Pokémon Portugal Version: Still Red Though

well, this is simply unacceptable; those flags are flying in direct defiance of my command. I’m gonna go beat these guys up.

I don’t suppose I can just… jump down here?

listen, I know I’m not a game designer, but I think that maybe if your plot can’t handle the possibility of a player approaching an enemy base from an angle that is fairly accessible with the tools you’ve given them, you might not be ready for an open world. I mean, why shouldn’t I just jump down on Team Star’s heads? I want to make an entrance to intimidate them, right? Ah, whatever.

In response to Team Star’s long-standing truancy issues, Definitely Not Clavell in a Wig has issued an ultimatum (you know, in his official capacity as Just Some Guy) to have them all expelled from the Academy unless they break up their gang. The deadline on that ultimatum is nearing, and he wants to make sure they’re thinking seriously about their options.

I dunno if it’s just me, but I don’t find the Star Barrages particularly interesting. The time limit is very lenient (and I think the minigame would feel awful and punishing if it weren’t), and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of strategy beyond “pick three Pokémon that aren’t obviously bad against the crew’s specialty type.”

So Giacomo’s got one of these sweet tricked-out Revavroom rigs too? I mean, they’re cool, and I do wonder what Team Star needed several of them for, but the first one coming out was such an amazing “holy s#!t what the fµ¢£ is that” moment that I’m a little disappointed to see the same thing again.

Giacomo is actually lower-level than Mela, whom I’ve already beaten, so he’s not that difficult.

On the other hand, I don’t have an obvious exploit against his Starmobile like I did with Charcadet against Mela, so it ends up being a much grindier battle in the end.

As with Mela, the battle ends with a flashback of Giacomo talking to Team Star’s other leaders. Still completely unclear what this flashback actually is; I have to assume Giacomo is relating these events to us. Either that or the protagonist of this game is actually an amnesiac Team Star member recovering their memories a bit at a time.

In the flashback, Team Star’s mysterious “Big Boss” (who is Definitely Not Cassiopeia) has given Giacomo the task of writing up a code of conduct for Team Star. This, presumably, is where they got rules like “a defeated squad leader has to step down.” Giacomo was a former student council leader at the Academy, and apparently became very unpopular by enacting a lot of overly strict rules that the student body hated, so he’s reluctant to take on this responsibility again. The other leaders, however, reassure him that he’s a different person now, and that they trust him to write a code they can all get behind. They’re such good and supportive friends!

Let’s see what Definitely Not Clavell in a Wig has to say to Giacomo.

Giacomo confirms something I was already beginning to suspect – Team Star’s “Big Boss” appears to have abandoned them. They did so on the eve of executing a master plan, “Operation Star,” that may have been the entire purpose of Team Star’s creation. It’s not clear whether even Team Star’s leaders know what Operation Star actually was, but given that they can’t seem to enact it without the Big Boss, I suspect they don’t have the whole picture. They aren’t just “bad kids” to their core; they’ve been left rudderless by the person who had been organising them. For all I know, the original Operation Star might have been something constructive until the Big Boss – who is Definitely Not Cassiopeia – decided to abandon it.

I’m not sure Giacomo even knows who the Big Boss is. He doesn’t mention their name, and I also can’t quite imagine Nintendo translators using “they” as a non-binary pronoun; I think “they” here has to indicate a person whose gender is unknown to the speaker. It’s almost as if Giacomo only knows the Big Boss through phone calls and messages, and that doesn’t sound like anyone we know at all.

Oh, look, Penny is here with more rewards for my services. Penny does not like my motorbike dragon.

According to “info [she] got by hacking other students’ social media accounts,” Penny says Team Star was once just a group for students who had trouble interacting with others – a benign social club for victims of bullying or ostracism, first organised by some shadowy figure whom Penny Definitely Doesn’t Know Anything About.

I’m detecting the potential here for this story to become downright wholesome, but a lot of people involved are going to need to get over themselves in order for that to happen.

wait, where the fµ¢£ is this

where are we

is this Cascarrafa? Isn’t there a gym here? I’m going to go shopping before I figure that out.

mmm-mmm, nothing I love more than a meal that allows you to unambiguously, canonically eat a Pokémon. Soon my genius will be recognised (incidentally I recently updated that page with some new recipes, so take another look even if you’ve read it before).

oh, so you’re prepared to endorse BEIGE SANDALS OVER WHITE SOCKS, but a boy wearing a skirt is going TOO FAR, is it? TAKE A LONG, HARD LOOK AT YOURSELVES, GAME FREAK


It is a lovely city though. The design of urban areas is low-key one of my favourite parts of the 3D generations as a whole (X and Y onwards, but particularly Sword and Shield).

