A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXVII: School of Brock

[Catch up on the story so far here!]

Which Pokémon do you plan to open with against Brock?
– Jane Doe, the Zorua

Which Pokémon would you like to talk with?
– Jane

You’re a reasonably down-to-earth kid.  You’re not going to go charging into your first gym battle with a Pokémon on your team that, frankly, you barely know.  You’re going to figure out what Jane’s deal is.  As far as Jane herself is concerned, her deal is primarily rolling over and receiving belly rubs, and to be clear, you are 100% down for this.  She is a good girl and her fur is almost outrageously soft and silky.  You still want to know what her powers do, though.  Jane’s species isn’t even in your Pokédex, but the Pokémon Centre has a book room with a decent collection of field guides and textbooks.  With a little help from Jane herself, who yaps encouragingly whenever you find pictures of Pokémon from forested central Unova, you quickly find a profile in a recent trainer’s almanac.  Like I said, Jane Doe is a Zorua.  She’s a Dark-type and a fiercely intelligent ambush predator.  She should be able to learn a range of speed-based techniques, as well as attacks that strike at an opponent’s senses or mental state, and she has certain unique abilities that make your eyes pop out like an old cartoon character’s when you read the book’s description.  This definitely warrants a little practice before you go to bed.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer is You! XXVII: School of Brock”

Anonymous asks:

Why is it that if I challenge a Gym Leader like Misty, who carries 2 Pokemon, that I’m allowed to use up to six against her? Surely the people that makes the rules don’t honestly believe she or any other Gym Leaders have strong enough Pokemon and strategies to contest a potential 2 vs 6, right?

I know people hate it when I do this, but my instinct here is to point to the anime and say “well, they do restrict the numbers available to the challenger; that fact just gets elided to produce a smoother gameplay experience.”  Besides, a single Pokémon can and will wreck an entire team’s $#!t if you don’t know what you’re doing (looking at you, Whitney’s Miltank and Winona’s Altaria), and the Gym Leaders are, for the most part, supposed to be testing a trainer’s basic/intermediate/advanced proficiency, not trying to block them or halt their progress.

Winter is Coming

As the Americans in the audience may have surmised, leaving Chicago after the end of that conference I mentioned was rather more difficult than anticipated, as a result of the somewhat melodramatically named ‘polar vortex’ that swallowed the northern half of the country this week (y’know, Polar Vortex would be a neat name for a Pokémon move… Ice-type equivalent to Heatran’s Magma Storm, maybe?).  Still, despite the cancellations of three buses, a rented car, and a train, I have managed at last to escape the benighted place and am back in the much more reasonable winter of Cincinnati, so at long last, the show… and the snow… must go on.

Although the land around it is warm and pleasant enough, Snowbelle City itself is constantly blanketed in snow, far more so than Dendemille Town further north.  Much of this is probably due to the presence of at least two Abomasnow who seem to live in the town, their freezing auras filling the sky with perennial snow-clouds, but the inhabitants give just as much credit to the local Pokémon Gym.  “Thanks to the cold air that seeps out of the Gym, no-one in this town needs air conditioning!”  Well, sure, random Snowbelle resident, but I think that without the Gym you might be able to cut down a little on the hypothermia, so unless heatstroke used to be a major problem around here I think you might be better off letting me demolish the place.  Snowbelle City’s Gym is run by a man named Wulfric, whom I can only assume is an Ice Pokémon specialist, but he isn’t here – he has apparently gone for a walk in the nearby Winding Woods.  Since there’s not much else to do in the town other than learn the ‘ultimate’ Grass, Fire and Water moves (the decidedly underwhelming Frenzy Plant, Blast Burn and Hydro Cannon), I suppose it’s my job to go and get him.  The Winding Woods, like everything else outside the city limits, are unaffected by the aura of cold emanating from the Gym, but there’s something else not quite right about them… the paths don’t quite match up with each other, and sometimes turning right around and walking back the way you came will send you to a different place entirely.  The reason for this soon becomes clear: the forest is inhabited by Zoroark, who doubtless use their powers to obscure the true routes through the Winding Woods and befuddle travellers for their amusement and the protection of their nests.  Cunning Noctowl and Gothorita deploy their own psychic abilities to enhance the effect, and the whole forest hums gently with the soporific song of Jigglypuff (who is now a Normal/Fairy dual-type).  I confront the Pokémon who control the place and demand safe passage, catching one of each species and defeating several more, but they remain intent on twisting my path until the very end – when I finally find what it is that the Winding Woods are protecting.

In a wide, flower-filled meadow, a heavyset bearded man with a voluminous blue winter coat is standing at the end of the forest trail talking to a group of Furfrou, Fletchling and Espurr.  They flee when they see me, but the man holds his ground.  This, of course, is Wulfric.  The meadow, which he calls the Pokémon Village, is a place for Pokémon who were abandoned by their trainers and have nowhere else to go, as well as a few who have grown too powerful to have a place in the outside world anymore.  Wulfric agrees to return to his Gym immediately to meet my challenge, but advises me to look around the hidden village first.  My curiosity piqued, I agree.  Most of the Pokémon here are ones I’ve met before, including a number of the same species that inhabit the Winding Woods (although I do meet and capture a Ditto as well).  Far more interesting is just what the place is like.  The Pokémon here seem to have a fascination with human items, having gathered a large number of rubbish bins to root through, as well as a couple of car tyres set up on a knoll like some sort of decoration.  Many of them proudly offer items to me as gifts when addressed with courtesy.  There are also a number of ramshackle bivouacs scattered around the clearing, one occupied by a deeply sleeping Snorlax – as architecture goes, creatures like ants and termites can manage far more complicated structures, but these ones seem like the kind of thing humans would build.  I get the distinct impression that the Pokémon who live here (who all have personal history with humans) have a certain fondness for collecting things from human civilisation, purely because they think it’s neat – like souvenirs.  For the most part, they want nothing to do with humanity, but still find us interesting, much more so than most other Pokémon do.  At the back of the clearing, though, set into a cliff face, I find something more interesting than any of it, though – a cave entrance, guarded by a single human who names it “the Unknown Dungeon.”  The phrase “Unknown Dungeon” in Pokémon can only mean one thing, and suddenly what Wulfric was saying about Pokémon too powerful to have a place in the outside world makes an awful lot of sense.  Only a Champion-level trainer can enter the dungeon, of course – so I’ll just have to come back later.  Off to get that last badge!

