Just… so much holy $#!t
All of the things happening
I should… like… talk about it all. I warn you, this one just kept getting longer and longer and at some point I just lost control of it, because there were just so many things I had to comment on and I didn’t want to split up the events of Delta Episode any further. If even half of the things I’m reading into these events are true, my views about the history of the Pokémon world and the relationship between humans and Pokémon need serious revision; I mean, I’m seriously beginning to think Archie might have been right to waken Kyogre, and to hell with the risks. Some of the ideas I’m starting to have will probably crystallise in the article I’m supposed to be writing soon about Mega Evolution (and by the way, I am so glad I didn’t try to write that before playing this game), but the rest… hard to say. May have to write something else to deal with the history of Hoenn in detail. I’ll think about it. In the meantime, here are my reactions to the final plot sequence of Alpha Sapphire…
- After returning to Rustboro City from Meteor Falls, I learn that a Team Aqua force led by Admin Matt has just attacked Devon and stolen a critical part of the device that they’re using to stop the meteor. Matt. Dude. I thought Team Aqua were good guys now. Way to let me down, man. Unless… could they be working with Zinnia? Or could they independently be trying to sabotage Professor Cozmo’s plan because they find it just as worrying as she does?
- Well, off to Mossdeep City.
- Oh, hey, the Team Aqua quintuplets are back. In other news – Camerupt, ERUPTION!
- Wait, they want me to stop Matt? But… they work for him, don’t they? What’s going on here?
He’s… he’s actually insane.
He has developed serious abandonment issues due to Archie becoming introspective and distant after the Kyogre crisis, and has decided to deal with them by completing Project Azoth himself – by… using the power of a Digivice he found at Meteor Falls to blow up one of the Mossdeep Space Centre’s rockets, amplifying the energy contained in its fuel thousands of times over and devastating all of Hoenn. Look, dude, when my best friend acts distant I just bitch at him about it. Creating a magical nuke out of a massive rocket is kind of an overreaction, don’t you think? Also… you may have subtly missed the point of Project Azoth. Just a tiny bit. I guess this sequence is supposed to be more or less analogous to the bit in Emerald when Maxie becomes so frustrated from losing control of Groudon that he decides to use Mossdeep’s rocket fuel to spark an eruption at Mount Chimney. I like things better this way, since – all mockery aside – it does make a weird kind of sense for Matt’s obsessive personality.
Well, whatever. Mega Sharpedo or no Mega Sharpedo, he’s going down.
- At this point, of course, Zinnia turns up again. Her Whismur, Aster, snatches away the part that Matt stole, and Zinnia herself produces a little more exposition. Based on what she’s saying here, it seems like I was pretty close with my guess in the last entry at how Professor Cozmo’s plan might go wrong – Zinnia fears that the Link Cable will just warp the meteor to an alternate Earth, the existence of which has been theorised by her people, the Draconids, for generations. However, it seems like the world she’s thinking of is the world of the original Ruby and Sapphire – she speaks of “a world where maybe the evolution of Pokémon took a slightly different path, where Mega Evolution is unknown… A world where that war 3,000 years ago… never happened. A world where the ultimate weapon was never even built.” Which… okay, is a very strange way of explaining something that I’m not sure ever really needed to be explained, but it’ll get no objection from me. Zinnia, to Steven’s horror, continues by destroying the part Matt stole to prevent us from going through with Cozmo’s plan, then swipes Matt’s Digivice and leaves for the Team Aqua hideout with Aster.
- At the Team Aqua hideout, Zinnia quickly defeats Archie with her Dragon Pokémon and, now with five Digivices in her possession (her own, May’s, Wally’s, Matt’s and Archie’s), declares that she is ready to summon Rayquaza at the Sky Pillar. She also makes a rather strange comment – when Archie asks who she is, she responds “That’s a surprisingly difficult question… I couldn’t become who I was supposed to be, so who does that make me now?” I’m sort of at a loss as to what she means by that. She certainly seems to be doing her duty as a Lorekeeper with incredible dedication and more than a little… shall we say, ‘creativity.’ Does she have some terrible failure in the past that she’s trying to make up for?
