the first place.
From Lt. Surge and Agatha to Brock and Misty, I noticed quite a few Generation One trainers. When I ask if there's any game that's more represented than others, like say the always-popular Red and Blue era, Sasaki notes that my experience was likely just a coincidence. "We don't have any particular game that is overly represented," he assures.
Still, there will plenty of trainers for us to collect in randomized gacha—though not of the Sword and Shield variety—when Pokemon Masters launches later this summer exclusively to mobile devices.