X Nuzlocke, episode 15: The Ice of Life

Dendemille Town

Ruby: I was supposed to be ruling the world by now.
Daku: [bored] We know…
Ruby: I was supposed to have achieved ultimate arcane power by shamelessly exploiting magic items with unclear abilities and vague limitations.
Daku: We know
Ruby: And instead I’m sitting here, freezing my tail off in the middle of some me-forsaken cluster of ramshackle louse-ridden bivouacs clinging to the edge of the world, waiting for a recon report from a Golduck who worships a fossilised mollusc and the world’s stupidest Pidgeot!
Daku: Are you done?
Ruby: And where the hell is the Shelmet?
Daku: That… that is actually a very good question; where the hell is the Shelmet?
Martial: She mentioned meeting with a contact outside the human settlement.  Something about being promised information by a couple of Karrablast.
Ruby: A couple of-? PffffffBAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Martial: I fail to see what is so funny.
Ruby: HAHAHAHAHA oh, you will, trust me, just as soon as she gets back, AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahaha ha ha ha… ha… ha… ah, we’re still here.  Why.
Martial: Your brother still languishes in prison, witch.  Have you already forgotten your promise to him?
Ruby: What?  No!  No, I mean- just- I mean, of course not!  But this place is a pointless backwater; we should just return to Lumiose City and burn anything that gets in our way.
Martial: We cannot risk the civilian casualties that would ensue if we attacked the city without more information about Team Flare’s activities and plans.
Daku: And we could hardly stay in Laverre City either, after the… spat… that you two had with the Cabal sorcerers.
Ruby: Fine, but we need to take real, serious action, and soon.
Spruce: Hey!  Ruby!
Fisher: We bring news, my lady!
Ruby: …oh good; my day is about to get even more pointless and dreary.
Spruce: You’ll never guess what we just found!
Ruby: [sigh] Let me guess.  A quest.
Spruce: No, A QUE- oh.  Oh, okay, you, uh… you guessed it.
Ruby: Incredible.  Duck.  Explain.
Fisher: Well, my lady, while scouting the entrance to the Frost Cavern north of this settlement, we encountered a Jynx with an interesting proposition…
Ruby: Uh-huh.  And this is her, I take it?  All right; let’s hear it…
Jynx: I grëët yoü, sørceress, in the nåme of öur Møthër Wïnter.  I äm called Brynhildr, ånd I am the læder øf thë rëbel Pøkémon fightïng tø freë the Frost Cavern frøm the tÿrånnical rule of the Abomasnow whöse låir lies in the icÿ hært of our cåve høme.
Ruby: Why- why are you talking like that.  Why do you have a Swedish accent.  You’re not Swedish.  None of us are Swedish.  We’re in France.
Spruce: What’s France?
Jynx: I døn’t knöw whät yoü’re talking abœt; I spæk with a Jynx äccent.
Ruby: [deep breath] Fine.  Whatever.
Spruce: Brynhildr wants us to help free her people from oppression!
Ruby: Uh huh.  What’s in it for us?
Spruce: That’s the best part!  Tell her, Brynhildr!
Brynhildr: The ëvil Abomasnow I åm fightïng to øverthrœw hølds a mægical jëwël of græt pøwer – an Abomasite.   Nöne of mÿ pœple cån use it, but yöür Pidgeot tells më that yoü can.  If yöu’ll ønly joïn thë mercenåry grœüps helpïng üs to fight, it’s yoürs.
Ruby: [stunned] Wha- that- but this is incredible!  It’s beyond my wildest dreams!  I-
Daku: What, because we’ve found another of your sorcerous baubles?
Ruby: No, because Spruce did something useful!
Spruce: I’m helping!
Umbriel: [somewhere in the distance] EEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAARGHHHHHHH!

Glückwunsch!  Dein Umbriel wurde zu einem Hydragil!