- In order to get into the Sky Pillar, I have to grab Wallace from Sootopolis; he’s the only one who can unseal the damn place for me, as a descendant of another tribe as ancient as Zinnia’s (who presumably have all kinds of mystic secrets and powers of their own that we won’t be getting into in this game). He’s also honour-bound to test me with a battle at his full strength, which means that Wallace’s Champion team from Emerald version gets to make an appearance. I suppose they had to work that into the game somewhere, and where better to stuff any leftover Emerald miscellany than the Rayquaza sequence?
- Okay, now things get interesting. Zinnia is waiting at the bottom of the Sky Pillar and has decided to share with me some of her Lorekeeper secrets as we climb – everything she knows of Hoenn’s mythical past. She speaks first of a “primal age,” thousands of years ago, when Groudon and Kyogre fought unendingly over the world’s sources of powerful natural energy, and the people of Hoenn were at their mercy.
How long has this been passed down?
And what was the world like in the primal age?
I can’t imagine any sort of urban civilisation being able to develop under the conditions Zinnia describes (although things would doubtless have changed very quickly after the events of the next part of her story), but at the same time, this is a period when the same natural energy that fuels Primal Reversion – the energy that has revitalised Hoenn in the days and weeks since Kyogre’s defeat, and turned Sootopolis City into a verdant paradise – was abundant in the world, and already Zinnia describes her people as “Dragon-type Pokémon users” in this era of their history. She has a very grim view of the primal age, but clearly the Draconids were able to survive (and thrive?) in Hoenn for a long time, and clearly there were at least some Pokémon that they were on good terms with.
- The second age of Hoenn’s mythic history begins with a storm of meteors that “fell in their multitude upon a waterfall that had long been home to [the Draconids]” – obviously this refers to Meteor Falls. The meteorites shone with a rainbow light that drew the attention of a powerful emerald Dragon Pokémon – Rayquaza, who conquered both Groudon and Kyogre and ushered in a thousand years of peace. A thousand years is a suspiciously round number, but in the absence of any other data I suppose I’ll have to take it for granted that Zinnia is at least in the right ball park. In any case, this part of the story is pretty straightforward – Rayquaza saved the Draconids from the oppression of Groudon and Kyogre’s eternal conflict, and so was worshipped as a deity from that point on. The rainbow meteorites are clearly Digivice cores, or some raw, unrefined form of them, but Rayquaza doesn’t Mega Evolve yet – that happens in the next part of Zinnia’s tale. It’s interesting that these can come from outer space; stones charged with pure life force, from a place higher than the heavens. Certainly gives the “Pokémon are from space” crowd something to talk about, and makes it seem at the very least plausible that life in the Pokémon world has its origins in a sort of panspermia-type mechanism – or that maybe the impact of one of these celestial bodies might have been the original catalyst for the emergence of life from inorganic substances on Earth.
- Now for the third part of Zinnia’s story – “the best part,” in her opinion. A thousand years after the previous events she described, a truly enormous meteor struck Hoenn and left behind a huge crater – the crater in which Sootopolis City was later built(hmm… odd… I always thought Sootopolis was a volcanic formation). The meteor itself was bad enough, but worse, the impact caused a surge of natural energy that reawakened Kyogre and Groudon, who were hungry after their long sleep. Now, this is interesting. Notice that, since the beginning of Zinnia’s tale, the boundless natural energy that filled Hoenn in the primal age seems to have ebbed, and she’s never really explained when or why. It takes the disturbance of the meteor impact to create enough of an abundance of life energy to attract the interest of the primal Pokémon. You can compare the way life energy ‘pooled’ in the Cave of Origin and was released when Primal Kyogre was defeated, restoring that energy to Hoenn and allowing the region’s ecosystem to support biodiversity that it hadn’t known in a thousand years. I think there may be more going on here than Zinnia and the Draconids realise (or want to) – while Kyogre and Groudon sleep, life energy stagnates. The chaos they bring, while destructive, also cycles enormous amounts of energy that would otherwise collect in a few places of spiritual power and remain dormant; while they sleep, Hoenn is at peace, but also becomes steadily less fertile, less magical… less suited to Pokémon, and more suited to humans, who are the ones telling this story.