Hold on; is that…?

What is the deal with these things?

I mean, yeah, obviously.

I’m going to keep pulling these things out of the ground and make the assumption that I’m not weakening the bonds of an ancient imprisoned world-threatening evil by doing so. I realise this may be a bold assumption, but I stand by it.

The Cascarrafa gym leader, Kofu, who is also the head chef at a local restaurant, has just fµ¢£ed off to the next town for some grocery shopping, but has apparently forgotten his wallet. Rookie mistake, my guy. Naturally the gym attendant is going to make this our problem and send us to Porto Marinada to make sure Kofu’s shopping trip isn’t a bust.

Apparently we’re getting off easy with the errand-running, because the attendant is going to count this as passing a gym test, and Kofu’s normal test is supposedly quite difficult.

Nemona’s here for her customary rival challenge, but I’d also like to draw everyone’s attention briefly to the man in the corner with the Golduck, who is living proof that Pokémon is full of gay characters whether it chooses to acknowledge them or not.

Nemona has a fancier duck now, but that’s no problem, because I have a small jalapeño child.

Other side of the what now? B!tch you didn’t mention a desert.

Oh, fµ¢£ off. I’m going to go and see if I can swim off the edge of the map instead.

Apparently you just kinda stop short somewhere in the Atlantic, but I figured it was worth checking, just to see if there was anything interesting out here.

I know it’s been four generations now, but I will never get used to Electric-types being immune to all paralysing attacks. I mean, Thunder Wave? Sure, I guess that makes sense. But Glare?


I love him

Psyduck what the fµ¢£ are you doing

seriously though, whoever decided that Psyduck can’t swim and just walk along the bottom of rivers like hippos is a genius.

Okay, this is actually pretty neat – Basculin are found in schools of either red or blue, but you sometimes get just one Basculin of the opposite colour mixed in, which is a thing the Pokédex tells us can happen.

…all right, fine, I’m stalling; I’ll cross the fµ¢£ing desert.

ooh, I want one of those…

…shame it only evolves at level 59…

…actually, I maybe have a point to make about this? Generation V has a lot of Pokémon who evolve at really absurdly high levels compared to what’s normal for other Pokémon games. Most of them are Pokémon that, in a normal playthrough of Black or White, you would typically encounter for the first time quite late in the game and at a high level, so I think the intent was that all new Pokémon should have at least a good 5-10ish levels of training to go before their evolution, no matter how late in the game they’re introduced. You can see a little bit of this logic in earlier games with Pokémon that make their debuts in the late-game of their respective generations, like Slowpoke (evolves at 37), Ponyta (40), Meditite, Shuppet and Duskull (all 37), Snorunt (42) and Snover (40). But Generation V has a very long end-game and makes its wild Pokémon keep significantly closer to the levels of enemy trainers than the earlier games do, so continuing to follow this logic gives us results like Mienfoo evolving at level 50, Pawniard at 52, or Rufflet and Vullaby at 54. Which is fine in the original context, but makes those Pokémon extremely unappealing if you put them into future games at lower levels. Mienfoo and Pawniard are not fun to play with in the mid-40s when everyone else has already evolved ages ago, but at least you don’t have long to go. In the mid-20s, they’re already lacklustre and they’re going to be like that for a very long time.

Anyway, the point that I want to make here is that maybe the reason generation V is like this is because the developers weren’t thinking about taking those Pokémon anywhere else. Black and White feel like they’re supposed to be a turning point for Pokémon; they’re the first games set in a non-Japanese region, the only games with no Pokémon from previous generations, and the last “big” generation of more than 100 new Pokémon (I think the new Scarlet/Violet DLC does push generation IX into three digits by a nose, but I think the base game has fewer than 100 – someone check me on this, because I don’t know anything about exactly what’s in the DLC). I wonder if there was a point where the developers were envisioning that every internationally-inspired Pokémon region from that point on would be a clean break, with no “Japanese” Pokémon at all, just like Unova, and obviously no “American” Pokémon either. It doesn’t matter that these Pokémon won’t fit properly into future games, because they aren’t going to be in any.

Of course, now that they are, and now that we are gradually becoming okay with retconning evolution methods slightly, couldn’t we maybe revise some of those generation V level requirements down a bit? Maybe 38 or so for Larvesta? 42? I could live with 42. We’ll talk; my people will call your people.

what was I doing?

uh-oh, I think maybe I’m not supposed to be fighting you yet…

Hahah, fµ¢£ you!

This is another thing I don’t quite like about Pokémon trying to do open-world in the way it’s chosen to, incidentally; high-level wild Pokémon are more of a resource than an obstacle.

