Pokémon Generations: Episodes 15 and 16

I’m a big fan of episode 16 of Generations; 15 is nothing special, but it covers characters who were already quite interesting, so it’s worth looking at anyway.  15 is the last of the generation V episodes, and focuses on the confrontation between N and Ghetsis in Black and White 2, while 16 is the beginning of generation VI, and is all about the characterisation of X and Y’s main antagonist, Lysandre.  15 follows the games quite closely, but 16 is a bit more exploratory, and it’s when Generations tries to depart a little from the games, and show the bits of backstory that we haven’t seen before, that it does its best work.  Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “Pokémon Generations: Episodes 15 and 16”

Anonymous asks:

What do you think of the various Pokemon Champions? We know its a title of prestige but what do you think it functions as besides that? Like Lance is a secret agent, Steven is an archeologist, Diantha is a model/movie star, etc.

I did a series on all the champions a few years ago that goes into wayyyyy more depth than I could justify in answer to this question.

Find them here:
Blue, Lance, Steven, Wallace, Cynthia, Alder, Iris, Diantha

Team Flare

Team Flare grunts showing off their trademark poses and 'stylish' uniforms.

Just like I had to talk about Iris and Diantha because I’ve done all the other Champions before, I have to talk about Team Flare and Lysandre because I’ve done all the other bad guys before.  If you followed my playthrough journal of X version, you may have picked up that I have some rather strong opinions about Lysandre and his underlings, and the way the games portray them, so I think it makes sense now to take a deeper retrospective look at their involvement in the whole of the plot.  What do Team Flare really want, what makes them tick, and does Lysandre deserve our forgiveness?

Our first encounters with Lysandre are in Lumiose City, first in Professor Sycamore’s lab and then with Diantha in the Café Soleil.  Here we see the face Lysandre presents to the world: utterly dedicated to the preservation of beauty and the betterment of the world.  He speaks admiringly of Professor Sycamore’s brilliance as a scientist and Diantha’s ability as an actress to bring joy to millions, associating them and their careers with his own quest to build a beautiful world.  Even here, though, there are strong hints that he’s up to more than he lets on – on X, he declares that he wishes to “make this world unchanging and eternal so all beauty will last forever.”  In another game, I would not take such a clearly poetic sentiment seriously, but this is Pokémon, and Pokémon is not especially known for its subtlety.  On Y, he is far less circumspect about it: “I would end the world in an instant so that beauty never fades.”  Again, it’s probably meant to sound hyperbolic, but since ending the world is something that people have tried to do before in this series, that probably escaped many players; I played X, of course, but I find myself wondering how anyone could doubt that Lysandre was an enemy after hearing a line like the one he delivers on Y.  Ultimately, what he’s actually trying to do (on both versions) falls somewhere between the two – end the world of human civilisation in order to preserve what remains of the beauty of nature.  In addition to his potentially apocalyptic foreshadowing, I also noted in my entry on Diantha that this scene hints at some degree of superficiality (even sexism?) in Lysandre’s character – he focuses on Diantha’s physical beauty as the thing that makes her a good person and contributes to building a better world, considering that the loss of her own beauty with age would diminish her ability to make the world more beautiful too.  Much as he admires her devotion to making people happy, he downplays her ability to take action towards that goal and looks to her passive qualities – this represents an important flaw in his character that is going to recur later in the story.

 Xerosic, mastermind of the Expansion Suit and chief scientist of Team Flare.

