House Florges: Blossoming Elegance
Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it: I have no idea how to pronounce this Pokémon’s name. Under standard French orthography, Florges would be pronounced… Florj? That doesn’t sound right. Florjé? Florjéz? Florjis? Florghés? I don’t know; just imagine me mispronouncing it in the most ludicrous way you can think of whenever I type the name. Flogress… Florgos… Florg…
Anyway. Flabébé. When I first met this Pokémon I assumed she was a Grass/Fairy dual-type, which I don’t think is unreasonable given the dominance of flowers in her design and their importance to her lifestyle. Actually, I still have trouble believing she’s not a Grass-type, seeing as most of her level-up moves are Grass attacks, and her offensive movepool certainly seems to have fallen prey to the curse of Grass-Types Don’t Get Nice Things. Flabébé, Floette and Florges probably come closest to emulating Xerneas’ conception of the Fairy type, which sees them as guardians of nature and nurturers of life, but in this case specifically of flowering plants. Flabébé and Floette possess symbiotic relationships with single flowers, which they keep for their entire lives, presumably using their Fairy powers to keep them from wilting and dying. There’s a minor little gimmick here which is not particularly interesting but deserves to be mentioned; their flowers come in different colours – red, white, orange, yellow, and blue – with certain colours being more or less common in different flower beds, Flabébé’s natural habitat. The colour carries through when she evolves into Floette, and then Florges. All three stages are said to draw energy from blooming flowers specifically, which may be the key to why they’re not Grass-types, thematically speaking; their powers are drawn not from plants as such, but from the beauty of plants, flowers in particular, and may be related to the symbolic meanings of different types of flowers. I’m not sure whether beauty and the appreciation of beauty are attributes of the Fairy type, but they certainly wouldn’t be inconsistent with it, so perhaps that’s what Flabébé gets out of the deal. Or at least, that’s the spin I’d put on it if I were Game Freak.
Florges becomes something quite rare and interesting – a Pokémon who actually manipulates terrain type, creating beautiful flower gardens for her territory, and even being invited by humans to do the same for grand estates and castles. Notice the verb, “invite,” which is exactly what the Pokédex says; what’s happening here is being glossed in very different terms to a trainer/Pokémon relationship. It seems like we’re being told about wild Florges being asked (contracted, even?) to perform specific services for human nobles, possibly before the invention of Pokéballs (“in times long past”). One might ask what the Florges gets out of it, and the simplest answer seems to be that she would be permitted to live in the garden indefinitely, providing her and any family members with a long-term home that would be isolated from most predators – this makes sense with the idea that Florges are “invited;” they normally want to create gardens anyway, independent of any human incentive, and there is a mutual benefit to having them do it in a specific place. My over-active imagination, however, can’t help but wander to the idea of particularly skilled and powerful Florges gaining a reputation for truly fantastical flower gardens and travelling from one great estate to another in order to practice her art and receive pampering, adulation and luxuries in return (I am rather fond of the idea of Pokémon just doing their own thing in the world of humans). Either of these views of Florges is particularly appropriate to Kalos, with its major background theme of the excessive wealth and luxury of the old aristocracy that alludes to the proverbial decadence of the French ancien régime. This Pokémon, to me, represents what Kalos itself is all about: precise, studied expressions of elegance that nurture and exalt natural beauty through the imposition of order.
Given that, perhaps it’s fitting that one particular Floette gets to play a critical role in the backstory of X and Y: AZ’s Floette, instantly recognisable by her unique black tulip-like flower whose shape seems to have provided the model for AZ’s Ultimate Weapon. This Floette, who answers to “The Eternal Flower,” fought and died for AZ in the war against his brother and was subsequently resurrected, at the cost of several hundred other Pokémon’s lives, using the Ultimate Weapon. This puts her right at the centre of the game’s primary conflict of change and stasis (AZ’s refusal to let go of what he had lost eventually brought ruin to Kalos), which also has relevance to Floette’s nature as a Pokémon who preserves and enhances beauty through order. What AZ did, and what Lysandre wanted to do, are ultimately an extension of what Flabébé, Floette and Florges do throughout their lives: preventing what is beautiful about the world from fading and dying. As always in Pokémon, the villains are villains because they take it too far, and because they believe that the ends justify the means – something Floette cannot accept, which is why she abandons AZ. We know from those talented people who specialise in hacking Pokémon games that AZ’s Floette likely to be available to players at some point through an event, because she has her own stats, completely different to a regular Floette or Florges’ – she’s a fast special attacker – and even her own signature move: Light of Ruin. This move seems to be, effectively, a special Fairy-type equivalent to Head Smash (complete with that painful 50% recoil), and narrowly edges out Xerneas’ Fairy Aura-boosted Moonblast as the most powerful Fairy attack in the game. It seems likely that this move draws on whatever power was imparted to Floette by the Ultimate Weapon to make her immortal, a power encompassing both life and death – the heavy cost of using it serves as an ever-present reminder that the weapon has always been a double-edged sword.
