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July 22, 2016

Pokémon White (Part 3)

Go read Parts 1 and 2 if you haven't!

Hello, fellow kids; let’s continue on this journey across Unova! There’s not a single challenge big enough for us! There’s not a single opponent that cannot be made into a friend! There’s not a single Gym we go through without having encountered Team Plasma on the way towards it! There’s not a single Gym Leader we defeat without Cheren wanting to prove himself better than everyone else at Pokémon battling, and subsequently losing to the player!

The story is even more focused than in previous Pokémon games, with the conflict against Team Plasma clearly taking more importance than the Trainer’s journey to get the eight badges. Although Cheren’s constant desire to battle the player character gets kind of annoying after a bit. Even Blue and Silver weren’t that persistent.

We reach Driftveil City, which is an ocean port city in Unova. It’s also close to Route 6 that leads to Chargestone Cave, and the Cold Storage can be found south. There’s also a nice market around here, where a biker can teach you about the new types of Pokémon battles taking place here, one of the two in each version:
-Triple Battles: Three Pokémon on each side, thus having to take into consideration all attacks that target multiple opponents. The Pokémon are in two rows of 3, so the Pokémon on both end can only hit the opponent Pokémon they can reach – therefore, no attacking the one at the opposite end of the other line.
-Rotation Battles: Single battles with a twist; at the end of each turn, your Pokémon is called back and you switch for another one, among three of your team. You’re limited to those three Pokémon but can rotate them as you please.

Personally, I’m a fan of neither, I’m still the kind of guy who prefers single battles or double battles.

Don't trust that guy, he's called Zinzolin! And if we're to
discriminate on names, don't trust any Ghetsis either!
When Nick gets to the city, he meets Cheren who’s talking to a man dressed like a cowboy. This is Clay, the resident Gym Leader, expert in the Ground type. Clay explains that he’s got things to take care of; Team Plasma has invaded the Cold Storage and he’ll only fight you if you can get rid of them. Off to the Cold Storage! This is an ice puzzle as the Pokémon series loves to do. Gotta figure out where to move next, because once you’re on that ice, there’s no stopping until you reach a patch without ice, or bump into a wall. Oh hey, that’s kinda like my room after the floors were waxed! I could tell you it was FUN to navigate in my room, late at night, with the light turned off. Nick and Cheren reach the deepest reaches of the Cold Storage and encounter a bunch of Plasma grunts protecting a Plasma Sage, Zinzolin. I have no idea what kind of name that is. So we battle them, Team Plasma leaves the place, and we get out. Finally, we can head into the Gym!

I have a Southern feeling about this.
Said Gym brings us far deep underground, and we get to fight workers and miners. At the end Clay awaits, with a strong team of three Ground-type Pokémon with varied double typings. When defeated, Clay hands to you the Quake Badge and you can move on to Route 6 and then Chargestone Cave. This was the big Route where the seasons had the most effect – the weather effects would change, Deerling can be found here...

Why? Because it doesn't bring up any arguments
against you?
Chargestone Cave is at first blocked by a large spider web, but Clay comes in to remove the web, allowing Nick to enter. Inside, he is suddenly accosted by ninjas, the Shadow Triad, who bring him to N. The guy just wants to talk this time; he says the Triad has been spying on the main three; they know that Cheren wants to become stronger and stronger, that Bianca decided to stop pursuing strength, and that Nick, the player character, is more of a neutral presence. He leaves, and soon we meet Bianca and Prof Juniper coming into the cave; they explain how to solve the puzzle in the cave. You push the magnetic stones towards magnetic walls, opening paths. Gee, it's an incredible coincidence that such a puzzle appears in a cave in the Pokémon world... Well, time to explore! Nick moves through the cave, and soon finds the lower floors conquered by Plasma Gunts. Dammit guys, can I have walk between any two Gyms without encountering you?

Just how many freaking Plasma grunts are in there?
How many people were swayed by N and Ghetsis?

