I’m starting off this leg by just… putting a whole lot of Pokémon through basic training. Thanks to the King of Swords, all my lower-level Pokémon can ignore the rules and do whatever they want until they hit 31, and there are actually a lot who can evolve before that point.
Call it an investment in the future.
Hail to the queen!
And hail to the… other queen? Oh boy.
Now, where were we…?
Ah, yes, Professor Elm’s gift. Unfortunately, the Kingslocke allows you to catch legendary Pokémon but doesn’t let you use a Master Ball on them. Still, I suppose we’ll find some use for it sooner or later.
The Kimono Girls also have business with us, so it’s off to Ecruteak City!
I’ve visited the Kimono Girls’ Theatre before, but didn’t draw a card because there was only one very low-level Rocket Grunt to fight. Now, though… well, this time is going to be a bit trickier. Let’s draw before going inside.
Well, this is always good for drama.
The Lovers: Ongoing: Your party must consist of opposite-gender pairs of Pokémon that share an egg group. Genderless Pokémon may be paired with a Pokémon of any gender that shares an egg group. If you only own Pokémon of one gender, or if all your Pokémon of one gender are banned or petrified, you may form same-gender pairs, but must still pair Pokémon that share an egg group.
Immediate: You may catch one Pokémon of your choice in this area that would form a valid pair with any Pokémon that was in your party when you drew this card.
My four Vessel Pokémon are all still Champions, so I don’t have to think about them, but I do have to consider Vasya and Hera. The Six of Swords is in play, so I can pair up two female Pokémon, but I still need to respect their egg groups: Tauros is Field, while Meganium is Grass and Monster. Fortunately, Slowbro is in the Monster group and Arbok is in the Field group, so we can just pair Vasya with Doc and Hera with Hannah.
…you know who else is in the Monster egg group…?
The two rival claimants for the throne, face to face at last…
…can we actually make this work?
wait, hang on
claimants to the throne…
HOLY $#!T, THE PROPHECY!
Eleanor is a Nidoking, but she’s a queen, and now that she’s evolved her Pokédex number ends in 0, so she’ll have the blessing of the King of Pentacles… so she’s a queen… of pentacles…
A Queen of Pentacles; at the time I thought that was obviously Vasya, but what if it wasn’t!?
Nine of Pentacles… the hard work that’s brought us – and Vasya and Eleanor – to this point… the Queen of Pentacles… but there are two Queens of Pentacles, two rival claimants to the throne… and how could that be resolved, except through… the Three of Cups! A card representing a joyful occasion in the realm of relationships and emotions… like a royal wedding… Each giving up their exclusive claim, making the material political sacrifice implied by the Four of Pentacles to achieve a greater good: the compromise, balance and harmony represented by Temperance!
THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT! The Prophecy I made at the beginning of the game was not just guiding me to choose Vasya, but engineering THIS MOMENT! We will have not just one queen but two!
Oh, what do you want?
Apparently This Douchebag was here to challenge the Kimono Girls as well – and it didn’t go well. Was he invited? Did they think he might be the one to bring back the legendary Pokémon? Or was he just kinda… waiting there, on the off chance they came back?
There is a gameplay purpose to this, of course: This Douchebag’s dialogue serves to warn the player that they need to be ready for a fight when they step inside the theatre. Fortunately, our queens and their royal guard are as ready as we’ll ever be.
Each of the Kimono Girls has a high-level evolved Eevee. First in line is Zuki’s Umbreon.
A powerful foe, but no match for our queen.
Unfortunately, Eleanor doesn’t have a lot of options against Naoko’s Espeon. She can’t switch out because of the Ace of Pentacles and can’t heal because of the High Priestess.
Oof; real insult to injury with the special defence drop on top of the critical hit. Vasya might have been able to draw this out with Synthesis if not for the crit, but it looks like neither of our queens will be a match for this one. Fortunately, all I have left now is Champions, so I can just pick the best one to send in…
Now that’s Payback.
Espeon was probably the hardest, especially with my team composition, but let’s not let our guard down just yet.
As a Champion, Hannah can ignore the High Priestess’ healing restriction.
Oh, come on; that’s two misses with Mud Bomb in a row; throw me a bone here, game.
That’s more like it.
Ah, let’s just squash it.
It kinda sounds like these Kimono Girls are not just masterful dancers and elite Pokémon trainers, but extremely stealthy secret agents. They’ve been observing our progress in some pretty obscure places without being discovered by Team Rocket or the dragon tamers.
I don’t like Doc or Nadja’s odds against Jolteon, so I’m going to try healing Explodia.
…but it looks like Thunderbolt does too much damage for that to work. And I can’t revive Eleanor because of the High Priestess. Hmm.
