Gaming 2021: A Blueprint



Hello there, dear fellow gamers! As that most rocky year 2020 is drawing to a close, I hope you're doing fine, in gaming as well as in life. 2021 will hopefully bring better things on all fronts; but since we're talking about games here, I'm gonna focus on my gaming plans for that upcoming year. And let me tell you: there are mighty changes ahead, oh yes precious.

Here's the situation in a nutshell: after a few years of general quietness and uneventfulness, my life has picked up the pace and is now busy as heck. Concurrently, my beloved game collection is larger than ever, and still growing by the month. I'm no math buff; but even I can plainly see that things are not going to add up. Something's got to give: and that something is the average time I spend on any given game.

This neatly squares with another recurrent issue of mine, which is none other than RPG fatigue. While I tend to favour short and sweet RPGs, the current gaming scene is in no mood to humour me: the general consensus seems to be that 50 hours of play is a bare minimum, and that any RPG that offers less should cower away in shame. You know I can pour 50 hours into a game if I love it, dear fellow gamers; but you also know that I much prefer to keep it at 15 hours and move on to my gaming instinct's next pick.


And so, here's my plan laid out for you, dear fellow gamers: starting 2021, I'm going to operate on a 'One Week, One Game' basis. What I formally dubbed the OWOG system will be pretty simple: each week, I'll choose a game, play it as much as I can or want during that week, blog about it, and then put it back into its case when the week is over — rinse and repeat. If I cleared the game by that time, good for me; if the last boss is still prancing around, it'll just have to wait until next round.

This system will keep my gaming nicely fresh and varied, while giving me lots of momentum and motivation. Not only that, but it may actually be the ideal way to play games as far as I'm concerned, since I'm a serial game replayer that usually enjoys latter runs much more than first runs. And don't get me started on all those times I picked up a game, only to start a second run after a couple of hours and enjoy it ten times more than the initial run. Heck, I really should have implemented the OWOG system years ago, now shouldn't I?

Well, better late than never, as they say. December will be all about VNs, as I have a serious VN itch to scratch and a ton of titles reading for the reading; and after that, we'll roll with the OWOG system. I'll see you soon with my next run report, dear fellow gamers; in the meantime, keep playing a take care!


Piofiore: Me against the Mafia - The Routes

Before I dive into the Routes, I have to rant against the prologue. What were you thinking, Otomate? Why did you have to make the prologue so darn hard to navigate? In most otomes, landing on your route of choice is merely a matter of hitting the right flag, or simply choosing your wooing material; but not so in Piofiore. Here, you have to hit a character flag and give very precise answers to a bunch of questions. After I tried and failed to get my routes of choice a half-dozen times, I finally gave up and ran to an FAQ — pretty ironic, knowing that I navigated the rest of the game without resorting to an FAQ. With that rant out of the way, let's move on to the Routes, which I'll lay down in the order I played them. Just for the record, I renamed the MC Monacia Orezza — a name I didn't create, and which I totally encourage you to google just for curiosity's sake. With that said, on with the show! (Giant SPOILERS ahead!)


Nicola Francesca — Smooth Operator

Nicola's Route is by far the easier to snatch, which is why I landed it first. It was bound to leave a deep imprint by sheer virtue of being my first steps into Piofiore; but even after playing the whole game, it remains my second favourite route. The feeling of danger is strong with this one, and my breath hitched more than once as I was faced with tricky choices over and over. Nicola may look kind and charming, but he's probably the most treacherous of the bunch: he's a liar through and through, and he'll lull you to complacency and bad endings if you don't pay attention. It should make sense that his Attribute is Honesty: only through sheer, blunt frankness can you melt his armour of lies and deception. With such a clear-cut Attribute, the best answers were easy enough to figure out — like, when you're busy baking dolce for Dante and Nicola pops up asking whom you're baking for, should you answer 'Dante' or 'Nicola'? 

