Hello, Johto, my old friend; I’ve come to play through you again.
There is some deep part of my nostalgia that Heart Gold and Soul Silver touch in a way that Fire Red and Leaf Green somehow don’t. Maybe it’s just that they’re better put-together than their predecessors, or that the original Gold and Silver were better put-together than their predecessors. Maybe we’ll figure out what it is. There’ve been longer shots, after all.
Of course, I’ll have enough on my mind just keeping my insane tarot-based challenge rules straight.
Uh, negative; I am a meat popsicle.
You insensitive piece of $#!t. I’ll have you know that not having a Pokémon is an intense source of deeply personal shame for me.
A bit rich coming from the series that has had us storing Pokémon in “someone’s PC” since day 1, but I’ll play along.
Genuinely don’t know if I’ll have much to say about this douchebag, just because so much of what there is to say has been said to death, some of it by me. Eh, he’s not as big a deal as he thinks he is anyway.
Just want to note an interesting change from the original Gold and Silver here. In the original generation II games, Professor Elm is pretty blown away when you return from the errand he’s about to send me on. He’s never seen a Pokémon egg before, and it’s still considered an open question whether Pokémon really do hatch from eggs. In this version, the idea of a Pokémon egg barely piques his curiosity. It’s just another egg; big deal. Science has moved on in the ten real-world years that have retroactively passed since the last time these same events happened right now. He’s more interested in getting you to play around with this game’s new mechanic – letting Pokémon walk with you in the overworld.
Now, how to choose my starter Pokémon…? Ah, of course!
Since I have my tarot deck out anyway, I’m going to do something slightly unorthodox for the Kingslocke and actually use the cards for their intended purpose: perform a reading to solicit advice from… from…
…what the hell is supposed to make these things work, anyway? Spirits? Gods? Demons? My own latent psychic potential? Whatever; let’s hand it another piece of my soul and get the latest hot mystical guidance.
Right, well, that clearly means… uh…
Nine of Pentacles, well, yes, I suppose that’s true…
And the Queen in the second position, yeah, tell me something I don’t know…
The Three of Cups… certainly describes this situation…
Four of Pentacles seems obvious, but in the fourth position…? Is that a caution, a suggestion, or… a statement of inevitability?
And Temperance at the end; I suppose that could mean any of several things, but considering the full context…
Right. I think that settles it. If you want my full interpretation I’ll just put it under a little spoiler here.
Click to expand/collapse.
The middle position of a five-card horseshoe identifies the “heart of the matter,” and the Three of Cups is a brief but joyful occasion, in the realm of relationships… that’s most commonly interpreted as a marriage or birth, but partnering with your first Pokémon certainly qualifies…
The Four of Pentacles is typically a “bad” card in that it signifies being overly attached to material things; it’s sometimes called the card of the miser… but it’s also in the short-term future position, which… is that advice or a warning? I should cling to my old favourite, or I should be wary of being too rigid? And Temperance… indicating balance of the mind and emotions, contentment through moderation… in the final position that could easily be something to do with what happens after picking the starter, something about team composition, even. Hmm. I suppose it is sort of a point in Chikorita’s favour here that three of the five cards in the spread are from the “earthy” suit of Pentacles, with only one from the “watery” Cups and none from the “fiery” Wands. Of course, one of those Pentacles could easily be construed as a cautionary note, and Temperance is also a fairly “watery” card… but then again, Temperance also describes Meganium’s personality quite well.
Come to think of it, taken together, the Three of Cups (which emphasises the fleeting nature of the moment of celebration) and the Four of Pentacles are a pretty strong reminder of the nature of the Kingslocke: it doesn’t really matter all that much which starter I choose, since I could lose it at any moment through no fault of my own.
At the end of the day, though… When I saw the Queen of Pentacles in the second position I was quite ready to have the other three cards subvert that “initial expectation,” but there’s really nothing here that points even half as clearly to either Totodile or Cyndaquil, so I think I have the cards’ blessing on this one to go with Chikorita.
And a female! That’s only a 1/8 chance, but she is my Queen of Pentacles, so I’ll take this as confirmation from Fate that my reading was correct.
(My official stance on tarot is that it’s just mystical bull$#!t, but I’ve always been damn good at mystical bull$#!t)
Hail to the queen.
I generally recommend that you don’t start drawing cards in a Kingslocke until you have the option of catching wild Pokémon. We’ll come back here later.
I like Johto’s naming theme – names related to plants and vegetation that also (mostly) have connotations or double meanings related to colour. Here, Cherrygrove evokes the pale pink of cherry blossom.
