Rivals, part 7: The X/Y Kids

Serena.
Serena

Okay.  Just me this time.  Jim’s played Omega Ruby, but not X or Y, so he’s not terribly familiar with Serena/Calem and the rest of the gang from X and Y.  Let’s… see if I can still write one of these on my own, then.  So, first impressions, then; what do we think of the X/Y rivals?

…right, right; it’s just me.  Bollocks; this is harder than I remember.

Continue reading “Rivals, part 7: The X/Y Kids”

Reunion

As soon as I land in Anistar City, I receive a call from Professor Sycamore.  He wants to meet in Couriway Town, the next settlement on my route, to discuss recent events.  Understandable.  I’m curious to know his thoughts myself.  The road to Couriway Town features a diverse ecosystem of mountain Pokkemon for me to capture, including Torkoal, Graveler, Durant, Heatmor and Lairon, as well as Ariados in the abandoned mine that stretches beneath much of the area.  The mine is also inhabited by Noibat, a small, weak, purple bat Pokémon who seems utterly unremarkable aside from the fact that he is apparently a Dragon-type.  I’m… you know, I’m honestly not even sure what a dragon is anymore.  The mine, which is known as Terminus Cave, has a very deep and complicated structure, not all of which is open to me yet – only a Champion-level trainer can access all the tunnels.  I try bringing out Xerneas and telling the story of that one time when I, y’know, saved the Kalos region from the annihilation of all Pokémon and most humans all out of the ‘goodness’ of my ‘heart’, but the guard seems unimpressed, so I give up and return to the surface for now.  Goodness only knows what else is down there.  Probably awesome treasure.  The other notable feature of this part of Kalos is the home of a human Psychic named Inver, who practices a strange form of battle which he has named after himself (or possibly the other way around) – the inverse battle.  Thanks to Inver’s vaguely specified mystical powers, resisted moves become super-effective (finally, being a Grass Pokémon specialist pays off!) and super-effective moves are resisted instead.  The fact that these relationships can all be uniformly reversed by a single application of psychic power might go some way to suggesting that Pokémon types are meant to be regarded as fundamental forces, rather than just a descriptive framework created by humans (one of the debates I have with myself from time to time), but then again, since the whole thing is clearly just an excuse for a fun new battle format, I’d be cautious about reading too much into it.  The real question is… can Inver learn to make his powers apply only to some Pokémon, some of the time, and if so, can I recruit him for my imperial army…?

Dominated by a massive waterfall from which the locals collect and bottle crystal clear water, Couriway Town is a comparatively small settlement with a few houses, a Pokémon Centre, a railway station, and not much else.  After spending a little time gazing at the waterfall, I go to find Professor Sycamore, who has some interesting things to say about Lysandre.  He seems to think that Lysandre’s actions are at least partially his own fault for not taking action long before now to put his friend back on a somewhat saner path, and reiterates his belief that Lysandre could have been a great leader and done a lot of good for the world.  Apparently, by stopping his plans, I “saved” not only Kalos, but Lysandre himself – wait, wait, so he’s alive?  Have you actually seen him?  Or do you mean “saved” in more of vague, spiritual, “well, at least he died without the deaths of billions on his conscience” kind of sense?  Sycamore, to my irritation, declines to comment further.  I will have to look into this.  For now, though, he wants a battle!  Professor Sycamore has been practicing – his Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle have increased dramatically in level since my last battle with him, and have all reached their final evolutions, but he’s still not much of a trainer himself, and is unable to lead them to victory.  Ever gracious in defeat, Sycamore claims he left a ‘treasure’ in this town a long time ago, and invites me to search for it.  He then leaves to work on a ‘surprise’ for me and my rivals to reward us for our efforts against Team Flare.  I sweep the town with my dowsing rods, but the most valuable thing I find is a Prism Scale, and something tells me that isn’t what he’s talking about (I mean, it’s neat, but I already have one, and I feel like I should expect something more unique).  He might be talking about a more metaphorical ‘treasure’ – like an old friend, or a place he has fond memories of – but what, I have no clue.  Maybe something to come back to.  I have more important things to do, like get my last badge so I can conquer Kalos at last.