Wulfric’s Gym is literally a gigantic freezer.  In contrast to the sliding-floor puzzles of previous Ice-type Gyms (because, let’s be fair here, those were getting a little old), the path through the Snowbelle Gym is made up of a series of huge multi-coloured ring-shaped platforms that rotate to reveal different patterns of pathways and holes.  Matching up the pathways in the different rings allows challengers to progress – it seems complicated at first but it’s not difficult once you get your bearings.  I march through the Gym with my Grass Pokémon, Pan and Ilex, taking point, just to revel in their superiority, but elect for a little more caution when I reach the Ice-type Gym Leader himself, and go for Orion the Lucario.  Wulfric, predictably, opens with an Abomasnow to take control of the weather, and just as predictably Abomasnow falls to Orion’s Aura Sphere.  His second Pokémon, a Cryogonal, lasts a little longer thanks to its epic special defence, but can’t do much itself to hurt Orion either and ultimately fails.  Finally, Wulfric brings out his signature Pokémon – Avalugg, a huge four-legged, flat-topped slab of ice with a vaguely reptilian triangular head, who must be the evolved form of Bergmite.  Presumably he is, like Bergmite, a physical tank of some kind, but I never get to find out because Aura Sphere one-shots the poor beast.  Well… that was anticlimactic.  Wulfric rewards my victory with the Iceberg Badge, a hexagonal glass locket with a gold back and frame, a metallic blue mountain symbol set into the front and six brilliant sapphires at its corners, filled with shimmering blue Mystic Water.  As a bonus, he even throws in the Ice Beam TM.  Score!  And now, of course, with eight badges, I am at long last eligible to enter the domain of the Pokémon League, northwest of Snowbelle City, and challenge the Elite Four for dominance of the Kalos region!

Well… in a little bit.  I still need to catch the Pokémon available on the road to the Pokémon League – Spinda, Scyther, Ursaring and Altaria – as well as give a little bit of love to the last four of my Kalosian Pokémon who have yet to evolve.  Bergmite, as I have already learned, evolves into Avalugg, quite promptly at level 41, and is indeed an extremely focussed physical tank (because defensive Ice-types have worked so well in the past).  Upon reaching level 48, Noibat transforms into the more pterosaur-like Noivern, his draconic heritage finally shining through.  Presented with a recently acquired Dusk Stone, where all my other offerings have failed, Doublade becomes a mighty Aegislash, a sword-and shield Pokémon (so, one of the swords… turns into a shield?  That’s… weird; I would have made that a split evolution from Honedge) with two ‘stances,’ high-defence and high-attack, that it can shift between as it uses different moves.  Finally, when little Skrelp finally reaches level 48, he evolves into the sinister Dragalge, shedding his Water type to gain Dragon abilities instead (hey, neat – Dragon/Poison makes him a Dragon-type that can beat Fairy Pokémon).  So I was right all along – he’s a diseased Horsea who evolves into a diseased Kingdra!  Pretty badass for all that, though.  I must be close to the end now; I feel like the game is running out of new Pokémon to throw at me.  Of course, the auxiliary legendary Pokémon are bound to be lurking out there somewhere, and there are presumably a bunch more mega forms I haven’t discovered yet…

At the gates to Victory Road, an Ace Trainer with a Carbink, a Kingdra and a Raichu calls me to account for my crimes.  Carbink defies me long enough to smack Pan with a Moonblast, so that Kingdra can finish him off with Ice Beam, but Ilex ploughs through the rest with Sunny Day-boosted Solarbeams, and  I am permitted to enter the inner sanctum, where the great stone gates to the Victory Road ruins slide open, responding to the presence of my badges.  I pause for a moment at the entrance to the cave to take stock of the wild Pokémon – it takes me a while to find all the new additions to my Pokédex, but they’re there; Lickitung, Zweilous and Druddigon.  More interestingly, though, keeping my Exp. Share off all this time seems to have finally caught up with me, and the wild Pokémon here are at even higher levels than my hardened veterans – to say nothing of the trainers I’ll likely face.  Well, it makes sense that the citadel of the Pokémon League would be defended by the most powerful trainers in the land, and no-one said conquering France would be easy…

Ridiculous quote log:

“Try using Ice Beam on some Berry Juice for a delicious frappé!  Hey!  You gotta know your Pokémon and their moves outside of battles, right?”
Absolutely.  Some of my favourite moves for out-of-battle use include Torment, Thief, Curse, Leech Life, Nightmare, Explosion, Fissure, Eruption and Roar of Time.  Their utility applications never cease to amaze!

Cold Darkness of the Cosmos

Before entering Dendemille Town, I turn south for a look at the route leading back towards Lumiose City.  This whole north-eastern area seems to be in a state of perpetual autumn, in contrast to the permanent summer of the rest of Kalos, and has inhabitants to match; in addition to several of the same Pokémon as I found on the last route, I find Foonguss and two new Ghost/Grass Pokémon: Phantump, a dark wisp inhabiting a tree stump, and Pumpkaboo, the floating pumpkin I encountered in Lumiose City.  Seeing two new Pokémon with the same previously unseen type combination in the same area initially makes me think that they probably influence each other’s evolution in some way, like Shelmet and Accelgor, but I am informed that this is not the case – they just evolve when traded.  Doing so results in Trevenant, an utterly terrifying undead tree with a single glowing red eye and six splayed insect-like legs, and Gourgeist, a jack-o’-lantern with some kind of vaguely-feminine looking eel-like head and a pair of pink things that could easily be hair, arms, tentacles, or all three.  This adorably creepy little specimen “enwraps its prey in its hairlike arms [and] sings joyfully as it observes the suffering of its prey.”  So… that’s fun.  The route’s only other notable feature is a network of jetties built out over a lake to maximise the area available for fishing; here I am given a Super Rod, but come across nothing of particular interest in testing it out.  Satisfied that this route has nothing more for me at the moment, I return north.

If Dendemille Town’s surroundings are trapped in autumn, the town itself is locked in an eternal winter.  Snow falls on hardy evergreens as stubborn farmers try to coax life from frozen soil.  The town’s most prominent feature is a huge windmill surrounded by some kind of massive fortification wall, so presumably they do manage to produce something here (not much point in a windmill without grain).  Shortly after entering the town, I am met by Professor Sycamore, with Right in tow (Left, presumably, is off fighting crime).  Sycamore rambles incoherently about journeys and cafés for a while, before slipping into a brief eulogy of Kalos’ amazing legendary Pokémon, Xerneas, who “resembles the letter X.”  No-one knows anything concrete about Xerneas, but Right promises to do some research.  They both leave, giving me the chance to check out more of Dendemille Town and find what is perhaps its most important feature from my perspective: the home of the move deleter and move relearner.  At last, I can experience the true glory of Clawitzer’s movepool – Mega Launcher-boosted Dark Pulse, Dragon Pulse and Aura Sphere.  I only have three Heart Scales and I want to teach Dragon Pulse to my Lucario as well, so I greedily snatch up Dark Pulse and Aura Sphere and move on.  Dendemille Town doesn’t appear to have a Pokémon Gym, but the next route is impassable: nothing but huge drifts of snow all around.  The inhabitants inform me that there is normally a Mamoswine who carries travellers through the snow, but this Mamoswine is currently “distracted by something” in the Frost Cavern north of Dendemille Town, so I suppose there’s nothing for it but to go and find the damn thing myself… and maybe pick up some nifty new Ice Pokémon in the process.

