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July 18, 2016

Pokémon White (Part 2)

Welcome back to the Planned All Along third anniversary review! Go back to read Part 1 if you haven’t!

Aw, I haven’t played this game in almost two years, yet I still remember my first team. It had a Samurott, a Liepard, a Zebstrika, a Simisear, an Unfezant and a Musharna. I loved them, they carried me through all the challenges of the game. It speaks volumes how much one learns to love these animals, even if they’re nothing else than packets of data. One of the advantages of Generation 5 was that it tried to have examples of most types even early on in the game, allowing for a wide diversity of teams over the first three Routes.

"Challenged"? Please. There is no
way he can be a challenge.
After the little encounter with Plasma grunts in the Dreamyard, it’s time to go on Route 3. It’s a long way towards Nacrene City, but it’s an interesting Route with a DayCare center – this early? Cool! – as well as Wellspring Cave, a quick stop to get maybe a Woobat or another underground Pokémon. However, as Nick walks there he sees Bianca and a little girl coming his way. Bianca says two Team Plasma grunts stole Pokémon from them and his in Wellspring Cave. Oh really? Not on my watch! Nick goes in there and, helped by Cheren, defeats the grunts. He then gives Bianca and the young girl their Pokémon back.

Dammit N. Might doesn't make right. Right makes might.
To believe the former, you must be thinking that you live
in a video game.
Is that the best you have to offer, Plasma? Mere shenanigans? On to Nacrene City, home of Lenora, a Normal-type Gym Leader and famous archaeologist. Her Gym is a museum, of which she’s the director. That woman is awesome in so many ways! I like her! Nick tries to go in the museum, but N shows up and demands a Pokémon battle against him. He has three new Pokémon, freshly caught, and still seems to greatly love them. When he’s defeated, he states again that he’ll work towards his dream of separating Pokémon and humans, but that he’ll need more power to effectively do that. Sigh, I dislike preachers who keep raving about their message to people who are clearly not interested. I especially hate those who keep going at it without ever asking people’s opinions. You know, if you asked people what they think on the issue before blasting in screaming “FREE ALL POKÉMON”? Maybe it would help. Maybe bringing actual arguments would help too instead of just stating your message ad nauseam. Good lord kid, who raised you? Am I gonna have to teach you how rhetoric works?

I don't care if she looks stereotypical.
She is badass either way.

Yes, Lenora is here, and she will school you from Nuvema
to Opelucid and back.
Inside the museum, we can see relics of ancient times, whether it’s dragon bones or fossils. The Gym is at the back, and takes place in a library of sorts. So she’s also a bookworm, that’s awesome! Lenora keeps getting better and better as a character! Nick reaches Lenora and she puts up a good fight despite being limited to the few Normal-types available at the start of the game. When she’s defeated, she gives Nick the Basic Badge, and we can move on to- What’s that, tour guide guy? Team Plasma is attacking the museum and stealing a Dragonite skull? Okay, they’ve gone from shenanigans to crimes. The grunts flee into Pinwheel Forest; thankfully, the third Gym Leader, Burgh, has come to help us deal with them. This still means we need Nick to run into the tall grass path of the forest and defeat Plasma grunts on the way. And it’s difficult since this forest is home to many bugs and plants that can inflict status ailments. Meanwhile, Burgh, the Gym Leader, takes the easy, non-wild-Pokémon-filled path.

Do you know the way out?
No, you just want a battle? Okay.

At the end of the forest, we find a grunt and an old guy who claims to be a Plasma Sage. There’s seven of them, and this one’s named Gorm. They give the dragon skull back and Team Plasma leaves the forest. We go back to give Lenora the skull, then we can continue on this journey… through the absolutely impressive Skyarrow Bridge. After Skyarrow Bridge is Castelia City.

Impressive. But where's the rest of Unova back there?

Wow, this place is huge. I hope I’m not gonna get lost. Eh, it’s not as bad as Lumiose City. There are many places to visit here, many Trainers to battle. One building contains a statistics center, which was very interesting… well, until the Wi-Fi connection was terminated, which happened before I bought that game. Dammit, I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing so much due to being late on fads all the time. Cheren comes out of the Gym victorious, and Burgh follows; we meet him on one of the piers, and he explains that Bianca had one of her Pokémon stolen by a Plasma Grunt. We follow the grunt inside a building located right in front of the City Gym, and see it’s inhabited by none other than Team Plasma: Some Grunts, as well as Sages Bronius, Rood and Ghetsis. So this hideout was located right in front of the Gym, and nobody noticed. Wow, it IS true; in big cities, we give no damns about who our neighbors might be. Thankfully, none of the sages put up a fight, and Ghetsis begrudgingly hands over Bianca’s Munna, stating that by living right in front of the Gym, someone was bound to notice.

