Anonymous asks:

I’ve been excitedly reading your Sun and Moon playthrough and enjoying it immensely. However, you passed through route 8 and didn’t even mention Colress’s appearance! I’m disappointed, I wanted to see you thoughts and your character’s reaction!

Good heavens, you’re right!  I completely forgot about that while I was writing!  We must remedy this situation at once!

“You there!”  I stop walking and turn around, ready to fire off a snarky quip at whoever just called me “you there,” until I see… oh.  Ohhhh good.  This guy.
“Oh, excuse me!  I am a scientist.  My name is Colress,” he introduces himself.  Colress still has his trademark lab coat and sweeping plume of blue hair, but has added a pair of robotic gauntlets with touchscreen displays on the wrists, so he can look like his every gesture is something important and sciency.
“Yeah, I’ve… I’ve heard of you,” I tell him haltingly.  He looks surprised, then worried.
“Really?  A young trainer like you has heard of my work?  Or- oh.  You don’t know about-?”
“The whole war crimes thing, with Team Plasma back in Unova?  How you were complicit in a plot to plunge a continent into a new ice age and bring about the end of modern civilisation?”  Now he looks very worried.  “No, look, it’s fine, I don’t care, just… look, we’ve sort of met before; it’s kind of a long story… I was a few years older, I might have been a chick at the time…” I shake my head.  “I was literally a different person, is the point, and so were you, as far as I’m concerned.  And I’m on holiday.  So unless whatever you’re doing in Alola is somehow a threat to the entire planet, it is officially not my problem.”  Colress just stares at me blankly.  “Seriously.  We.  Are.  Fine.  What’re you up to, anyway?”
“Well…” Colress begins cautiously, “That is… the theme of my research is… ‘bringing out the potential of Pokémon.’  What brings out the power of Pokémon is… I believe that is – the bond they share with their trainers!”  Okay, so he’s still working in the same research area, but the events of Black and White 2 have proven to him that supercharging Pokémon with evil machines to create powerful weapons is not the best method.  “And thus my attention is drawn to trainers like yourself… trainers bound to their Pokémon through the power of the Z-ring!  Z-power… is it the true potential I seek?  Does it surpass the Mega Ring?”
“Nope.”  He blinks at me.
“…what?”
“Surpass the Digivice.  Pretty sure it doesn’t.”  He stares at me in confusion.
“Digi- Digiwhat?”
“Digivi- oh, um.  Mega Ring.  Whatever.  Look, the Mega Ring unlocks a whole new level of evolution, changing a Pokémon’s form and powers, bringing it one step closer to spiritual completion… The Z-Crystals blow stuff up.”  He raises a finger like he’s about to say something.  “I mean, I guess if you only have a Charmander then a Firium-Z is gonna get you further than a Charizardite-X… seriously though, try ‘em both out.  They give Z-Rings away practically for free here in Alola; you just have to, like… risk your life to help out a terrorist, or something.”  Colress shakes his head in amazement.
“Alola is fascinating!  I believe I will stay here for some time!  Well then, I hope to see you again some time.”  He turns and walks away.
“But don’t get any ideas!” I call out after him.  “You better not try to destroy the world with this stuff!  I live here!”

Anonymous asks:

As you’ve often mentioned, a predominant theme of Pokemon is that humans and Pokemon both prosper by working together and treating each other with respect and friendship. It’s not only the ethos of most inhabitants of the world, but built into the metaphysics of the game itself (friendship evolution, etc). Why is it that (most of) the evil teams seem so convinced that it’s better to treat mons like tools or slaves instead, when their ideology is demonstrably wrong? Obviously, it shows that the evil people are, in fact, evil, but Team Rocket, who cares solely about money, should at least be able to crunch the numbers and see which technique is more profitable in the long run. Plus, who’s on the buying end of these smuggling rings? Do you think something else is going on? Either something implied or an unintentional interpretation?

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Pokémon Generations: Episode 14

This episode of Generations features Team Plasma’s assault on Opelucid City from the second half of Black and White 2, in which the city is frozen by blasts from their flying ship’s Kyurem-powered cannons.  It’s another one of those episodes that is basically showing us something we’ve already seen and know about, but manages to make it just that little bit more evocative through the cartoon medium than the games could originally manage.

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Rivals, part 6: Colress

Colress, in all his scientific glory.
Colress, in all his scientific glory.

Okay, I realise that we’re pushing it by including Colress in this series; it’s easy to come up with reasons to lump in N with the list of ‘rival’ characters, even though he behaves very differently to the rest of them, but Colress is very clearly not the same thing.  However, I don’t care and I want to talk about Colress, because shut up.

Nice reasoned argument there.

Thank you.

So, Colress.  Crazy mad scientist character.  I was underwhelmed by him, to be honest.  I mean, what does he even do?

I actually liked him!  I enjoyed the fact that he was working pretty much at right angles to what literally everyone else in the story was trying to do.

Continue reading “Rivals, part 6: Colress”

White 2 Playthrough Journal, episode 23: Chasing shadows

We touch down outside the route 22 entrance to the cave network that leads into the Giant Chasm.  Jim, Hugh and I sneak inside and prepare for a surprise attack on the two Team Plasma guards within, but are cut short when a third grunt approaches to tell them that they’re being relieved – it’s time for everyone to gather in the crater forest.  The third grunt turns out to be our old friend, Rood’s spy.  In recognition of the minor service he has performed for us, Hugh refrains from crushing him like a bug, and actually seems almost apologetic.  I think he may have finally learned to distinguish between the two factions of Team Plasma; he even expresses a belief that justice for Rood’s group will never be possible as long as the loyalists’ actions continue to tarnish the name of Team Plasma.  The agent thanks him for his understanding, and regretfully explains that he must leave us, as he still has more to do.