It doesn’t take long for me to find Mamoswine, in the company of a boy whom I assume is its trainer, in the stark snowbound mountains north of town.  Apparently Mamoswine is worried about something going on in the cavern, but either can’t or won’t do anything about it.  Trevor, who wants to investigate species distribution in the Frost Cavern, volunteers to look into it, but my confidence in Trevor’s abilities has never been high, so I head into the cave along with him to find out what’s wrong.  The Frost Cavern is giving me flashbacks to the Ice Path of Gold and Silver, with all its ‘icy floor’ puzzles and, of course, its Ice-type fauna – Beartic, Cryogonal, Piloswine, Jynx, and a weird little pyramid-shaped Ice Pokémon called a Bergmite, a sort of physical tank whose main strength appears to be “being a block of ice.”  The fact that X and Y allow diagonal movement becomes quite important here, because it means you can slide diagonally across the ice floors – I think there’s only one part of the area that actually requires this, but I must have stared at the screen for about ten minutes before I thought of trying it (so much for my vaunted lateral thinking skills…).  In the depths of the cave, I locate the problem: surprise, surprise; it’s Team Flare.  A pair of grunts and a blue-haired woman wearing a visor, presumably another scientist, are tormenting a huge Abomasnow, apparently to test the limits of its power before they capture it.  Trevor arrives and orders them to stop, which they predictably ignore.  The scientist, Mable, explains that they’re collecting Pokémon and energy for their dastardly plans, which apparently involve destroying everyone who isn’t part of their group.  She has only one Pokémon, a powerful Houndoom, which I dispatch with my Clawitzer.  Defeated, she and her grunts flee.  Trevor departs in relief, and I turn to go as well – but feel a tap on my shoulder.  Well, I say a ‘tap,’ it’s more of a heavy, blunt ‘thunk,’ but a tap seems to have been the intention.  It’s Abomasnow, who wants to thank me with a gift: a green-and-white Abomasite orb.  Mega Abomasnow, huh?  Could this be what uplifts Hail to equal status with the other major weather effects?  Eh, probably not, but we’ll see.

Mamoswine is now back on duty.  According to his trainer, Mamoswine first came to Dendemille town when he was gravely injured and rescued by an Abomasnow.  It was probably the same one, and Mamoswine was likely refusing to work because he was worried about his friend.  D’aww… you know, there is something incredibly endearing about inter-species friendships.  Anyway, with Mamoswine back, I have my ride through the snow to Anistar City.  Mamoswine is capable of ploughing through drifts of snow that cover him almost completely, and even smashing submerged boulders.  I feel a sudden pang of regret for never having trained one of these things.  A few more Ice Pokémon – Delibird, Sneasel, and Snover (better evolve him later to check out Abomasnow’s mega form…) appear on the way, but I reach Anistar City without much more excitement, and receive a call from Serena challenging me to a battle by the Pokémon Gym.  The bitter cold softens a little as I reach Anistar City and look around.  Left shows up to inform me that Right has learned of a person in this city who is an expert in the lore of Kalos’ legendary Pokémon, and that it would be a good idea for me to find him.  Of course, cities in the Pokémon world being what they are, this doesn’t take long.  I learn that Xerneas appeared in Kalos 800 years ago, bringing energy and vitality to the entire region.  Supposedly, it lives for a thousand years and releases all of its remaining power at the end of its life to enrich everything around it.  Another story relates that 3000 years ago, another Pokémon which might have been Xerneas saved many people and Pokémon from a terrible war, before turning into a dried-up tree, which is still hidden somewhere in Kalos.  Hmm.  I’ve heard about this war; I think this is the same terrible war Lysandre’s ancestor was supposedly involved with – the one that still scars the history of Kalos even today…

Anistar City has one major attraction: the Anistar Sundial.  Not really a ‘sundial’ at all in the traditional sense of the word, this is a massive and exquisitely cut translucent pink crystal which (I think) tells the time by refracting sunlight onto a series of concentric golden rings.  According to the locals, no-one is sure how the thing was made, since it’s thousands of years old and even modern technology couldn’t cut such an enormous crystal so perfectly.  The whole set-up is on a platform which juts out over… the… sea…

…wait…

I pull out my town map.  Anistar City, which is surrounded on three sides by water, is nowhere near the ocean.

There’s something very strange about this city, and it makes me uneasy.  I’m heading for the Gym.  I deal quickly with Serena, who has added a Jolteon to her team and become much more powerful since our last fight, but is still lagging behind (and seems to be developing self-esteem issues), and enter the building.  It’s… empty.  It’s just a perfectly normal room, with a couple of sidetables, a fireplace, and two windows with long purple curtains.  In the centre is a large rug with a design of stars and circles.  No trainers.  No Gym Leader.  I slowly walk forward, looking around, and step onto the circular pattern on the rug… and the world explodes.  I give a started yelp as the room around me dissolves into nothing, and I find myself in space.  Walkways of light criss-cross in a three-layered sphere, with stars and comets flying past in the background.  One of the Psychic Pokémon trainers here tells me “don’t be distracted by your surroundings.”  “EASY FOR YOU TO SAY,” I screech back.  Not a moment too soon, I come to the centre of the sphere, where the Gym Leader, Olympia, is waiting.  Olympia is a strange, distant woman who wears a white cloak with a night sky pattern in its lining (or… it could be lined with the actual night sky, for all I know…), who speaks as though her mind is in a dream… but is perfectly wakeful while battling.  Her Sigilyph, protecting itself with Reflect and scoring a few opportune flinches with Air Slash, deals pretty heavy damage to my Malamar, Photia, before going down, leaving Olympia’s second Pokémon, a powerful Slowking, to finish her off.  I send in Orion the Lucario to start blasting away with Dragon Pulse, but Slowking boosts up with Calm Mind and blows away Orion’s mind with Psychic.  Finally, I bring out the big guns: Odysseus the Clawitzer.  Dark Pulse breaks through even Slowking’s boosted special defence.  Olympia’s final Pokemon, disappointingly, is a Meowstic; a high-level one, to be sure, but not nearly as powerful as a Sigilyph or a Slowking, and Odysseus makes short work of it.  Olympia rewards me with a Calm Mind TM, a golden badge in the shape of a curling wisp of smoke rising from a violet pearl (the Psychic Badge – awesome name there; really inventive, Olympia), and a prophecy: “Power that grants life awakens – voices of woe.  That is your future."  She then waves her hand and teleports me back to the entrance of the Gym.  I find myself back in the plain room.  I’m honestly not sure the Anistar Gym, its trainers, or Olympia even exist at all; my Pokémon and I may have hallucinated the entire experience… but the Psychic Badge is still in my hand, and that’s all I need.

Ridiculous quote log:

“Windmills rotate just like the wheels of destiny!  So Rotation Battles are like windmills!  Ah… I mean destiny!
You know what else rotates like the wheels of destiny?  You, strapped to a windmill.

