Since the next Captain, Kiawe, is a Fire Pokémon specialist, he lives on a volcano. Because of course he does. Fire trainers don’t really ‘do’ subtlety. Wela Volcano, which is named for the Hawaiian word for heat or burning, and corresponds to Haleakala in the real world, looms over the northeast corner of Akala Island. Although many of its basalt flows are still glowing red from the last eruption, the volcano is perfectly safe – or at least, this is the claim made by the Seismic Sisters, a set of Alolan triplets who maintain tunnels that provide surprisingly easy access up and down its slopes. Among the hardy, fire-tolerant Pokémon that live there is a wily black lizard Pokémon called Salandit, a Fire/Poison-type, which nearly blows my Trumbeak out of the sky with Dragon Rage. I decide to retire my Butterfree and recruit one in her place (a female, which I’m told is important); that Dragon Rage is sure to come in handy as long as we’re still low-level.
The bare-chested Fire Captain is already waiting for me in the middle of a circular platform within the volcano crater itself. With him are three sinister-looking black Pokémon with bone staves, their tips glowing with spectral green fire. Wait… are those Marowak? As I stare quizzically at his Pokémon, Kiawe explains the terms of his trial. He and his Marowak are fire dancers in the ancient Alolan tradition. They will perform two dances for me, and my task is to discern the difference between them.
“…that’s it?” I ask suspiciously. “No battle? No Totem Pokémon? What’s the catch?” Kiawe returns a sober frown.
“Alolan fire dance is no trifling entertainment. It is a sophisticated union of art, worship and discipline, performed to honour Tapu Lele. The slightest change in position or tempo can alter the meaning of the entire dance. My trial will tax your powers of observation to their limit.” Duly chastened, I sit down cross-legged at the edge of the stage to watch. Kiawe nods solemnly and turns to his three Marowak. “Begin!” The Marowak march in a circle, spinning their flaming staves, then freeze in a set of coordinated poses. They hold their positions for a moment, then at a nod from Kiawe, spring into action once more. The motions and tempo seem identical, but when the dance stops, one of the Marowak is facing in a different direction than I remember from the first time. I point to it.
“That one. That one’s stance is different.” Kiawe gasps – and the Marowak leaps right at me, spinning its staff once again. With a strangled, squawking yell, I summon my new Salandit and order her to open fire with Dragon Rage. Scorched by the brilliant energy, the Marowak soon kneels in submission. “Right,” I say, more than a little breathless. “Right, okay. Wrong answer. Do I get another try?”
“No, no!” Kiawe stays hastily. “Marowak was so pleased by your right answer that it simply had to battle you!” The Marowak twirls its staff again and bows low.
“Oh,” I say. “Oh. Okay. Sure.” So presumably the other two Marowak will challenge me in turn.
“Onward to the second dance!” I watch the three Marowak closely as they run through their practiced motions. When I think I have them memorised, I nod to Kiawe, who commands the Marowak to repeat their dance. Again, I see no differences until the dance is almost ov-
“AHHHH! What the-!” I flail my arms wildly and tumble backwards off the stage as a scruffy hiker leaps in front of me, shouting and making gruesome faces. “What the HELL, dude!? This is, like… a sacred quest thing, or… or something!” I squint at the Marowak, frozen in their final poses, but my concentration has been broken. Is… the one on the left holding its staff at a different angle? “Damn it, I couldn’t see the end of the dance properly,” I complain to Kiawe. “How am I supposed to-” The hiker, crouching on my right, starts chuckling. “You stay out of this!” I snap at him. “Just because you paid for the ‘authentic Alola experience’ doesn’t mean you get to be part of whatever- what- whatever…” I pause.
Oh, this is ridiculous. I turn back to Kiawe, then point at the hiker. “It’s this idiot, isn’t it? He’s what was different about the second dance.” Kiawe looks startled.
“You… you are correct! B-but how!?” I give him the most withering stare I can muster.
“So… ‘ancient tradition’? ‘Sophisticated union of art and worship’? Really?”
“Well…” Kiawe begins, slowly. “Alola’s booming tourist industry has been very good for the region. Tapu Lele looks kindly on visitors, and permits us to… uh… involve them in our rituals.”