Lysandre’s minions, in their first appearances in the Glittering Cave and outside Geosenge Town, display none of his semblance of nobility.  Their stated aim is to help and advance members of their own organisation, regardless of the cost to others (and to pursue the heights of fashion…).  The idea of “a more beautiful world” never comes up, even in the later dialogue of the five scientists who run the group’s more pedestrian activities while Lysandre is busy: Aliana, Bryony, Celosia, Mable and Xerosic.  It annoys me a little that there are so many of them, because it means that each of the four girls doesn’t get to do much, but they do have distinct personalities, which is nice.  Aliana, who supervises the attack on the Kalos Power Plant to gather electricity to power the Ultimate Weapon, seems to enjoy battling the most, and may be slightly unhinged.  Celosia and Bryony (who are together in both of their appearances – I unashamedly ship these two) are responsible for raiding the Pokéball factory in Laverre City to gain the Pokéballs necessary to catch many powerful Pokémon whose life energy will fuel the weapon; they seem detached, nerdy, and a little philosophical.  Finally, Mable, who goes after one such Pokémon, the Abomasnow in the Frost Cavern… well, frankly, Mable is a callous b!tch.  “Allow me to spell it out for you! It’s so Team Flare – and only Team Flare – can survive!” she declares as she torments the gentle Ice Pokémon.  “After all, why should we care about saving people who aren’t on our side?”  Xerosic’s appearance in the story’s climax in Geosenge Town establishes him as a man utterly without conscience or remorse, willing to activate the Ultimate Weapon and slaughter billions even against Lysandre’s orders (if the player wins Lysandre’s bet about the two buttons in Xerosic’s lab) simply for the joy of what he considers scientific achievement.  He also features, of course, in the little post-Elite Four Looker vignette as Emma’s employer and tutor, a position which he exploits heinously.  The message of his involvement in that story seems to be that even thoroughly evil people are capable of love and affection and that, even though those things cannot and should not absolve Xerosic of his actions as part of Team Flare, they still deserve recognition.  Also appearing in the Looker sequence is Malva of the Elite Four, apparently a member of Team Flare, who makes no secret of the fact that she despises you, but seems to hate Xerosic more for abandoning Team Flare’s grand mission in favour of petty crime.  Her dialogue in Elite Four rematches thereafter suggests that Malva has developed something of a grudging respect for the player’s strength, despite her intense hatred, and believes that the strength to force one’s beliefs upon the world is all that really matters in life.

 Whatever else may be said about them, I love the Team Flare Admins' ridiculous pimp outfits.

Interspersed with your actual encounters with Team Flare, a few more interviews with Lysandre himself take place, one in person with Professor Sycamore and a couple by Holo-Caster.  His speech and ideas remain grandiose throughout, and he encourages us to give thought to how we will use our power, but only when you see him in Lysandre Café do we receive more ominous hints about his plans – as with many Pokémon villains, the problem is in his absolutism, his willingness to divide all people in the world into “those who give and those who take” and declare all of the latter, most emphatically, “filth.”  This is the conversation that first suggests the existence of the Ultimate Weapon, and hints at Lysandre’s willingness to use it.  When he finally reveals his Team Flare allegiance to the world and explains his plans to wipe out the rest of humanity… well, it surprised me that he was willing to go so far for his “beautiful world,” but it’s not a total shock, put it that way.  His criteria for who gets to survive the imminent devastation are disheartening – “anyone who is a member of Team Flare, and no-one else,” which makes me question how well he really knows his members.  Would all of them really satisfy his idea of a person who will give and sacrifice to create a beautiful world?  Most are selfish, short-sighted and callous – exactly the kind of person you’d think Lysandre would normally deride as ‘filth’ – and they are able to enter his select group of followers not by proving that they will help to build and preserve a beautiful world, but by paying a truly mind-boggling membership fee.  The interesting thing is that, when we battle him for the first time in his lab beneath Lumiose City, Lysandre seems open to the possibility of letting the player join him and live in the new world.  More so than any other Pokémon villain, Lysandre is interested in our passion and the way we express our beliefs through battle – he’s a little like N that way.  Like N, he also seems almost like he might want a way out, like he might want to be stopped, on some level; he encourages us to fight him and his underlings, and is even willing to let us decide (after a fashion) whether the Ultimate Weapon will be activated.  In the end, though, Xerosic intervenes and we are forced to pursue Lysandre to Geosenge Town to confront him once more.