Oh, this is only the first moment that made me go
"Ah, for fuck's sake..." Thing is, I try to respect N's
point of view as debaters always should... but this
particular anti-Pokédex rant is just STUPID.
We do some cleanup down there and come back up, and near the exit that leads to Mistralton City we encounter N again. This time, he wants a battle. Then again, we know how it must end if we want the story to go on: N loses. Dude, take the hint already. I mean, I want him to understand, but there seems to be something that prevents him from understanding. It’s like N suffers from something undiagnosed. Nobody can tell what, just… something. When Prof Juniper and Bianca show up, N walks up to Juniper and goes on a rant about the Pokédex and how it’s wrong to treat Pokémon as objects of study. “You appear to have no qualms about the relationship between Pokémon and people. You put Pokémon into categories using arbitrary rules and think you can understand them like that... The very idea of a Pokédex revolts me. What do you have to say for yourself?"

Simple, N. Very, very simple. There are so many Pokémon that we need to classify them. I mean, when this game came out, there were 649. By classifying them, we can better study them. By better studying them, we learn how to better live with them. By better living with them, we avoid treating them like a problem, much like we avoid becoming a problem to them. Long story short, once again you’re fighting a good fight but targeting the wrong people. Hell, you should be pro-Pokédex, you’re rambling about science all the time… why would you disallow humans to be able to learn from Pokémon?

Who do you think I am? Quasimodo?
N leaves, annoyed by Juniper’s true answer, and we can finally move on to Mistralton City. At last! Nick heads towards the Gym but learns that Skyla had business in the nearby Celestial Tower, and she’ll battle the Trainers only after they’ve visited her there. So we go through part of Route 7 and enter the Celestial Tower. Think of it as a parallel to the Pokémon Tower in Lavender Town, in the first Generation; a place where Trainers mourn their dead Pokémon. We reach the top, battling Trainers on the way, and meet with Skyla at the top. She asks Nick to hit the bell, the player does that, and then she says she’ll meet him at her gym.

Ouch. All in all it was just another skull hitting the wall.
Back to Mistralton City, we can enter the Gym, which has a pretty dangerous gimmick: You get thrown out of cannons to move around. This place would give OSHA a heart attack. Everyone working at OSHA, dropping dead, as soon as this place gets mentioned. And yet, somehow, nobody gets hurt! The player character even hits a wall near the end, yet it seems to be just a minor annoyance; cartoon physics save the day, yet again! So we reach Skyla and, as you can expect, she definitely masters her Flying-type Pokémon. However, like every Gym Leader, she has to be defeated and, when she is indeed defeated, gives Nick her badge.

Why, thank you! You're not a bad opponent either!

So! Where do we go next? Oh, right, Route 7, then Twist Mountain. This cave is a maze on multiple floors, with a wide open area in the center. It’s a very smart idea, it’s great to look at. However, before we can enter, we get challenged by Cheren again. Dammit Cheren, now you’re just annoying! When Cheren suffers his umpteenth defeat, he starts acting like a sore loser, until Alder shows up and once more knocks some sense into him. This time, Alder tells Cheren that he can’t have strength as a goal, he must have a goal in which this strength will find a use – you know, basically what I said at the end of Part 2. He also gives them the Surf HM. Yay, I can go on water now! Nick travels through Twist Mountain, and reaches the end where he sees Cheren confronting a few Plasma Grunts. Ah, it feels good to have someone else do my work for me for once! After the grunts leave, Cheren tells the player to continue forward without him; he wants to stay here and think about Alder, the Unova Champion’s words.

"Pardon broken my English. Me supposed be Unova from,
was weird in speaking in Kanto. Now back Unova am I,
weird speak anyway. This not sense makes."
We reach Icirrus City, home of Ice-type specialist Brycen. For once, nothing’s preventing us from entering the Gym. Icirrus City is one of those towns that changes a lot depending on the season; in winter, more sectors are accessible, including a house where you can talk to a reformed Team Rocket member. You know, the one with the weird accent who stole a machine part in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver? Here he is, with a family. That’s so sweet. See, there is room for reforming criminals. To be fair, this guy was pretty second-rate in Team Rocket, doing shenanigans even after the criminal team had disbanded. We’re not talking about Giovanni or Archer here. Here, he’s happy with a wife and a child. Sounds like a good life to me!

I really have no idea why, this time around, we slide in
circles while every other ice in the Pokémon universe
had you sliding forward.
In Icirrus Gym, Nick skates around on the ice and has to press switches to make his way towards Brycen. Well, I’ll give this gym that, it’s more creative than the ever-present ice mazes. Besides, we’ve already had one of those already. Brycen isn’t very difficult if you know how to face basic ice-type Pokémon. After his defeat, Brycen gives the Freeze Badge, Nick comes out, and is immediately accosted by Cheren and Bianca. Brycen also comes out, and Nick gets surrounded by the Shadow Triad, who say that N and Ghetsis are waiting for him at Dragonspiral Tower, located north of Icirrus City. The Triad disappears, so now Nick has to go to the tower. Cheren and Bianca choose to follow, just in case. Oh right, we’re past the seventh gym now, this means we’re soon going to be wrapping up the Criminal Team subplot!