Continue reading “X Nuzlocke, episode 15: The Ice of Life”

X nuzlocke, episode 14: Eye on the Ball

Pokéball Factory

Spruce: I think that’s her there, hiding behind those bushes… hey!  Umbriel!
Umbriel: AHHHHHH!  Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no!  I’ll never talk!  Not even under torture!  Well, probably under torture!  I mean, maybe before torture now that you’re probably going to torture me anyway.  I mean- oh.  Wait.  It’s you.  Um.  Hi.
Spruce: Uh… hi.  So, uh-
Umbriel: AHHHHHH!  It’s her again!  Oh, please don’t set me on fire; I swear I’m going to do everything I can to-
Ruby: Oh please shut up, you glorified can of escargot, or I really will set you on fire.
Umbriel: Um.  O-o-okay.
Spruce: You’re… a little jumpy, aren’t you?
Umbriel: A… little bit, yes.  I can’t help it; you see I grew up in Lumiose City and it is not the safest place for a little Bug Pokémon; you know, if it’s not careless passers-by stepping on you it’s city officials trying to get your shell repurposed as traffic light housing, and-
Daku: If they ever do threaten her with torture we’re all doomed.
Spruce: Umbriel, focus.  What’s happening here?  What do Team Flare want and can we stop it?
Umbriel: Oh.  Right.  Those things that I was supposed to find out.  Well, a little while ago a bunch of Team Flare marched in, took over this factory and haven’t been letting anyone in or out.  There’s a Manectric and a Liepard who are in charge of everything, I think.  There are human guards posted on all the doors, and more humans with their Pokémon have been arriving from time to time ever since, but I haven’t seen them take anything away… I don’t understand what they’re doing here.
Daku: This is a Pokéball factory, is it not?  Surely these ruffians mean to steal as many of its products as they are able before they abscond.
Umbriel: But that’s exactly what I don’t get!  Pokéballs are cheaper than Professor Sycamore on a first date!  If Team Flare are as loaded as they seem to be, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t just buy a tonne of them and spend their time stealing something worthwhile, like… well, I mean, I don’t know.  Gold.  Trading cards.  Cheese.
Spruce: Cheese?
Umbriel: Have you tried eating out in Lumiose City?  The restaurants are the real criminals in this region, trust me.  Uh, anyway, though, this place is locked down pretty tight and I don’t know if I can take out one of the guards on my own… also even if I could I don’t have a cover story for this op, and… well, they might still be looking for me.  Which would be bad.  I can’t afford to screw this up; Lavoisier’s counting on me here!
Ruby: [ahem]
Umbriel: On us!  He’s counting on us!  Obviously.  Which is why it’s so great you’re finally here!  You and your human can help me infiltrate, and maybe even stop whatever is happening!
Ruby: Right… and what is your plan, exactly?
Umbriel: Just get me to a terminal where I can hack their server, and I’ll take it from there!  I’m, like, almost a Steel-type, when you think about it, because of this metal armour.  Only not really, ‘cause, like, I don’t have any of the resistances or anything.  But I can totally use a computer as well as any human, or Lavoisier, or even ol’ Larry down at the Lumiose Gym!
Ruby: What?  You don’t have any arms, how-?
Umbriel: Oh, wow.  That is some serious ableist bull$#!t right there.  I will be just fine, you wait and see.  Um.  Ma’am.
Ruby: Oooookay.  Whatever, just do your job and don’t get yourself killed; if you manage that you’ll be doing just as well as any of these idiots ever have.  Now, let’s see… we should avoid the main gate; it’s heavily guarded… but one of those service entrances…
Fisher: Uh, my lady, if I might divert your attention for one moment… the human appears to be departing.
Chris: [muttering] Just have to find… what were their names…?  Brianna and Celeste?  Brittany and Cecilia?  Oh, no, I’m totally gonna screw this up too; I know it!  I hope Mr. Lysandre doesn’t get mad at me…
Ruby: What th- where the hell is he even going?
Umbriel: I- I’m sure he’ll be fine.  I mean, humans are really good at taking care of themselves, right?  I’ve, ah… never heard of a human getting into any trouble that they couldn’t get themselves out of!
Ruby: You’ve never met this one… ugh; we’re going to have to split up.  Spruce, take your… boyfriend or whatever he is, find the leaders of the operation and disable, capture, or destroy them, quietly if you can; priest, you go with the spy and make sure she stays out of trouble; lizard… [sigh] I… suppose you’re with me.  We’ll follow the human.
Daku: Your assessment of the tactical situation is… acceptable.  Though just barely.
Ruby: [rolls eyes] Of course it is.
Spruce: Okay!  Go team!  Let’s bust this place wide open!
Ruby: Quietly.
Spruce: Oh.  Right. [stage whispering] Let’s bust this place wide open!
Ruby: We’re all going to die.

