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Returning to Hyrule feels different this time

When Link woke in the Shrine of Resurrection, he emerged into a world where 100 years had passed without him, in the aftermath of a stalled calamity he and Princess Zelda failed to prevent. This world was faintly familiar to him - a fuzzy mirage of a place called Hyrule that he knew the idea of, but not the specific shape. Like the fallen Champion himself, we as players knew what Hyrule was in the abstract, but we had no specific memory of this place full of wonder, danger, and secrets. Link’s quest in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was one of discovery of that place, and eventually righting the wrongs of the past to finally end the calamity that started 100 years prior. Now with Tears of the Kingdom on the near horizon, Link, and we, face a new chapter.

Sometimes in The Legend of Zelda, new entries in the series exist as a direct sequel to a previous story, set in the same world but at a different place. Link’s Awakening follows A Link to the Past, but is set on the strange Koholint Island. Majora’s Mask explores a land called Termina after young Link leaves Ocarina of Time’s Hyrule. Wind Waker is followed by Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, where new oceans and lands are explored long after Hyrule is lost to the sea.

A Link Between Worlds, interestingly, takes place in the same space as A Link to the Past, but still wildly reimagined and with a completely different cast and conflict. More often the series resets itself in a wholly new interpretation of Hyrule, with a different incarnation of Link, Zelda, and Ganon playing out the struggle between light and dark. Like actors in a long running stage play reinterpreted again and again over centuries across different cultures - the primary characters clash until eventually light, courage, and wisdom prevail over a lust for power that threatens to smother the world in darkness. And then it happens again, in yet another world called Hyrule that is familiar yet different.

*Side note: yes I’m aware of the official timeline, and that it is all canonically one world with different timelines. What I consider a different world is when a jump between games so radically reshapes it that it may as well be a new entity.

But there is something unique about the current moment of anticipation before we again join Link in a quest across Hyrule. This time (based on what we think we know) this Link is not only the same Link from Breath of the Wild, but our adventure will also take place in largely the same physical space. The map is still the Hyrule with a Great Plateau near the central plains, and Hyrule Castle to the north of that in the shadow of Death Mountain. The twin peaks will probably still stand between the Great Plateau and Kakariko Village, which lies southwest of Zora’s Domain. The peaks of the Hebra Mountains, Gerudo Highlands, and Mount Lanayru will likely still stand tall around the map’s edges. I’m sure there will be numerous changes to the map we explored in Breath of the Wild, not least of which will be the inclusion of the many floating sky islands seen in the trailers, but fundamentally this is meant to be the same space. The same Hyrule.

And like Link, we are returning to that space. We are the same people with all of the memories and familiarity with this Hyrule. The implications of this could be profound in terms of how Tears of the Kingdom decides to treat the relationship between its map and Link (and by extension the players). Will Link start the game with a basic familiarity with the geography? Will we have access to a full basic map from the beginning, missing the details as well as any changes? How many characters will recognize Link from Breath of the Wild? Did Link canonically help with the construction of Tarrey Town, one of Breath of the Wild’s many optional quests? Which of the countless expectations and memories that players arrive with will be honored and which will be somehow forgotten?

What does Nintendo expect players to come to Tears of the Kingdom with, and what story will they tell with Breath of the Wild as the foundation?

There’s an opportunity here for a story unlike any we’ve seen before in The Legend of Zelda. One where Link is the hero of Hyrule from the start, working alongside Zelda to rebuild the kingdom into a prosperous and safe land. When that goes wrong, as the trailer suggests it will, what becomes of these saviors and their allies? This world was theirs, then lost to the calamity, and then reclaimed. What do they do when on the brink of losing it again? I don’t necessarily expect a deep reflection on the nature of heroism - the history of Nintendo’s storytelling suggests that victory will be won by courage and wisdom united by fellowship. But there’s an opening for something different, or at least more.

We are returning to Hyrule - this Hyrule. We will take up the sword and face danger and mystery again as Link - this Link. And if you played Breath of the Wild, you’ll be returning with all of the history that comes from your experience - this You.

Although, maybe not exactly the same You. Time does have a way of changing us.

A lot has happened in the 6 years since we first set foot in this Hyrule. We all have been through a global pandemic, for one. Personally I’ve moved, changed jobs, and had two children during that time. The world is the same, but different, and so are we. The Hyrule we are about to return to will be the same, but different, and Link will be too.

Here’s to changes that create new possibilities. See You in Hyrule.


5 Games of 2019 That Occupied My Brain

Hello! I will probably do a real top 10 games of 2019 as a list at some point (when I finally catch up on playing some more of 2019's games). Until then, I thought I'd do a bit of writing about 5 games that I think of more than any others when I think about games of 2019. These aren't my favorite 5 games of the year, and they are not in order of how much I like them, but they are games I've spent too much time thinking about, so I'm putting some of those thoughts down on digital paper! For you! To read!

*Mild spoiler warnings for some of these*

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Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds is an exploration of space, of the vastness of the universe and time, and of bittersweet ends. It is an achievement that a game fundamentally about wide scale death, decay, and destruction can feel so warm and hopeful. Outer Wilds does not dwell on the suffering or loss of the moment, but revels in the details of remembering successes large and small. Remembering others and how people fundamentally care about each other. How life can and should be about joy, discovery, and sharing.

Of course, there is also the matter of the sun exploding and resetting time every 22 minutes. One of many mysteries for you to solve, this cataclysm is actually the tool needed for your character to embark on this amazing journey of discovery. It’s a terrible event that reveals so much joy and warmth. A bittersweet loop of questions, understanding, and death.

The scaled down solar system of Outer Wilds feels vast but manageable within the constraints of the game, and the on ship information map is such a great tool for finding the next question you want to answer. The discoveries you are able to make range from mundane but charming conversations of an ancient alien race to absolutely fascinating discussions of space, time, and the nature of reality. Every location you can visit has something worthwhile to learn, and most of them also have some really impressive views or awe inspiring phenomena. This is a rare game where I never felt like I was wasting time, even when all I managed to do was crash land on a planet and watch the sun explode. It is beautiful every single time.

I don’t think there is much more I can say without getting into spoilers, so I will leave it with these vague praises. The core loop is excellent. The sense of wonder and glee of discovery is something I can still feel when I think about this game, months later. The warm tone and lovely writing pepper this universe with such a sense of place and purpose that I feel like I belong there. I love that this game exists and that I got to experience it.

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Baba Is You

This is the only game in this blog that I didn’t finish, because frankly, Baba Is You is too hard for me and it frequently broke my brain. That said, I respect the hell out of it.

Simply put, Baba Is You is a puzzle game where the puzzles to solve are “How can you rewrite the rules of the game so that you can win?”. You don’t just need to think outside of the box for each level, you have to forget everything you know about boxes and reimagine a world where boxes are actually something else entirely, and then think outside of that. Then move on to a level where your new idea about boxes is utterly unhelpful.

This is what made the game so hard for me. I wanted to be able to take lessons learned from previous levels and apply them in new ways, and the game would oblige that to a small extent. But after a small indulgence of a level or two building on each other, it would toss that whole idea away and ask me to reinvent the wheel again. Except it can’t be a wheel that’s round and spins, think of something else. Nope, not that either, keep trying.

The rules of Baba Is You are so systemic and flexible that I honestly was never sure whether the solutions I found to a difficult level were the intended ones, or if there even were intended ones. Each level has such specifically placed objects and rules, the layout so meticulously designed that I was trying to imagine the mind of the designer rather than try to find an organic solution honestly. Often I felt like I was playing a game made by a mad scientist, unsure if they had actually constructed a game for the purpose of fun or if it was something else entirely. Maybe Baba Is You achieved sentience at some point and started creating itself.

I enjoyed seeing and thinking about the levels I managed to struggle through in Baba Is You (which was honestly not even that much of it). I never want to play any more Baba Is You.

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Early Access and Roguelike are still two terms I tend to shy away from when I hear them, despite occasionally enjoying a few of them. I’ve never really stuck with a game throughout it’s Early Access period and checked back in as new updates hit. I’ve never really gotten into a Roguelike to a point where I keep coming back to it after having a completed run (if I even get to that point). Supergiant’s Hades has broken both of those for me.

