Hitting the pause button

Hello, dear fellow gamers! Hope you're all doing fine, and gaming like it's going out of fashion. Alas, this is not the case for me; I'm so busy right now that I just cannot find the time to play games, let alone blog about them. And thus I'm writing to let you know that there won't be much new material here in the weeks to come. I'll get back to the grind as soon as I can; until then, take care!


Pokemon Crystal: The Venomoth Solo Run

There she is, dear fellow gamers: the shining star of my Crystal run, the 'Mon I never though I'd ever run solo with. To say that Venonat and Venomoth are rare is a gigantic understatement: half of the cannon entries don't host them at all, and the other half makes you jump through ridiculous hoops to even catch a glimpse of them. The only region where they can be found with relative easiness is Kanto; but alas, they appear so late there that a solo run featuring them was simply out of the question. Or was it? We already know the answer, of course; yet that was not the case when I started playing Crystal. My first foray into the game featured Rattata, in what I envisioned as a giant, epic 'Crappy Route 1 'Mon' solo run.  Alas, the thrill was missing: despite my Rattata's honourable battle prowess, I was kinda bored and plodded through Johto. As I had just set foot in Ilex Forest for a bout of grinding one quiet evening, the battle animation triggered; and time — and my heart — stopped when a Venonat appeared on the screen. I couldn't believe my eyes: what was that elusive creature doing here? I ran to Bulbapedia and confirmed the unthinkable: in Crystal, and only in Crystal, Venonat had a 30% chance of appearing at night in Ilex Forest.

That was the most unexpected and delicious gift from the RPG gods ever, and it led to an instant ditching of my Rattata run. I started a new game, rushed to Ilex Forest, and recruited an adorable Venonat I fittingly named Murasaki. My heart bursting with the giddy happiness of the Trainer that managed to catch the 'Mon of their dreams, I started leveling up my cute little bug for the trials to come. Not the easiest of tasks, that: my Venonat was a weak debutant, and I had to backtrack to Route 32 to even have a chance to survive battles. The many Bellsprouts roaming the area made my grinding smoother and faster, along with the conveniently placed Pokemon centre; and once Murasaki hit lv.12, I went and raided Slowpoke Well. Cleaning the place of the Rockets was a challenge that required several tries, but I finally triumphed. Once that hurdle was overcome, I knew that my Venonat's epic solo epopee had started for good, and that I'd pretty much be on a roll from then on. Or nearly so — but more on that later. 

When it came to Move pools, I didn't entirely leave things to chance as usual. The Veno line boasts an excellent leveling-up learnset, with the powerful Psychic triad Confusion, Psybeam and Psychic and the self-healing Bug move Leech Life — all Moves I learnt and made the most of. However, I wanted more: my beloved Return to replace the crappy Tackle, and Sludge Bomb to take advantage of the STAB and indulge (at last) in wielding a kickass Poison Move. A quick search on Bulbapedia revealed me the location of those TMs (which I'd totally never have found myself), and they quickly turned my already powerful Venomoth into a weapon of 'Mon destruction. The final touch came with the obtention of Giga Drain in Celadon City, which came to replace Leech Life right on time for Kanto's late stages.

Made you my b*tch too, just like your pal Blue ♪
So, how did little Murasaki fare through two Regions, 16 Gyms, one Elite Four and two Champions? Pretty well indeed, if I say so myself. She had the trajectory of a typical Bug 'Mon, i.e. starting painfully weak and slowly but surely growing into a powerhouse. Even after my initial grinding bout, I kept struggling for a while: the Azalea Gym was a pain because Bugsy's Scyther was stupidly sturdy and resistant to my best attacks, and I had to postpone Goldenrod City's fight against Whitney as much as I could because her Milktank was just too infuriatingly strong. It was pretty much smooth sailing after that, with only the random strong Fire 'Mon to worry about — nothing that Murasaki's stellar stats and Battle Items couldn't take care of. One-shooting soon became our bread and butter, making that run pure delight all the way through. I know of someone else who should be delighted about that run; and that's faithful reader Kumiko, who's a great fan of the Veno line. Here's to you, my fellow Bug 'Mon lover: the Venomoth run both of us never though would happen! And to all of you fellow Pokefans who appreciate the subtle charms of Bug 'Mons: rest assured that this is not my last run featuring one of those lovely creatures indeed. Take care — until next time!


Pokemon Crystal: A discovery

I've known and loved the Pokemon series for five long, delicious years. In those five years, I racked up tons of exciting runs and managed to play pretty much all entries from all Gens. Or nearly all of them: because indeed, the original Gen II games have managed to elude me until now. Not that this was a surprising or major feat by any means, mind you: with functioning Gen II cartridges being so darn rare and expensive these days, it was much cushier to renounce the Gold/Silver/Crystal trilogy and make do with the DS remakes. Still, I couldn't help but feel wistful at the thought that the original Gen II experience might be forever out of my reach... That is, until I stumbled upon a 15-euro digital copy of Pokemon Crystal in a game store. There it was: the opportunity to discover Gen II in all its authentic glory, brought to me on a silver platter. Sure, it was a digital game; but it was also very likely my one and only chance to get acquainted with Gen II without enduring battery hassle and insane pricing. And thus I caved in, and bought the thing.