Continue reading “X nuzlocke, episode 14: Eye on the Ball”

X Nuzlocke, episode 13: Fairytales

(Yes, this really is still happening; I know I’ve been lazy)

Route 14

Spruce: Why would Lavoisier even have a spy working for him anyway?
Ruby: I imagine the ability to gather data in a clandestine fashion must have been useful to him from time to time.  A lot of organisations in Kalos are cagey about the information they share.
Spruce: But he always seemed so… uh… legitimate…
Ruby: Well, true, but… look, put it this way, Spruce: we work for him.
Spruce: …ah.  Right.
Ruby: Lavoisier’s no villain, but he has projects that he prefers kept under wraps.  Things that might receive an annoying level of scrutiny from an official ethics committee, or be zoned as ‘hazardous’ in an urban environment, you know the sort.
Spruce: I… really, really don’t.
Ruby: The point is, sometimes secrecy is an important trait in a minion. [muttering] Not that there’s any point in telling you that…
Fisher: Sometimes we must walk in darkness in order to bring greater evils to light – a lesson I am… gradually learning.
Spruce: What do you mean?
Fisher: All my life, I have served the glory of the Blessed Helix in pious devotion to His Holy Anarchy, bathed in His light.  Yet recently it has become clear to me that true Anarchy is beyond mortals like ourselves; the darkness of order, of Democracy, the way of the Dome Fossil, is just as much a part of our nature, and from it we may draw purpose and certainty to guide us through the divine chaos.  Both are necessary… to my faith, to our quest… to me.
Daku: Hmph.  An asinine theology for an asinine creature.
Ruby: Oh, will you please just stay quiet for one hour?  There’s no need to trash his religion while you talk down to him.
Daku: [sceptical] Is that so?  You’ve had no shortage of criticisms for the duck’s primitive fossil cult in the time I’ve spent with this… assemblage.
Ruby: …well, yeah, but…
Daku: Clearly even a being as base and craven as yourself recognises that your respective positions in the Hierarchy of Tiers dictate your responsibility to educate and better the NU trash.  His liberation from his outdated and tiresome faith is obviously one element of that duty.
Ruby: You condescending little-!  I have just about had it with your-
Fisher: My lady, please, there is no reason to become so… animated on my account! How could I call myself a Blessed Apostle if I could not tolerate criticisms of my faith, and answer them in good time?
Ruby: [unintelligible grumbling]
???: Delphox!  Stand and be called to account!
Ruby: What the-?
???: Behold, for justice is come upon you! [a cloud of pink mist surrounds the team]
Ruby: [coughing] What-!?  How-!?  Is this perfume!?
Martial: Show yourself, coward, and state your grievances openly!
Aromatisse: I stand before you as the messenger of judgement.  You, Delphox, are summoned before the High Sorceress in Laverre City to account for your actions!
Ruby: Summoned?  High Sorceress?  Actions?  For?  Account?  Mine?  Do you know who I am?
Aromatisse: [sigh] Unfortunately, yes, I am quite aware.
Ruby: I am Ruby the Delphox, fiery-
Aromatisse: -jewel among Pokémon, sorceress supreme, yes, yes, quite.  And as you can tell, yes, I have heard of you.
Ruby: Hmph.  Well, at least someone has. [glares at Daku] And what business, pray tell, does this so-called High Sorceress have with me?
Aromatisse: All mortal magic in Kalos is her business, Delphox, even that harnessed by such a petty witch as you.
Ruby: Petty!?  Who are you calling petty, you jumped up powder-puff!?
Aromatisse: [ahem] The agents of our Cabal are well aware of your tinkering with magical artefacts, and the damage you have risked to the underlying fabric of magic by subverting them for purposes they were never meant for.  My mistress hopes, for the moment, for a peaceful resolution, though to be honest, I do not put much trust in the humility of a self-proclaimed “sorceress supreme,” or whatever it is you call yourself.
Martial: Ah, hold a moment there – “self-proclaimed”?
Ruby: What?  Yes, yes, what of it?
Martial: You mean to say that you just… started calling yourself that one day?
Ruby: Well.  Yeah.  I mean.  Who else was going to give me the recognition I deserve?
Martial: It sounds to me as though this “Cabal” plans to give you exactly the recognition you deserve…
Aromatisse: You, Delphox, stand accused of meddling with the delicate balance of arcane magic, and overstepping your bounds by seeking to harness powers beyond the comprehension of a mere pyromancer-
Ruby: MERE PYROMANCER!?  I’ll have you know that in addition to my scintillating array of devastating fiery enchantments I have mastered several forms of nature magic, apotropaism, and mental-
Aromatisse: Oh… I’m sorry.  Mere hedge witch.
Ruby: WHY YOU LITTLE-!
Aromatisse: Charm.
Ruby: [dazed] -adorable fairy creature who smells like rainbows and can do no wrong. [blinks] Who are you again?
Aromatisse: As I was saying, for your reckless misuse of magic, you will be tried by the High Sorceress and judged accordingly.  You and your entourage will present yourselves at the Laverre City Gym by sunset tomorrow to justify yourselves, or we will be forced to take action against you.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more important places to be and matters to attend to. [vanishes in a cloud of perfume]
Spruce: Well.  That happened.
Martial: As it eventually must…
Ruby: [blinks, shakes head] Those insolent little-!  Why, I- I- I’ll eviscerate the lot of them and make balloon animals of their entrails!  I’ll…
Spruce: …and she’s back.
Ruby: …with a rusty pike, and then…
Martial: In any case, clearly we must comply with their request and deliver the witch to this “high sorceress.”
Daku: What, and take orders from that RU lawn ornament?  And an- an upstart Fairy-type at that!?
Fisher: I too must protest, noble one!  What of more important matters, of our mission to stop Team Flare?  It is the will of the Blessed Helix that we pursue that course above all others, I am sure of it!
Martial: This organisation is apparently the closest thing in Kalos to body of magical law enforcement, and if we are to take them at their word they desire a peaceful resolution to any conflict.  Perhaps they can instil some semblance of responsibility in her.
Ruby: …out along a barbed wire fence dripping with Seviper venom…
Martial: …or perhaps not.
Daku: How easily you abdicate your responsibility to govern and enlighten your lessers-!  Master Amaldos, can you offer us any guidance?
Amaldos: We who smuggle wheelbarrows had best take care that the dirt we carry remain clear as mud to those with rocks in their heads.
Daku: …very well.  I see.
Spruce: You have no idea what any of that meant, don’t you?
Daku: Shut up, NU wretch.
???: Um.  Excuse me.
Fisher: Friends, do you hear something?
Ruby: …and pickle their extremities in vinegar for six days, so…
???: Excuse me!  Hello?
Spruce: Hello?  Who is that?
Ruby: …sideways, but slowly enough for them to feel it…
???: Uh… no one!  Just, uh… someone who needs to know the latest news from Lumiose City!  Someone who is no one.  No one important, I mean.
Martial: Show yourself, stranger, and we will help you if we can.  You need not fear us.
Ruby: …but then the cage will come down, and the spiders will…
Martial: …most of us.
???: Um.  O-o-okay.  Coming out now. [rustling]