- Hmm… I’m reading some rather subversive stuff in this story arc.
I wonder whether any of it is intentional?
- In any case, the meteor that struck what is now Sootopolis was made of the same brilliant rainbow ore as the ones that had landed at Meteor Falls a thousand years previously. The Draconids, mindful of their history, prayed before the stone and were able to summon Rayquaza. They made “a wish for salvation” that transformed Rayquaza into “a sublime figure, incandescent with overwhelming life force” – Mega Rayquaza. When it fought Groudon and Kyogre, “the golden filaments that sprang from its body covered the sky,” “an emerald brilliance illuminated the area,” and “a terrible wind [presumably the effect of Rayquaza’s Delta Stream aura] rose,” with the result that the other two Pokémon were “drained of their primal powers” and returned to sleep. All of this was observed by “a tall visitor from a distant land” – perhaps AZ, the ancient immortal king of Kalos – who spat out some cryptic nonsense about great disturbances, and bonds, and Delta, or something. In response, the Draconids built the Sky Pillar, with an altar at its pinnacle above the clouds to house the great rainbow stone and murals up and down its walls to record their history. They prophesied that another meteor would one day fall, even greater and more terrible than the last, and set in place a plan, to be enacted by the Lorekeepers, to summon Rayquaza again before the meteor struck and save the world. This is the legacy Zinnia has to live up to.
So… no pressure or anything.
- According to Zinnia, a thousand years have passed since Rayquaza was summoned by the prayers of the Draconids at the Sootopolis crater. Again, suspiciously round number there, but let’s go with it. That means it’s been two thousand years, by the Draconids’ reckoning, since the end of the primal age – a long time, sure, but also not all that long, in the grand scheme of things; AZ was a thousand years old already by then! This would also push AZ’s ancient Kalosian kingdom and its achievements (as well as, incidentally, the creation of the first Mega Stones on Earth) well back into the primal age, which again raises questions about what the world was really like back then, although it’s not entirely clear whether Zinnia’s narrative of unrelenting catastrophe is supposed to describe Hoenn or the entire world. For the Biblically inclined among us, it is perhaps also a point of allegorical interest that the first appearance of Rayquaza, or the “saviour” as the Draconids insistently call it, therefore corresponds with the time of Jesus in our own world’s history.
- Finally, we reach the Dragonhark Altar at the pinnacle of the Sky Pillar. Zinnia decides to take a little time out with Aster to watch the meteor shower. “I used to watch the stars like this all the time… together with Aster. We were always together. In good times and in bad. I loved her. I loved her with everything I had… but I still lost her… Hahaha… I want to see her… I want to be with her again… my sweet Aster… I will, won’t I? With this… just a little longer…” Clearly she’s not talking about Aster the Whismur, who is standing right there and seems more than a little confused by her words. I think Aster must be named after someone close to Zinnia who died – but who? A friend? A previous partner Pokémon? Her mother, or a sister? A lover? I’m kind of leaning towards the last one, just on the basis of how Zinnia talks about her. Then again, there was an odd moment in the Team Aqua hideout when Zinnia said of Aster the Whismur, approvingly, “just what I’d expect of my daughter!” so maybe that’s the answer, but on the other hand I just didn’t think Zinnia was old enough to have lost a daughter. Maybe the first Aster was a Loudred or Exploud partnered to Zinnia, the mother of the Aster we’ve met, and Zinnia considers her Whismur an adopted daughter? Not sure
- Zinnia, being Zinnia, decides to knock me out while she waits for morning.
- At dawn, Zinnia asks me to promise to take care of Aster if anything happens to her, then uses the stones she’s gathered and the ancient Draconid prayer to call Rayquaza, who obligingly appears before us in all its glory. Unfortunately, when Zinnia entreats it to Mega Evolve, her Digivice doesn’t respond. Well, duh, obviously we need a… like, a Rayquazite or whatever. Zinnia protests that the meteorites in Rayquaza’s body should supply the energy, but… nope, apparently not. “Have these thousand years drained them of their power?” All is not lost, however, as the meteorite I’ve been lugging around in my backpack since Mount Chimney is apparently exactly what we need.
