Pokemon X: The Sylveon Solo Run

Here comes my second Eevee run, dear fellow gamers! After little Flareon, it's time for the Kalos variety of Eevee to be put to the test. Is Sylveon an ace in his home region? Well, he kinda is indeed! That most frilly fox boasts three assets that make him a 'Mon of choice in Kalos: first, he's a true powerhouse on the Special front, with a pretty high HP to boot. Secondly, he has the learnset to match, full of powerful Special Moves. Last but not least, his Type weaknesses, Poison and Steel, are hardly a hindrance in Kalos: there's nary a Poison 'Mon around, and Steel 'Mons hardly ever appear before the Elite Four. Overall, pure Fairy Type works really well in X&Y; and while having a 'Mon perform honourably in his debut game may seem like the most obvious thing in the world, local Raichu's poor solo performance in Alola has proven that it's far from being a given. So let's rejoice, and let's enjoy the awesomeness of the Fairy Type on its oh-so-frenchy turf.

When it comes to Moves, cruising with Sylveon was very much a case of being content with what you have and making the most of it. The Fairy Eevee has a tiny offensive learnset by default, with only twelve offensive Moves available through TM and nine by leveling up. The latter include four Special Fairy Moves of various power, a perfect setting for Sylveon given the combination of his high Sp. Attack and the STAB. But wait, there's a catch and a massive one at that. See, Sylveon learns three of those Fairy Moves before lv. 20; yet in X&Y, Eevees can only be recruited right after the second Gym, at lv. 20-22. Heck, I think we all see the big issue here: in a regular X&Y run with no breeding involved, you're gonna miss on Sylveon's first three Fairy Moves no matter what; and by the time you reach the Move Reminder, you won't have any use for these Moves anymore because of their low power. GameFreak visibly spotted the problem and tried to mitigate it in Gen VII, by making Sylveon learn Fairy Wind upon evolving; you still miss out on Disarming Voice and Draining Kiss in the process, but I guess that's better than nothing.

Getting deprived of three quarters of Sylveon's Fairy Moves is already galling enough, but that's not even the end of Sylveon's learnset troubles. The Fairy fox-meets-rabbit suffers from what I dubbed 'The Great Move Gap': he doesn't learn any offensive Moves by leveling up between lv. 20 and lv. 37. Add to this the fact that the offensive TMs he can learn appear very late in the game, and you get the situation I wound up in during my run: until my Sylveon reached lv. 37, I was stuck with the base offensive Move pool he wielded as an Eevee namely Quick Attack, Bite and Swift. I managed to make do with those Moves pretty neatly, shall I say: Swift as my main choice, Quick Attack to finish foes, and Bite for anything immune to Normal. Still, as I saw levels pile up and no new Moves come my Sylveon's way, the whole thing started to look like GameFreak was taking the piss out of me, and I seriously wondered if we were dealing with some trolling of Pidove proportions there.

But then came the fated lv. 37; and oh dear, was it a turnaround indeed. Moonblast: Fairy Special Move, 95 power nuff said. My Sylveon was still just as starved of Moves as before, but he suddenly became able to one-shoot everything with abandon. Needless to say, I spent the rest of my run spamming Moonblast. Even after I got hold of Psychock and Shadow Ball in the late stages of the game, Moonblast remainded my go-to Move thanks to its enormous power and the STAB. I really cherished that Move, because of how long I had to wait before I got hold of it and how much it changed my fighting fortunes. But I cherished even more Swift, which remained in my Move pool during the whole game. As a multi-target Special Move with 60 power, it remained relevant all the way to the Pokemon league, and I always found good uses for it. Fun fact: in french, that Move is called 'Meteors', which I deem ten times more evocative than Swift on top on hinting nicely at the multi-targeting capability of that Move.

In the end, Sylveon exceeded all my expectations. This is not the most popular eeveelution of them all, and I half-feared that he would let me down on the battlefield; but despite his tiny learnset, my Sylveon did a great job on that front and conquered the Pokemon League without breaking a sweat. See you soon for more Pokemon goodness, dear fellow gamers! Until then, as usual: thanks for reading, and drop by anytime!


Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire: The Dustox&Beautifly Solo Runs

Although Gen III has a lot of flaws and is still deemed the black sheep of the franchise by many a Pokefan, one thing it did right was to lavish some much-needed love on Bug 'Mons. Hoenn is home to some of the most inventive bugs ever to grace the Pokemon world, starting with Wurmple and its two random-yet-not-quite evolutions. This concept was a pure stroke of genius on GameFreak's part: you can feel the suspense grow until your Wurmple reaches lv.7, after which you know at long last if you landed your dream version of the bug. Because indeed, Dustox and Beautifly, while being pretty similar, are still different enough in terms of looks and stats to make sure that you'll set your sights on one of the two. Dustox wields powerful Psychic Moves and is backed up by solid defensive stats, while Beautifly has access to a whole range of draining Grass Moves and boasts great offensive stats. For the record, I was lucky enough to secure the version I wanted in both of my runs, which saved me considerable amounts of time and grinding.  

Dustox in Ruby: 

Dustox is my favourite of the pair when it comes to looks although unfortunately, I didn't get to admire said looks as much as I would have liked, because the poor thing is nearly entirely buried behind the battle display. Come on GameFreak, what were you thinking? Dustox and his pretty wings deserved more love and room than that, seriously. But enough with the poison moth's looks; let's now talk about his stats and Move pool, which had me worried for a while. Dustox sure is a great defensive 'Mon, but he's a teeny-tiny bit weak on the offensive front; combine this with a tiny levelling-up learnset nearly entirely devoid of STAB one Bug Move and no Poison Moves and you'll understand why I was pretty much convinced that my Dustox Solo Run was going to be a bit of a pain in the behind. But lo and behold, the colourful moth surprised me by holding his own on the battlefield much better than I expected. Now, I won't lie and say that one-shooting was our bread and butter, because the truth is that my Dustox usually needed two turns to take down foes. This could have been an issue if not for the moth's excellent defensive stats, which allowed him to take a million hits comfortably while he did his thing.

Long story short, I had a great time roaming Hoenn with my Dustox. There were a couple of roadbloacks along the way, obviously although funnily enough, said roadblocks weren't quite what I expected. For instance, I fully expected Rustboro's Rock Gym to be a handful; but thanks to my Dustox wielding Confusion at the time, it was mostly a cakewalk. The real roadblock was the Lavaridge Fire Gym or, more precisely, Flannery's Torkoal. While my Dustox had neatly handled every single Trainer in the Gym, he was suddenly powerless in front of that damn turtle. Torkoal always used Overheat on the first turns, which pretty much meant one-shooting despite my Dustox' high defenses; as for one-shooting Torkoal before she could one-shoot me, it was pretty darn impossible.

I ultimately won that fight using a mix of luck and strategy: first, I spammed Silver Wind on the first turns while facing Flannery's Slugma, until my stats had been raised at least twice; I could then survive Overheat and use the subsequent lowering of Torkoal's Sp.Defense to destroy her with Confusion. After that, it was pretty much smooth sailing until the final showdown against the Champion, which proved to be the second real roadblock of my run; however, battle items and Silver Wind did the trick and gave my Dustox the offensive oomph it needed to win that ultimate fight. For the record, my final Move pool comprised Shadow Ball, Psychic, Aerial Ace and Silver Wind, a neatly balanced Physical/Special combination that allowed me to dispose of most of the Hoenn fauna comfortably.

Beautifly in Sapphire: 

Beautifly being the offensive half of the Wurmple evo duo, I fully expected to have an easy ride with him; and while he certainly one-shot foes on a much more regular basis than Dustox, my run was not exactly as smooth as I'd expected. Just like with Dustox, the Rock Gym was a walk in the park, and that was entirely due to my Beautifly wielding Absorb: the super-effectiveness of that Grass Move against Rock, combined with its draining ability, was enough to virtually erase Beautifly's double weakness to Rock. This was the first sign that draining Grass Moves were going to be an enormous asset for my Beautifly, allowing him to heal while hitting and thus compensating for his low defenses; and from that moment on, there was always such a Grass Move in my Move pool first Absorb, then Mega Drain, and finally the awesome Giga Drain.

