Pokémon Spain Version: Redness Intensifies

I went to school and now I have a bunch of characters and plot stuff to talk about – first among them, this chick.

Nemona introduces her simply as “La Primera” – “The First” – which is the kind of nickname you get when you’re so badass that no-one has to ask “the first what?” because everyone knows the answer is “the first and bestest Pokémon trainer in the region.” My impression is that La Primera is what we would be calling “the Champion” in any other Pokémon game – that is, the “final boss” of the gym challenge – but that’s not what she’s called here, because “Champion” means something different in Paldea. It’s not a position occupied by one trainer at a time, it’s a rank that many trainers can attain. Nemona is a Champion of Paldea, one of a few, and hopes that we can join her at that level, which means collecting gym badges and passing a Big Final Test. La Primera, presumably, is the one who administers that test.

Scarlet and Violet present us with three “main quests,” all of which are introduced here at our first day of school. According to the prerelease hype cycle, these are independent of one another and we can progress each one at our own pace. Each questline also has one of our fellow students backing it as the most important and worthwhile use of our time. Interestingly, the Pokédex quest is not one of them, although you can choose to name it as your goal when you introduce yourself to your class. Number one, as always, is the gym challenge: defeat eight gym leaders, win their badges and pass some final test to attain Champion rank, like Nemona.

Number two: Arven, Koraidon’s former colleague(?), has a mission involving a mysterious plant called the Herba Mystica, which he seems to think would be the ultimate sandwich ingredient. The only problem is, it’s guarded by…

…strange, monstrous Pokémon called “Titans,” which Arven believes originate from the swirling vortex of doom at the centre of Paldea. Arven wants our help to find their lairs and swipe this sacred herb of theirs. It kinda seems like Arven might know more about the Titans than he’s letting on, and maybe the Herba Mystica isn’t the only thing he’s after… and he is the son of Professor Sada, who… well, we’ll get to that.

Number three is a request from a Mysterious Hacker calling themselves “Cassiopeia” – well, I say “mysterious” but there’s no way Cassiopeia isn’t Penny, the quiet student with the fluffy Eevee backpack who was being harassed by Team Star when we first got here. According to other students, she’s in the Academy’s STEM program and is a tech prodigy, so unless the game is doing an uncharacteristically subtle misdirect, it’s definitely her. Cassiopeia has a plan to bring down Team Star, which they have named “Operation Starfall.” Team Star is apparently divided into five “squads,” each with a base somewhere in Paldea (okay, maybe they were a little more organised than I thought… this might be worth taking matters into my own hands). Cassiopeia’s questline is to find and raid those bases and defeat their leaders. Interestingly, the names of the squads – Schedar, Caph, Navi, Ruchbah and Segin – are the traditional names of Alpha through Epsilon Cassiopeiae, the five stars that make up the constellation of Cassiopeia. Maybe “Cassiopeia” chose their name ironically, to associate themselves with the organisation they planned to take down, or maybe, once again, there’s something more going on here that they aren’t telling us…

The fun thing about all this is that we have eight gyms, five Titans and five Team Star squads, each specialising in a different type – so we get a boss fight for all eighteen!

There’s also a hint of a fourth questline related to Professor Sada, Arven’s mother, whom we haven’t met in person so far because she’s away on a research expedition inside the swirling vortex of doom (you know, the “here be monsters” vortex of doom). Sada seems to be Koraidon’s actual trainer, and entrusted her son with the fairly important responsibility of caring for it. If Sada is at all frustrated about Arven throwing that responsibility out the window at the first moment a faintly sane-looking twelve-year-old crossed his path, she doesn’t express that to us. Instead, she just asks that we take care of Koraidon to the best of our ability.

Oh, yeah, this is Director Clavell, the headmaster of the Academy, who gives you your first Pokémon. He seems helpful enough, concerned with the wellbeing of his students, invested in his role as an educator, if a little old-fashioned – he often remarks on how quickly childhood and education have been changing in recent years, thanks to modern technology. Also, he occasionally mutters some slightly ominous-sounding things about plot-related topics when he thinks you aren’t listening.

What a nice man.  It’s a good thing he’s not doing anything suspicious.

