After getting my Pokédex sufficiently haunted, the next stop is apparently the Hau’oli Outskirts Pokémon Centre. Alolan Pokémon Centres have incorporated Pokémarts, in the style of their Unovan and Kalosian counterparts, but also have cafés for the region’s countless tourists to sit and relax. The café serves some items we recognise from older games, including Lemonade and Moomoo Milk, but these aren’t healing items for your Pokémon anymore; they’re purely for the enjoyment of the trainer. The café’s real gameplay purpose seems to be to provide treats for your Pokémon that come free with your drinks – Pokébeans to feed them in the Refresh screen, Sweet Hearts and imported Lumiose Galettes to heal injuries or status ailments, and even the occasional Rare Candy. The barista is also a fount of gossip and dubiously useful life advice. It’s an atmospheric addition more than anything else, and not particularly significant, but it’s also the first damn moment I’ve been allowed to feel like I’m actually on holiday, so I linger in the café for a while longer, trying to ask the barista in increasingly overt and desperate terms for “something a little stronger,” before Lillie shows up and drags me to our next destination…
…the Hau’oli trainers’ school.
I try to explain to Lillie and Professor Kukui that I’m not actually a new trainer; I’m a well-regarded Pokémon Master with dozens of Gym Badges from six different regions who just happens to have left all his Pokémon back on the continent. I know how status conditions work; I know what abilities are; I have personally revised the curriculum of both the Santalune City and Aspertia City schools with the blunt end of a Venusaur. They are unmoved, and even my loyal Rowlet looks at me with a quirked eyebrow. Exasperated, I march into the school to challenge all comers before my so-called friends can gaslight me into thinking I really am a clueless infant. To my immense displeasure, although one of the students is named Youngster Joey, his one Pokémon is not a Rattata (Alolan or otherwise) but a Metapod. On a happier note, though, I encounter an Alolan Grimer in the hands of the eldest student – this form is a dull teal colour, with bright yellow ooze around its mouth, and is a Poison/Dark dual-type (a solid combination, as we know from Drapion). Maybe this indicates that Alolan industrial waste has a somewhat different makeup from that of other regions where Grimer live? I also encounter another Alolan form in the tall grass on the school grounds – a silver-blue Meowth with upward-curling whiskers, a noticeably lighter and more comfortable two-legged stance than other Meowth, and Dark-type abilities. It looks like this is a form that has been bred for greater elegance, and might reflect a larger domestic and smaller stray or feral population in Alola.
With all four students defeated, I am summoned to battle their teacher. Her Magnemite proves difficult to handle, since I’m still quite short of ways to damage Steel-types, but my Pikipek has picked up Rock Smash and is able to avert a complete disaster. In recognition of my victory, I am introduced to one of the school’s most outstanding graduates: a smartly-dressed, effeminate young man named Ilima. I will later learn that Ilima is a Normal-type specialist, and an artist, and that his partner Pokémon is a Smeargle. More importantly, he is apparently what the Alolans call a “Captain” – a subordinate to the island Kahuna, whose job is to support trainers taking the Island Challenge and administer their various tests. I suppose this makes him roughly equivalent in rank to a Gym Leader. He seems friendly enough, and gives me a standard exhortation to work hard, be kind to Pokémon, etc. Meanwhile, Kahuna Hala seems to have calmed down the ornery Tauros that had been blocking the road into the Hau’oli City core, so it seems I’m free at last to see the sites with Lillie and Hau.
Hau’oli City, the Pokémon world’s Honolulu, is the Alola region’s answer to Castelia City and Lumiose City. It’s not nearly as grand or populous as those two, but has all the stuff I actually came to Alola for – beaches, food, and shopping. There are also numerous areas of long grass, where I meet an Abra and an Alolan Grimer and capture them for further study; these little miniature parks, which exist as a testament to the Alolans’ closeness to nature and Pokémon, are apparently maintained by Ilima and his Smeargle. Hau’oli may not be a global fashion capital like Lumiose City, but it has the same kind of character customisation options for hair and clothing that we’ve come to know and love from X and Y, as well as restaurants where you can sit down with your Pokémon and enjoy one of Alola’s favourite treats: the malasada. In the real world, malasadas are a sort of sweet, doughnut-like Portuguese fried bread, introduced to Hawai’i in the 19th century by immigrant labourers from the Azores, and have since become an iconic part of Hawaiian cuisine. Pokémon love these things, and they can be used either to raise a Pokémon’s affection or cure status conditions, depending on the type. At Hau’s insistence, I also stop by the Hau’oli Tourist Bureau, which apparently has a new gadget for my Rotomdex, so we should probably talk a bit about that. The Rotomdex’s core features include a helpful top-down map of the surrounding area, a standard data Pokédex with all the trimmings, and the ability to share Pokédex data. Each page for each Pokémon that you’ve caught can produce a scannable QR code (those irritating square barcode-things) that other players can aim the DS’s camera at, in order to gain partial (“seen”) data for that Pokémon. Apparently doing this several times will unlock additional exciting features, but I’m not there yet. Sharable Pokédex data makes so much sense it’s sort of hard to believe we haven’t had it before now, but hey, better late than never, right? The Tourist Bureau adds a camera that you can use in certain specific locations to take pictures of wild Pokémon; taking lots of good pictures and posting them on the Alolan internet unlocks additional functions (I’ve just gained a zoom feature; there is apparently more to come if I keep taking photos). I’m not yet persuaded by this; it’s sort of gimmicky and honestly I think they should just leave this whole business to Pokémon Go, but I suppose I’m prepared to keep messing around with it and see if it ties into anything else in the game.
