Pearl Kingslocke: Episode 16

Big rules here, little rules down there, let’s go.

So there’s a Team Galactic goon here being a goon and doing goon things.  Maybe Cynthia knew all about this and realised someone had to go and deal with it, but didn’t want to have to speak to her grandmother, so she engineered a bull$#!t pretext for the player to go to Celestic Town instead.

This doofus is apparently here to investigate the ruins for any source of power that Team Galactic can use.  Finding nothing, he has decided, in a fit of pique, to let off a bomb and destroy the entire town.  Because everyone in Team Galactic is a petulant moron.

Why does this guy even have a Galactic Bomb?  I thought making them was, like, a big deal; didn’t they claim that the whole Valley Windworks operation done so they could siphon energy for the bombs?  Why would they just give you one if they weren’t specifically planning for you to blow up Celestic Town?

I mean, I’m curious what’ll happen if you actually get to blow up the town; maybe someone in a position of actual authority will be forced to take action against your organisation and I won’t have to fµ¢£in’ deal with you anymore.  But we all know this story won’t move forward like that.

…ohhhh, this might have been a mistake.

Y’know, I really thought I could be clever here with Amnesia and do something cunning and strategic to beat an enemy with a theoretical advantage, but the Random Number God ain’t havin’ none o’ that $#!t today.

Twice in a row, Otto; could you please not save up all your bad rolls for the fights we actually care about!?

I don’t even care anymore.

Don’t mind if I do.

So… if this is in fact an authentic legend of Celestic Town and not just something the Elder has made up on the spot to describe the wall painting, it seems like a really weird one to me.  Wouldn’t a legend attribute some kind of motivation or significance or meaning to these entities and their actions, even if it was the “wrong” one from our perspective?  Like, we’ve played this game before, so we know that all of these legendary Pokémon are supposed to represent big significant-sounding concepts like time, knowledge and creation – but the legend doesn’t say that; the legend apparently just says they’re three beings that keep balance with one other being for Some Fµ¢£ing Reason.  But if there is no significance or meaning to you or your culture… why did you pass the story down for generations?  Maybe the point of the story to them is just that the universe is a weird and arbitrary place, governed by a delicate balance between abstract forces that have no direct relevance to ordinary human lives.

Which… y’know, to be fair to them, is true.

As bizarre as it is on the level of the plot, I kinda respect the character decision to have Cyrus just openly not give a $#!t about anything the rest of Team Galactic is doing, including stuff he presumably ordered them to do.  The bomb threat is another thing that pointlessly draws attention to Team Galactic and ought to make the rest of Sinnoh actively hostile toward them, while not advancing any of their goals whatsoever (and actually wasting a valuable weapon that they’ll supposedly need later – again, why did this guy even have the bomb?).  Cyrus would have been much better off coming to Celestic Town to investigate the ruins himself without causing a scene – which he apparently also did anyway. He doesn’t even care that none of this makes sense, because he’s a radical nihilist and considers all human affairs fundamentally meaningless.

Okay, this is a pretty small and insignificant line, but I want to talk about it.  With years of hindsight, the Pokémon mentioned here is clearly Arceus (although in the context of the original Diamond and Pearl it could easily be understood as meaning Palkia or Dialga).  There are some official sources that say Arceus created the world or even the universe, and this is how fans generally understand the lore as well.  But there are also a lot of in-universe sources that seem to think Arceus created the Sinnoh region – which might as well have been the world, or even the universe, to the ancient people whose mythology these stories represent.  I think that there is a consistent theme across the media of Pokémon’s fourth generation – the “core” games, the anime, even some of the “spinoff” games like Conquest – that myths say something about the world, but in an oblique and often confusing way that sometimes just doesn’t map clearly onto the modern understanding of how the world works.  And I kiiiiiiiinda think, maybe, that fan media (including some of my older stuff) is often guilty of taking all Sinnoh’s myths at face value when the story itself perhaps encourages us to not quite do that.

fµ¢£, I haven’t done anything yet; we need to get out of here before I don’t do something else

We’ve been on route 211 before – it’s technically the same route that leads east out of Eterna City and through Mount Coronet – but this is clearly a new “area” by any reasonable definition, with different and much stronger wild Pokémon, as well as several more trainers, so let’s draw a new card.

Queen – A Ship Came Into The Harbour: …carrying a boatload of Pokémon! Keep catching the first Pokémon you see in this area until your party is full (or until you have caught three, if you have fewer than three empty slots in your party).