- Rayquaza… eats it?
Well, whatever, I’m not going to argue.
- Zinnia decides that I need to catch Rayquaza now in order for this to work, and this is what I do. She then passes on one last Lorekeeper secret – Rayquaza’s signature move, Dragon Ascent – before challenging me to a battle to prove that I can master Rayquaza’s power.
- ‘Battle’ is perhaps the wrong word here, as what actually happens is Mega Rayquaza annihilates each of her Pokémon in turn with five quick Dragon Pulse attacks. Zinnia names me Successor to the Draconids’ legacy, and basically tells me “go get ‘em, kid.” There follows a rather spectacular cutscene in which I, clad in the Aqua Suit I obtained during the Kyogre crisis, ride on Mega Rayquaza’s back as it flies to the edge of space and smashes the meteor into tiny pieces with a Dragon Ascent charge.Then… for some reason Deoxys was inside the meteor, and at this point I am just not going to put up with any of its bull$#!t, so I decide to chuck a Master Ball and be done with it.
- This version of “Rayquaza saves the world” is, in my opinion, a good deal better paced and more dramatic than the one from Emerald. There is stuff you can pick at here – my main gripe is that the climactic battle with Zinnia is a total walkover because of Mega Rayquaza. I liked the battle with N in Black and White because it allowed you to get some sense of challenge and drama out of an encounter with a legendary Pokémon (something which is often just drawn out and underwhelming), and this tries to do the same thing, but it doesn’t quite work because Rayquaza is just so far beyond anything Zinnia can use to fight back, not unlike the final battle with Lysandre in X and Y. On the other hand, the very fact that you’re able to crush Zinnia so effortlessly – considering that she was very powerful the first time you fought her and has only gotten stronger since then – is kind of cool in its own way, and certainly emphasises the magnitude of the forces you’re now playing with. Besides, contrast the whole thing to Emerald, which I’ve always thought was really rather mismanaged. The last real challenge you face in that plot is actually the battle with Archie in the Seafloor Cavern, after which the game sort of sends you from place to place for a while – you have to go to Sootopolis to meet with Steven, then down into the Cave of Origin to talk to Wallace, then he sends you to the Sky Pillar, and then the Sky Pillar is just boring (the Ruby/Sapphire Sky Pillar is a serious challenge to navigate because of its crumbling floors, and the Alpha/Omega Sky Pillar has some neat visuals and is broken up by Zinnia’s narration of the mythic history of Hoenn; the Emerald Sky Pillar possesses neither of those merits), and then you talk to Rayquaza, who solves everything with no further input from you. You don’t even battle it unless you choose to return to the Sky Pillar later. Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby just give Rayquaza a much better put-together sequence.
- Deoxys turning up at the end is totally bizarre; I mean, it’s well established that Deoxys is from space and came to earth on a meteor, so it’s not like it doesn’t make some degree of sense, and I’m happy to take the opportunity to catch the damn thing, but in the context of the story it comes completely out of nowhere. Did Deoxys set the meteor on a collision course with Earth in the first place? If so, why? Did the meteor that created the Sootopolis crater a thousand years ago also contain a Deoxys at its core? What, if anything, is Deoxys’ connection to the Key Stones, and the powers they embody? Tune in next time for the answers to none of these questions and less!
- Incidental point I’ve noticed in all of this: Rayquaza seems to be the only Pokémon who doesn’t require a Mega Stone to Mega Evolve (even Groudon and Kyogre need their Orbs to perform Primal Reversion), meaning it’s also the only Mega Pokémon who can use another item – like, say, a Life Orb. I’m rapidly beginning to see why Smogon has banned this thing even from Ubers, but there may be more to think about here than just what it means for Rayquaza’s ungodly strength. The internal logic for it is that Rayquaza’s Mega Evolution is fuelled by the meteors that are its main food source in its upper atmosphere habitat. This explains why Rayquaza should have any interest in protecting the Earth from these things, as it does here and in the first Mystery Dungeon games – it actually doesn’t care; this is just how it lives – but also suggests that, unlike other Pokémon who require Mega Stones specific to their own species, Rayquaza can consume any of these cosmic ores for energy, probably including the ones that are most closely associated with humans, the Key Stones. It also means that Rayquaza has specifically evolved to seek out and consume the sources of power that enable Mega Evolution, which, again, makes it unique among Pokémon that can Mega Evolve.