To get to Snowbelle City, I have to cross a deep valley with a murky swamp at the bottom.  I encounter only one Pokémon I haven’t met before here – Gligar – which may well be a first for my travels in Kalos, so I very quickly move on to the rope bridge that spans the chasm, where I am met by Shauna.  To my immense surpise, Shauna wants to battle!  I haven’t fought her since she started out with her Froakie – hell, I wasn’t even aware she was capable of battling, but she has three Pokémon now, and at a respectable level too.  She opens with a Delcatty, who survives Pan’s Seed Bomb and slows his assault with Charm – and then switches out.  Shauna sends in a new Pokémon I haven’t seen before: Goodra, apparently the evolved form of Sliggoo, who is at last recognisable through her slimy coating as a true Dragon, if a soft-edged and friendly one in the tradition of Dragonite.  Goodra intercepts my next Seed Bomb and absorbs the attack with Sap Sipper.  What?  Shauna is competent!?  What is this sorcery!?  I briefly consider summoning Xerneas to blow her dragon away, but feel that wouldn’t be sporting under the circumstances and instead send in Orion… who gets crushed by a Sap Sipper-boosted Earthquake.  Okay.  Now she’s asking for it.  I have Xerneas hit Goodra with a Moonblast, then go to Ilex to finish off her Delcatty.  Her final Pokémon is her starter, who was a Froakie when we last met – now a swift, sleek warrior frog called a Greninja (Gren- presumably from the French word for frog, grenouille)… but still a Water-type, and still vulnerable to Petal Dance.

Our battle over, Shauna is keen to reminisce, but we have company – Tierno and Trevor, who are also, it seems, in a fighting mood.  Wait, you guys know how to battle too!?  Has Serena been giving you lessons in secret?  Tierno challenges me first, and I open with Pan – right up against a Talonflame.  Clearly this isn’t going to work, so I switch to Odysseus, who suffers some nasty Acrobatics hits before bringing it down.  Tierno’s next Pokémon is a Roserade, so I switch in Ilex to soak up the incoming Petal Dance and hit back with Sludge Bomb.  That leaves Tierno’s partner, Crawdaunt, who, again, is still a Water-type.  Trevor kindly heals my Pokémon before our battle, sabotaging his only real chance at losing with dignity, then opens with his Raichu, who seems to have no better option than Thunderbolt against Pan and doesn’t last long.  Then, out comes… wha- where the hell did you get an Aerodactyl!?  I know Trevor’s good with obscure stuff, but wow.  Kid’s actually made me jealous!  I won’t willingly leave Pan in against a Flying-type, so I switch to Odysseus, who takes a Sky Drop relatively unscathed and blasts back with Surf.  Finally, Trevor sends out his partner Pokémon, Florges.  Odysseus does heavy damage with a well-placed Crabhammer, but can’t handle the Energy Ball that Florges sends back.  Florges is now in no shape to defeat Orion, though, and falls to a Shadow Ball.  In the aftermath of our battles, my rivals feed me some of the standard lines about how wonderful it is to travel with Pokémon.  I can’t help but feel a little swell of pride; they’ve managed to acquire some pretty strong partners (hell, I don’t even have a Goodra yet; I’ve been clued in on Sliggoo’s unorthodox evolution method – rain in the overworld, and at least level 50 – but the moment Pytho hit level 49, Kalos was swept by an annoyingly mysterious drought) and might even make decent lieutenants in my new regime.  Tierno and Trevor mention that Serena is in Shalour City training at the Tower of Mastery (perhaps the next time I see her one of her Pokémon will be able to Digivolve… her Absol, maybe?), make their excuses, and leave.  Shauna also has a parting gift for me: the Waterfall HM.  It’s no good to me until I have the Snowbelle Gym Badge, though, so let’s get on with it!

Ridiculous quote log:

“Do you see that hiker running back and forth across the bridge?  He’s been doing that for the last few days.  I wonder if he’s okay.”
“Come to think of it, I’ve been standing in the same spot for the last couple of days too!”
The drones are becoming self-aware!  Quickly, initiate quarantine protocol six-three-eight-alpha!  The contagion must not be allowed to spread!

Life and Death

I have Tereus drop me off in Geosenge Town and take a look around.  The ultimate weapon is really quite spectacular: a glassy blue-green flower, several stories high, with three long triangular petals that seem to have knocked over several buildings as it bloomed.  I head for the megalithic structure to the northwest of town, which is almost certainly the entrance to Team Flare’s secret base, and enter the building with Serena to confront Lysandre.  The elevator drops us in a sort of control room, where there are a few Team Flare members standing around, apparently uninterested in fighting, and some scientists performing last-minute calculations.  We overhear some of their discussion – the weapon is powering up, drawing energy from the hundreds of Pokémon they captured using stolen Pokéballs, but most of its power is coming from inside the facility itself.  We approach the front of the control room, where Lysandre is staring intently through a plate glass window at a chamber several levels below us.  At the bottom is… a tree.  An old, dead, white tree, hooked up to a complicated machine.  Xerneas’ tree.

Lysandre greets us as we approach him.  Serena defiantly proclaims our opposition to him, to which he restates his position: there are too many people in the world, and not enough resources; the only way for everyone to be happy is if there are fewer people.  People don’t share, Lysandre says – even Serena and I couldn’t share my Digivice.  “When there is only one of something, it can’t be shared.  When something can’t be shared, it will be fought over.  And when something is fought over, some must survive without it.”
“What about Pokémon?” Serena cries.  Wait, that’s a good point, actually.  Lysandre pauses.  He seems to be struggling to speak.  Finally, a tear rolls down his cheek and splashes on the floor.
“Pokémon… shall no longer exist.”

