Once he and Captain Ilima have finished explaining Z-moves to me, Professor Kukui suddenly remembers that he has an urgent task that cannot possibly wait: he’s lost Lillie. Somehow. I’m still not 100% certain that Lillie isn’t a terrorist, so in the interests of making sure someone is watching her, I agree to help look for her in the northern part of Melemele Island. This area, route 3, is cordoned off by barricades. Not for any particular reason, mind you. Someone appears to have decided that the Pokémon beyond are too strong for civilians to tangle with unless they have an escort – a certified trainer who has completed the island’s trials. Which… sort of raises the question of how Lillie got through, since she not only hasn’t completed any trials but insists that she’s not actually a trainer at all (which I’m pretty sure is not true; I’m not sure of the legal status of their relationship but for all practical purposes she certainly seems to be Nebby’s trainer). Evidence that she has secret and subversive abilities continues to mount. In any case, at Ilima’s command, the barricades open for me, and I am given access to the northern coastal road.
The cliffsides here are home to numerous bird Pokémon accustomed to rough terrain, including Vullaby and Delibird. Mankey also inhabit the rocky bluffs, and further along the road I even find a couple of Bagon, staring longingly out into the open sky. The coastal road leads eventually back to Iki Town, but about halfway along, just inside the entrance to a secluded meadow full of yellow flowers, I find Lillie… who has lost Nebby. Again. Given Nebby’s penchant for exploding, and the possibility that he is literally a bomb, her inability to keep track of him is… worrying. Lillie claims that Nebby is helpless, which is clearly a lie, and pleads with me to retrieve him from the other side of the meadow before a wild Pokémon eats him or something. Since Nebby is a formless cloud of stellar plasma, I remain fairly convinced that he would come out ahead in that particular scenario, but I’m also wary of the damage he could do to the meadow if he decided to explode in it. It seems at least plausible that he could somehow rip open a wormhole and suck the entire fragile ecosystem into outer space. This is all the more troubling since the sign at the meadow’s entrance proclaims it a “paradise” habitat for a rare Pokémon called Oricorio – an Electric/Flying-type cheerleading parrot that feeds on nectar from the meadow’s flowers. It apparently has multiple forms, which seem to be linked to meadows on other islands with different types of flower, as well as a curious ability called Dancer: Oricorio automatically copies the effects of any “dance” techniques its opponent uses, like Swords Dance, Petal Dance and Feather Dance. Or at least, I think that’s what it does. Is… is this the regional Pikachu stand-in? It’s a cute, single-stage Electric-type… but it seems way too quirky and unique; they wouldn’t let me off that easy. Would they? I give a silent prayer to the gods of game design that it might be so, as I scuttle across the meadow and collect Nebby, still mercifully unexploded.
Back at the entrance to the meadow, Lillie expresses her gratitude to me by explaining some stuff about Oricorio that I had already figured out, and we run into Hau. Hau has apparently just completed Ilima’s trial, and wants a battle to test his new strength. His Pichu has evolved now, but he hasn’t found any new Pokémon since our last fight, and my own Pikachu does a number on both of his Pokémon with Nasty Plot. During the fight, Kukui shows up to retrieve Lillie and remind me and Hau that the next step in our sacred quest is to defeat the Kahuna of Melemele: Hau’s grandfather, Hala. “Catch that Tailwind and blast through Route 3!” he whoops, before rushing off down the road flapping his arms and squawking like a bird. I stare after him for a moment, then turn to Lillie and Hau.
“Is he… always…?”
“…yup,” they reply in unison.
The remainder of route 3 reveals few new surprises. Upon further inspection, the meadow turns out to hold an underground passage down to Kala’e Bay on the northeast side of the island, but the passage itself has no wild Pokémon of any interest, and Kala’e Bay will remain mostly closed to me until I have a Pokémon that can Surf. Well, there’s no avoiding it any longer: time to confront Kahuna Hala. According to Kukui, he is a Fighting-type specialist – well, Fighting Pokémon are all well and good, but I have a Butterfree, and if I’ve learned one thing from years of replaying the fight against Brawley in Ruby and Sapphire, it’s that in Soviet Russia, bugs squash you! Hala has nothing resembling a Gym or a trial ground; he’s just hanging out in the middle of Iki Town, waiting for my challenge. When I approach, he nods firmly and leads me to the ritual stage where I probably married an owl (honestly I’m still trying to figure out whether Kanto will legally recognise that).
