A deep, dark cave filled with beautiful blue and green crystal formations, the Glittering Cave is a treacherous place – you move through it in a first-person perspective, so you can only see what’s right in front of you, making it a lot more difficult to keep track of exactly where you are (luckily, the tunnel systems aren’t that complicated, but this could get tricky if a similar perspective is deployed for, say, Victory Road…). In a rare show of courtesy, wild Pokémon do not appear at random here, but instead guard particular shadowy spots in the tunnel system – as a result, it takes me a while to be sure I’ve caught everything in here, but I think I’ve got everything: Rhyhorn, Onix, Solrock, Lunatone, Machop, Cubone and Mawile, who has been promoted to Steel/Fairy – a potentially interesting statement about the definition of our new type, something I’ll have to discuss once I’m familiar with all the new Pokémon in this game. Although disorienting, the Glittering Cave’s tunnels aren’t long, and I soon emerge into a brighter, more open chamber – where I meet Team Flare.
Team Flare are, I can only presume, the game’s primary antagonists. Their clothing is formal, suit-and-tie, but their suits are bright scarlet, and they style their brilliant red hair in buns that seem to recall the shapes of flames (although they don’t seem to have a strong preference for Fire Pokémon, or indeed any single type). In blatant defiance of their numerous obvious crimes against style, they claim to value fashion above all else. Their objectives are unashamedly selfish and surprisingly banal after the grandiose plans of the last three generations of villains – they explicitly work for the good and profit of their own members, regardless of what stands in their way. This is curious. The game’s dialogue seemed to be dropping some not-so-subtle hints earlier that Lysandre is a bad guy (his adherence to a basically well-meaning philosophy taken to its illogical extreme is exactly the pattern we’ve seen in the past with Archie and Maxie, N, and arguably even Cyrus), and his colour scheme and general aesthetic mesh pretty well with Team Flare’s, but his ideals seem totally out of step with theirs. I’m not quite sure what’s going on here yet, so I take out my confusion on the four unfortunate Team Flare members who have invaded the Glittering Cave to search for fossils (Mount Moon flashbacks, anyone?). With Serena’s help, this fight ends quickly and we rescue the (totally oblivious) scientist at the back of the cave, who offers each of us one fossil.
Hmm… the Sail Fossil (which ‘shines with all the colours of the rainbow’) sounds like it could go into something like a Dimetrodon or maybe a Spinosaurus, something that could be portrayed as drawing energy from sunlight, whereas the Jaw Fossil (which ‘looks like it could chew up anything’) could really be just about anything, but presumably something with strong Bite and Crunch attacks… um… tricky… let’s go with… the Sail Fossil! That particular mystery, of course, is solved the moment we return to Ambrette Town when the scientists fire up their resurrection machine and transform my Sail Fossil into an Amaura, an adorable Rock/Ice sauropod Pokémon with sunset-coloured frills on its ears. Amaura seems to be a special tank, with a fascinating new ability: Refrigerate, which makes all her Normal attacks count as Ice attacks (so, it’s like Delcatty’s Normalise, only useful). I don’t have room for Amaura in my party right now, but she’s certainly going on my list for later consideration. One of the scientists also offers me one final parting gift: an Aerodactylite, a deep lavender orb that, like my Venusaurite, claims to prompt Mega Evolution. That seems to be it for Ambrette Town, so I leave through the most boring aquarium ever. The Ambrette aquarium, as far as I can tell, doesn’t actually have any marine animals in it; the best it can do is an oversized Magikarp statue. One of the children there claims to have seen a fish Pokémon hiding behind a rock, but they’re kids; their souls haven’t yet been broken by the ultimate bleakness of life, death and eternity. It was probably just a piece of rubbish that looked like a fish from a certain angle in poor light. The one useful thing in here is the Old Rod given to me by a fisherman hanging out in the aquarium, but even that seems to produce only Magikarp and Luvdisc. Still, I do at least get the consolation of a shiny Magikarp as I sit on the Muraille Coast fishing. So tempted to train a red Gyarados for old time’s sake…
There is no tall grass on the coastline route to Cyllage City, but there are smashable rocks, some of which release Pokémon: mainly Dwebble, but a new Pokémon also presents itself: Binacle, a defence-heavy two-headed Rock/Water-type based on a barnacle. I guess that’s pretty neat; Pokémon based on weird animals are always a good place to start. Courtesy of Bolt Beam’s Adam, I also receive two version-exclusive Pokémon: the Water/Poison-type Skrelp, whom I’ve already met, and Swirlix’s counterpart, the Fairy-type Spritzee. Skrelp, “camouflaged as rotten kelp… [sprays] liquid poison on prey that approaches unawares.” Okay, so I was right; it really is a diseased Horsea. I can work with this. As for Spritzee… a weird name for a weird little Pokémon. I’m not really sure what it’s supposed to be; apparently some kind of perfume-emitting bird with a huge nose (not a beak, a nose – although I suppose that does make sense with the perfume thing), tough but extremely slow. Why isn’t it a Flying-type, I wonder? Maybe I’ll get a better read on it when it evolves. With nothing else to catch, I’m not delayed on this route for long, and quickly reach Cyllage City.
