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Aura

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Route 110

As I said last time, we're going to be doing some more legendary hunting today!

To start off, we're going to be tracking down the roaming pokemon of Hoenn!

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In Ruby, it was Latios while Sapphire had Latias. I definitely would have assumed that Emerald would end up with the both of these two so that, even with the Master Ball, you'd still be required to deal with the mechanics of roaming pokemon in order to actually catch them both. However, it seems they've been very careful throughout Gen 3 to only ever have a single roaming pokemon per game. Perhaps they were aware of how difficult these roaming pokemon were to capture and wanted to make them less of a hassle? It's certainly a decision I can applaud.

Emerald is no exception to this. As you've probably already guessed if you didn't know already, when you told your mother what color you saw on the TV, that was where the game decided which of the two legendaries you would be encountering.

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In my case, I chose red so after a while of applying the same tactics I used in Ruby and Sapphire, I eventually stumbled across Latias! I chose Latias for no particular reason other than I really like its cute design! I caught it in the Master Ball from the Aqua Hideout and named it Air.

Of course, Latias isn't the only legendary available to you. In Ruby and Sapphire, this was the point in the game where Sky Pillar would rise from the sea for you to climb and have your battle against Rayquaza. So, what's this game's answer? Well, if you recall, Groudon and Kyogre were never really defeated, nor were they ever confirmed to have simply returned to their slumber. It may be peaceful for now that the two titans aren't battling at Sootopolis, but if those two are still wandering around the world, well, we've seen the disaster they're capable of bringing in Ruby and Sapphire. I think we're going to want to track them down and find where they've gone.

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Weather Institute 2F

If there is anywhere we should go to track down these pokemon with power over the weather, I think there's nowhere better to turn to than the Weather Institute for any leads! Speaking with the head of the Weather Institute on the second floor, he'll tell you about any irregular weather patterns that have recently begun. He will tell you about either a Drought or Heavy Rainfall over a particular route. You'll want to head there ASAP and bring some strong pokemon and lots of appropriate pokeballs!

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The routes capable of having a drought are Route 114 north of Rustboro, Route 115 west of Fallarbour, Route 116 West of Verdanturf, and Route 118 east of Mauville. If you go to these locations, you'll notice new cave entrances are open in the rocky cliffs.

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And the routes capable of having Heavy Rainfall are Route 105 North of Dewford, Route 125 North of Mossdeep, Route 127 South of Mossdeep, and Route 129 South of Ever Grande in the remote corner of Hoenn. In each of these four routes, just like the cave entrances in the droughts, you'll find mysterious new dive spots available during the heavy rainfall.

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In each of these diving spots, you'll find a brand new cave entrance at the seafloor.

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Now, according to Bulbapedia, if you don't visit these caves quick enough, the drought or rain will stop and the opposite will begin in a new area, so you'll need to check back at the Weather Institute to see where the next weather irregularity is. However, I have no idea what exactly this means. Is it a real time clock thing? Is it based on frame data? Steps taken? Is it random? I can't say for sure, but I will say I had enough time to visit the nearest pokemon center each time to exchange my party and comfortably make it to the route while the weather distortion is still in effect, so I guess I must be doing something right, but I suppose if you really want to visit the opposite area first, it might be worth waiting it out until the weather changes.

In my case, the first weather distortion I was told about was a Drought at Route 115, so I spared no time in flying to Rustboro and preparing for battle.

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I actually decided to bring Stratos along with me for this battle because, believe it or not, it's a pretty tough one.

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Route 115

Sure enough, when I reached the sight of the Drought, the sunlight was intense just as expected. Recalling the events of Ruby and the critical state this lead the world to there, this definitely can't go unchecked. And investigating further will reveal a new cave entrance in the northernmost part of the route.

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Terra Cave

No matter which of the many cave entrances you go into, you'll always find yourself at this same cave: Terra Cave. Making your way further in...

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Sure enough, this cave is the current residence of Groudon. Perhaps Groudon's presence in the area is what causes the cave to appear? Of course, as we approach Groudon, he's prepared to battle, so we'll need to come prepared to do so!

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Groudon Lv. 70

Just like Rayquaza, Groudon has a unqiue battle animation depicting his own unique markings!