The cave network is twisted and confusing, but small, and we easily find our way into the Giant Chasm.  As we step, blinking, back into the light and feel the still, frigid air on our faces, we see that Cheren was right about the frigate’s destination – the great ship has landed in the middle of the crater forest.  Many Team Plasma members are already outside, apparently standing guard near the cave exit.  To our surprise, Rood is there as well, standing opposite them with a couple of ex-Plasma grunts.  Rood seems to be trying to explain to them that Ghetsis is evil and has no interest in liberating Pokémon at all.  That’s… strange.  I thought everyone already knew that.  Some of the loyalists still believe that their real mission is to free Pokémon from human oppression?  I know that many of them have given up the pretence completely; these guys are either lying or deluded.  They refuse to believe anything Rood says, denouncing him as a traitor.  Hugh calls on Rood and his attendants to fight, asking them why they even have Pokémon with them if not to protect the things they value.  “Even if your precious Pokémon get hurt,” he exhorts them, “even if your ideals get damaged, the time to fight is NOW!”  Wait- hang on, Hugh, aren’t their ideals the things that they’d be fighting to protect?  And aren’t their ideals all about protecting Pokémon?  And, for that matter, aren’t their Pokémon the ones they originally stole and are now trying to earn forgiveness from?  And- oh, what the hell.  At least he’s learned to exercise a little discrimination in his rage-unleashing; there’ll be plenty of time to get him started on philosophy later.  His rallying cry seems to have worked, at any rate.  Rood and his allies call out their Pokémon and prepare to fight, sending the three of us on ahead to invade the frigate once more while he keeps his former friends occupied.  As we leave, he calls out to Hugh, telling him that the Purrloin he’s looking for is likely to be in the hands of the Shadow Triad.  His commitment renewed, Hugh charges off towards the ship, Jim and I following cautiously behind.

The entrance to the ship is unguarded, and we quickly gain entrance.  Jim and I almost immediately lose track of Hugh, who has begun another rage spree in his search for the Shadow Triad.  We find a warp panel that takes us into the lower levels of the ship, and are immediately confronted by another force field, this one controlled by a series of switches protected by a warp panel maze.  How the hell does anyone get anything done on this ship?  More to the point, who’s designing this stuff?  The Pokémon world’s security companies must be staffed entirely by ADHD schizophrenics.  Jim and I split up, and manage to fight our way through the handful of Team Plasma guards remaining on the ship to flip the four switches.  We meet up again at the deactivated force field and advance.  Directly in front of us is the huge machine we saw from the balcony above the last time we were here – the ship’s heart, with Kyurem waiting inside.  Zinzolin appears for one final gesture of futility.  I convince him that there’s no point in fighting; he can’t beat either of us alone, so he’ll certainly never have a chance against both of us together.  He gives us a strange piece of advice, “as long as you are dreaming, the dream will never reveal itself to you,” (either Zinzolin is still my superior in philosophy, or he’s spouting cryptic nonsense in order to confuse us – possibly both) and tells us that, although Kyurem’s prison is indestructible, we can go on to fight Team Plasma’s leader by taking the warp panel to our right.  With a resigned shrug, we ready ourselves to take on Ghetsis.  We remember the bastard from the original Black and White, and we aren’t about to be caught unawares.  Satisfied that our Pokémon are in order, we step onto the panel and find ourselves in a spacious control room at the ship’s prow.  Standing at the front, behind a desk packed with complicated-looking control panels, is-

Colress?

Ah hah!  I knew it!  Colress was really Ghetsis all along!  I- wait, no, that makes no f#$%ing sense.  Colress, why don’t you tell us what you’re doing here?

For Colress, all of this is, and has always been, about how Pokémon can become more powerful.  N believed that humans suppressed the true strength of Pokémon, and that only separating the world into black and white could ever allow Pokémon to achieve perfection.  N, of course, recanted his views after the events of Black and White, proving to Colress’ satisfaction that the way forward was for humans to bring out the true strength of Pokémon, but there was still a question to be answered: was this to be done through hard science or through emotion?  When Colress’ old friend Ghetsis asked him to help orchestrate Team Plasma’s new operations in Unova, Colress decided to take advantage of the whole thing to set up an experiment.  He designed all of Team Plasma’s new technology for Ghetsis, including the great flying frigate and its Nevermeltice cannon, along with a host of other devices, to try to bring out the power of Team Plasma’s Pokémon (particularly Kyurem).  Unlike Zinzolin, he has no particular desire to see human civilisation destroyed, but would consider it a reasonable sacrifice, if that’s what it will take to see the ultimate strength of Pokémon realised at last.  Meanwhile, he would encourage trainers like me and Jim to grow, work with our Pokémon, bring out their power through trust and love, and challenge Team Plasma.  The Team Plasma loyalists who still worked for Ghetsis made the perfect control group, since they were, almost without exception, appalling trainers with only the barest shreds of empathy.  We, it seems, have shown the potential of our approach at almost every turn.  Like a good scientist should always be, Colress is as happy to be proven wrong as right.  Our conflict with Team Plasma, he thinks, will decide the fate of the relationship between all Pokémon and humanity – Pokémon must always grow towards their true potential, whether the path is through Ghetsis’ cold technology or our empathy.  He just has one final experiment to run: one last battle.