With Honesty firmly in tow and a crap ton of vigilance, I landed the Best Ending on my first try, which made me feel like a million. Mafia survived, yay! I enjoyed the fact that the main source of danger and obstructing factor to the relationship was good guy Roberto de Feo — all the more so as his slow descend into madness was riveting to watch. Last but not least, Nicola is one of the most deliciously fleshed-out characters in the whole game; his deep and intense relationship with Dante is the stuff yaoi fanfics are made of, and it gave him very believable motivations. In fact, Nicola is probably the most 'human' and relatable beau: his goals are nicely sentimental, and it was sweet to help him reach them while keeping myself alive and winning his affections. And talking about winning his affections: after a whole lot of denial, the guy is ultimately forced to face his own feelings for the MC, which leads to a very steamy kiss. I cannot express how much I friggin' dig that trope, as cliché as it is; repressed love and lust really makes for the hottest, most intense make-out scenes ever. 



Dante Falzone — Hot as Ice

The game's poster boy boasts the dubious honour of being my least favourite route. This already happened in Collar x Malice and Sweet Fuse, so we definitely have a pattern here; and it makes perfect sense, given that Dante is very similar to Yanagi and Shidou. He's an ice queen-meets-tsundere, a man of great principles and coldness whose facade breaches ever-so-slightly once in a while yet never quite cracks. Warm feelings that never show are akin to no warm feelings at all; and it should surprise no one that Dante's Route is the chilliest, dreariest and most uneventful of them all. Heck, you hardly ever meet the guy during the first half of the route!

To make matters worse, Dante's Attribute is by far the murkiest and hardest to pinpoint in the whole game. It's supposed to be Respect, but it's really just a mix of deference, gratitude, propriety and aloofness that varies depending on the circumstances. A typical example would be this: you're taking a stroll with bodyguard Leo Cavagnis and encounter Gilbert Redford, who asks why the heck you're cruising with the Falzone posse. The choice is between "Things have been happening" and "Leo's my friend"; and the best, Respect-raising answer is the latter. Not mightily obvious, methinks. 

Mind you, this didn't prevent me from snatching the Best Ending upon my first try — Mafia survived again, yay! As for the main obstruction, it was none other than Nicola, still as cousin-obsessed as ever — except that this time, I was clearly on the wrong side of his attentions. He was not happy at all to see me hover around Dante, oh no precious; I had to fend off his barely veiled animosity and keep it in check — and I totally lapped up that tricky balancing act. Dare I say that I enjoyed it more than the Dante-related business? That would be a bit exaggerated — but not by much, really. Dante's long-suffering, reluctant-Mafia-boss leitmotiv didn't touch me quite as much as Nicola's devotion-filled, anything-for-my-cousin one. 



Yang — Sir Psycho Sexy

Well, colour me surprised: once in his natural environment, Yang is not nearly as insane and unsufferable as his behaviour in other routes may indicate. He's actually pretty lively and witty, and his route packs a good amount of welcome jest; not only that, but the whole Lao Shu posse is much kinder than expected, leading to some pretty light-hearted scenes. We're still dealing with the Mafia though, and with a seriously nutty boss to boot; so one must stay on their toes at all times, no matter how kind Yang may (wrongly) seem. 

Wisdom is by far the easiest Attribute to figure out, as the answers are really clear-cut: in most cases, you'll have to choose between a shrewd and sharp answer and a dumb and breezy one. That should make Yang's route a complete walk in the park; alas, it's anything but, due to a specific feature I'd dub 'delayed paybacks'. In VN, branching bad ends independent from affection levels usually unfold pretty fast after picking the wrong choice; but not so in Yang's route. Here, the branching bad ends are slapped in your face two or three chapters after picking the wrong choice. Worse, the main endings themselves operate on that system; this is absolutely infuriating, as it means that you can get them even with a perfect Status screen. 

Of course, I had to fall prey to that vicious trap: I first got stranded in both the Bad Ending and the Good one — just because I foolishly trusted Yang at the wrong time, or because I failed to realize that now was the time to give him my body after fighting to stay chaste the whole route. Sure, the Bad Ending was not nearly as gruesome as I had feared, and the game was kind enough to give me convenient hints about my failures; and so I finally managed to snatch the Best Ending from the jaws of repeated defeat. Still, this kinda soured my feelings towards what could have been one of my favourite routes, making it merely my second least favourite instead. And the ecchi factor was so nicely strong with this one, too! Jeez, what a pity.


