X Nuzlocke, episode 10: A Bolt from the Blue

Azure Bay

Slowpoke: …
Spruce: …
Ruby: Spruce.
Spruce: …
Slowpoke: …
Ruby: Spruce, I am now almost 100% certain that she was not challenging you to a staring contest.
Spruce: …
Slowpoke: …
Ruby: Well, all right; to be honest, I was almost 100% certain of that before you started.  It’s just stopped being amusing now.
Spruce: …
Ruby: …he’s going to keep doing that until one of them blinks, isn’t he?
Fisher: Your magical sense did indicate that the stone we seek is in this Slowpoke’s possession, did they not?  As odd as it seems, a staring contest would not be entirely out of step with the other trials presented to us by the various heathens of this island.
Ruby: If by ‘trials,’ you mean the group of Binacle who demanded an arm-wrestle, the Chatot who made Spruce sing for them, the Inkay with the overgrown hedge-maze, and the Exeggcute village that inexplicably challenged us to a riddle contest, then they prove only that life on this island apparently provides the indigenous creatures with no entertainment whatsoever.  Well… and possibly that Azure Bay is home to a hitherto unknown Chatot subspecies that has tragically and against all probability been struck tone-deaf.
Fisher: Yet only after they heard of our goal did they pose these challenges.  And the final riddle offered as a parting gift by the Exeggcute may yet prove important.
Martial: That lingers on my mind as well.  What creature is it that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at midday, and three legs in the evening?
Ruby: Bah; the answer is plainly a male human.  The question asks what creature can have three different numbers of ‘legs’ in a single day.  In the morning he crawls out of bed on all fours, suffering from a hangover, by midday he has gotten to his feet, and in the evening-
Merneith: Don’t be ridiculous; the question is phrased to trick us.  They never said it had to be the morning and evening of the same day!  A two-legged Roggenrola might evolve into a three-legged Boldore one evening, and then again into a four-legged Gigalith the next morning.
Martial: Yet I was certain the riddle would refer to the stone’s guardian, and it seems she is neither a human nor a Boldore – nor do either of those species appear to be indigenous to this island.
Slowpoke: Oh… hello… I’m sorry; I didn’t see you there.
Ruby: See-!?  We’ve been standing around you talking for over ten minutes!
Slowpoke: Well, that’s a relief.  For a moment I was worried you’d been waiting a long time.
Spruce: Does that mean I win?
Merneith: …yes.  Yes, you do.
Ruby: Don’t encourage him.  You!  Slowpoke!  Reveal your identity to us!
Slowpoke: Hmm… For a long time I remember many Pokémon called me Hypatia… you may use that name if it pleases you… though it has been a while.  I may only have imagined it… What do you believe you are called?
Ruby: …Ruby the Braixen, fiery jewel among Pokémon, sorceress supreme; perhaps you’ve heard of… oh, forget it.
Hypatia: Forget what?
Amaldos: Forgetting is a privilege reserved for those who are forgiven.
Hypatia: Oh… hello there, honoured master.  How go your duties?
Amaldos: Every subject’s duty is his own soul, but no master’s soul is his own.
Hypatia: I see… And your exalted mentor?  I trust he is well?
Amaldos: [sadly] He is banished from himself… a joyful thing for us, we who are wedded to calamity.
Merneith: You killed him.  You literally killed him in front of us.  Remember?
Amaldos: Remembering is a privilege reserved for those whose loss will be regretted.
Hypatia: Indeed…
Ruby: Argh; you’re all as mad as each other.  Look, Slowpoke; you have a Mega Stone in your possession.  Hand it over.
Hypatia: The stone…?  But it was only just given to me to guard… only four or five generations have passed among the Exeggcute since I was left here by master Amaldos.
Spruce: Four or five… generations?  [To Amaldos] …how old are you?
Amaldos: Enough to have seen mighty oaks grow from old chestnuts.
Spruce: Oaks grow from acorns.  Um.  Don’t they?
Amaldos: There is a time and a place for everything…
Ruby: Whatever; whatever; just hand it over.
Hypatia: …I remember once these stones were freely bought and sold as curiosities.  And in another time, I think perhaps they were feared as terrible weapons.  At one point they were considered an ideal base for a number of salads and chutneys.  But I think I was left here because there was a time we thought them sacred… worthy of protection.  Have our beliefs shifted once again?
Amaldos: Seeing is believing, and we who are blinded by the light see precious little…
Hypatia: Very well… I will trust your judgement, master.  Sorceress… take the stone, and use it well…
Ruby: Ah… at last… and now we shall see what arcane secrets this mighty artefact can unlock…
Spruce: Okay.
Ruby: …right now.
Amaldos: If there is no time like the present, then only the absent have time.
Ruby: …no one wants to object?
Martial: I would rather save my breath for someone wise enough to listen.
Merneith: To be honest, I kinda want to see what this one does.
Ruby: Okay… here goes nothing…