Continue reading “X Nuzlocke, episode 13: Fairytales”

X Nuzlocke, episode 12: The Devil I Know

Lumiose City

Lavoisier: [on holo-caster] I’m telling you, your human’s famous!  I keep seeing his picture around the city!  I tried to show the Professor but he just kinda shook his head and made a clicking noise.
Ruby: What are you wittering about?  What on earth would this idiot be famous for?
Daku: Certainly not his understanding of team composition or moveset structure…
Spruce: Maybe it’s for his cooking?  That’s pretty good.
Fisher: Indeed; it will almost be a shame to have to return to the stolid fare of the temple kitchens when my travels with this group are done.
Ruby: …well, all right, I admit he’s not useless, but a cinnamon Poké-puff is hardly grounds for serious publicity.
Lavoisier: I think you’re just jealous that your human is more well-known than you are.
Ruby: Wh-!?  You-!  I am known and feared throughout the land as the mightiest sorceress who ever lived!  He is a half-witted, defenceless newborn whose presence is somehow required to keep me from being considered “a menace to society” or “an unstable maniac” or “oh god please stop setting fire to things”!
Lavoisier: Well, he’s the one with his face on posters saying “WANTED” all over Lumiose City.
Ruby: …what did you just say?
Lavoisier: The posters.  They have the human word “WANTED” on them.  Like, they want him around.  They miss him!
???: CITIZENS ENTERING LUMIOSE CITY LIMITS.  HALT AND IDENTIFY.
Ruby: …$#!t.  Uh, I’ll call you back, Lavoisier.  MINIONS!  Hide the human!
Martial: Hide him?  How?
Ruby: I don’t know!  Dig a hole, or put a paper bag over his head or something!
Magneton: HALT AND IDENTIFY.
Fisher: I can call upon the shadows of the Dome to conceal him!
Ruby: Which one is the Dome?  Is that the evil one?
Fisher: Actually, my lady, I have come to believe that is a matter of great theological nuance, and-
Ruby: Oh, shut up; you’ll probably just suck out his soul and turn him into a vegetable.
Magneton: REPEAT: CITIZENS ENTERING LUMIOSE CITY LIMITS.  HALT AND IDENTIFY.
Ruby: Spruce!  Sit on his head!
Spruce: What?
Ruby: Sit.  On.  His.  Head!
Chris: What the-!?  Hey; easy there, Spruce, what are you-?
Ruby: Cover his face with your wings!
Chris: -mrfllmmrrrmmrfff!
Ruby: …good enough!
Magneton: CITIZENS, IDENTIFY.  YOU HAVE THIRTY SECONDS TO COMPLY OR THIS UNIT WILL BE AUTHORISED TO EMPLOY COERCIVE MEASURES.
Ruby: Right!  You!  Who are you to make such demands, and what do you want of me and my minions?
Magneton: I-DEN-TI-FY.
Ruby: I am Ruby the Delphox, fiery jewel among Pokémon, sorceress supreme!  Perhaps you’ve heard of me?
Magneton: ERROR 48.  YOUR STRING “fiery jewel among Pokémon, sorceress supreme” COULD NOT BE FOUND.  IDENTIFY.
Daku: Is it your normal practice to question all who enter your city, good sir?  I have not been here in some time, but I recall nothing of the sort on my last visit.
Ruby: [muttering] Oh, sure, the robot gets a ‘good sir’…
Magneton: ERROR 63.  PROCEDURAL RESOLUTION COULD NOT BE READ.  RESTARTING PROCESS 3-B-RED LOCKDOWN.  BZZT.  CITIZENS ENTERING LUMIOSE CITY LIMITS.  HALT AND IDENTIFY.
Amaldos: If a man sits in a room with a dictionary that allows him to speak perfect Chinese and a vial of poisonous gas that will kill him if a sensor detects radiation, would a computer be able to distinguish him from a dead cat?