This time around, the biggest roadblock of them all was a Gym I hadn't even noticed when cruising with Dustox: the Mauville Electric Gym, i.e. the harbinger of doom. Getting rid of the Gym Trainers was easy enough; but then came Wattson and his Magneton, and the party was suddenly over. Not only did that floating piece of junk resisted all the Moves I wielded at the time, but my poor Beautifly, unlike his fellow Dustox, was weak to Electric. And with Magneton spamming Shock Wave and Thunder Wave, the fight was pretty much over before it started. Despite being faster than Magneton, Beautifly was not strong enough to one-shoot it; and once Magneton fired back, there was no way to survive the hit because of Beautifly's low defenses and his weakness to Electric. Since Electric was classified as Special in Gen III, my first reaction was to purchase a crap ton of X Sp.Defenses to survive Magneton's attacks; but to my utter horror, I discovered that X Sp.Defenses simply don't exist in Ruby&Sapphire. I could have rolled with X Attacks instead; however, with my defenses being as low as they were and Wattson's 'Mons all wielding Electric Moves, I was just totally doing to faint before I could gobble enough X Attacks to guarantee one-shooting. And thus, the only option left was to level-grind. I was already at lv.33 at that time, and wild 'Mons only yielded one pixel of XP; needless to say, I wasn't extatic at the prospect of grinding the half-dozen levels I deemed necessary to survive Magneton's hits.

I started grinding nonetheless; and as I reached lv.34, the tables were turned forever as my Beautifly learnt Silver Wind. Oh, the joy! Oh, the relief! With Silver Wind and a good dose of luck, I could gain that defensive boost I needed so terribly, along with a much-welcome offensive boost; with a handful of X-Attacks on top of that, surely I would be able to knock down Magneton while surviving his electric assaults, wouldn't I? I lunged back at Wattson with a vengeance; and sure enough, things unfolded exactly as written above. I was simply amazed at how a single Move could change my fighting fortunes so drastically, as I don't remember this ever happening before. After that, we were on a roll and things went smoothly until the fight against the Champion; just like Dustox, Beautifly needed a hefty dose of Battle Items to win that ultimate showdown. There was no Silver Wind spamming, though: my final Move pool comprised Aerial Ace, Return, Giga Drain and Shadow Ball, which amply proves that Dustox and Beautifly can end up with nicely different Move pools despite evolving from the same creature.

Long story short, cruising Hoenn with these two butterflies was delightful. I actually have a soft spot for Bug 'Mons: I see them as the purest embodiment of the whole Pokemon solo run experience, i.e. take a weak 'Mon and patiently mold it into a fighting powerhouse, sticking with it through thick and thin. Bug 'Mon are absurdly weak in their first evolutionary stage, while still not being as utterly useless or trolly as baby 'Mons or Magikarps; but at time and levels fly by, they become increasingly more powerful, until they can hold their ground against a region's whole fauna. I'm certainly not done with Hoenn's bugs: get ready to cruise with me, Ninjask and Shedinja! I'll see you later with more buzzy Bug 'Mon tidings, dear fellow gamers; and as usual, thanks for reading, and drop by anytime!


Pokemon Y: The Absol Solo Run

Since it has now been proven that I can run solo with traded 'Mons in X&Y, the time was ripe for me to dabble into Mega Evolution. I was always forced to give that appetizing feature a pass in my solo runs, as all my Ones and Onlies so far had either been forbidden to take part in the ME fun or granted the right to mega-evolve only after the credits rolled; but now, nothing stood between me and that ultimate evolution stage. I chose Absol as my first lone ranger with ME included, because a) I've been wanting to run solo with him forever, and b) his ME looks gorgeous as all hell. All it took was a bout of Ditto breeding in my X save and a quick trip to Kilourde Town to snatch the Absolite, and voilĂ ! My newborn Absol was ready to travel to my Y cartridge, with the Absolite safely tucked wherever 'Mons keep held items, and could start wreaking havoc right away.

