Isle of Armour, Part 2

Okay, no preamble; let’s just wrap this thing up.

  • The next step in Kubfu’s training is to become friends with it, the same as you would with any Pokémon.  Because that can take a while, Mustard also flags several places on the Isle of Armour that have spectacular views, which you can visit with Kubfu to accelerate the bonding process.  I think this is mostly just here to show off the scenery of the Isle of Armour, although it is certainly some of the prettiest I’ve seen in a core Pokémon game.
  • Next you have to raise Kubfu to an appropriate level (70 for me, but there is apparently some level scaling in the Isle of Armour so I assume it’s different if you go before finishing the main story) and choose one of two towers on the island to ascend: the Tower of Water or the Tower of Darkness.  This is what determines which of the forms of Kubfu’s evolution, Urshifu, it will assume.
    • Once you’ve climbed one tower, the other is forever closed to you.
    • On each floor you battle a trainer from Mustard’s dojo, which is pretty easy with Kubfu at the required level.
    • I like the idea of a story/RP-based evolution mechanism a lot, and the towers are nice additions to the scenery of the Isle of Armour, but this feels… underdeveloped.  You don’t know anything about Urshifu’s different forms before climbing the towers (well… you do, because it was all revealed months ago, but in the context of the game you don’t know).  Some of the dialogue of the dojo trainers vaguely hints at a spiritual dimension to this choice (or at least, it does in the Tower of Darkness, which was the one I chose) but that comes after you’ve already picked a tower.  You know the choice is consequential because they tell you that you can only ever climb one, but there isn’t much to make it feel consequential.
  • At the top of the tower, Mustard is waiting to challenge you with his own Kubfu, and there is this… truly fantastic animation where he flips out of his coat and goes from a hunched-over, kinda unkempt old guy in a tracksuit to an incredibly lethal martial arts master in two seconds flat.
  • According to Mustard’s league card, which he gives you after fighting him, the Isle of Armour is, like… his private island.  Like, he owns it; he bought it with money and it now belongs to him.  I guess all those endorsement deals you get as Champion of Galar must really bring in the dough.
    • To reiterate: in the Pokémon world, an elderly karate master with a pet bear and a hot wife half his age literally owns the Isle of Man.
  • Anyway, Kubfu reads the magic scroll at the top of the tower, evolves into Urshifu and gains either the Water type or the Dark type, with a matching signature move, according to which tower you chose.
  • Part of Urshifu’s gimmick, as we know from the reveal trailer for the Isle of Armour, is that it has two different Gigantamax forms for its two different fighting styles, so obviously the next step is to Gigantamax Urshifu… unfortunately, it can’t stand the special soup that the dojo makes to grant Pokémon the Gigantamax property.
  • Mustard knows you need a secret ingredient which will alter the taste of the soup to Urshifu’s liking, but is deliberately vague about what it is, pretending that he’s forgotten (which I suppose is him trying to teach us self-reliance).  He just tells us that it’s sweet and sticky.
    • What follows is basically just a fetch quest to find the “certain something.”  It’s not terribly interesting game design, but there are two positives: you learn about different Pokémon through the story, and Hop shows up to help.
    • Much as I do love Hop, I wish it were Avery helping out with this (/Klara for those playing Sword).  He needs more screentime for us to get to know him, and it would be nice if he could build more reasons for us to forgive his attempts to sabotage us.
    • We chase after Lilligant and Applin in search of sweet nectar and juice to liven up the soup, but Hop tastes both and decides we need a stickier ingredient and eventually thinks of Vespiquen honey.
      • There is a scene where an Applin falls from a tree and clonks the player on the head, and Hop says it left some juice in your hair… then the screen cuts to black and we get a text box just reading “*slurp*” as Hop tastes the Applin juice… and… I think he just licked our hair?
        • Hop, buddy, I know we’re best friends and everything, but… boundaries; come on.
    • We track down a Vespiquen in a tree that Hop identifies as a Power Spot, one of the special locations that allows Pokémon to Dynamax.  The player then has to fight a Dynamaxed Vespiquen alone, because Hop is just too startled to do anything.  Really dropping the ball on us here, buddy.
      • This isn’t super difficult, but I still like it as a boss fight because it’s pretty flavourful and gives some interesting hints about the connection between Dynamaxing and the natural features of the Galarian landscape.
      • When Vespiquen attacks us, its cry is transcribed in the text box as “oh bee haiiiiive!” I… hate myself for loving this.
  • Urshifu can now Gigantamax, so that means it’s finally time to fight Mustard for real.  He’s no pushover – he primarily uses Fighting Pokémon but has some other types mixed in as well, all his Pokémon are at high levels with diverse movesets, and his strongest Pokémon is an Urshifu of the opposite style to yours, which he Gigantamaxes at the first opportunity.
    • Before the battle, Mustard makes a vague and ominous comment about being “ready for what’s to come” – possibly hinting that he’ll be involved in the events of the Crown Tundra expansion?
  • Having finished the story of the Isle of Armour, we can now access a new challenge mode: Restricted Sparring.  This is a Battle Tower-esque game mode based on three-on-three single battles against opponents whose Pokémon are fully EV-trained with diverse movesets.  In addition, you have to use a team of three Pokémon that all share one type, your Pokémon can’t hold items, and you can only heal twice in a run of five battles.  Your opponents, on the other hand, need observe no such restrictions.  Sword and Shield’s Battle Tower isn’t especially challenging, so this is a nice addition.

Final verdict: the Isle of Armour is a little lighter on new story and features than I’d expect from an “expansion” game like Platinum or Ultra SMoon, but it’s also only the first of two expansions we’re expecting, and the package of Isle of Armour and Crown Tundra is much cheaper than purchasing a whole extra copy of what is basically the same game.  A switch to an “expansion” model feels overdue for Pokémon, and now that it’s here, I’m pretty satisfied with the results.  It’s not really a must-buy (and again I should emphasise that if you just want more Pokémon you can now trade for them, or transfer them from older games via Pokémon Home, without buying the expansions) and if you already weren’t planning to buy Sword or Shield then I don’t think anything here should change your mind, but if you have the base game already, then it’s a cool add-on that does everything I’d want it to.

2 thoughts on “Isle of Armour, Part 2

  1. Worth noting, according to people I’ve talked to who didn’t buy the expansion, you can join raids from the Isle of Armor without owning the expansion. So you don’t even need to trade for the added Pokémon, you can jump into raids (admittedly, without friends this is a hit or miss thing, and even then there’s little control over what you get).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting, probably-accidental flavor win: the rule against items means that the martial arts dojo is unusually favorable to the usage of Acrobatics.

    Liked by 1 person

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