Apparently I get my own room in the Academy dorms, with my own kitchen? I mean, yeah, it’s not a huge kitchen, but I’m a child attending a boarding school. This place is, like, not dramatically smaller than the apartment I had in Cincinnati as a grown-ass rent-paying adult. Naranja Academy is swanky as hell. Sure, the place looks a bit bare-bones now, but I’m sure we can liven it up a bit later; there must be shops somewhere around here that sell decorations.

Oh, hey, a timeskip. That kinda makes sense. Being at school all the time obviously wouldn’t fit the “vibe” of a traditional Pokémon game, but it would equally be pretty dumb if you just left immediately after getting here.

We pick up again at the part of the year known in the Academy as the “Independent Study” season. Director Clavell refers to our independent study assignment as a “Treasure Hunt,” but it isn’t a traditional scavenger hunt or anything like that. Rather, it seems like our assignment is to go out into the world and bring back… something cool. This is pretty vaguely defined; it doesn’t even have to be a physical thing – last year, Nemona’s “treasure” was her Champion rank and all the experiences she had along the way.

…and…

…okay, listen. Clavell. My dude. As a real-life educator, I’ve gotta tell you… like, this isn’t even a bad assignment, I actually kinda like it, but you have to provide more structure than this. Unless you genuinely don’t care at all what the students bring back (in which case… why is it such a major part of your school year?), you need to offer suggestions, or provide some one-on-one guidance, or at least formalise some kind of mentorship thing between younger students and older ones who’ve done this before (we’ll be fine because we’re spoiled for choice with mentors, between Nemona, Arven and “Cassiopeia”). Otherwise, some portion of your students – I guarantee it – will miss the point, buy some souvenir tourist crap in Mesagoza, call that their “treasure” and spend the rest of the month in the dorms playing video games. You could do this with undergraduates and some of them would do that, let alone high school kids.

…sorry, I’m just gonna go away and write “I will not pass judgement on fantasy educational systems” fifty times on a blackboard.

Whenever we’re at the Academy, we can attend classes (so far, in maths, biology and battle studies, but there might be more later; I’ve heard other students mention a languages class). These are basically little tutorial segments where you learn things that might be useful for the game, like what kinds of moves there are, and where to find eggs. I’m not… super happy about these; you kinda have to go out of your way to see them, so I think they’re likely to be missed by the players who most need them, and so far they haven’t included anything that would impress a more experienced player, although I suppose that could change as you progress to more advanced classes (it seems like more unlock over the course of the game).

jesus christ, Jacq, you’re a fµ¢£ing biology teacher

I’m onto you, you crafty b!tch; ₽‎2000 buys you ten Pokéballs, but you get a Premier Ball as a bonus.

Incidentally, this sort of thing is probably fine with older kids, but at this level, don’t get into the habit of asking your students trick questions. If you teach them that your questions are bull$#!t riddles they can only get right with hidden information, some of them will just stop trying.

*ahem*

sorry, sorry

“I will not pass judgement on fantasy educational systems”

okay, whatever, let’s head out before I find something else to complain about

Arven really seems to dislike Koraidon. I guess their working relationship had been strained for a while when they parted ways.

bro, I don’t mean to criticise, but why exactly do you have wheels if you run everywhere?

okay wtf are you

I think there was something in the pre-release stuff about these guys

but I was not paying attention

They seem to particularly like hanging around ruins, perhaps for the looting, but will not fight you – they just drop some “coins” and leave.

oh my god, a giant rock!

Oh, okay, raid battles are still a thing, just with sparkly Pokémon instead of embiggened Pokémon. I think these were a very strong feature of Sword and Shield, for the collaborative aspect and for making it more interesting to actually catch wild Pokémon, and they were certainly one of generation VIII’s most popular features, so it’s not surprising that Game Freak figured they were onto a good thing. Not sure what the benefit is to having a Shellder that sparklifies to a Fairy-type, but hey, I guess some of them are just going to be duds.

Got some sweet ruins going on here. I don’t know what they’re about, but I love a good ruin.

ooooooh, what the fµ¢£ is this…? Mysterious glowing doorway sealed with heavy chains; that’s a plot hook if I’ve ever seen one.