This is when we learn the dirty little secret, the part of his plan that disturbs even Lysandre: that there will be no place for Pokémon in his new world, not even those who belong to Team Flare.  Lysandre loves his Pokémon; his ability to harness Mega Evolution proves that, as Shauna observes.  In some ways his willingness to sacrifice them speaks to the strength of his convictions, but his reasoning is concerning.  As long as Pokémon exist, Lysandre believes, and as long as some people have Pokémon while others do not, people will use them to take more than their share and seize more power than they deserve.  Some of his research notes back in Lysandre Labs take the form of a broad sketch in anthropological terms of the genesis of inequality in civilisation (a problem that, in the real world, is one of the major areas of study in prehistoric archaeology), and place the impetus squarely with Pokémon – people who commanded Pokémon were able to amass wealth and influence, becoming great leaders.  He makes essentially the same point to us, far more briefly, in person.  The problem is that, despite all his love for his own Pokémon, he never considers that they might have a choice, or that their decisions might impact the way things turned out.  He thinks about the way their powers can be used, for good or ill, but not about how they will allow people to use them.  Remember what I said about the way Lysandre views Diantha as essentially passive?  He’s doing the same thing here.  He’s denying agency to Pokémon, who are clearly intelligent beings, and thinking about them as though they were little more than the extensions of their trainers’ will.  In short, by taking such a deterministic view of the effect Pokémon have on human society, he is committing one of the franchise’s cardinal sins: viewing Pokémon as tools.

 This man.  What a dick.  Seriously.

Lysandre reminds me – and many other people, I’m sure – very strongly of Cyrus (even sharing two Pokémon, Gyarados and Honchkrow, with his predecessor).  Both are acknowledged as intellectually brilliant, and their goals and beliefs are quite similar.  Both felt driven to crime by despair at the human condition and a belief that an ideal world could only be brought about by drastic and destructive means; Cyrus’s goal was to create a world without suffering – the problem was that he believed the ‘incomplete’ nature of the soul made suffering inevitable – while Lysandre wanted to create a utopia where the world’s resources were shared fairly and sustainably, but came to believe that the greed and laziness inherent in human nature made his vision impossible.  Both are charismatic leaders who command blind obedience, both have keen engineering skills, and both meet mysterious ends.  My trouble with Team Flare and Lysandre though, is that I think we’re supposed to have much more sympathy for them than I can muster.  No one ever asked us to like Cyrus.  The more generous amongst us might have appreciated a certain nobility in his desire to end all suffering, but there was never any question that he was Evil with a capital E.  People regularly ask us to like Lysandre, from Professors to rivals to random townspeople – largely because, unlike the cold and emotionless Cyrus, Lysandre actually cares, and seems to feel genuine remorse even as he continues to work towards his goals.  He seems like he’s meant to be a tragic figure, but having seen so little of his famed philanthropy, I find it difficult to empathise.  In some ways, I think, Lysandre is even worse than Cyrus, because Cyrus’ decisions and actions were very impersonal.  Cyrus felt that life itself was fundamentally broken; killing everyone wasn’t exactly part of his goals, but he felt it was a reasonable sacrifice to make for the chance to create a perfect universe.  Lysandre, on the other hand, just unilaterally decided that most of the people in the world deserved to die for wasting the planet’s limited resources.  As for Team Flare – well, they may not have been pleasant people, but at least Team Galactic and Team Plasma were genuinely in the dark about the true extent of their leaders’ motives (even one of the Galactic admins, Saturn, had no idea Cyrus was trying to destroy the universe and become a god).  Team Flare seem to have known all along what havoc their master was planning – they regularly speak of their desire to create a beautiful word, just for them, and as far as we see no-one abandons Lysandre in shock when he announces his plan to all of Kalos – yet even at the end, Malva is able to claim with a straight face that she did what she thought was right.

I keep coming back to Serena’s words in the battle with her on Victory Road, because I think they encapsulate what the writers intended us to take from this story, and how far that is from what I actually took from it: “Lysandre chose only Team Flare.  You and I chose everyone but Team Flare.  But since our positions forced our hands, you can’t really say any of us were right.  So maybe if both sides have something to say, it’s best to meet halfway.”  Well, okay; that would have been fair enough if we had met Lysandre ten years ago and he had been saying “we need to move Kalos in a more socialist direction and commit ourselves to sustainability.”  Unfortunately, it seems pretty clear that even by the time we first meet him he has already gone off the deep end and is merely hiding it, so that his position is actually “I have no choice but to kill all of you, and your pets.”  How exactly does one “meet halfway” with that?  As far as I can make out, the writers were trying really hard to make Lysandre a tragic and morally ambiguous villain, and even thought they had succeeded, but we get little opportunity to see his positive traits for ourselves, are given the chance to understand his descent into evil only in retrospect, and are eventually asked to sympathise with a man who tried to destroy everyone we have ever loved for the ‘greater good’… of himself and his band of thugs.