Continue reading “X Nuzlocke, episode 10: A Bolt from the Blue”

X Nuzlocke, episode 9: On the High Seas

Route 12

Ruby: Look, it’s perfectly simple; as my personal minion, everything you know about the Mega Stones now belongs to me.
Amaldos: And so the stars belong in the sky, yet the sky never sought to constrain the stars to wait out the dawn.
Ruby: Yeah, but… that’s not… that analogy makes no sense.
Amaldos: Of course not; for my senses have taken leave of me.
Ruby: If you’re not going to help me find the stones, then why did you want to come along with us in the first place?
Amaldos: There is something new under the sun, old tricks learned again on borrowed time… and soon, a bolt from the blue.  In a matter of life and death, sometimes a Liepard must find more than one way to skin a Purugly in order to change its spots.
Ruby: …okay, sure.  And… the reason I can’t try using yours is…?
Amaldos: It is mine.
Ruby: Ah.  Well.  Fair enough, then.
Amaldos: When you despise something, keep it close; if it leaves you, it was never worth your hatred in the first place.
Spruce: But if the journey is more important than the destination, then why is the road less travelled… um… always blocked by construction workers?
Amaldos: [long silence]
Spruce: And how does someone who walks off the beaten path find their way up the garden path?
Ruby: Uh…
Amaldos: An Accelgor can never catch a Torkoal that has been given a head start.  There is a place nearby where moss gathers on the wrong side of the trees.  Come, blinded one; let us find your stone and set it rolling.
Ruby: [to Spruce] How the hell do you even do that?
Spruce: [shrugs helplessly]

Continue reading “X Nuzlocke, episode 9: On the High Seas”

Unlimited Power

Azure Bay produces little in the way of revelations.  The ‘Sea Spirit’s Den’ is a silent, empty cave.  Instinct tells me this place is going to be important later, and the ‘Sea Spirit’ of the name is probably some kind of legendary Pokémon, but whatever it is, it has no inclination to reveal itself at the moment.  The area does provide rewards of other kinds, though; a Mantyke, a Deep Sea Tooth, a Deep Sea Scale, various other sundry treasures… and a new Mega Stone, the pale sunset-coloured Ampharosite.  Well, that’s certainly worth checking out.  With nothing else to do in this area, I decide to begin an epic fishing trip to test out my new Good Rod, flying around the country with Tereus to collect everything I missed while I had nothing but an Old Rod.  Finally, all those Water Pokémon I’ve seen trainers use since the beginning of the game can be mine!  Remoraid, Chinchou, Goldeen, Corphish, Carvahna, Staryu and Horsea, as well as Wailmer and Tentacool, who turn up while surfing – and, most importantly, Clauncher.  Clauncher seems to be a sort of mixed attacker.  His Pokédex entry proclaims him able to “[fire] compressed water from [his] massive claws like shooting a pistol,” – wording which seems to confirm my original suspicion that this Pokémon is a pistol shrimp.  He also has an interesting ability – Mega Launcher, which claims to “power up aura and pulse moves.”  So… what, Water Pulse, Dark Pulse, Aura Sphere… Dragon Pulse?  Maybe some others I’m forgetting, and new moves I don’t know about?  Well, it’s neat; the ability adds character by encouraging the Pokémon to favour particular moves.  I want to see what this guy evolves into, so – Cecrops the Seviper is out, and Odysseus the Clauncher is in!

Time to head on, I suppose.  I fly back to Coumarine City and prepare to leave the city and travel south – and suddenly get a call on my Holo-Caster.  It’s Lysandre.

