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!

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.

Transcendence

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

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.

We head for the tower and enter.  Inside, an enormous statue of a Lucario stands atop a pedestal in the middle of a circular chamber, a broad spiralling ramp hugging the wall.  The pedestal itself houses a room – the living quarters of the Mega Evolution Guru, where he is currently chatting with his granddaughter, Korrina.  He has been expecting our group, having been told about us by Professor Sycamore, and introduces himself, but notes that of course “Mega Evolution Guru” isn’t his real name.  Okay… so what is it?  He pretends not to hear me, and instead asks whether I’m the one who found the ‘intriguing stone.’  Well, no, Tierno gave it to me- but for some reason Tierno doesn’t want to be implicated in anything to do with the thing and protests loudly.  The stone was actually given to him as well, by… someone.  Don’t really know who.  Hmm.  Should I be suspicious of this thing?  It’s not going to blow me up, is it?  The Guru claims it’s “just an ordinary rock” but I don’t believe that for a second.  Ordinary rocks do not go in the Key Items pocket.  This is all he’s willing to say, until the rest of our group arrives – but, luckily, Serena and Shauna are apparently outside.  Once pleasantries are out of the way, he reveals his secrets: Mega Evolution is a sort of transformation that ‘transcends’ ordinary evolution, open even to some Pokémon that have already evolved twice, like Charizard – but not to all Pokémon, Korrina interjects (if there’s any rule or pattern to it, she doesn’t explain).  However, unlike normal evolution, it is temporary.  After battle ends, the Pokémon will revert to its previous form.  Mega Evolution also requires tremendous trust between trainer and Pokémon (so there’s a happiness requirement?), and although the Mega Stones are obviously part of the process, the trainer needs a special item too, since it’s the connection between trainer and Pokémon that matters.

Ah, so it’s Digivolution.  Why didn’t you just say so?  I know what that is!  Well, okay, sign me up for a Digivice!

…yeah, unfortunately, no.  Korrina and her grandfather would love to give a Mega Ring to each of us, but these things are unimaginably rare and powerful artefacts.  They can spare one.  Just one.  Tierno immediately bows out, since his thing is really dance, not battle.  Trevor, likewise, is more interested in research, and Shauna just wants to travel.  So… hey, Serena.  Serena proposes that we battle for the honour.  This seems reasonable enough, so I agree.  Come to think of it, this is the first time we’ve ever actually fought.  She’s gotten a lot stronger since our double battle against Team Flare in the Glittering Cave, and now has a blue and white bipedal cat Pokémon called a Meowstic (doubtless an adult Espurr), an Absol, and her starter, Braixen.  Meowstic is almost criminally easy to deal with, but Absol deals some serious damage before I figure out that I need something that can outrun this thing, and one-shot it with Tereus’ Aerial Ace.  Braixen puts up a good fight, but ultimately can’t damage Daphne faster than she can Wish away her wounds.  Serena gracefully accepts defeat, but apparently that’s not all I have to do to prove myself.  I need to fight the Mega Evolution Successor at the top of the tower – and I’m not allowed past the ground floor until I have Shalour City’s Gym Badge.  Which I would ALREADY HAVE if SOMEONE hadn’t been a HUGE B&%#$ about it the last time we battled.  Okay, Korrina, you’re going DOWN!