While Jim and his Pokémon team engage Colress’ powerful Steel-types in battle, I attempt to take on Colress himself in debate.  I admit that I admire his dedication to the basic principles of science – his willingness to put his beliefs on the line and let his worldview be dictated only by hard evidence – but question how he can condone giving such power to a group like Team Plasma, effectively a terrorist organisation.  How could his experiment be worth risking our entire civilisation?  Colress replies that it was no risk at all.  Ghetsis and N’s actions two years ago have revealed that both the justice and the utility of our relationship with all Pokémon are in question, and the nature of that relationship pervades every aspect of our society.  If Team Plasma wins, if Pokémon truly can reach their potential more effectively through Ghetsis’ philosophies, then what authority is there left in civilisation?  What can we trust is not holding us back?  Better to take away everything, let our new relationship with Pokémon be decided from scratch, and to the victor go the spoils.  But, I challenge him, how can a contest of brute force be allowed to have such authority?  Colress chuckles at that.  Surely I know better, he asks.  Pokémon become more powerful as they grow, everyone knows that, but that’s hardly all there is to it.  As a Pokémon’s physical strength waxes, so do its self-awareness, its understanding of its own powers, its ambition and ability to plan, even its personal charisma.  This isn’t about Pokémon becoming better at battles – this, just as N always said, is about Pokémon becoming perfect beings.  I concede his point on principle, but remind him that the relationships between all of these factors are still very poorly understood, in spite of recent advances in the field, and that any sweeping conclusions must remain highly contentious, especially in the case of species which do not exhibit Pokémon evolution.  I suggest a complete survey of all relevant studies to date, with a thorough examination of the data and a critical review of all current methodological approaches.  Colress agrees enthusiastically, and offers to mail me a copy of his research notes and a detailed bibliography.  There’s totally a PhD thesis in this for me.  At this point, we are interrupted by a deafening metallic clang as Colress’ Magnezone crashes to the floor.  Colress claps his hands together excitedly.  Jim’s Pokémon, again, have proven far more powerful than his.  He congratulates us both on our strength and returns to his control panels.  Tapping a few buttons, he casually explains that he is unlocking the warp panel that will lead us to Ghetsis’ office, then sends us off with a jaunty wave.

White 2 Playthrough Journal, episode 21: Deep blue sea

In comparison to the last six Gyms we’ve visited, the Humilau City Gym is an extremely laid-back place.  No one tries to blow me through a wall… or crush me between two giant statues… or wrap me in a silken coffin.  Jim and I are permitted to drift gracefully and calmly across Marlon’s huge indoor swimming pool, borne on huge lilypads, our reverie broken only by such trainers as we deign to battle.  If nothing else, Marlon at least knows how to treat his challengers with a bit of good, honest respect.  I quickly find, unsurprisingly, that my Sawsbuck, Bran, is going to be the star of this show, with a little backup from my Ampharos, Sansa.  Jim, likewise, has Ulfric the Serperior and his own Ampharos, Elisif, to cut a swath through the Gym.  Although they are admittedly quite strong, the Gym trainers fall very quickly to our onslaught of super-effective attacks.  We barely break a sweat on our way to Marlon.  He battles me first.  Bran, unsurprisingly, crushes the Carracosta Marlon opens with, and goes on to heal himself almost effortlessly by draining the great sack of HP that is Marlon’s Wailord with his Horn Leech.  Marlon’s partner Pokémon, Jellicent, proves to be made of sterner stuff, and I am forced to recall Bran when his Horn Leech attack is locked down by Cursed Body.  Now weakened, though, Jellicent is no match for Sansa’s Discharge.  Marlon congratulates me and hands over my Wave Badge before turning to Jim and saying that his Pokémon need time to “chill” before another match, “fo’ reals.”  How long?  Oh, a couple of days, maybe a week.  Apparently it is not proper for one to “rush the chillaxation, yo’,” as it is an important part of Marlon’s training regimen.  Or something.  Jim groans with exasperation, produces a bag of Revive crystals and Hyper Potions, and patches up Marlon’s three Pokémon before demanding a battle.  Marlon says something about “keepin’ it fo’ reezy” or… oh, who am I kidding?  I’d long since stopped paying attention by this point.  I settle down on a lilypad to watch Jim’s battle, which is even more of a walkover than mine was, Ulfric’s Coil technique boosting the power of his Leaf Blade to obscene levels and giving Marlon’s Water Pokémon no chance to respond.  Once defeated a second time, Marlon promptly backflips into the water and swims out of the Gym, presumably to go and ‘chill’ somewhere.

Hugh is delighted that we have earned our Wave Badges – only now, apparently, can we get on with our urgent business.  He dispatches me and Jim to check out route 22, west of Humilau City (which Jim, of course, never quite got around to) while he sweeps the southern areas.  At this point, Marlon shows up with an interjection.  He’s certainly easy enough to find when he wants to interfere… Marlon, unlike every other Gym Leader in the region, not only hasn’t even heard of Team Plasma but has no opinion on their actions one way or the other, because “the ocean accepts all rivers, brah.”  Jim points out, somewhat indignantly, that Team Plasma’s past actions, and indeed their entire raison d’être, are pretty much the exact antithesis of the philosophy Marlon seems to be pushing here.  The Gym Leader is unconcerned, and wanders off to return to whatever vaguely-specified activity he had been busy with earlier.

Jim and I head for route 22, a wilderness area with paths so convoluted it could hardly be more confusing if it had been designed as a maze.  We find no sign of Team Plasma as we search the area.  If their ship was here, it’s gone now.  I doubt it could have landed anyway; the terrain is so uneven that it would be just about impossible.  Just as we are about to give up and go back to Humilau City, though, we find something much more interesting: the legendary Pokémon Terrakion, waiting for us on a plateau.  Images flash inside my head: Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion, together, a blade crashing down on the heads of our enemies.

“What are you waiting for?  Catch it.”

Colress is standing behind us.  He explains that, as far as he can tell, Terrakion wants to fight Team Plasma alongside Cobalion and Virizion, and is here to test us to see if we deserve his assistance.  I shrug and call out Jaime, my Samurott.  If this big ugly git wants a swordfight, we’ll give him one.  Terrakion has centuries of experience on Jaime, but Water-beats-Rock is a truism as old as the ocean itself.  Jaime’s Razor Shell brings Terrakion to his knees, and a barrage of Ultra Balls seals his fate.  I turn back to Jim and Colress.  Colress applauds enthusiastically, and declares that he has a reward for us – a prototype of the machine he used outside of Castelia City to awaken the Crustle blockade.  He hands me a small remote with a big green button on it, beaming proudly.  It has not been proven to have any effect at all on Pokémon in battle, Colress notes, but he’s sure I’ll find some use for it.  I am about to fire off a snarky comment, but remember the suspicious square boulder in the Seaside Cave, and thank Colress for his gift.  Satisfied, he departs, leaving me and Jim to our business.  I tell Jim to stay on Route 22 and do one more sweep of the area while I check out the Seaside Cave.  Were this any other game, it would probably be nothing, but since this is Pokémon and Nintendo we’re dealing with, there is an extremely high likelihood that the square boulder is a Crustle, and that it is sitting exactly where we need to be.