“I hope I still have Pokémon when I grow up.  ‘Cause when I have kids, I want to trade Pokémon with them.”
That is some nice marketing there, Nintendo.  Real subtle.  There are now, of course, people who picked up Pokémon as children or teenagers and are now having kids of their own…

Fairy Tale

Laverre City, which is probably Amiens, is a town out of a storybook.  All quaint wooden cottages, surrounded by gargantuan fly amanita mushrooms and fields of pink flowers, clustered around a huge, ancient broadleaf tree, into which the town’s clock tower and Pokémon Gym are built.  Only two signs of encroaching modernity disrupt the picturesque scene: a modern Pokémon Centre with all the standard amenities, and an imposing industrial complex on the town’s northern outskirts: the factory that produces the entire Kalos region’s Pokéballs.  After a brief tour of Laverre City to give the inhabitants the opportunity to offer tribute to their new ruler (which yields another Mega Stone: Gengarite!) I go to inspect the Pokéball factory… and find its entrance guarded by a Team Flare grunt.  Despite my finest quips and most withering taunts, he refuses to budge, or even to engage me in battle.  Curses; how am I supposed to dispense vigilante justice effectively if I can’t actually attack people?  I decide to go with my usual standby in these situations and take out my frustrations on the Gym.

I’m… not exactly sure what I was expecting from the Laverre Gym, but certainly not this.  The Gym seems to be, quite simply, someone’s house: an extremely lavish home, with work rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom – all connected not by doors but by an old-school network of warp panels.  Some of the rooms are filled with sewing paraphernalia and supplies, and I quickly learn from the trainers that the Gym Leader, whose name is Valerie, is a clothing designer.  Strange that her extravagant creations don’t seem to be available in Laverre’s clothing store – I guess she works strictly for a higher class of clientele.  Laverre City’s Gym specialises, of course, in Fairy Pokémon, and they have a few new ones for me to meet: Slurpuff and Aromatisse, the evolved forms of Swirlix and Spritzee (whom I obtain for myself shortly afterwards by trading with Adam), and a key ring Pokémon called Klefki, who is a Fairy/Steel dual-type, and turns up on the next route for me to catch – I may as well talk about all these now.  Slurpuff is a remarkably silly-looking bipedal meringue with a supernaturally acute sense of smell; as little as I was expecting from Swirlix’s evolution, I actually find myself somewhat disappointed that Slurpuff isn’t more colourful – the pastel pinks are a bit boring, and I rather think that if you’re going to make a candy Pokémon anyway you should really push the boat out with it.  Aromatisse is… on some level a little disturbing.  I feel like Big Bird’s French cousin is trying to seduce me.  That is all.  Klefki is, I suppose, a neat little concept; he doesn’t seem to evolve, since he’s immediately followed in the Pokédex by Murkrow, but he does have Prankster, and just being a Steel-type is generally a plus, even if they’re not as powerful as they used to be.  I suppose he’ll live and die on his support movepool.

Once I’ve dealt with all of these, I manage to stumble through all the warp panels and reach Valerie’s room on the top floor of the Gym.  Valerie herself wears an extravagant winged costume, because she’s always wanted to be a Pokémon, and uses a lot of wind and flight imagery in her speech.  No word on whether the costume actually allows her to fly, but I suppose she should be allowed to indulge her fantasies.  Some of Valerie’s Gym trainers have been acting snooty about their Fairy-types’ vaunted immunity to Dragon attacks, so I decide to teach Valerie a lesson by opening with Pytho the Sliggoo against her Mawile, who doesn’t actually seem to have any Fairy attacks and consequently turns out to be easy prey.  Her next Pokémon, a Mr. Mime, proves much more irritating – Pytho actually does fairly well here, but Valerie keeps healing the damn thing, so I eventually have to switch her out and send in Odysseus.  By this time Mr. Mime has taken a pretty heavy accuracy penalty from Pytho’s Muddy Water attack and is in no shape to keep fighting for long, so he goes down quickly.  Finally, out comes Valerie’s signature Pokémon – a Sylveon, who knocks out poor Odysseus with a powerful Fairy attack called Dazzling Gleam.  Enough is enough, I decide, and throw in Ilex, who puts Sylveon to sleep, boosts up with Growth, and flattens her with Petal Dance.  In defeat, Valerie lapses into a sort of introspective trance, handing over with little comment the Fairy Badge (seriously?  It’s the first Fairy-type Gym in the history of the game and Fairy Badge was the best you could come up with?), a sliver of translucent pink agate in a gilded frame shaped like a pair of fairy wings with a brilliant opal in the centre, along with a TM whose contents she has forgotten (it turns out, upon inspection, to be Dazzling Gleam, which no-one in my party can learn).  She starts murmuring to herself about her connection with her Pokémon, so I leave her to it and go to check out the Pokéball factory again.

It seems my rivals have had the same idea.  Shauna and Trevor have been refused entry to the factory and are fleeing from the incensed Team Flare guard, while Tierno is running around like a headless chicken, as he is wont to do – but the door us now unattended, so Serena suggests we take the opportunity to break in.  At first I was rather excited to be seeing the inside of a Pokéball factory – I hoped I might learn something about how Pokéballs function, or at least get a bit of ethical philosophy fodder, but in that respect it’s a bit of a bust really.  All I see are conveyor belts leading to and from parts unknown.  I do manage to elicit a plaintive “if Pokéballs are stolen by Team Flare, we can’t become friends with Pokémon…” from one of the captive workers, which is an interesting sentiment (considering that Pokéballs are pretty modern things and people have been working with Pokémon for millennia), but hardly a novel one.  Quickly growing bored, Serena and I plough through the Team Flare grunts and confront their admin, a woman this time, though wearing a similar horrendous outfit to her male counterpart, in the president’s office.  I have Odysseus stomp her two Pokémon, a Scraggy and a Houndoom, as quickly as possible.  With the admin are two other women who claim, like Aliana, to be scientists – one, Bryony, has bright green hair and wears green glasses with some sort of digital HUD, while the other, Celosia, has purple hair and a heavy visor like Aliana’s, though a little sleeker (interesting that there seems to be an alphabet motif going on with their names here – not unlike the names of the games themselves).  Again like Aliana, they appear to be both the brains and the brawn of the operation, and I’m not entirely sure whether they rank higher or lower than the admin they accompany.  The scientists summon a Manectric and a Liepard, which Serena and I face with my Malamar, Photia, and her Meowstic.  Liepard is initially a danger to Meowstic, but once both of them have been confused with Swagger, things quickly become fairly simple.  Celosia, Bryony and the admin give up and flee with their underlings, and the grateful president gives me and Serena a big nugget and a Master Ball each.  A news report on the Holo Caster soon confirms that Team Flare’s actions are unlikely to disrupt supplies of Pokéballs to the Kalos region.  Wait- this thing gets the news?  What is it actually even for?

That seems to be all there is to Laverre City for now, so I pack up and move on towards the next city, Dendemille Town.  Along the way I pick up Klefki, whom I’ve already talked about, Watchog, Mightyena, Pawniard, Murkrow, Lombre, Floatzel, Basculin and Poliwhirl, learn a dangerous forbidden roller skating trick from an elderly gentleman who leads an underground street gang in a burned out hotel (you know, a usual day), grab a Litwick, an Electrode and a Magneton… and receive another Holo Caster message from Lysandre, who wants to shoot the breeze about Mega Evolution.  Lysandre says that, according to Professor Sycamore’s research, Mega Evolution is a massive release of hidden energy, and wonders “do all people and Pokémon have such potential, or is it hidden only within a chosen few?”  Wait- people?  Is… is he suggesting that if I find a lump of, like, Humanite and give my Digivice to Pan, I’ll turn into a wizard or something?  Because I could work with that.