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The primary reason I brought Stratos here is because he's actually a pretty hard counter to everything Groudon can do. The worst Groudon can do against Rayquaza is use Fire Blast which it only has 5 PP for. Other than that, its only other offensive moves are Fissure which can't affect Flying-types, and Solar Beam which is quad-effective. To make matters worse for Groudon, Rayquaza's Air Lock ability negates the effects of the weather, so Groudon's Drought is rendered effectively useless as long as Rayquaza remains in battle. Some might consider this a little cheaty to bring Rayquaza into this battle, but I think it's pretty thematically appropriate at the very least. It certainly doesn't make actually catching Groudon easy, though. I don't have any offensive moves with Rayquaza that are super-effective against Groudon and I quickly run into very similar PP issues with ExtremeSpeed limited to only 5 PP and my only other options being Fly, which attacks every other turn just like Groudon's Solar Beam (under the effects of Air Lock), and Outrage which is a bit too unpredictable for trying to catch a pokemon. Really, as long as I'm trying to catch Groudon, these two legends just end up in a staring contest while trading blows and sleeping off the damage.

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Eventually, Groudon was able to take out Rayquaza, but by this point, he didn't have any Fire Blast, so I was able to safely bring out Forest and use Leaf Blade to more effectively reduce his HP while he was asleep from Rest. This gave me much better odds of catching him! By this point, it had been well over 30 turns, so I'd started using Timer Balls. Groudon continued to remain resilient and eventually was able to take out Forest using Struggle.

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Another surprisingly solid option I've found across a few failed attempts was Cliff! You wouldn't think a Magneton would be a good choice against a legendary like Groudon, but when backed into a corner early on, Cliff's Sturdy actually protects it from Groudon's Fissure which is its only Ground-type attack! Cliff can take three Solar Beams before going down, but the biggest thing he has to watch out for is, of course, Fire Blast. Because of Groudon's lack of physical attacks, though, I can use Swagger freely without fear of repercussion!

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One idea I briefly entertained with this battle was to try and freeze Groudon with Ice Beam... I was quickly reminded, however, that pokemon cannot be frozen under harsh sunlight... and Groudon also had Solar Beam. Things didn't end well for poor River, there...

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Eventually, after multiple attempts and a ton of pokeballs, I was able to capture Groudon! I named it after the Earth's Mantle.

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After capturing or defeating Groudon, the harsh sunlight outside of the cave fades and the entrance to Terra Cave collapses never to open again! But, our job isn't done just yet!

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Returning to the weather institute, we're now told of harsh rainfall on Route 129!

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I flew to Ever Grande City and, figuring Kyogre would probably be able to take Stratos out easily with Ice Beam, I brought Mantle with the main intention to shut down Kyogre's Torrent more permanently.

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Route 129

I made my way down to Route 129 and, sure enough, there was heavy rainfall here along with the new dive spots!

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Using Dive at one of these spots, I arrived at the entrance to the next cave of interest.

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Marine Cave

Much like Terra Cave, all of the mysterious new seafloor caves lead to the same location: Marine Cave. The entrance to this cave is identical in shape to Terra Cave, but this one more strongly resembles seafloor cavern for obvious reasons, really, while Terra Cave more closely resembled the Magma Hideout at Mt. Chimney.

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As you can probably guess, making your way deeper into the cave, you'll find Kyogre lying in wait! Just like Groudon before it, Kyogre will approach you for battle, so come prepared! I strongly recommend stocking up on Net Balls at Mossdeep City!

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Kyogre Lv. 70

Of course, Kyogre has a unique battle transition as well! I love the visual flare Emerald brings to the table with these legendary battles!

This was actually a really difficult battle compared to Groudon. Mainly because, even without the boost from Drought, Kyogre is a serious threat to be reckoned with. I did find out, though, that, much like how Groudon lacked the move Earthquake, Kyogre lacks the move Ice Beam. Instead, it knows Sheer Cold. This would have been good to know as I probably would have brought Stratos along for this battle alongside Mantle. But, I had to work with what I had and this was going to take several attempts.

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My central strategy was first to send out the Wailord I had in my party just to use Dive to get in here in the first place. This thing was really just fodder for Kyogre to pick off real quick, possibly damaging itself in the process if it chose to go for Double Edge.