Cyllage is no Lumiose-style metropolis, but it’s one of the larger cities I’ve been to so far. Roughly equivalent to the real city of St. Nazaire, at the mouth of the Loire river, Cyllage City boasts many houses, a hotel, a café, a clothing store (where I pick up some classy red sneakers), a beach with beautiful crystal-clear waters, and a bike shop, as well as a long cycle track cut into the side of a nearby mountain. As is traditional in Pokémon, no-one expects me to actually buy a bike (since their price is best measured in terms of Fabergé eggs) – as the shop’s 10,001st customer, I am ‘lucky’ enough to be given one, provided I can answer a truly mind-bending question: do bikes come in different colours? The answer, of course, is no – it is physically impossible to paint a bike in any colour other than slate grey, since their geometrically implausible shapes actually bend all light into a single homogeneous frequency. I tell this to the shopkeeper, explaining that I am a Viscount and clearly far more knowledgeable about such things than him, and suggest that if matters are still unclear he should take it up with the pointy end of my Seviper.
Biking seems to be an extremely popular pastime in Cyllage City – indeed, even the Gym Leader, Grant, is in on it. As I arrive in the city, he has just won a major and prestigious race. Clearly a man of impressive strength and stamina – but I’m not letting some mere athlete stand in the way of my continued conquest of France. When I reach the Gym, though, it turns out it might not be Grant himself standing in the way. Not only a cyclist, but an accomplished mountaineer and Rock Pokémon specialist, Grant has built his Gym into the side of the mountain itself, hollowing out a grand chamber around a towering spire of rock, with a waterfall thundering in the back. Reaching his own station at the pinnacle requires a long and arduous climb up a series of climbing walls. I don’t really do climbing… or, y’know, physical activity in general… I raise an eyebrow and ask the Gym Guide whether I get a climbing harness or any other safety equipment. He shrugs and explains that he’s just there to tell people what weaknesses Rock Pokémon have. I sigh. Well, I guess this is why I’m a Grass Pokémon specialist. Pan and Ilex have plenty of strength between them to lift me up the ledges, and help each other up afterwards. Grant seems slightly displeased with my blatant disregard for his system, but I’m taking none of that and challenge him to battle. Unlike most Gym Leaders, Grant doesn’t really seem to have a single signature Pokémon – his two Pokémon, an Amaura and a Tyrunt (a vicious little tyrannosaur Pokémon who, presumably, emerges from a Jaw Fossil) are equal in level and standing. I open with Daphne, my Floette, who experiences first-hand the effectiveness of Amaura’s Refrigerate ability when the dinosaur flattens her with a single icy Take Down. Okay… I guess maybe focusing on Photia and Cecrops has been causing me to, ah… neglect my other Pokémon just a little bit. Point taken. Luckily, I’ve taught Cecrops Rock Smash by this point, and Amaura’s double weakness makes that a one-sided match-up. Tyrunt, on the other hand, is not so simple to handle. He’s faster than my Seviper and scores some nasty flinches with Bite, leaving Cecrops unable to respond. Still, this guy’s a Rock trainer, and losing to Rock trainers is really not a thing that I do. I bring out Pan and Vine Whip the little jerk into submission. Grant, satisfied, hands over the TM for Rock Tomb (a more powerful and accurate move than I remember) along with his emblem, a steel plate studded with rectangles of wood, silver and bronze, known as the Cliff Badge.
So… now what? I think I recall rumours that the people of Shalour City in the north might know more about Mega Evolution – doubtless that’s where Serena’s headed, and I can’t let her gain too much power and conquer France before me. North it is.
Ridiculous quote log:
“Do you think I could go even faster if I tried riding a Bicycle while wearing Roller Skates?”
Yes. Yes I do. You should try it. But to make sure you’re really as fast as possible, I think first you should strap fifty Roman Candles to your bike and drink a litre of coffee. For science.