Magneton: BZZT.  ERROR 102.  CANNOT RESOLVE SYNTAX.  BLEEEEEP-WEEP-BEEP.  ERROR 81.  EXISTENTIAL QUANDARY DETECTED.  REROUTING THROUGH HINDBRAIN.
Amaldos: A hole in your bag will lighten your load.  A hole in your mind may do the same.
Magneton: ERROR 0.  ERROR NOT FOUND.  Bzzzzzzzt-PING-FFFZZZZZZL [starts smoking].
Spruce: Uh… I… think you broke him.
???: Larry!
Ruby: Oh good; more new friends…
Heliolisk: Larry!  What on earth-? [To Ruby] I’m sorry about this.
Magneton: ERROR.  ERROR.  ERROR.
Heliolisk: You’re fine, Larry.  Execute routine Clemont-Phi-Thirteen.
Magneton: EXECUTING.  BZZT-whistle-DING!
Heliolisk: Feeling better?
Magneton: AFFIRMATIVE.  REQUEST STATUS.
Heliolisk: I’m good too, Larry; thanks.  Why don’t you just wait here for a bit while I help these citizens, and then we’ll take you over to Magenta Plaza to supervise some of the rewiring?
Magneton: ACKNOWLEDGED.
Spruce: …is he always like this?
Heliolisk: Yeah, he’s been a bit out of sorts ever since he died and we put his brain in an old Magneton chassis.
Spruce: Oh, yeah, I guess that would- wait what?
Heliolisk: Sort an experiment on our human’s part.  He used to be an Ampharos.  Hmm.  What… what sort of Pokémon are you, exactly?
Chris: Mrrffllmfff!
Spruce: Uh… I’m a… Facebird.
Heliolisk: A… Facebird.
Fisher: An extremely rare Humanshape species from the far distant land of Orre!
Heliolisk: I…see.  Right.  Well, again, I’m sorry about the business with Larry.  We wouldn’t normally have controls like this, you see; it’s just that, with the recent trouble at the power plant, a good part of the city had to be locked down for a while, just to keep order.  And then when the plant came back online yesterday there was a huge surge that knocked out several critical substations… It’s been a mess.  We’re trying to keep a close watch on everyone entering and leaving the city, just for security reasons.
Daku: Sensibly enough.  You serve your duty well, Heliolisk.
Heliolisk: …I should hope so.  Now, I’ll just need to get your names, and then you can go on through.
Ruby: Very well, peasant.  I am Ruby the Delphox, fiery jewel among Pokémon, sorceress supreme!  Perhaps you’ve heard of me?
Heliolisk: …yes.  Yes I have. [to Magneton] Larry, initiate routine Clemont-Alpha-Zero.
Magneton: EXECUTING.  BREEEEEEEEEEP!  RED ALERT!  BREEEEEEEEEP!  ALL AVAILABLE UNITS TO NORTHWEST GATE!  EMERGENCY LOCKDOWN IN EFFECT!  BREEEEEEEEEEP!  RED ALERT!
Daku: What is this!?  Stand down at once; I demand to speak to your commander!
Heliolisk: I am the high commander of Lumiose City’s Pokémon defenders, and all of you are under arrest on suspicion of involvement in multiple recent catastrophes, including the sabotage of the Lumiose Power Plant!  Now, are you going to come quietly, or do we have to make this ugly?
Spruce: Well, um-
Martial: If legitimate civic authorities wish to detain us, we have no choice but to-
Ruby: BA-HAHAHAHAHAHA!  Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, lizard!  You are speaking to the sorceress supreme!  Prepare to feel the wrath of my awesome magical power!
Daku: For once, we are in agreement!  I will not be imprisoned by some barely-UU petty officer!
Heliolisk: Oh goody.  Larry!  Combat pattern Clemont-Omega-Two!  Let’s smoke these terrorists!