Honestly, I think there’s only one way now to achieve the aims the writers actually had in mind for Team Flare and Lysandre: the next sixth generation game has to be a prequel.

Champions of the Pokémon League, Part 8: Diantha

Diantha in her angel-winged white coat.  Note the jewelled necklace - that's her Digivice.

Glamorous but relatable, ethereal but down-to-earth, the Kalosian Champion, Diantha, is everything you want in an actress – but how does she stack up as a Pokémon League Champion?  She certainly has the look down, with an extravagant costume reminiscent of angel wings, and more importantly she also has the right kind of attitude to Pokémon and training.  Sadly – and I may as well be up front about this – the story of X and Y doesn’t give Diantha very much of an opportunity to do anything, something that was rather a disappointment to me.  Still, she gets a few good lines, and when you get her into a battle she’s the equal of any of her predecessors, so let’s take a look at her and see what makes this Champion tick.

We first meet Diantha in Lumiose City at the Café Soleil, and this scene is probably her most interesting because she has the opportunity to speak directly to Lysandre and set up a compelling argument against his beliefs – even here, the game doesn’t let her have many lines, but she makes them count.  Lysandre puts to Diantha the question of whether, as an actress, she would prefer to stay young forever, since it is her duty to inspire people with her beauty.  He clearly expects the answer ‘yes,’ but Diantha finds the question bizarre – being forever young would mean playing the same kinds of roles forever, but she views change and age as essential parts of the experience of human life, and eagerly anticipates the variety of more mature characters she will play as she grows older.  Their conversation betrays a certain narrowness and superficiality on Lysandre’s part; despite his comment that Diantha’s great contribution consists in “[moving] the multitudes with her excellent acting,” it seems clear that he regards her physical beauty as the most important aspect of her craft – to him, Diantha really is just a pretty face.  Her second appearance makes it clear that Diantha herself has a very different understanding of what she does.  We meet her again in Coumarine City, where she is talking with Professor Sycamore at the monorail station.  Diantha offers some comments on Mega Evolution, suggesting that perhaps the reason it seems to be limited to Kalos is because it has something to do with the legendary Pokémon of the region (if Professor Sycamore is correct in his eventual conclusion that Mega Stones were evolutionary stones irradiated with the energy of the Ultimate Weapon three thousand years ago, she’s not far off – although Xerneas and Yveltal don’t seem to have been directly involved with the weapon’s first use, they command similar powers).  More interesting from a characterisation perspective, though, is what she talks about after he leaves.  Sycamore had mentioned the bonds between trainer and Pokémon as a critical component of Mega Evolution, and Diantha makes an interesting comparison with the way she approaches acting: she sees it as an exercise in empathy.  In order to enjoy a role and play it effectively, Diantha says, she needs to put herself in her character’s shoes and understand what they have in common.  She also believes in taking the same approach to interacting with both people and Pokémon.  Essentially, the reason she’s both a successful actress and a great Pokémon trainer is because she’s figured out that the two professions share a key skill – empathy – and made it a part of her general approach to life.

 Diantha's Radiant Chamber, in all its stained-glass glory, seems intended to be 'heavenly' in its appearance, like her costume.

