BMGf members who know me are probably aware of my interest in Johto's mythology, which I find much more interesting than Hoenn's and Sinnoh's because it engages more thought, and cannot be ascribed to real-world legends. But considering that it has been ten years since we were introduced to the legends of Johto, I have grown a little tired of the ambiguity, and what I used to cite as a high point of the Generation II games, I now see as a falling point of the remakes.
Back in September when the Japanese script of the remakes was made available, I realized that certain important references from Crystal had been omitted. Contrary to popular belief, the subplot with Eusine and Suicune is quite different from what it used to be, and at no point in the new games is it stated that the legendary beasts are connected to Ho-Oh, that Suicune is testing the player to see if they are worthy of meeting Ho-Oh, or that Suicune shares a cooperative bond with the Unown. Instead, the subplot is about Suicune wanting to entrust itself to a strong trainer, who turns out to be the player rather than Eusine. That is really all there is to it.
The history of Ecruteak City's two towers is not touched upon in the remakes, either. In the original Gold and Silver games, the only thing said about the towers is that each one used to be the roost of a powerful flying Pokémon, but when the western town burned down, both Pokémon disappeared. In Crystal, the original name of the west tower was revealed to be the Brass Tower, and the history of the two towers was revealed in a fair amount of detail:
Originally Posted by CrystalIn the past, there were two nine-tier towers here. The BRASS TOWER, which was said to awaken POKéMON, and the TIN TOWER, where POKéMON were said to rest. The view from the tops of the TOWERS must have been magnificent. At the time, an immense, silver-colored POKéMON was said to make its roost atop the BRASS TOWER. However... About 150 years ago, a lightning bolt struck one of the TOWERS. It was engulfed in flames that raged for three days. A sudden downpour finally put out the blaze. And that is how the BURNED TOWER came to be.HeartGold and SoulSilver omit the above references, since the Sage characters from the Tin Tower are absent. Only one Crystal reference, not found in Gold and Silver, remains in tact:When the legendary POKéMON appeared... They struck terror in those who saw their rise. And... Some even took to futile attacks. The legendary POKéMON, knowing their own power, fled, ignoring the frightened people.
Apparently, the Japanese script refers to Ho-Oh, as opposed to the beasts, as the one who left Ecruteak instead of retaliating against the humans (the text is vague because of the use of a generic pronoun that is not necessarily singular). At any rate, the remakes differ from Crystal in that they state Ho-Oh was the one under attack after the resurrection.In the distant past... When this tower burned in a fire, three nameless Pokémon perished in it. Then, a rainbow-hued Pokémon descended from the sky and somehow brought them back... The people were afraid of power such as the rainbow-hued Pokémon had shown. They tried to control it by force. The nameless Pokémon made no attempt to fight back. Instead, their great sorrow compelled them to leave. This legend has been passed down by the Ecruteak Gym Leader. Me? I was a Trainer way back when. Ho ho ho!
What do the remakes have to add, though? Unfortunately, the Kimono Girls subplot doesn't contribute anything to the mythology, since the characters never explain why they want the player to meet Ho-Oh/Lugia. However, there is one interesting reference in SoulSilver that I only noticed while going over the English script. The following is said by the guardian of the Whirl Islands' basin before the Silver Wing is found, so few players are likely to come across it:
I find it a little odd that Game Freak opted to introduce a completely new story, rather than shedding light on Lugia's involvement in the Brass Tower incident (which is never mentioned by name in the remakes, and unlike in Crystal, it is not clearly pointed out that Lugia was ever there). That said, this new angle is interesting for two reasons: 1) The mention of warring countries; 2) The contrast between Lugia's somewhat ruthless handling of the Whirl Islands situation, and Ho-Oh's merciful attitude towards its attackers.Originally Posted by SoulSilver
Who were the two countries?