“…you know, this is gonna sound totally hypocritical of me… and it is… but I don’t even care: tourism has ruined this region,” I tell Kiawe flatly. He does his best to ignore me.
“Uh, Kiawe, m’dude,” the hiker says. “Do I get to, uh…?” Kiawe smacks his palm to his forehead.
“Go ahead…” he mutters.
“Radical, dude!” the hiker shouts, then jumps to the centre of the stage, faces me, and calls a Magmar from a Pokéball.
“We’re doing this? Really?” I sigh, and deploy my Salandit’s Dragon Rage once again to defeat the Magmar. Kiawe coughs.
“My… hiker friend was so pleased by your right answer that he… simply had to battle you,” he says, with no enthusiasm whatsoever. “Onward to the final dance.” This time, the hiker actually leaps in amongst the Marowak near the end and joins in their movements. Kiawe lets me observe their final positions for a few moments, then commands the dance to begin again. Once more, I watch closely for any change. Then, moments from the end…
“SALAAAA!” A huge black and pink lizard springs over the opposite edge of the volcano crater, lands in the middle of the dance, and flings its arms wide, with a grin and a wink. I half expect it to pull out a cane and a straw hat and start tap-dancing. I stare at the lizard, then at Kiawe, then back at the lizard.
“…okay I’m just gonna fight this thing now.”
My opponent is a Salazzle, a weirdly salacious-looking evolved Salandit. My own Salandit is clearly outclassed, but she knows Dragon Rage and the Totem Salazzle seems not to; nor does the Salazzle minion that it summons. Unfortunately, the second Salazzle hits mine with a Torment to keep her from blasting the Totem Pokémon repeatedly, and we are forced to retreat. This thing is actually quite nasty. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. I send in my Slowpoke and perform the wave-like dance motion that Lana taught me to activate her Z-Crystal. Slowpoke summons a terrible Hydro Vortex that sweeps up the Salazzle, batters it around, and throws it off the top of the mountain, wailing piteously as it falls. The little Salandit still has some tricks, though, hitting my Slowpoke with a cloud of Poison Gas and following up with a devastating Venoshock that knocks her out. I briefly pause to applaud its bravery, then send in my own Salandit to finish the job. Kiawe salutes me, and presents me with his Z-Crystal, known as the Firium-Z, several Quick Balls, and the ability to summon a new Pokémon with my ride pager: his Charizard. Charizard, like Latias and Latios in Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby, replaces the Fly HM, and can take us to a variety of locations both inside and outside of towns and cities, including between Alola’s four islands… and beyond.
On the outskirts of Alola lies a chain of small islands known as the Poké Pelago. They are beyond the reach of any regular ferry routes (but not Charizard’s wings), and only one human appears to live there: a fellow with the uninspiring name of Mohn, who acts as their caretaker. Mohn is a cheerful hermit who seems to have gotten just a little too much sun over the years. He suffers from a crippling addiction to Pokébeans, and lives in a leaky, run-down wooden hut perched precariously atop a distressed-looking raft tethered just off the coast of Isle Abeens. Thanks to some suspicious technology of Mohn’s, trainers’ Pokémon can visit the islands whenever they like, warping directly there from… wherever it is Pokémon go while in a PC box. On my first visit to the Poké Pelago, Mohn promises that, if I help feed his Pokébean habit, he’ll get off his butt for an afternoon and develop some of the islands to make them more pleasant for Pokémon to visit. Mohn describes five islands to me, all with stupid names, and each suited for different activities: harvesting Pokébeans, growing berries, searching for treasure, training, and relaxing. Despite my… suspicions of Mohn, I find it hard not to love the Poké Pelago, because it embodies something I’ve wanted these games to have for a long timenamely some way of giving meaning to the 90% of your Pokémon who aren’t with you at any given moment. The notion that we’ve been leaving most of our Pokémon in internet limbo for weeks or months on end this whole time is easily one of the most troubling things about the series, and extremely difficult to reconcile with either the anime’s portrayal of Ash’s off-duty Pokémon or the games’ own attitude to Pokémon as friends and partners. This is a major item ticked off my long-term wishlist – and it does a bunch of useful stuff too.