When I reach the Seaside Cave, I retrace my steps and find the east exit where the great sandstone boulder is still waiting patiently to be cleared.  I squint at the remote Colress gave me.  He provided no instructions, but the interface seems simple enough: push the big green button.  With a dramatic flourish, I point the remote at the boulder and press it.  The remote begins to emit a hum, which quickly rises to a high-pitched whine.  Nothing happens to the rock.  The remote then starts sparking and giving off choking black smoke, which prompts me to drop it.  It hits the ground and quietly explodes.  I bend over and peer at the remote’s remains, raising an eyebrow.  My confidence in Colress’ technology has taken a serious hit.  Suddenly, though, I feel the ground tremble ever so slightly.  I look up to see the huge Crustle slowly, tortuously getting to its feet.  It chitters to itself gently before waddling away.  The way is now open.  I silently question whether the remote did anything or the Crustle simply woke up on its own, but decide it doesn’t matter.  Now that I can get through the cave exit, I can clearly see the Team Plasma frigate sitting calmly in the water just off the beach.  I punch Jim’s number into my X-Transceiver and tell him to get down here, then step out of the cave to take a closer look.  The first thing I notice is that, this time, the ship’s occupants have remembered to pull up the gangplank.  Hmm.  Well, I suppose I could just Dragon Pulse my way in.  This ain’t my ship, what do I care?  Then again, that would attract a lot of attention, and I should probably at least try to- wait, no, I don’t give a $#!^ who sees me; I’m Princess Motherf#$%ing Leia, I’m taking these morons down, and I don’t care who knows.  Dragon Pulse it is.

As I deliberate on the problem, Marlon backflips out of the water and greets me.  I give him a sarcastic “sup, yo.”  Marlon is here, apparently, to repeat what he told me and Jim back in Humilau City – that, like him, I need to be open and accepting of all peoples and creeds, which is why he doesn’t want to fight Team Plasma.  After all, they’re probably perfectly nice guys, deep down.  I tap my foot on the sand, waiting for him to get to the point.  On the other hand, Marlon continues, I clearly need a hand here, so he’s just going to help me out a little bit and then be on his way.  He leaps back into the water, swims back out to the ship, does some sort of spider-climb up its side, hops over onto the deck, slides out the gangplank, and flips back over the side into the water.  He gives me a jaunty wave, tells me to “keep it real, yo” and swims off.

Y’know, Marlon, there’s a difference between a philosophical commitment to balance and neutrality, and plain old indecisiveness.  What you are doing is definitely the latter.  Thanks for the assist though.

Anyway.  Jaime, Sansa, Tyrion, Barristan, Daenerys, Bran… come on out, everyone.  Time to storm this b!tch.

White 2 Playthrough Journal, episode 14: Winter is coming

As Jim and I leave the Pokémon World Tournament, arguing about its relative merits, we nearly run straight into a Team Plasma grunt, who does a double take as he passes us, visibly panics, and bolts for the Driftveil docks – just as Hugh and Cheren emerge from the tournament building.  Hugh sees the villain fleeing and is instantly ready to give chase, but his blood-curdling battle-cry is cut off when Colress appears right behind them and softly but firmly tells him to stop, warning him of the risk of tackling a powerful criminal organisation like Team Plasma and admonishing him for his recklessness.  Hugh dismisses his concerns and proclaims that if there’s any chance of finding a lead on his sister’s Purrloin he is damn well going to go for it.  Well, jeez, Hugh, that’s fine; go ahead and casually reveal, to a random scientist and a Gym Leader you don’t even like, the deep dark secret that you kept from your two closest friends for years; it’s all good.  Cheren, who was a fairly militant opponent of Team Plasma himself back in the day, supports Hugh, and they both leave for the docks.  Colress shakes his head with scorn at their overconfidence in their Pokémon.  Surely they can’t believe that friendship and trust alone can protect them from hardened criminals with Pokémon of their own?  Jim notes that a bunch of Team Plasma ruffians are unlikely to pose much of a problem for a Unova League Gym Leader; the fact that Hugh is a reasonably accomplished trainer in his own right is really just icing on the cake.  In fact, you could almost say that they probably don’t need any help.  There’s really no need for anyone else to go along at all.  Colress gives him a reproachful frown, and I point out, with a sinking sense of foreboding, that as Hugh’s dearest friends we are responsible for both his safety and, to a lesser extent, the safety of those upon whom he chooses to inflict himself.  We look at each other, sigh in unison, and reluctantly dash after Hugh and Cheren, leaving Colress quietly tutting to himself behind us.

The Team Plasma grunt seems to have disappeared into a large black sailing ship moored at a wharf near the Pokémon World Tournament – Team Plasma’s new base of operations?  Cheren and Hugh are already rushing up the gangplank after him.  We ask a nearby local whether she knows anything about the ship, and receive only the cryptic response “a ship’s not really a ship unless it’s crossing the ocean.”  We stare at her in disbelief, respond “of course it is, you nitwit,” quietly shove her into the water, and board the ship.  Hugh notes that there’s a strange coldness about this boat – and he’s right.  It’s a pleasant Spring day in Driftveil City, but there’s a chill in the air that cuts right to the bone, and we can see our breath steaming in front of us.  I glance nervously at Jim.  Reshiram and Zekrom are gone, and there’s no telling where or for how long, but wasn’t there a third legendary dragon in Unova?  One with the power to fill the air around it with a terrible supernatural cold?  Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.  I point insistently at the gangplank.  Jim shrugs helplessly and gestures to Hugh and Cheren, who have their backs to us and are looking around the deck.  I glare at him, point at our allies, firmly draw a finger across my neck, and then point at the deck beneath me before throwing my hands in the air, miming an explosion.  Jim stares incredulously, holds up four fingers, mimes sneaking, and jerks a thumb over his shoulder towards the gangplank.  I stare back, roll my eyes and hold up three fingers instead.  Jim cocks his head slightly, thinks about it and shrugs.  We turn back in the direction of the gangplank.

