Now that all this Mega Evolution business is firmly out of the way for now, I think it’s time for another round of training. I head down to the eastern gates of Shalour City with a bunch of my Kalosian Pokémon for some levelling, and run into Serena on the way. Serena has a gift for me: the HM that teaches Surf. Surprisingly early, but I’m not going to complain. “It’s kind of amazing how a person like you came to Kalos and ended up travelling with me,” Serena says. “It’s like destiny in a way.” Okay, I admit I’m not always totally sure what this girl is getting at, but that one was definitely a come on. She doesn’t seem inclined to pursue the conversation any further, though, so I continue on my way.
The outskirts of Shalour City feature Mareep, Exeggcute, Tauros, Miltank, Slowpoke, Pachirisu and Chatot – the last of which I quickly learn to hate. Unless I am very much mistaken, Chatot’s signature move, Chatter, has been updated. Where it previously had a variable chance of confusing its target based on the volume of the sounds Chatot had learned, now it just seems to confuse you every f@&$ing time. It is basically Air Cutter and Confuse Ray in one aggravating package. I mean… okay, Chatot needed a boost, and I’m glad Game Freak apparently recognised that, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to despise the little bastard with every fibre of my being. A few of my Pokémon evolve here – Bunnelby into Diggersby, whom I’ve talked about already, Espurr into Meowstic, both at level 25, Pancham into Pangoro (with a Dark Pokémon in my party, as I had been advised by readers), and Skiddo into Gogoat, both at level 32. I found Meowstic thoroughly underwhelming at first, since it’s a Psychic Pokémon whose shtick is “this Pokémon has psychic powers,” but it was suggested that I get one of each gender – not only do the males and females look very different, they appear to learn different attacks. The females learn destructive techniques like Charge Beam and Shadow Ball, while the males learn support moves like Charm and Miracle Eye. I guess that’s kind of interesting. Pangoro… well, I’m getting heavy Ursaring and Beartic vibes from this thing: big, slow, brutish, and a little too fond of beating things up. Honestly I’m beginning to wonder whether Game Freak are capable of taking the concept of ‘bear Pokémon’ in any other direction. Gogoat is kind of neat, I guess; picking a mountain goat to be the primary riding animal of historic Kalos is left-field enough that I can respect it, and mountain goats are pretty badass animals. A number of my other Pokémon do not evolve: Swirlix and Spritzee (whom I’m led to believe are trade evolutions), Honedge, Amaura, Helioptile, Binacle and Skrelp (as well as a few others who, based on the pattern of empty spaces in my Pokédex, aren’t going to – like Carbink, which surprised me; she doesn’t look fully evolved). At least some of these probably just need more time.
I now need to cross a river mouth to continue my journey in the direction of the next town, Coumarine City. I was sort of banking on Photia being able to learn Surf (sure, she’s not a Water-type, but she’s a squid; come on!), but apparently not. Luckily, help is on hand, in the form of a random guy who wants to give me his Lapras! I briefly consider adding Lapras to my main team, but decide against it; I’ve just added Orion to my party and I think I want my next switch to be for a Kalos Pokémon. Anyway, Lapras dutifully takes us across the river. The only other notable event of this trip is that I encounter a Skiddo ranch – one which is apparently happy to led random strangers ride the Skiddo. Skiddo are restricted in their movement in certain important ways (they have difficulty with stairs) but they do possess an incredible supernatural ability that Pokémon trainers the world over have longed for since the dawn of training itself: they can jump up ledges. Now I just need to figure out how to smuggle one out of this area and nothing will be able to stop me…
I soon reach Coumarine City, which I think is Cherbourg, although I admit I haven’t been exactly sure where I am for a while now. Coumarine isn’t a huge city in terms of population, but it’s very spread out; half of the city is scattered around Azure Bay and is mostly harbour buildings, while half is at the top of a high ridge, where the Gym and Pokémon Centre are; the two areas are connected by monorail. As I enter the city, I receive a message from Serena on my holo-caster: battle in front of the Coumarine Gym, now. Wait, how does she even know I’m in- oh, whatever. I take a cursory glance around the harbour, accept a Good Rod as tribute from one of the locals, and head for the monorail – only to find Professor Sycamore hanging out with the actress Diantha in the station. Sycamore congratulates me on achieving Mega Evolution, and begins speculating on how it works, and particularly on why it’s only ever been documented in Kalos. Diantha suggests it could be something to do with Kalos’ legendary Pokémon, which Sycamore seems to think is reasonable. He apparently has something to do, and leaves rather quickly after that. Diantha doesn’t stick around either, but does offer to battle the next time we meet. You know, I didn’t give this chick much thought the first time I met her because I was sort of focused on Lysandre, but I’m getting the impression she’s quite important. She couldn’t be the Champion of Kalos, could she? An actress? Then again… I don’t think I’ve met anyone else who looks