In other news, I am going home for Christmas – and since I live about as far from home as I can get while still being on the same planet, this means spending most of a day on a plane.  This will probably delay my progress a bit.  Just so you know.

Ridiculous quote log:

“A Dusk Ball makes every battle sunny!  Don’t you agree?
Um… no?

“Pokéballs are round!  The world is also round!”
Are you suggesting some sort of connection here?
“Win or lose, Pokéballs remain round!”
Yours won’t for long if you keep yakking.

Tower of Glass

Finally, I am permitted entrance into the northern regions of Lumiose City – where I am immediately met by Shauna.  Good lord, the city’s only been open for a few hours and she’s already in here; this girl is the most dedicated tourist I’ve ever met.  According to Shauna, now that the power is back on, Lumiose City is going to light up the Eiffel Tow- uh, I mean, the Prism Tower, the great spire at the city’s centre, and she just can’t wait to get a look.  Sure, whatever.  I wander down the axial road at a leisurely pace, checking out what the city has to offer as I go.  Pretty standard stuff; homes, a second Pokémon Centre, a café owned by Lysandre where members of Team Flare have “lively debates about how to make a better tomorrow”… you know, nothing suspicious or anything like that.  We reach the Prism Tower just as it is about to be lit up, by two of Shauna’s friends – a little girl named Bonnie and her bespectacled older brother Clemont, Lumiose City’s Gym Leader, master Electric Pokémon trainer, and either the best or the worst inventor in all of Kalos, depending on whom you ask (I gather he’s something of an accident-prone mad genius type).  Now that power has been restored, Clemont can light up the tower once more – and, without further ceremony, does so.  Lumiose City’s Pokémon Gym is the Prism Tower itself, and with the restoration of power, it’s now open for business… but I want to check out the rest of this city.  Clemont can wait.  It’s time to explore the City of Light!

The largest city in the Pokémon world, dwarfing even Castelia City in Unova, Lumiose City is clearly a metropolis that was planned from the ground up.  The city is structured around four main axial roads, named for the four seasons – Vernal, Estival, Autumnal, and Hibernal – and two more following the river on which the city sits.  All six converge at the Prism Tower in Centrico Plaza.  Five smaller plazas, centred on brightly coloured obelisks (red, yellow, green, blue, and purple), are spaced between the axial roads, and the whole thing is bound together by a great ring road, divided into two sections known as the North Boulevard and the South Boulevard.  It probably seems like I’m making an unnecessarily big deal of this, but the fact that Lumiose has such an orderly layout is interesting to me.  Cities don’t grow organically like this; you see this degree of neatness in the big East Coast US cities like New York and Boston (or, for example, in Roman colonies) because those cities were planned from the ground up.  If you look at a street map of downtown Paris… well, it’s not quite so meticulous, because Paris is a city that grew up quite gradually.  There is a degree of order to it, though, largely as a result of the extensive renovations conducted by Baron Haussmann in the 19th century at the instigation of Napoleon III (the Prism Tower is a very modern building, so any similar remodelling of Lumiose City probably happened much more recently).  Downtown Paris actually does have a ring of major boulevards (well, calling it a ring is perhaps a little charitable, but it’s vaguely circular), cut more or less through the middle by the River Seine and the Champs-Élysées, the so-called ‘most beautiful street in the world,’ and site of the Arc de Triomph.  The Eiffel Tower’s not at the centre of any of this, though – it’s actually quite close to the edge of this notional ring I’m imagining (the Eiffel Tower, incidentally, is far from the only or even the best of Paris’ attractions).  The fact that Lumiose City’s Prism Tower is at the centre – well, in all honesty it’s probably a reflection of how foreigners tend to imagine Paris more than anything else, but I think that from an in-universe perspective you can say some interesting things here.  Think about it.  The Prism Tower is 1) the centre of Lumiose City’s street layout and the landmark you can look to anywhere in the city to orient yourself, 2) a monument to light, creativity and hope, and 3) the city’s Pokémon Gym.  Pokémon, and the relationship between Pokémon and humans, are metaphorically cast as the source of order, goodness and inspiration in their society, which I think is a tremendously powerful ideological statement.

…okay, I’m done geeking out.  For now.

The first thing I learn about Lumiose City is that its inhabitants are completely insane (see this entry’s ridiculous quote log for documentary proof of this claim).  To their credit, though, they have some damn fine attractions.  I visit a Pokéball Boutique that stocks every kind of specialty Pokéball imaginable (they even have a Master Ball in their display case, though they don’t seem inclined to sell it), a shop that sells gourmet Berry Juice to delight and invigorate Pokémon, the outrageously expensive boutique that formerly rejected me for my lack of style, a train station modelled on the real Paris’ Gare du Nord (an architectural attraction in itself), a three-star restaurant that will only serve customers “on a par with the champion” (…interesting business model there), a slightly saner two-star restaurant with some decidedly curious menu options (to their credit, even one Michelin Star is a pretty high accolade in the fine dining scene), and a dozen different cafés (the café, incidentally, seems to be the basic unit of social organisation in Lumiose City).  I also meet a couple of Pokémon that look like floating pumpkins, although I don’t yet know what they’re called, or really anything else about them – Ghost/Grass-types, maybe? – and drop in on Lumiose Press, where Alexa, the journalist sister of the Santalune Gym Leader Viola, works.  Apparently their editor-in-chief is off in the mountains searching for a mythical Pokémon… curious.  The Lumiose Art Museum, much as I normally enjoy this kind of extraneous cultural detail, fell a little flat for me; the enduring message I was left with is that Kalosian art has an overwhelming fondness for landscapes.  At some point, as a result of battling random trainers in the city, my new Clauncher, Odysseus, reaches level 37 and evolves into a Clawitzer (which is pretty much the most badass Pokémon name since Octillery), his one big claw growing even further into an enormous jaw-like claw-zooka twice the size of the rest of his body.  I fell in love instantly.

Well, that’s enough sightseeing – time to conquer the physical and spiritual heart of the city!