Still in the pre-Kingslocke phase, but I’ll take the time here to level Vaysa a little bit, just in case (to imagine a completely random scenario off the top of my head) we suddenly have to battle a mysterious redheaded edgelord.
We can’t continue along the northwest path to Violet City right now because Youngster Joey is having a battle. The sheer incandescent power released by his top percentage Rattata in the midst of mortal combat is so great that it would be dangerous for us to even attempt to pass by.
Mr. Pokémon here justifies his enthusiasm for the mystery egg – he believes it’s a Pokémon you can’t find in Johto. He seems to be correct about this; based on where you can actually find them in the wild, Togepi probably come originally from either Sinnoh or Galar.
Professor Oak senses that we are touched by Fate, and decides he’d better get on our good side with the gift of a Pokédex.
“Oh no! I’m being robbed by a mysterious redheaded edgelord! I’d better call that small child I know, who is currently out of town on an errand! They’ll be able to help me!”
Oh no! A mysterious redheaded edgelord! I am unprepared for this turn of events!
Fun fact: in the original Gold and Silver, rather than engineer this pretence with the dropped trainer ID (…why does he even have a trainer ID, anyway? He stole his first Pokémon earlier today), this character introduced himself after the battle by saying “My name’s ???”. I, literal-minded 12-year-old child that I was, didn’t understand that the game was inviting me to choose a name for him, and dutifully told the police officer at Elm’s lab that the rival’s name was “???”. Fortunately, I am now older and wiser.
I feel like Giovanni’s kid should have an Italian name.
(…was that a spoiler? Should I not have said that? Eh, this game’s 13 years old now; you had your chance)
Once again, Elm is profoundly unimpressed by the egg – even when he realises it’s an egg of a species he isn’t familiar with. He’s much more interested in hearing that we’ve received Professor Oak’s blessing.
Thanks to the expert tutelage of our
neighbour non-rival female alternate self sister from another mister, Lyra, I can now catch Pokémon. So it’s finally time to draw a card for route 29!
The Six of Swords! We’re off to a strong start with the girl power theme. By now we all know what a Six does in the Kingslocke…
Six – Chicks: Ongoing: Your male Pokémon are banned (unless you have no female or genderless Pokémon). This rule is revoked if you draw a Five/Guys and cancels out if you draw another Six.
Immediate: You may catch the first female wild Pokémon you see in this area.
…and the twist added by the Advanced Rules to the Six of Swords isn’t a particularly dramatic one.
Six of Swords: Your genderless Pokémon are also banned.
Don’t have any yet! Anyway, the first female Pokémon I see; that would be…
…the first of Vasya’s devoted subjects, Charlotte the Observer! No wickedness or witchery shall escape her piercing gaze!
Route 46 is the end of the long south road from Blackthorn City. We can’t head north here because the way is blocked by ledges, but there are wild Pokémon here, so we’d better draw.
Hmm; no capture opportunity here, unfortunately. As we all know, the Aces make us do this…
Ace – Waterfall: Ongoing: You cannot switch Pokémon in battle unless one faints or is forced out of play. When your Pokémon do faint, you must use them in party order (you may still change your party order outside of battle). This rule is revoked if you draw a Nine/Snake Eyes and cancels out if you draw another Ace.
…but in the Advanced Rules, the Ace of Cups adds a little extra requirement on top of that.
Ace of Cups: Whenever you spend your turn using a healing item, you must switch to your next Pokémon in party order on your next turn.
The Ace of Cups adds an extra dimension to the Waterfall rule. If my party order is lined up right, and if I don’t mind throwing away a healing item, I can sometimes circumvent the restriction on switching. On the other hand, if I need to heal, I have to switch after doing so, whether I really want to or not.
Fortunately I already switch-trained Charlotte up to level 5 before coming here, so she’s now in a position to fend for herself. I think I’ll take her to 6 before moving on, just in case.
And, returning through Cherrygrove City to Route 30, it’s time to draw our last delayed card.
Lucky number seven! In the standard Kingslocke, the Sevens ask you to draw two more cards. The Sevens all give you extra draws in the Advanced Rules too, but they all do it in different ways. And this one does it like this:
Seven of Cups: Draw until you find two Major Arcana cards or Kings. Follow those cards’ rules and shuffle the other cards you drew back into the deck.
Well, that was exciting, and a very auspicious beginning for this run, finding two of the best cards in the deck. The first Major Arcana card turned up right away, the Emperor.
The Emperor: Immediate: Catch the first Pokémon you see in this area.
Ongoing: That Pokémon becomes a Champion.
The Emperor’s blessing makes Breeze a Champion, but unfortunately she doesn’t have any opportunity to enjoy it, because the next Major Arcana card I found – eleven cards down into the deck – was the World.