They are pushing the 3D here.
Or, at least, 2.5D. It does create interesting rooms though.

Marvel at its beauty!
Marvel, I say! ...Come on, marvel at it!
The player runs into Dragonspiral Tower, defeating grunts on the way and being helped by Cheren on some floors. We reach the top of the tower, where we see N standing in front of his own legendary dragon – in this case, the white Reshiram, since I’m reviewing the White version and the mascot for this one is the black Zekrom. N marvels at the sight of Reshiram and declares that with so much power in his hands, he can finally defeat the Champion of Unova and create his perfect world! Emphasis on “his”, because nobody else wants what he wants and he clearly doesn’t take the hint. Still, N says that if the hero wants to be able to defeat him, he (or she) needs to find a way to revive the counterpart to N’s legendary dragon. In this case, Zekrom. On this, N embarks on his dragon and flies off. So… this story is far from over, huh? We’ll meet again at the end of the Elite 4? Oh goodie. And I wanted to kick Alder’s ass with a whole bunch of Pokémon powerful against Bug-types. Guess that’ll wait for later.

Back at the entrance of Dragonspiral Tower, Alder shows up. Having recognized the legendary dragon’s signature move, he tells the player, Cheren and Bianca to hurry at Relic Castle. He explains that Team Plasma will attempt to look for the second stone, to prevent the meeting of fates that N desires, by stealing Zekrom's stone. Since it’s probably resting among the remains of the old Unova, we head to Relic Castle.

Quick side-note about the gameplay; after Pokémon X and Y, I’ve gotten so used to being able to move around in 8 directions that I need to get used again to walking in only 4. Similarly, there were subtle menu changes between generations; oh, how slow this one was when you had to pick options on the menu! Now that I think of it, oh, how slow it was to move Pokémon around in the PC boxes since you couldn’t move multiple Pokémon at once yet! Outside of the stories, the games change quite a bit between generations, and it’s always interesting to see how each generation improves on the last in its menus, its timing, all these details the casual gamer pays no attention to. General consensus is that Game Freak manages to ameliorate each of these aspects with each game, so the players agree that the current generation is better on those aspects than the previous one, but will be outdone by the next.

If I,m the chosen one, does that mean I can punch you?
What? Other Chosen Ones do worse than that.
So,  we land in Nimbasa City then head towards Relic Castle. At the entrance, Cheren explains that Alder is already inside. So we go in, ready to battle more Plasma grunts. This time, we can explore more of the Castle, and we can go fairly low downstairs. We reach the B5 floor, where Alder is confronting Ghetsis about Team Plasma’s plans; the Champion argues that taking the Pokémon away from their loving trainers isn’t freeing them, it’s stealing them, and that these Pokémon don’t want to be freed. Hell, I imagine they’d just try to run back to their Trainer; now I imagine a Gyarados newly released by Team Plasma massacring its releasers and then going back to its Trainer, destroying everything in its way. At first, it seemed kinda funny, then I remembered how many large Pokémon are explicitly described across all Pokédex entries as dangerous… Seeing Nick show up, Ghetsis congratulates him on being “the chosen” according to N. As it turns out, this archaeological exploration was for naught, as the second dragon stone is nowhere to be found here. As a result, Team Plasma leaves the Relic Castle, and so do we along with Alder. Outside the Relic Castle, we get a call from Professor Juniper telling us to head to Nacrene City.

That's a lot of weight on my shoulders... you guys are the
Champion and the Gym Leaders, can''t you do that?
Going there, we’re welcomed by Lenora who explains that, all this time, she had the second stone in her museum – and none of the Plasma Grunts took it when they stole the dragon skull, dismissing it as a simple worthless stone. So wait, Lenora the archaeologist saves the day? That woman’s getting even better as a character every day! She hands Nick the stone, in hopes that we can find a way to resurrect the dragon living inside it, allowing us to face N at the Elite 4.