Like Grant’s, Korrina’s Gym revolves around her favourite hobby – roller skating.  Luckily, this is something I’ve gotten rather a lot of practice at since getting my first pair of skates in Santalune City.  It also doesn’t hurt that all but one of my Pokémon have some kind of advantage against Fighting Pokémon (Ilex and Cecrops are Poison-types and resist their attacks; Photia has a super-effective Psybeam; Tereus and Daphne, as a Flying-type and a Fairy-type respectively, have both resistance and super-effective attacks).  Even against powerful Fighting Pokémon like Heracross, Hariyama and Sawk, this is a recipe for success.  Korrina herself… well, her showing is kind of embarrassing.  Her first two Pokémon, a Mienfoo and a Machoke, each drop to a single Aerial Ace.  Her third and strongest fighter is a Hawlucha, who survives one Aerial Ace, but isn’t able to stop Tereus from finishing it with a second.  A delicious humiliation, in front of all her followers; my thirst for revenge is- wait, where are her Lucario?  I thought they were her strongest Pokémon; she isn’t using at least one?  No, apparently, this battle was for the badge – the Rumble Badge, a rather plain-looking plate of metal in the shape of two stylised fists, one red and one silver, clashing together – but now she wants another one, in the Tower of Mastery.  Wait; Korrina is the Successor?  Then why did we have to-?  Why couldn’t I have just-?  What?  Before I can shout at her some more, she departs the Gym.  Well, I guess I’m heading up the tower…

The spiral ramp that leads up the Tower of Mastery stops at a number of platforms, each with access to a room where certified trainers stay while studying.  I talk to the trainers living there, in hopes of learning more about this place, and find out some interesting things.  Apparently this tower was built in commemoration of the very first trainer to achieve Mega Evolution, right here in Shalour City.  His partner Pokémon was a Lucario, hence the statue.  Korrina is literally his successor; she and the Guru are his direct descendants.  Today, the Tower of Mastery is a place for people to train and be initiated into the secret ways of Mega Evolution.  It seems like I’m being fast-tracked, because of reasons.  Apparently Professor Sycamore was an initiate here once, when he was younger, but quickly came to feel it wasn’t for him, so presumably it’s his personal connections that have earned me this unusual opportunity.  Even more interestingly, the Guru’s real name is Gurkinn.  I always thought that was a kind of vegetable that people picked out of their hamburgers.

Finally, I reach the tower’s observation balcony.  Mega Rings are always passed on here, beneath the sky, Korrina says, supposedly to remind trainers to reach for the heavens.  She muses on this briefly, before handing over mine.  It’s not really a ring, exactly – I mean, I suppose it’s ring-shaped, but it’s really a bracelet, with a round blue-green gem set into it.  It doesn’t seem like it has to be a bracelet either; Korrina’s is a glove (I wonder if you can get different styles later?).  I think I’m just going to keep calling it a Digivice.  Anyway, Korrina wants a battle between two trainers who can use Mega Evolution.   What?  But you haven’t told me how the damn thing works!  And my Ivysaur hasn’t become a Venusaur yet!  Apparently, one of Korrina’s Lucario has anticipated the second problem.  It wants to fight with me against Korrina and the other Lucario.  Korrina seems a bit miffed that the Lucario she’s known for years apparently feels closer to me, but I guess I’m just that awesome a trainer.  Okay: battle time.  There’s a shiny new button at the bottom of Lucario’s move selection screen marked “Mega Evolution.”  Here goes nothing… touch the Digivice… pink light…

HOLY $#!T LUCARIO JUST EXPLODED

Okay, don’t panic, stay cool, Lucario’s fine, he’s just much spikier than usual and has a big bushy tail and red bits and HOLY $#!T THE OTHER LUCARIO EXPLODED TOO okay ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK DESTROY THEM BOTH SMASH SMASH SMASH wait it’s over already?

Whew.  That was… very quick and very close.  Both Lucario were throwing around powered-up super-effective Fighting attacks, so that battle didn’t last long.  I mean, I won, obviously, because I am me.  I have won Korrina’s respect – and Lucario’s.  He wants to join my team.  Well… I guess this is kind of another Fate thing, so… all right, Orion the Lucario, you’re in.  Daphne, you’ve been dragging your weight recently.  Evolve again and we’ll talk.