When in doubt…
oh, holy $#!t
Nice job, Nadja! This is why we made you a royal guard!
First Confuse Ray didn’t stick, let’s try again…
…nope. Oh well; Doc should be able to handle this easily enough.
That miss hurt; might have to heal in a couple of turns just to be safe.
There; easiest battle of my life.
We’ve passed the Kimono Girls’ test and earned the Clear Bell, and it seems someone is waiting for us at the pinnacle of Ecruteak City’s Bell Tower.
Better stock up on these… I don’t think any of Kurt’s bull$#!t is going to help with this one.
The monks at the gatehouse will actually let you visit the tower once you have the Fog Badge, but there hasn’t been much point in doing so before now.
Here we are… the Bell Tower. In the original Gold and Silver, this building was known as the Tin Tower. According to one of the sages who guards the Tin Tower in Crystal, its counterpart, the Burned Tower, was once known as the Brass Tower and was the home of “an immense, silver-coloured Pokémon” – presumably Lugia; the other tower belonged to Ho-oh. Both Pokémon left Ecruteak City forever when the Brass Tower was destroyed.
With Ho-oh’s feather in hand, we are permitted to climb the tower. But first…
ugh, just what we need
Eight – Mate: Ongoing: The Pokémon in your current party that has spent the most time in your active party over the course of the game is banned.
Eight of Wands: If you have any boxed Pokémon that have not levelled since they were caught, choose one and make it compulsory and a Champion as long as this card remains in play.
Unfortunately, after that round of basic training, there is not a single Pokémon on my roster who qualifies for the bonus from the Eight of Wands. Worse still… the Eights pass over any Champions when making their selection, and Eleanor – enjoying the King of Pentacles’ bonus thanks to her Johto ‘dex number of 100 – can’t be banned. So this kinda has to be Vasya.
This presents me with a difficult choice. With Vasya exiled, Eleanor would certainly be able to seize sole power for herself with a new political marriage to someone without a strong claim of their own – but the kingdom would surely fall into civil war. Eleanor remembers The Prophecy… and considers again the meaning of the Four of Pentacles, and Temperance.
A worthy queen would not let this happen to her people. Eleanor will join Vasya in exile and appoint a Viceroy and Vicereine to rule in their stead.
Pupitar is ‘dex number 250, so cannot be banned, making Zill usable in spite of the Six of Swords; Friday, being a Water-type, ignores the Four of Cups and can use STAB moves.
The Bell Tower has many floors, but with identical wild Pokémon on each floor, I’m not going to bother drawing more than a single card for the whole thing.
who even designed this place?
These people had warp panel technology and they didn’t just use it to create an easy shortcut to the top of the tower.
…here we are.
The Kimono Girls’ ritual dance has successfully summoned Ho-oh, the rainbow phoenix and guardian of the sky. In the spirit of the challenge, I’m not going to save my game at this point – I’m only giving myself one shot at this.
Ugh, I really would have been happy if Hannah had just been able to land Glare and Intimidate; I didn’t even need her to do any damage. Oh well; I guess this isn’t working.
…nope, never mind.
I guess we’ll just have to do this the old fashioned way.
Now we’re talking. Well done, Viceroy!
Two wobbles; not bad for the first ball. Might see if we can chip away slightly more.
But not with Zill, evidently…
Eh, I’ll take it. Getting off even one Mirror Shot with Explodia was a long shot.
Yeah, this thing has godly special defence; even with Sunny Day up, Flamethrower seemed pretty safe. Let’s start throwing Ultra Balls.
Gradually running out of steam; I’m gonna revive Doc to make sure we don’t lose outright.
Actually, the young Vicereine is really holding her own here; I can’t heal her because she isn’t a Champion, unfortunately, but this is impressive. It helps that Fire Blast and Sacred Fire only have 5 PP each; I think Ho-oh’s run dry (fortunately, Extrasensory for some reason has 30 PP, so I’m not in danger of it Struggling itself to death for a while yet).
We’re very much in the “throw Ultra Balls until one side gives up” phase of this fight. I really think one of the biggest weaknesses of Pokémon’s core game design is that actually catching Pokémon is not very interesting or dynamic. Within the framework of the game’s basic mechanics, any effort to make it harder mostly just makes it extremely boring and frustrating, and with the exception of adding specialised Pokéballs (concept in gen 2, with extra variations added later) most of the changes that have been made to the capture mechanics over the years haven’t really made any serious attempt to address the core problem – at best, catching legendary Pokémon gets easier over generations V-VII. It’s not really until generation VIII that I think there’s a real effort to make catching Pokémon more interesting, with Sword and Shield’s raid battles and Legends’ stealth-based options. Unfortunately, Legends’ solutions rely on the action game format and Sword and Shield’s relies on the region-specific Dynamax mechanic… but I guess it’s nice to know the problem is on their minds?