I mean… obviously I want those ruinous tablets. Better come back here when I have Pokémon that can blow a hole in the side of a mountain.

Anyway, as you leave Mesagoza, both Nemona and Arven make kind of a big deal out of wanting you to leave in a particular direction, because Nemona wants you to head straight for the nearest gym in Cortondo and Arven wants you to track down his Stony Cliff Titan, but both of their quests have objectives scattered all over Paldea, so really, who gives a $#!t? I already know how gyms work, so I’m going to start by heading for the nearest “Titan,” which is on the way to another gym in nearby Artazon anyway.

…well, hello.

Not sure what the deal with these stone towers is; they might just be lookouts. If they’re old, they’re certainly well maintained. But at the top…

gotcha, you little $#!t

It’s certainly a very pretty game, you have to give it that. The landscapes have a lot more visual interest than Sword and Shield‘s Wild Area; I thought those games didn’t really get the hang of the “open world” concept until their expansions.

We have successfully found Arven’s first Titan, a Giant Enemy Crab! Klawf is a species of Pokémon that just lives around here – I’ve already caught one – and it’s a fairly chonky one, as Pokémon go, but this is more of a Dynamax-sized Klawf. In what I assume will be typical for these Titan fights, there are two stages to the battle: after being defeated once, Klawf inhales a bunch of Herba Mystica and becomes more powerful. Fortunately, in a display of competence I honestly wasn’t expecting, Arven turns up with his Shellder to 2v1 the UberCrab in round two. It’s not a particularly difficult fight with appropriately levelled Pokémon and some type advantages, but I did stumble into round one by accident with a bunch of weaker Pokémon I was training and made it much closer than it should have been.

Technically, Arven, you’re the one who’s out to get them… at least, based on what you’ve told me so far.

Well, the Herba Mystica is real, and seems to have some pretty impressive effects on Pokémon that consume it; that’s a good start.

“Him”? Who is “him”? Frankly, you are being entirely too evasive for my liking about the objective of this whole quest, Arven.

My misgivings aside, Arven does appear to actually be a competent chef, and shows his gratitude by using the Herba Mystica to prepare a couple of delicious sandwiches. Unfortunately the word “sandwich” appears to trigger some kind of Pavlovian response in Koraidon, who expects to be given one. Arven is annoyed, but the magically imbued sandwich seems to restore some of Koraidon’s exhausted powers, so now we have a dash ability – further proof that this Herba Mystica stuff is worth chasing.

I have to say, I respect Koraidon’s insistence on keeping this relationship thoroughly transactional and food-based. It’s not my Pokémon and it knows its rights; it doesn’t have to do a single thing I say unless I continue to provide sandwiches. However, this does raise an important question. When we first met Koraidon, we were seemingly able to completely restore its strength (if only for a short time) from a half-dead state by giving it our lunch. So what the hell was mum putting in our sandwiches?

also Arven has apparently made $#!tty knock-off gym badges to reward us for our efforts. This seems like the kind of thing that might be against some sort of rule, if anyone actually cared how the gym challenge worked or enforced any of its procedures.

Anyway, as soon as we’ve left the cave where the Herba Mystica was growing…

I knew the fµ¢£er was hiding something… but what exactly is it…?

8 thoughts on “Pokémon Spain Version: Redness Intensifies

  1. I think this is a good time to let you know that this game doesn’t have level scaling. Without online resources, it’s not really clear what order makes the most sense in terms of level (and nothing in game properly indicates that), but it’s good to be aware if you suddenly find a gym/Titan/base that has an unexpected level jump. You’re not expected to do things in the order you find them.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s not entirely true. Just read the map descriptions of Gym Leaders/Bosses and they’ll give a pretty good indication of how challenging they’ll be

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  2. That researcher who got mortally wounded will come up again, way deeper into the game and in a very spoilery way.

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    1. Imagine telling a writer on the internet off for taking a make-believe person’s name in vain… Jesus Christ!

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      1. I’ve taken to swearing on the name he would have been known by in life, because it highlights how silly it is when you could cut out the middleman and take God’s name in vain directly.

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