“The final trial here on Melemele Island will be a Pokémon battle against me, the kahuna! It is known as the grand trial! You have been entrusted with the Sparkling Stone by Tapu Koko!”
…don’t remind me…
“Now show me you and your partner Butterfree and your team’s full power! Old Hala here will also be going all out! Let the grand trial beg- wait, Butterfree?”
“Mmm-hmm,” I respond nonchalantly, giving a quick smile and wink to my Butterfree, floating at my shoulder.
Hala has three Pokémon: a Mankey, a Makuhita and a Crabrawler. My Butterfree flies circles around all of them, dusting them with clouds of Sleep Powder and dismantling their minds with Confusion before blowing them out of the ring with Gust. Hala stares in disbelief for a few seconds, before shrugging and giving a raucous belly laugh.
“The results come as no surprise to me!” he roars happily. “What a fine trainer… and what fine Pokémon too!” Hala’s adulation is interrupted by a loud, trilling birdlike cry from far away – Tapu Koko. I growl involuntarily and spin around to face the mountain.
“YOU STAY OUT OF THIS, YOU MANGEY FEATHERED TOTEM-POLE! IF YOU WANT A BATTLE YOU CAN BLOODY WELL COME DOWN HERE AND HAVE ONE!”
Silence from the mountaintop.
“THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT, YOU JUMPED-UP JINGOISTIC JUNGLEFOWL!”
…everyone is staring at me. The thought suddenly occurs that insulting their god may have been something of a moderate-to-severe faux pas in local custom.
“Uh… it’s uh… just this sort of thing that I have with Tapu Koko. You know, I call it a pompous overblown chicken, it calls me a know-nothing millennial trash goblin… it’s just a bit of fun between… um…”
“…friends?” Hau offers hesitantly.
“…sure, let’s call it that,” I mutter.
Hala, to his credit, is apparently anxious to pick up where we left off and pretend that my whole outburst never happened. He clears his throat and presents me with my prizes: a stamp in my passport, and a second Z-Crystal, the Fightinium-Z. It is now becoming clear to me that I will need to learn a different stupid pose for each one of these things that I obtain – Ilima taught me one when I obtained the Normalium-Z, but apparently the one for Fightinium-Z is completely different. I vow never to use these ridiculous things unless absolutely necessary.
As we leave the trial stage, the disreputable Tauros from Hau’oli City runs up, lowing to get Hala’s attention. Hala rushes to calm it down, then turns to me as though he’s just thought of something.
“I’ve got an idea!” he declares. Oh god. “How about I set you up so you can ride my Tauros whenever you’d like? No reason why he shouldn’t get to enjoy the island challenge too!”
I look at Hala, then at the bucking Tauros, then back to Hala, then at the Tauros again. “Are you… quite sure this is safe?” Hala laughs.
“Nonsense! Come on, just try it and you’ll see!”
“That… that doesn’t answer my question.” The Tauros is suddenly wearing some kind of bulky synthetic fibre harness with a high saddle. Kukui is proffering a skintight riding suit with distressingly flimsy-looking knee- and elbow-pads and a brightly-coloured crash helmet. “Uh…”
As I streak off into the distance atop Hala’s Tauros, screaming at the top of my lungs and cursing Tapu Koko, Hala, Kukui, Ilima, the Rotomdex and every other Alolan under the sun, I think I hear someone in the distance behind me, shouting something about teaching me not to disrespect the guardian deity. Meanwhile, the Rotomdex comes to life and somehow floats alongside me as Tauros charges onward.
“Hi there! It lookzzz like you’re trying to ride a Pokémon. Would you like help?”
“YES! HOW DO I STEER!?”
“Would you like to know how to steer the steer?”
“WHO THE HELL PROGRAMMED YOU WITH PUNS!?”
“Try putting your feet in the stirrupzzz!”
“THEY ARE IN THE STIRRUPS!” We are now headed straight for a massive boulder. The Rotomdex bleeps and begins to float away.
“Zzzt! You’re on your own, pal!” I squeeze my eyes shut and attempt a white-knuckled death grip on the saddle’s handlebars.
“Well, I had a good run,” I say to myself. Tauros crashes straight through the boulder, sending shards of exploded rock flying in all directions and knocking a passing Wingull out of the sky. It gives a triumphant bellow and slows to a gentle stop. I am still alive.