And that… is the last we see of her.  Diantha doesn’t take any further part in the storyline of X and Y until your troubles with Team Flare are all over and you reach the cathedral of the Elite Four.  Realistically enough, she seems to have almost forgotten you herself by this point, but quickly realises that she does know who you are and what you’ve done for Kalos after all – which brings us to the battle.  Like Blue and Cynthia, Diantha is very hard to pin down to a preferred Pokémon type or battling style.  She appears to favour Rock- and Dragon-types, with two of each on her team, but her signature Pokémon, the strongest in her line-up, whose physical appearance is recalled in the flaring white skirts of her coat, is a Fairy/Psychic dual-type, Gardevoir.  In Hawlucha, her opener, Diantha has a strong and fast physical attacker with excellent type coverage thanks to Flying Press, Hawlucha’s idiosyncratic signature move, while Tyrantrum adds a sledgehammer to her tool kit.  Aurorus provides Reflect and Light Screen support, though with two double-weaknesses it may not last long enough to set up more than one.  Goodra is a resilient special tank with a wide variety of powerful attacks.  Gourgeist is surprisingly tough and can hit almost anything for super-effective damage by adding the Ghost type to Pokémon with Trick-or-Treat.  Last, but most definitely not least, is Gardevoir, who proves that Diantha can put her money where her mouth is when it comes to empathy and bonding with her Pokémon – by using her Mega Charm to Digivolve Gardevoir, Diantha can turn her partner into as great a threat as the whole of the rest of her team put together (as I learned to my cost when I first challenged her and won with my Venusaur’s last three hit points).  Mega Gardevoir’s Moonblast and Psychic attacks are phenomenal, more powerful than anything a Champion has brought to bear against us before, and without a Steel-type to resist her primary attacks she is one of the most dangerous single opponents the games have ever produced.  Ironically, Diantha’s greatest vulnerability is probably to Fairy Pokémon, since she has three Pokémon that are weak to their attacks, none that resist them, and only one super-effective attack to hit back with (Hawlucha’s Poison Jab); she also has great difficulty with Ice- and Steel-types.  Still, her weak points are certainly less easy to exploit than those of predecessors like Water-type master Wallace and the closeted Flying-type specialist Lance, making her a solid end-game challenge.

 Diantha's partner, Mega Gardevoir.

(Of course, if you’ve been using the Exp. Share consistently throughout the game Diantha is probably a walk in the park, but hey, who’s counting?)

The variety of Pokémon we see on Diantha’s team – in terms of not only their types and skills but their personalities and dispositions – may be intended to recall her desire for variety in her career and her life.  Partly I’m just saying this because I can’t find any other sort of theme to link her team together, but it seems to me that a wide variety of popular film genres have Pokémon representatives on her team; she has action (Hawlucha), horror (Gourgeist), family/comedy (Goodra and Aurorus), disaster (Tyrantrum) and, of course, romance (Gardevoir) all covered.  Perhaps that’s entirely in my head and the designers just wanted to give her a diverse bag of the new Pokémon the sixth generation has to offer, but it makes sense, given Diantha’s stated interest in playing a variety of roles, that she might have acted in many different genres, possibly meeting many different Pokémon in the process.

 The recently-revealed legendary Pokémon, Diancie, whom I'm bringing up because I know someone else will if I don't.  A lot of people speculate about a connection between Diantha and Diancie, but I don't believe there is any, because the similarity between their names doesn't exist in Japanese, where Diantha's name is Carnet, and because it makes as much sense for the design of her coat to be based on Gardevoir as on Diancie.

One last thing that’s worth mentioning about Diantha is her reappearance in the Café Soleil after the end of the game.  Diantha here offers you the opportunity to trade for a Ralts holding the Gardevoirite Mega Stone, so that you can raise a Mega Gardevoir of your very own.  This is not in itself particularly interesting; what is noteworthy is that she actually takes the time to think about how the Pokémon involved in this trade feel about it – something I can’t recall any other character in the games ever doing (although, granted, most in-game trades are with random NPCs who have no other discernable purpose in life).  “We Trainers all feel a bit nervous when trading Pokémon,” she comments as the trade begins, “but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to how the Pokémon must feel!”  When the switch has been completed, she even takes a moment to address the Pokémon you’ve given her directly, asking “was it a bit shocking to be traded?” and promising to care for it to the best of her ability.  A tiny detail at the very end of the game, but one that once again demonstrates that Diantha really does know what she’s talking about when it comes to empathy and consistently makes an honest effort to understand the perspectives of her Pokémon on their lives together.