Orlok — Diamond in the Rough

All hail my favourite Route! Orlok pierced my heart, and instantly became one of my favourite otome characters ever. It's not just the fact that he's intensely kind, sweet and loveable despite being a more skilled assassin than all the Mafia bosses put together; it's the fact that you spend his whole route teaching him what it means to be human, to feel and to love. The combination of sheer ruthlessness when it comes to fighting and total cluelessness about everything else is a very potent one, bound to make Orlok a memorable character no matter what. I'm still trying to wrap my head around him to his day. Like, how can his route be so darn lovely and touching despite the fact that he slaughters the whole Burlone Mafia — bosses et all — by the end of it? And how can he feel so sensitive and vibrantly alive despite his cold demeanour and hardly expressive face? Well, the latter may be because he's not an ice queen, but rather a genuinely repressed boy learning to feel. 

Orlok's Attribute is Tolerance; but really, it's just plain old kindness. Be as nice as possible to the guy while being just and fair, like the holy figure you are in his eyes, and everything should work just fine. It did for me, and I sailed straight into the Best Ending with a piena fiore to boot. Orlok's route was a real breath of fresh air that could have belonged to a totally different otome; and boy, did it feel good to allow myself to be just gentle and affectionate with the beau du jour for a change. My only regret with that Route was the fact that Orlok and the MC don't get down and dirty at any point. Of course, that's fully understandable given Orlok's life story; and it'll probably make for real juicy fandisc content, when the boy will finally wake up to his long-dormant sexual urges. 



Gilbert Redford — Golden Boy

This is by far the most mellow and relaxed route, the one in which the 'Survive the Mafia' factor is at its lowest. See, Gilbert is such a wholesome and charismatic character that everybody loves him and bows down to him — including his fellow Mafia bosses. This route sees everybody collaborate to save Gilbert himself, and by extension the whole town of Burlone, from a nasty framing scheme. Landing the Best Ending requires not only raising Affection and Trust, but also being at the right place at the right time to gather intel and evidence. 

While I managed to perform the latter just fine, I failed to pull off the former; despite my many experiments with answers, my flower plateaued at the second stage below piena flore, which led me straight to the Good Ending. That ending was nice enough, with Gilbert and Monacia being both alive and an item; since I was starting to feel a bit burnt out with the game at that point, I decided to take it easy and jump straight to chapter 6 with high Affinity and Trust in order to land the Best Ending. While Gilbert's Route was quite entertaining, it sorely lacked the jeopardy factor present in other routes, that whole 'fight-for-your-life' thrill; and Gilbert himself is one of the most one-dimensional and superficial characters of the cast. Still, it remains my third favourite route, if only because it was so light-hearted and gave me such leeway to act. 


Finale / Henri Lambert — Filler Time

Let's cut to the chase: that extra route feels like it was shoehorned into the game. Not only does it branches out of Gilbert' route at the halfway mark, meaning that you can literally spend hours looking for it (disclaimer: I used an FAQ to reach the starting point), but it adds nothing of value to the story. The Finale Ending is pure fan-servicey pandering, delivering a harem ending of sorts that's both cliché and completely improbable in the grand scheme of things; as for the Henri Ending, it doesn't provide enough character development to be truly satisfying, despite Henri being a genuinely haunting character. (So haunting, in fact, that I prefer his Route to Yang's and Dante's despite the fact that it's truncated.) 

I feel that the writers may have wanted to tone down the gruesome overall tone of Piofiore through the inclusion of that light-hearted Finale Ending; as for the Henri Ending, it seems to be there solely to provide a 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' kind of character. Pretty unnecessary, methinks; there are already enough fruitcakes in the main Routes — but hey, whatever floats your boat, Otomate. As for myself, I navigated those extra Routes just fine, despite the growing Piofiore fatigue I was feeling at that point. And I have to commend them Routes for giving me the most meaningful choice in the whole game; a choice that didn't lead to a bad end for once, and could instead kickstart two vastly different outcomes into existence. And it was delightfully straightforward, too: either I could forgive Henri and I ended up with him, or I couldn't and I didn't. Pretty simple, ain't it? Sure, there were obstructions and pitfalls after that; but I liked how plain logical that choice was for a change.