The World: Immediate: Revoke the effects of all other cards currently in play. Only petrified Pokémon and Pokémon in the Vessel remain unusable. Catch the first Pokémon you see in this area, OR free one petrified Pokémon, OR teach one of your party Pokémon a TM/TR move of your choice.
So we lose the benediction of the Emperor, but are also immediately freed of the restrictions of both the Six of Swords and the Ace of Cups! And we get a fourth team member, the next Pokémon I meet here.
This genuinely might be the luckiest start to a Kingslocke I’ve seen so far – better than the early draws of my own previous runs, and when I’ve had the chance to see other people play with these rules… uh… the cards have not smiled upon them, put it that way. I choose to take this as yet more evidence of Vasya’s unquestionable royal destiny, which will bring more and more Pokémon flocking to her banner. Anyway, I’d better take this opportunity to level up my new recruits. After all, my next card could be a Five, and then Hopewell would have to take on the world alone.
And here he is – the man, the myth, the legend…
…you know, it’s possible his top-percentage Rattata has been somewhat overhyped.
We may as well talk about Youngster Joey’s Rattata, since we’re here. There have in the past been persistent rumours that Joey’s Rattata really is “top-percentage,” in that it has perfect IVs, or “individual values” – the innate “genes” that determine how strong a Pokémon is relative to others of the same species and level (not to be confused with EVs, or “effort values,” which are earned through training). However, people who’ve hacked their copies of Heart Gold or Soul Silver and stolen Joey’s Rattata report that, far from being perfect, it actually has IVs of 0 in every stat, which is apparently standard for run-of-the-mill AI trainers in this generation (important characters like gym leaders get better Pokémon).
I don’t know anything about the nitty-gritty details of any of that, but I can confirm from this battle that, at least on this save file, Joey’s Rattata has a speed stat no higher than 10, since Hopewell was able to outrun it. For a level 4 Rattata with a speed-neutral nature, 10 is the minimum possible speed stat, corresponding to a speed IV no higher than 5 (a “perfect” IV is 31).
Of course, the whole reason Youngster Joey is such a living meme is that he’s the first minor character who can give you their phone number, meaning that, periodically for the rest of the game, he’ll ring me up and I’ll have to listen to his banal claptrap about his Rattata and their pointless life together. I’m actually pretty sure the “top percentage” line is not from the original Gold and Silver; I think it was added in Crystal, which gave a lot of these side characters more lines and more individual personality in their phone calls. All of that was carried over into the remakes, and the rest is history.
And here’s our first evolution of the game! Hard-nosed and thick-skinned, Hopewell will surely make an excellent seneschal for Vasya’s royal household.
I think we’ve probably come far enough for one day, but we’re at the threshold of a new route, so let’s just draw a card and see what happens…
Hmm… most ominous. As veterans no doubt recall, the Nines carry the pseudo-Nuzlocke “Snake Eyes” rule:
Nine – Snake Eyes: Ongoing: Any of your Pokémon that are defeated in battle are petrified. This rule is revoked if you draw an Ace/Waterfall and cancels out if you draw another Nine.
The Nine of Cups does allow a little flexibility, however…
Nine of Cups: Immediately after a Pokémon is petrified by this card’s effect, when you go to deposit it in your PC storage, you may instead petrify a different Pokémon (either from your party or a box) that could form a Lovers-compatible pair with it and is not already banned or petrified.
The suit of Cups is used for divinations about emotion, relationships and romance, so several of its special variants in the Advanced Rules reference the Lovers, one of the cards from the Major Arcana. In the Kingslocke, the Lovers says: “Your party must consist of opposite-gender pairs of Pokémon that share an egg group.” So, what the Nine of Cups is saying is that one of these potential “lover” Pokémon can make a noble sacrifice to save their beloved. Unfortunately, we don’t have any pairs at the moment: Hopewell is my only male Pokémon, and he’s in the Bug egg group, so he doesn’t match anyone else. For now, at least, this is a perfectly standard Nuzlocke-lite, and I’m going to have to watch my Pokémon’s health carefully.
Will our heroes survive to climb the Sprout Tower and take on Falkner in the Violet Gym? Only time will tell…
One last thing: I’m not going to include this reminder every time, so remember that, if I draw a Ten (which asks an observer to create a custom rule – see here for details) on this run, Jim the Editor will be picking his favourite custom rule suggestions from the comments. Comment with your ideas on any post in this series, at any time – we’ll be collecting all of them (and don’t worry too much about the variant Tens from the Advanced Rules; they have extra perks, but the basic “create a new rule” effect is the same, and Jim will make sure I can’t use the details to get away with anything).