On some level Diantha’s non-existent involvement in the Team Flare crisis makes sense, since she’s very clear that she’s only a Pokémon trainer “in [her] off time” – acting is her real career, and for all her power, she’s not really a ‘saving the world’ kind of girl.  Still, I find her remoteness from the actual plot as disappointing as I did Iris’s, and I don’t think Diantha even gets as much screen time (ironically) as Iris did in Black and White.  Having said that, she makes a good effort to stay relevant in the time she does get – and I can always hope for more in any future games.  Though she never gets the chance to be a hero, through her dialogue she does manage to establish herself as a role model for Kalos’ trainers and a champion of a worldview opposite to Team Flare’s.  Lysandre wants to put the beauty of the world on a pedestal and keep it from changing for all time, but Diantha wants to engage with and understand beauty, and prefers to embrace change, for better or worse, which, ultimately, is what the central conflict of X and Y is about.

Throne of Games

Victory Road captivates me.  The Pokémon are powerful, of course, and as I make my way through, around and up the mountain I realise that even stronger ones fill the skies – Skarmory and even Hydreigon swoop down to attack me while I navigate the outdoor sections of the corkscrewing path.  That’s only half of what catches my interest, though.  The slopes of the mountain have been terraced extensively, surely a mammoth project, and almost every terrace bears the remains of several imposing walls, sometimes even intact towers.  The settlement here was fortified, and quite heavily.  I wonder how long the Pokémon League has made its home on this mountain, and what connection it might have had to the ruined fortress that protects its slopes.  Like all Pokémon League headquarters, this place is barely accessible even for adept trainers, but it’s not nearly as remote as any of the others I’ve seen, like the Kanto League squirreled away atop the Indigo Plateau, or the Hoenn League in isolated Ever Grande City – in fact, its position on this mountain gives it a commanding aspect over a good chunk of central Kalos.  Someone could come here for seclusion, yes – but it could be a very useful strategic point as well, especially since there seem to be natural springs on the mountain.  A siege would be almost unthinkable.  Were the original owners driven out by the Pokémon League, or did they abandon the citadel of their own accord?  Or perhaps the people who built it were Kalos’ first Pokémon League (although, if so, it’s strange that the walls should be in such disrepair).  As I wander through the ruins, musing and taking notes on something that looks like an altar, I am disturbed by none other than Serena.

Serena has been thinking long and hard about our confrontation with Lysandre beneath Geosenge Town, and has some things to say.  “Lysandre chose only Team Flare.  You and I chose everyone but Team Flare.  But since our positions forced our hands, you can’t really say any of us were right.  So maybe if both sides have something to say, it’s best to meet halfway.”  Yes.  I agree.  We should have used the ultimate weapon to wipe out one half of the people and Pokémon in the world.  That would have been reasonable.  I don’t think Serena has quite thought this through.  This game seems to think that it has successfully portrayed Lysandre as a morally ambiguous villain, but I have to disagree.  After all, neither Ghetsis nor Giovanni ever intended mass genocide (Maxie and Archie might have caused such through their own incompetence, but since it wasn’t part of the plan I’ll let them off).  I get that it’s tragic that Lysandre’s spirit was broken by his frustrated efforts to do good in the world, but he still pulled a total moral and ethical one-eighty when he decided to dig up something named “the ultimate weapon” and kill everything.  Whether he’s alive or dead now, I can’t say I have much sympathy for him.

Serena just shakes her head in confusion at all this.  She wants a battle – so I’ll give her one.  Serena’s first Pokémon, Meowstic, trades attacks with my newly-evolved Goodra, Pytho, for a while, and Pytho is weakened but prevails in the end.  Serena’s second Pokémon, an Altaria, tries to weaken Pytho’s special attacks with Confide, but it isn’t enough to ward off her Dragon Pulse.  I try to defeat Serena’s Delphox with rain-boosted Muddy Water, but Pytho is really running out of steam by this time and can’t handle it, so I send in Odysseus to finish Delphox with Surf.  Jolteon is up next, and I know better than to leave Odysseus where he is, so I switch in Pan to soak up the incoming Discharge and crush Jolteon with Wood Hammer.  Last of all is Absol, who finishes off Pan with Slash.  After a moment’s thought, I decide Serena deserves everything I can throw at her, and call out Xerneas to drop a Moonblast on her.  This ends predictably.  Although Serena is upset that she still can’t beat me, she reaffirms her faith that our rivalry will continue to make us both stronger, and wishes me luck at the Pokémon League.