All throughout 2019 this is the game where not only did I constantly think “I want to play more of that”, but I actually kept doing it. Every time a major update hit I would jump back in for at least a couple of runs. Even as I type this, having beaten the game’s final boss half a dozen times, I am thinking “I could definitely enjoy playing some more Hades right now”.

First and foremost, Hades feels great to play, and every run feels great to play for different reasons. The amount of run to run variation is probably not as wide as some other, more traditional roguelikes, but it is still quite impressive. Even more impressive though, is how every character option, every upgrade, every tradeoff you can take, almost universally feels like a big deal. The way different powers interact creates the feeling that you can create a viable build out of anything. Your dash can create a pool of poison (granted by Dionysus) to slowly damage enemies as you move around the battle. Your sword slice can be modified by Athena to deflect incoming projectiles. Your area of effect attack can cause all enemies hit by it to be cursed by Ares, marking them with Doom: an effect that inflicts massive damage after a few seconds. Your magical “cast”, typically a long range projectile, can be altered by Aphrodite to become a short range shotgun blast that also lowers the damage output of enemies hit by it. All of this and so much more.

Clearing combat encounters and getting upgrades is the core of Hades, and it feels great every time. Of course, being a Supergiant game, it is not content to stop there. Gorgeous artwork, a terrific soundtrack, and engaging writing help to keep me hooked every moment, even during the downtime between runs.

There is so much heart and personality in every single character, and being based in Greek mythology - there are a lot of characters to interact with, hear about, and drive mysteries. Zagreus is a likable brat, and the son of Hades, who wishes to escape the underworld. He is aided by many allies: Achilles, Thanatos, a target practice skeleton named Skelly who is just a delight, as well as a whole host of Olympians and other fascinating characters. Every one of them is sharply written and well acted, and you immediately get a sense of how they think, and what the relationships are like in this world.

I am so excited to see more of this game as it continues to get updates and eventually hit its full release in 2020.

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is easily the game I have the most conflicting feelings about in 2019. I played a whole lot of this one (I finished the Black Eagles Edelgard route), and I’m not even sure I came out the other side liking it at all.

On one hand, it’s an epic tale of interesting characters struggling through conflict, betrayals, and the weight of their own history and sense of duty. Everyone in this world has a story, a worldview, and their own goals. The conflicts arise when those things clash with others, or even when there simply isn’t enough shared understanding. People with too much power make sweeping decisions that affect everyone, and then others react to that without understanding the reasons behind the moves to begin with. It’s a very compelling narrative structure, especially given the option to see the entire story from different perspectives. The ideal version of this game would be a strong contender for a Best Narrative in Video Games award.

Unfortunately, Three Houses failed to deliver a meaningful third act that pays off on the themes I did latch onto for most of the game. I wanted the game to question whether my characters were on the right path or not, or for them to question themselves. I wanted to feel as though the other Houses were making what they thought were the best decisions for themselves at the time, but they quickly filled the role of enemy obstacle keeping my true heroes from saving the world. I wanted there to be something, literally anything, that spoke to the potential nuances of the situation after my band of overpowered nobles reached their final victory. After reaching my route’s ending and learning about what the other routes included, I couldn’t help but feel as though Three Houses may have diverged the playthroughs too much, and mine specifically felt unfinished.

At the same time, the narrative disappointments in the end game might not have derailed me as badly if I found the core tactics game to be more engaging. Playing on the normal difficulty became a boring trudge through battles full of completely underwhelming enemy mobs. I grew increasingly tired of the monastery side quests and character building aspects of the game towards the middle as well, as it felt more and more like a chores list. Specifically, a chores list that mostly served to make the game even easier than it already was.

If it sounds like I am really down on this one, it’s mostly because the parts I did like are so strong for most of the game, and I was really enamored with it for the first dozen hours or more. I am glad I played it, despite my problems with it, but am resigned to my conflicted feelings of wanting a different version of this game that really nails it. Hopefully they continue on the path set by Three Houses for whatever Fire Emblem does next.

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Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Swords clash in the rain atop a sheer cliff above a rocky coast. A boot slides in the mud, repositioning for the next strike. Timing is everything. Steel clashes again. Torches move as voices rise, and suddenly I am surrounded. Time to move. Gunpowder ignites, swift feet skip across the ground. A leap to safety. Now breathe. Think it through. Plan. Attack. Pull back and push again. Win.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is an immensely satisfying action game at its core. Despite inheriting so much from the Souls/Bloodborne lineage of From Software games, Sekiro is the most distinct and new feeling entry since Demon’s Souls. Sekiro, or Wolf, is the hero, a shinobi with all the tools and expertise to switch seamlessly between stealth, use dangerous tools like gunpowder explosions, and cross swords with foes until they are on their heels enough for a death blow. All of these systems work together to create solutions to any of the game’s problems, as you traverse a mythical version of feudal Japan. The parry system, though. That is what makes this game sing.

There is nothing that made me feel more powerful this year than deflecting a series of attacks from a deadly enemy. If my timing is off by a beat, even once, I will be in a dire situation. But when I am focused, when I am in the zone? I can not be touched. Their strikes might come fast and unexpected, a massive warrior with a long blade whirling and striking from all angles, but I could make it through. Each attack I turn away visibly puts them off balance. They bark an angry curse, or grunt in exertion. Stumbling now, they continue their assault, and I continue to focus. Turn their blade away, push them to a breaking point. And then, the opening is there. Without hesitation, I plunge my blade into their neck. Shinobi Execution.

Of course, this moment of clarity and victory comes after so much failure. I’ve died to this enemy a dozen times. This is what makes Sekiro a Souls game more than anything - you are rarely going to have a clean victory (or likely any victory at all) the first, second, or third time you face a new enemy. It forces you to learn, to adapt. Watch how they move, see how they make themselves vulnerable. Try using all the tools you have: you may find they are particularly vulnerable to being set on fire. If they spend time in the air, learn how to knock them down with a well timed shuriken throw. Above all, make sure if you die, you learn something from it. Come back more prepared next time.

The challenges in Sekiro are always ready to teach something, while at the same time demanding you to prove your understanding of what has been taught before. It is a self reinforcing structure that builds slowly - the challenges before me were always just beyond the edge of comfort. By the final areas of the game, the things that killed me dozens of times earlier felt like child’s play. That is somewhat due to new abilities and upgrades, but much more due to my game knowledge. It is consistently a wonderful feeling of growing and learning.

One common criticism I’ve seen of Sekiro is the lack of RPG style depth and character building, which is fair. There is no complex screen of interlocking stats where you place points carefully one at a time. There is no armor to mix and match, no option to swap your sword out for a different style of weapon. You can upgrade your Shinobi tools: your shurikens, flamethrower, poison dagger, etc., and there is a skill tree with various options for combat and stealth. Some of these options are incredibly fun and powerful in the right situations, but they are almost all unnecessary options. Your sword is your life in this game, and it does not change. This lack of customization did not bother me, despite how much I love the character options of Dark Souls. Sekiro is an action game first, and a stealth game second. RPG is just not really a part of the equation, and it doesn’t need to be.

Carefully, I have mapped out the area from safe perches and while hiding in tall grass. I know where the enemies are, how many, and which ones are the most dangerous. I circle the buildings, using cover where I can, and take out the gunners. A hidden path along the cliffside will get me behind the strong axe wielder. Then the spearman will rush me, they always start off with a predictable thrust attack. A heavy thud as my foot slams the end of his rushing spear into the ground, making him completely defenseless. Now just one swordsman left to take care of before the nearby half-giant looking monster is on me. I rush the lone soldier, baiting the attack and finish them quickly. As the giant approaches I zip away to a safe treetop and disappear. I’ll be behind it in just a moment.