Once my first visit to the Poké Pelago is finished and all my B-team Pokémon are getting settled in, I strike out along the northern coastal road for the location of Captain Mallow’s trial: the Lush Jungle. The road itself is unremarkable, but many of the people and Pokémon I meet give me pause for thought. The first is a truly odd creature called a Stufful. It… seems to be literally a soft toy. Its type is Normal/Fighting, it looks like a teddy bear with a smiling pink face, and its ability grants it damage reduction against contact moves but makes it weak to Fire, because it is made of stuffing. I am not sure whether I should be disturbed by it. Not far along the road, a sterile-looking white prefabricated structure houses some researchers from an organisation called the Aether Foundation, a syndicate of scientists and conservationists working to protect Pokémon from evildoers like Team Skull. I can’t argue with that, and it sounds like they do good work. Only… their uniforms… they look exactly like the people I saw chasing Lillie when I first came to Alola, whom I’d assumed were airport security apprehending a dangerous terrorist. Why would they have been after her and Nebby? There can only be one conclusion…
Lillie is definitely a member of Team Skull. Her professed fear of them is merely a smokescreen, to keep me from realising the truth about her. Her wickedness is without limit and beyond comprehension.
Down near the western end of the road is the entrance to a secluded valley, where a self-professed scientist is trying to begin the construction of a theme park filled with prehistoric Pokémon reanimated from fossil remains. Because that’s a project that’s never gone horribly wrong before and is guaranteed to have no negative consequences.
“So… just out of curiosity, did Jurassic Poképark ever get released here in Alola?” I ask him casually.
“Oh, absolutely! It’s one of my favourite movies of all time!” he enthuses.
“Yes indeed! I had to leave after the first half-hour, unfortunately, but it was truly inspiring! One of these days I’ll find the time to watch it the whole way through.”
If I find any fossils, this guy should be able to resurrect them for me… although, to be honest, I’d almost prefer to brave the customs desk and take them back to Kanto to be examined by an actual scientist. The last stop before Mallow’s jungle is a motel with an attached Pokémon Centre. That weird, angsty Gladion kid appears to be staying here, but he is in no mood to talk, refusing to say anything but “get out.” I try to explain to him that, where I come from, wandering Pokémon trainers are usually allowed to enter any building or room freely, as a matter of simple courtesy, but he is unmoved. I divert my attention to the rocky shore below. Here, on the northwest coast of Akala Island, is the habitat of a weak and cowardly Pokémon called Wimpod, a Bug/Water-type with poor stats in everything but speed, no moves but Struggle Bug and Sand Attack, an ability that causes it to flee in terror from any battle when its health is low, and a propensity for eating rotten food. If I know Pokémon – which I do – Wimpod is bound to evolve into something downright terrifying, and who better to make it happen than me? Wimpod itself, unfortunately, has other ideas, and won’t battle me at all until I loop around to the far end of the beach to cut off its retreat from its burrow. I’m going to turn this Pokémon into an all-powerful terror whether it likes it or not!
We’ve made a full circle around the volcano: the Lush Jungle where Captain Mallow makes her lair is just north of Brooklet Hill. The jungle and its mistress promise Grass-types, and that promise is music to my ears. It’s about time Alola gave me something worth bragging about when I get back to Kanto. We’ll just see whose Grass Pokémon are stronger when I blow a hole in your ceiling with my Grass-type Z-Crystal, won’t we, Erika? Next year’s Flower Power Grand Prix is mine, you smug, condescending little-
“Oh, hello! Thanks for stopping by!” Mallow’s voice jolts me out of my reverie as she welcomes me to the jungle. She looks me up and down, smiles approvingly. “I knew it the first time I saw you and your team… You’ve chosen only the finest ingredients! That’s why I’m gonna make you help me- er, no! I mean, that’s why you should try my trial!” I sigh and try to give her a friendly smile.
“Listen, if the trial is just, like, doing your laundry or whatever, I don’t mind. I’m sure you’re a busy girl, and I just want to tick all the boxes so Tapu Koko will get off my back.”