Wait WHAT!?

As long as there are Pokémon, Lysandre explains sorrowfully, people who can control them will use them to conquer and steal from others.  It’s better if they all go now.  He shakes his head briskly, as if to clear it, and walks towards us.  If it’ll take another battle to keep me and Serena from interfering with the ultimate weapon, so be it.  Lysandre’s Mienfoo and Murkrow have evolved now, into Mienshao and Honchkrow, which complicates things.  Odysseus and Pan have to tag-team Mienshao, and Pan is knocked out by its Acrobatics (I admittedly have… something of a blind spot for Flying attacks), but I manage to heal Odysseus and finish Mienshao, as well as Honchkrow.  Gyarados flattens Odysseus with its Outrage, and I switch to Orion, but this Gyarados isn’t falling for the same trick twice; he fights through his confusion and defeats Orion with a powerful Earthquake.  I have Photia turn his incredible strength against him with Foul Play, which brings Gyarados down in a couple of turns, and out comes Pyroar, who finishes Photia with a mighty Fire Blast.  Finally, I send in Pytho, dampen Pyroar with a Rain Dance, and drown it in Muddy Water.  Lysandre sighs heavily and asks why I bother.  “What are you really protecting?” he asks.  “A tomorrow that will only end up being worse than today?”  I glare at him, and something inside me snaps.

“You just don’t get it do you?  You think you’re some great visionary who’s seen the only way to peace and prosperity with your ‘how can I possibly save everyone?’ fallen hero bull$#!t, but you’re just taking the easy way out!   Any barbarian can unleash death to destroy a civilisation; it takes true greatness to build an empire of new life!  You think that as long as Pokémon exist, people will use them for war and theft?  Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet, bub!  So I’ll tell you what’s going to happen.  I am going to go down there.  Your ridiculous little paprika-flavoured goon squad are going to try to stop me, and they are going to fail.  I am going to attune to this precious legendary Pokémon of yours.  Then I am going to take a large, rough, jagged object the size and approximate shape of a Farfetch’d and his leek, and wedge it deep within your most private crevice, and when I have done that my Pokémon and I are going to conquer this silly backwards little region and rule it together, because that is what trainers and Pokémon do.  We destroy our enemies, protect our friends, and enslave our inferiors to build glorious monuments to our own greatness!  Now what is wrong with that?”

Lysandre and Serena are both staring at me, jaws hanging open.  In fact, so is practically everyone else in the control room.  I look around, shrug, and lunge at Lysandre.  He flinches, and I seize the moment to run for the stairs to the lower levels, cackling maniacally as I go.  Serena looks toward the stairs, then at Lysandre, then back to the stairs, then at Lysandre again, throws up her arms in defeat, and follows me.  Together, we fight our way through several Team Flare grunts and admins defending the stairwells and passages leading down to Xerneas’ chamber.  About halfway down, we are joined by Shauna, who… wants to cheer for us, I guess?  I grudgingly agree to let her tag along; she’s made it this far without being killed, after all – and she even manages to help out.  When we last saw Clemont, the Lumiose City Gym Leader, he gave Shauna a machine for solving puzzles, which she uses to hack into the security door at the bottom of the last stairwell and get us inside.  That… is an incredibly powerful and potentially mischievous piece of technology she’s been toting around all this time.  Too bad it breaks after one use.  As we step through the door and behold the ultimate weapon’s power system, pulsing gently as it leeches energy from Xerneas’ tree, a group of six Team Flare admins materialise from nowhere and attack us.  Shauna panics and flees, chased by two of them, and Serena runs to help her, leaving me to deal with the other four.  Photia hardly breaks a sweat turning their minds inside out, and they flee to gather reinforcements, leaving me alone with the tree.  I call to Xerneas, and it cries out in response.  The tree glows with a brilliant light, and the rainbow stag bursts forth in all its glory, shattering the machine binding it.  It doesn’t want to be enslaved to Lysandre.  It wants my help – but first, as always, we have to battle.

Xerneas, the embodiment of life, is an extremely powerful Fairy-type mixed attacker with an ability, Fairy Aura, that gives Fairy-type techniques like Moonblast additional power.  Like many legendary Pokémon, he comes with a signature move: Geomancy, a two-turn boosting technique that raises special attack, special defence and speed by two levels (slap on a Power Herb and this thing is Quiver Dance on steroids!).  I command Ilex to wear him down with Nature Power and disable him with Sleep Powder, then start throwing Pokéballs.  It doesn’t take long for one to stick.  I walk over to the Pokéball lying on the ground, dismissing Photia back to the PC network, and pick it up… and everything changes.