Continue reading “X Nuzlocke, episode 12: The Devil I Know”

X Nuzlocke, episode 11: Power Hungry

Lumiose Badlands

Merneith: [squinting] So this is the place?
Ruby: Seems to be.  Why else would anyone put a bunch of those giant mushroom domes out here in the middle of nowhere?  This shouldn’t take long; we just need to take care of things here for Lavoisier and then we’ll be on our way back to Lumiose City by tomorrow morning.
Merneith: Typical of humans to inflict a blight like that on the landscape.  It’s probably putting out mind-altering energy waves or mutating radiation or something.  I’d tear down every last one in Kalos if I had the chance.
Ruby: Mmm; well, it’s not exactly easy on the eyes, but we won’t have to look at it for long; let’s get on with it.
Martial: I for one am glad to be engaged in a task of righteousness again – even if only briefly.  This group spends too much time as it is pursuing your self-aggrandising fantasies of power.
Ruby: Hey, pursuing my self-aggrandising fantasies of power is just about the only damn thing this lot will ever amount to; don’t knock it.  Now, there must be an entrance around here somewhere…
Spruce: Over there!  See that little building on the other side of that outcrop?
Ruby: …no, Spruce, because the outcrop is in the way and the rest of us are on the ground.
Spruce: …oh.  Right.  Hey, I think there’s a fight going on over there!  We should get over there and see if someone needs our help!
Ruby: Oh, for goodness’ sake, Spruce; you don’t- …and he’s already gone.  Nidoking, you with the life-debt or whatever; go and make sure he doesn’t get himself killed or something.
Martial: Hmph.  I need none of your instruction, witch.
Merneith: Come on; let’s go already!  We have a job to do!

Continue reading “X Nuzlocke, episode 11: Power Hungry”

Fennekin, Braixen and Delphox

Official art of Fennekin by Ken Sugmori (praise be to Nintendo, etc).Probably one of the most popular commonplaces of fan-made Pokémon design for years and years has been the Pokémon with pyrokinetic abilities – the use of psychic power to manipulate heat and fire – and it looks like we’ve finally got one.  I’ll be honest, though: when I first saw Fennekin I was not optimistic.  A fiery fox Pokémon with a mystical streak?  That… sounds awfully familiar.  When all’s said and done, Vulpix and Ninetales are a lot more straightforward as far as their physical design goes; aside from the split tail thing they are basically foxes, and what’s interesting about them is mostly in their mystical powers and their obsession with vengeance.  Fennekin develops into something a bit more complicated with more of a mixture of influences going on, eventually ending up looking more like Lucario or Zoroark than anything else (Japanese sure do like their magic foxes).  That’s something we should probably talk about first, actually; let’s talk about the anthro-fox thing.

