Team Yell is a Very British Pokémon Gang

By Alistair Jones on at

There’s a moment in Pokémon Sword and Shield where Hop, your enthusiastic and near-omnipresent rival, interrupts a conversation between your character and two Team Yell Grunts blocking your path in Galar cave. In response, one of the two Marnie stans tells him to ‘jog on’. It’s a minimal but surprisingly accurate attempt at capturing British culture, depicting a special brand of yobbishness - one based around the desire to be a little bit rude to strangers in a way that’s not really necessary, but immediately satisfying.

Elsewhere Sword and Shield try hard to nail down the local colour, with varying degrees of success. The enormous tie knots sported by Galar’s school children are spot-on, while the game’s laughing policemen will haunt my dreams until death. I’m a big fan of the use of ‘mum’ rather than the series’ standard American ‘mom’, but I’ve got to question whether anyone at Game Freak has ever set foot inside a British curry house.

When it comes to slang, those efforts are equally mixed. There are a few genuinely decent attempts, like when Hop tells older brother Leon that he’s ‘pants’ when it comes to directions, but those are drowned out by a tide of ‘mates’ that - when dropped into conversation as liberally as they are throughout Galar - make it seem like the region is based on Australia rather than Britain. Thankfully, it’s Team Yell that steps in to redress the balance.

Wielding two-pronged vuvuzelas and waving patterned woollen scarves aloft, it’s not hard to see that Team Yell’s grunts are based on stereotypical football hooligans. With the exception of the Wembley-style arch stretching over Wyndon’s gym, nods to the UK’s national sport are few and far between, but I find that helps make these punky cheerleaders’ presence throughout Galar far more welcoming.

It helps, of course, that they are far less prevalent than many of their counterparts from other regions. Team Yell is there to hold you up, but they do so in far fewer numbers than Team Rocket, and don’t really have the numbers or criminal intent to open up secret underground bases or attempt to rob multinational corporations.

They’re also much fresher and funnier than their earlier alternatives. I’ve beaten the cocky grunt holding the all-important key card on many occasions throughout my Pokémon adventures, but I’ve never had to fight off two members of a gobby fandom who are guarding sleeping critters before. I’ve had routes and tunnels and HQs blocked for a myriad of reasons, but I’ve never had a bloke with a pink mohican shout that he wasn’t going to let me pass to the tune of “you’re not singing anymore”.

Team Yell feels like the first Pokémon gang that's a part of its own regional culture (Team Flare’s love of fashion is a nod to its France-inspired homeland, but I can’t shake its genocidal impulses). There’s no desire to perpetrate actual evil - instead Team Yell feels like the group of fans who are being that little bit too rowdy on the train home from an away match. You don’t have to like them, but there’s no denying the undeniable sense of very British ‘banter’ that permeates everything they do.