So… Pokémon (some Pokémon, anyway) can now Digivolve.  I evolve Ilex into a Venusaur as soon as I can so I can play around with him and Orion a bit more.  The results are… interesting.  On the one hand, it’s a new way for certain Pokémon to be awesome, and I am totally cool with that.  As far as the flavour of it goes, I think it’s great because it’s a fairly unambiguous statement that by working together with humans Pokémon can reach a transcendent level of power and enlightenment that they would never achieve on their own, full stop.  On the other hand… it’s a whole new level of evolution in exchange for an item slot.  The extra power they gain seems to be roughly commensurate with a level of evolution, except that their HP doesn’t increase, and they even seem to get new abilities – Venusaur gets to cancel his Ice and Fire weaknesses with Thick Fat (I’ll take that over Overgrow any day), and Lucario gets Adaptability, of all things (you know, the ability that makes Porygon-Z powerful enough to one-shot Blissey with Hyper Beam).  Even the transformation doesn’t take up a full turn; you can attack immediately afterwards.  I really hope there are limitations or costs to these transformations that just aren’t clear to me yet.  And it’s not as though these are only being given out to Pokémon that need them – I mean, Lucario is a pretty damn top shelf Pokémon already, and while a regular non-Dream World Venusaur isn’t that strong he’s still no slouch.  Korrina said that not all Pokémon can do this, and while I’m obviously not certain, I would guess that I’m not going to see Mega Delibird or Mega Luvdisc in this game.

And… oh good lord; a little while ago someone told me I should check out the current wi-fi Mystery Gift and I got a Dream World Torchic holding a Blazikenite.  Does this mean BLAZIKEN gets to Digivolve too?  SPEED BOOST BLAZIKEN gets to DIGIVOLVE?

I… I’m just going to go and hide now.

Ridiculous quote log:

“Know how your hair sticks out all over the place when you wake up?  Think Mega Evolution is like that?”
You’re right.  I’m sure that’s exactly what this mysterious phenomenon is.  A bad hair day of such epic proportions that it inspired legend and song.

“What’s the plan, Hitmonchan?”
Oh, just shut up, you putrid waste of food.

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.  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…

I meet Serena at the café, but something far more interesting than our love lives has come up: Lysandre is there, chatting to a glamorous woman.  Serena informs me that Lysandre is the head of a major research firm known as Lysandre Labs (well, that explains why he knows Professor Sycamore), and that the woman he’s talking to is a famous Kalosian movie star named Diantha.  We take a moment to eavesdrop on their conversation.  Lysandre is asking Diantha whether she, as an actress, would prefer to “remain young and beautiful forever,” rather than grow old.  After all, surely it’s her job to be beautiful, and make others happy by sharing that beauty with them?  Diantha disagrees, saying that she looks forward to the challenge of playing new, more mature roles as she ages.  They continue in this theme for a short time before Lysandre notices me and Serena listening in and greets us.  He pontificates briefly about his wish to bring happiness to all people by creating a world where nothing ages and beauty never fades, then wishes us a good day and leaves.  Diantha takes a moment to introduce herself to us, and then leaves as well.  Questioning the café’s clientele later reveals that Lysandre is apparently “gathering young people for the sake of society.”

What a nice man.  Good thing he’s not doing anything suspicious.

Serena remembers what she wanted to talk to me about – apparently she just wants to make a formal request to be my rival.  I didn’t even realise that was a thing you needed to do; I thought she was already my rival, although I suppose in retrospect we’ve never battled before… I ask her whether she wants to battle now, and the answer is apparently no.  I guess she’ll bring it up again later.

…wait, this doesn’t mean we’re, like, engaged or anything, does it?