There you have it, dear fellow gamers: my deeply enjoyable and fulfilling experience with Piofiore's Routes. Navigating the Piofiore shoals was not nearly as difficult or gruesome as I had feared; in fact, the deeper I went into the game, the more the danger factor evaporated, both out of my playing experience and out of the game structure itself. I especially enjoyed the story's simplicity, as I prefer games with simple yet sound premises; letting the heroine opt out of her destiny was a nice touch, and saved us from the bore of a canon route. I enjoyed even more the fact that characters that were allies in one route turned into foes in another; relationships were thus based on character dynamics rather than on mere personalities, and it was a nice change from your usual otome where everybody fawns over the MC no matter what. Now I wonder if the planned Piofiore fandisc will ever make it to our shores; but I'd wager it will allow us to romance Roberto de Feo, Leo Cavagnis, Lee Hsi-shan and Oliver Haas — and probably get into Orlok's pants at long last too. And now that I successfully survived the Mafia, it's time to sail towards new gaming shores. I'll see you soon with my gaming instinct's next catch, dear fellow gamers; in the meantime, keep playing and take care!


Piofiore: Mama I'm in love with a criminal



I don't know what's most shocking here: the fact that I managed to quote Britney Spears two posts in a row, or the outrageous, indecent delight I derived from playing Piofiore. No otome since Amnesia:Memories has challenged me so hard, making me feel deliciously on edge. I had to work to get those good endings, and I relished every minute of it. It certainly doesn't hurt that all that challenge is backed up by stellar production values: I swear I could play that game solely to gaze at its gorgeous vistas and listen to its lush soundtrack. And my, the food descriptions! Gosh, I was salivating just reading them. Last but not least, there is that unique Piofiore atmosphere, which cannot be described in words yet sweetly grips my heart every time I think of the game. 

All praise aside, I can now proudly claim full mastery of the Status screen's inner workings. It obviously indicates the state of affairs between the MC and the beau du jour; and alas, it's not nearly as clear as Amnesia:Memories' convenient metric gauge. After playing all five Routes, here are my conclusions: the raising of Affinity is indicated by the colouring of the flowers on the left, while the lowering of the Attribute is indicated by the grey stains appearing from the top right. The Attribute actually represents a quality that the player themselves should display as the MC — of course, it kinda makes sense that your resident perfect otome heroine should be Honest, Respectful, Wise, Tolerant, Trustful and Cooperative, on top of being a virgin with a mysterious birth mark on her chest. The Attribute gauge is somewhat filled upon starting a Route, and can deplete if the player fails to manifest the Attribute in their choices. Here are the four possible combinations of Affinity and Attribute: 

High Affinity / High Attribute

Low Affinity / Low Attribute

Low Affinity / High Attribute

High Affinity / Low Attribute

Landing the Best Ending requires colouring the flowers and keeping the Status screen clear of stains. Fortunately, Piofiore is not completely ruthless: you neither have to fill up the flowers entirely nor to keep the screen totally clean to land the Best Ending. From my experience, I can safely claim that the game will tolerate plateauing at the stage right below full flower (i.e. Piena Fiore), as well as one stain in the right-up corner, and still good-naturally deliver the Best Ending. 

And since I'm mentioning the stains, it's crucial to keep the Attribute gauge as maxed out as possible, because some mandatory choices do lower it no matter what. It then becomes a matter of choice between bad and worse, with one option lowering the gauge by one notch and the other by two notches. I had to endure a bit of staining after such choices in most of my runs; and although I managed to wipe the Status screen clean later on, I swear it was darn uncomfortable while it lasted. And since I'm mentioning runs, I'll see you soon with my very own run reports — and they'll be juicy indeed. Until then, dear fellow gamers, keep playing and take care!