A normal, fully-evolved Florges is a very different Pokémon to AZ’s Floette. Her greatest strength, instead, is her monumental special defence. Being a pure Fairy-type doesn’t hurt either, since they have a pretty cushy deal with three resistances and an immunity (to, need I remind you, Dragon) against only two weaknesses. Her HP and physical defence are relatively poor, though, so either invest heavily in both or keep her far away from physical attackers; this fair maiden is without question a special wall and a supporter. Florges seems designed to function best in double or triple battles, with two unique abilities and a very rare move which all benefit her allies – if she actually were a Grass-type, two of them would benefit her as well and make her much stronger, but she’s not and they don’t. First, the move: Flower Shield raises the defence of all Grass Pokémon in play, meaning it’s useless in a single battle, and even in a triple battle with two Grass-type allies (which is just asking for a Sludge Wave to the face) it’s questionable. This technique really makes a lot more sense on Cherrim, who also learns it. Florges’ first ability, Flower Veil, is likewise nothing special; it prevents allied Grass Pokémon from having their stats lowered, which basically amounts to granting an ally the Clear Body ability (and before you ask, no, it doesn’t negate Leaf Storm recoil). I really have to question whether it would have been so bad to let Florges benefit from this as well. The hidden ability – Symbiosis – may actually be interesting. Again, it can only be useful in a double or triple battle: if one of Florges’ allies consumes an item (including through the use of Fling or Natural Gift), she will pass her own item to that Pokémon instead. Being able to transfer items to a partner without spending a moveslot and a turn on something like Trick or Bestow is such a unique thing to be able to do that it seems like it would have to be useful somehow, but I’m at a loss as to how exactly that might be. Perhaps using a Toxic Orb to activate Poison Heal on Gliscor, Flinging it away, and then replacing it with a Life Orb? Or something similar to get Leftovers on a Guts Pokémon to help compensate for burn damage? Once elemental Gems are available on X and Y, maybe they could be combined with Choice Specs or a Choice Band for a single, enormously powerful attack (since the Gem is consumed before the attack, and the new item is transferred immediately)? I leave this as a puzzle for those more ingenious than myself.
While Florges’ special attack pales in comparison to her special defence, it’s actually really high as well. She also gets a strong offensive type and a powerful primary attack, Moonblast, which will leave a hell of a sting on anything that takes her for set-up bait. There’s even the option of Calm Mind if you want to make a bulky attacker-style Florges. Unfortunately, other than Moonblast her offensive movepool is awful. She only learns Grass attacks, which do almost nothing to supplement Fairy attacks (all the types that resist Fairy resist Grass as well), and Psychic, which is at least good for Poison-types. It’s pretty clear that Florges isn’t supposed to be an attacker anyway, so consider Psychic, but focus mainly on her support skills – she has plenty to choose from. Wish and Aromatherapy can be used to heal the team of both regular injuries and status ailments (you’ll need train Florges’ HP heavily to get the most out of Wish, but you should probably do that anyway). She learns both Grassy Terrain and Misty Terrain, the new Grass- and Fairy-themed field moves, both of which are fairly exclusive (and she happens to be the only non-Grass-type to learn Grassy Terrain). Light Screen rounds out her options – Florges herself would benefit much more from Reflect, which she doesn’t get, but team support is always good. I’d hesitate to call her a great support Pokémon, but she can take most any special attack that isn’t super-effective and some that are, hit back with a very strong attack that relatively few Pokémon resist, and heal the team while she’s out. Although her abilities may be useless in a single battle (and not even all that exciting in doubles, to be honest), she has everything she needs to contribute to her team.
Florges has her shortcomings, but she’s good at what she does, and I think the important thing about this line is that they can, in a way, be seen as mascots for the entire Kalos region. What they do and what they value in their regular lives have special significance in the context of the plot of X and Y, making Floette a perfect choice for the starring role she has in AZ’s story. I might still think they would make more sense as Grass-types, and I might wish they had an ability choice that’s actually useful in a single battle, but I wish for things I can’t have for almost every Pokémon. This one (as anime Bonnie would say) is a keeper.
Before leaving for Lumiose City, I check out the route east of Santalune (Détourner Way – another interesting change, all of the routes now have French names as well as numbers; I think I like this). This route apparently leads to the headquarters of the French Pokémon League, so I don’t get very far, although I do pick up a Psyduck, a Riolu, and a new Pokémon called a Litleo as I explore. Litleo is, as the name implies, a little lion who has been lit (on fire) – the game’s first Fire/Normal dual-type. This might be interesting enough to be worth a spot on my team, at least for the time being. I attempt to name her Ishtar, after a Babylonian war goddess whose sacred animal is a lioness, but the game rather impudently tells me “you can’t enter that word,” not deigning to give a reason why, so I opt instead for Astarte, the Phoenician name of the same goddess, and spend some time training her up a bit. Litleo appears to be a balanced all-rounder with a bias towards speed and special attack but decent defences as well. I wonder whether the males and females look different when they evolve (no manes for the females)? While mucking around here, I get my Spewpa to level 12 – and she evolves into a deep green Vivillon. Hmm. I admit I was focussing more closely on the Infestation attack, but I’m pretty sure Viola’s Vivillon was pink. The Pokédex helpfully explains that Vivillon come in different colours and patterns depending on their environment – Viola’s was a meadow Vivillon, while mine is a garden Vivillon. Initially I thought this was basically the same kind of thing as Shellos has and was all set to be totally underwhelmed by it, but, in between writing this bit and actually posting the entry, readers have explained to me that Vivillon have different patterns depending on where in the world their owners are from – so my garden Vivillon must be what New Zealanders get (the internet suggests that we have this in common with Tasmania, Britain and parts of Eastern Europe).Continue reading “Professing Comprehension”