Before leaving for Camphrier Town, I figure I may as well check out Lumiose City.  Only the South Boulevard and Vernal Avenue, one of the city’s great axial roads, are accessible to me at the moment because of a blackout (apparently in Poké-Paris the term ‘blackout’ has little to do with the electricity supply, since I can clearly see lights on in the buildings past the checkpoints, and everything to do with oppressive regulation of the movement of the populace).  Still, there seem to be a few attractions.  Vernal Avenue offers a lavish Stone Emporium, selling Fire, Water and Leaf stones, a herbal medicine shop, two cafés, a clothing store (which forbids me entry on the grounds that I’m not stylish enough – me!  Do they know who I am!?), and some kind of salon dedicated entirely to a bizarre poodle-like Pokémon called a Furfrou.  Aside from more cafés, the Sycamore Institute, and the Pokémon Centre, the South Boulevard features an expensive restaurant, some sort of advertising studio, and a salon for humans, where you can mix up your hair style and colour (wow; they’re really pushing the character customisation angle).  While getting a quick trim, I learn that the salon also fills the traditional role of gossip-monger – apparently the stylist recently met a mysterious man who tried to teach her to use some kind of “power” (she’s evasive about what exactly that means) and then vanished into thin air.  Well.  Nothing out of the ordinary there, then.  The advertising studio intrigues me at first with the possibility of producing a propaganda video to begin acclimatising the citizens of France to my oppressive regime of hate and fear, but the staff seem intent on allowing me to speak only the blandest and most uninformative lines of dialogue, so I quickly give up and leave in disgust.  The restaurant, known inexplicably as Restaurant Le Nah, seems to pride itself on the blandness of its food and insists on serving double-battles alongside its meals, which must be won in exactly two turns in order to enjoy the food properly.  As service goes, they’re a bit rubbish, but at least each meal comes with a free bag of mushrooms.  For some reason.

Feeling I’ve exhausted the possibilities of Paris for now, I head for the next gate, where I get a call from Tierno telling me to come and check out the hordes of Pokémon on the next route.  Sure, why not?  The moment I leave the city, I am accosted by a Lucario belonging to a snazzily-dressed roller-skater who introduces herself as Korrina, the Shalour City Gym Leader (presumably a Fighting- or Steel-type specialist – it’s hard to tell which because the other Pokémon with her is also a Lucario).  Apparently her Lucario has noticed something curious about my aura, but she doesn’t seem to think it’s all that important and leaves without investigating further.  I shrug in agreement and set off to find Trevor and Tierno.  Battling the trainers in this area, I realise that my Pokémon are far outstripping what the game designers seem to have intended, decide that the Exp. Share is basically Easy Mode, and turn it off.  I can always switch it back on later if it turns out my Pokémon are growing too slowly.  Nonetheless, they continue to grow as I fight and catch wild Pokémon in the area – Plusle, Minun, Abra, Gulpin, Doduo, Scraggy, and three newcomers: Pancham, Skiddo, and Furfrou.  I recognise Furfrou from the salon in town – apparently a Normal-type with fairly underwhelming stats, and the pattern of empty spaces in my Pokédex leads me not to expect an evolution.  At the moment, she seems to be another of those Pokémon where Game Freak have come up with a neat gimmick and decided they’ve done enough (although she does have a very nice ability that halves all physical damage).  Pancham is a Fighting-type and looks like a physical tank, blessed with the Mold Breaker ability and a bucketload of attitude.  Skiddo, finally, looks to be the juvenile form of a Pokémon called Gogoat used by the people of Lumiose City to travel quickly, an all-rounder in battle with a generally calm nature.  He’s a Grass-type, so I make a note of him for possible rotation into my party at a later date.  Meanwhile, Ilex hits level 16 and evolves into Ivysaur, while Kore reaches 19 and becomes a Floette, larger and more powerful than her previous form but not particularly different in any obvious way except that she is no longer smaller than her own flower.      Finally, I catch up with Trevor and Tierno.  Tierno is apparently so excited at seeing so many wild Pokémon around and so entranced by their moves that he isn’t battling properly, but would nonetheless like to go a few rounds with me.  I accept, and finally meet Tierno’s starter – Corphish?  Tierno’s partner Pokémon is a Corphish?  What possessed Professor Sycamore to give a newbie a mean-tempered bastard of a Pokémon like that?  Once Ilex has stomped Tierno and his lobster, Trevor offers me a gift of honey, saying it will help to attract the swarming Pokémon in the area.  But he also gives a word of warning: “if you’re going to challenge a whole horde, you may want to use moves that can hit multiple targets.”

…?

I wander into the grass with Ilex and start waving the honey around.  Almost immediately, a wild Gulpin appears.   And another.  And a third.   And a fourth.  And a fifth.