Hmm

Well… well technically I can’t catch Pokémon until my party is full, unless there are any Johto Pokémon in this area, which I don’t… think there are (because, again, Cynthia was absolutely lying when she said there were interesting Pokémon around Celestic Town).  But I guess we can just catch three.

I suppose I… technically don’t have a Graveler yet, even though I have three Geodude, and I’ll take any chance I get to keep doing my dumb rock-names bit, so-

ah, fµ¢£ you too; I bet you would’ve been a $#!tty Pokémon anyway

I suppose technically all these duplicate Pokémon do give me ways to get around gender and nature restrictions, assuming there’s ever some future time when I’m not stuck using only generation II Pokémon.

I actually have quite a lot of these things now; I mean, not many of them are really “useful” in the classical sense of the word, but… well, they’re quite nice to look at.

Alex here isn’t a bad Pokémon, as Pokémon go, but when Slam is the only attack you’re allowed to use, sometimes you find it… difficult to make a contribution.

To be fair to Alex, Bronzor can be a tricky Pokémon to handle efficiently at the best of times, and not being able to use STAB moves or switch without fainting just makes everything harder.  I’m just glad Tiktok isn’t stuck with Confusion here.

This part of Mount Coronet actually is the same “area,” by almost any definition, as the other side of the cave that leads to Eterna City.  We can’t get back through to the other side (or north to Snowpoint City) without Strength, which we apparently can’t use yet, but the wild Pokémon here are the same low-level ones as we saw on the other side, and there are no trainers, so I don’t think this merits a card draw.

The Elder of Celestic Town gives us the HM for Surf as thanks for our help dealing with Team Galactic, and mentions that you need the Hearthome City gym badge to use it, which is the game’s way of hinting that Fantina will finally be back home and ready to accept challenges.  So off we go!

Right.  Let’s try this again.

An appearance at last from the fourth Page, the Page of Swords.

Page – Never Have I Ever: Teach all of your current party Pokémon a new move from a TM (if possible, this must be a move that Pokémon has never known in the past). If some of your Pokémon can’t learn any new moves from the TMs you have, do as many as you can.

No real change to the basic status quo, but we’ve got to figure out some new moves… I could give Alex Blizzard, Hyper Beam or Focus Blast, I guess; that’d be kind of hilarious and she has a quiet nature so her special attack’s actually not that bad.  We’re going into a Ghost gym and Alex is currently stuck with just Slam, so Blizzard is the obvious pick.  Ugh, a lot of the TMs I have are for moves that none of these Pokémon can learn, on account of being bad Pokémon with bad movepools.  Alex is the only one with meaningful options.  I could give Tiktok Fly, I guess; he won’t be allowed to use it but I guess it has utility value.  Then Divine and Otto can just have random filler moves like Protect or Flash or Substitute or something.  What’s annoying is that I actually like all the moves they have at the moment (Thunder, Psybeam, Confuse Ray and Pain Split on Divine; Thunder, Psybeam, Assurance and Strength on Otto – Assurance is meh in general but also very nice to have going into a Ghost gym), but the Page doesn’t let you opt out; you have to teach your Pokémon new moves, even if you like the ones they’ve got.  I guess there’s Swagger, that’d be an okay replacement for Confuse Ray on Divine.  And maybe Light Screen on Otto?  Yeah, I guess that’s fine; I can lose Otto’s Psybeam, since he’s not allowed to use it, and I’m pretty sure Girafarig does eventually get Psychic on its level-up list.

Alexolotl – Blizzard
Tiktok – Fly
Otto – Light Screen
Divine – Swagger
(and of course Effie, as always, gets nothing; lucky them)

Anyway.

The gimmick of Fantina’s gym is that, on each floor, you’re given a basic arithmetic question and have to solve it to find out which door leads to the elevator that takes you further up.  In this example, 3 + 5 + 7 = 15, so the correct door is the one on the right.  All the other doors have trainers waiting to challenge you.

Of course, you might want to fight the gym trainers, and the game even lampshades this, with the trainers reminding you that one of the standard starting Pokétch apps is a calculator and suggesting that you must have screwed up the maths on purpose.

Ghost-type trainers often deploy two standard moves that are a pretty trivial obstacle in a normal playthrough: Spite and Curse.  Curse does heavy damage over time, but also cuts a Ghost-type user’s HP in half, and the curse is easy to shake off by switching out.  Spite reduces the PP of the last move you used, which is fine because most moves have way more PP than you’ll use in a normal fight anyway.  But it turns out if you’re not allowed to switch (because of the Ace of Cups) and your only usable move is Blizzard (thanks to the Four of Pentacles), which has poor accuracy and only 5 PP… Spite and Curse will pretty quickly destroy you.