My Thoughts on Contrast

I played Contrast via PlayStation Plus on the PS4
I played Contrast via PlayStation Plus on the PS4

The concept of light and dark, and the interplay between those, are fairly commonplace in the world of video games, and these terms can hold a lot of different meanings. Various Nintendo games (in addition to others) often feature two parallel worlds, one referred to as “light” and the other “dark”, such as in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. In these examples the “dark world” is a different take on the same physical area, where every area is more oppressive, dangerous, and, well… dark. The Zelda series as well as many others also often make use of “light puzzles”. These typically involve creating and/or redirecting sources of light in order to achieve some effect, such as blowing a hole in a wall to allow light into a dark room, and then positioning a mirror to reflect the light onto a surface that will react in some way. Light and dark are also often and easily tied into thematic ideas of good and evil, as well as used in a more literal sense, such as in stealth games where staying in the dark keeps your character more well hidden. Of course, there is also the example of the horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent, where having your character in darkness effectively damages you, and many horror games use very limited lighting to increase the feeling of fear and confusion in their atmospheres. Yet another example of light and dark is the fantastic indie puzzle/platformer Closure, where light defines reality - meaning that if an object does not have a light shining on it, it does not exist.

Contrast is another game I played recently that centered much of its core around the interplay between light and dark. In this title the player controlled character Dawn can shift between being in the normal 3D world, with full range of movement, into shadow. Essentially any surface that is sufficiently illuminated can be shifted into, making Dawn exist as a shadow on that surface, which also shifts the gameplay from 3D movement to 2D. Shadows cast by other objects onto the wall will act as platforms in your 2D shadow world, and this is what makes up almost all of the gameplay in Contrast. In this short adventure consisting of 3 roughly hour long Acts, you will be asked to shift between 3D and 2D while platforming across objects and their shadows. In some instances this will be large pieces of moving machinery, and in some cases the shadows of people in the world as they animate during dialogue or some kind of performance. Other times you will need to move objects yourself, reposition a light source, or maybe both, in order to create the platforms you will need as a shadow to reach your goal.

One of a number of examples of interacting with moving shadows.
One of a number of examples of interacting with moving shadows.

This is a neat concept and yet another to add to the long list of new ways to use light and dark to create gameplay. The puzzles and environments are never very challenging or intricate, but they never got stale to me either. The real issue with Contrast’s gameplay is just that the movement controls can feel kind of sloppy and fidgety, especially when trying to make your way as a shadow through a moving environment. All too often the game wants to force you back out into the 3D world when you collide with other shadows, often meaning you have to start the sequence over again, which actually makes the short and fairly simple challenges somewhat helpful, so that it doesn’t become overly frustrating. Ultimately from a gameplay and mechanics standpoint, Contrast manages to be a neat idea with some cool sections, but not polished enough to be called great.

Didi's family is exaggerated and stereotypical in a lot of ways, but there is something about them all that keeps the game moving well.
Didi's family is exaggerated and stereotypical in a lot of ways, but there is something about them all that keeps the game moving well.

I still enjoyed playing through Contrast, despite its flaws. Visually it is pretty different and interesting - set in the 1920s in a dark, noir themed city, it manages to be both beautiful and harrowing. You pretty quickly realize that there is something very different about Dawn and the real main character of the game - a little girl named Didi. Didi is able to see and interact with Dawn, but nobody else can. Didi can also interact with her family and the other “normal” people of the city, while Dawn can only see their shadows. That’s not the only thing that immediately struck me about Didi’s situation though - it becomes very clear that her family life is anything but stable. The interactions between her and the members of her family are actually quite well voiced, although often written with too heavy a hand, but it definitely put me in a place as a player where I wanted to help Didi, but at the same time felt that helping her now was only going to lead to more pain later. She is either very oblivious to the problems with her parents, or very naive about their ability to change for the better, as it becomes more and more clear that there is probably not a happy ending for them. Seeing her ignore the big issues and solely focus on trying to pull her family back together is both endearing and kind of heartbreaking.

Ultimately though, a lot of the potential for how the game could have ended doesn’t actually surface before the credits roll. The final segments of the game divert the attention away from the family’s problems somewhat, and the path points the player towards more questions about Dawn, and what she really is. Just as the game finishes asking these questions, it drops the final line of the game, giving a somewhat satisfactory answer, and then cuts to black. Clearly the intention is to give the players just enough to feel that they got an answer, without spelling very much out for them, I assume so that we could come to some conclusions of our own. We are mostly left with some half answers and shaky hopes about the past and future of all the characters involved, and maybe that is enough. Even though I feel that the game might be expecting me to have a more positive idea of what the future holds, I’m mostly comfortable with the idea that I can finish the story in my head.

One of Contrast's strongest points is the way the city looks.
One of Contrast's strongest points is the way the city looks.

I won’t defend Contrast’s imprecise platforming, or its occasionally on the nose dialogue. There are too many imperfections here in general to call Contrast a great game. I will say, however, that there are quite a few interesting ideas to be found, both in gameplay, setting and storytelling, that kept me engaged throughout. There is something very simple and natural, yet beautifully complex and otherworldly about Contrast’s use of exaggerated light and shadow, and the story it tells is dark, depressing, and also hopeful.

If you played Contrast or have any thoughts, I'd love to hear other opinions! I know the general reception to this game was not so great, but I found there was still quite a lot to like, and was glad I played it.


I Wanna Be The Very Best, Part 7 - The Finale

When I set out on this quest quite literally almost a year ago, I was determined. I had every intention of catching every single Pokemon in existence, and creating a collection of every form of every species. The Pokedex itself was not enough, I truly wanted to be the very best. Well friends, I can gladly say that I've done it. My copy of Y now has 24 of its PC boxes full of all 718 individual species of Pokemon, all who exist for nothing other than to be my collection. Am I the very best now?

This is the finale to a series of posts I've been doing (very infrequently). The previous parts can all be found as follows:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

I hope anyone who has followed along, or maybe even just popped in once or twice has gotten some enjoyment out of it - writing about this adventure has been pretty fun for me. Anyway, here it goes: Part 7 of my quest to become the best - The Finale!

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

I did it.
I did it.

When I last wrote an entry for this series, I had basically done everything interesting there was to do, and was beginning the long, looong, boring final stretch. I had all the Legendary Pokemon, had transferred everything up to Y, and through lots of research and double checking had determined that I would be able to finish everything right there in the new Kalos region. The vast majority of the work left was breeding and evolving, with some occasional ‘mans that needed to be caught out in the wild.

This process moves fairly quick when you get in the rhythm of it, but that doesn't mean it didn't take forever, just from the sheer volume of species I had to fill in. This was because I in most cases would have one form (Conkeldurr for example), but wanted to have all of them (Timburr, Gurdurr, and Conkeldurr). I employed every trick I know of to make everything as fast as possible, and here’s what a typical ‘round’ of breeding and evolving looked like.

  1. Get to the daycare. Talonflame is my flyer of choice in Y, and has the added benefit of Flame Body - a really handy ability that makes Eggs in your party hatch more quickly when he’s with you.

  2. Put one of the guys I needed to breed in the daycare. I had a Ditto on permanent stay there, ready to make Eggs with whoever I needed. As a side note, when I finished the collection, the Ditto had increased from level 34 to 58.

  3. Ride back and forth on the bike until I got the number of eggs I needed from that guy (1 or 2 depending on how many forms there are of that specific Pokemon). Then swap him out for one of the others I need to breed.

  4. Once I had a party full of Eggs, pop the Hatching Power Level 3, and ride back and forth on the bike some more, until they all hatch.

  5. Now its time to evolve them. I would figure out which ones need to evolve, and how they evolve. The most common mechanism is just levelling, of course.

  6. Fly to Lumiose City. Put away Talonflame, and pull out up to 4 guys that need to evolve by leveling (making sure to select the ones that were already the highest level - let the newly bred level 1’s be your lowest form if possible).

  7. Along with those, I would pull out my (now level 100) Kingdra and Zapdos.

  8. Equip the Lucky Egg on whoever needs it the most, and use Exp. Point Power Level 3.

  9. Restaurant Le Wow. It costs 90,000 PokeBucks to enter, but after a series of double battles you actually come out ahead from prize money, and by selling the Balm Mushrooms you receive at the end. All of these trainers’ Pokemon are over level 60, so the experience is pretty good.