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After that, I'd bring out Mantle to permanently shut down Kyogre's rain with Drought. Don't let this fool you, though. Kyogre's Hydro Pump is still plenty strong even with the harsh sunlight! Mantle won't be lasting long at all with this matchup, but he can take at least two hits from Hydro Pump at full health, so he can potentially drain Kyogre's PP quite a bit. Of course, he has no protection from Sheer Cold. Thankfully, since Kyogre's stats are distributed in favor to his Special stats while Groudon's are distributed in favor of physical attacks, Kyogre's Double-Edge can't do a whole lot to Groudon, so as long as it doesn't use two Hydro Pumps back to back, I can typically heal off the damage of one with Rest and then use the Blue Flute to wake right back up. Thanks to the sunlight, I can use Solar Beam freely which allows me to bring Kyogre immediately down to the red any chance I get to attack which can buy me a few free Net Ball throws, especially if Kyogre just used Rest!

...But here's where the difficulty comes in. You see, since Kyogre is a wild pokemon, its moves are chosen randomly. That means he very much likes to use Double-Edge even when his HP is low. Since Double-Edge is a powerful attack that deals a lot of recoil damage... and this thing is nearly 20 levels over the majority of my party, Kyogre is going to be suffering a lot of recoil damage and many of my failed attempts ended from Kyogre simply KOing itself with Double-Edge. Honestly, this alone has made Kyogre probably the single most frustrating legendary for me to battle against.

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Usually, once Mantle is inevitably KO'd by a surprise Hydro Pump or connected Sheer Cold, Cliff comes out. Under the protection of Mantle's Drought, Cliff is able to survive at least one Hydro Pump from Kyogre if he chooses to use it. Double Edge still manages to do a ton of HP to me, though, even in spite of the resistance, but just like against Groudon, Sturdy protects me from simply being KO'd by Sheer Cold out of the blue. I generally try to paralyze Kyogre wherever I can but, whenever it uses Rest, I try to hit it with two ThunderBolts and throw a Net Ball while it's still asleep to give me the greatest chance at capture.

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If Kyogre manages to KO Cliff without KOing himself in the process, the battle is usually pretty much over at this point. The rest of my team just can't hold up against Kyogre's tremendous power at level 70. That's not to say I lose to a party whipe, though, just that one pokemon takes enough damage for Kyogre to KO himself with Double-Edge.

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After several more failed attempts, I was finally able to capture Kyogre here and name it Hydros after the Earth's Hydrosphere. Technically that's not actually a physical location but rather the all water within Earth's atmosphere, but it does make up all the habitats in the lakes and seas, and I thought it matched well with Stratos' name!

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And, just like with the Drought, after capturing Kyogre, the heavy rain slowly starts to fade and with it, the dive spots on Route 129 disappear.

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With Mantle and Hydros in captivity, Stratos' job is finally truly over. 

...aaand these two are likely to never see the light of day again, but who knows? Maybe I'll one day find a need for a blank slate Groudon and Kyogre and come back for them? I think Behemoth and Leviathan are definitely my go-to for these pokemon, though.

What I do really like about this, though, is that you can actually battle all three members of this trio in any order you want, you don't have to catch Rayquaza first. You could go out of your way to catch Groudon or Kyogre first, then catch the other, then use both of them to help you catch Rayquaza. It's pretty fantastic how Groudon and Kyogre both counter each other so well depending on how strategically you use them. And Rayquaza can temporarily put them on lockdown with Air Lock, but that only lasts while Rayquaza is out.

This is probably the most fascinating trio of pokemon so far, I think, but I must say that I think Groudon really gets the short end of the stick. It's weak to Kyogre by default, first of all, while its own STAB attacks have no relation against Kyogre and its only saving grace in that matchup is SolarBeam. Meanwhile, Kyogre is capable of using not only water attacks, but even in Groudon's intense sunlight, Kyogre can return the favor with a Blizzard or Ice Beam instead and do almost as much damage! Furthermore, all of Groudon's primary offensive attacks are resisted by Rayquaza unless your Groudon happens to still know Slash. You would think Rayquaza would have the advantage over both of its foes, but I should probably remind you that Kyogre relies on its weather benefits far less than Groudon, and its Ice attacks can make quick work of Rayquaza. All in all, it almost feels like Kyogre should be the trio master rather than Rayquaza, but I suppose I shouldn't be the one to judge. The theme was obviously Land vs. Sea, so the typings had to match. Still, I think things would've been balanced a little bit better if Kyogre couldn't learn Ice-type attacks and instead could learn Thunder. But, water types typically are known to be able to use Ice moves and it's a strong coverage option for water types to have, so not letting Kyogre have it might actually make it less useful than other water-types, so I suppose I shouldn't speak on matters I don't fully understand.