The Prism Tower is a quiz Gym, not unlike Fantina’s Hearthome Gym in Sinnoh.  Correctly identify silhouettes of Pokémon, not a particularly arduous task, and you can progress up the floors of the tower, fighting trainers along the way.  Not in itself objectionable, but Bonnie has constructed this ridiculously tacky neon-studded game-show set-up with herself as announcer – really, this is the interior of Kalos’ most iconic monument?  Shame on them.  I mean, all right, it’s thematic; Electric Pokémon trainers like bright flashing lights, but Electric specialists are a bunch of pretentious glitterati who wouldn’t know culture if it attached a pair of jumper leads to their nipples.  While I’m not battling or studying the Pokémon silhouettes, I devote as much time as possible to giving Bonnie a continuous vitriolic death glare, but sadly she pays little attention, too wrapped up in her own self-aggrandisement.  Eventually I make it through the game show to the top of the tower, where Clemont is waiting.  A mad inventor from head to toe, Clemont doesn’t even throw his Pokéballs by hand – he has a mechanical arm that extends from his backpack to do that.  I make a couple of missteps in this battle, opening with my Venusaur, Ilex, hoping to make use of his resistance to electricity, and run straight into an Emolga.  Thanks to Sleep Powder, Ilex still wins, but takes a hit from Aerial Ace and is in no shape to beat Clemont’s next Pokémon, a Magneton.  I then try Tereus the Talonflame, aiming to melt Clemont’s Magneton to slag, but his Fire powers just aren’t all that impressive, and Magneton survives to nail him with a Thunderbolt.  At this point I start to feel things are getting a bit embarrassing and send in Orion the Lucario to murder Magneton.  Clemont’s partner Pokémon is a Heliolisk, a bipedal lizard that clearly seems to be the evolved form of Helioptile.  Presumably it is, like Helioptile, still a Normal-type, because the poor thing goes down to Orion’s Power-up Punch without even a chance to counterattack.  Clemont graciously admits defeat and hands over a Thunderbolt TM and a copy of his insignia, the Voltage Badge, a starburst of six golden thunderbolts set over an inverted triangle of amber.  Bonnie, true to form, interrupts to tell me the specs for the TM, irritating Clemont, who evidently has to spend quite a lot of his time talking over her.  I leave them to their bickering, silently imagining the new and far superior tower I will construct here instead when I rule Kalos.  Maybe a sort of ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’-type deal, except that all of the plants can kill you if you look at them in the wrong tone of voice on a Thursday.

The moment I leave the Prism Tower, I receive a call from Professor Sycamore on my Holo-Caster.  He wants me to meet him… at the nearby Lysandre Café.

Ridiculous quote log:

“A round thing is round from every direction, like the Pokémon Voltorb.  Thus, it has the ultimate beauty.”
…I’m sorry, random Lumiose child, did you just imply that Voltorb and Electrode represent the absolute pinnacle of Pokémon beauty?  Uh… whatever floats your boat, I guess.

“This sprightly Pecha pâté has been likened to a Madame masquerading as a maiden.”
You mean it’s old and dusty but its blemishes are smothered with makeup?   Sounds… appetising.

“…a braciole of fresh, Azure Bay Slowpoke Tail. It’s accompanied by Payapa Berry crudités glazed in an extra-virgin Oran oil and has been described as the gastronomical equivalent of a Gastly glaring at a Hex Maniac.”
Look.  Dude.  It’s your restaurant and I’m not going to tell you how to run it, but I strongly suggest you shoot the guy who writes your menu, because I do not want the “gastronomical equivalent of a Gastly glaring at a Hex Maniac” coursing through my digestive system.

“Simply biting into this blue cheese will give off an odour so foul, your nose hairs will burn.”
…I wonder if I could teach a Pokémon an attack like that.

“I live today for the thrill of trying to win the Loto-ID again tomorrow!”
Listen, kid, I’ve never said this to an 8-year old before, so don’t take this lightly: I think you have a serious gambling problem.

Gulp! “I-I-I wasn’t trying to drink out of the vase or anything!  You saw nothing!”
Well, room service chick, at least you’re still sane enough to try and hide the crazy; that’s more than I can say for most of this town.

“I recently moved here from a very rural part of Unova.  I feel so lost here.  I don’t even know what this building is for!”
But… you’re… the receptionist… how can you-?  Did you just wander into the building and start acting like you work here?

“Y’know, my Emolga really wants to shock your Dedenne.”
…wait, was that some kind of innuendo?

Transcendence

Shalour City at last.  It’s high time I got some answers.

Tower of Mastery

A fairly typical medium-sized Kalosian town on the region’s north coast, Shalour City is dominated by the Tower of Mastery, a monumental walled keep that sits a little way out into the harbour, connected to land by a sand bar.  Part fortress, part observatory, part cathedral, the tower’s asymmetric design hints at a long, storied history and decades, perhaps even centuries, of construction.  It is, without a doubt, the most beautiful thing I have seen on my journey so far.  Staring at the tower, I almost forget what I’m really here for: learning about Mega Evolution and getting revenge on Korrina for slighting me.  According to Trevor and Tierno, who catch up with me in Shalour City, the tower is home to someone known as the Mega Evolution Guru, who should be able to help us.  Tierno also has a gift for me: an ‘intriguing stone,’ a strange round gem with bands of softly blended blue, purple, red and orange.  Tierno wants me to have this because I’m clearly a far stronger trainer than him – good; my inferiors should know their place.  He thinks it’s a Mega Stone, but it doesn’t look like the two Mega Stones I have already.  If anything it reminds me of a piece of Soul Dew, but the colours are much warmer.  I suppose I’ll find out what it does later.

Continue reading “Transcendence”

All that Glitters

A deep, dark cave filled with beautiful blue and green crystal formations, the Glittering Cave is a treacherous place – you move through it in a first-person perspective, so you can only see what’s right in front of you, making it a lot more difficult to keep track of exactly where you are (luckily, the tunnel systems aren’t that complicated, but this could get tricky if a similar perspective is deployed for, say, Victory Road…). 

Continue reading “All that Glitters”

White 2 Playthrough Journal, episode 21: Deep blue sea

In comparison to the last six Gyms we’ve visited, the Humilau City Gym is an extremely laid-back place.  No one tries to blow me through a wall… or crush me between two giant statues… or wrap me in a silken coffin.  Jim and I are permitted to drift gracefully and calmly across Marlon’s huge indoor swimming pool, borne on huge lilypads, our reverie broken only by such trainers as we deign to battle.  If nothing else, Marlon at least knows how to treat his challengers with a bit of good, honest respect.  I quickly find, unsurprisingly, that my Sawsbuck, Bran, is going to be the star of this show, with a little backup from my Ampharos, Sansa.  Jim, likewise, has Ulfric the Serperior and his own Ampharos, Elisif, to cut a swath through the Gym.  Although they are admittedly quite strong, the Gym trainers fall very quickly to our onslaught of super-effective attacks.  We barely break a sweat on our way to Marlon.  He battles me first.  Bran, unsurprisingly, crushes the Carracosta Marlon opens with, and goes on to heal himself almost effortlessly by draining the great sack of HP that is Marlon’s Wailord with his Horn Leech.  Marlon’s partner Pokémon, Jellicent, proves to be made of sterner stuff, and I am forced to recall Bran when his Horn Leech attack is locked down by Cursed Body.  Now weakened, though, Jellicent is no match for Sansa’s Discharge.  Marlon congratulates me and hands over my Wave Badge before turning to Jim and saying that his Pokémon need time to “chill” before another match, “fo’ reals.”  How long?  Oh, a couple of days, maybe a week.  Apparently it is not proper for one to “rush the chillaxation, yo’,” as it is an important part of Marlon’s training regimen.  Or something.  Jim groans with exasperation, produces a bag of Revive crystals and Hyper Potions, and patches up Marlon’s three Pokémon before demanding a battle.  Marlon says something about “keepin’ it fo’ reezy” or… oh, who am I kidding?  I’d long since stopped paying attention by this point.  I settle down on a lilypad to watch Jim’s battle, which is even more of a walkover than mine was, Ulfric’s Coil technique boosting the power of his Leaf Blade to obscene levels and giving Marlon’s Water Pokémon no chance to respond.  Once defeated a second time, Marlon promptly backflips into the water and swims out of the Gym, presumably to go and ‘chill’ somewhere.