However, once Crystal was securely nested on my 2DS' SD card, I found myself weirdly reluctant to play it. The main reason was simple: every time a potential run popped up in my head, I immediately started thinking that it would be better to perform it in HeartGold or SoulSilver and get the unbearably cute benefit of having my One and 'Monly following me around. That was a perfectly sound reasoning, but not exactly conducive to playing Crystal. Once I finally managed to start the deed, I quickly realized that my natural curiosity regarding videogame history wouldn't be enough to carry me through Crystal, and that my only hope of enjoying (and finishing) that game would be to uncover a 'Mon exclusive to it. Or, more precisely, a early Johto 'Mon that appeared solely in Crystal — that is, if there even was such a 'Mon in the first place. Turned out that there was one indeed — and what a 'Mon that was! The lucky winner was a rare creature I had renounced already, which doubled my joy of unearthing it. But I'm getting ahead of myself: before I recount that marvelous mystery run, I'm gonna indulge in a potpourri of my impressions of Crystal.

Still ugly as heck: It boggles my mind that Crystal offers no visible graphical improvement over Gen I beyond the titular colours of its hosting machine. Without even taking into account the release date, which should have guaranteed top-notch graphics by sheer virtue of being so late into the GB line's life cycle, the consistency of the graphics' shittiness is shocking and puzzling. If we set aside Red and Blue, which looked hideous because of their chaotic development cycle combined with a crippling lack of resources, it seems indeed that the series' long-running history of subpar graphical prowess started with Gold and Silver. I'd really like to know the reasons beyond GameFreak's apparent refusal to step up their graphical game with Gen II. Was the development team still uncomfortably tiny despite all the revenue generated by the Pokemon craze? Did the thrifty and canny habits contracted during Gen I's development cycle somehow carry over to Gen II's? Or was it sheer complacency, with GameFreak realizing that graphical crappiness didn't hamper the series' success one bit and simply deciding to take it easy from then on? Could it even have been a mix of all three, combined with other reasons I didn't think of? I'll sure have to do a bit of digging to solve that mystery now that my curiosity is roused.
The loose cannons: There is even less of a story in Crystal than in Red and Blue — and that's really saying something, given that those two barely had a story beyond chasing your rival and thwarting Team Rocket's evil plans while doubling as Professor Oak's little lackey. The red thread is even more tenuous this time around, starting with Professor Elm and his dubious friend Mr. Pokemon using me as a mere errand boy instead of entrusting me right away with that most important task of filling up the Pokedex. Now if you're gonna enslave me, at least give me noble tasks to achieve, dang it! Then there's Team Rocket, or rather its remnants: because indeed, we're merely dealing with a bunch of former Rocket executives on the run, trying to make do in Johto with petty criminal schemes. No big boss, no big evil plan anymore: just dejected, disorganized hoodlums that I encounter because we happen to cruise the same region. Last but not least, you have Silver, i.e. The Series' Most Random Rival Ever. There is just no. tie. whatsoever. between my Trainer and Silver. I literally don't know him before I catch him spying on Professor Elm; then we bump into each other outside Violet City, and that's pretty much the full extent of our acquaintance. Heck, I know the guy's name only because I randomly picked up his ID from the ground! We're not even really true blue rivals, when you think of it; more like Trainers with conflicting philosophies that run into each other on a regular basis. Long story short: no other Pokemon entry makes me feel so strongly that I'm a free agent, let loose in a world where everybody is too busy to bother with me. And I must admit it's kinda refreshing.

'Here we go, you Johto punk!' Excuse my French.
Lost in translation? Since I'm mentioning Silver, let me tell you about an interesting phenomenon that may or may not be exclusive to the french version of Crystal. That's the version I played, and it features the original translation from 2001; and lo and behold, that translation makes Silver significantly softer. While he's a rude and arrogant prick in HeartGold and SoulSilver, he's a much nicer chap in french Crystal: he still has an edge to him, sure, but he doesn't treat your Trainer like the scum of the earth. In fact, he goes as far as to call you "my little munchkin" and "my pussycat" at some point; and while there's a decidedly mocking ring to those terms, they're still much kinder than all the nasty crap he throws your way in HG/SS. And since I'm mentioning nasty crap, I had the hilarious (dis)pleasure of crossing paths — and swords — again with Blue, who was still very much the overly cocky, foul-mouthed brat I remembered from Gen I. Once a prick, always a prick indeed!

Well; that's about it for Gen II, as seen through the innocent yet experienced eye of a Pokefan that came long after the hype. It was entertaining and eye-opening, and it sure made me want to explore the early stages of the franchise as a game historian. The gamer in me, on the other hand, most definitely prefers the Gen IV remakes; and unless I unearth another 'Mon exclusive to Crystal, I'll most certainly favour HeartGold and SoulSilver for future Gen II runs. And talking about 'Mons exclusive to Crystal, I'll see you soon with my run report, dear fellow gamers. Take care!