Regardless, that's all for legendary pokemon this time around, but there's still a little bit more here in Hoenn to explore! If you recall, there was a certain familiar-looking attraction unique to Emerald that was under construction earlier in the game, perhaps we should check on that...

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Aura

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Route 111

Before we move on to the real meat and potatoes of Emerald's postgame, I want to focus on one last addition to Hoenn. This one is significantly more notable than the others so far, however, and as it turns out, it's probably going to take more than one post like I initially expected.

If you recall, a strange building was built into the mountains south of the desert on Route 111. This building had yet to open by the time we first arrived, but once you've obtained the national dex, it's open for business!

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Trainer Hill

This building is Trainer Hill! As I've alluded to previously, this is Emerald's answer to Trainer Tower from Fire Red and Leaf Green. But, contrary to what you might expect, it has some notable upgrades that end up causing it to be significantly more difficult than its Sevii Island counterpart. If this were identical to Trainer Tower from Fire Red and Leaf Green, I definitely wouldn't be wasting my time covering it, but due to the apparent differences, I do think it's worth the playthrough.

Let's start out covering the similarities to Trainer Hill. Just like before, this is a time trial through a series of battles. You'll climb the hill and battle your way through a series of floors. You can use items to heal your team and save on time or return all the way to the lobby to heal your pokemon up. If you can reach the top of the tower in time, you'll be rewarded with a special prize based on how fast you completed the challenge. In the Japanese version, you can use e-reader functionality to customize the floors you climb through, the prizes you can earn depending on the combination of cards you scan. In the US version, most of the trainers available through the e-reader cards have been placed throughout four unique courses. The top prize you can earn for clearing each course is a unqiue item that cannot be bought in stores (at least, not in Emerald). The levels of your foes will also scale to the level of the strongest pokemon in your party, so make sure your team is balanced!

Now for the differences. Instead of four courses determining the types of battles you'll be getting into: single, double, knockout or mixed; the courses you choose from here in Trainer Hill include Normal, Variety, Unique, and and Expert modes. Each course is built entirely around double battles, so you may want to come prepared with a team built around that idea, and that's definitely not a bad idea because the battles here are certainly no pushover! The prizes obtainable here also differ from Fire Red and the time you're required to beat in order to get the top reward seems a lot more strict.

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There are actually a variety of prizes you can earn for clearing the hill below the top prize. Only the top prize changes depending on your course. In order to claim the top prize, you'll need to clear the tower in less than 12 minutes. You'll earn an Ether for clearing it in 12-13 minutes, a Full Heal for 13-14 minutes, a Revive for 14-16 minutes, a Fluffy Tail for 16-18 minutes, and a Great Ball for anything less than that. And these goals are really difficult, these aren't the baby battles you've grown used to, but full-on competitive level pokemon so be prepared to deal with some tough competition!

To start things off, today, I'll be playing through the Normal mode to see how things play out.

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My Team

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Forest (Sceptile M); Lv. 52

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Item: King's Rock Bag_King's_Rock_Sprite.png

Ability: Overgrow | Moves: Leaf Blade, Dragon Claw, Earthquake, Aerial Ace

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Ozone (Swellow M); Lv. 52

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Item: Focus Band Bag_Focus_Band_Sprite.png

Ability: Guts | Moves: Aerial Ace, Steel Wing, Endeavor, Facade

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Hill (Ninjask M); Lv. 52

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Item: Lax Incense Bag_Lax_Incense_Sprite.png

Ability: Speed Boost | Moves: Slash, Protect, Swords Dance, Baton Pass

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Stars (Grumpig F); Lv. 51

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Item: Amulet Coin Bag_Amulet_Coin_III_Sprite.png

Ability: Own Tempo | Moves: Calm Mind, Confuse Ray, Psychic, Rest

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River (Whiscash M); Lv. 51

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Item: NeverMeltIce Bag_Never-Melt_Ice_Sprite.png

Ability: Oblivious | Moves: Ice Beam, Earthquake, Future Sight, Surf

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Cliff (Magneton); Lv. 51

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Item: Quick Claw Bag_Quick_Claw_Sprite.png

Ability: Sturdy | Moves: ThunderBolt, Swagger, Reflect, Thunder Wave

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Normal Mode -- 1F

Right off the bat, you'll find yet another difference: Each floor is not only a challenge in battle, but a small puzzle in the overworld as well! This wastes a lot more of your time whenever you return to the lobby to heal, so make sure to bring lots of potions and other items if you want to make those target times!