Lysandre has heard from Professor Sycamore that I have been entrusted with a Digivice, and is calling to congratulate me – and to urge me to think carefully about how I will use my power to change the world for the better.  Well, better is a very strong word here, but I like to think that I will not use my power to make the world worse… for me anyway… unfortunately I can’t speak for my future subjects, but, you know, you can’t make an omelette without slaughtering a few million people.  Lysandre continues, a zealous tone creeping into his voice, “We can’t just cover up the old filth with new filth!”  Look, dude, as long as it’s my new filth, I’m easy.  He repeats his exhortation to consider my choices wisely, then hangs up.  Hmm… if Lysandre knows about Mega Evolution and how important it is, maybe he used to be an initiate at the Tower of Mastery, like Professor Sycamore?  Hell, maybe that’s how they met?  If so, he might have a Digivice too…  I’m still hazy on what he actually wants, though.  “Make the world a better place” is an extremely nebulous goal.  As I wander through Coumarine City’s south gatehouse, deep in thought and mumbling to myself, I run straight into Professor Sycamore’s annoying lab assistants, Left and Right, who have a gift for me: the last piece of the Kalos Pokédex, which covers the mountainous areas of north-eastern Kalos.  I accept this boon and wave them aside as I continue into the Lumiose Badlands.

The Badlands are… well, aptly named.  They are, to put it lightly, certainly not good lands.  I see dirt, rocks, dust… and not much else.  Pokémon here just burst up out of the ground at you – Dugtrio, Trapinch, and occasionally Gible.  I catch one of each, and continue exploring.  It seems that this whole area is devoted to generating power for Lumiose City… Lumiose City, which is currently experiencing a major blackout.  Hmm.  At the time I assumed the blackout was merely a contrivance to keep me out of the northern parts of the city and oppress the civilians, but maybe something is actually going on here?  Can’t hurt to look.  I find three sealed entrances to the power facilities, but no way in until I happen to sweep a boulder with my Itemfinder and come across a card key… and, nearby, a Team Flare grunt guarding a fourth entrance.   Okay, this is definitely worth checking out.  My new Clauncher needs some practice anyway.

Team Flare seem to have taken over an entire wing of the power plant, imprisoning the staff inside.  The researchers explain that this plant operates on space-based photovoltaic power – basically, solar panels in space that beam energy back down to the surface.  I know people have been trying to work out how to do this for a while, but I don’t think the real world has developed the necessary technology yet; Kalos is into some cutting-edge stuff (contrast Sinnoh, which still uses coal…).  All four of the grunts I’ve fought before are here, along with several more (I had suspected, until now, that there were only four of them, but it seems they’re a less pathetic organisation than I had bargained for).  In general, they appear to favour Dark and Poison Pokémon – reasonably enough for an evil organisation bent on… whatever it is that they’re bent on.  Fame and fortune, as far as I can tell.  Odysseus and I fight our way through the grunts to the centre of the main… thingy.  Power collection assembly.  Whatever.  Two Team Flare higher-ups are doing something with the machinery – siphoning electricity for some nefarious purpose, to judge from their dialogue.  One is a woman in a red skirt wearing a clunky electronic visor – so she’s either blind, or just has even worse taste in accessories than the rest of her team.  Or both.  The other, I’m pretty sure, is a pimp.  Bald, white suit with gold trim, earrings on one side, ostentatious silver cufflinks – okay, I know it’s tradition by now for Pokémon villains to look ridiculous, but this guy looks more like a pimp king than the actual pimp king from Final Fantasy VII!  The evil pimp/Team Flare Admin attacks me with a Houndoom, who of course gets Crabhammered in the face, makes a remorseful squeaking noise, and runs away.  The pimp turns to his ally, addressing her as ‘scientist,’ and asks her to take care of me.  She steps up to the plate, introducing herself as Aliana, and claims to be a Team Flare scientist researching “something you wouldn’t understand anyway.”  Oh, yeah?  Try me, Georgina La Forge!  Aliana, too, has only one Pokémon – a powerful Mightyena – and just as it is beginning to gain the upper hand over Odysseus, she decides she would rather face a different Pokémon and Roars him out, leaving poor Mightyena at the mercy of Tereus.  Aliana and her pimp conclude that they have enough power for their needs anyway, and can afford to retreat, which they do so instantly and without leaving any trace of their presence.