I know there are people who don’t like Lucario or Zoroark, or presumably Delphox either, because the anthropomorphism offends their sensibilities on some level, which is something I don’t quite ‘get,’ personally (now, whether we really need quite so many fox-like Pokémon is another matter entirely, but I spend enough time bitching about that kind of thing already).  The concept of anthropomorphic animals is literally as old as civilisation, even if depicting them physically as human/animal hybrids isn’t quite so universal, and I think everyone recognises the apparent callbacks from Lucario to Anubis, the jackal-headed Egyptian god of burial and funerary rites.  It’s not just some weird fetish thing of the last couple of decades, it’s actually kind of a millennia-old universal mythic archetype that resonates with people of radically different cultural backgrounds all over the planet.  Just to prove my point, I would like to note that, in fact, if you Google the phrase “anthropomorphic fox,” the first result is the Wikipedia page for a mediaeval French trickster-hero named Raynard or Renart (so an anthropomorphic fox actually makes a great deal of sense in a region based on France), whose principal rival is an anthropomorphic wolf named Isengrim.  It’s really quite amazing how much I learn from writing this bull$#!t.  The trope also makes a lot of sense in the context of some of Pokémon’s core themes, like the desire for balance between civilisation and nature – anthropomorphic animals straddle the line and can symbolically act as intermediaries or go-betweens in much the same way as Pokémon trainers can from the other direction.  Foxes in Japanese folklore are regularly depicted as shapeshifters as well, and are often quite fond of assuming human form for a variety of whimsical purposes, so it makes a great deal of sense that we should see fox-like Pokémon in particular filling this role (even if, again, I might wish for more variety in that respect, as elsewhere…).  Basically what I’m saying is that any complaint that anthropomorphic foxes are just inherently a dumb idea will be met with several heavy and fast-moving books.  Moving on.

 Braixen.

My favourite thing about Delphox is probably her name, which evokes ancient Delphi in Greece, a place closely associated with oracular foresight – and, lo and behold, Delphox can see the future by staring into the flames at the tip of her wand, and also learns Future Sight (though of course among Psychic Pokémon this is far from an unusual attack; it’s much more interesting with respect to flavour when it appears on a Pokémon of a different element).  Maybe it’s just me, but I also can’t help but see one of the ancient Greek words for fire, phlox, in there.  In contrast to Ninetales, who is a very faithful rendition of, essentially, a purely Japanese kitsune spirit, Fennekin and her evolutions seem very keen to bring western ideas into the design – which, again, makes sense both in the context of Kalos as a French-inspired region and of Pokémon’s growing interest in portraying itself as an international entity.  Braixen in particular, and Delphox as well to an extent, have a very strong east-meets-west thing going, combining the mystic foxes of Japanese folklore with the witches of European fairytale, whose signature broomstick is clearly visible in the shape of Braixen’s tail.  Delphox, likewise, directs her fire powers through a wand which also acts as a focus for her psychic abilities.  It’s a shame Braixen can’t use her ‘broomstick’ to fly, but then again, neither making her a Flying-type nor sticking Levitate on her would have been all that practical.  Potion-making abilities or herbal lore might have been nice too, but similarly difficult to reconcile with the Fire/Psychic typing, requiring a mixture of Grass- and Poison-type powers.

I cannot get over this line’s majestic ear hair.  I didn’t notice it at first because it just looks like they have big red ears at a glance, but when you actually look at them, it’s clear that those are huge bushy tufts of hair or fur sprouting from inside their ears, apparently meant to mimic the appearance of bursts of flame.  It confuses me so much because, although a fennec fox’s large heat-dissipating ears are one of its most noticeable traits and are referenced in the fact that Fennekin emits blasts of heat from her ears to frighten attackers, their ear hair, while admittedly impressive if you look at it with that in mind, is not really anything special.  In humans ear hair denotes age, so I guess you could say that it’s meant to be a sign of wisdom, but it’s usually in men that we think about prominent ear hair, and Delphox seems to very aiming at a feminine design.  Also, ear hair tends to be grouped with the less desirable traits of old age, like senility.  Maybe in Japan impressive ear hair is considered a good thing…?  Where does one go on the internet for information about the symbolic associations of ear hair in different cultures, anyway?  How has my life even gotten to the point where this is a question I am legitimately interested in knowing the answer to?