Fortunately, Tiktok doesn’t have to take this $#!t from anyone.

Two upsides to Alex: solid special defence and an occasional freeze chance from Blizzard.

I think all the Gastly in here are high enough level that, on their natural movelist progression, they’ve forgotten Nightshade in favour of these silly physical attacks like Payback and Sucker Punch that they’re terrible at using.  I guess it’s less work for the developers than giving every trainer’s individual Pokémon a bespoke moveset, but it’s still kind of a let-down.

Effie is still terrible, and in a Ghost-type gym they’re even worse than normal, but at least there’s one Pokémon in here that their Ice-type Hidden Power will reliably let them beat up.

The fourth room pulls a fast one and asks you to remember what the sum for the first room was.  Fortunately, even if you can’t remember it, we’ve established that these questions have absolutely no stakes anyway.

To mess with you specifically and for no other reason.

Holy $#!t this one dude has a Gengar, he’s actually serious

Oh.  Well.  Not that serious, I guess.  Sadly the AI doesn’t know that using Curse is a bad idea when your last Pokémon is at less than 50% HP.

And here we are – the Hearthome gym leader, Fantina.  I think her Pokémon are Gengar, Drifblim and Mismagius, in that order, so I’m going to open with Tiktok and just… sort of… see how that goes.

Oh yeah, also she’s like this.  I forgot. She’s French – or Kalosian – or something. Whatever.

Okay, memory was a bit off on the order, but this is fine.  The bigger issue is that Drifblim is quite tanky and Tiktok’s Confusion is on the lacklustre side; I won’t be able to finish it before it wakes up.

On the plus side, Drifblim’s own offensive capabilities with Gust are pretty terrible considering its level advantage (maybe it has a stronger Ghost attack it can’t use against Tiktok; not sure).  On the minus side, Fantina brought a hyper potion to this fight, and Drifblim keeps using Minimise.

4 Moo-Moo Milks and more than 40 turns later, Tiktok is out of PP for both Confusion and Silver Wind, and it becomes clear that this is not a fight he is going to win (although it’s possible Drifblim is running low on Gust PP by now too).

Okay, Effie… your Hidden Power is super-effective; all you need to do is hit onceYes it’s at +6 evasion but just once will do it.

…never mind.

Divine got three shots with Psybeam and none of them hit.  I think at +6 evasion you theoretically have something like a 75% dodge chance (don’t fact check me, I’m not allowed to look it up, remember), but of course we all know that for the AI it’s more like 90%.

Seriously, that’s the move that finishes it off?  Well, fine, whatever; we still have Alex and Otto; may as well give this a try.

Did I say “Alex and”?  We have Otto.  This is fine.  Otto is immune to Ghost attacks; this’ll be easy.

There.  Just needed one little Moo-Moo Milk top-up.  Uh.  Okay, maybe we’ll need one more.

ohhh good.  Assurance is another of those really low-PP moves; after getting hit twice by Spite while healing, Otto is all out.  Well, at least there’s Thunder…

Long story short, instead of finishing Otto off with Poison Jab, Gengar gets stuck in some kind of Spite loop, trying to reduce Otto’s PP, but failing because “it hurt itself in its confusion” isn’t a valid target for Spite.  In the end, that gives Otto enough time to shake off the confusion, and…

Five badges down, three to go!

Oh hey, Cynthia is here.  She’s mostly here so we understand that our next destination is Canalave City, with its Steel-type gym and library of Sinnohan history and mythology, which we can reach now that we have out-of-combat access to Surf.  But she also has some thoughts about the plot:

they literally threatened to explode your grandmother and her entire village, Cynthia, you absolute fµ¢£ing cantaloupe

Like, we knew they were stealing Pokémon, right?  We’ve known that for… I dunno, probably weeks, in-universe? You, Cynthia, were in Eterna City at a time when it was public knowledge in Eterna City that Team Galactic minions were harassing people and stealing their Pokémon.  This is not new information to you, or at least it shouldn’t be – but now that they’ve openly threatened to bomb your hometown, well!  It’s gonna take a bit longer for that to sink in, but at least it’s bumped their previous crimes a few spaces up the mental queue for your consideration!