I’m… alive.  Xerneas’ power is intoxicating; his presence makes me feel like a veil has been lifted from my eyes, almost like I’m seeing colour for the first time.  Xerneas can see and feel life itself, vibrant and glorious, and his supernatural senses are flooding my mind.  Although my back is turned, I know that Serena and Shauna are back in the room – I can feel their lives, radiant amongst the glimmering pinpricks of the microbes in the air.  I feel like if I focussed I could feel every living thing in Kalos.  I decide to try.  Dimly, I hear a voice.  “What a startling development!  I never would’ve thought you were really a chosen one!”  It’s Lysandre.  He has built his own Digivice in the form of a finger ring, powered by some monstrous contraption – three buzzing metal insects, tethered to a brass gauntlet, all wired up to an electronic visor.  None of it is breathing, none of it is alive; I quickly lose interest and return to my attempts to expand my mind.  Lysandre continues talking – he is disgusted with Xerneas for wanting help from a mere human, and seems to be unwilling to admit defeat yet.  I pay little attention, still curiously testing the limits of Xerneas’ senses, trying to touch the lives of absent friends… until he says one thing: “I’ll be taking the Legendary Pokémon back now!”  Wait… what?  My mind snaps back to the room we’re in, focussing once more on my physical senses.  He wants to take Xerneas away from me?  Oh, dear… what a stupid man.

I thought I knew what it was like to work together with a Pokémon, but the sheer joy of fighting with Xerneas is something else.  He seems to respond as much to my thoughts as to my words, striking down Lysandre’s Mienshao with Moonblast before it can take a single step.  As he calls on his Honchkrow, I command Xerneas to tap into a nearby ley line with Geomancy.  I feel the sting of Honchkrow’s Steel Wing as it slices at Xerneas’ hide, threatening his concentration, but he fights through it and blows the bird Pokémon away with another Moonblast.  Pyroar’s fire repels the lunar onslaught for only a moment before he suffers the same fate.  Finally Lysandre calls upon his Pokémon partner, Gyarados, using his technology and their bond to let it Digivolve into an even more monstrous and terrible version of its former self – to no avail.  One final Moonblast finishes it.  I walk forward to stand by Xerneas and rest my hand on his flank as we return to dreaming of the life of Kalos.  Somewhere in the background, I am aware of Serena and Shauna’s voices.  They are encouraging Lysandre not to give up on his old life, to go back to helping people and build a better future for everyone.  I’m no longer sure it matters.  Joy, suffering… it’s all still life, isn’t it?  Isn’t life all that’s important?  Or… is that Xerneas talking?  I shake my head, trying to clear it.  Lysandre is still speaking.  He wants to use the trickle of Xerneas’ energy left in the weapon.  “Let us live forever… that’s right!  I shall grant you eternal life!  I’ll give you the pain of endlessly waiting for a beautiful world to finally be built!”  That… that doesn’t sound so bad, actually… An eternity basking in the radiance of life with Xerneas, my mind floating amongst all the living things in the entire world… I ignore Serena and Shauna’s protests and let myself drift off.

Hands, dragging me… pulling me onto Xerneas’ back… carrying me away… up and out…

Some hours later, I wake up in Geosenge Town.  There is a huge crater where the ultimate weapon used to be.  Left and Right are standing over me in their superhero masks, along with Shauna, Tierno, Trevor and Serena.  While Serena, Shauna and I were below, the others had been fighting to free the Pokémon connected to the Geosenge menhirs.  Lysandre is nowhere to be seen.  Did he succeed in making himself immortal?  Or did he die in the collapse of the hideout?  Is he down there, buried beneath the rubble, broken but unable to die?  I can’t feel his life anymore; Xerneas’ magical perception has left me.  Once the others are satisfied that I am once again relatively sane and in no immediate danger, they disperse, suggesting that we all pick up where we left off in Anistar City.  Once I am the only one left, AZ approaches me.  He’s free at last, and means to return to his search for his missing partner.  I wish him luck as he trudges away.  Will the poor guy ever find his Pokémon?  Will we ever find out what happened to Lysandre?  And what the hell is this ‘intriguing stone’ Tierno gave me back in Shalour City?

As for me, the dizzying high of my first exposure to Xerneas has left me, but the world somehow seems brighter, more magnificent than ever before – making me more determined than ever before to conquer it, with my new legendary partner Pokémon by my side!

Ridiculous quote log:

“You fools!  You don’t even have suits!”
…yeah, because those white Team Flare suits make you look so classy.

“Not having a ton of money is really stressful, you know…”
Oh, I feel your pain, dude; it must be really hard to be a leader in an organisation with a ¥ 5,000,000 membership fee…

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.

Getting Bogged Down

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

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

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

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

Ridiculous quote log:

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

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”

La Ville Lumière

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

Definitely an important character.

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

Continue reading “La Ville Lumière”