There’s a Team Plasma grunt standing in the way.

Well, $#!t.

Pokéballs fly non-stop for the next ten minutes.  At first, each of us has a single Team Plasma member to take care of, but this arrangement quickly proves far too simple for anyone’s taste; first I pair up with Jim and Hugh with Cheren for a pair of double battles, then we trade partners, and before long all of us become embroiled in a complex set of three intertwined rotation battles, at which point we collectively admit that the whole thing has basically become a free-for all.  I’m pretty sure that, at one point, I was partnered with two Team Plasma grunts in a triple battle against Cheren, another grunt, and my own Scolipede.  I see a Liepard, and the thought briefly flashes through my head that the Purrloin Hugh is searching for might have evolved, but I can’t get Hugh’s attention any more than I can tell whose Pokémon is whose at this point.  Someone makes an unflattering comparison between Hugh’s hair and a Qwilfish, which… actually, yeah, okay; fair call.  I am desperately trying to keep track of a quintuple rotating Contest battle when I suddenly realise that one of my opponents is, in fact, myself and frantically call for a time out, causing everyone present to collapse immediately from a combination of relief and exhaustion.

It is, I am later forced to admit, the most fun I’ve had in years.

An old man in a heavy purple robe emerges from below decks and demands to know what right we have to be snooping around on his ship.  Cheren studies his face for a moment, names him as Zinzolin, one of Rood’s former colleagues in the Seven Sages, and tells him that we have every right to investigate the activity of a notorious criminal group.  Zinzolin furiously proclaims that Team Plasma’s intent remains unchanged – to use a legendary Dragon Pokémon to rule Unova (well, that confirms it, then) – and summons the Shadow Triad to remove us.  The Shadow Triad, Team Plasma’s three magical ninjas, appear before us in a puff of smoke and begin to tell Zinzolin, “by the way, we are not your-” but he cuts them off and insists that they do this for him anyway.  Not his- underlings?  Of course; the Shadow Triad never worked for Team Plasma, N, or the Seven Sages.  They were personally loyal to Ghetsis alone – which means he’s back.  Joy of joys.  The Shadow Triad blink us off the ship, and when we regain awareness, the ship and everyone on it is gone.

Damnit; how the hell do they do that!?

Well, Hugh and Cheren are both alive, which means we’ve done our bit.  Time to continue our journey and forget about Team Plasma completely!  I’m sure everything will sort itself out in due course now that Cheren is on the case.  Besides, if Unova expects us to be socially responsible then it deserves everything it gets.  As Jim and I head back in the direction of Driftveil City proper, our eyes are drawn to a cave entrance near the Pokémon World Tournament grounds.  We question a construction worker in the area and learn that this is the north entrance to the Relic Passage, the ancient tunnel network that connects to the Castelia sewers.  The Relic Passage, Jim recalls, is inhabited by weirdoes of every conceivable shape and size, but the two of us together should be fine, and anyway it’s our duty as archaeologists to loot- er… I mean… to preserve everything we can find in the site.  The worker guarding the entrance listens patiently to our spiel about the value of the past and the importance of knowledge, before waving us through and explaining that no-one really cares about the Relic Passage anyway; he’s just stationed there so it looks like things are under control.  As we investigate the Relic Passage, we quickly develop a hypothesis about the place: the popular belief that it was built by ancient people is absolute rubbish.  The degree of organisation required to build a tunnel like this would be immense – and no-one going to that sort of effort would waste time building the kind of pointless loops and dead ends that fill the place.  Any human group capable of building something like this would be capable of building it according to a halfway sensible design.  Besides, it has none of the hallmarks of human construction.  It does seem to have been used by humans, though.  The tunnel connects the sites of Driftveil City and Castelia City – major cities are almost always built on sites that have been used before, often for millennia.  We also find an entrance to the lower levels of the Relic Castle, the site of another ancient city, though we are quickly chased away by the castle’s guardian Volcarona.  We conclude, eventually, that the Relic Passage may have started life as a series of unconnected Onix nests which were later taken over by humans and joined together, probably using captured Onix, to create an unbroken path – hence the seemingly random design (construction almost undoubtedly went through several false starts).  Resourceful, if nothing else, and seemingly indicative of extensive trade and travel between Driftveil, Castelia and the Desert Resort.  We make plans to take a few months later in the year to write an article for an archaeological journal, and move on.

We complete our trip through the Relic Passage and emerge in the Castelia sewers.  Refusing to touch the filthy ground, I command my largest Pokémon, Sansa the Ampharos, to carry me out of the sewer.  Jim rolls his eyes and follows.  When we emerge once more into the light, Jim immediately summons his Ducklett, Lydia, grabs her by the legs and holds her up in the air.  I ask him what on earth he’s doing, and he replies that he’s flying back to Driftveil City.  I protest that I don’t have a flying Pokémon yet, but he just shrugs and whistles at Lydia.  As Jim soars into the sky, dangling from Lydia’s legs like a hang-glider, I pull Daenerys’ Pokéball from my belt and call her out.  I lift my Trapinch into the air over my head and say, as imperiously as I can, “now, Fly!”  Daenerys twists her head to look down at me, bemused, and makes a clicking sound.  I sigh, recall her to her Pokéball, and begin the long walk back to Driftveil City.

White 2 Playthrough Journal, episode 13: An offer we can’t refuse

'Sir, Ah say sir, Ah have important business to attend to and you are wasting mah time; can we *please* wrap this up?'

