Pokemon Sapphire: The Skitty Solo Run

Despite cruising once with Skitty, I had some unfinished business with the pink kitten. Not only did my Skitty's Normalize rob me of most of the Type advantages I could have derived from her Move pool, but it also made my run a pure nighmare by making that all too normal feline unable to take down Ghost 'Mons. The truth is that Skitty's full potential didn't get to shine at all in that run, and I was left with a burning desire to give the kitten another well-deserved opportunity to shine on the battlefield. And since Skitty is a Gen III 'Mon and I haven't played much of that Gen yet, I decided to let the cute feline strut her stuff on her home ground.

Having said that, it's quite ironic to see how painfully furtive Skitty is on her own turf. The pink kitten only has a 2% chance of appearing on Route 116, and I needed more than 100 encounters to even get a glimpse of a Skitty. It took so darn long that I started thinking that maybe I hadn't read properly when browsing Bulbapedia and that Skitty was not present in Sapphire after all. I was actually about to give up and turn my GBA off in sheer frustration when my Skitty finally appeared. Oh, the joy! And what a relief when that much-coveted, much-awaited Skitty turned out to be of the Cute Charm variety! My sister, who was holidaying with me and witnessed the recruitment of the cute feline, suggested the name 'Sakura' based on said cute feline's colour and overall cuteness; needless to say, that most fitting name was instantly adopted.

I was initially planning to evolve Sakura, but the Gen III Skitty sprite is so utterly adorable that I found myself wanting to stick with it. On top of that, I had yet to tackle a solo run with a non-evolved 'Mon; and since I had already run with a fully evolved Skitty albeit a slightly crippled one the time was ripe and the occasion perfect. To my slight bewilderment, my little Sakura performed really well despite lacklustre stats. Even at lv. 85, most of her stats lounged lazily around the 100 mark in fact, with a base Attack of 45 and base Sp.Attack of 35, Skitty is probably one of the weakest 'Mons I ever cruised with, if not the weakest. And yet, my little Sakura managed to one-shoot opponents quite smoothly and surprisingly often, which is quite a mystery to me. Are the Gen III games really that easy, or is Skitty just tailor-made for her home turf? Heck, even the Pokemon League was mostly a cakewalk, with only the Champion requiring a handful of Battle Items to bite the dust.

And since we're touching on Skitty's battle prowess, the pink kitten is definitely a slow burner. She's pretty weak at first, with only a handful of crappy offensive Moves; and with her stats being as shitty as they are, she has to rely on vicious roundabout tactics to ensure victory tactics such as Cute Charm and Attract, i.e. the most underhand Move ever created. Then, the feline slowly but surely grows into an offensive powerhouse, gaining access to really powerful Moves with a much greater Type coverage; that change is probably supposed to coincide with her evolution into Delcatty, although said evolution didn't happen in my run. Just compare my first Move pool, which comprised Faint Attack, Tackle, Covet and Attract, with my final Move pool made of Thunderbolt, Ice Beam, Shadow Ball and Return, and you'll see the full extent of Skitty's potential for growth.  

I loved Hoenn even more than when I played Emerald. Of all the Pokemon regions, it's probably the wildest and most untamed one, while still giving off a cute, wholesome and reassuring vibe. It's also really tiny and sweet, with my run clocking at roughly 11 hours when subtracting the hour of roaming required to recruit my Skitty. The pacing is probably the swifter I've seen in any Pokemon entry, with a constant and palpable sense of urgency pushing you forward; some might call that game rushed, but for a player who loves short and compact runs such as myself, this is just a complete blessing not to mention that this unwavering focus on charging ahead greatly enhances that sweet, sweet dungeon crawling feeling I like to get from my Pokemon runs. And gosh, how I love not being forced to capture the resident Legendary and fight with it in order to progress! (I'm looking resentfully at you, X&Y. Oh, to think that you shove the Legendary at the helm of my team in lieu of my One and Only without asking me...) Even aquatic Routes were not that bad this time around, all the less so as I skipped large portions of them.

So indeed, Skitty is perfectly at ease on her home turf; and despite her pitiful stats, she's great solo run material in her Cute Charm version. Incidentally, she's also one of my favourite 'Mons ever: not only is she an adorable kitten, but she's also an unassuming 'Mon that still gets the job done neatly on the battlefield. Some 'Mons out there have kick-ass stats, so you expect them to rock in battle and you just love them for their fighting prowess; but somehow, a passable 'Mon that still manages to pull off regular one-shooting and take down Pokemon League opponents with base stats three times higher is just as endearing, if not more. Taking a Flareon or an Absol all the way to the Elite Four is pretty much a given; a non-evolved Skitty, not so much. This is the kind of feat that makes you feel like a genuine Pokemon Trainer, who lovingly nurtures a 'Mon and helps them realize their full potential on the battlefield. And with that said, dear fellow gamers, my summer Pokemon spell comes to an end! Thanks for reading all those Pokemon adventures, and please be my guest anytime!


Pokemon Yellow: The Pikachu Solo Run

My tatty, sweaty, sticky original cartridge.
All the current talk about Pokemon Let's go made me curious about their source material, i.e. Pokemon Yellow. My gaming instinct was ever-so-slightly stirred, and I reasoned that the time was ripe to play that game. (More like a 'now-or-never' situation, really: given my dislike for Gen I and my recent purchase of FireRed and LeafGreen, there is virtually no guarantee that I'll ever want to play Yellow once the fuss about Let's go dies.) I went with lil' Pikachu as my One and Only because indeed, what's the point of even playing Yellow at all if you're not gonna run with the sparkly mouse?