Pokemon Ruby: The Exploud Solo Run



Well well, what do we have here? I know, I know: the Pokemon 2020 Summer Season has overstayed its welcome already, stretching long into the autumn; however, I felt like I needed just one last shot of Gen III before I bade the series adieu for the time being. It was thus gloriously fitting that my Whismur should be named Encore — in homage to the sound theme running through its line and to the fact that he is the star of my last run of the season.

Although I knew fairly well of Whismur and Loudred, I don't think I had ever encountered a wild Exploud before that run; and if I stumbled upon a Trainer with one, it totally failed to register. I was quite thrilled to cruise with a another three-stage Normal 'Mon that wasn't pink and cute, and I fully expected a stellar performance from my Encore — a performance that would crown the Pokemon 2020 Summer Season in the most dazzling and fulfilling way. 

The Exploud line didn't disappoint indeed. All three forms are perfectly balanced mixed attackers with the learnset to match, and they offered me a smooth and most satisfying cruising experience. I decided to tweak their evolution rhythm by alloting each form 33 levels to shine; and by a slick coincidence, each form ended up wielding its own unique Move pool. Whismur had Stomp, Uproar, Pound and Astonish; Loudred had Secret Power, Uproar, Astonish and Shock Wave; last but not least, Exploud had Return, Ice Beam, Shadow Ball and Earthquake. I sure didn't expect a Normal 'Mon to be granted not just one, but two Ghost Moves; Astonish certainly came in handy in the Rustboro Gym, saving me from many tedious turns of gnawing at Rock Mons' HP bar with non-effective Normal Moves. Once I was done with Dewford's Fighting Gym with a bit of welcome help from the Silk Scarf, the rest of the Pokemon League swiftly submitted to my Encore's badassness, granting me the glorious season ending I so craved. 

And so, the Pokemon Summer 2020 Season officially comes to a close — and boy, was it an awesome season indeed. It was all about Gen III and VI, with other Gens not even standing a chance. That being said, I'm currently feeling the faintest itch to play Gens VII and VIII; and with the recent release of the second part of the Sword&Shield Expansion Pass, a Pokemon Christmas 2020 Season may well become a thing indeed. But for now, dear fellow gamers, let's sail together towards new gaming shores! 


Piofiore - Fated Memories: Me against the Mafia



I've been warned against that game, by both my fellow gamer Kumiko and the official reviews on Metacritic; however, my gaming instinct was dead set on playing it, and you know how my gaming instinct operates — once it decides something, there's no swaying it. Not only do I really feel like playing VNs now, but the Italian setting is very much to my liking. See, I revealed my French roots already on that blog; and it's now time to unveil the fact that my great-grandfather hailed straight from Italia, which obviously makes me partial to all things Italian. I must add that I have yet to set foot in the country to this day — which is exactly why Piofiore's over-the-top, highly romanticized version of Italia is right up my alley.

But beyond those fickle yet perfectly valid arguments, my gaming instinct was drawn to Piofiore for another major reason. One review on Metacritic compared it to Amnesia: Memories; and once I read that, there was no turning back. If you remember well, Amnesia: Memories was my first foray into the world of otome; and it remains one of my most memorable otome experiences, even to this day. It wasn't just an otome game: somehow, it was also a survival game, in which I had to navigate my way through dangerous shoals and make it alive to the Best Ending shores. Gruesome endings were aplenty, douchey guys with murkey motivations abounded, treacherous dialogue choices were everywhere, untimely deaths were a dime a dozen — and I lapped it all up. If Piofiore offered something even remotely similar, then there was no way I would pass on it. 

So here's my goal with that game: to survive my entanglements with the Mafia, and make a beeline for the Best Endings — because if I do succeed in surviving the Mafia, then I might as well do it with a beau in my bed. Lofty goals indeed, if the reviews insisting of the delicate balance of dialogue choices in Piofiore are to be believed; but I'm confident I can make it. I won't bother playing the Normal Endings, let alone the Tragic ones; not only have I witnessed enough of Otomate's blood-chilling outcomes for a lifetime already, but I have a crap ton of other VNs ready for the reading. Instead, all Endings but the Best will be treated as Game Overs, proof of my glaring unability to navigate the Piofiore shoals.