Absol's name might as well be a shortcut for "Absolutely Fabulous"; because oh my, is that 'Mon dope indeed. With an Attack stat that totally goes through the roof and a great learnset covering pretty much all the bases when it comes to elemental complementarities, Absol is stellar solo run material and is hands down the best Dark 'Mon I've had the pleasure of cruising with so far. My Move pool was delightfully varied and darn efficient: Night Slash, Thunder and Psycho Cut were the main fixtures for most of my run, supplemented by Flamethrower and Ice Beam as we got closer to the Pokemon League. On top of that, I had the opportunity to experiment with Moves never handled before. The first one was Future Sight, which looked awesome on paper yet turned out to be unfit for a solo run setting and was thus promptly ditched; the second one was Me First, which I hereupon deem one of the best Normal Move ever created since the dawn of the series. Not only was it fun to use, with the surprise element of never knowing what your opponent had up their sleeve, but it was amazingly efficient as well you'd never believe how many 'Mons wield Moves belonging to types they are weak to. I had so much fun with all these Moves that I decided to give my beloved Return a pass all the more so as Mega Evolution could trample any type resistance anyway.

Talking about this, how was my first experience with Gen VI's star feature? The answer is: pretty awesome indeed. It was incredibly satisfying to boot up my Absol's ME in the heat of battle and watch her become that unstoppable war horse; and it was even more incredibly satisfying to be able to do it over and over again. ME beautifully made up for Absol's lack of evolution, with the added bonus of getting to see my Absol evolve in such a way multiple times over the course of my run. I daresay that ME is actually too overpowered for a solo run setting, and made all things fighting a mite too smooth and easy especially when applied to a 'Mon as strong as Absol. Of course, that absolutely won't prevent me from using the thing again if I get the opportunity because I just love bulldozing everything that moves in my Pokemon runs, yeah baby.

In a nutshell, this was an excellent run and very convincing first try at ME. Only time will tell if I dabble in it again, but I'd bet that it will be the case indeed. As for Absol, I will definitely give him the opportunity to shine as a lone ranger in his home region at some point; that may also allow me to test if solo runs with traded 'Mons are viable in Gen III under more stringent obedience level caps. Thanks for reading as usual, dear fellow gamers, and stay tuned for more Pokemon goodness!


Pokemon Pearl: The Pachirisu Solo Run

Here we are, going all Electric again in Sinnoh! And going all cute this time too, with the utterly adorable Pachirisu being my One and Only du jour. I love squirrels ever since I got a stuffed one as a infant, so cruising with Pachirisu was going to a delight no matter what. After polishing off the Rock Gym with Piplup let's make this easy, because why not? I recruited a Pachirisu next to the Valley Windworks; and since I was out of electric-themed names and squirrels are famous for their nut-hoarding ways, I decided to name my new lone ranger Nocciolata. Because hey, who doesn't love delicious italian hazelnut spread?

I'll say it: Pachirisu totally blew my mind. I had a number of preconceptions regarding the Sinnoh squirrel's fighting niche, going from him being a status effect caster to him being one of those fast yet fragile Do-or-die 'Mons. The one thing I never, ever expected him to be nor any Pikachu clone, for that matter was a frigging staller. How can that cute teeny-tiny squirrel be so incredibly buff and sturdy? GameFreak nicely subverted expectations with that one, and I loved being taken by surprise all the more so as it doesn't happen so often anymore with me being the Pokemon solo run veteran I am. The number of hits Pachirisu can swallow without breaking a sweat is properly astounding; my lovely Nocciolata didn't faint a single time, and I can count on the fingers on one hand the number of times he was down to the last quarter of his HP bar. Heck, Ground Moves themselves never took away more than half of said HP bar! Earthquake? Please b*tch, you couldn't one-shoot me even if you had the manual. Needless to say, my peace of mind on the battlefield was utterly ensured with such a hardy 'Mon: I could do my thing unhindered, confident that my little Nocciolata would survive pretty much any assault.