  10. Repeat until your eyes bleed.

Le fancy
Le fancy

There are 2 main reasons I ended up going with Le Wow over Elite Four/Champion runs. The first, and most important, is that E4 runs take a lot of time, and everyone you bring in will gain a crap-ton of experience. This is great, if you need them all to get up to high levels, but when some of them only need to get to level 20 to evolve, a lot of that experience ends up “wasted”, because it could be going to one of the 200 other things you need to evolve. Le Wow being quick means you can switch guys out more often, which in this case is ideal. The other reason is that one use of the Exp. Point Power actually lasts for the duration of all the battles in Le Wow, so you can get that bonus from each opponent. In the E4 it won’t last more than one battle probably, and you don’t have enough energy to use it for more than 2 of the 5 battles.

Of course, there are plenty of Pokemon that evolve by other means, but there weren't many that were an issue. Ones that evolve by happiness were annoying, because I was too lazy to look up the best way to go about raising that, so I just leveled them up to ridiculous levels until they finally evolved. Happiness by brute force.

Other situations call for evolution stones, trading (with or without specific items), levelling with a specific move, and leveling in a specific part of the world. Pancham evolves into Pangoro after level 32, but only if there is a Dark type in your party. Inkay evolves into Malamar starting at level 30, but you have to level him up while holding the 3DS upside down. Pokemon!

Goomy, Sliggoo, and Goodra
Goomy, Sliggoo, and Goodra

But, of course, the final, final Pokemon I had to evolve, the 718th species for my collection, just had to be the one that gave me some trouble. Anyone who read my last post knows that I recently trained a Goodra for competitive battling, so it seems like it shouldn't be a big deal, but I NEEDED another one. I needed to have one that was in my collection, and was not needed for battling. Goodra, being the drippy, slimy Dragon type, evolves from Sliggoo starting at level 50, but only when in the rain. This doesn't work if you use Rain Dance, or have a Pokemon with Drizzle. It has to be natural rain in the overworld, which is totally random. After searching every route and town with a level 50 Sliggoo and a Rare Candy in tow, desperate to finish my collection, I had to do the last thing I wanted to do. I turned off my 3DS and waited until later.

Thankfully, when I came back to it that evening, I found it raining in the swampy Route 14. I watched with glee as my Sliggoo achieved its final form, and I placed it in my box, achieving my goal once and for all. I am the very best, and you can’t tell me otherwise.

Final Thoughts

The question any sane person would ask me now is: was it worth it? The answer, in complete and total honesty, is a definite yes. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I am so glad I finally did it. I can’t say for sure that I’ll keep the Pokemon collection going forever, but for the near future at least, I can say that I caught them all. Feels good.

I’ll leave you with one other piece of info that I collected before writing this. Below are the versions of the games I currently own, and the play times on each file.

Y - 175 hours

Black - 42 hours

White - 101 hours

Soul Silver - 10 hours

Heart Gold - 37 hours

Platinum - 209 hours

Pearl - 56 hours

Diamond - 100 hours

Emerald - 40 hours

Fire Red - The file I originally played of this has been deleted since. I would estimate it was at least 15 hours.

Of course, all of this time was not directly in service to this endeavor, but you can see that I have played quite a lot of Pokemon. Without an accurate time for Fire Red, and considering that Soul Silver and Pearl were actually my wife’s files that I cannibalized for my collection, my play time across all of these games was still definitely over 700 hours in total. Realistically it was probably closer to 725+ with Fire Red, and any resetting that happened across all the games.

And with that, it’s over. I probably won’t play any more Pokemon for a while, but I do have a few guys picked out that I want to train up some day. Until then, I’ll be.. you know, doing something else? Thanks to all who read and commented during this series!

The Very Best There Ever Was,


No Caption Provided


I Wanna Be The Very Best, Part 6

Welcome back, fellow duders and Pokefans, to another installment of my quest to become the very best. In all honesty, I don’t even know if I should be writing this post as part of this series, because the main focus is supposed to be on catching all 718 available types. This will not be about that, because honestly I haven’t done very much of that since my last post. With the launch of the Bank, my Pokemon time shifted back towards researching and training Pokemon for competitive battles, so that will be the focus of this installment. I also kind of hope that writing this will inspire me to get back to my original quest, and finally catch ‘em all.

The Bank, and My Mass Exodus

At the end of my last post I had finally captured all the legendary Pokemon of the world, and thus had completed pretty much all the reason I would have to make use of all the previous generations of Pokemon games. I had been storing everything in White while working towards the full Pokedex, and was basically waiting for the Bank to come out to move on to the next stage. My boxes were disorganized, filling up quickly, and frankly just a mess, so I took the release of the Bank as my opportunity for a final round of organization before moving forward.

3000 Pokemon!
3000 Pokemon!

The Bank, for any who don’t know, is a means to transfer Pokemon from your generation 5 DS game (Black/White/Black 2/White 2) to your generation 6 3DS game (X/Y). Its a better method than any previous cross-generation transfer, because you transfer whole boxes at a time, but the fine folks at Game Freak still somehow managed to make it nearly insufferable. You can actually only transfer whatever is in Box 1 in your DS game, and then manually moving that Box into your generation 6 game. This means that you are constantly switching between the 2 carts, because each time you move a box you have to load up gen 5 again to move things into Box 1. Ugh.

Regardless, after way too much time and effort, I got everything moved into Y. Not just moved in either, I renamed and organized all of my boxes in Y. I now have 24 boxes labeled and set aside for my “Pokemon Archive”, for lack of a better term. Each box holds 30 Pokemon, so I have them numbered for 1-30, 31-60, and so on and so forth, set up to hold up to 720 Pokemon. When all of those boxes are full, up to 718 (or more when more event legendaries come out), my quest will be done. I also have a box for Dittos, 2 for random fodder I don’t need, and 2 for trained guys and things I want to keep separate. Setting this all up pretty much ate a whole weekend, but when I’m finally done it will be pretty sweet I think.

To Battle!

The real question is - what *won't* Snorlax do?
The real question is - what *won't* Snorlax do?

Competitive Pokemon battles are awesome. Building a team and trying to come up with interesting and effective ways to train each Pokemon is kind of like building a small deck in a CCG like Magic: The Gathering. The battles themselves are full of mind games and crazy comebacks, unlikely heroes who bring you a victory you didn’t really expect, and also those heart breaking misses at just the wrong time. Sure it only reaches a modest level of balance by the sheer number of options and community made tier lists and extra rules. And yes, it takes way too much time to actually put together a viable team, but the sort of ramshackle nature of competitive Pokemon with a whole community trying to hold it together is kind of amazing in its own right.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of training competitive Pokemon here, but its pretty interesting/messed up, and I’d say look into it if it sounds at all interesting to you. There is a lot of information out there about this, and I would recommend Serebii, Smogon, and Veekun as sites that have vast amounts of Pokemon knowledge (although they probably won’t readily tell you how to get started). Suffice to say for now, a “competitively trained” Pokemon has the following attributes:

- Ability: Each Pokemon has 1 or more options for a special ability. These are randomized when they are encountered or bred, so there’s no changing it. Gen 5 and 6 also have “Hidden Abilities” for many Pokemon that are much harder to obtain. Abilities can range from totally worthless to immensely powerful modifiers.

- Nature: There are 25 possible Natures, each of which affect 2 of the main stats (minus HP) of a Pokemon. One will be increased by 10%, and one will be decreased by 10%. 5 of the Natures raise and lower the same stat, so they are actually non-modifying natures. Like Abilities, these can’t be changed once you have the Pokemon.

- EVs: Effort Values are bonus points your Pokemon can get added to its stats by training. Generally this will happen without you knowing, as they fight other Pokemon, but in X/Y these numbers are much more surfaced. Super Training is a new mode that allows you to target specific stats to gain EVs in, and makes training competitive Pokemon a little less obtuse.

- IVs: Individual Values are similar to EVs, but your Pokemon gets much fewer of these and they are randomly assigned when encountered/hatched. They give a bonus value to each stat up to 31.

- Moves: This is where a lot of your choices will come into play in building a competitive Pokemon. Each ‘mon can have 4 moves, which can be learned by levelling, TMs/HMs, and even breeding. Selecting the best 4 moves to fit your team is crucial.