In order to make surviving that game even possible at all, a bit of homework was in order. Perusing reviews taught me that all characters have two gauges, and that both need to be filled to get the Best Ending. One of those gauges represents Affinity, and the other represents a secondary attribute specific to each character. Since the latter are nowhere to be seen at the beginning of the game, it's safe to assume they're revealed after finishing one route. Now, do I want to play extra-fair and play a crash test route for each character, just for the sake of unveiling Attributes? Why, not at all! Although this may be the intended way to play Piofiore, it doesn't square with my goal at all. And pray tell, doesn't it smell a mite like fake longevity — mixed with a whiff of fake difficulty to boot? I'm having none of that, I'm telling you; and so I'm starting the game with clear knowledge of all Attributes, courtesy of the all-knowing internet. 

From now on, my path is clear. Just like I did in Amnesia: Memories, I'll monitor every single choice, comparing the Status screen after both options and choosing my path accordingly. In case a choice doesn't land me an Affinity increase, I'll go with the answer that best fits the character's Attribute. This means that I'll have to rely on my own judgement on a regular basis, which is a thrilling prospect. Now, will I be enough of a shrewd operator to make it unscated through the game? Wish me luck, dear fellow gamers; I'll see you soon with a run report! 


Pokemon Sapphire: The Shedinja Battle Report


Of course, a 'Mon as special and unique as Shedinja deserves its own dedicated battle report. The least I can say is that the whole run was full of surprises on the battle front: I blazed through Gyms I envisioned as massive hurdles, and was stopped dead in my tracks by roadblocks I didn't see coming at all. Without further ado, dear fellow gamers, I present you with my Unakite's battle prowess!

We're actually starting from Dewford's Gym, because I took down Roxanne while my Unakite was still a cute little Nincada. The junior Trainers' 'Mons all went down swiftly in one neat hit, and Brawly wasn't much more of a challenge. I didn't manage to one-shoot his Makuhita, which in turn destroyed me with Knock Off; however, a lucky Fury Swipes did the trick, and I could sail to Slateport unhindered.

I fully expected Slateport to be a mere formality; however, it was anything but. Instead, I was faced with my first major obstacle: an unassuming Team Aqua grunt in the Oceanic Museum. More precisely, an unassuming Team Aqua grunt with a Carvanha. You know where this is headed, don't you? Carvanha has Rough Skin, meaning instant fainting after one-shooting for my poor Unakite if the Move made contact. And oh, horror: all my four Moves did make contact. In a nutshell: I was in deep, deep trouble.

The thing is, this major obstacle could have not existed at all, had I chosen to cruise in Ruby rather than Sapphire. Team Magma grunts have Numels instead of Carvanhas, which would have spared me the Rough Skin headache entirely. I'd like to claim that I picked up Sapphire for my Shedinja run on purpose, because it offered the highest challenge value; however, the truth is that I didn't factor the villain team's 'Mons at all. I had just cruised in Ruby a couple of times already, and I wanted a change. Pretty hilarious!

Anyway, I needed a non-contact Move to get out of this mess. It so happens that Shedinja can learn such a Move: that Move is Shadow Ball, and it would offer me some welcome STAB on top of saving me from contact fainting. Cherry on the cake, because Shadow Ball is a Physical attack in Gen III, it would take advantage of my Unakite's sky-high Attack. There was just one teeny-tiny problem: Shedinja learns Shadow Ball at Lv. 38, and I was Lv. 23.

Making a Erratic-leveling 'Mon gain 15 levels solely through random battles would have been pure torture; so instead, I resorted to the Zigzagoon Rare Candy Pickup hack. I backtracked to Granite Cave and fought wild 'Mons until I managed to reap enough Rare Candies to raise Unakite to Lv. 38. My five Zigzagoons also snatched a bunch of most welcome Proteins in the process; and with Shadow Ball in my arsenal and an Attack higher than ever before, my Unakite finally managed to make mincefish out of that darn Carvanha. Goodbye Slateport, hello freedom! 

