[Asks: Asks: Asks: Asks:] asks:

How do you feel about the lack of single type Flying pokemon? I’ve always felt it was odd that there is only one pure Flying type.

I tend to think Game Freak’s notion of what the Flying type actually is has changed quite a bit since generation I, perhaps to the extent that no one has ever quite known what it’s supposed to be.  All the generation I Flying-type attacks are bird-themed – Wing Attack, Drill Peck, Sky Attack (in Japanese, Goddo Bādo, a transliteration of the English “God Bird”) – which makes sense, since we have reason to suspect, on the basis of MissingNo and other bits of stray game data from Red and Blue, that it was originally called the “Bird type.” This, of course, is why Flying is strong against Bug.  Gust was a Normal-type attack originally, and Whirlwind still is.

Continue reading “[Asks: Asks: Asks: Asks:] asks:”

Noibat and Noivern

Noibat.

What would Pokémon be without bats?

Well, at the moment I’m picturing a pristine world of peace and harmony where everything is sweetness and light and nothing painful ever happens, but maybe it’s just a tiny bit unfair to blame all the world’s economic, social, military and ideological strife on Zubat.  Only a tiny bit, mind you.  Like it or (more likely) not, Zubat and Golbat have been fixtures of the Pokémon games since the beginning, their combination of high speed, confusion-inducing attacks making them incredibly and infuriatingly effective at harassing Pokémon trainers travelling through caves.  They appeared in practically every cave of every Pokémon game up until Black and White, when Game Freak were so traumatised by their absence that they had to create Woobat and Swoobat to keep us from suffocating in the horror of a batless existence.  In Kalos, the Pokémon region with by far the greatest biodiversity we’ve yet seen, Zubat and Woobat are both back – there’s no need for a Pokémon to fill their role as bloodsucking nuisances.  Maybe this made Game Freak excited about the possibility of a designing a bat who’s not an awful blight on the world, because they went and gave us Noibat and Noivern – giant dragon-bats with a mean streak a mile wide and a voice like dynamite in a thunderstorm.  That’s a new one.

Admittedly, bats with sonic powers is… not exactly a fresh idea, although in fairness it’s something of an obvious and logical route to take, and whereas Zubat and Woobat mainly have sonic powers as a form of navigation like real bats do, Noibat and Noivern weaponise it – fittingly enough, seeing as they belong to the Dragon type, the element of unbridled destructive power.  Sound can do surprisingly nasty things to physical objects if its frequency matches the ‘natural’ or ‘resonance’ frequency of the system it’s acting on; vibrations induced by the sound stack up with natural vibrations in the material, storing more and more energy until something ridiculous happens – we’ve all heard of singers who can shatter wine glasses by wailing at precisely the right pitch (the same pitch produced by the glass itself when struck).  The somewhat more sobering equivalent is the violent shaking or even total collapse of huge bridges and towers (most famously the first Tacoma Narrows bridge in the northwest United States) due to resonance created by wind, the engines of vehicles, or even (in one particularly memorable case in downtown Seoul) a group of seventeen middle-aged Koreans performing aerobics to the rhythm of 1990 Eurodance hit The Power – which is my private imagining of what Noivern and Exploud’s Boomburst technique sounds like, and now yours too.  Making effective use of such attacks to, for instance, pulverise boulders implies that Pokémon with sonic attacks, including Noivern, possess not only extremely loud voices but also tremendous range and flexibility – destructive, but also finely tuned and precise.  This is exactly what Noivern is; the Pokédex describes her as an opportunistic ambush hunter, swooping down from the night sky to snatch up and carry off the unwary.  With no need for light to see by, Noivern can move and hunt in total darkness – this is a frightening Pokémon.  Noibat, by contrast, is more than a little on the derpy side, and more interested in defending herself with nauseating ultrasonic pulses than in blowing apart rocks with resonant sound waves or stalking unsuspecting prey as a lethal hunter of the night.  Are we surprised, though?  A traditional trait of Dragon-types is their tendency to be less-than-inspiring in their infancy, and then transform dramatically when they evolve.  Noibat is phenomenally useless, with a base stat total just barely higher than Combee’s, and she stays that way until as high as level 48, when she abruptly becomes the unholy terror that is Noivern.  It’s not quite a Magikarp-to-Gyarados metamorphosis, but it’s a pretty impressive change, and entirely in keeping with what we should expect.

 A typical heraldic wyvern.

To continue with what makes these Pokémon dragons, the name Noivern, which keeps the –vern ending through Japanese, English and French, seems pretty clearly meant to reference the word ‘wyvern.’  This is a term for a dragon-like creature whose exact shape and powers vary, though it’s used most often and most consistently in heraldry, and the common thread seems to be that wyverns have serpentine lower bodies and only two legs, while dragons tend to have four (they also tend to have spiked or barbed tails not unlike Noivern’s, though western heraldic dragons regularly have these too).  Significantly, Noivern is the only winged Dragon Pokémon apart from Altaria with only two other limbs – the others (Dragonite, Flygon, and so on) have both arms and legs as well as wings, but Noivern’s wings are arms, like a real bat’s.  It makes sense – although the typical depiction leaves much to be desired from an anatomical standpoint, the leathery wings seen on most modern European dragons are commonly described as ‘bat-like,’ and it’s hard to imagine what else could have been the original inspiration for wings in that style (illustrated Mediaeval bestiaries actually seem to have no shortage of dragons with feathery birds’ wings as well, but the leathery ‘bat-like’ style is common too).  In a way, Noivern brings that full circle.  It’s probably no coincidence that she is, at present, the only Flying dual-type in the game who’s listed as Flying first and something else second – mechanically it makes no difference how a Pokémon’s types are ordered, but it sometimes seems like Game Freak intend to place emphasis on the primary type; consider Aggron (Steel/Rock) and Bastiodon (Rock/Steel), for instance.  This follows on from Tornadus, the first straight Flying-type, in generation V, and might indicate that they’re still putting serious thought into what they think Flying should be and how they want to treat it as a type.  For Noivern, the implication seems to be that they want the emphasis of the design to be on her “flying animal” elements rather than her “mythical reptile” elements – she’s a bat with draconic features, not a bat-like dragon.  Comparisons to pterosaurs are perhaps inevitable, though it’s hard to say whether any resemblance is intentional – take a bat and add reptilian features, and you’re bound to get something that recalls popular depictions of real winged reptiles.  It certainly adds another layer of badass to what’s going on here, though.

