White 2 Playthrough Journal, episode 13: An offer we can’t refuse

'Sir, Ah say sir, Ah have important business to attend to and you are wasting mah time; can we *please* wrap this up?'

Clay has no time for frivolity.  He is a Serious Businessman who spends his days engaged in Serious Business.  Of course, since he owns a mining business, he undertakes this seriousness at the bottom of a mine shaft.  Clay is too industrious to take time off to run the Gym, and too cheap to buy separate premises for his official battles, so he’s just opened a section of his mines to trainers as the Driftveil Gym.  The maze of elevators, tunnels and walkways provides all the testing most challengers need.  We notice, upon entering, that much of his lighting has failed in the past two years and the miners now work mainly in the dark.  Many of them have lights in their helmets, and the rest know the mines like the backs of their hands anyway.  We are not so fortunate, and consult Clyde the Guide for assistance.  He explains, regretfully, that most of the electrical cables have been on the blink for months, and the Gym loses more with every power surge, plunging more and more of the mines into darkness, but because Clay himself doesn’t mind working in the dark, and most of the miners can muddle through as well, he’s never bothered to replace them.  We stare at Clyde wordlessly.  He shrugs and points to a pile of spare cables sitting in the lobby, suggesting that we rewire some of the lights ourselves.  With raised eyebrows and sighs, we gather up the cables, call out Sansa and Elisif, and get to work.  The mine is a veritable maze of platforms, bridges and conveyor belts, but our haphazard restoration of the Gym’s lighting serves as a trail of breadcrumbs, helping us to keep track of where we’ve been, and any task involving sparking cables or ungrounded wires is firmly delegated to our Ampharos.  Eventually, just as we’re about to run out of spare cables, we stumble into Clay’s arena and come face to face with the ‘Miner King.’

When questioned about the state of his Gym, Clay explains that he doesn’t have the time for- sorry, that he “ain’t got no tahm” for “messin’ about wit’ maintenance,” and that he prefers to let “y’all li’l trainers” take a crack at it when challenging the Gym, apparently to avoid paying an actual electrician to do the work.  At this point my understanding of his cringe-inducing accent breaks down as he makes an indecipherable comment about mangoes (I think) before barrelling right through our looks of disbelief to accept our challenges.  Nothing if not an opportunist, Clay decides I will open with the Pokémon I have out already – my Ampharos, Sansa.  Between Confuse Ray and Take Down, she proves to be more than Clay’s Krokorok bargained for, but predictably falls flat against his signature Pokémon, Excadrill.  As a matter of public service, I wish it to be known that Clay’s Excadrill is a bastard of Whitney’s-Miltank proportions, with tremendous excesses of speed and power which Clay exploits without mercy.  Even after being slowed and weakened by Daenerys’s Bulldoze and Intimidated by Barristan, Excadrill still manages to take the Growlithe down before being defeated by Jaime’s Razor Shell.  Luckily, Clay’s last Pokémon standing, Sandslash, is not nearly so thorny (well… I mean, literally it is, but not in the vaguer metaphorical sense) and quickly falls.  Clay grunts some manner of congratulation and hands me a Quake Badge before turning his attention to Jim, whose new Ducklett, Lydia, acquits herself admirably (y’know… for a Ducklett) as does Ulfric the Servine.  After being handed his second loss of the day, Clay looks at the two of us thoughtfully, the dollar signs that perpetually swirl in his eyes beginning to tick over slowly.  He tells us he has a proposition for us, and leads us out of the Gym.

 Clay's lair deep within the Driftveil mines.

Over the past two years, Clay has been studiously building up both Driftveil City’s economic influence, and his own influence within it, by means of a dramatic new attraction: the Pokémon World Tournament, a permanent large-scale facility which hosts regular high-profile Pokémon battles.  It’s… not really a world tournament just yet, he admits sheepishly, but it’s already attracting powerful trainers from all over Unova, hence Driftveil’s recent tourism boom.  Of course, strong trainers instinctively seek other strong trainers – which is where we come in.  Attracting tough trainers has something of a snowball effect; the more there are, the hotter the battles will get, and the hotter the battles get, the more trainers will flock to the city, and the more money will flow into Cl- er… into Driftveil’s economy.  Yes.  All for the city.  Naturally.  He’s already started getting expressions of interest from a few of the other Gym Leaders – one of whom has already decided to make an appearance.  Cheren is waiting at the tournament grounds, talking to Hugh, who was presumably sent there after defeating Clay, just like us.  Clay makes a curt gesture to the staff, who sign up all four of us to take part in an upcoming eight-person singles tournament, and then quickly departs to take care of something else.  I frown and start up a conversation with Hugh, hoping to gauge his mental state after his meeting with Rood, while Jim quietly scopes out the other trainers milling around the lobby.  He manages to pick out three of the other competitors – presumably more of Clay’s recent successful challengers – but cannot immediately find the last one.  Suddenly, just as we’re about to file inside the arena, he notices the scientist Colress watching us from across the room.  Colress gives Jim a jaunty grin and a thumbs up before joining the three unknown trainers at the opposite entrance.  Hmm.