- Item: This is the most readily changeable part of a Pokemon team, but still important. Each Pokemon can hold an item during battle, and their effects can make a big difference. A common competitive rule to keep in mind is that you can’t have multiple Pokemon holding the same type of item - so no doubling up on Leftovers!

These of course don’t take into account all the intrinsic qualities of a Pokemon, such as its type and base stats, but the above attributes are the decisions you’ll likely have to make once you’ve selected a particular species for training. All of the above are reasons why no 2 Pokemon are likely to be exactly identical.

My New Team

I had done a fair amount of competitive training back in the 4th generation Pokemon games Diamond and Platinum, but I knew I wanted to make a new team using new species from Gen 5 and 6. I’ll go over what I ended up deciding on, and some of my thoughts on them each.

Accelgor (Nickname: Shadow)

Accelgor is a bug type introduced in Black/White, who sports a completely ridiculous base speed, along with a decent special attack stat and a good list of support and attack moves. He was an early pick for my team who I wanted to serve as a strong lead in and harasser. His role is basically to always go first, and either hit pretty hard with Bug Buzz/Energy Ball attacks, set up Spikes as a hazard, or catch someone trying something sneaky with Encore.

He will go first, almost guaranteed.
He will go first, almost guaranteed.

Ability - Sticky Hold

Nature - Timid (+Speed, -Attack)

EVs: Speed and Special Attack

Moves: Bug Buzz



Energy Ball

Item: Focus Sash

Greninja (Nickname: Frolick)

Greninja is the Water starter in X/Y, who gains the secondary type of Dark. The reason he’s so popular, and the reason I picked him, is because of his Hidden Ability - Protean. It changes his type to the type of whatever move he last used, and this causes some pretty extreme mind games. His special attack and speed stats, as well as his move pool are all around good, so this combination makes him a deadly all out assault weapon.

A wrecking ball wrapped in mind games.
A wrecking ball wrapped in mind games.

Ability - Protean

Nature - Timid (+Speed, -Attack)

EVs: Speed and Special Attack

Moves: Ice Beam


Dark Pulse


Item: Expert Belt

Hawlucha (Nickname: Mucho Halcon)

Hawlucha is the hilarious Fighting/Flying type hawk Pokemon wearing a luchador mask introduced in X/Y. As if that weren’t a good enough reason to pick him, the build I went with has some pretty interesting combo work to it. Sky Attack is a massively powerful flying move that normally takes a turn to charge up, but the Power Herb is a consumable item that lets it charge instantly once. His ability Unburden also activates when he uses a consumable item, and its effect doubles his speed. As an added bonus, Acrobatics becomes more powerful when he isn’t holding an item. He’s a pretty well oiled, extremely fast, flying damage output machine.

The Flying Wonder
The Flying Wonder

Ability - Unburden

Nature - Adamant (+Attack, -Special Attack)

EVs: Speed and Attack

Moves: Acrobatics

Hi Jump Kick

Swords Dance

Sky Attack

Item: Power Herb

Durant (Nickname: Exosteel)

Durant is a baller, sporting a great Bug/Steel typing that is only really afraid of Fire. He is a solid physical attacker who has enough physical defense to stand toe to toe with some pretty fierce opponents, and he is also surprisingly fast. This build is made to hit hard, with both his ability and item increasing his damage significantly, albeit with the drawbacks of lower accuracy and dealing some damage to himself at the same time.

I really like a lot of bug designs, which is why this team has 2 of them.
I really like a lot of bug designs, which is why this team has 2 of them.

Ability - Hustle

Nature - Jolly (+Speed, -Special Attack)

EVs - Speed and Attack

Moves: X-Scissor

Iron Head


Hone Claws

Item: Life Orb

Avalugg (Nickname: The Lugg)

I just couldn’t pass up using Avalugg as a physical tank, despite his Ice typing being a really terrible defensive type. He’s fat, he’s slow, and he falls over the in face of any special attacks, but his physical defense is so massive that in the right situation he can be a major force. His ability to learn Recover is what makes him rock solid (ice solid?), and his attack is more than enough to make Avalanche a very punishing move if the enemy isn’t able to finish him off.

Fat, slow, and dumb/awesome looking. This is a Pokemon for me.
Fat, slow, and dumb/awesome looking. This is a Pokemon for me.

Ability - Own Tempo

Nature - Impish (+Defense, -Special Attack)

EVs - HP and Defense

Moves: Avalanche



Rapid Spin

Item: Leftovers

Goodra (Nickname: Egootistic)

Goodra is an ooey-gooey dragon type Pokemon from X/Y, and has so many potential builds that it's kind of crazy. I opted to use him as a special defense tank of sorts for my team, and I’m pretty happy with the result. His very high special defense stat coupled with the Assault Vest item mean he can switch in against some really formidable special attackers, and he can occasionally trap an opponent with Infestation, and use his great offensive move pool to bring them down.

What a goober.
What a goober.

Ability - Sap Sipper

Nature - Calm (+Special Defense, -Attack)

EVs - HP and Special Defense

Moves: Dragon Pulse


Focus Blast


I’ve had a lot of fun training these guys and doing some battling. However, I think it’s high time I get back to my catch ‘em all quest. The end is in sight, the stage is set, but the only thing that’s going to get me there is the willpower to keep moving through the process. Here’s hoping I have a lot to update you all on soon.


I Wanna Be The Very Best, Part 5

Here we are, late into January 2014. Pokemon X and Y have been out for a while, Pokemon Bank is still mysteriously M.I.A., and my quest to obtain every Pokemon continues on. Without the Bank, I’ve still been doing all my collecting in White, and it has been going pretty well (when I sit down to actually work on it).

I have, finally, collected all Legendary Pokemon - probably the toughest part of this challenge. In total, of the 718 available Pokemon, I now have 518 species in either White or Y. With only 200 to go, the end is starting to come into view, and the majority of the work left is breeding/evolving, and catching the rest of the newcomers in Y. Hopefully the Bank will launch soon, and I’ll be able to transfer everything up and finish the job in Y.

Completing the Legend

After my last post, the Legendary Pokemon I had left to catch were Entei, Lugia, Tornadus and Landorus. Entei ended up being deceptively easy, because when I booted up my copy of Heart Gold he was already roaming the world. After a few battles of weakening and paralyzing him, the Volcano Pokemon was mine. Lugia was now all I needed to close up Gen 2.

Lugia, the Diving Pokemon, is the mascot Legendary of Silver Version.
Lugia, the Diving Pokemon, is the mascot Legendary of Silver Version.

To reach Lugia in the Whirl Islands, you have to get the Silver Wing from a man in Pewter City (the starting town from Red/Blue). With that in hand, I navigated the whirlpools and cave networks to reach the area where he resides, which is a pretty neat area full of waterfalls. The room where you face Lugia is pretty cool looking too, as he emerges from a giant waterfall to attack you. Like all those before him, Lugia eventually became mine, and I did one last transfer up from Gen 4 to White.

Now all that remains is Tornadus and Landorus. These wonderful cloud Pokemon are part of a trio of Legendaries in Gen 5. Thundurus is the 3rd, and is exclusive to White, who I had already caught. Tornadus is exclusive to Black, and Landorus can be caught in either version, but only if both of the other 2 are brought to the Abundant Shrine. So, I must return one more time to my copy of Japanese Black to hunt down Tornadus. Simple, right? Wrong.

Tornadus is another roaming Pokemon, meaning he moves around the world and can be encountered in random battles when on whatever route he is currently occupying. These Pokemon tend to move pretty fast, so keeping up with them is tough, and they also always flee on the first turn of battle. Damage you deal does persist between fights, but they can be a pain regardless. In Gen 4 this pain was lessened slightly because roaming Pokemon conveniently showed up on your map on the bottom screen, making it easy to keep up with them. Black does not have this feature.

Imagine this in Japanese characters.
Imagine this in Japanese characters.

In order to find out where Tornadus is, you must visit one of the gatehouses between routes and read the scrolling billboard text. These news flashes will tell you that a rainstorm is on a certain route, and if you go straight there, you will be able to find Tornadus. Problem is, I don’t read Japanese, and this is the Japanese version of Black.