$#!t.

So, five-on-one battles with wild Pokémon are now a thing.  Their levels are dramatically reduced compared to other Pokémon in the area, but these can still be nasty – with so many Pokémon of the same kind fighting you at once, techniques like Growl and Sand Attack can add up pretty damn quickly.  Trevor’s right; multiple-target attacks like Kore’s Razor Leaf make these fights a lot less painful.

Well, once that’s out of the way, on to Camphrier Town…

Ridiculous quote log:

“If you’re like a cheerful sun, everyone will be grateful.  If you’re like the Pokémon Solrock… well, some things are best left unsaid.”
…I don’t get it.  What the hell do you have against Solrock, Café Soleil cashier?

It Has Begun

It is the dawn of a new era.  An era of peace, hope, and French cuisine.  As I slot my copy of Pokémon: X Version into my 3DS, a cry of “it’s about bloody time!” rings out across the hills and through the valleys.  The fertile fields and shining cities of the Kalos region await – my conquest begins this day.

I’ve been playing for a couple of hours now, but moving slowly, so as to absorb and reflect on everything.  It’s already clear that rather a lot of thought, work, and resources have gone into this – and not just into the graphics either, although that, of course, is where the changes are most obvious.  I’m normally quite disdainful of effort spent on newer and shinier graphics (I was, by and large, satisfied with the quality and style of the graphics of the Ruby and Sapphire generation), but even I have to admit that the scenery of Kalos is surpassingly beautiful.  Just looking around my bedroom delayed me for a few minutes.  The first new feature you meet in this game, though, is something really quite small – there are multiple character models to choose from.  Both the male and female player characters come in fair-skinned blond, medium-complexion brunette, and deeply-tanned black-haired versions.  Not an especially notable feature in itself, but I’m picking up hints from some of the subjects of my new empire that suggest customisable outfits might become available once I have conquered more of France.  Part of me thinks this is needless frivolity, but then, it could be fun – and more interestingly, I think it marks a shift in the way Game Freak are thinking about their protagonists.  Pokémon games have always taken “silent protagonist” very seriously, and the words of the designers indicate that they want players to be able to fill in their own dialogue rather than having the games prescribe words for them, and I think the fact that the protagonists are fairly nondescript in comparison to many of the more extravagantly-dressed citizens of the world plays into this – the details of who your character is are left to you and your imagination.  We now seem, though, to be moving towards showing more of who you are on the screen.  Conceptually, I’m neutral on this, but I think it’s interesting.

On what will someday be remembered as the first day of my reign, I am rudely awoken by some sort of robin-like Pokémon belonging to Mother – doubtless the Kalos region’s Generic Bird Pokémon.  Mother seems to be a Pokémon trainer herself – a quite skilled and very specialised one, in fact; she’s some sort of Rhyhorn jockey.  That’s… actually kind of badass.  Clearly she is deserving of the unprecedented privilege of having her own bedroom in the family home (albeit smaller and barer than mine).  Mother promptly sends me to meet the neighbours – which doesn’t take long, as two of them are waiting outside to greet me.  It seems that, like the protagonist of Ruby and Sapphire, I am a newcomer to the region and haven’t yet met the people of my hometown (which appears to be a hick town somewhere near Lyon), but they are happy to introduce themselves as Serena and Shauna.  Apparently I, along with four of the commoner children of this area, have been selected for… something… by the local professor, Augustine Sycamore. Something which will involve receiving Pokémon!  We just need to meet the other two kids in nearby Aquacorde Town.

Wait, how do we get there without Pokémon?