And then Left and Right show up, wearing scarves and carnival masks.

…because today just wasn’t weird enough yet.

Professor Sycamore’s annoying lab assistants are superheroes?  “Defenders of Kalos”?  I- what?  “Let us heal your Pokémon as thanks!”  Uh… sure, but- “Well, I think us mysterious people will be off now!”  Wait, do you guys seriously think I don’t know exactly who you are?  You aren’t even wearing different clothes; you just put on those ridiculous masks and- “I leave before being left!  I decide!  Au revoir!” …sure, whatever.  À bientôt, weirdoes.

Why do I hang out with people like this?

In any case, Lumiose City should be back online now.  I leave the power plant and wander the rest of the way south through the Badlands.  Again, superb name.  I don’t think any area of the Pokémon world has ever been so well described.  As I come to the edge of these undeniably terrible lands and the gates to Lumiose City, I find someone in my path: an older man in jeans, a ragged black coat, and an orange beanie, his face shadowed by his long white hair.  He wears… something… around his neck – could be a big bronze key, maybe?  I don’t know who this guy is, what he’s up to, or whose notional ‘side’ he’s on, but he’s got plot significance rolling off him in waves.  He mutters something about a ‘flower Pokémon’ that was ‘given eternal life’ – well, hey, mister, I happen to know all kinds of stuff about flower Pokémon; maybe I can help with whatever you- No, never mind; he’s walking away.  Striding purposefully into Lumiose City.  Hmm.  A flower Pokémon, blessed with eternal life… he couldn’t mean Shaymin, could he?  Either that… or there’s some new legendary Grass Pokémon out there for me to master.  Excellent…

Ridiculous quote log:

“No matter how much we fish, the ocean stays blue.  So does the ground never change however much we battle?”
Well, you know, I really suspect that depends on how you fish.  I think you’ll find, actually, if you fish using traditional methods – with a gigantic spinning blade of death – that the ocean will not in fact stay blue for long.

“VRRR… TARGET ACQUIRED.  COMMENCING ATTACK.”
“MISSION FAILED.  ABORT.  ABORT.”
“I WAS CREATED SOLELY TO DO BATTLE…”
…one of the maids in the Battle Château is a robot.  A robot Viscountess with no purpose other than combat.  I… I want one.

Grassroots Movements

Now that all this Mega Evolution business is firmly out of the way for now, I think it’s time for another round of training.  I head down to the eastern gates of Shalour City with a bunch of my Kalosian Pokémon for some levelling, and run into Serena on the way.  Serena has a gift for me: the HM that teaches Surf.  Surprisingly early, but I’m not going to complain.  “It’s kind of amazing how a person like you came to Kalos and ended up travelling with me,” Serena says.  “It’s like destiny in a way.”  Okay, I admit I’m not always totally sure what this girl is getting at, but that one was definitely a come on.  She doesn’t seem inclined to pursue the conversation any further, though, so I continue on my way.  The outskirts of Shalour City feature Mareep, Exeggcute, Tauros, Miltank, Slowpoke, Pachirisu and Chatot – the last of which I quickly learn to hate.  Unless I am very much mistaken, Chatot’s signature move, Chatter, has been updated.  Where it previously had a variable chance of confusing its target based on the volume of the sounds Chatot had learned, now it just seems to confuse you every f@&$ing time.  It is basically Air Cutter and Confuse Ray in one aggravating package.  I mean… okay, Chatot needed a boost, and I’m glad Game Freak apparently recognised that, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to despise the little bastard with every fibre of my being.  A few of my Pokémon evolve here – Bunnelby into Diggersby, whom I’ve talked about already, Espurr into Meowstic, both at level 25, Pancham into Pangoro (with a Dark Pokémon in my party, as I had been advised by readers), and Skiddo into Gogoat, both at level 32.  I found Meowstic thoroughly underwhelming at first, since it’s a Psychic Pokémon whose shtick is “this Pokémon has psychic powers,” but it was suggested that I get one of each gender – not only do the males and females look very different, they appear to learn different attacks.  The females learn destructive techniques like Charge Beam and Shadow Ball, while the males learn support moves like Charm and Miracle Eye.  I guess that’s kind of interesting.  Pangoro… well, I’m getting heavy Ursaring and Beartic vibes from this thing: big, slow, brutish, and a little too fond of beating things up.  Honestly I’m beginning to wonder whether Game Freak are capable of taking the concept of ‘bear Pokémon’ in any other direction.  Gogoat is kind of neat, I guess; picking a mountain goat to be the primary riding animal of historic Kalos is left-field enough that I can respect it, and mountain goats are pretty badass animals.  A number of my other Pokémon do not evolve: Swirlix and Spritzee (whom I’m led to believe are trade evolutions), Honedge, Amaura, Helioptile, Binacle and Skrelp (as well as a few others who, based on the pattern of empty spaces in my Pokédex, aren’t going to – like Carbink, which surprised me; she doesn’t look fully evolved).  At least some of these probably just need more time.