With the stone in our arsenal, we can move on to the next town. Back to Icirrus, we get to Route 8, then the Moor of Icirrus, then we’re about to get on the impressive Tubeline Bridge.. but we’re stopped by Bianca who wants a rival battle. Aw, right now? Isn’t the situation too dire at the moment? Well then, we defeat her but we say she’s gotten stronger, Bianca pursue your dreams, yadda yadda… sorry, there’s a lot on my – er, on the protagonist’s mind at the moment…

Not unless they've got enough brain cells to resist!
And even though my cynical view of humans means I
fear for the worst, I still believe the humans of the Pokémon
world won't release their friends so easily!
We continue on our way and walk on Tubeline Bridge, towards Route 9 and Opelucid City. On there, we encounter Ghetsis surrounded by the Shadow Triad. He outright reveals himself as the true villain there, explaining how he raised N to be exactly the way he is now; a naïve teenager who believes nothing but his cause, refuses to listen to anyone else, and has utmost trust for Team Plasma… Apparently, N was found in the forest as a child, where he lived with numerous Pokémon who had been abused by their Trainers, so his view of the world – a world where humans and Pokémon are separated – couldn’t be rooted more deeply. Gee, no wonder my words never got through to him! It’s like trying to explain a man of the Middle Ages that the Earth isn’t flat! Ghetsis then says that, through N’s words, people will start releasing their own Pokémon, and the movement will grow until every Trainer out there has freed their Pokémon… oh yeah, except Team Plasma. The true genius of his plan lies in the idea that, once the idea of owning Pokémon becomes morally unacceptable and the human cities and Pokémon fauna reserves become too distanced to allow would-be Trainers to catch Pokémon, he would then be able to rule Unova like a dictator, using his own Pokémon – and his underlings, Team Plasma, who also get to keep their Pokémon – to rule. Anyone who tries something will get beat up by Team Plasma’s Pokémon to stay in line, and the tyranny will continue.

That’s fucking diabolical!

And N, who in the end is just a pawn, unaware of the real plans behind Team Plasma, naively pursuing his ideal, what he considers to be the truth… when he really should pay attention to how the people close to him actually act. Worse than that, Ghetsis’ plan also hinges on the gullible people who’ll believe in Team Plasma’s plans, and on peer pressure to eventually make everyone release their Pokémon. For his plan to work in the long run, everyone has to stop thinking for themselves and choose to blindly follow the mass. And yet, people should be encouraged to think for themselves! To question what their leaders tell them! To criticize what’s happening! The case presented in Pokémon White is an extreme, but it can be applied to just about any form of politics in the real world! The people who represent democracy and who would rather have the public stay uninformed, so that it can be better controlled! The next madman who presents himself for presidency with ideas that appeal to the hateful voters to get easy votes! The corruption that seems to plague so many democratic governments! And what about the parts of the world that live under a totalitarian regime already – where the dissident opinion gets beaten down, imprisoned, or assassinated!

…Wow, I wasn’t expecting to get so political about all this…

Ghetsis leaves afterwards, indicating that while he knows you have the stone and are planning to revive Zekrom, he believes you stand no chance against N and his Reshiram. Now we can move on to Route 9, where Nick can enter a large department store where he can buy anything he needs before the final challenges. Then we get into Opelucid City, where Alder welcomes us; he brings us to a crowd in front of which Team Plasma is again preaching to the masses about their “ideals”… which, thanks to Ghetsis opening his yapper for us on Tubeline Bridge, we now know it’s 100% bullshit.

Alder then brings us to the house of the city’s Gym Leaders, Iris and Drayden. Here’s another brilliant concept other Pokémon generations have never done before; a City can have two different Gym Leaders depending on the version! In this case, you fight Iris in White, Drayden in Black. Story-wise, they're pretty important, Iris because she shows up earlier in the story earlier to help Bianca, Drayden because he brings up the best argument on why Pokémon don't want to leave humans: If they wanted to leave, they easily could, the same way these machines of destruction equipped of Hyper Beams, Thunderstorms and Surfs could cause plenty of damage to the humans they don't like.

No truer words frtom a wise person.

After visiting the city some more, Nick enters the Gym, which is dragon-themed. Defeating Trainers on the way, Nick reaches Iris and battles her, soon winning and earning the final badge required to enter Victory Road: The Legend Badge. I like the sound of that. Alright then, it’s time to head to Victory Road.

In Part 4!