Something that seems to have come along with the Rotomdex, though I’m not sure whether or not it’s actually one of his features, is the ability to access something called Festival Plaza. This is some sort of extradimensional space that can be entered from anywhere in Alola, and has a similar set-up to Join Avenue from Black and White 2; there are stalls that provide a variety of services, which you can recommend to friends in order to earn points that can be spent in the plaza and will gradually upgrade it. A variety of multiplayer minigames can earn you more points. The whole thing is run by a character named Sophocles, a grumpy-looking ginger-haired fellow who wears a t-shirt with a picture of an old-style Gameboy. I can only assume he’s named after the Greek tragedian who wrote the Oedipus cycle, but I can’t imagine why, unless it’s just because he’s incredibly tragic. Sophocles lives in a castle in the centre of Festival Plaza and, from time to time, presents you with new stalls that you can establish. I assume this allows you to change the services available at the plaza, but I’m not sure, since so far the useless bastard has only offered me three fortune-teller tents (which I already have two of). My plaza, in addition to fortune-tellers whose purpose I have yet to divine, features a lottery, dye houses that can add colour to any white clothing you own, and a bouncy castle that seems to provide EV training. EV training and the lottery were both among the services of Join Avenue; the other stuff is new, and I suspect that all of it, like the Join Avenue stalls, will be able to “level up” to expand their options. This… could work, I guess? I liked Join Avenue because it was useful, and it allowed the player to feel invested in an element of their world by giving them something to build up and develop. This does the same thing, but with the convenience of being able to ‘portal’ to it at any time. I’m not entirely sure how that works. I just sort of… stare into Rotom’s eyes, and I’m there. I suspect there’s something in the malasadas that’s making me hallucinate.
As I wander around Hau’oli City, I start to hear rumours of the activity of a group known as Team Skull, who have apparently been causing trouble down at the Hau’oli Marina and stealing Pokémon. The Rotomdex, for whatever reason, thinks we should check it out. I tell the Rotomdex as firmly as I can that this is none of my business, and certainly none of his. The Rotomdex insists that Pokémon trainers have a responsibility to protect the innocent, especially powerful trainers taking the Island Challenge. I reply that the whole thing is probably overblown; I mean, how much harm can a group that calls itself “Team Skull” possibly do? It sounds like what a bunch of angsty preteens with too much eyeliner would name a group of Pokémon villains. The Rotomdex counters that, if I’m so sure it’s probably nothing, there can’t be any harm in checking it out. I explain to the Rotomdex that his opinion doesn’t matter anyway, since he is a glorified Siri knockoff with a stupid electronic accent, and I could replace half his functions with a Stephen Hawking audiobook and a selfie stick. The Rotomdex cheerily informs me that my opinion doesn’t matter either, since I’ve already walked the rest of the way to the Marina while we were talking without realis-
OH GOD DAMN IT
As it turns out, this “Team Skull” isn’t at the Marina anyway. Captain Ilima is, though, so I decide to talk to him and get more information about these “trials” I’m supposedly doing. Ilima cheerfully begins to explain that he runs a “trial” at a nearby location called Verdant Cavern, but doesn’t get very far before our conversation is interrupted by-
“Yo, yo, yo, check it! Whenever, wherever we meet you, Team Skull don’t even greet you!”
…oh, Aphrodite’s earlobes, it’s worse than I thought.
Two Team Skull grunts arrive on the scene, resplendent in white skull-patterned toques, black tank tops, cargo shorts and armbands, with black bandanas covering their faces and silver “S” pendants hanging from heavy chains around their necks.