This floor is full of one-way cliffs. The puzzle isn't too difficult and is really just designed to waste your time and punish revisits to the lobby. You'll find that to be a consistent theme. They really tried to make sure you use your items if you want those prizes!

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Triathlete Alfonso & Hex Maniac Alania

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Flareon & Misdreavus

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Magneton & Solrock

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Pinsir & Claydol

You're going to find a recurring theme, at least throughout this Normal Course, is that these double battle are really built to distract you with one team of annoying pokemon while the other you neglect sets up to become a huge pain. In this case, Alfonso likes to hammer you with powerful attacks from his pokemon, making you want to just use Earthquake to tear through them, but Alania's pokemon also have powerful attacks and all share the Levitate ability. That Misdreavus can get especially annoying when it starts to use Confuse Ray on your pokemon! What's more, you'll quickly find that these pokemon are doing a lot more damage than you might expect. That's because these pokemon actually seem to be properly EV trained much like pokemon you'd face in Stadium or Colosseum's Battle Mode. You've really gotta give it your all here! And I'm gonna let you in on a little secret, this is just a taste of what's to come soon. Hopefully my struggling with this area will give some insight as to why I've settled on a decision I'll be announcing when we get there. I was ultimately able to power through this team with River's Surf and some help from Stars as well, but not before suffering some serious casualties! Right here on the first floor, I already had to backpedal to the lobby to heal up.

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Normal Course -- 2F

This floor is home to a slippery black tile which behaves just like ice. The trainers here can be battled individually in single battles, which I think is actually faster than battling them in a double battle. Mainly because you kind of have to go out of your way to battle them in a double battle. You'll need to run all the way to the end of a narrow path, then walk all the way back up and slide into the tiles from the left. Those strange blue tiles on the east side will force you to jump in place a few times, wasting precious time. You waste a lot of time just to set up a double battle when you could just as easily slide straight down the black tiles and battle each trainer individually for much easier battles and what I can only assume to be a faster time.

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Black Belt Theodore & Pokemon Breeder Jayden

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Meditite & Mr. Mime

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Heracross & Plusle

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Hitmontop & Togepi

Theodore's pokemon all seem built around spamming Focus Punch, so battling him in a single battle is pretty simple. However, when battling him in a double battle with Jayden, things get significantly more difficult when Jayden's bulky Mr. Mime starts setting up Light Screen, Reflect, and Safeguard while you're focusing on keeping Theodore's Focus Punch at bay. Make sure you're hitting them both with your attacks! While battling these trainers individually, though, Jayden is by far the more challenging foe. You'll need to take out her Mr. Mime as quickly as possible to that it can't reset its barriers. Just be warned it's extremely bulky and will take a while to defeat. This is I think where it quickly becomes apparent that a lot of these trainers aren't actually trying to win, they're just trying to waste your time. You'll run into lots of annoyingly defensive pokemon that do nothing but just sit there and set up all sorts of annoying moves to slow you down and not really do any sort of damage. If it's clear you're not in a good position, you might be better off just turning the game off and starting over rather than seeing your attempt out to the end and getting that ultimate prize. Honestly, at the moment, I only have my sights set on clearing the course and am probably not going to end up worrying too much about time for the previously stated reasons.

Jayden's other two pokemon, Plusle and Togepi, are easy to deal with, though I'd like to point out the total BS RNG when her Togepi used Metronome and got megahorn and critted with it. (Keep in mind, this is long before Super Luck is a thing.)

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Normal Course -- 3F

What an obnoxious floor your first time through. All these pink tiles function just like the arrow tiles in Mossdeep Gym in Ruby and Sapphire, or Team Rocket's Arrow Tiles in Fire Red and Leaf Green. The main issue I have with them is their color. It may not look so bad here, but on the actual GBA hardware, you have to look really close to see what direction these arrows are pointing. Thankfully, the layout is pretty easy to memorize once you find the correct path. I won't be spoiling the solution though in case you want to solve it yourself!

