Here’s a problem; despite my team being slowly built up by the chance encounters, lucky breaks and the fact that no-one has died yet, I have a decent team. But it’s severely lacking in some kind of real, raw power. My lovely Braixen can whack anything leafy with no problem, Snorlax is a defensive tank, Bulbasaur – now evolved into an Ivysaur – is steadily learning some good status moves… But none of them have a lot of… beef.
If I was being literal and really wanted some beef in my team, I’d of course be after either a Tauros or a Miltank (the latter would provide me with instant milkshakes on my epic journey). If I was in the mood for a venison steak I’d need a Stantler. Do people realise that aside from being battle partners, Pokemon are also the only source of food in each of these regions? Farfetch’d even comes with his own leek, ready to make a decent portion of Hoi Sin Duck.
I’m after something else that’s edible though, and that means a bit of backtracking. In my time between this part and the previous, I’ve made my way through the cave connecting to the Mountain Area and I’ve arrived at Ambrette Town, a little habitat situated on the slopes of the mountainside by the sea (if Kalos suffers from coastal erosion, Ambrette will be the first to go). If you’re wondering what happened in between these times, the short answer is that I screwed up.
The long answer is, I fought a bunch of Smeargles on my way to the Zubat Roost and ended up in the little passageway between the two areas. I encountered a Whimsurr here and accidentally killed it, though this was no great loss (who uses Whimsurr anyway?) Slightly more annoying was wandering into a small patch of tall grass on the way from the cave to Ambrette and encountering a Mienfoo, an odd little kung fu fighter who would have been a delightful addition to my team. Alas, I accidentally killed him too (it was all thanks to a horrible experience with a critical hit, the bane of challenge-players’ lives).
But, why have I skipped all the way to Ambrette Town? It’s because I want a Pokemon. A very specific Pokemon. And no, it’s not the fossil Pokemon that you can receive here, it’s something even better (kind of, but we’ll come to that hurdle when it arises). Nope, I’m straight off to the aquarium, and the avid players out there might be able to work out where I’m going with this one. I go down the steps and talk to a man in a fishing hat (curiously though, he doesn’t have bait and he doesn’t seem to have any fish hooks coming out of his cap, which is a bit odd). He asks me if I like to fish. In truth, the answer is no or, at the very least, I’m not particularly sure. I’ve never been fishing but, living in a coastal town myself, the whole thing seems a bit dangerous, especially if you’re going to sit on the pier in winter as the waves crash over you trying to catch a cod. But I’m in Kalos, not the north of England, so I suppose I do like fishing. There’s no tidal waves or rough seas in this region. My blatant lie earns me an old rod.
While I’m backtracking to everyone’s favourite mansion just outside of Camphrier Town, a thought strikes me. I don’t know much about fishing, but would the quality of the rod really affect what type of fish you catch? In real life, you could say that you might not be able to land a big fish with a rod that’s basically a twig from the forest you tied some string to, but they’d still bite if you had a decent enough bit of bait. Why not in Pokemon? How come the state of the rod itself determines how the fish will bite? Does the fish see you on the shore with a battered rod and refuse to bite because it thinks you’re poor, or an amateur? If so, the fish in Pokemon are discriminatory.
Really though, there’s no way this particular fish can be, in any way, discriminatory. I’m looking for what I think is a goldfish. At least, I assume this particular Pokemon is a goldfish. A goldfish with really hard scales (someone else out there must remember the episode where Meowth bites into this thing and basically breaks his teeth).
Yes, I’m searching for Magikarp. Magical Magikarp. On paper and for the uninitiated, one of the worst Pokemon to ever grace the face of the planet. Its only move is to splash around on the ground in a panic. Oh but it does learn how to tackle. And then it does a minimal amount of damage to anything around it.
Nevertheless, in the pond in the back of the mansion I manage to catch a Magikarp and add it to my team (at this point it’s bye bye and into the nox you go Ledian, the weakest link in the chain). It’s at this point that I realise that I’ve been really stalling on my quest, barely getting anywhere in a long period of time. I only have one gym badge. This is a poor state of affairs. So in an attempt to speed things up a bit I decide to stick Magikarp at the front of my team and plow on with the story. It’s back to Ambrette Town. There’s trouble brewing in the caves!
The worst part of playing Pokemon X – from a gameplay perspective – is coming up. All across the sandy path on the way to the cave is jagged rocks that will presumably tear your feet up if you attempt to walk across. This means you have the dubious pleasure of riding on the back of a Rhyhorn. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Too bad that these Rhyhorns walk around in the most awkward, cumbersome manner possible. If anyone hasn’t managed to block the terrifying experience of playing Bubsy 3D, then you might remember that the infuriating bobcat literally drove around the screen and could only move forward, with you having to turn left and right on the spot to steer. Rhyhorn is pretty much the same, making navigating the narrow paths with the rather large and cumbersome Pokemon something of a challenge. And an annoyance. It doesn’t help that you keep stepping on Pokemon all along the path, and all of them happen to be pretty rubbish. Sandile has a cool – if annoying – ability in its sandstorm, but it’s pretty weak (and it’ll always be a cheap, slightly useless version of the wonderfully cute Sandshrew to me). I considered attempting to catch one, if only as a contingency in case someone died later, but I just couldn’t do it. I’ve never been a fan of ground or rock Pokemon. Ever. They’re always so cumbersome and I like speed. Speed is my friend. That’s why I liked Persian in generation one (I realise only extremely geeky people will understand that).
At this point I should also point out that I’d managed, thanks to some hard graft and a lot of walking around aimlessly, to get Magikarp to level 19. After a few battles along the sandy path, I transformed him into Gyarados. Gyarados is always on my team. Always. And forever. It has so much health, so much strength, such a diverse move pool… It’s almost perfect. Almost. So I was finally happy with my team.
After dismounting from my Rhyhorn, I went on a little explore just beyond the Glittering Cave. Here, I encounter a sky trainer; these trainers only use flying Pokemon, and only flying Pokemon can compete in battles with them. With Gyarados and Pidgeotto in tow, I felt confident I could take him on with little hassle in order to gain a bit more experience for two of my star players.
How wrong I was. This trainer only had one Pokemon. But they couldn’t have chosen a worse one. Emolga is a cute bugger. Too cute for something so deadly. In general, it’s not too tough. Against flying Pokemon though, it’s an absolute nightmare thanks to its electric-type attacks. I think you can see where this might be going. Confident that Gyarados would be able to kill it in one hit (he was pretty over-levelled after fighting all those Sandiles on the trail), I sent him out and hoped for the best. I ordered him to bite Emolga and had my fingers crossed. But it didn’t work. It missed. I couldn’t even take advantage of a potential flinch and live to fight another day. The trainer’s Emolga did the worst thing it could possibly do. It fried me with a thundershock. Gyarados didn’t stand a chance with its dual flying/water typing. He was dead. Officially dead. I’d only just gained him and he was gone. Thanks to the rules, I’d never be able to have him back either. I felt myself go cold.
I couldn’t run, so Pidgeotto was my only hope. Thundershock wouldn’t be as effective against him, but would still do massive damage. Combined with the fact that I had no particularly powerful moves, it wasn’t looking good. But I couldn’t run; for some strange reason, there’s no running from a trainer battle (who made that rule up?) I tried to use a quick attack in the hope I’d get a lucky critical hit. No use. Bracing myself for the thunder… and… It’s a critical hit on Pidgeotto. My beautiful Pidgeotto is dead too. I whited out.
Quite frankly, things aren’t looking so good anymore.