The thing that makes me roll my eyes when someone says something like the opening to this article (not aiming this at Gault to be clear, more at the subject that he’s trying to set up) —
“There is a darkness at the edges of the Pokémon universe. It is a franchise about capturing monsters in small orbs and making them fight each other, all while everyone wears a cheery anime grin.”
— is that like, while sure, true, that is perhaps the most existentially boring “darkness” you can pull from these games. There are so many weirder, far more interesting things you could draw from them as subject matter for some kind of response. Like the ghost pokemon that explicitly, canonically, were once human. Or the games implying that Blue’s Raticate died between battles because he didn’t get him medical attention quickly enough. Or just, generally, the sheer lawlessness of this universe. The free healthcare compared with pricy basic beverages. These games are so goddamn weird in ways that Game Freak also refuses to explore, and for me “pokemon with guns” just feels like a missed opportunity to actually make something interesting.
Black/White is probably what you’re thinking of, where the “evil” team was essentially Pokemon PETA. Though in the end it kiiiiinda sidestepped that question and ended up being a surprisingly good story about abuse and found family. (That generation, 5, has an unironically good narrative to it.)