Once again, you do have the choice to battle these trainers either individually or as a duo, but this time it's pretty clear it'll save time if you manage to beat them both easily in a double battle.

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Pokemon Breeder Salvadore & Pokemon Breeder Veronica

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Vaporeon & Nidoqueen

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Dodrio & Ninetails

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Omastar & Charizard

Once again, you really don't want to ignore either party too much. These two love to disrupt your strategies with moves like Taunt, Torment, and Flatter to leave you confused and unable to use the moves you want. It'll take some skirting around to deal with all the foes here. Once you're past the initial wall, the offensive presence is laid on pretty thick. Be especially prepared for some powerful overheat attacks from Ninetails and Charizard!

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Normal Course -- 4F

The final floor has a fairly simple puzzle featuring the slippery black tiles from before. As you make your way through the first half of the puzzle, you'll quickly find that the battle here is a mandatory double battle--and as this is the final floor, it's a tough one.

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Psychic Keenan & Aroma Lady Kristina

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Alakazam & Tropius

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Blissey & Bellossom

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Grumpig & Meganium

I actually ended up losing this battle my first attempt and having to climb all the way up to get another try. Keenan's team is full of specially defensive pokemon, so you're going to want to fight him with your physical attackers. Only problem with that is that Kristina over there leads with a Tropius who loves to lead with Sunny Day. Your physical attacks probably don't have a whole lot of special defense and Kristina's team is full of bulky special attackers who just can't wait to stuff your face full of Solar Beam. Thankfully, both Alakazam and Tropius can be taken out in one turn fairly easily. Alakazam with any decent physical attack (In my face, Facade from Ozone), whiel Tropius can be picked off with an Ice attack (River's Ice Beam). But then comes that Blissey and Bellossom and, let me tell you, if you don't come prepared to deal with Blissey, this thing is a nightmare. It's basically going to remain entirely untouchable while you're focusing on the rest of Kristina's team to stop her from constantly pelting you with strong attacks. This Blissey is the very definition of just being there to waste your time. And while you're trying to finish off Kristina, Blissey isn't going to make it easy for you. It knows Sing, it knows ThunderBolt, and I wouldn't be shocked if it had SoftBoiled, too. Your special attacks will naturally hardly make a dent in its HP because of its absurd special defense stat and its physical defense has been buffed pretty heavily with its EV distribution as well. Its leftovers also continues to waste time between turns. Its low physical attack also means that even when you use Swagger to confuse it, it still doesn't hit itself for a whole lot of damage. Don't underestimate its ThunderBolt, either! It may not be a powerful attacker but it can still build up some damage against pokemon with low special defense! I don't even know why it's running ThunderBolt as it seems it'd be a better choice to run Psychic or Ice Beam to deal with Fighting or Ground-types. But the use of ThunderBolt makes it even more difficult to pick off Kristina's grass-types without a Fire-type attack.

My team does notably lack physical attackers, but that's normally because I'll usually just use Hill to set up a bunch of Swords Dances and pass it on with Baton Pass, but that's just not an option here! If I waste my time doing that in the first round, Tropius will set up Sunny Day or Alakazam will take me out! If I try to set up with Hill against Blissey, I'll just be zapped right out of the sky with ThunderBolt! Oh, and did I mention Blissey has Skill Swap? So say goodbye to Guts, Speed Boost, or Own Tempo! Now it's on the enemy! It's like this entire battle was designed specifically to counter my exact team! Of course, I haven't even mentioned the fact that Kristina's Bellossom has Petal Dance which makes quick work of River after I take out Tropius, and the only out to that my only out to that is switching into a Flying-type, but you know how Blissey will take to that one!! Her Meganium can take a ton of hits and loves to paralyze your pokemon with Body Slam. If I just had a Fighting or Fire-type, this battle would be basic stuff, but because I rely on Flying-types to take out Grass-types and setting up with Hill to take out specially defensive pokemon, this Blissey was a near impossible tank to get rid of! Eventually, though, I was able to overcome that Blissey after several minutes of chipping away at its HP with Cliff and hoping it attacks itself in confusion. What a nightmare of a battle.