Turns out there’s not really much “getting there” to do.  Vaniville Town is more of a suburb of Aquacorde Town than an actual independent settlement, and the two are connected by a very short, paved road.  This is ridiculous; I’m going to have to conquer Aquacorde and put it in its place.  But first, I have to meet the team.  We apparently have four rivals – Serena seems to be the ‘cool’ one, the child of two powerful trainers, and the female counterpart to the male player (I suspect she’s replaced by a male counterpart if you play as a girl); Shauna seems to be ‘ditzy with flashes of brilliance’ although at the moment all I’m getting is ‘ditzy’; little Trevor is ‘the brains,’ and the nigh-spherical dancer Tierno is ‘the big guy.’  All the classic team roles in there; excellent.  They’ll make perfect minions; I’ll just have to make sure Serena doesn’t try to stab me in the back.  They immediately start wanting to nickname me – ‘C-meister,’ ‘Big C’ or ‘Lil C’ are their preferred options.  I give them a cold glare, and after a brief period of negotiations I grudgingly permit them to address me as ‘Your Grace’ (‘Your Imperial Majesty’ being a bit of a mouthful for them).  Tierno and Trevor have their Pokémon already, though their identities are undisclosed, and they have dutifully brought a set of starters for me and the girls.  Trevor also presents us with Pokédexes (Pokédices?).  With scarcely a moment’s thought, I select for myself the Grass-type, Chespin, while Serena takes Fennekin and Shauna chooses Froakie (and promptly challenges me to a battle – the starter Pokémon now seem to have elemental attacks from the beginning, which makes this a short and painful defeat for Froakie).

Chespin appears to be a slow-moving heavy-hitter with a physical bias, a Grass-type in the tradition of Tangrowth and Torterra, and has taken the interesting route of using a nut as the design base, with spiked body armour like the tough green coat of an unshelled chestnut.  At the moment he seems to be a chipmunk, but I could see him going in more of an armadillo or pangolin direction quite easily, or maybe even a porcupine.  Could be fun.  Mine is named Pan, for the Greek god of the wilderness.

At the insistence of my new subjects, I deliver a letter to Mother from Professor Sycamore.  The letter, according to its description in my inventory, is laced with a ‘faint but pleasant perfume.’  Mother immediately wonders whether it could be a love letter, and compliments Sycamore’s “lovely handwriting.”  Hmm.  I smell a romance subplot.  Mother and her Rhyhorn, for their part, encourage me to go for it and conquer France, so I return to Aquacorde to begin exploring.

It is at this point that I notice the new buttons on the touch screen.

The touch screen is where Pokémon Amie lives.  I’ve been aware of the existence of this mini-game for a while, but I didn’t realise it was actually built into the game; I assumed it would be some sort of add-on like the 3D Pokédex or the Dream Radar.  I like that it’s integrated with the game itself, and I like that it’s right there in the touch screen, accessible and visible.  I’m still wrapping my head around exactly what it does and how it works, but I can tell that what it’s supposed to do is make Pokémon happiness a more complex and interactive thing than it has been in the past, and I’m all for that.  The other thing that lives in the touch screen is Super Training.  This, again, is something I’m still working out, but its purpose, too, is readily obvious – Super Training consists of a set of Effort training mini games for specialising your Pokémon’s training towards specific stats.  Mostly, they seem to revolve around throwing soccer balls at gigantic Pokémon-shaped balloons, but hey, nobody’s perfect.  You can also get your Pokémon to train on their own as you get on with whatever it is you’re doing.  The first time you access the screen, it presents you with a tutorial and walks you through a couple of rounds of training, and you can even use it to see approximately how many effort points a Pokémon has already accumulated.  Pokémon Amie and Super Training seem to be exactly the kind of thing I made wishes for in my recent “If I were in charge” series – closer connections to individual Pokémon, and greater accessibility to the Effort system for new players with more transparent rules all around.  I mean, obviously I like my own suggestions for how to approach these goals, but I’m nonetheless tickled to see that someone had similar priorities in mind during the design process for these games.  It makes me optimistic about what I’ll find as I move on.

Miscellaneous note: there’s been a change to the experience system.  Pokémon no longer seem to divide experience points when many of them are involved in a single battle.  Instead they ALL gain the full amount.  I’m on the fence about whether I like this.  It seems like it’s intended to encourage training many Pokémon instead of focussing on just one (something Game Freak have tried and failed to do in the past, most notably in Black and White by having experience scale with the level of the victorious Pokémon as well as the defeated one), and I’m totally on board with that, but it seems open to abuse – it’s obvious that all Pokémon will just gain more experience under this system, especially if you consciously take advantage of it by switching often against powerful trainers like Gym Leaders.  Then again, maybe the opponents in the game will increase in power more quickly as well, and it won’t matter.