So off we went, Wonderful Electric and I (I actually wanted to name him just like that but alas, there were not enough slots available); and we soon found ourselves facing that most formidable obstacle, the one that's supposed to stop dead in their tracks any Yellow player who made the fatal mistake of relying on Pika-cute only: the Pewter Gym, lair of Brock and his Rock 'Mons. Now obviously, my little Etincelle that's the name I settled for, and it means spark in french only wielded three pathetic Moves at that time, namely Thundershock, Quick Attack and Tail Whip. Thundershock being virtually useless, I had to conquer that Gym with Quick Attack and Tail Whip only talk about a tall order. The only strategy I could think of and probably the only one that existed, for that matter was to weaken Brock's 'Mons as much as possible by spamming Tail Whip, before wearing them down with Quick Attack. And blimey, it worked! And it was not even that much of an ordeal: sure, it was long and tedious, but Etincelle endured hits quite bravely and was never in real danger of fainting.

Once that most infamous roadblock was behind us, cruising Kanto was easy-peasy. My electric ranger proved to be surprisingly resistant as well as quite strong, which surprised me after Alolan Raichu's poor performance on both defensive and offensive fronts. Gen I being, well, Gen I, I had to make do with the measliest of Move pool, made of Thunderbolt, Quick Attack, Swift and Mega Punch. Not that this Move diet stopped us from progressing, mind you: one-shooting was our bread and butter and we blazed through Kanto, leaving only fainted 'Mons and crying Trainers in our wake. Well, take that back: we didn't blaze through Kanto as much as we plodded through it. Yellow's pacing is every bit as horrible as Blue's one, and I had to backtrack and take detours so often that my run ended up bloated beyond belief, clocking at 15 bloody hours. Before we parted ways though, the game had one more nasty surprise in store for me: a final Gym and a Pokemon League bristling with Ground and Rock 'Mons. Why, thank you, game! You really don't want me to rely on Pikachu, now do you? Anyway, a whole lot of grinding and metric tons of Battle Items did the trick and I finally beat all those punks fair and square.

Ooh, I feel love, I feel love, I feel love. 
After playing Yellow, my verdict on Gen I remains the same: I still don't like those games although not for the exact same reasons as when I played Blue, ironically. I took the inventory limitation, the terrible pacing and the general clunkiness and glitchiness in my stride this time around, only to be thoroughly bothered and troubled by yet another limitation: somehow, the Gen I entries don't feel like true-blue Pokemon games to me. This may sound like a ironic and even wildly ignorant statement, given that those games are the original Pokemon instalments; and yet, the opacity and abstruseness of the whole Move business in those games, the horrible HM management, the limited fauna and the constant herding of the player feel weirdly at odds with the spirit of the series. How are you supposed to manage your Moves, exploit the Type chart and fight efficiently when you cannot even check the nature and effects of Moves before your 'Mons learn them? How are you supposed to build up a well-oiled team when so few 'Mons can learn HMs and when you constantly encounter the same tired Rattatas and Pidgeys? How are you supposed to enjoy exploring and cruising around when you're constantly blocked by the most random obstacles and have to take a million detours in order to progress? In many ways, the Gen I games feel like a pre-evolution to the Pokemon series as we know and love it nowadays: everything is there, only half-baked and still in an embryonic state. It's certainly fascinating from a purely historical point of view; but when it comes to gameplay, latter Pokemon entries are undoubtedly more refined and fulfilling.

As for Yellow in particular, I'll be blunt: it's a complete rip-off. What we have here is basically Red&Blue all over again, only with Pikachu at the helm and a couple of Jessie and James cameos. I guess that setup delighted many a fan of the anime who rejoiced in pretending they were Ash Ketchum fighting the evil Team Rocket, but that doesn't make Yellow less of a shameless cash grab. Ultra Sun&Moon took a lot of flak for not bringing enough novelties to the table, and yet they still bring ten times more than Yellow did. I'd be curious to know if Yellow was mauled by reviewers and branded as daylight robbery back in the days, or if the Pokemon honeymoon was still going full force and blinding Pokefans to the series' flaws.

At any rate, that's one more Pokemon entry and one more solo run under my belt, and both managed to redeem the series' mascot after the Alolan Raichu semi-fiasco. But do you know what's most ironic, dear fellow gamers? Technically, I'm not even done with Pikachu yet. I still have to see how he performs as normal Raichu; and that means yet another Pikachu solo run, this time with a perfectly regular specimen recruited in tall grass. A solo runner's work is never done, indeed! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Back to business

Hello again, dear fellow gamers! After a most refreshing holiday, I'm back to my daily grind in every sense of the word. That being said, I did manage to get myself some quality gaming time during that holiday, which resulted in two more Pokemon solo runs that I'll cover here very soon. Summer and Pokemon are such a perfect match, indeed! But now comes september, and along with it a fresh new gaming wind: after a couple of months spent playing exclusively Nintendo handhelds, I've decided to swing back to Sony and give my PSP and Vita some much-needed love. And since I've done nothing but crawling&grinding these last months, I'll start these Sony Pony sessions by indulging in a couple of VN and puzzle games. See you soon for my last Pokemon solo runs of the summer, dear fellow gamers; and after that, let's sail together towards new and exciting gaming shores! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Hitting the pause button

Hello, dear fellow gamers! Hope you're doing fine, despite the smoldering heat of the summer. There won't be any post here for the next ten-or-so days, as I'm about to holiday abroad. I probably won't be able to indulge in any purchasing rampage because where I go, there are no game stores. On the other hand, gaming will definitely follow me in the form of one of my many handhelds! I selected the GBA as my handheld of choice, because it's the tiniest handheld of them all and I like to travel light. I won't tell you which games will be part of the ride though, because I simply cannot promise that I will play them at all: for all I know, maybe those holidays will be super-busy and I won't lay a finger on my GBA's D-pad. Having said that, I'll see you in two weeks, dear fellow gamers! Have fun gaming!