Ace Trainer Alvaro asks:

Although a relatively new ability introduced in Gen VI, Symbiosis has come up several times across your blog history (see https://pokemaniacal.com/?s=Symbiosis) and it sticks out as an ability that is oddly specific, to the point it’s arguably not useful except for passing on items to allies in double, triple, etc battles that have consumed their own consumable held-item. How would you rethink this ability or create a new ability that captures the concept of symbiosis (let’s just think about mutualism or the purposes of simplification)? My immediate inclination is that if a Pokémon with Symbiosis has a held item, it also copies the effects of that item (but not the item itself) onto an ally once said item is consumed. Extra credit: this ability could be retconned as a Hidden Ability for Slowbro and the Bulbasaur evolutionary line.

Continue reading “Ace Trainer Alvaro asks:”

Flabébé, Floette and Florges

Official art of Flabébé by Ken Sugimori.

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.

 Floette.

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.

 AZ's Floette, the Eternal Flower.  In addition to her unusual flower, this Floette is also shiny (note the purple body).

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.

 Florges.

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.

 Florges' other colours - orange, yellow, blue and white - on parade.

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.

Getting Bogged Down

Not without a little trepidation, I promptly answer Professor Sycamore’s summons and enter Lysandre’s lurid crimson café.  As far as I can tell, Sycamore just happened to be having lunch with Lysandre there and wanted to get me in on the conversation, mostly to give Lysandre an opportunity to congratulate me in person on becoming a Digidestined, something he has always wanted to do.  I also get a more explicit introduction to Lysandre’s philosophy.  According to Professor Sycamore, Lysandre is exceptionally high-born, descended from Kalosian royalty – although Lysandre himself downplays this, since he wants to leave a different legacy.  Lysandre believes that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who give, and those who take, like the legendary Pokémon of Kalos, who gave life and took it (this refers, I presume, to Xerneas and Yveltal – so they represent life and death?).  He regards the second group as scum, and notes that “there will be no foolish actions if the number of people and Pokémon doesn’t increase,” which is… an odd, faintly Malthusian and very worrying sentiment.  Apparently, the old king of Kalos only took from the world, but Lysandre wants to give back, both through his inventions and by funding Pokémon research.  The king did achieve one good thing, though – he created some kind of “ultimate weapon” and used it to “wash the era clean of its filth.”  I stare at Lysandre, trying to keep my expression neutral, nibbling anxiously at a croissant, and occasionally shooting worried looks at Professor Sycamore, who gives no indication of any concern whatsoever.  Finally, lunch is over and I am freed of this troubling man’s presence.  Lysandre wants to create a world where everything can stay young and beautiful forever… and where all population growth halts completely… and there are legendary Pokémon in this region with power over life and death.  I have a terrible feeling I can see where this is going.  More importantly, if he tries to replicate this ‘ultimate weapon,’ he’ll scour the age of all its filth – and that probably includes me!  He must be stopped at all costs!

Another call on my Holo-Caster informs me that my erstwhile rivals are meeting on the northern outskirts of Lumiose City to catch up.  Why not?  I think they’re the only people in this country who give me any respect; I might as well keep the silly little people happy.  Trevor and Serena are already waiting outside the city gates when I arrive.  Trevor, as he usually does, challenges me to what he calls “his own kind of Pokémon battle” – seeing who has the more complete Pokédex.  He’s never beaten me on that score, and doesn’t start now.  Nor does Serena overcome my Pokémon in a more conventional battle, even though her Braixen has now evolved into a mystical Delphox (I love this name, by the way; obviously it’s fox + Delphi, so connotations of mysticism, magic and secret knowledge, but I’m also reminded of phlox, one of the Greek words for fire – not sure whether that’s intentional).  Maybe they should branch out into things that I’m less good at.  That works for Tierno and Shauna; I’m sure Tierno and his Pokémon would curb-stomp me in a break-dancing competition, and Shauna by now is probably really good at… whatever the hell it is that she claims to be doing on this journey.  Something that involves spending lots of money and whistling all the time.  And, speak of the devil, Tierno and Shauna turn up as Serena and I wrap up our battle.  Now that everyone’s together, Shauna wants to check out a rumoured haunted house further up the road.  Serena, buzzkill that she is, thinks it’s a frivolous waste of time and heads straight for the next town, Laverre City, to train her Pokémon, but I consider that a haunted house may provide an opportunity to meet new Ghost Pokémon and cautiously follow.  The road we’re on is euphemistically known as the ‘Laverre Nature Trail,’ which appears to be Kalos-speak for ‘depressing fetid swamp of death.’  Everything is waterlogged and half-dead and covered in gravestones, and even the grass looks like it’s about to give up, turn black, and start preying on small animals and less agile children.  Someday I will put a penal colony here.  There are some neat Pokémon here, though: Weepinbell, Stunfisk, Shelmet, Karrablast, Haunter and Carnivine, all of which I capture… and then I meet Goomy.  Goomy is a little pink blobby polyp-like creature who blasts me with a Dragonbreath attack.  Once caught and questioned, Goomy continues to insist on being a Dragon Pokémon, albeit the weakest one of all.  Okay, Goomy, far be it from me to call such a cute little Pokémon a liar, but are you sure you’re a Dragon-type and not, say, a Poison-type with delusions of grandeur and trouble dealing with the cold?  Look, fine then; stick to whatever story you like, but you’re coming with me, because if there’s one thing I know about weak Dragon-types it’s that they repay your investments.  I was getting bored of Tereus anyway.