Well, that was my 27th and final Ultra Ball. Great Balls, anyone?
And so, Ho-oh decided that it would rather fight until it plummeted out of the sky from exhaustion than ever work with a trainer as unworthy as me.
This is a really interesting line from Zuki that I think may have slipped under the radar for a lot of people, because she only says it if you bother to speak to her (rather than just immediately reloading your game) after defeating Ho-oh or Lugia without catching it. It seems like Zuki thinks this outcome is not a failure on the player’s part, but a choice – that you’ve chosen to banish Ho-oh rather than capture it because you actually disagree with her goal of bringing the legendary Pokémon back to Johto. Which… honestly, is a real big-dick-energy roleplay move if you choose to own it.
Oh well. Back to the business of the day. There’s just a couple more things I want to do before leaving Johto and making my pilgrimage to the Indigo Plateau.
First is to check out the Whirl Islands. I want to erase Whirlpool from Doc’s moveset soon so he can learn something better, but as long as I have it, I may as well use it.
fµ¢£, it’s dark in here
The caves on the four Whirl Islands are all connected underground. Technically the cave has multiple levels, but the encounter tables are only subtly different and there’s definitely one “main” area, so I’m going to (somewhat arbitrarily) draw only one card here.
The Sun: Immediate: All ongoing card effects that can ban a specific Pokémon (Eight/Mate, Knight after a failed Challenge, the Tower, version 6 of the Wheel of Fortune, any Ten/Rule Card that makes a specific Pokémon unusable, or any card modified by a Ten/Rule Card to make a specific Pokémon unusable) are revoked, allowing you to use those Pokémon again. Nine/Snake Eyes, Death and the Hanged Man are not revoked and can petrify more Pokémon in the future; however, all of your currently petrified Pokémon are freed (overriding the effect of Death).
Well, well, well; I guess Ho-oh did decide to grant us a blessing after all. The queens will be returning once I’m done here – along with my five petrified Pokémon, Ampere, Pikobalt, Big Red, Paradise and Esca! Shouldn’t take long; I’m mostly here for loot – a Max Ether here, a Full Restore there, a Rare Candy over here…
…and their devotion to the cause, and to one another, is rewarded by the glorious Sun!
I’m going to need Zill and Friday for a little longer, though, because the next place I want to go is Mount Mortar, and I want to give Friday Waterfall for that.
I drew one card when I came here the first time without the necessary HM moves, but the whole mountain is probably worth at least two, maybe three. There are still a few places you can’t get to in here without Rock Climb, but I think with Surf, Strength and Waterfall we can see all the most important stuff. Let’s draw one card now.
ugh, just what I need when I’m trying to navigate a chunk of the game with lots of HM requirements
Eight – Mate: Ongoing: The Pokémon in your current party that has spent the most time in your active party over the course of the game is banned.
And the advanced variant for the Eight of Pentacles, which I don’t think we’ve seen yet, is:
Eight of Pentacles: Your second longest-serving team member is also banned, but you may immediately revoke any other ongoing rule of your choice.
Hmm… this is actually kinda neat. There’s only one Pokémon in my party who can be banned. Four of my Pokémon are Champions, and Zill is protected by the King of Pentacles, so only one can go in the Mate Crate.
…but I still get to wipe something else. I’m going to pick the High Priestess; she can be really nasty.
Of course, now I need someone else on Waterfall duty, and I need to pair them up right to satisfy the Lovers…
…actually, you know what? I just want this to be easy. The Sun freed Pikobalt the Azumarill from petrification, and he’s below level 31, so I can just treat him as a Champion and bring him along, even with the Six of Swords in play. Then I can leave the final party slot empty, for reasons.
A bunch of loot to collect down here…
And now we can move up here…
And I think in this deeper part of the cave we should draw one more card.
Ten – Rule Card: Immediate: An observer to the game may revoke any or all (or none) of the cards you have in play, AND free any or all (or none) of your petrified Pokémon.
Ongoing: Your observer may either make up a new rule, which becomes the ongoing component of this card, OR change the rules for one other card in play or in the deck (except the Kings).
Ten of Pentacles: If your observer uses this card to create an ongoing rule, this card ignores the first card effect that would revoke it.
Whichever reader-submitted rule Jim picks, it’s going to stick around for a while. Something else that’s important here is that a Ten is one of the things that can strip my Vessel team of their special status – if Jim so chooses.
I was going to finish this episode by taking a step into Kanto, but it’s kinda long enough, I also want to finish writing it up tonight, and because of time shenanigans I’m going to have to wait until tomorrow for me and Jim to both be awake, so I think we’re just going to call it here. SAVOUR THE SUSPENSE, dear reader!