“What? Oh, not at all! I hope I didn’t make you think- oh, dear. No, I just get a little overexcited sometimes. Trust me, my trial will be just as challenging as any of the others you’ve faced so far.” Mallow closes her eyes for a moment, breathes deeply, and then flings her arms wide and looks up into the lush canopy as though searching for inspiration. “Ah… the breath of the jungle…” she sighs rapturously, then suddenly turns her attention back to me and snaps her fingers. “I can tell just what today’s special should be! My personal specialty: the Mallow Special! I’m gonna need you to find four ingredients for me!” I blink a couple of times.
“Wait… your trial is a cooking challenge?”
“Yep!” She grins at me. “What were you expecting? Hope that’s not gonna be too tough for you!”
“Oh… I think I’ll manage.” I’ve studied the local cuisines of every region I’ve visited (well, except Kalos… bunch of stuck-up food snobs refused to teach me a single thing after I dared to question whether a boiled bone was an acceptable restaurant dish, but Kalosian cooking is overrated anyway). This should be a piece of cake. Perhaps literally.
“I’ll need… Mago Berries, Tiny Mushrooms, some Revival Herb, and a Miracle Seed!” Mallow continues, counting off on her fingers. I nod sagely as I consider the ingredients she’s specified. It’s an interesting combination of flavours. The odd sweet-and-bitter combination of the Mago Berry and Revival Herb has something in common with some old central Hoenn dishes I’m familiar with, while mushrooms are basically alien to the traditional Hoenn diet, but should ground the other flavours quite nicely. My guess is we’re going to boil it all into a sort of stew or broth. Mallow gives me a final piece of advice before I take off into the jungle: her Stoutland will be invaluable in finding the best ingredients.
Stoutland first leads me to a cluster of mushrooms, guarded by a slender mushroom Pokémon, Shiinotic, the evolved form of Morelull. My Trumbeak deals with it swiftly; then, as I rummage through the assorted fungi, Mallow shows up. “Ooh, a Tiny Mushroom! That’s great! There’s a secret to why they’re so popular with some people. You’ll have to try one to find out what it is!” Is… is she trying to get me into drugs? But actually, that gives me an idea. Mallow’s request for “Tiny Mushrooms” was pretty vague; there are a lot of different species in this small patch alone… I mean, she was probably talking about the Alolan shiitake, but there’s also some azure chanterelle, Pyroar’s mane, urchin Shaymin, and… oooohh… I spot a single pinkish, black-spotted toadstool on the edge of the patch. Could it be? The legendarily delicious Milktank’s glory cap, said to produce a soup so rich it would make a king weep?
Hmm. Well. Unless it’s the equally rare lookalike, destroying Snubbull, in which case eating it would cause catastrophic organ failure.…eh. What’s life without a little risk, right?
Continuing to follow Stoutland’ nose, I head into the northwest part of the jungle and come upon a grove of fruit trees. My Salandit dispatches the Fomantis guarding the trees, and I start picking Mago Berries. Then I keep going. Mago is nice, but we could get a more complex flavour by adding some Persim Berries too, and… oh my god are those Spelon Berries? I f&%#ing love Spelon Berries, and they’re a classic central Hoenn flavour; let’s take a handful of those…
A few more Fomantis lurk in the grassy northern area where Stoutland and I go to search for Revival Herb. We should only need a tiny bit; the intense bitter flavour is what makes the dish, but even slightly too much could just as easily wreck it. I pull up a fistful of the rare herbs and sniff deeply. Wow this stuff is pungent. No wonder it wakes up fainted Pokémon. There’s an old family legend that my great-grandmother used so much Revival Herb in her cooking that the smell of her stew could actually raise the dead. Probably apocryphal, of course, but there must be some reason my family got kicked out of Lavender Town. One ingredient left… Miracle Seeds are packed with a veritable rainbow of nutrients, so they tend to get dug up and eaten by wild Pokémon unless they’re buried in spots that are very hard to get to – like under piles of crumbling boulders. Stoutland confirms the presence of something interesting under one such pile in the eastern part of the jungle, and with a little help from Hala’s Tauros, we’re able to smash it out of the way and dig up the precious seed hidden beneath. Time to get cooking.