The Mauville and Lavaridge Gyms were a complete cakewalk, with every single 'Mon going down with a clean Shadow Ball. I though I would struggle against Flannery's Torkoal, but it didn't resist Shadow Ball more than anything else before it. I was on a roll, and I fully expected the Petalburg Gym to submit just as willingly; however, I was in for a sore wake-up slap. Things went just fine until Norman; and then, I failed to one-shoot his first Slaking with Return, and it destroyed me with Faint Attack. Yes, his whole team wields bloody Faint Attack! I was in deep water again, and my run grinded to a complete halt.

Once again, I would have to grind my way to victory. I backtracked all the way to Fallarbor to get the highest-level 'Mons available, and proceeded to reap Rare Candies. For the record, I was so unlucky with my pickups that I actually managed to gain two levels solely through battling! I tried Norman again at Lv. 62, but failed to take down his first Slaking by one pixel. A quick visit in Dewford to pick up the Silk Scarf later, I was back at it — and still failed to take down his first Slaking by one pixel. How on earth was that even possible? Slaking doesn't have Sturdy, and Focus Sash wasn't a thing until Gen IV; the only explanation was that Norman's first Slaking boasted ridiculously high Defense. Not wanting to grind again, I resorted to a more luck-based strategy: to open with Confuse Ray, let Slaking hurt itself in confusion, and then finish it off with Return. It took a couple of tries, but it finally worked; after that, both Vigoroth and the second Slaking went down with a single Return. Daddy destroyed, freedom again!

After that, it was smooth sailing until Fortree's Gym. Mind you, nearly all the 'Mons there fainted with a single Shadow Ball or Return; however, my progression was halted by Winona's final 'Mon Skarmory. Not only did it refuse to go down in one hit, but even hurting itself in confusion plus Return or Shadow Ball didn't do the trick; and it wasn't long before I was destroyed by a nasty Aerial Ace. With confusion-induced self-damage being so random and Winona wielding Full Restores, it would have taken a million tries and an insane amount of luck to make it; and so, back to da grind it was! A couple of Rare Candies later, I went back in at Lv. 73 to test the waters. As I unleashed a Return on Skarmory to see how much damage it would dealt, I got a critical hit — and down crashed Skarmory. This was not the most honorable victory of them all, but I gladly took it nonetheless.

Next in line is the Mossdeep Gym, which I actually feared. The issue there was the final double battle against Tate and Liza; if both of their 'Mons had super-effective Moves and if their second 'Mon took my Unakite down while I got rid of their first, I would be in deep trouble again. However, there was no need to worry, as only Solrock knows a super-effective Move; all I needed was to hit Solrock first, and the battle was pretty much over in two swift turns. Next came Wallace — or rather powerless Wallace, as none of his 'Mons wielded a Move that could hurt my Shedinja. And with that laughingly easy victory, the appetizers were over; now came the pièce de résistance, the final showdown that would make or break Shedinja as viable solo run material.

Once again, I was in for mighty surprises. I engaged Sidney with the Silk Scarf and started well despite his Mighthyena's Intimidate; however, I failed to one-shoot his Sharpedo with Shadow Ball. I tried again with the Spell Tag, and it worked just fine. I'm so, so glad I took the time and effort to get that item! En passant, you know your 'Mon's Attack is stellar when it manages to one-shoot a foe with a non-effective Move, which is exactly what my Unakite did to Sidney's Sharpedo. Phoebe's Ghost 'Mons were destroyed by my Shadow Ball, after which I switched the Spell Tag for the Silk Scarf and one-shot Glacia's whole team with Return.

Then came Drake, and the first roadblock in the person of his Salamence. Not only did that darn dragon lowered Unakite's Attack with Intimidate, but I failed to one-shoot it with Return, leaving it free to destroy me with Crunch. Shadow Ball and the Spell Tag didn't do the trick either, and I knew I had to resort to the Confuse Ray strategy again. A single self-hit would suffice, as Return with the Silk Scarf only left Salamence with a few pixels of health; after a few infructuous tries, stars finally aligned and I could finish Drake's Altaria with one clean, smooth Return. 