My only hope was to look for numbers in the news flashes, visit the route of that number, and see if that was the correct message. After quite a lot of trial and error, I managed to learn to recognize the general layout of the news flash that said where the rainstorm was, and was able to find Tornadus enough times to capture him. If only I hadn’t used my Master Ball on Reshiram way back when I played this version.

Regardless, with Tornadus and Thundurus finally in tow, I was able to summon Landorus and capture him. All Legendary Pokemon acquired!

The Long, Final Stretch

This is sort of like the beginning of the end for my quest, but the end is long and, frankly, boring. I knew this was what I signed up for, and I’m totally on board, but that doesn’t really make it any less dull. Making my way closer to my goal means a lot of breeding, and a lot of evolving. Through my efforts I have at least 1 form of almost all types from Gen 1-5 (with Gens 1 and 2 almost 100% complete). So it really does come down to filling in the gaps.

To remind (or inform) anyone who wasn’t aware, my goal here is not to fill out the Pokedex, which doesn’t require you to actually have all types at once. It is to fill my boxes with all 718 types, which includes having all evolutions at once. Here’s a list of the ones I have caught, bred, or evolved since finishing off the Legendaries.

Natu x2 - I caught 2 of these so that I can evolve 1 into Xatu later.

Seedot - Caught one of these little acorn buggers. I think I had to do some tree headbutting to find one, so I didn’t catch the 3 I need. I’ll breed more later.

Phanpy x2

Tangrowth - Tangrowth is part of a weird group of Gen 4 Pokemon that are evolutions of Gen 1 Pokemon that previously didn’t evolve. Electabuzz and Magmar are the others.




Claydol - I don’t really know what Claydol is supposed to be. I’m pretty sure if I saw one in real life I would have nightmares.



Bouffalant - Afro buffalo. That is all.




Totodile - The best Gen 2 starter.



Ampharos - It physically pains me that this monstrosity will be a part of my collection. If anyone ever says anything else is the worst Pokemon, they are unforgivably wrong.







Seriously, why does it seem like the egg is engulfing Togepi as it evolves?
Seriously, why does it seem like the egg is engulfing Togepi as it evolves?

Togetic - Togepi is an ok Pokemon, but I find both of its evolutions creepy and weird for some reason.




Mamoswine - Probably my personal favorite of this group.

That's it for this update. Tune in next time - same Poke-time, same Poke-channel. Well, at some point in the next few months :).

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I Wanna Be The Very Best, Part 4

Well, its been a little while since I wrote about the goings-on in the world of Pokemon. For those just tuning in, I’m embarking on a quest to obtain every Pokemon in existence - you can read more about where this started here.

I went with Y Version for my 6th Generation Pokemon game.
I went with Y Version for my 6th Generation Pokemon game.

After my last post, where I finished filling out the original 150 Pokemon, I took a break while waiting for the release of X and Y. Now that they are out and I have played through my copy of Y, this seemed like a good time for a new entry in the series. I haven’t done much past completing the main game, so its not as much about catching Pokemon as what I’ve been doing (although there has been plenty of that). As such, I’ll also use this to give some general thoughts on X/Y, Pokemon in general, and where the series is going. If you care about super secret Pokemon spoilers (I’m sure there’s someone?), go ahead and skip this.

Into the Kalos Region

X and Y are the newest entries in the Pokemon franchise, the first to appear on the 3DS, and take place in a new region called the Kalos Region. The aesthetics of Kalos are based on France, and you can see it in the architecture, the way NPCs talk, and by the inclusion of multiple cafes in basically every town. The Japanese take on France is pretty endearing overall, and the world feels vibrant and alive, with people and Pokemon filling the game’s many areas well.

There are (currently) 69 Pokemon species that are brand new to X and Y, which is actually the smallest number of new Pokemon added for a new generation. Excluding the inevitable “event only” Legendary Pokemon, it seems like that is the final number, putting the Pokemon total now at 718. Overall I like the new designs, with some early favorites being the Grass starter Chespin, the Dragon/Poison Dragalge, and the ridiculous Fighting/Flying Hawlucha. Its a hawk in a luchador mask.

Exploring Kalos is as good as Pokemon has probably ever been - it is absolutely packed full of Pokemon new and old, which is a nice change from Black/White’s Unova region, which only contained new species until the post game. As I have been playing Y, I have basically been catching everything I see, so I already have most of the new guys (at least one form of them anyway). One of my favorite things about the new set of Pokemon is how many missing type combos they fill. By my count there were 40 missing type combinations before X/Y released (which doesn’t include the new Fairy type), and of those, I believe 9 now exist, which is pretty good. Of course, the introduction of the Fairy type has introduced more missing combinations, so there’s still a lot of work to be done there.

These guys are pretty lame
These guys are pretty lame

Team Flare and Yveltal

In Kalos, the evil team of criminals is Team Flare, and they are probably the worst (quality) team so far in the world of Pokemon. Their motives are unclear, and they come across as just being evil for the sake of being evil (even more than previous teams). It honestly feels like they were added to the game as an afterthought, and nobody really gave them much attention. Their antics do lead you to the Legendary Pokemon of your version: Xerneas or Yveltal. Both of those are pretty cool Legendaries, and encountering the Legendary Pokemon is always a cool experience, but this one really did come out of nowhere to me. That said, the events leading up to the Legendaries made use of some pretty good looking cutscenes, which is a new thing for Pokemon, and I think is a good thing for the series. I’m sure there will be some pretty baller cutscenes when they put out the inevitable 3DS remakes of Ruby/Sapphire.

The Champion, and Beyond

The first thing I’ll say about the Elite Four and the Champion is this - I’m pretty sure this is the easiest main Pokemon game so far. Usually collecting all 8 badges is a breeze, but I find myself pretty under prepared for the Elite Four. Not this time, as all of my party was well above even the Champion’s strongest Pokemon. Because of that, it wasn’t quite the same ordeal it normally is, with me mostly 1-shotting everything as it came up. Part of this was because I made use of the Lucky Egg for basically the whole game, but even so, it was kind of anti-climatic. I did insist on facing down the Champion’s Mega Gardevoir with my Dedenne though, who mostly won through the luck of getting 2 Thunders to hit in a row.

With victory in hand - I watched the ceremonial induction of my party into the Hall of Fame: Chesnaught, Talonflame, Diggersby, Dragalge, Aurorus, and Dedenne. They served me well, and I was happy with my group.

Am I the only one who prefers the Y version (left)?
Am I the only one who prefers the Y version (left)?

So, with the title of Champion in the bag, its time to move on to bigger things. I will soon be resuming my quest to fill out the entire Pokedex, but I have some other tasks to complete as well. First, I think I want to get all the Mega Stones. Mega Evolution is super weird, and the Pokemon they chose to give Mega Evolutions to seems to oscillate between really random and 100% fan service. The fact that Charizard and Mewtwo are the only ones with 2 Mega Evolutions is a pretty clear indication of fan service in my book. The fact that Ampharos gets a Mega exemplifies how random it can be, along with completely horrendous decision making on the part of Game Freak. That said, if I’m going to do a catch ‘em all quest - I need to do it right, so I’ll go ahead and collect Mega Stones.

Additionally, since I want to try training some new mans at some point, I’d like to go ahead and start collecting all the TMs and other helpful items, so I will be doing some of that. The Pokemon Bank still doesn’t open for a little while, so I can’t start the process of migrating everything up yet, but if I do feel like catching stuff, there’s plenty to find in Y. Really what I need to do is probably get more organized about that - I’ll probably start working on making a pass through my spreadsheet, and trying to mark each Pokemon on what version would be the best place to get them from.

The quest continues, and I’ll still be working on this process for a while, but playing through Y was a nice change of pace, and a great Pokemon game.


I Wanna Be The Very Best, Part 3

Greetings, duders, and welcome once more to my absurd quest to acquire every Pokemon in existence. This is part 3 of a series of posts I am making about my journey - if you want to get caught up, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Bring it.
Bring it.

This entry won’t focus as specifically on a set of tasks as the last one, but I have hit an important milestone in my journey, and felt like it was a good time to check in. I now have at least 1 of every Generation 1 Pokemon in my possession in White. 151 Pokemon that represent the beginnings of the franchise back in the late 90’s. It all came to a close, fittingly, with my capture of the original badass, the pinnacle of psychic power: Mewtwo.