Ah, yes… the Pokémon League.

At the summit of the mountain is a huge cathedral, where the Elite Four hold court.  A building like this, in the Middle Ages, would have taken decades, maybe even a century or more, to complete.   With Pokémon, doubtless the task would have been quicker, but then again, I don’t think anyone ever tried to build a cathedral on a mountaintop in France.  With a casual flash of my badges, I am allowed inside and make my way to the central hall – no-one seems to care much about checking my status as a challenger; I got past the gates at the base of the mountain and survived Victory Road, so I must be worth noticing.  Like the Unova Elite Four, the Elite Four of Kalos hold no internal rank – they consider each other equals, and so can be challenged in any order.  The Fire Pokémon master, Malva, stylish and self-assured, lounges on a redwood throne, unfazed by the columns of raging fire that light her Blazing Chamber.  Her smugness falters when Odysseus ploughs through her entire team – Pyroar, Torkoal, Chandelure, and a passionate Talonflame – with Surf.  The Water Pokémon master, Siebold, an elegantly dressed chef who considers both cuisine and battle to be forms of art, stands in quiet contemplation of the artificial waterfalls that cascade down the walls of his Flood Chamber.  This battle is a forgone conclusion with not one but two powerful Grass Pokémon on my team; Pan and Ilex crush his Clawitzer, Gyarados, Starmie and Barbaracle (his partner, with its double-weakness to Grass attacks, proving extremely disappointing).  The huge stone wings that adorn the Dragonmark Chamber unfurl to reveal the dragon skull throne of the league’s Dragon master – sweet, kindly old Drasna, her dress adorned with the centuries-old claws and teeth of her ancestors’ partners.  My own Dragon Pokémon, Pytho, is a worthy match for her Dragalge and Altaria, leaving Xerneas to deal with her Druddigon and her Noivern partner.  Finally, between the two enormous swords that dominate the Ironworks Chamber, Wikstrom, a Steel Pokémon master in gilded mediaeval plate armour, requests the honour of a duel.  Orion is equal to his Klefki and Probopass, but falters against his mighty Aegislash; Odysseus is able to finish things up and take care of Wikstrom’s Scizor.  With the Elite Four behind me, all that remains is to take on the Champion.

I stand on an elevator platform to be carried up to the Champion’s room, and find myself standing at the centre of a circular chamber, its walls hung with white veils, the floor painted to resemble stained glass, and a soft white glow permeating everything.  Facing me is none other than the graceful, classy actress, Diantha.

Yes!  Totally called it!