“Wahaha!” laughs a nearby hiker. “You’re a strong trainer, all right! Go on! You take on Ten Carat Hill, friend! Even stronger Pokémon await you within!”
So this, apparently, is now what we do instead of HMs – an expansion upon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby’s Eon Flute, which allowed Latias and Latios to replace Fly when your own Pokémon didn’t feel like doing it. Rather than having to go to the bother of actually fitting all those irritating unforgettable but largely useless moves into a team of six Pokémon with twenty-four precious moveslots between them, trainers in Alola can just summon an ally Pokémon to take care of it, using a device called the Ride Pager invented by Ilima. It appears to have room to register at least six or seven different Pokémon, presumably with different HM-like abilities. How does it work? F#&% knows; it can instantly call Tauros to me in any location, even a remote cave network (or, I soon discover, on another island). At the moment my best guess is that Ilima homebrewed some kind of godawful scaled-down hyperspace reactor with enough power to nuke a whole island back to the Stone Age. But I don’t care if it doesn’t quite make sense; it’s infinitely more convenient than mucking around with HMs (and it also seems to replace the bike, which didn’t quite make sense in the first place anyway). Furthermore, it also retains the one thing that was really excellent about them – they emphasised the way that Pokémon represent freedom for humans who train them, freedom to travel, freedom to explore, freedom to reach places that would be completely inaccessible without teamwork. Places, in fact, like Ten Carat Hill, the cave-riddled mountain I now find myself exploring. The tunnels are full of rocks that Tauros can shatter – as well as one particularly large boulder that I assume will eventually yield to a different riding Pokémon who replaces the Strength technique. As long as I’m here, I take the opportunity to catch more of the local Pokémon – Carbink, Roggenrola, Machop, Spinda, and Rockruff (a Rock-type dog Pokémon that I already know as Kukui’s partner). Around the same time, my Rowlet hits level 17 and evolves into Dartrix, an even more dapper-looking owl whose leafy knives possess superior range and firepower.
Once I’ve learned to control Tauros and satisfied myself with exploring Ten Carat Hill (or at least the accessible parts of it), I head back to Hau’oli City. Hau, Lillie and Professor Kukui – who all insist that the business with Tauros before was “just a bit of fun between friends” – are all preparing to get on Kukui’s boat down at the Marina for a trip to nearby Akala Island, and invite me to join them. A little voice in my head tells me that things are only going to get worse if I leave Melemele, but on the other hand, I’ve seen most of what I want to see in Hau’oli City, and I am admittedly starting to yearn for somewhere quieter. The little voice gets slightly louder when I actually see Kukui’s boat, which he insists is not old – it just has character. Lillie comments “I quite like that it has a sense of history,” which has to be the most amazing backhanded compliment I’ve ever seen in a Pokémon game. Still, I manage to supress my better judgement, and the four of us head out together. To my relief, the trip is uneventful, and we swiftly arrive at Heahea City, the largest town on Akala (and roughly equivalent to the town of Kahului on the island of Maui in the real world, though Akala Island has been rotated 90º counterclockwise for some reason). We’re even greeted at the harbour by some friends of the Professor – two friendly young women named Olivia and Mallow, who are, respectively, the Kahuna of Akala Island and one of its Captains (Mallow, like Cilan in the Unova anime, also has an overwhelming fondness for food puns, so her day job is probably as a chef or something). Both are already eager to see me and Hau prove ourselves so we can meet them in battle. Me… eh. I hear there’s a really nice hotel in this town, and I want to buy some new clothes.
Ridiculous quote log:
“Still haven’t managed to find a shirt that goes with your lab coat, hmm, Kukui? I’ve told you, you’re gonna scare off strangers looking like that.”
Speak for yourself, Olivia! Professor Kukui’s glorious abs are the one thing that’s keeping me going in this ridiculous backward region!
Tane the Dartrix
Male, Timid nature, Overgrow ability
Tackle, Razor Leaf, Astonish, Peck
Rhea the Trumbeak
Female, Lax nature, Keen Eye ability
Pluck, Supersonic, Echoed Voice, Rock Smash
Sunny the Butterfree
Female, Rash nature, Compoundeyes ability
Stun Spore, Psybeam, Sleep Powder, Gust
Ashley the Pikachu
Female, Timid nature, Static ability
Thundershock, Charm, Nasty Plot, 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, Hyper Fang, Focus Energy