“So, Cap, just give up the Pokémon, yo,” they demand, punctuating their words with a bewildering array of rapidfire gang signs. I squint at their gestures and remark that acting like this on the wrong side of Celadon City would get them killed in fifteen seconds flat. Ilima, to his credit, ignores them completely and keeps talking to me, so I do the same.
“What, what?! Why you trying to act hard when we’re already hard as bone out here, homie?”
I turn to the Team Skull grunts, irritated. “No one here is trying to “act hard” except for- w-wait… I-? I’m sorry, were you just hitting on me?” I squint at them again. I guess the one on the left probably wouldn’t be bad-looking if he lost the ugly clothes and the evil sneer.
“Wh- what?” The grunt on the left, suddenly uncomfortable, waves his hands in a slightly panicked gesture. “Naw, that’s wack, yo! We ain’t like that!”
“I mean, if you were, I guess that’s fine, just- like- for the love of Arceus, before we start talking about getting “hard as bone,” buy me a drink or something down at the beach bar. I’m probably gonna need one after I’m done here.” I glance at Ilima and roll my eyes slightly.
“Uh…” The grunt, confused, looks around helplessly for a moment before turning to his friend, who throws out a few more random gang signs to restore his morale.
“Yo, let’s check these fools!” the grunt on the right shouts.
“Yeah, fo’ shizzle!” the grunt on the left agrees.
I glance at Ilima again. “You take that one, and I’ll take this one?”
“Are we battling them, or asking them out?” he asks cheekily.
“I don’t care; whatever shuts them up.”
“Yo, check how I change the game with my mad Pokémon skills!” the grunt on the left brags as he sends out… a single low-level Zubat. I frown at it for a few seconds.
“Dude, I gotta tell you, this is not improving your chances with me.” I snap my fingers to call my Butterfree to my side, and she buffets the poor Zubat with a Gust volley until it collapses.
“For real?! Over already!? No fair! I was playing a different game!”
“Let’s get up out of this port, B! Nobody has to know about this!” the other grunt yells, having apparently fared just as badly against the Captain. “We don’t need your wack Pokémon anyway, Ilima!” They turn and dash away.
“Losing quickly is nothing to be ashamed of! Just means you need to work on your stamina!” I call out after them, earning me a double take and a slight flinch from the grunt I battled, and a disapproving tut from Ilima. “What?” I ask innocently.
My assistance in dealing with Team Skull has apparently gone a long way towards earning Ilima’s respect, and he now suspects I’m already advanced enough to face his trial. Just to make sure, though, he challenges me to a battle (so, if he’s battling me now, then is the trial not a battle, or…?). He opens with a Yungoos, which goes down easily enough to my Butterfree… and then out comes Smeargle. Now… call me crazy, but I remember Smeargle being kinda awful at fighting toe-to-toe, even compared to unevolved Pokémon. Like, you could give it any move, but all of those moves were terrible because it had attack and special attack stats that were literally outclassed by tumbleweed. Ilima’s Smeargle takes down both my Butterfree and my Pikipek. Has this thing been buffed somehow, or are my Pokémon just that bad? I make a mental note to chase down a wild one to investigate; they seem to be native to Melemele Island. Still, there’s no rule that says I’m limited to two Pokémon, so my Slowpoke finishes Smeargle off. Ilima congratulates me on my victory and issues a formal invitation to attempt his trial at Verdant Cavern. And… well, I guess it’s a cultural experience, right? How bad can it be?
Ridiculous quote log:
“I felt like there was someone hiding behind the wall and laid right into it with a Karate Chop!”
Well, I guess that explains the hole in the wall. Your sensei must be so proud.
“You’ve got a real sweet kind of face, don’t you? I bet old ladies like to give you candy.”
…technically nothing you said is wrong, but somehow it’s still f#&%ing creepy.
The team (very much in flux):
Tane the Rowlet
Male, Timid nature, Overgrow ability
Tackle, Leafage, Astonish, Peck
Rhea the Pikipek
Female, Lax nature, Keen Eye ability
Peck, Growl, Echoed Voice, Rock Smash
Sunny the Butterfree
Female, Rash nature, Compoundeyes ability
Tackle, Confusion, Harden, Gust
Ashley the Pichu
Female, Timid nature, Static ability
Thundershock, Charm, Tail Whip, Sweet Kiss
Hypatia the Slowpoke
Female, Hardy nature, Own Tempo ability
Curse, Yawn, Tackle, Water Gun
Soot the Rattata
Female, Hardy nature, Hustle ability
Bite, Tail Whip, Quick Attack, Focus Energy