Pachirisu's defensive pizzazz nicely compensates for his slightly lacklustre offensive prowess. With an Attack and Sp.Attack of 45, the Sinnoh squirrel kinda lacks punch; and unlike other weak 'Mons out there, he cannot rely on some evolution down the line to rev up his fighting oomph. On top of that, my Nocciolata's Attack was actually lower than his Sp.Attack, despite him boasting a Docile nature that should have left his base stats unchanged puzzling, to say the least. This led to an insanely irritating situation that I don't remember having ever encountered before in a solo run, with my Pachirisu being able to empty foes' HP bars nearly entirely yet not quite completely. I lost count of the number of times the opponent was left with literally one pixel of HP, forcing me to waste a precious move and making the fight last longer than it should. I never knew what I could expect from a hit, and if a turn was going to be the last or not.

Pachirisu's default learnset is pretty similar to Luxray's one, with Spark (later discarded in favour of TM Shock Wave by yours truly) and Discharge as his Electric Moves of choice. However, he has to make do with Normal only when it comes to other Types, which could easily have led to a sorry retread of my Pikachu solo run of Yellow. Fortunately, my little squirrel had an ace in the hole: TM Grass Knot, a.k.a. the best way to wipe a battlefield clean in Sinnoh and virtually erase Pachirisu's one and only Type weakness. It never dawned on me before how abundant Rock, Ground and Water 'Mons are in Sinnoh — but I'm very aware of it now indeed. Ironically enough, I was in no hurry to learn the move at first, and only did so because I didn't want to be stuck with Normal and Electric Moves; and boy, didn't I regret it afterwards! Grass Knot's usefulness only grew over time, and I cannot even begin to explain how much of a death sentence it proved for Ground or Rock 'Mons that were also heavy. Which, incidentally, is nearly always the case. In a nutshell: I spent pretty much 80% of my run spamming Grass Knot, Return, Shock Wave and Discharge, but didn't even suffer from it thanks to how versatile and efficient those Moves were. This goes to show that when it comes to Move pools, performance matters more than variety indeed.

I'm done with my Pachirisu run of Pearl, and let me tell you: I'm also done with Pearl as a whole, and with Diamond as well. That pair is just the slowest of the slow when it comes to pacing, and I cannot bear the thought of enduring any more runs of them. From now on, I'm gonna stick to Platinum when it comes to all things Sinnoh: it's faster, prettier and overall much more enjoyable. Thanks for following my solo run Pokemon adventures, dear fellow gamers; there's more coming soon, so stay tuned!


Pokemon Diamond: The Luxray Solo Run

I declare the Pokemon Summer Season 2019 open! Granted, it's a bit early; but getting a quick taste of Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni made me realize that what I really wanted was some easy grinding, preferably in a relaxing and mellow game world. And what better series to fit that bill than Pokemon? None, indeed! Follow me now for yet another entry in my ever-growing list of fulfilled and fulfilling Pokemon solo runs, dear fellow gamers!

I'm now back to the game that started it all for me when it comes to all things Pokemon: Pokemon Diamond, i.e. my First Ever Pokemon Entry. Although I have the fondest memories of that game, I've not touched it since my first and only playthrough in 2014; as a matter of fact, I've played the whole jewellery trilogy surprisingly little given how crucially important it was for the genesis of my love for the Pokemon franchise, with only four runs under my belt between Platinum, Diamond and Pearl. And it's not like the Sinnoh region lacks viable solo runs material, oooh no precious; heck, there are some 'Mons out there I've been itching to run solo with for years. As one of the two Sinnoh regional cats, Luxray is obviously such a 'Mon although to be fair, I've already cruised with the electric lynx, along with his fellow Purugly; but that duo run was never completed and thus got lost in the sands of time. I'm now back at it, and for good this time. No more interlopers here's a pure Luxray solo run for you, dear fellow gamers!