To Catch A Mewtwo

So, you know that Pokemon is about catching wild monsters, and you know that you use Pokeballs to do that. Most of you also probably know that there are a lot of types of Pokeballs, and that their effectiveness varies. But how many of you know how the math behind catching Pokemon actually works? I didn’t, until I looked it up recently, and while it looks complicated at first, it basically boils down to a few points.

  • All Pokemon have an inherent ‘capture rate’, which tells you how easy/hard it is to catch them. This number is an integer between 1 and 255, with higher numbers being easier to catch (in practice the lowest capture rates are 3 currently).

  • The bigger the difference between a Pokemon’s max HP and current HP, the easier it is to catch.

  • Each type of Pokeball provides a multiplier bonus to the capture rate. Regular Pokeballs are 1x, and Ultra Balls are 2x.

  • Any status afflicting the Pokemon also provides a multiplier bonus to the capture rate. Sleep is the highest bonus at 2x.

For the most part, that’s it, outside of some constants. Essentially, the best way to catch something is, get it as close to 1HP as you can without killing it, put it to sleep, and throw the best ball you can at it. Pretty standard stuff, anyone who has played Pokemon already knows that. They have, over time, added many different types of Pokeball to the mix that have different properties beyond the normal progression of Poke Ball, Great Ball and Ultra Ball. For instance, the Dusk Ball, if used at night or in a cave, grants a 3.5x bonus, but only a 1x bonus otherwise. My personal favorite, the Quick Ball, gives a 4x bonus if used on the first turn of a battle, and 1x otherwise.

Anyway, back to Mewtwo. I loaded up my Heart Gold file, and went and stocked up on some Ultra Balls. I don’t actually know if any of the fancier stuff is available to buy in HG, and I didn’t want to do any of the custom ball crafting to get anything better. Also, my Master Ball is better used on “runners” like the Legendary Dog Trio, who you have to find randomly out in the wild. So, I get 30 Ultra Balls, because really, I can just reset until I catch him.

The maze-like second floor of the Cerulean Cave.
The maze-like second floor of the Cerulean Cave.

I flew to Cerulean City, and entered the legendary Cerulean Cave where Mewtwo lies. I remember going through this cave back in the day of Red/Blue, and it was a really amazing, post game experience for me. Everything was super high level, and at the end was the promise of the most powerful Pokemon out there. From what I remember of the cave, the layout is completely different in HG. It’s basically 3 floors, with a maze of ladders and these crystal structures that make up walls, but honestly, looking at a map online it looked pretty lazily put together. Regardless, I didn’t spend long thanks to plenty of Repels, and found my way to the man himself.

Having a party of about 4 upper level 50 guys with me, I figured I probably wouldn’t hold out too long against the onslaught from the super powerful level 70 Psychic Legendary, but could hopefully get him down to lowish health and chuck Ultra Balls for a bit. To my surprise, this version of Mewtwo doesn’t care much for attacking, and only appears to have one offensive move: Psycho Cut. Since I have a trusty Houndoom in my party, this is pretty easy, because his Dark type makes him immune to Psychic attacks. So at least I don’t have to worry about that.

I whittle him down as he flounders about, unable to do any damage. Once he’s in the red, I start chucking Ultra Balls at him, and hope. 20 left. 10 left. Well, probably going to have to reset and try again, no big deal. 5 left. Sometimes they’re getting close, but no luck yet.

Last one, and he breaks free. Fine Mewtwo, you win this round. But… I have this random Dive Ball in my bag, might as well toss it. Wiggle.




Stunned, I go to the internet. I correctly remembered that the Dive Ball gives a higher bonus when battling underwater, or against Water Pokemon, neither of which was the case here. In this case, the Dive Ball gave a 1x bonus (basically no bonus) - the same as a regular old Poke Ball. Fantastic - I caught Mewtwo with a Dive Ball.

Moving Forward

So, with Mewtwo and all of the Generation 1 Pokemon in my possession, I move on to the next phase of my quest. What that exactly will look like I am not sure. I will probably more or less start picking the low hanging fruit for a while to fill out my collection more, until another milestone is in sight or I get too bored.

Filling out the long list of more common Pokemon is definitely a time consuming task, but I think I have enough experience now to do it fairly well. I think it is best to basically boil it down to a few steps.

  1. Catch as many forms of a Pokemon as are easy to find. 3rd Evolutions never appear easily in the wild, so generally this means catching a 1st and 2nd form (or two 2nd forms if there is a 3rd form).

  2. Breed any more you need. If some form is not in the wild, or hard to find, it is probably easier to catch the easiest one available, breed however many extras you need, and go from there.

  3. Evolve. That’s basically it - evolve until you have one of every form.

I find it easier and more entertaining to catch more Pokemon than to breed them, so I like catching the total number that I end up needed. If a type has 3 forms, like Machop, I’ll try to catch 1 Machop and 2 Machokes, and then evolve one of the Machokes. I don’t know if this is more efficient than catching just 1 Machop, or Machoke, and then breeding 2 more, but I prefer it, even though levelling things in order to evolve them is pretty darn fast.

So adorable! Now extract it's experience points!
So adorable! Now extract it's experience points!

For anyone who is curious, I basically level guys by going to one of the late (post-game) routes in White, giving them a lucky egg (bonus experience item), and fighting Audinos. Audino appears pretty much anywhere in B/W, but only in special “rustling grass”. Basically, you just run back and forth outside of a grassy patch until you see a piece shaking, then run into it. You’ll probably fight an Audino. They give good experience, combined with the lucky egg, and it only takes a couple of kills to get a newly bred level 1 Pokemon up to 20 or so. I think this method is quick, easy, and effective, and unless you really need to get something up to a very high level, the Elite Four is just overkill.

So that’s about it for now. I have the original 150 Pokemon now, and according to my record keeping I have 425 unique Pokemon species in my game after Mewtwo. Of course X/Y will bring more, but I am still probably over half way even including those.


I Wanna Be The Very Best, Part 2

Welcome back, fellow Pokefans, to the second installment of my documenting the quest to obtain every Pokemon. I’m basically writing this entry playing catch up with my actual progress, because I decided to start writing these entries after I had already begun this journey. I think, however, this particular section of Pokemon shenanigans is interesting enough, and I wouldn't want to skip over anything interest, since who knows how much of that there will be during this?

Emerald is the one game I own from Generation 3
Emerald is the one game I own from Generation 3

The Legendary Pokemon of Hoenn

So, after spending some time breeding various highly evolved Pokemon to fill out my collection, I figured I should shake it up a bit. There are a lot of Legendary Pokemon from the third generation of games that I was missing, so I popped Emerald in and decided to have a go with them. Now, Gen 3 is where Legendaries really started to go off the rails in the series, with Gen 1 having only 4 (5 with Mew), and Gen 2 having 6, Gen 3 comes packed with a full 10 Legendaries. I only played Emerald once, and didn't mess with it much after beating the Elite Four, so I didn’t really have any idea what the process was like. Fortunately, I had gotten Jirachi and Deoxys somewhere previously (some Event I’m sure), so that leaves 8, and they are:

- Regirock, Registeel and Regice

- Latios and Latias

- Kyogre, Groudon and Rayquaza

So, let’s get to work right? First thing I notice when turning on the game - it’s telling me the battery is dead. And for one second, I think “Well this quest was over fast”, but then the game tells me it can still be played, but “time based events” will not occur. Whatever, I don’t need your stupid berries.

Ok, up first, let’s get the Regi trio. Using trusty Bulbapedia, I looked up Regirock, who I learned is hiding in the Desert Ruins off of Route 111. I hopped on my Swablu and was on my way. Only, once I got to where the entrance should be, its just a wall. What gives?

Some more reading reveals that in order to open the path to the Regis, you must complete a puzzle in the Sealed Chamber. Ok... so you have to go down a dive spot on Route 134. After wandering for about 10 minutes I look up the path, and finally find my way down into the Sealed Chamber. After navigating through the area, following the encrypted directions for its “puzzles”, and reaching the end... nothing happens. Apparently you need to have a Relicanth and a Wailord in your party, and I don’t own either of those, and they’re fairly rare. I actually end up catching a Wailmer and leveling it a few times to get it to evolve.