I now need to cross a river mouth to continue my journey in the direction of the next town, Coumarine City.  I was sort of banking on Photia being able to learn Surf (sure, she’s not a Water-type, but she’s a squid; come on!), but apparently not.  Luckily, help is on hand, in the form of a random guy who wants to give me his Lapras!  I briefly consider adding Lapras to my main team, but decide against it; I’ve just added Orion to my party and I think I want my next switch to be for a Kalos Pokémon.  Anyway, Lapras dutifully takes us across the river.  The only other notable event of this trip is that I encounter a Skiddo ranch – one which is apparently happy to led random strangers ride the Skiddo.  Skiddo are restricted in their movement in certain important ways (they have difficulty with stairs) but they do possess an incredible supernatural ability that Pokémon trainers the world over have longed for since the dawn of training itself: they can jump up ledges.  Now I just need to figure out how to smuggle one out of this area and nothing will be able to stop me…

I soon reach Coumarine City, which I think is Cherbourg, although I admit I haven’t been exactly sure where I am for a while now.  Coumarine isn’t a huge city in terms of population, but it’s very spread out; half of the city is scattered around Azure Bay and is mostly harbour buildings, while half is at the top of a high ridge, where the Gym and Pokémon Centre are; the two areas are connected by monorail.  As I enter the city, I receive a message from Serena on my holo-caster: battle in front of the Coumarine Gym, now.  Wait, how does she even know I’m in- oh, whatever.  I take a cursory glance around the harbour, accept a Good Rod as tribute from one of the locals, and head for the monorail – only to find Professor Sycamore hanging out with the actress Diantha in the station.  Sycamore congratulates me on achieving Mega Evolution, and begins speculating on how it works, and particularly on why it’s only ever been documented in Kalos.  Diantha suggests it could be something to do with Kalos’ legendary Pokémon, which Sycamore seems to think is reasonable.  He apparently has something to do, and leaves rather quickly after that.  Diantha doesn’t stick around either, but does offer to battle the next time we meet.  You know, I didn’t give this chick much thought the first time I met her because I was sort of focused on Lysandre, but I’m getting the impression she’s quite important.  She couldn’t be the Champion of Kalos, could she?  An actress?  Then again… I don’t think I’ve met anyone else who looks ridiculous enough… and if Lysandre really is the leader of Team Flare, it would make sense for them to be clearly set opposite each other, as they were in that first conversation (alternatively, maybe the game is screwing with me and it’s actually the other way around).  Hmm.  Well, anyway, up the monorail I go – I have a date (or something) to get to.  Serena has kind of let herself go; her Pokémon have barely levelled at all since our last battle in the Tower of Mastery.  She wants to see Mega Evolution, and although I promised myself I wouldn’t use my Digivice unless I had to, I oblige her by Digivolving Ilex and flattening her Braixen with a super-powered Petal Dance.  As a result of the battle, Tereus also hits level 35 and attains his final form: the falcon-like Talonflame.  I’m beginning to wonder whether his fire powers are mostly for decoration, since he seems to be predominantly a physical attacker, hasn’t learned any other Fire attacks since Ember (which sort of lags behind Aerial Ace in damage potential, even against Fire-weak targets), and doesn’t seem likely to be compatible with most of the Fire-type physical attacks I know of like Fire Punch or Fire Fang – Blaze Kick, maybe?  Only time will tell…