Luxray is special in many regards. For once, he's one of these 'Mons that solely roams his home region and can hardly be found in the wild beyond the game that introduced him. For another, he's one of only a handful of Electric 'Mons introduced in Gen IV, and one of the precious few that boasts pure Electric Type. Last but not least, his looks and Move Pool are weirdly at odds with said pure Electric Type. Not only does Luxray don a gorgeous graphite fur coat as he evolves, but he can also learn two powerful Dark Moves along the way, namely Bite and Crunch; with such attributes, one may expect the Sinnoh lynx to boast a double Electric/Dark Type only to be thoroughly surprised when Luxray turns out to be pure Electric. There's been some speculation about Luxray being originally intended as a dual Electric/Dark 'Mon, before GameFreak changed him to a pure Electric Type for reasons known to them only; but no matter where the truth lies, I'm rather happy with Luxray's actual Type. Not being Dark means that he only has Ground 'Mons to worry about; and with his offensive stats being quite excellent, he can wreak havoc on the battlefield with his Dark Moves even without the benefit of the STAB. I actually made my Luxray a faux-Dark/Electric 'Mon by slapping the Dread Plate on him early on not quite good as the STAB, granted, but pretty much the next best thing, especially when there are no Type weaknesses involved.

I'll tactfully describe Luxray's Move Pool as not exactly optimized. The electric lynx can learn only three Electric Moves by levelling up, and those Moves are weirdly chosen to say the least. Luxray first learns Spark at lv.13, a physical Move with 65 power, 20 PP and 100% accuracy pretty good, especially for a Move learnt so early. Then, a whole 22 levels later at lv.35, Luxray learns Thunder Fang: a physical Move with 65 power, 95% accuracy and 15 PP. Pray tell, why on earth would I replace Spark with Thunder Wave, when the latter is less efficient than the former? And then comes the ultimate trolling, when Luxray finally learns the very last Move of his levelling-up learnset at lv.56: Discharge, a bloody special Move. So you're telling me that I waited so long, only to be handed a Move that doesn't make the most of Luxray's highest offensive stat, i.e. his Attack? And mind you, I was running solo and thus was pretty much bound to reach lv.56 no matter what; but I feel for all the players who leveled up the Sinnoh lynx which has a medium slow levelling-up rate, en passant only to be slapped in the face with such an ineffective Move pool. TMs could have saved the day for Luxray; but unfortunately, all the Electric Moves he can learn on that front are special Moves as well. On the other hand, his Dark and Normal Moves are all physical; knowing that, what do you think my Move pool ended up being? Heck, you guessed it: Spark, Bite, Crunch and Return. Way to go and destroy Luxray's potential, GameFreak! Heck, no wonder the poor thing has been vegetating in the depths of the NU and PU tiers ever since his arrival.

When it comes to Diamond and Sinnoh itself, our reunion was not exactly emotional. I was shocked by how graphically primitive Diamond is, especially compared to the lush Gen III: it's like GameFreak forgot how to create textures between Gen III and Gen IV or, more likely, they couldn't wrap their head around the DS and didn't manage to make the most of its graphical capabilities. Diamond&Pearl's graphical crudity could have been a tad alleviated, had Sinnoh itself boasted more variety in terms of landscapes and vistas; but alas, we're dealing with a dreadfully homogeneous region that sports the same sickly green grass and trees from beginning to end. As a matter of fact, the whole Diamond&Pearl colour palette is a bit off, which doesn't help their case at all. Nor does the indolent pacing, which contrasts violently with Gen III's overall swiftness: everything in D&P is slow and sluggish, from battling to surfing to looking for items and don't even get me started on the marshes and the snow. It certainly doesn't help that wild areas between towns are so darn huge and take so long to be crossed a fact not quite compensated by the lenient random encounter rate, which is probably the lowest in the whole series. I rushed through Sinnoh from beginning to end, not ever dilly-dallying along the way; and yet, my run clocked at 15 long, plodding hours.

Despite those letdowns, my Luxray solo run was great fun. I'm glad I could put the electric lynx to the test at long last, and I'm planning to do the same with the other pure Electric Sinnoh 'Mon, i.e. the adorable Pachirisu. Stay tuned for more electrifying Gen IV adventures, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading as usual, and drop by anytime!