Oh. Huh. This… was not where I was expecting that to go, but I guess I can work with it?

There’s another one of Arven’s “friends” out here; may as well go after it on the way.

These towers are all over Paldea, but this is the first time I’ve seen one in ruins like this. What is their deal?

um. I could climb the vertical ladders on all the other towers; why can’t I manage this one? Oh, whatever; I’ll just go and find the-

Hey, Arven! I think I found it!

Sir, you are clearly a Donphan. This is unacceptable and I demand that you stop.

According to Professor Sada, this huge ornery git has escaped from the swirling vortex of doom at the centre of Paldea, which I thought was the deal for all the “Titans,” but I guess not?

Okay, let’s-


There’s no level indicator on the Titan Pokémon, but Great Tusk is strengthening my earlier impression that maybe I wasn’t supposed to come this way yet; I did manage to bring it down after repeatedly hitting it with Intimidate, but it stomped most of my team.

I mean… I’m still going to keep chasing it, obviously.

Arven, not only is this Titan clearly some kind of dreadful Paldean Donphan, there was literally a picture of the fµ¢£ing thing in the book you showed me when we started this appalling misadventure. Get it together.

Arven’s Pokémon is level 44? Is that where I’m supposed to be at this point?

Take that, you overgrown Flintstones extra. Now I know from round 1 that this thing struggles with Gyarados, it’s much easier to beat up. Arven’s Scovillain helped a lot too by landing a Scary Face before it got flattened.

3/5 – progress!

Mabosstiff seems to be doing a little bit better too. Getting flashbacks here to the sick Miltank from Gold and Silver. More importantly (from my not-at-all-selfish perspective)…

We can FLY now! Well, glide, anyway. Let’s go jump off a cliff.

Now this is the kind of transport I expect from a legendary dragon. And right there is Porto Marinada – which, conveniently, is Porto. Of course, the real city of Porto isn’t next to a great big desert, but Pokémon games demand a variety of biomes and sandy deserts are not normally a well-known feature of Portugal.

I like the mosaics of Water Pokémon; very Mediterranean, very azulejo, very fish-and-chip-shop chic.

Sounds like someone’s realised that he left his wallet behind fµ¢£ing hours ago before he decided to walk across a desert to go shopping.


excuse me?

I brought you his wallet, the thing he’s currently panicking about; let’s have some gratitude, b!tch.

ugh, just look at this smug piece of $#!t. I bet he’s fµ¢£ing the guy in the black singlet from the gym but insists they’re not together because he wants to keep “playing the field.”

Oh. Okay. So… 27-29ish totally is the level the game wants me to be at for this area.

so… so why would you put the much more powerful Great Tusk Donphan right on the path that you told me to take from Cascarrafa to Porto Marinada…?

I dunno, this might be a personal preference thing, but I’m not crazy about non-linear games where the difficulty fluctuates wildly based on how well you read the developers’ minds to figure out what order you’re supposed to do things in.

Once that “misunderstanding” is cleared up, Kofu can do what he came here to do – attend an auction for some fancy Hoennese seaweed.

Hey- no, no, fµ¢£ you; your receptionist said bringing you your wallet would count as my test, and I had to fight your smug power bottom for absolutely no reason; I’m not haggling for your groceries on top of that.

…I hate these people so much.

sister, I was ready days ago; now I’m just sick of his $#!t

I just met this Pokémon and already I want it dead.




I don’t know what I was expecting.

Kofu’s signature Pokémon is a sparkly Water-type Crabominable. Again, I’m loving these team choices; a big hairy snow crab is a great choice for this big hairy seafood chef.


There; balance is restored.

…okay, I do think his goofy side is fun, I’ll give him that.

Meanwhile, amongst all this, it seems La Primera – whose real name is Geeta – is taking an interest in my progress. I’m only three gyms in, which isn’t all that impressive, all things considered, but it’s possible Nemona is putting in a good word for me. Nepotism for the win! Geeta doesn’t have anything of great consequence to say to me at the moment, but I suppose the game just doesn’t want me to forget that she exists.

Anyway, let’s review what we’ve learned.

From having metal stolen from it by other Pokémon, Tinkatuff has graduated to attacking Steel-types like Pawniard to take their metal, and this faerie smith’s cudgel has become a more complex battle hammer.

It’s like a chocolate land-whale. I have an enduring soft spot for Quagsire because it was such a reliable workhorse in my first playthrough of Silver back in the 1870s, so I can’t help but love a fatter, sleepier chocolate Quagsire.

I’m not going to pretend to have any idea what’s going on with this psychic ostrich’s fashion sense.