Clay has no time for frivolity.  He is a Serious Businessman who spends his days engaged in Serious Business.  Of course, since he owns a mining business, he undertakes this seriousness at the bottom of a mine shaft.  Clay is too industrious to take time off to run the Gym, and too cheap to buy separate premises for his official battles, so he’s just opened a section of his mines to trainers as the Driftveil Gym.  The maze of elevators, tunnels and walkways provides all the testing most challengers need.  We notice, upon entering, that much of his lighting has failed in the past two years and the miners now work mainly in the dark.  Many of them have lights in their helmets, and the rest know the mines like the backs of their hands anyway.  We are not so fortunate, and consult Clyde the Guide for assistance.  He explains, regretfully, that most of the electrical cables have been on the blink for months, and the Gym loses more with every power surge, plunging more and more of the mines into darkness, but because Clay himself doesn’t mind working in the dark, and most of the miners can muddle through as well, he’s never bothered to replace them.  We stare at Clyde wordlessly.  He shrugs and points to a pile of spare cables sitting in the lobby, suggesting that we rewire some of the lights ourselves.  With raised eyebrows and sighs, we gather up the cables, call out Sansa and Elisif, and get to work.  The mine is a veritable maze of platforms, bridges and conveyor belts, but our haphazard restoration of the Gym’s lighting serves as a trail of breadcrumbs, helping us to keep track of where we’ve been, and any task involving sparking cables or ungrounded wires is firmly delegated to our Ampharos.  Eventually, just as we’re about to run out of spare cables, we stumble into Clay’s arena and come face to face with the ‘Miner King.’

When questioned about the state of his Gym, Clay explains that he doesn’t have the time for- sorry, that he “ain’t got no tahm” for “messin’ about wit’ maintenance,” and that he prefers to let “y’all li’l trainers” take a crack at it when challenging the Gym, apparently to avoid paying an actual electrician to do the work.  At this point my understanding of his cringe-inducing accent breaks down as he makes an indecipherable comment about mangoes (I think) before barrelling right through our looks of disbelief to accept our challenges.  Nothing if not an opportunist, Clay decides I will open with the Pokémon I have out already – my Ampharos, Sansa.  Between Confuse Ray and Take Down, she proves to be more than Clay’s Krokorok bargained for, but predictably falls flat against his signature Pokémon, Excadrill.  As a matter of public service, I wish it to be known that Clay’s Excadrill is a bastard of Whitney’s-Miltank proportions, with tremendous excesses of speed and power which Clay exploits without mercy.  Even after being slowed and weakened by Daenerys’s Bulldoze and Intimidated by Barristan, Excadrill still manages to take the Growlithe down before being defeated by Jaime’s Razor Shell.  Luckily, Clay’s last Pokémon standing, Sandslash, is not nearly so thorny (well… I mean, literally it is, but not in the vaguer metaphorical sense) and quickly falls.  Clay grunts some manner of congratulation and hands me a Quake Badge before turning his attention to Jim, whose new Ducklett, Lydia, acquits herself admirably (y’know… for a Ducklett) as does Ulfric the Servine.  After being handed his second loss of the day, Clay looks at the two of us thoughtfully, the dollar signs that perpetually swirl in his eyes beginning to tick over slowly.  He tells us he has a proposition for us, and leads us out of the Gym.

 Clay's lair deep within the Driftveil mines.

Over the past two years, Clay has been studiously building up both Driftveil City’s economic influence, and his own influence within it, by means of a dramatic new attraction: the Pokémon World Tournament, a permanent large-scale facility which hosts regular high-profile Pokémon battles.  It’s… not really a world tournament just yet, he admits sheepishly, but it’s already attracting powerful trainers from all over Unova, hence Driftveil’s recent tourism boom.  Of course, strong trainers instinctively seek other strong trainers – which is where we come in.  Attracting tough trainers has something of a snowball effect; the more there are, the hotter the battles will get, and the hotter the battles get, the more trainers will flock to the city, and the more money will flow into Cl- er… into Driftveil’s economy.  Yes.  All for the city.  Naturally.  He’s already started getting expressions of interest from a few of the other Gym Leaders – one of whom has already decided to make an appearance.  Cheren is waiting at the tournament grounds, talking to Hugh, who was presumably sent there after defeating Clay, just like us.  Clay makes a curt gesture to the staff, who sign up all four of us to take part in an upcoming eight-person singles tournament, and then quickly departs to take care of something else.  I frown and start up a conversation with Hugh, hoping to gauge his mental state after his meeting with Rood, while Jim quietly scopes out the other trainers milling around the lobby.  He manages to pick out three of the other competitors – presumably more of Clay’s recent successful challengers – but cannot immediately find the last one.  Suddenly, just as we’re about to file inside the arena, he notices the scientist Colress watching us from across the room.  Colress gives Jim a jaunty grin and a thumbs up before joining the three unknown trainers at the opposite entrance.  Hmm.

 The PWT building, in all its splendour.

Once we get through all the usual palaver of opening the tournament and introducing the competitors (Clay sure knows how to make a spectacle of things) I am paired with Cheren in the first round, and Jim is paired with Hugh.  Evidently fed up with having to tone things down for his Aspertia Gym challengers, Cheren is packing some serious firepower this time, in the form of one of my old enemies from Black and White – Stoutland, who hits like a truck and is built like one too.  Sansa, luckily, is tough enough to weather its hammer blows, paralyse it with a Thunder Wave, and finish it with an electrical onslaught.  Cheren’s remaining Pokémon, Cinccino and Watchog, are not nearly so menacing and fall relatively quickly to Sansa and Barristan.  Jim, meanwhile, seems to have soundly trounced Hugh, unsurprisingly.  The next round pits us against… each other.  Joy of joys.  Jim’s Lucario, Dovahkiin, is first up and gives Sansa a run for her money, weakening her severely, but eventually collapses under her assault.  When his Servine, Ulfric, appears, I seize my opportunity and switch in Barristan, whose fire is sure to wither the Grass-type.  My Growlithe closes in for a Flame Wheel, and-

Oh, god damn it, Zoroark!