…No, ya think? It’s like a money laundering scheme opening right in front of the police station. You know someday your neighbors will find out and bust in with a can of whoopass. In this case, Burgh would probably blast every Plasma grunt with his Bug-type team. Hell, Plasma, I can't believe I'm saying that, but get some advice from Team Rocket; they were wise enough to hide their headquarters under the casino in Kanto's Celadon City... In Gen 1! And Erika saw nothing!

The honey is a lie!
Talking about the Castelia Gym, it’s arranged in honeycomb shapes, like the inside of a beehive. Burgh definitely pushes the “Bug” theme here. By the way, I always wondered why, of all types, Castelia City Gym would have the Bug type. It just… doesn’t fit. It’s a nitpick, I know. It’s just weird. I’d expect, maybe, an Electric-type Gym (like Lumiose City in X and Y), or a Steel-type Gym, perhaps even a Psychic-type Gym. Bug? Points for the unexpected. Sure, Burgh is an artist who enjoys insects, and he lives in Castelia, I get that. But another possible reason could be that the local Champion has a team mainly comprised of Bug-types. Burgh is there so that you don’t underestimate Bug-types, because the true final boss of the game has 4 out of 6 Pokémon that are insects.

But I’m just raving now.

After defeating Burgh, we get a call from Bianca. She wants to battle Nick. Of course, this means she loses, and at first she’s sad… thankfully, she soon gets her happiness back by realizing how many experiences she gains on this journey, and each adventure brings her closer to figuring out what she wants to do in the world. I wished every review would get me closer to what I want to do…

Okay, I’m not bothering you with my problems, let’s move on. North of Castelia City, there’s Route 4, a desert with a heavy sandstorm. Unpleasant, but a nice chance to catch a lot of new Pokémon! Darumaka, Sandile, Scraggy… Nick also encounters Cheren again and a rival battle ensues. When defeated, Cheren admits that the player won because of the trust he has in his Pokémon, but that giving his Pokémon more power will allow him to overcome the obstacle you represent. Again, that obsession with power... He's so fixated, I could sell him a Power Glove and with the word Power in it, he'd never realize it's a pile of crap. So, the two friends move to Nimbasa City, where they meet Prof. Juniper who gives them Ultra Balls. Yay, better chances at catching Pokémon! Before going into the major cultural city of Unova, we can explore Route 4 some more, finding the Desert Resort, which contains a few more Pokémon to catch. Desert Resort is also home to the Relic Castle, which is mostly inaccessible for now – though enough floors are open to allow you to catch some particular Pokémon, like Yamask, a ghost which is said to have been born from the soul of a human who died. So, wait a second, if I breed Cofagrigus and hatch a bunch of Yamask, where do those come from? …Oh God… I prefer not to think about that. There are some things in the world you shouldn’t think too hard about, and Pokédex entries are one of them. Hell, these were probably written by a kid, so I don’t know how much credence I should give that info.

Hello? Is there anybody in there?
Oh, also, the castle once was two beautiful towers rising, but something awful happened, and these twin… towers… went crashing down… Oh Jesus Lord. You know, in the past, I’ve complained about blatant symbolism in some games. Unova is based on the United States, no doubt there – and Castelia City is clearly a nod to New York City, specifically Manhattan. And the Relic Castle is placed in such a way that it invites comparisons to the fallen Twin Towers, on that fateful day in September 11th, 2001, when the world changed. What we have here is not really subtle – I mean, the reference is so obvious, it’s like a director yelling the message of his film through a megaphone into your ear as you watch the movie.
However! Here, the fictional location and the real-life event it represents are separated by a layer of legend. The Relic Castle’s towers didn’t fall due to a terrorist attack. The Castle was built long ago, by one of two brothers of legend, one which represented Truth, the other which represented Ideals. And when I say “long ago”, I mean it – at least two millennia ago. Very little remains of the story, but it’s implied that the legendary dragons of this generation had a part in the event that destroyed Relic Castle. A war between brothers, the clash between truth and ideals. You can still feel the desolation and the sadness that surround the place, the impression that what happened here became a regrettable part of History – that’s the other thing that hasn’t changed between the fictional place and the real-life event. And here, it’s brilliantly put together. I love this kind of thing.

After visiting whatever little can be seen of the Relic Castle (and getting a fossil on the way), we can see Nimbasa City. This place is simply beautiful. No wonder it’s the center of arts in Unova. I’m gonna like this place. 