…yeah, I’m just going to talk about Delphox’s battle capabilities now.

 Delphox.

Delphox has an unusual type combination, shared only by Victini and Zen Darmanitan (who, of course, doesn’t count): Fire/Psychic, which comes with quite a lot of resistances but also some very nasty weaknesses, particularly Rock, Ground and Dark.  Offensively it’s a viable combination but not a brilliant one; Fire and Psychic share no weaknesses, but don’t cover each other’s weaknesses particularly well either.  Overall, it’s sort of a mixed bag as far as type combinations go, and the rest of Delphox’s traits follow suit.  The odd thing about this Pokémon is that her stats suggest a special sweeper – very good speed and special defence with excellent special attack, and poor physical stats – while her movepool and hidden ability are very much those of a supporter.  Aside from her core attacks – Flamethrower or Fire Blast, Psyshock or Psychic – Delphox really only has Grass Knot and Shadow Ball for coverage.  Grass attacks go great with Fire, but Grass Knot’s dependence on the target’s weight makes it a bit of a tricky move (the types that are weak against Grass – Ground, Rock and Water – do tend to have disproportionately heavy Pokémon, though, so it can work pretty well as a secondary attack).  Ghost attacks are also moving up in the world now that Steel-types no longer resist them, leaving excellent neutral coverage, but that’s not really a huge priority for Delphox, who already has a pretty solid offensive type behind her.  Calm Mind is difficult for a Pokémon whose physical defences are as weak as Delphox’s, although she’s pretty frightening with a special attack boost behind her.  Her support movepool has some great stuff: Light Screen, Will’o’Wisp, Switcheroo, Hypnosis, hell, if you’re good at reading your opponents she can even muck around with Magic Coat (although, if you really want to reflect status effects back at their users, just using a Pokémon with the Magic Bounce ability is a lot easier, albeit predictable).  Switcheroo could make for a neat Choice Specs set.  It’s worked for other Pokémon in the past and Delphox certainly has the stats for it; act as a traditional special attacker with a nasty Choice Specs power boost until you see a support-oriented Pokémon who won’t deal well with being locked into a single attack, then swap items with Switcheroo and hopefully cripple them.  The other moves are just universally useful, although it’s not exactly easy to see why you’d pick a relatively frail Pokémon like Delphox to use them.

Like Chesnaught and Greninja, Delphox enjoys access to a signature move, Mystical Fire.  This attack looks decidedly underwhelming at first glance since it’s simply much less powerful than the traditional ‘gold standard’ moves like Thunderbolt and Earthquake.  What’s interesting about it, though, is that on top of its damage Mystical Fire also reduces its target’s special attack, which is a surprisingly rare effect; only a handful of moves can do that, and many of them will not do so consistently (Moonblast only does so 20% of the time, Captivate only works on Pokémon of the opposite gender, and so on).  Considering that Delphox can also partially neutralise most physical attackers with Will’o’Wisp, the ability to reliably dampen special attackers as well is pretty cool.  In a similar vein, her hidden ability, Magician, is almost unique, shared only by the mischievous Klefki (who really has better things to do, since his other ability is Prankster, the greatest blessing any support Pokémon has ever received).  Magician basically adds the effect of Thief to all of Delphox’s direct attacks for free – if she’s not already holding an item, she’ll steal whatever her target is holding.  A lot of Pokémon rely quite heavily on their items, and being able to nab these reliably without taking up a moveslot is pretty cool, especially if you happen to gank something Delphox can actually use herself.  Combine this with a consumable item like an Air Balloon or a Fire Gem (once Fire Gems actually exist in X and Y) and you could seriously mess with even Pokémon who don’t think Delphox can harm them.  All in all, it’s probably best to think of Delphox as a special attacker whose greatest strength is actually not her special attacks, but her capacity to screw with people.  Make sure to pack at least one nasty little spell, and spring it when your opponent is least expecting it.

Delphox might actually be my favourite Fire starter so far – and only partially because we have finally broken the curse of Fire/Fighting.  She balances power and cunning in a way that’s quite rare in a Fire-type, and just being able to shrug off her attacks doesn’t necessarily mean she can’t leave your head spinning.  Like mythological foxes the world over, she’s clever and possesses mystical insight into the world of spirits and magic, embracing the magical quality of fire like few of her predecessors ever have.  You know, I think I’m good with that.