Caught off guard by Jim’s newest Pokémon and on completely the wrong foot, I lose Barristan to Zoroark’s Foul Play, and Sansa, already weakened, doesn’t last long either.  The victories do not come without cost, and Zoroark is left too tired to defend against Jaime’s relentless Razor Shell… but now it’s all down to Jaime and Ulfric, not exactly a match made in heaven.  Though my Dewott fights valiantly as always, leaf against shell is one sword fight he isn’t going to win.  Pouting and sticking out my tongue, I vow revenge, but grudgingly wish Jim luck in the final round – against Colress.  Colress, when he appears, is as excited as ever for a battle, exhorting Jim to show him the strength of humans and Pokémon united.  Eyeing him warily, Jim calls on Dovahkiin to smite Colress’s Magneton, which has to spend the rest of the match trying to put itself back together.  Although he’s brought in a new Pokémon, the Psychic-type Elgyem, Colress fails to make any real headway against Jim’s Pokémon, and Dovahkiin and Zoroark manage to mop up his Elgyem and Klink without much trouble.  With much fanfare and glaringly bright stage lighting, Jim is proclaimed the victor and led triumphantly off the stage, where he is unceremoniously presented with a little ticket reading “1 BP” (fine print: “redeemable only at participating battle facilities; expires one year from date of issue; Miner King Enterprises will not accept torn, faded, burnt, soiled or partially digested BP; terms and conditions apply”) and dismissed.  Now that the battles are over, this is Clay’s show once again.

 Keep at it, and you'll even attract Champion-level trainers to the PWT - just THINK of the advertising revenue!

The Pokémon World Tournament is what we get instead of the Battle Frontier in Black 2 and White 2.  Much like the Battle Subway it awards Battle Points for each tournament victory, redeemable for a variety of useful battle items not available elsewhere, and like earlier versions of the Battle Frontier it collects a number of important services into one place – in this case, the move deleter, move reminder, and Hidden Power dude.  It also offers a couple of unusual battle formats; a rental tournament (just like the Battle Factory of old) and a ‘mix’ tournament, in which you borrow one of your opponent’s Pokémon in each battle – and your opponent borrows one of yours (this… can end badly)!  Perhaps a little washed-out in comparison to the fourth-generation Battle Frontier, with its tricky Battle Arcade and Battle Castle formats, or the even older and even more expansive Emerald Battle Frontier, but the weird formats aren’t the main draw of the Pokémon World Tournament – the true attractions, Clay notes, are the trainers themselves.  Once you progress further in the game, all kinds of famous trainers will start entering tournaments here, including just about every Gym Leader since forever.  Want to relive former glories with a battle against Winona’s Altaria or Jasmine’s Steelix, or just enjoy one last punch-up with Giovanni?  This is the place to do it.  Personally, I was something of a fan of the eclectic battle styles you had to learn in order to complete some of the old Battle Frontier challenges, and the fact that the Battle Points you earned from all of them were universally useful kept them from being too much of a pointless sideshow, but I have to admit there’s something to the ‘all-stars’ feeling of the higher-level tournaments in Driftveil City.  Challenging these people on their own turf is one thing, but entering tournaments with them finally puts the players on the same tier, which is a tremendously empowering thing for the game’s atmosphere – and nostalgia is certainly a factor (I have to admit, the designers do seem to know their audience… from time to time).  I also like the way the Pokémon World Tournament fits into what’s going on in Unova, because of course Clay is exactly the kind of person who would go to these lengths to boost Driftveil’s economy, and you can see the effect that it’s already had on the town, even in the early stages of the project.  Hey, I don’t often get to see sensible world-building from these people; let me enjoy it.  In short, while Clay’s latest project isn’t exactly my ‘vision’ of a perfect battle facility, I think it’s a pretty solid addition to Black 2 and White 2.

Discuss.

White 2 Playthrough Journal, episode 8: For Science!

Leaving Castelia behind us, Jim and I take the north road towards Nimbasa City.  We find Colress very quickly – it’s hard to miss him, in fact, since he’s waiting for us on the main road, next to… a line of rocks.  Okay… so someone’s just… taken a bunch of perfectly cubical boulders and lined them up across the main road?  That’s, um… why would someone do that?  Game Freak, is this really how low you’re willing to stoop to keep us from travelling to Nimbasa City before battling with this guy?  Ah, whatever.  We approach Colress, who doesn’t notice us at first since he’s busy doing something on a laptop, but greets us excitedly when he looks up.  He begs our patience as he finishes what he’s doing, and continues to type.  As he does so, he explains offhandedly that the delicious candy he gave me in the last episode was laced with 50 microlitres of concentrated Science, which he is now using to track my position and monitor my interaction with my Pokémon.

Wait, what?

The two-faced little-!  How dare he!  Does he know who I am?

Colress, apparently taken aback by my outburst, protests that actually he has no idea who I am; he just saw that my brother and I had some impressive Pokémon and wanted to study the way we worked with them.  I will have none of this nonsense.  I draw Barristan’s Pokéball from my belt and challenge Colress to a duel, a challenge which he accepts with a smile, as Jim settles down on one of the flat-topped boulders to watch.  Colress’s Pokémon, Klink and Magnemite, both Steel-types, fall quickly before my Growlithe’s relentless fire, and I march up to Colress and demand compensation for being dosed with Science without my knowledge.  Colress blinks twice as I glare at him, plays with his hair momentarily, thinking, and offers me another chocolate bar.  It is as delicious as the last!  As I eat it, Jim smacks his palm to his forehead and sighs, while Colress treats us both to a little exposition on his theories.  Team Plasma, he notes, believe – or at least, believed two years ago, under N’s leadership – that Pokémon need to be separated from people if they are to fulfil their destinies and achieve perfection, since humans hold them back by subordinating them to our own goals.  What Colress thinks is just the opposite – that it is through embracing life alongside humanity, not rejecting it, that Pokémon can attain their true potential.  This is why he studies trainers – to understand how people can make Pokémon strong.  And, he says as I finish my chocolate bar, he has a demonstration for us!  He gestures to the rock Jim is sitting on, explaining that these are actually-