Diantha doesn’t recognise me at first, but soon makes the connection between me and Professor Sycamore and realises that I’m the one who defeated Team Flare.  I suggest that she dispense with the battle and just make me Champion in recognition of my achievements.  Diantha laughs.  She thinks I’m joking, the fool.  Diantha’s first Pokémon out is, to my surprise, a Hawlucha.  I didn’t think wrestling was really her style – but maybe they did an action movie together or something.  I had Pan the Chestnaught taking point, and that clearly isn’t going to work, so I send in Xerneas, who takes a nasty Poison Jab but blows Hawlucha away with Moonblast.  Diantha’s not done surprising me and sends out a Pokémon I haven’t even seen before: Tyrantrum, a great rust-coloured tyrannosaur who must be the evolved form of Tyrunt.  Reasoning that this is a Rock-type, I decide to have Xerneas Horn Leech some of his health back – which turns out to be a bad move, because Horn Leech does minimal damage and Tyrantrum fires back a Head Smash which knocks out poor Xerneas.  So… really high physical defence, and it isn’t weak to Grass attacks.  I’ve been assuming this whole time that they’re Rock/Dark, but I actually have no idea what type Tyrunt and Tyrantrum are.  Well… they must be Rock-types because that’s a Rule for fossil Pokémon, and they don’t look Poison, Fire, Steel, Bug, Flying or Grass… I switch in Pytho and aim a Dragon Pulse, knocking out Tyrantrum and confirming his Rock/Dragon identity.  Diantha counters with an Aurorus, who takes the time to set up a Reflect as I switch to Orion – ‘bad move,’ I think as Orion one-shots poor Aurorus with Aura Sphere.  She picks her own Goodra next, and I leave Orion in, aiming to take it out with his Dragon Pulse, but failing to anticipate the Fire Blast that comes our way.  Goodra is weakened, though, and doesn’t stand up long to Pytho.  Gourgeist is next to step up, and I decide to try Ilex the Venusaur.  Ilex and Gourgeist trade Sludge Bombs and Phantom Forces for an excruciatingly long time – Diantha picks this moment to use both of her Full Restores, and Gourgeist uses a crafty new move, Trick-or-Treat, to turn Ilex into a Ghost-type and deny him his normal bonus on Poison attacks – but we eventually prevail.  Diantha is down to her last and strongest Pokémon: Gardevoir.  As Gardevoir takes the field, Diantha’s hand moves to the blue-green gem in her necklace, and I realise that it’s a Digivice.  She’s only just getting started.

Diantha’s Mega Gardevoir is terrifying in her elegance.  Moving with perfect, ethereal grace, she flings Pan across the room with Psychic, knocking him out before he can make a move, and hits Pytho with a Moonblast that leaves her seeing stars.  Odysseus manages to get in a Waterfall charge thanks to his Quick Claw, but drops when Gardevoir strikes him with a Thunderbolt from the tip of her finger.  That leaves… Ilex, who is weak to Psychic.  I’ve already healed him, and Gardevoir isn’t going to like his Sludge Bomb one bit, but still… this is going to be close.  I call out my Venusaur and activate my own Digivice.  ‘This had better work,’ I think as a wave of force erupts from Gardevoir’s splayed palm and rushes towards us.  Ilex nearly buckles under the pressure as I cover my face against the roiling psychic blast… but when I open my eyes, he’s still standing, with a princely 3 HP remaining.  Gardevoir and Diantha blink with surprise in unison as Ilex tosses back the biggest Sludge Bomb he can manage.  Gardevoir collapses.


Ridiculous quote log:

“Vet-vet-vet- VETERAN!  Veteran all the way!  What do you think of my theme song?”
Your song is bad and you should feel bad.

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. 

Continue reading “Grassroots Movements”

La Ville Lumière

My path is clear: travel to nearby Camphrier Town to learn more about this Mega Evolution whatever stuff.  As I go to leave Professor Sycamore’s building, however, I meet someone new.  He is well-dressed, in an immaculate black suit with red piping, and has ridiculous hair, bright vermillion, sweeping back from his head in a sort of V-shape, so he will surely be important to the story. 

Definitely an important character.

This man is apparently interested in meeting Professor Sycamore’s recruits, and introduces himself as Lysandre – a French derivative of the ancient Greek name Lysander, which means something like “liberator of men;” the most famous historical figure by this name was a Spartan general at the end of the 5th century BC responsible for creating the great Spartan fleet that broke the naval supremacy of Athens and ended the thirty-year Peloponnesian War (I’m a classicist; so sue me).  He doesn’t really say why he wants to meet us, but does explain that he’s working to create “a more beautiful world,” and seems to think we could somehow be part of that.  He leaves fairly promptly, allowing Serena to monopolise my time instead.  Apparently she wants to talk to me about something but wants to do it somewhere more private, so she asks me to join her at the nearby Café Soleil.  Um.  Did I just get asked out on a date?  Sorry, Serena, but I think I’m already in a committed relationship with the Lumiose Transport Authority guy who randomly fell in love with me earlier this afternoon.  Still, I suppose it’s polite to go and let her down in person…

Continue reading “La Ville Lumière”