“Kilowattrel” is a fantastic name, and I love the frigate bird as a direction for this design, because…

…you can have the distinctive throat sac inflate and glow like a light bulb! Frigate birds are just very cool and distinctive birds, so it’s nice to see them get recognition.

Tumbleweed! I like the idea of tumbleweed as a Grass/Ghost Pokémon because, once a tumbleweed starts “tumbling,” it’s already dead – the ghost of a plant, scattering the seeds it prepared while it was alive. It’s also a fun idea for a highly mobile Grass-type.

This must be the juvenile form of Revavroom, the Pokémon that the Starmobiles are built around. The Starmobiles are a very cool concept, but I can’t help but feel it’ll be a little bit of a let-down if we aren’t able to use Varoom and Revavroom to build some equally crazy alternative mode of transportation. I mean, why have the Pokémon if the most interesting thing about it is something we don’t get to play with?

Dung beetle! The Pokédex, like a COWARD, refrains from describing Rellor’s ball as an actual dung ball, claiming that it’s just made from dirt, debris and… apparently psychic power? This little scarab isn’t a Psychic-type, but it might evolve into one, which could go in a couple of different directions – maybe something with an ancient Egyptian aesthetic, reflecting the scarab’s religious associations, or maybe something that plays with dung beetles’ ability to navigate by the stars, since outer space tends to be linked with Psychic-types.

9 thoughts on “Pokémon Portugal Version: Still Red Though

  1. They really should have made it so the number of badges you have correspond to the difficulty of the gym battles and maybe other areas. They did it with Nemona, so why not with everything else?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Really strange that they decided to canonize that in one of their specials meant to celebrate the anniversary of Pokemon and then just… not use it in the game when it would actually apply.


  2. You’ll want to have that tumbleweed Pokémon following you outside its ball. It’s not even the only ‘mon in this generation that uses that evolution method.

    Also, make sure to check on Steve & Jeff regularly if they’re in your active party; the games have finally realized that adding additional members while changing nothing else isn’t really “evolution” by any sane definition and won’t give you the usual cutscene under some conditions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I get the sense that progressional scaling vs. total unrestricted chaos is kind of a perennial debate when it comes to open-world games. I’ve seen a lot of discussions (beyond just Pokémon games) in which people very strongly favor one or the other. I imagine it must be difficult for developers to find the right balance for their particular game.

    When it comes to a game lime Breath of the Wild, I thought the unlimited freedom was perfect. But personally, with Scarlet & Violet, I feel like the lack of scaling was a misfire. I think part of that comes down to what you said, about wild Pokémon being more of an asset than an obstacle. In a more combat-focused game, coming up against late-game enemies ahead of schedule presents a fun challenge with a lot of friction. Whereas in Pokémon, the objective is usually to catch most of the creatures you come across, but the level difference can be trivialized with Quick and Dusk Balls. But then, if you try to mitigate *that* by installing a limit on how high a level of Pokémon you can capture, it becomes a question of why even bother engaging with these overleveled Pokémon? Maybe if they had some rare/useful drops it’d be worth it, but in SV, it’s just a couple of TM materials that you can usually find just as easily by battling weaker instances of those species.

    But on top of all of that, I think Pokémon just has a much more inherently rigid story structure. I *do* like being able to dip in and out of the three story arcs at my leisure, but the progression within those stories individually doesn’t feel any richer for not being locked into a set path. Going and getting my ass stomped on by the 7th Gym Leader when I only have one Badge doesn’t really add an interesting new dimension to the concept of the Gym challenge, IMO.

    > but I think the base game has fewer than 100 – someone check me on this

    Scarlet & Violet actually do break the triple-digit threshold, but only slightly. The base game introduced a total of 103 new species. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say that two more were added in a post-release update, and the DLC marketing has shown off six others. As it happens, that is in total equal to the amount of new species that the Sword & Shield DLC added, so I would be surprised if we saw anything more than a few beyond that.

    I definitely don’t think we’re ever going past ~120 in a new generation again though, so I feel like your overall point still stands. Of course, nowadays we also have regional forms and the generational battle mechanic power-ups to fill some of that void. It’s kinda nuts to look at the amount of new Pokémon that Gen 8 introduced (95), and then compare to the number of distinct *designs* that it introduced (about 173, and that’s excluding alternate forms that don’t reall change the Pokémon’s body in any substantial way, and also excluding Calyrex’s fusions because it’s just sticking one Pokémon on top of another).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it’s fine in BOTW because it’s an action game and you can handle anything with sufficient skill (and weapons to break over the enemy’s head). This is an RPG with levels so it doesn’t work

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Espathra’s psionic ability must be to twist reality so that those colors work together. I’m really surprised she’s pulling it off so well. (The hair would look fabulous even without psychic powers.)

    Liked by 1 person

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