There’s the Battle Subway, where a Trainer can participate in all kinds of Pokémon battles. North is the Musical Hall, one of the new features in the game. See, this takes inspiration from Broadway and allows your Pokémon to partake in a bit of dancing. Cute to an extreme and kinda interesting… the one downside I can think of is that the Pokémon aren’t scaled to their real sizes, but that would be a lot of trouble to set up. Some would dwarf everyone else. On the other hand, if the bigger Pokémon were in the background and the smaller ones at the front, maybe… Oh, I’m overthinking things again. Musicals are simple; you dress your Pokémon in different props (which can be collected, there’s a big number of those), then it goes on stage and you can control some of its actions. Finally, after the show, your Trainer can go around to get the audience’s reaction to your Pokémon’s performance and be rewarded with more props. An interesting concept, with a lot of interesting ideas, but it’s not for me.

Still, Nick meets Bianca there and they learn about the mechanics, then come out to encounter Bianca’s father. Uh oh. Is my mother sending you to punish me for leaving with my room still a mess? Oh, he’s here for Bianca. The two get into a big argument, but in the end it just turns out her father is a little overprotective and doesn’t want her to get harmed. This is a strong, touching moment, where Bianca affirms that she’ll figure out what she wants to do before she comes back home. I like moments like this. I swear, it’s like I can only say good things about this game! It’s crazy! What happened to my anger outbursts? Oh right, they’re still around, just not as awful as they were back in my second year doing this site. I’ve gotten more analytical lately. I don’t want to think about the next thing that could set me off…

So, next to the Musical Hall there’s a sports center where you can fight Trainers. East of the city there’s an amusement park with a nice ferris wheel. Oh, and N. Uh oh. N says Team Plasma is hiding nearby and they should use the ferris wheel to see where they might be. Um, sorry, I don’t take amusement park rides with my enemies. Well… you’re not an enemy per se, but by principle I try not to spend too long around people who may be my enemies. However, the game doesn’t give you a choice, so you take a ride with N. The green-haired boy explains that he’s actually the King of Team Plasma, and he was given this role by Ghetsis on his quest to free all Pokémon from their owners.

"Spoiler alert: I am the bad guy."
N, we’re stuck here for a while, so I’ll try to explain it again. You have good ideals, but you’re going at it the wrong way. You think you have the truth, but you don’t; you have one point of view, but if you refuse to listen to the other points of view, you won’t get anywhere. Us humans, we grow through socialization. We learn new things. We can hear how others think, what others believe. When you’re pursuing such a great mission, you can’t go blind to what people say. You can’t rely only on what Team Plasma says, they’re an echo chamber. And I’m pretty sure they’re an echo chamber of lies, as I saw on my trip how they were willing to mistreat Pokémon. As far as I know, the main character – in this case, me, since I play the game – is the only person who disagrees with you that you’ve actually taken some time to listen to. And even then, you’re more inclined to talk about yourself, and equations, than to try and understand. After the ferris wheel ride, N challenges the player to buy time for the Plasma grunts who are escaping. N, you’re too good a person to continue on this road. Quit while you can. Still, Nick defeats N and the King of Team Plasma states that he’ll continue on his way, even if that means attacking the Elite 4 itself.

After this encounter, we can get into the Nimbasa Gym. Led by Elesa, this Gym contains Trainers using Electric-type Pokémon. Nick travels across floating platforms thanks to roller coasters, defeats Trainers, and reaches Elesa. She’s not a very simple opponent to defeat as her two Emolga and her Zebstrika know many annoying tricks, but soon she’s defeated and hands to the player the Bolt Badge.

Alright then, I believe it’s time to continue on our adventure. Moving northwest of Nimbasa City, onto Route 5 the road for entertainers of all kinds: Dancers, musicians… A neat place on the way to the next City, the next Gym. However, as soon as we enter that Route, we meet Cheren who wants a battle. Aw, again? I swear Cheren, you always want to battle me! It’s getting ridiculous! It’s like I can’t make three steps without you running at me and going “Let’s battle! I gotta be stronger than you this time!” Gotta give it to him, he does get stronger with each encounter. But still, he just can’t win. The story doesn’t allow him to win.

That’s when Elesa comes in, and brings the boys to a man named Alder. With his weird outfit and his extravagant haircut that would make Yu-Gi-Oh! protagonists blush, the guy sure attracts people’s attention. He’s quickly revealed to be none other than the Champion of Unova, on his umpteenth trip across the region. Hearing about Cheren’s ambitions of becoming stronger, Alder puts the two boys to the test against a duo of preschoolers. Nick and Cheren win the battle, but Cheren still won’t shut up about becoming stronger. Alder knocks his ego down a few notches by asking him the perfect question: Why. Why become stronger. What will you do once you’ve become stronger. You can be the strongest Trainer, but that means nothing if you have no reason to keep such strength. Power without reason is pointless. Alder encourages Cheren to find a purpose, then leaves. At the end of Route 5, we reach Driftveil Drawbridge, which is currently raised. Elesa will ask for the drawbridge to be lowered, and Nick can now run through it towards Driftveil City.

The adventure continues!

…In Part 3!