Hugh is delighted that we have earned our Wave Badges – only now, apparently, can we get on with our urgent business.  He dispatches me and Jim to check out route 22, west of Humilau City (which Jim, of course, never quite got around to) while he sweeps the southern areas.  At this point, Marlon shows up with an interjection.  He’s certainly easy enough to find when he wants to interfere… Marlon, unlike every other Gym Leader in the region, not only hasn’t even heard of Team Plasma but has no opinion on their actions one way or the other, because “the ocean accepts all rivers, brah.”  Jim points out, somewhat indignantly, that Team Plasma’s past actions, and indeed their entire raison d’être, are pretty much the exact antithesis of the philosophy Marlon seems to be pushing here.  The Gym Leader is unconcerned, and wanders off to return to whatever vaguely-specified activity he had been busy with earlier.

Jim and I head for route 22, a wilderness area with paths so convoluted it could hardly be more confusing if it had been designed as a maze.  We find no sign of Team Plasma as we search the area.  If their ship was here, it’s gone now.  I doubt it could have landed anyway; the terrain is so uneven that it would be just about impossible.  Just as we are about to give up and go back to Humilau City, though, we find something much more interesting: the legendary Pokémon Terrakion, waiting for us on a plateau.  Images flash inside my head: Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion, together, a blade crashing down on the heads of our enemies.

“What are you waiting for?  Catch it.”

Colress is standing behind us.  He explains that, as far as he can tell, Terrakion wants to fight Team Plasma alongside Cobalion and Virizion, and is here to test us to see if we deserve his assistance.  I shrug and call out Jaime, my Samurott.  If this big ugly git wants a swordfight, we’ll give him one.  Terrakion has centuries of experience on Jaime, but Water-beats-Rock is a truism as old as the ocean itself.  Jaime’s Razor Shell brings Terrakion to his knees, and a barrage of Ultra Balls seals his fate.  I turn back to Jim and Colress.  Colress applauds enthusiastically, and declares that he has a reward for us – a prototype of the machine he used outside of Castelia City to awaken the Crustle blockade.  He hands me a small remote with a big green button on it, beaming proudly.  It has not been proven to have any effect at all on Pokémon in battle, Colress notes, but he’s sure I’ll find some use for it.  I am about to fire off a snarky comment, but remember the suspicious square boulder in the Seaside Cave, and thank Colress for his gift.  Satisfied, he departs, leaving me and Jim to our business.  I tell Jim to stay on Route 22 and do one more sweep of the area while I check out the Seaside Cave.  Were this any other game, it would probably be nothing, but since this is Pokémon and Nintendo we’re dealing with, there is an extremely high likelihood that the square boulder is a Crustle, and that it is sitting exactly where we need to be.

When I reach the Seaside Cave, I retrace my steps and find the east exit where the great sandstone boulder is still waiting patiently to be cleared.  I squint at the remote Colress gave me.  He provided no instructions, but the interface seems simple enough: push the big green button.  With a dramatic flourish, I point the remote at the boulder and press it.  The remote begins to emit a hum, which quickly rises to a high-pitched whine.  Nothing happens to the rock.  The remote then starts sparking and giving off choking black smoke, which prompts me to drop it.  It hits the ground and quietly explodes.  I bend over and peer at the remote’s remains, raising an eyebrow.  My confidence in Colress’ technology has taken a serious hit.  Suddenly, though, I feel the ground tremble ever so slightly.  I look up to see the huge Crustle slowly, tortuously getting to its feet.  It chitters to itself gently before waddling away.  The way is now open.  I silently question whether the remote did anything or the Crustle simply woke up on its own, but decide it doesn’t matter.  Now that I can get through the cave exit, I can clearly see the Team Plasma frigate sitting calmly in the water just off the beach.  I punch Jim’s number into my X-Transceiver and tell him to get down here, then step out of the cave to take a closer look.  The first thing I notice is that, this time, the ship’s occupants have remembered to pull up the gangplank.  Hmm.  Well, I suppose I could just Dragon Pulse my way in.  This ain’t my ship, what do I care?  Then again, that would attract a lot of attention, and I should probably at least try to- wait, no, I don’t give a $#!^ who sees me; I’m Princess Motherf#$%ing Leia, I’m taking these morons down, and I don’t care who knows.  Dragon Pulse it is.

As I deliberate on the problem, Marlon backflips out of the water and greets me.  I give him a sarcastic “sup, yo.”  Marlon is here, apparently, to repeat what he told me and Jim back in Humilau City – that, like him, I need to be open and accepting of all peoples and creeds, which is why he doesn’t want to fight Team Plasma.  After all, they’re probably perfectly nice guys, deep down.  I tap my foot on the sand, waiting for him to get to the point.  On the other hand, Marlon continues, I clearly need a hand here, so he’s just going to help me out a little bit and then be on his way.  He leaps back into the water, swims back out to the ship, does some sort of spider-climb up its side, hops over onto the deck, slides out the gangplank, and flips back over the side into the water.  He gives me a jaunty wave, tells me to “keep it real, yo” and swims off.

Y’know, Marlon, there’s a difference between a philosophical commitment to balance and neutrality, and plain old indecisiveness.  What you are doing is definitely the latter.  Thanks for the assist though.

Anyway.  Jaime, Sansa, Tyrion, Barristan, Daenerys, Bran… come on out, everyone.  Time to storm this b!tch.

White 2 Playthrough Journal, episode 19: Draco dormiens numquam titillandus

We stare, unblinking, at Virizion’s scarlet eyes.  Virizion lowers his head and trills softly, keeping his eyes fixed on us.  He paws the ground and gives a strange, high-pitched yelp.  A flood of images fills my mind – Cobalion, Virizion, Terrakion, separately, then together, Cobalion again, alone, an Ultra Ball, our battle with Cobalion, the Ultra Ball again.  Give him back.  Wait, what?  I lean over towards Jim and whisper in his ear.

“D’you think it’s mad?”

Virizion yelps again and takes off towards us, his hooves beating the ground like war-drums.  We draw Pokéballs from our belts and dive out of the way.  I call out my Vibrava, Daenerys, and Jim calls on Falk, his Magmar.  Virizion pulls to a stop just in front of our Pokémon and attempts to disembowel them with a rapid series of impossibly graceful Sacred Sword attacks before fixing a mighty Giga Drain on Falk.  As Falk attempts to beat Virizion back with a stream of skilfully blocked Flamethrowers, I quietly gesture to Daenerys to take to the skies.  Climbing high into the air, she nails Virizion with a dive-bomb Dragonbreath, breaking his concentration long enough for Falk to join in with an especially peppery Flamethrower.  With a triumphant screech, Daenerys explodes with light and evolves into a Flygon.  She and Falk are quickly able to subdue Virizion, who meekly submits to capture.