Noivern is built for speed.  She enjoys a cool little niche as the fastest Dragon Pokémon in the game by a significant margin, leaving even the Eon Twins in the dust – a niche that she pays for by having less raw strength than most of the other top-tier Dragons.  With a special attack score that’s good, but not brilliant, Noivern needs to rely on powerful techniques to make up the shortfall.  Luckily, she’s a Dragon-type, and Dragon-types, by definition, get to learn Pokémon’s great kill-it-now button, Draco Meteor.  Hurricane doesn’t hurt either, although its accuracy leaves much to be desired unless you’re using Noivern on a rain team – likewise Focus Blast (which can’t even get help from the weather).  Another helpful option is Noivern’s almost-signature move (she shares it with Exploud, Chatot and, for some reason, Swellow), Boomburst, a catastrophic blast of sound intended to level anything that isn’t resistant to Normal attacks.  This move has its problems – because it doesn’t get Noivern’s same-type attack bonus, Hurricane and Draco Meteor are both stronger; Normal is also a bad offensive type at the best of times.  On the other hand, it’s 100% accurate and doesn’t cut your special attack in half the way Draco Meteor does.  It’s probably worth noting that Boomburst is a sonic attack, which means that it can’t touch Pokémon with the Soundproof ability (not that this is likely to come up, since arguably the only Pokémon with Soundproof who doesn’t have a better option is Electrode), and more importantly that it can bypass Substitutes.  However, this isn’t really a big deal for Noivern since she can do that anyway with the Infiltrator ability, which also lets her bypass Reflect and Light Screen, and her other choices are less than inspiring (checking opponents’ items with Frisk, or avoiding allies’ area attacks in double and triple battles with Telepathy).  Since Noivern is extremely fast already but lags behind some of the other Dragons in power, the natural item choice for her is Choice Specs, to wring every last drop of power you can out of that special attack stat.  As always, this makes perfect sense with Draco Meteor, since they’re both options that like you to switch often, and it also fits well with another of Noivern’s cool toys, U-Turn – with the free switches it offers, it’s very easy to get a sense for what your opponent’s go-to answer to Noivern is likely to be, and how you might anticipate it in future, mitigating the inflexibility caused by your Choice item.

Noivern.

 

That’s the basics of what Noivern does.  The frills include a couple of ways to seriously mess with defence-, setup- and support-oriented Pokémon.  Noivern is one of the fastest Pokémon in the game to learn Taunt, behind maybe a dozen others, several of them high-tier legendary Pokémon, making her extremely efficient at blocking support techniques – obviously you’ll want to forgo the power of Choice Specs if you pick this technique.  The alternative that does work with Choice Specs for a similar goal is Switcheroo, which is an absolute pain to get onto her because it comes from Malamar, via Crawdaunt, via Archeops (which… is certainly among the stranger lineages out there, courtesy of Archeops’ somewhat incongruous membership in the Water 3 family).  It’s a tried-and-tested way of crippling supporters, though – make use of your Choice item as you normally would until you see a Pokémon who would absolutely hate to be locked into a single attack, then make the switch and stick them with your painfully restrictive spectacles.  Less aggressive versions of Noivern may enjoy the healing offered by Roost, while Dark Pulse and Flamethrower sacrifice power but win her some nice coverage (Flamethrower in particular provides a more reliable alternative to Focus Blast for dealing with Steel-types).  Air Slash, similarly, is there if you dislike the poor natural accuracy of Hurricane, but the difference in power is so great that it’s almost not worth it, particularly given that Noivern needs all the power she can get.  Finally, I think it deserves mention that Noivern can learn Super Fang, because it’s quite an unusual move.  She’s not really the kind of Pokémon that jumps to mind when you think of Super Fang – the ability to chop a foe’s health in half works wonders for stuff like Pachirisu, but Noivern can do that to a lot of stuff anyway.  Still, it’s an extremely nasty surprise for any Fairy- or Steel-type planning to soak a Draco Meteor, and deserves to be added to Switcheroo and Taunt on the list of reasons why you can’t necessarily ignore Noivern just because you have a special wall like Blissey or Umbreon or whatever.

Some Pokémon are just so badass it becomes difficult not to like them, and Noivern is one of these.  Her heavy influence from a real modern animal gives her a very different feel to most Dragon-types, making her ability to inspire fear and awe that much more real as well.  Where Golbat and Crobat are sinister and Swoobat is… kinda weird and dorky… Noivern is just downright terrifying, and yet another reason not to wander around Kalos alone at night.  The whole “quick and stealthy hunter” thing is also something we haven’t seen from a Dragon-type before.  She may not quite live up to her appearance in battles with a prepared and trained opponent, just a little short of oomph, but foes nonetheless underestimate her at their peril.  This one… yeah, this one works.

Throne of Games

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

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

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

Ah, yes… the Pokémon League.

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

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

Yes!  Totally called it!

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

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

BOOYEAH!

Ridiculous quote log:

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

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!