A Pokémon Trainer (ポケモントレーナー, Pokemon Torēnā) is any human in the fictional world of Pokémon whose hobby, pastime, or profession is the collecting, caretaking, and competitive battling of any of the eponymous Pokémon creatures. The humans being the commanders of their custom-trained Pokémon in battles is as important as the abilities of the Pokémon themselves in all forms of Pokémon media.
From the very outset of the Pokémon franchise, the world of Pokémon had been established as an Earth-like world populated by humans and, notably, an infinitely diverse biomass of magical creatures called Pokémon (short for Pocket Monsters). In this world, humans are referred to as Pokémon Trainers if they collect, take care of, and train Pokémon for use in competitive matches with those of other trainers called Pokémon battles, officially sponsored and otherwise. Other Pokémon-related hobbies and professions exist in the world, such as Pokémon breeding, and a wholly different activity is undertaken by Pokémon coordinators who groom their Pokémon for use in Pokémon contests more closely resembling dog shows, but by far the path of the Pokémon Trainer is the "primary" sporting activity in the franchise. This is the main activity/quest that the "main" Pokémon RPGs feature; as such, players of Pokémon RPGs are considered Pokémon Trainers themselves.
Any Pokémon RPG casts the player as a young Pokémon Trainer ready to set out on a Pokémon journey across that game's region of the Pokémon world, on a quest to capture many species of Pokémon and, from them, train a team of Pokémon proficient enough in the sport of Pokémon battling that they may carry the Trainer to victory against that region's Pokémon League. The Trainer's traditional tool for capturing Pokémon is the Poké Ball, which is sold at Poké Marts in the game's various cities and comes in many distinctive varieties, and a Trainer by tradition receives a piece of high-tech equipment called the Pokédex, which functions as an encyclopedia for the Pokémon in that region which the Trainer must fill up, among other adventuring gear.
Throughout each journey, the Trainer will battle hundreds of other Trainers as well as encounter countless Pokémon in the wild, and the Trainer will be involved in subplots involving thwarting the schemes of criminal organizations of Trainers whose name traditionally starts with "Team", such as the first and second generation's Team Rocket, the third generation's Team Magma and Team Aqua (among other Teams in GameCube Pokémon installments), the fourth generation's Team Galactic, and the fifth generation's Team Plasma. While the Pokémon Trainers have been depicted as boys in every installment, from the Crystal version of Pokémon GS onwards, the player has had the option to choose the gender of the Trainer; from then on, each new set of installments has introduced a new pair of standard Pokémon Trainer designs, such as a pair each for Pokémon Advance, the GBA remake of the original (featuring a new redesign of the playable Trainer from the original Red and Blue versions often called "Trainer Red"), and Pokémon (Diamond/Pearl). A small concession made by the franchise to the changing times is the gradual change from the "rivals to the death" image of the first series (Yellow, Red and Blue), to the now very casual friendly talk between the protagonist and their neighbor of Diamond/Pearl. In the Generation 3 games; Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, the rival took the gender opposite to the one chosen by the player.
The profession of the Poké Ball-throwing Pokémon Trainer is easily as iconically significant to the overall Pokémon franchise as the Poké Ball itself, and is often the image that the Pokémon franchise in general conjures. Perhaps that is why Super Smash Bros. Brawl, in addition to featuring individual Pokémon such as Pikachu as playable fighters, has now been revealed to feature the generic Pokémon Trainer as a playable entity all the same. However, the Trainer is not the one that does the fighting; he stays away a safe distance as he "directs" his Pokémon, played by the player, to do the battling, just like the Trainer would in normal Pokémon battles.
Unlike the other fighters, Pokémon Trainer doesn't actually fight his opponents himself. Instead, he sends out his Pokémon team of Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard to fight on his behalf, each with its own set of moves, strengths, and weaknesses. The Trainer is able to switch between the three Pokémon using the down special move, Pokémon Change, which each Pokémon has access to. If a Pokémon fights for too long, it will gradually weaken. The Pokémon Trainer's Final Smash, Triple Finish, is performed by all three Pokémon at once.
During a fight, the Pokémon Trainer can be seen in the background, using hand signals and commands to direct his Pokémon, and running across the screen (on large stages) so he can be near his Pokémon at all times. When his Pokémon are defeated, he remains in the background, but pulls his hat over his eyes and assumes a defeated posture.