With Serena dealt with, I take a moment to explore Coumarine City.  The game seems to have chosen this moment to have NPCs explain a whole bunch of stuff related to the Dream World, and the fact that Pokémon in hordes will occasionally have their Hidden Abilities (!).  I sit down for a rest on a park bench next to an old man, and strike up a conversation.  “So those egg-like things that are found at the Pokémon Day Care… strictly speaking they’re not eggs.  They’re more like a Pokémon cradle.”  Oh, well, that’s interesting becau- wait, WHAT?  Wha- WHAT?  CONTEXT, man, give me context!  What- what do you think an egg IS, “strictly speaking”?  Do eggs other than Pokémon eggs even EXIST in this world?  What does this statement MEAN?  I almost want to say that what he actually means is something like “aren’t eggs cute?  It’s like they’re like a cradle for Pokémon!” but surely if that were what he meant then he wouldn’t have said “strictly speaking they’re not eggs.”  Why does this world insist on confounding me with one insane non sequitur after another!?

I need to smash something.  I’m going to the Gym.

The Coumarine Gym, finally, is a Gym I can respect: a Grass Pokémon Gym.  Build around a huge and unimaginably ancient tree, liberally festooned with balconies and trellises for the vines and foliage to climb over, this is the kind of place I could see myself taking over as a base of operations for a glorious crusade.  Having to swing on ropes from one platform to another is a bit tiresome, but I could always remodel (on that note – although they are visually stunning, the Gyms of this game are a little short on the ‘puzzle’ front so far, mostly just being a way to show off the game’s ability to model a three-dimensional environment).  I’d have no qualms destroying the current inhabitants either – Pokémon Rangers.  Pah.  Bunch of smug hippies who think they know what Grass Pokémon are all about and love nothing more than ‘defending’ the wilderness from ‘deranged sociopaths’ like me.  Grass Pokémon aren’t about peace, calm and oneness with nature – they’re about horrible debilitating pollen attacks and suffocating overgrowth!  These morons have no idea of the $#!t they’re playing with here!  Pan, my Quilladin, has known Pin Missile for a while now (vastly improved from its previous incarnations), and Cecrops’ poison is useful too.  We fight our way to the top, encountering little resistance (although one of the trainers does bring a fairly potent Exeggutor to bear against us).  And there, I meet the Gym Leader, Ramos… a sweet, humble old Scottish gardener with a huge pair of pruning shears, who loves the sheer indomitable tenacity of plants.

You know what?  This guy I can work with.

Ramos doesn’t put up much of a fight, sadly.  His first Pokémon, a Jumpluff, sets itself on fire trying to attack Tereus and then falls to an Aerial Ace, prompting him to bring out his partner, a Gogoat.  I figure this can be Pan’s moment to shine and bring him out to Pin Missile his way through the rest of Ramos’ team.  Gogoat drops quickly; the last Pokémon, a Weepinbell, is neutral to Bug attacks and puts up more of a fight, so I eventually have to switch in Cecrops, who deals with it easily enough.  Ramos obligingly hands over a Grass Knot TM and his badge: a gold frame in the shape of a stylised leaf, filled in with blue-green glass, called the Plant Badge.  As a result of the battle, Pan reaches level 36, a traditional level for starters to reach their final forms, and does not disappoint, becoming a huge Grass/Fighting-type Chesnaught, a bipedal mammalian creature of unclear extraction with a viciously spiked tortoise shell.  He also gets what I take to be a signature move: Spiked Shell, which seems to be a variant of Protect with a minor retributive effect against close-range attacks.  I think I like this Pokémon; he does a fairly solid job staking out his own niche among the Grass-type starters, and doesn’t seem derivative of anything that’s gone before at first glance.

The next route leads back to Paris, which presumably has a Gym of its own in the previously inaccessible northern areas, but first I want to check out Azure Bay and the mysterious cave marked on my Town Map…

Ridiculous quote log:

“Pokémon sind im Pokéball.  Ich sitze auf dem Stuhl.”
…ja; sehr gut.  Bleib auf diesem Stuhl.