“Great!” Mallow enthuses, when I confirm that I have everything. “Now that we’ve got all the ingredients, we just need…”
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” calls out a voice from the entrance to the jungle. It’s the other Captains, Kiawe and Lana, who have brought their own… contributions to Mallow’s little culinary experiment. Kiawe’s Thick Club and Rare Bone, used to crush and mix the ingredients, should theoretically impart a little of their own flavour to the stew, and the Fresh Water that Lana has brought from Brooklet Hill is the purest around. Lana’s also brought a Rocky Helmet to mix it all in, which… y’know what, I feel like this is some kind of weird inside joke between the Captains that I’m never going to get, so I’ll just drop that one. I light a small fire, heat the water, and start grinding up my ingredients. As the stew begins to cook, a tantalising smell wafts through the jungle, and Mallow mentions, casually, that this should summon her Totem Pokémon.
“…wait what?” I suddenly feel distinctly and disturbingly watched, and slowly turn around.
“Luuuu-RAAAAAAAAN!” screams the huge orchid mantis behind me.
“OH SWEET MOTHER OF MEW!” I scream back at it, frantically grabbing my Pikachu’s Pokéball. She knows Hidden Power: Ice, and this thing – Lurantis, the evolved form of Fomantis, as the Rotomdex unhelpfully explains while I continue screaming – is a Grass-type, so-
“LU-RAAAN!” the Lurantis screeches, igniting a massive blade of radiant solar energy from the tip of its claw and slamming it down on my poor Pikachu’s head. Another screech summons a wild Trumbeak to its side.
“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!” I keep screaming, in hopes of confusing the Lurantis, as I call on my Salandit and perform the motions Kiawe taught me to activate the Fire-type Z-move, Inferno Overdrive. The Lurantis is injured, but not critically, and quickly heals itself with Synthesis… then keeps healing itself as its Trumbeak grinds down my Salandit. “THAT’S IT; NOW I’M MAD,” I shout, sending my Raticate to crush the Trumbeak. The Lurantis, more bemused than concerned, X-Scissors my Raticate, and then calls out again, summoning… a Castform. “…ohhhhhh $#!t,” I say to myself quietly. If that thing can take control of the weather, the Lurantis will be able to start spamming Solar Blade, and then I’m dead for sure. I back away from the Lurantis, grab Lana’s stew-filled helmet, and hold it out in front of me.
“Lu-ran?” the Totem Pokémon asks.
“Uh… here! Take it!” I shout, putting the helmet down on the ground and then diving for cover behind a boulder. The Lurantis sniffs cautiously at the stew, then begins gorging itself. I watch, heart pounding and fingers crossed. A few moments later, the Lurantis’ eyes widen, it stands bolt upright, turns bright red, begins venting steam from its ears, and starts running around in circles wailing. Moments after that, it stops abruptly, as though it had run into a glass wall, exhales a cloud of smoke, and then keels over, twitching. Mallow stares in abject shock.
“…um… are you quite sure you got all those ingredients right?” I give her a nervous smile.
“…you know, my great-grandmother always used to say cooking is more of an art than a science… and, uh… well, sometimes more of a gamble than an art…”
Ridiculous quote log:
“I want to make my Kadabra evolve! Friends! I need friends!”
Listen, man, if that’s your only reason for wanting friends, you’re going to have a hard time making any.
“I guess I wasn’t able to make use of the potential energy of being in a high place.”
Is this the Pokémon equivalent of “it’s over, Anakin; I have the high ground”?
“Research! Research! I will research the Pokémon!”
…calm down, dude.
“So! What do you think of the largeness of my area?”
…it’s great. Really great.
Tane the Dartrix
Male, Timid nature, Overgrow ability
Tackle, Razor Leaf, Astonish, Pluck
Rhea the Trumbeak
Female, Lax nature, Keen Eye ability
Pluck, Roost, Fury Attack, Rock Smash
Ashley the Pikachu
Female, Timid nature, Static ability
Thundershock, Hidden Power (Ice), Nasty Plot, Thunder Wave
Hypatia the Slowpoke
Female, Hardy nature, Own Tempo ability
Confusion, Yawn, Headbutt, Scald
Soot the Raticate
Female, Hardy nature, Hustle ability
Crunch, Tail Whip, Hyper Fang, Focus Energy
Joanna the Salandit
Female, Timid nature, Corrosion ability
Flame Burst, Sweet Scent, Dragon Rage, Smog