ridiculous enough… and if Lysandre really is the leader of Team Flare, it would make sense for them to be clearly set opposite each other, as they were in that first conversation (alternatively, maybe the game is screwing with me and it’s actually the other way around). Hmm. Well, anyway, up the monorail I go – I have a date (or something) to get to. Serena has kind of let herself go; her Pokémon have barely levelled at all since our last battle in the Tower of Mastery. She wants to see Mega Evolution, and although I promised myself I wouldn’t use my Digivice unless I had to, I oblige her by Digivolving Ilex and flattening her Braixen with a super-powered Petal Dance. As a result of the battle, Tereus also hits level 35 and attains his final form: the falcon-like Talonflame. I’m beginning to wonder whether his fire powers are mostly for decoration, since he seems to be predominantly a physical attacker, hasn’t learned any other Fire attacks since Ember (which sort of lags behind Aerial Ace in damage potential, even against Fire-weak targets), and doesn’t seem likely to be compatible with most of the Fire-type physical attacks I know of like Fire Punch or Fire Fang – Blaze Kick, maybe? Only time will tell…
With Serena dealt with, I take a moment to explore Coumarine City. The game seems to have chosen this moment to have NPCs explain a whole bunch of stuff related to the Dream World, and the fact that Pokémon in hordes will occasionally have their Hidden Abilities (!). I sit down for a rest on a park bench next to an old man, and strike up a conversation. “So those egg-like things that are found at the Pokémon Day Care… strictly speaking they’re not eggs. They’re more like a Pokémon cradle.” Oh, well, that’s interesting becau- wait, WHAT? Wha- WHAT? CONTEXT, man, give me context! What- what do you think an egg IS, “strictly speaking”? Do eggs other than Pokémon eggs even EXIST in this world? What does this statement MEAN? I almost want to say that what he actually means is something like “aren’t eggs cute? It’s like they’re like a cradle for Pokémon!” but surely if that were what he meant then he wouldn’t have said “strictly speaking they’re not eggs.” Why does this world insist on confounding me with one insane non sequitur after another!?
I need to smash something. I’m going to the Gym.
The Coumarine Gym, finally, is a Gym I can respect: a Grass Pokémon Gym. Build around a huge and unimaginably ancient tree, liberally festooned with balconies and trellises for the vines and foliage to climb over, this is the kind of place I could see myself taking over as a base of operations for a glorious crusade. Having to swing on ropes from one platform to another is a bit tiresome, but I could always remodel (on that note – although they are visually stunning, the Gyms of this game are a little short on the ‘puzzle’ front so far, mostly just being a way to show off the game’s ability to model a three-dimensional environment). I’d have no qualms destroying the current inhabitants either – Pokémon Rangers. Pah. Bunch of smug hippies who think they know what Grass Pokémon are all about and love nothing more than ‘defending’ the wilderness from ‘deranged sociopaths’ like me. Grass Pokémon aren’t about peace, calm and oneness with nature – they’re about horrible debilitating pollen attacks and suffocating overgrowth! These morons have no idea of the $#!t they’re playing with here! Pan, my Quilladin, has known Pin Missile for a while now (vastly improved from its previous incarnations), and Cecrops’ poison is useful too. We fight our way to the top, encountering little resistance (although one of the trainers does bring a fairly potent Exeggutor to bear against us). And there, I meet the Gym Leader, Ramos… a sweet, humble old Scottish gardener with a huge pair of pruning shears, who loves the sheer indomitable tenacity of plants.
You know what? This guy I can work with.
Ramos doesn’t put up much of a fight, sadly. His first Pokémon, a Jumpluff, sets itself on fire trying to attack Tereus and then falls to an Aerial Ace, prompting him to bring out his partner, a Gogoat. I figure this can be Pan’s moment to shine and bring him out to Pin Missile his way through the rest of Ramos’ team. Gogoat drops quickly; the last Pokémon, a Weepinbell, is neutral to Bug attacks and puts up more of a fight, so I eventually have to switch in Cecrops, who deals with it easily enough. Ramos obligingly hands over a Grass Knot TM and his badge: a gold frame in the shape of a stylised leaf, filled in with blue-green glass, called the Plant Badge. As a result of the battle, Pan reaches level 36, a traditional level for starters to reach their final forms, and does not disappoint, becoming a huge Grass/Fighting-type Chesnaught, a bipedal mammalian creature of unclear extraction with a viciously spiked tortoise shell. He also gets what I take to be a signature move: Spiked Shell, which seems to be a variant of Protect with a minor retributive effect against close-range attacks. I think I like this Pokémon; he does a fairly solid job staking out his own niche among the Grass-type starters, and doesn’t seem derivative of anything that’s gone before at first glance.
The next route leads back to Paris, which presumably has a Gym of its own in the previously inaccessible northern areas, but first I want to check out Azure Bay and the mysterious cave marked on my Town Map…
Ridiculous quote log:
“Pokémon sind im Pokéball. Ich sitze auf dem Stuhl.”
…ja; sehr gut. Bleib auf diesem Stuhl.