A simplified form of type effectiveness is implemented for each of the three Pokémon: Squirtle is weak to Grass and resists Fire, Ivysaur is weak to Fire and resists Water, and Charizard is weak to Water and resists Grass. A resisted attack does 0.9x knockback, while a super-effective attack does 1.1x knockback. No characters aside from another Pokémon Trainer (or a Kirby having copied one) have access to damaging Grass- and Water-type attacks, but several characters have KO-capable Fire-type attacks, which overall gives Squirtle more survivability and cuts Ivysaur's noticably. It also heavily affects matches where one Pokémon Trainer faces another, as each player will try to switch to gain the advantage.
Pokémon Change (Japanese: ポケモンチェンジ Pokémon Change) is Pokémon Trainer's down special move in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Unlike other special moves being exclusive to one Pokémon (for instance, Rock Smash only being available to Charizard), Pokémon Change is universal between Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard (as is Triple Finish).
When sent out, each Pokémon is initially granted 100 points of energy called stamina. 0.5 points of stamina is deducted for every second a Pokémon is in battle, thus allowing for a maximum of approximately 3 minutes and 20 second of normal performance. Executing an attack also drains 0.5 stamina points. When a Pokémon's stamina reaches 40, their stance will change to signal oncoming fatigue. Once stamina reaches 0, the Pokémon's attacks drop in effectiveness to 0.7x damage. When any Pokémon is knocked out, the stamina of all three is increased by 30%.
Pokémon Change mimics anime/manga-style battling by switching out to the next available Pokémon to let the previously used one rest; while not in battle, each Pokémon will regenerate 0.8 points of stamina per second (until restored to 100). While switching out, the user is temporarily immune to any on-screen attacks. This makes it an effective method for avoiding certain Final Smashes if timed correctly. Damage percentage is shared by all 3 Pokémon, so changing Pokémon will not affect damage at all. Effects such as increased or decreased size held by the previous Pokémon will not be carried over during Pokémon Change (Final Smash wielding being one exception). Pokémon Change cannot be activated in midair.
Due to the Pokémon Trainer starting with only Squirtle, Pokémon Change is disabled in The Subspace Emissary until the player obtains Ivysaur; it is then limited until Charizard is obtained.
In Super Smash Bros.
In the original Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, a Pokémon Trainer can be seen walking in the background during Pikachu's portion of the introductory video.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl
The Pokémon Trainer makes an official appearance as a playable entity in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, modeled after the male Trainer design seen in the FireRed and LeafGreen versions. However, it would be inaccurate to call him a playable "fighter", as selecting him is like selecting a Zelda/Sheik-style character with three switchable forms, which are the three Pokémon the Pokémon Trainer has in his collection: Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Charizard. The Trainer visually issues commands in the background of the stage to the Pokémon in the foreground, corresponding with the actions input by the player to the current Pokémon as the real fighter. One, however, might say the player controls the Trainer, who commands the Pokémon.
In Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U
As Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U no longer supports mid-match character changes, the Pokémon Trainer does not return as a playable character. While Charizard became a standalone playable character, Squirtle and Ivysaur were both cut from the roster as well. However, the Pokémon Trainer does make a cameo as a collectible trophy alongside both Squirtle and Ivysaur. The 3DS version also features Calem and Serena, the playable Trainers from Pokémon X and Y, as a singular trophy under the name "Pokémon Trainer (Pokémon X & Y)".
In the Pokémon Adventures manga
- Main article: Pokédex Holders (Pokémon Adventures)
The Pokemon Trainers appear also in the manga. All main characters in the manga are Pokémon Trainers, referred to as Pokédex Holders.
- Oddly, in the sequels, Gold, Silver, and Crystal and their remakes HeartGold and SoulSilver, once the player has access to Mt. Silver, he is stated as "Pokémon Trainer Red", making it the first time his official name is announced, and yet his trophy in Brawl gives the description of a Pokémon Trainer in general. This may mean that although the Trainer is based on Red, he could just to be a random Pokémon Trainer, though this has not been confirmed.
- This makes him the only protagonist with a custom name that isn't given an actual name in Brawl, although he is given a name outside the Super Smash Bros. franchise, as mentioned above.
- The Pokémon Trainer's trophy description in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U reference the first theme song from the Pokémon animated series and it mentions Ash, the protagonist of the anime.