 The PWT building, in all its splendour.

Once we get through all the usual palaver of opening the tournament and introducing the competitors (Clay sure knows how to make a spectacle of things) I am paired with Cheren in the first round, and Jim is paired with Hugh.  Evidently fed up with having to tone things down for his Aspertia Gym challengers, Cheren is packing some serious firepower this time, in the form of one of my old enemies from Black and White – Stoutland, who hits like a truck and is built like one too.  Sansa, luckily, is tough enough to weather its hammer blows, paralyse it with a Thunder Wave, and finish it with an electrical onslaught.  Cheren’s remaining Pokémon, Cinccino and Watchog, are not nearly so menacing and fall relatively quickly to Sansa and Barristan.  Jim, meanwhile, seems to have soundly trounced Hugh, unsurprisingly.  The next round pits us against… each other.  Joy of joys.  Jim’s Lucario, Dovahkiin, is first up and gives Sansa a run for her money, weakening her severely, but eventually collapses under her assault.  When his Servine, Ulfric, appears, I seize my opportunity and switch in Barristan, whose fire is sure to wither the Grass-type.  My Growlithe closes in for a Flame Wheel, and-

Oh, god damn it, Zoroark!

Caught off guard by Jim’s newest Pokémon and on completely the wrong foot, I lose Barristan to Zoroark’s Foul Play, and Sansa, already weakened, doesn’t last long either.  The victories do not come without cost, and Zoroark is left too tired to defend against Jaime’s relentless Razor Shell… but now it’s all down to Jaime and Ulfric, not exactly a match made in heaven.  Though my Dewott fights valiantly as always, leaf against shell is one sword fight he isn’t going to win.  Pouting and sticking out my tongue, I vow revenge, but grudgingly wish Jim luck in the final round – against Colress.  Colress, when he appears, is as excited as ever for a battle, exhorting Jim to show him the strength of humans and Pokémon united.  Eyeing him warily, Jim calls on Dovahkiin to smite Colress’s Magneton, which has to spend the rest of the match trying to put itself back together.  Although he’s brought in a new Pokémon, the Psychic-type Elgyem, Colress fails to make any real headway against Jim’s Pokémon, and Dovahkiin and Zoroark manage to mop up his Elgyem and Klink without much trouble.  With much fanfare and glaringly bright stage lighting, Jim is proclaimed the victor and led triumphantly off the stage, where he is unceremoniously presented with a little ticket reading “1 BP” (fine print: “redeemable only at participating battle facilities; expires one year from date of issue; Miner King Enterprises will not accept torn, faded, burnt, soiled or partially digested BP; terms and conditions apply”) and dismissed.  Now that the battles are over, this is Clay’s show once again.

 Keep at it, and you'll even attract Champion-level trainers to the PWT - just THINK of the advertising revenue!

The Pokémon World Tournament is what we get instead of the Battle Frontier in Black 2 and White 2.  Much like the Battle Subway it awards Battle Points for each tournament victory, redeemable for a variety of useful battle items not available elsewhere, and like earlier versions of the Battle Frontier it collects a number of important services into one place – in this case, the move deleter, move reminder, and Hidden Power dude.  It also offers a couple of unusual battle formats; a rental tournament (just like the Battle Factory of old) and a ‘mix’ tournament, in which you borrow one of your opponent’s Pokémon in each battle – and your opponent borrows one of yours (this… can end badly)!  Perhaps a little washed-out in comparison to the fourth-generation Battle Frontier, with its tricky Battle Arcade and Battle Castle formats, or the even older and even more expansive Emerald Battle Frontier, but the weird formats aren’t the main draw of the Pokémon World Tournament – the true attractions, Clay notes, are the trainers themselves.  Once you progress further in the game, all kinds of famous trainers will start entering tournaments here, including just about every Gym Leader since forever.  Want to relive former glories with a battle against Winona’s Altaria or Jasmine’s Steelix, or just enjoy one last punch-up with Giovanni?  This is the place to do it.  Personally, I was something of a fan of the eclectic battle styles you had to learn in order to complete some of the old Battle Frontier challenges, and the fact that the Battle Points you earned from all of them were universally useful kept them from being too much of a pointless sideshow, but I have to admit there’s something to the ‘all-stars’ feeling of the higher-level tournaments in Driftveil City.  Challenging these people on their own turf is one thing, but entering tournaments with them finally puts the players on the same tier, which is a tremendously empowering thing for the game’s atmosphere – and nostalgia is certainly a factor (I have to admit, the designers do seem to know their audience… from time to time).  I also like the way the Pokémon World Tournament fits into what’s going on in Unova, because of course Clay is exactly the kind of person who would go to these lengths to boost Driftveil’s economy, and you can see the effect that it’s already had on the town, even in the early stages of the project.  Hey, I don’t often get to see sensible world-building from these people; let me enjoy it.  In short, while Clay’s latest project isn’t exactly my ‘vision’ of a perfect battle facility, I think it’s a pretty solid addition to Black 2 and White 2.

Discuss.

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