The known regions are very clearly not referred to as separate countries in modern days, but was that the case over 100 years ago? While the side opposing the people of Johto could have come from a faraway place, the Whirl Islands are rather conveniently situated between two different regions: Johto and the island of Cianwood. What if the region west to Johto (and east to Hoenn) used to be a separate country, and as a result of Lugia's actions it was unified with Johto and the rest of the nation? It might have also been decided at that point that the Whirl Islands (now no longer one island) and part of the island of Cianwood, would become territory of the Johto region, although the division was no longer pertinent.
Is Lugia as benevolent as Ho-Oh?
HeartGold and SoulSilver diverge when it comes to the Kimono Girls' event, and which bird really wants to see the trust between humans and Pokémon restored. Remember that in each game, the remaining bird is merely made available later on, and nothing of note is said about it. However, the sole reference to the Burned Tower is in both games, so even SoulSilver players are exposed to what little is told about Ho-Oh and the legendary beasts.
It also stands out to me that like in the original games, the legendary birds are only tied to both Lugia and Ho-Oh in that they are flying Pokémon. Despite the fact that their habitats were retconned into the remakes, no reference implies that the birds have anything meaningful to do with Lugia in the game canon. In light of this, I think it can be safely ruled out that Lugia is their "master", because the bird trio are not even shrouded with any mystery (similar reasoning can be applied to why Jolteon, Flareon and Vaporeon are not the legendary beasts' origins; there would have been no reason to leave that tidbit out of Crystal if it had been true).
To me it also stands out that Lugia created lightning bolts to tear the island it was protecting. We know from Crystal that the Brass Tower was burned down because it had been hit by a lightning bolt. A coincidence? I think not; I have always suspected that the thunder wasn't a mere natural occurrence, and that it was the intervention of some Pokémon. But could it really have been Lugia? Just like what happened with the Whirl Islands, it would have had to have a reason for instigating an attack on its own habitat.
While I think that it is Ho-Oh that continues to trust humans and that Lugia lost that faith after the war, I don't actually believe that Lugia was responsible for compromising that relationship by way of destroying the Brass Tower. In fact, I suspect that Lugia was the one who put out the fire by summoning the rain, and that something else was the cause of the lightning. But if Lugia itself had the power to start the fire, perhaps it was being mimicked by someone: a shape-shifter.
Naturally, I am worried that the remakes are the last time that any of this will ever be brought up again. I would like to take the opportunity to say how much I hate the fact that the Celebi event slated for the upcoming movie promotion, is going to answer a question about Giovanni that could have been addressed in any number of ways not dealing with time travel. I think that it was bad enough that Team Rocket had anything to do with Johto in the first place (they could have stayed in Kanto and had the same plot there), when it was always clear that there were far more impending threats to the region in the past. But to have the last Johto event be about two human characters and not the Pokémon themselves? That is nothing short of a waste.
Fortunately, hope is not lost. If past movie distributions are any indication, the event legendary beasts and Celebi have a good chance to unlock added content in the Generation V games. This is not the place to be discussing that, but I would like to think that the legendary beasts, which are neither the mascots of the remakes nor event-exclusive Pokémon, were chosen for the movie and its promotion for a reason. My theory is that Zoroark's ability to transform into them in the movie is an allusion to their having been three Zoroa before Ho-Oh resurrected them. Zoroark may not be a legendary Pokémon, but neither is Unown, and that certainly did not prevent it from being associated with more than one (Suicune and then Arceus). Furthermore, having a link to a past region would be a far better outcome for Zoroa and Zoroark than to have to have no story at all (like Riolu and Lucario).
Speaking of the Unown, I am not worried about them for the simple fact that the Sinjoh Ruins event has already made them relevant to the Pokémon world as a whole. Unlike in Crystal, the in-game dialogue blatantly states that there is still more to find about the Unown and the Ruins of Alph (and now the Sinjoh Ruins and Arceus), so there is a fairly good chance that this will not turn out to be a red herring when the new generation is released a mere year after the event.