I switched again to the Spell Tag before Steven, and was immediately stopped dead in my tracks by his opening Skarmory. Shadow Ball only emptied 50% of that bloody bird's HP bar, and boosted Return even less. Yet I alsolutely needed a one-hit KO against Skarmory; otherwise, I'd be the one to go down with Aerial Ace. The Confuse Ray stategy wasn't an option: not only would Skarmory need to hurt itself three or four times in a row, but Steven would undoubtedly heal it at some point. My only option was the cheapest and most shamelessly luck-based strategy of them all: the Lucky Critical, folks. (Special mention to my fellow Pokefan Sieg!) A few tries gave me that much-needed crit, after which Claydol, Cradily and Armaldo went down in one smooth Shadow Ball. Aggron survived Shadow Ball; unfortunately, the poor thing didn't have a single Move that could hit me, and it was reduced to desperately trying to survive on Full Restores while I pummeled it to death with Shadow Ball. Finally, a single Shadow Ball was enough to take down Metagross and land me the Champion title. A bug one-shooting a pseudo-legendary: let that sink in for a moment.

Anyway: well done, you! I've now proved that Shedinja is viable solo run material indeed in its home turf, and it was mightily fun to boot. That's another pair of Gen III Bug 'Mons under my belt; and my, do I love these indeed. Now I just have to tackle Volbeat & Illumise, and I'll be done with the Gen III Bug pairs. Those runs will have to wait for next summer, though; the Pokemon 2020 Summer Season has lasted more than long enough already, and it's time to put an end to it. Thanks for following my Poke-adventures, dear fellow gamers; until next post, keep playing and take care! 


Pokemon Sapphire: The Shedinja Solo Run


Here it comes, dear fellow gamers: the most insane, challenging Bug 'Mon run of them all. Did I manage to do the deed? You'll have to wait for the official battle report for the answer — let's keep the suspense alive! For now, let's line up the many specifications of that most unique run.

A Shedinja run automatically doubles with a non-damage run — do or die indeed. I would have to worry about Flying, Fire, Rock, Ghost and Dark Moves, but also about Poison, Hail and Sandstorm damage. I would improvise on the spot regarding the latter category; as for the former, I decided to raise my one-shooting chances by picking up the right Nature for my Nincada. The only important stats were Speed and Attack: with only 1 HP, literally nothing else would matter. I needed a boosted Attack and a untouched Speed, i.e. a Nincada with a Lonely or Naughty Nature. I finally got the former, and it didn't disappoint: once leveled up all the way to the big 100 and after gobbling a dozen Proteins reaped by my crew of Zigzagoons, my little Unakite boasted an healthy Attack of 264. Pretty good for a Bug 'Mon , shall I say, and probably one of the five best Attack stats ever boasted by my One and 'Monlies.


High Attack was all nice and well, but it wouldn't be enough: to make it, I would also need powerful Moves that would guarantee one-shooting. Since Hyper Beam and Solar Beam were out because of their two-turn activation, my only realistic options were Return and Shadow Ball; and lo and behold, I spent nearly all my run spamming that duo. The other two slots were occupied by Thief, which I kept for a plan I'll detail in the next paragraph, and Confuse Ray, which came in handy in a couple of situations I'll detail in the next post.

As mighty as Return and Shadow Ball were, I had an inkling their raw power wouldn't be enough against some 'Mons — I'm looking your way, Steven's team. I needed even more oomph to be sure to make it alive — to make it, full stop — and that extra oomph would be provided by none other than Type-boosting items. The Silk Scarf was easy enough to snatch in Dewford; the Spell Tag, on the other hand, was a whole other can of worms. It was only available at Mount Pyre, where Shuppets had a 5% chance of holding one. I went there and started spamming Thief at all the Shuppets I encountered; and wouldn't you know, I still didn't have a Spell Tag after 60 Thief in a row. I decided to change tactics and throw Ultra Balls instead; and this time around, it only took a dozen Shuppets to land me a Spell Tag. Was my Thief bugged, or was I simply supremely unlucky? Guess I'll never know, but I got my Spell Tag all the same. It came in handy indeed, as you'll see very soon.

Indeed, I'm done with the preliminaries; I'll meet you again in the battle report, in which you'll finally learn if my Unakite made it all the way to the Champion and beyond. Until then, dear fellow gamers, keep playing and take care!