I originally intended to catch everything I could find as I moved through Kalos, in order to study all of it, but I’m no longer sure that’s feasible.  I’m writing this from the second area with wild Pokémon, the Santalune Forest (which, incidentally, appears to have an identical layout to the original Viridian Forest area from Red and Blue), where I am training with the assistance of Shauna (who has taken to her new role as my servant most admirably), and I’ve already caught a bewildering array of the blasted things – I think eleven, not counting my Chespin.  Only three new species have appeared so far, but unlike in Black and White, older Pokémon have returned with a vengeance – Zigzagoon, Pidgey and Weedle all appear outside Aquacorde, while Caterpie, Pikachu and the elemental monkeys were present in the forest, rare but available (I’m guessing Caterpie is common and Weedle rare on Y).  In general, I like having a good spread of Pokémon around – refusing to use any old Pokémon species forced Black and White to be annoyingly miserly about everything, with only five species available before the first gym, counting one starter.  The lack of choice makes things a bit dull, especially on a replay.  Something I should mention in connection with this is that several older Pokémon have had their cries updated, most notably Pikachu (who now makes an enthusiastic “PI-ka pi-KA” sound), something that was long overdue; the cries of first-generation Pokémon, meant to be playable on the very basic speakers of the original Gameboy, sounded tremendously incongruous next to the crisp and complex sounds of Unova natives.  Game Freak are clearly playing to the nostalgia market on this one by giving a lot of attention to older species, which is the sort of thing that I used to argue for all the time.  I like where this is going.

Anyway, the new Pokémon.  All three are formulaic so far, which irritates me but is to be expected.  The first is a normal-type rabbit Pokémon, Bunnelby, who is the local Normal-type Rodent permutation.  Bunnelby does not seem to be simply Buneary with a new coat of paint, though; according to the Pokédex he is known for digging with his ears.  This… is bizarre, but could be taken somewhere interesting, so I’ll give him a chance.  Bunnelby appears to be a highly mobile attacker with a bias towards the physical stats (what a shock).  The second is Fletchling, the Generic Normal/Flying Bird Pokémon also owned by Mother.  She is a brightly-coloured robin-like Pokémon with no other distinguishing features whatsoever, and like Bunnelby is a fast-moving physical attacker (good to see they’re sticking to the template…).  Third and finally, we have the extremely lazily-named Scatterbug, a hairy black caterpillar Pokémon who defends herself with bursts of toxic powder, and will doubtless evolve into a cocoon and then some sort of butterfly or moth (then again, they did surprise me with Leavanny, so I should give Scatterbug the benefit of the doubt).  She was my seventh Pokémon and I still haven’t found a PC yet, so further investigation will have to be deferred.

Not sure what I’m going to build my team out of yet.  At the moment my primary battlers are Pan and my freshly-evolved Beedrill, Melissa (named for the Greek word for, well, bee).  I am contemplating the idea of an all-Grass team, but I have a deep-seated aversion to Pansage, so further contemplation will be necessary.

P.S. Saving takes, like, one second!  This is the BEST THING YET

Ridiculous quote log:

“Bags are mysterious!”
…well, yes, random Aquacorde citizen, I suppose if you have the intellectual capacity of a three-year-old it is rather mysterious that you can make items vanish and reappear using only a folded and stitched piece of cloth.  Those of us who have mastered the concept of object permanence will go and stand on the other side of the room now.

“Wow!  The Pokémon went INSIDE the Pokéball?!”
…no s#!t, Shauna.  You mean it did exactly what you’ve seen your Froakie do every time you finish battling with it?  Truly astounding (props to Serena for calling her on this, but she missed a wonderful opportunity for epic snarkiness).