- Upon arriving back on Earth, I’m given a letter from Zinnia by Aster – a brief note explaining that she wants to spend some time trying to start a new life for herself. One scene in the epilogue that follows shows Zinnia with Aster in Meteor Falls, apparently having trouble coming to terms with the fact that her quest is finally over. The Draconid elder, her grandmother, encourages her to let go of her past so that she can rest and find a new life.
- Hmm. “I want to be with her again…” Zinnia had said at the Dragonhark Altar, “my sweet Aster… I will, won’t I? With this… just a little longer…” I think that when she put in motion her plan to summon Rayquaza and save the world, Zinnia believed that she would be the one to join with Rayquaza and help it to destroy the meteor – and that she would most likely die in the process (with no Aqua Suit to protect her at the edge of space, that trip would have taken a hell of a toll). And I think she was basically okay with that – welcomed it, even. Whoever ‘Aster’ was, Zinnia didn’t place much value on a life without her. Summoning Rayquaza offered her a convenient way to die while achieving something important. Now, the quest that has consumed Zinnia’s entire being for years is over, and to her surprise she is still alive. What’s she supposed to do now?
- In the other scenes of the epilogue, the scientists of Mossdeep City celebrate the destruction of the meteor; Wally heads off on a new journey, with his Digivice returned to him; Matt returns to Archie and reconciles with him (Archie blames himself and his recent introspective coldness for Matt’s insane actions) as they both affirm their commitment to put Team Aqua on a better path; Steven confesses to Wallace that recent events have made him feel powerless and consider spending more time travelling around Hoenn, presumably foreshadowing Steven’s eventual decision to leave Ever Grande City and appoint Wallace the new Champion instead; Norman, Mother, Professor Birch and Mrs. Birch have a chat about what good friends May and I have become and how happy we seem to be; and finally the two of us spend an evening at the Mossdeep Space Centre watching the meteor shower. Loose ends all tied up, some nice touching moments; not too flashy, but it doesn’t need to be. Looks like we’re done, at long last.
- Oh, and of course we can now get into the Battle Resort, an island which is the site of an exact replica of the Battle Maison in Kiloude City – apparently this is the Battle Chatelaines’ holiday home. Not a whole lot to see here; it all seems to work much as we would expect, and comes complete with the diverse selection of move tutors we’ve all been expecting. Lovely.
- There are hints all over this area that a Battle Frontier on the model of the one from Emerald version is in the works, so perhaps we can expect the Frontier, its facilities and its characters to make an appearance in the next (and presumably final) game of the sixth generation. Also, Looker is here – okay, I’m sure I killed him last time – but he is suffering from amnesia and has no idea who he is or why he’s come to Hoenn, so thank f#&% for that.
…phew. That one took a lot out of me.
Let’s see… Jim and I have to keep doing that series on the rivals, but that’s kind of a slow one because we have to find good moments to Skype when we’re five or six time zones apart and then it takes me a while to bang our disjointed rambling conversations into a coherent and (hopefully) interesting form. I’m supposed to write that thing on Mega Evolution that I’ve been putting off; I’ll probably do that soon. Maybe some other
related stuff. Not sure yet. And I’ve also semi-committed myself to blogging a Nuzlocke run of X, which is going to be a total clusterf#$& in every way conceivable.
And… ‘know what, that’s probably going to keep me busy for a while, but maybe after that I’ll do some stuff on the anime? I’ve always kinda meant to do more of that, because I’ve always thought that some of my most interesting ideas actually came out of my writing on the Kanto series a couple of years ago; maybe I’ll pick up where I left off and do the Pokémon League and the Orange Islands.
Or I could do some of the movies.
We’ll see. I mean, I’m supposed to be writing an MA thesis on the Roman glass industry this semester but why would I do something like that when I can procrastinate on my Pokémon blog?