Anyway, after about an hour to get both of those, I return to the sealed chamber, with the two newbies in tow. At the end, put Wailord into the first position of the party, and Relicanth in the 6th, and suddenly the cave rumbles, and now the way is open. Time to actually go get those Regis. Finally reaching them was as simple as entering their various homes, so through the Desert Ruins, Island Cave, and Ancient tomb I went, and acquired the Legendary Regis. Phew.

The three mascots of Generation 3: Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza
The three mascots of Generation 3: Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza

Next up, I went for Groudon and Kyogre, the Legendaries that appear in the box art for Ruby and Sapphire. These guys are strange, as they exist in special areas that actually move around the world. The way you find them is by visiting the region’s Weather Institute, where a scientist will tell you about a strange weather event happening somewhere. If its a sudden drought, Groudon has appeared, if its intense rainfall, then Kyogre is around. Part of the trick is, once you’ve found what Route they are on, you have a certain amount of time to find them, or they move on. Kyogre is found through a special dive spot that only appears in intense rain, and a cave entrance opens to Groudon during a drought. It took me a few tries, but I eventually tracked them both down, and added them to my collection.

Rayquaza, the Emerald mascot, is actually really simple by comparison. I simply needed to climb the Sky Tower on Route 131, and there he is. Good to have an easy one. Last on my list is Latios/Latias. The problem here is that you can only get one in a single version of the game. Luckily I think you can get one in Heart Gold and Soul Silver as well (pretty sure at least), so I’ll have to save that for another day. The way you start the Latios/as “event” is apparently by watching the TV in your house after beating the Elite Four, after which your Mom will ask you what color the Pokemon on the TV was, red or blue. The one you pick will be wandering the region, ready to be encountered if you happen to be on the Route it is on, and get a little lucky. I remembered talking to her when I completed the game, not really thinking about it, and I have no idea which one I picked. I didn't have it, so it must have just been wandering the region all this time.

It took a while, but by looking up their level and using repels, I eventually ran into the Eon Pokemon Latias, and then it was mine. Finally, the Legendaries of Hoenn were in my possession (except Latios).

Then, of course, it was time to trade them up. I have to go through Platinum before White for 2 reasons, the fact that Emerald can only trade up to Gen 4, not 5, and also the fact that I still need a Regigigas. Regigigas can only be obtained in Platinum by bringing the 3 Regis from Hoenn to its lair. Anyway, transferring from Gen 3 to 4 requires the use of a location in Sinnoh called the Pal Park. You put both the GBA and DS game into a DS at the same time, and select to migrate Pokemon from the main menu of Platinum. The game also restricts you to migrating up to 6 Pokemon once a day. Wait a sec...

This ended up being quite the headache
This ended up being quite the headache

Time based events no longer function. Well crap.

For the second time in this process, I think this is it, now I’ll never get them all. I don’t want to buy another copy of Emerald, play it through, catch the Legendaries, and try to trade them up before the battery dies on that one too. I ask the almighty Google for help, and after quite a bit of searching, I find something. There is a way to break the 6 Pokemon per day limit to the Pal Park, as long as you have 2 GBA Pokemon games. Fire Red - now it’s your time to shine.

Here is my understanding of how the system is intended to work:

  • In order to trade between games, the DS and the GBA cartridge must be set to the same time, meaning their clocks must be aligned.

  • If they are not the same, the migration process will ask you want to align the clocks, this is supposed to delay any migrations for 24 hours afterwards.

  • If the clocks are the same, the game checks if the GBA game has migrated in the past 24 hours (I assume this is some flag stored in the game code?)

The issue for me I think comes from the fact that I can align the two clocks, but since time does not progress in Emerald, it will never think the 24 hours has expired, and presumably falls out of alignment (not sure how close they need to be).

Anyway, this is the process to circumvent all of that nonsense:

  1. I started by aligning the clock with Emerald and Platinum in my DS. Not entirely sure if this is necessary to start with.

  2. Turn off the DS, switch Fire Red in for Emerald.

  3. Before doing anything else, move the DS clock ahead 1 day.

  4. Try to migrate from Fire Red to Platinum. It will tell you the DS clock has been changed, so you can’t for 24 hours. This seems to set the “you can’t migrate” flag in Fire Red, and remove the “you've changed the DS clock” flag from the DS? Kind of guessing, but that makes some sense.

  5. Turn off the DS again, switch Emerald back in.

  6. Amazingly, I can now migrate from Emerald.

Finally, after quite some time and a whole lot of internet searching, I have moved all of the Legendary Pokemon of the Hoenn region up into Platinum. There’s still a long way to go, but that is another important step in the process completed.


I Wanna Be The Very Best, Part 1

There are a whole lot more than shown here.
There are a whole lot more than shown here.

I like Pokemon. I have played at least one game from each main generation of Pokemon games, trained a number of my favorites for competitive battle, and spent quite a lot of time with the series in general. There’s one thing I haven’t done though, and I intend to right that wrong. I am going to obtain every Pokemon in the world.

So, when this idea finally sunk in as something I was going to do, I had to do some preparation, and I thought I would start what I intend to be an ongoing series with an entry about some of that. What did I really want to do? How was I going to do it? In terms of ‘what’, here’s where I've landed.

  1. The ultimate goal is to play X/Y when they release, and after completing the campaign, to get every Pokemon into that one save file.

  2. The goal is to actually own one of EVERY type of Pokemon. I don’t just want the data, and I don’t just want the most evolved form of everything. I want it all. I want Charmander, Charmeleon, and Charizard.

  3. This probably goes without saying, but I’m not going to just hack my way to owning everything. I won’t use any software outside of Pokemon games.

    1. The one exception to this rule is for “Event only” Pokemon that are not obtainable through the GTS, which I believe is just 3 of them. Luckily I have a friend who gave me these Pokemon as I was getting started in this process. I’m not going to ask if they are legit or not.

    2. Emerald cloning is totally legit :)

So, with those goals in mind, how was I going to accomplish this? Well, I needed to take inventory, and I needed to get organized. So I created the ultimate organizational tool - a Google Drive spreadsheet. Setting up the list took time, filling in actual data took even longer, but I think I have it set up in a way that is simple and helpful. The most important thing was that I could clearly show every Pokemon and whether I owned them. After some thought I added Category and Number to the fields.

Spreadsheets solve everything.
Spreadsheets solve everything.

Number will be helpful in planning out how I’m going to get Pokemon with 3 forms in particular. If I only have the highest form of 3, it might be best to breed 2 of the lowest form and evolve one of them. Category is useful because I can basically break the whole list up by general difficulty of obtaining. Commons and Common Evos are the easiest, Starters and Starter Evos are harder, and Legendaries are the hardest. One early thought I had using these categories was that it would be nice to make sure I have all the Commons I need early on, which would fill out a lot of the bulk. From there it would be evolving and obtaining the more difficult ones.

I had, after finishing White, moved almost everything from all of my Pokemon games all the way up. So I had a head start in my collection. I don’t know the exact number when I started this process, but I think after filling in the spreadsheet I had around 300 of the 649 different Pokemon types. Not bad.

Also something to take into consideration was what games I have available to me. I don’t want to have to buy any more Pokemon games for this if I can help it - I think I've bought more than enough. I currently own copies of:

- Fire Red

- Heart Gold and Soul Silver

- Emerald

- Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum

- White, and a Japanese version of Black

I skipped Black 2 and White 2 because I just didn't feel like playing more Pokemon after White for a while. They also seemed pretty dull in general. Basically, I should have everything I need, its just going to be some amount (probably a lot) of switching between games and trading up to White.

So that’s basically it. I’m early in the process, so I thought I’d take some time to write about how this started, and I plan to have occasional updates when I have anything interesting to say about it. Between starting and getting to what I’ll cover in the next entry (the Legendaries of Emerald), I mostly focused on breeding Pokemon that I had the higher forms of, and not the lower forms. This is an easy way to fill out my collection from what I already have. Stay tuned, as there will be plenty of Pokemon adventures to come - this is going to take a while.