The musketeers have, truth be told, been rather anticlimactic so far.  I initially took Cobalion’s presence to mean that the trio had some part to play in the chaos to come; they were once, after all, some of the most explosive opponents of human interference in the world of Pokémon, and really ought to have jumped at the chance to join the main conflict of Black and White.  They never did, though, and it looks like they have no particular plans to do anything about the current conflict either, other than present themselves to us in a faintly accusatory fashion and give us the opportunity to conscript them.  This, I think, is really a shame because there’s a lot of potential for Cobalion, Virizion and Terrakion to get involved in a story like this in a way that resonates with their backstories and helps players to think more about the overarching themes of the plot into the bargain.  Hmm.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

With Virizion satisfactorily defeated, we are free to move into Opelucid City, a strange town at war with itself, half clinging to the past as half embraces the future.  We are greeted as we enter by Iris, whom we met back in Castelia City.  Iris is spectacularly unhelpful, as usual, but does encourage us to visit the Opelucid Gym and challenge the leader, Drayden, which- hmm.  Hang on.  That means Iris is no longer the Gym Leader on either Black 2 or White 2.  Hmm.  Either she was fired by the Pokémon League for her massive incompetence and lack of commitment, or… something more sinister.

Eh.  Whatever.  I’m sure she’ll reveal her new purpose in time.

Like all the Gyms of Unova, we find that the Opelucid Gym has been redesigned.  Its two great dragon statues are still there, but now one rears up, almost vertical, at the back of the Gym, with trainers waiting on its arms and Drayden watching over all from atop its head.  The other dragon statue cowers meekly at the base of the first.  We consult Clyde the Guide for advice on scaling the first statue to reach Drayden, and he explains that we need to stand on the other dragon’s head and ride it as it rears up and violently smashes its face into the first dragon’s limbs, one at a time, fighting the trainers waiting on each limb.  I raise an eyebrow and ask him, as tactfully as possible, whether he is completely insane and why he is trying to get us killed.  Clyde tells us that these are Drayden’s orders, and he can only follow them like the loyal servant he is.  I shake my head and stride over to the base of the rearing dragon statue and begin shouting obscenities up at Drayden.  I narrate in some detail my nauseating Virbank Gym challenge, my nightmare-inducing experience in the Castelia Gym, and my recent hair-raising battles in the wind tunnel Skyla sees fit to call the Mistralton Gym, peppering it all with my most creative expletives.  I am preparing to embark upon a comprehensive description of all the Pokémon with whom Drayden’s mother must have been intimate in order to produce him, when I realise that he can’t actually hear me up there and slump, defeated, on the floor of the Gym.  Seconds later, I hear a long, warbling cry and see a streak of white as Jim’s Swanna, Lydia, carries him up alongside the dragon statue towards the head.

“Oh,” I mutter.

By the time I have recovered from my extensive rant, gotten over my sheepishness, and summoned Daenerys to carry me to the uppermost levels of the building, Jim has already defeated Drayden’s powerful Dragon-types and is waiting for me to give it a try myself.  Drayden gives me his customary gruff but encouraging Gym Leader greeting.  I respond with a flood of insults so rapid and slurred that even I can barely make out what I’m saying.  Drayden, to his credit, merely blinks twice at my barrage of abuse before summoning his Druddigon.  I decide that since Daenerys is already out I may as well start with her and her new Dragon Claw attack.  Dragon vs. Dragon is always a quick but dramatic affair.  Daenerys and Druddigon clash a few times, their teeth and clays flashing and sparking with pure overflowing life force.  Before long, Druddigon is crouched in submission on the ground, wounds shimmering with lingering energy, and Daenerys isn’t faring much better.  I switch her out as Drayden brings in his own Flygon, replacing her with my battle-ready Samurott, Jaime.  Jaime slashes away happily with his seamitars (this, I have only recently learned, is what Dewott’s scalchops become when he evolves, ‘seamitars’), delivering punishing Razor Shell attacks until Flygon drops in defeat.  Drayden has saved his best for last – Haxorus – but so have I.  My Arcanine, Barristan, is itching for a chance to try out his new Dragon Pulse attack, and even Haxorus’ enormous power loses some of its lustre after an Intimidate.  It’s a close thing – it always is with Haxorus – but of course I prevail.  Was there ever a doubt?  Drayden, gracious in defeat, hands me my Legend Badge.  I thank him by asserting, in mumbled tones, that he is of a fellow of loose virtue.  Jim, remembering what we came here for, asks Drayden whether he can tell us anything about the legendary Pokémon.  Surprised, but happy to help, Drayden leads us out of the Gym and takes us to his home.

Most of what Drayden has to tell us is stuff we’ve heard before anyway.  He relates the old story of Reshiram, Zekrom, the legendary heroes, their more modern counterparts, and their involvement in the Team Plasma crisis two years earlier.  He laments the conflict that exists between Reshiram and Zekrom, explaining that there’s really no reason for truth and ideals to be in opposition – it’s all the fault of the heroes whose fighting caused Reshiram and Zekrom, once a single Dragon Pokémon, to split.  He’s not sure how Kyurem, the third dragon, fits into the grand scheme of things, but he thinks it’s just as old as the other two, based on Professor Juniper’s studies on an ancient treasure kept by his family: the… DNA Splicers?  That’s what they’re called?  You’re really going with that?  Only that seems to imply a fairly detailed understanding of what these things do, informed more by modern science than by legend and myth, which must mean- oh, whatever.  Drayden speculates a little more about Kyurem’s nature, wondering if it could be just an empty husk left behind by the separation of Reshiram and Zekrom (this, you may remember, was a popular fan theory when Black and White were released).  I am broadly happy to accept Drayden’s speculation for now.  It seems to match much of what we already knew, and his regret over the conflict between the black and white dragons at least addresses my niggling irritation that these two supposed opposites are actually completely alike (even if it doesn’t really fix it).  Our reverie is broken by a series of loud explosions from outside.  Drayden, Jim and I rush outside to see-

Ah.  Yes.  Team Plasma’s battleship can fly.  Of course it can.  Wonderful.

Frowning, I send Daenerys into the air to blast a hole in its side.  Enough is enough.  Jim observes that shooting the ship down over a populated area might not be the best idea.  I take note of his objection and command Daenerys to press on.  To my surprise, when she draws near the ship a massive cannon emerges from the hull and knocks her out of the sky with a freezing bolt of energy.  The ship turns its cannon on Opelucid City, pelting the town with blasts of cold and creating huge spires of magical ice.  Once most of the city is frozen over, Zinzolin and some of his minions emerge from the ship.  Zinzolin approaches us to gloat, revelling in his own shivering discomfort as proof that he is alive.  This man really does fascinate me; he has just the right balance of erudition and sociopathy to be a perfect partner in my own schemes for world domination.  I express my delight at seeing him again and renew my offer of a partnership between us once all this Team Plasma nonsense has blown over.  Zinzolin gratefully acknowledges my interest, but points out that we both have business to attend to.  He wants the DNA Splicers.  Drayden, naturally, has hidden them and is not keen to give them up.  Zinzolin deploys his grunts and orders them to search the city.  Time for a good old-fashioned punch-up, I guess…