The haunted house, when we reach it, turns out to be a spectacular bust.  It’s a perfectly ordinary house, somewhat poorly lit, with a man inside who tells moderately disturbing stories about people with no faces and then demands a tip.  The rivals disperse, disappointed, and I decide to take some time to train up my new Goomy, whom I have named Pytho (after the dragon slain at Delphi by the god Apollo, whose name is etymologically linked with the ancient Greek word for rot), along with some of my other Pokémon who have been languishing in the PC box for a while.  Here, I learn many new things.  At level 35, Honedge becomes Doublade, splitting into two swords and gaining greater physical power.  There’s one more empty slot in the Pokédex after Doublade, which seems to indicate either that Doublade will evolve again or that Honedge has a branched evolution I’ve missed – I’m kind of thinking the latter is more likely, because where can you go after evolving from one sword to two?  Three swords?  Litleo, also at level 35, becomes Pyroar – I’m still betting this thing has major gender differences, so maybe I’ll train a male later, or just look up what they look like on the internet.  Trial and error reveals that a Sun Stone and Shiny Stone will evolve, respectively, Helioptile and Floette into Heliolisk (who is still a frilled lizard and flares his neck frill while channelling electrical power – something Clemont’s Heliolisk never got a chance to demonstrate) and the somewhat overstated and elaborate Florges, still a pure Fairy-type, but one who draws energy from flowers and claims gardens as her territory.  Amaura gets all the way to 39 and becomes a majestic Aurorus, a huge crystal-studded sauropod with long, glowing crests along the back of its neck (I want to say I’ve seen sauropods reconstructed with crests like that before, but names escape me).  Binacle, at level 39, undergoes a… surprising… transformation into a seven-headed barnacle-golem called Barbaracle (yes, seven, because his four arms and his feet are also heads), a great bulky physical tank-type thing.  I just want to draw attention, for a moment, to Barbaracle’s Pokédex entry: “When they evolve, two Binacle multiply into seven.  They fight with the power of seven Binacle.”  Really?  I would have thought that a group of seven Binacle would have fought with the power of maybe four and a half, on a good day; a pair of them can barely manage to fight with the power of one, after all, lazy little $#!ts that they are.  Finally, getting Pytho up to 40, bringing her in line with the rest of my active party, causes her to evolve into a Sligoo – a large, blind purple snail.  This… is the weirdest Dragon-type I’ve ever seen.  There’s another empty space in my Pokédex between Sliggoo and Karrablast; presumably I can expect another evolution at some godawful level around 60 or so, so I slap an Eviolite on her and hope for the best.  My Skrelp, meanwhile, still hasn’t evolved; since Clauncher had a plain old levelling evolution I’m pretty sure Skrelp will too, but I kind of expected they would evolve at the same time… either I’m missing something here, or Skrelp is going undergo a pretty dramatic transformation. From what I’ve been told, there aren’t all that many new Pokémon in Kalos compared to previous regions – I think by now I must have seen more than half of the damn things.  I wonder what’s left?

I also evolve my Flaaffy into an Ampharos, which means I get to test out another of these Mega Stones.  When Ampharos digivolves, she gains a luxurious mane of silky white hair, studded with red orbs like the one on her tail, along with tremendous offensive and defensive power, Mold Breaker (take that, Lanturn!), and… a secondary Dragon type?  That- hmm.  Does… does Ampharos actually learn any Dragon attacks?  Maybe she gets Dragon Pulse or something now, or maybe having a Dragon-type mega form would make her eligible to learn Draco Meteor?  Might be something to experiment on later; tempting as it is, I don’t particularly want Ampharos in my party (after all, I used one on my recent White 2 playthrough and I do like to mix things up a bit).  I guess I can add Mega Ampharos to Altaria (and, for that matter, Goomy and Sliggoo) under the heading of ‘non-draconic Dragon Pokémon.’  Being a ‘Dragon,’ it seems, is really no longer about being a majestic and imposing magical reptile – you can also be a… giant sheep, or giraffe, or whatever Ampharos is supposed to be.  Personally I tend to think that the uniting idea of the Dragon-types is their mystical quality and connection with life-force anyway, but it’s neat to watch the design process.  Also, it’s interesting that they chose Ampharos in particular to digivolve; to judge from the Pokémon that are receiving this honour so far, it seems like it’s at least partly a matter of popularity – and Ampharos has definitely been a fan favourite since her release Gold and Silver, in spite of her long decline on the competitive scene.  And here I was, convinced they never listened to us!

Ridiculous quote log:

Nothing for today, but rest assured, this is not because the people of Kalos have suffered a sudden outbreak of sanity, but rather because after my prolonged exposure to the light and chaos of Lumiose City I felt an inexplicable compulsion to go out into the wilderness and stick my head into soft peat for six hours.