OH!  They’re not random boulders that some jerk lined up in a row in the middle of the road; they’re a bunch of worn-out Crustle, too tired to move!  That makes- wait, no, that still makes no f#$%ing sense, but what the heck, let’s go with it.  There is no obvious way to move the Crustle, but Colress has a plan – use a device he has created that invigorates Pokémon!  We are sceptical, but tell him to go ahead.  Colress strikes a dramatic pose, points a remote at the Crustle, and, with a cry of “for science!” presses a button.  Nothing happens.  A ball of tumbleweed threatens to blow across the road, but Colress shoos it away.  After about twenty seconds’ silence, I open my mouth to ask Colress what’s supposed to happen – and I am interrupted by a creaking noise, as Jim’s Crustle drags itself to its feet!  The lumbering crustacean staggers momentarily under the weight of its great sandstone slab, but soon rights itself and wanders off into the desert – carrying a stunned and alarmed Jim along with it.  One by one, its brothers and sisters follow, until eventually the road is completely clear.  Colress triumphantly holds his device in the air and proclaims victory.  I quietly wonder whether the Crustle might simply have gotten bored and wandered off, but decide not to voice my suspicions.  Colress tells me that he is determined to keep up his studies and learn how humans can bring out the true strength of Pokémon.  If only it were possible to get some idea of the Pokémon’s perspective on all this, he muses.  If only there were a human who could talk to Pokémon… He leaves, heading off down the road to Nimbasa City, thinking out loud to himself.

Hmm…

So, Colress is suspicious.  The man doesn’t seem to be aligned with Team Plasma in any direct sense, based on what he’s told us so far… but he was lurking in the Castelia sewers awfully close to a Team Plasma operation of some kind… and Jim later remarks that Colress remind him of N, in his intensity, his obsession with realising the true potential of Pokémon, and his determination to change the world by examining the relationship between humans and Pokémon, even though their beliefs seem to be polar opposites.  And, most importantly, he was in the opening title sequence, so he must be significant.  We’ve got our eye on this weirdo…

I look around and see no sign of Jim.  The Crustle has already wandered too far while I’ve been talking to Colress.  I reason that he can probably take care of himself, and decide to wait for him in Nimbasa City.  There’s a Gym there, and various sundry amusements, and if nothing else the Skyarrow Bridge to Nacrene City is apparently closed for repairs, so it’s either this, or make a new life in Castelia City.  I strike out northward, keen to close the distance in as little time as possible.

Route 4 has other ideas.

As I walk down the main road, I notice that route 4, once an uninviting desert littered with construction materials, has changed a great deal in the past two years.  On the right side of the road, a forest of new development – tall buildings, some of them still under construction, and land being prepared for more.  On the left side of the road, a huge archaeological excavation; dozens of ancient stone buildings have been unearthed from the desert sands, and the whole area is buzzing with both academics and tourists.  And, as I continue to advance, I find the spot where the two have reached an impasse.  Two men are standing in the road, wildly gesticulating at the two very different scenes.  I am determined to ignore them and keep walking.  One man, an immaculately dressed businessman, is waving at the shiny new buildings.  I hear words like ‘progress,’ ‘future,’ ‘jobs,’ ‘economy,’ and ‘homes.’  Still not my problem.  Walking on.  The other man is a beardy academic in a home-made cardigan, and is pointing at the archaeological site behind him.  I hear words like ‘culture,’ ‘understanding,’ ‘heritage,’ ‘irreplaceable,’ and ‘permanent.’  Walking… on.  Still… not… my…

…damnit.

Something that you may know about me and Jim, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while and paying careful attention to my pearls of wisdom, is that we are both archaeology students.

As I near the two men, the fellow in the suit, evidently seeking to prove a point, gestures towards me and says something about young people and the voice of progress, suggesting that he and his opponent ask this random strangers what she thinks.  The older man looks dejected, but assents, and they walk up to me to explain their situation.  A huge new development planned for this area, with an immense amount of money tied up in the project already, was halted when the workers levelling the ground discovered an ancient stone wall, which quickly turned out to belong to just one building in an entire previously unknown city, thousands of years old.  A team of archaeologists was called in to salvage as much as possible, but their leader is now arguing for the permanent preservation of the site from all further development.  The tycoon funding a big part of the construction project says he understands the site’s importance, but it’s already been scanned and surveyed in detail, and the archaeologists have been over the place with a fine tooth comb.  How can he be expected to forget about the whole project?

I adjust my clothes slightly to reveal the Pokéballs at my belt.  I smile sweetly and explain to the businessman in sugared tones that I don’t know much about progress, but if I see so much as one of his construction workers set foot on that archaeological site, my fist is going to progress so far up his-

Meanwhile, Jim’s Crustle has come to a halt somewhere in the desert.  He gingerly hops off, careful to avoid the sharp stony crags that litter this desert.  The whole area is filled with half-finished buildings and abandoned construction equipment, none of which seems to bother the wild Pokémon one bit; they just keep playing amongst the rocks and the sand as they always do.  There are no roads.  No signs.  Just a maze of rocks and construction sites, filled with Sandile.  Jim sighs with exasperation.  Who creates a new suburb without first designing and building a thorough road system?  This is frightfully un-Roman.  He calls Ulfric the Servine to his side, then picks a direction and starts walking, but quickly finds his path blocked by a stack of girders.  He turns and picks another direction.  Fleet of abandoned cranes.  What irresponsible bunch of loons is in charge of this site?  Suddenly, faintly, he hears a tortured scream in the distance, accompanied a girl’s voice spewing a raft of unprintable but highly imaginative curse words.  He smiles and begins to clamber over and around the cranes.

“Good girl,” I tell Sansa, patting her on the head.  Things had looked hairy for a moment when the developer had called over the workers he affectionately referred to as his ‘muscle,’ but Sansa and I had… explained to them, in a… a polite and concise manner, the cultural advantages of preserving the excavation site for future generations.  We explained it twice, in case they didn’t understand all of our points the first time.  Sansa’s debating skills have improved markedly since she learned Take Down.  As I congratulate my Flaaffy and talk shop with the grateful director of the archaeological site, a nearby wall collapses as Ulfric’s Vine Whips tear apart its scaffolding, and Jim strolls out of the unfinished building.

“Did I miss anything?”