I mean, I know Cynthia has a lot going on with her research, and there’s arguably a case for characterising her as something of a tunnel-visioned, cloud-cuckoo-lander academic, and even if there weren’t, it’s probably not really her “job” as the regional Person Who Is Best At Making Her Pets Fight to deal with this $#!t, but… come the fµ¢£ on, woman!

whatever, I’m gonna go look for interesting things to swim across

9 thoughts on “Pearl Kingslocke: Episode 16

  1. That Gym battle was really tense! Well done to you and your team. (Except you, Effie.)

    Y’know I’m still not… entirely sure what the correlation between Ghost types and basic maths is supposed to be. All of the other Gym puzzles in Diamond & Pearl feel on-brand for their respective types (save for Orebugh, which is just replicating Brock’s Gym layout for the third time), but Hearthome’s really feels like they couldn’t think of anything clever and just said f*** it, make ’em do something with the Pokétch. I guess it’s telling that it’s the most heavily-reworked puzzle in Platinum.

    Also, I always thought it was kinda funny how Diantha (almost universally considered by fandom to be the worst Champion) gets so much flak for not helping out against Team Flare, while Cynthia (easily *the* most popular Champion except perhaps for Leon) not only doesn’t really help out against Team Galactic, but also misses several blatantly obvious warning signs and seems far more preoccupied with sending you on meaningless delivery jobs instead. I suppose Platinum also fixed that *somewhat* by having her join you in chasing Cyrus through the Distortion World, but even still…

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      1. On more cynical days, I’d probably come to the same conclusion, but like… does Diantha just not have waifu cred or something? I hate to boil female characters down to their appearance like this, but it’s not as though Diantha is visually repulsive – she’s designed in the vein of Audrey Hepburn, for crying out loud.

        Personally, my (admittedly unscientific) theory is that it comes down to audience priorities in those respective times. In the pre-Black & White era, Pokémon wasn’t exactly known for or expected to produce compelling stories; the narratives of the first four generations are all relatively perfunctory. So the fact that Cynthia just kind of mosied around without relation to the Team Galactic story (which was itself fairly low-stakes until the climax) didn’t really stand out. I think what people remember about Cynthia is primarily her being a tough boss fight, which was maybe the more important aspect of the game to people back then. But fast-forward to the time of X & Y, and the preceding generation has changed a lot of peoples’ minds in terms of what they can expect from a core series Pokémon on a storytelling level, particularly in regards to Alder, who takes on a much more active role in the story than prior Champions. Albeit a deliberate choice according to Junichi Masuda, X & Y have a more lackadaisical story, which I distinctly remember people viewing as a downgrade compared to the previous generation. And on top of that, Diantha probably *wasn’t* as challenging of a boss fight for a lot of players, who by then were older and more adept at the game. (Not to mention the Exp. Share in those games making it incredibly easy to become overleveled.)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. While you make some good points, from my experience people simp over Cynthia’s appearance way more than Diantha. Sure, Diantha is attractive, but the internet has a type, and the fact that Cynthia tends to be portrayed as a more commanding character helps.

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  2. That’s interesting observation at the end. Like, WHOSE job is it then? There are policemen around but they seem too busy harassing any kid who happens to be out at night training Pokémon. I think we really ought to get some sort of insight on how governments and law enforcement work in this world.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I mean, honestly I kind of assume that they have a parliamentary democracy similar to that of real-world Japan and that we just don’t hear about it because the designers don’t think politics and governance are interesting. Of course that does raise the question of why the hell no one is doing anything about these bomb threats…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I always assumed they just don’t have much in terms of government. The Elite Four and Champion seem to have a lot of power and get a lot of respect – Black and White in particular seems to show this. There are police so I suppose there’s some level of law enforcement but I think they’re more on a local level, with individual cities employing them. I also imagine each region is a bit different.

        But ultimately it’s a fantasy world so it doesn’t have to make sense. They can lack any sort of structured government and hand wave it as “well in this world most people get along well enough that they don’t need it”. At the end of the day, nobody tried to stop Team Rocket except for a 10 year old child. Very few people tried to stop any of the villain teams aside from children and, occasionally, elite four members and champions. Which like… maybe is evidence they should consider politics and law enforcement, but these are generally treated as isolated incidents and somehow they just mostly get by without any of that.

        Alternatively, you play the role of a child and children often manage to remain unaware of things like politics. Though that stills begs the question on why kids have to solve all the dangerous problems (aside from most of SwSh when they actively try to shelter the children from it all).

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        1. I’ve really never bought “the Pokémon League is the government,” partly because it’s framed in the language of a sporting organisation and portrayed in the anime as one, partly because some of the developers’ comments from the gen I era seem to suggest that being a serious competitive Pokémon trainer as an adult is, to put it in today’s terms, kinda cringe – obviously they didn’t stick to that, but it makes me doubtful that they ever could have thought of the Pokémon League this way in their early world building. So “the Elite Four are in charge” just seems to me like a much bigger leap than “we don’t hear about the government because it’s assumed we don’t care.”

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