The battle still isn't over even after Blissey is down, but thankfully, Grumpig is easy to take out with all the pokemon I was afraid to send out against Blissey. But I don't know what I would have done if that last pokemon was something like a Rhydon.

=====================

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Trainer Tower 5F

So I finally reached the top and earned my prize.

Bag_Great_Ball_Sprite.png

A great ball! Yeah, haha, I got the lowest tier reward, but with no out to that Blissey, what was I supposed to do?? If you really want to beat these towers, you'll definitely need to come in with a team of strong, well-trained pokemon ready to kick some butt. Just like I advised at the Trainer Tower in Leaf Green, it might also be a good idea to turn off Battle Effects in order to save time. A lot of time is wasted on berry eating, status, and weather animations. Speeding through battles just isn't my style of play so I really don't like the challenges these towers present. I'd really rather do this without the time pressure so, no, I'm not going to stress too much about the ultimate reward.

Bag_TM_Fire_Sprite.png

If you're curious, though, clearing the Normal mode in under 12 minutes will reward you with... TM11 Sunny Day. I mean, fair enough, I suppose, it is a one-of-a-kind TM, and if building a Sun team it's definitely helpful to have more than one pokemon know this move. This makes the TM renewable, so I suppose I can get behind the logic here. Still, it's not something I'm terribly desperate for after obtaining six of them across various games throughout this gen. And, y'know, being the gen that also introduced Groudon and the Drought ability. (Not that Groudon is legal in most competitive settings, but y'know...)

==================

Well, that's the first of four courses in Trainer Tower. Next time we'll be taking on the Variety Mode! Maybe we'll have some better luck here?

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Trainer Hill

Last time we went through a rather difficult challenge by taking on the Normal course on Trainer Hill. This time, we'll be trying out Variety Mode! The rules are all the same, the only difference is the floors and trainers we'll be battling along the way! Once again, I'm not going to be worrying too much about getting the ultimate reward here, but I'll still be making a conscious effort to get through as quickly as I can. As far as I'm concerned, though, completion is all that really matters here. I won't be using items to heal, but I'll probably be making less trips to the pokemon center in hopes of getting a better prize than the lowest reward.

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Variety Mode -- 1F

If you thought the arrow lifts from the previous course were difficult to work with, this whole place will make you dizzy! What a nightmare to navigate... It's a little hard to see in this picture, but the trainers in the middle of this room are surrounded by tiles that will make you spin aroun in a circle before forcing you to step back. Because of these time-wasting tiles, you'll have to battle these two trainers in a double battle.

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Gentleman Terrance & Lady Elizabeth

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Delibird & Corsola

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Clefairy & Clamperl

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Pikachu & Starmie

This pair of trainers are incredibly weak to electric attacks, so Cliff was a solid lead. I also had River out so I was able to easily deal with that PIkachu by switching Cliff into Ozone and using Earthquake with River. Of course, there were some awkward points since River couldn't use Earthquake while Cliff remained in play. I kept excpecting Elizabeth to send out a Ground-type as an excuse for me to have to switch out, so I might have wasted some time here, but the battle itself was very simple.

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Variety Mode -- 2F

This floor is home to two trainers who seem to be searching for love. The sun tilles around the outside of the heart here don't waste any time, they just play a sparkling effect as you run over them, so there's no reason to alter your course to avoid them.

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Parasol Lady Annabell & Collector Coleman

You can battle these trainers individually if you're interested, but I really don't think there's a need to. Save time by battling them both together!

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JIgglypuff & Illumise

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Jynx & Spheal

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I'm honestly not certain what Coleman's team was focused on doing because I really organized my attacks to ensure the most annoying pokemon would get taken out ASAP, but Annabell's pokemon mostly like to use Attract to infatuate your pokemon. It's not too big of a deal to overcome since most of these pokemon could easily be taken out in a single hit. It was really just a matter of having the right pokemon out. Ozone and River worked wonders as a duo here.

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Variety Mode -- 3F

Now this was a rather odd one. One-way cliffs combined with ice tiles make for a very strange-feeling puzzle. After catching onto the gimmick, though, the puzzle itself is rather simple to get through.

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Rich Boy Enrique & Lady Colleen

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Wooper & Baltoy

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Poliwag & Pineco

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Psyduck & Voltorb

Now this was a very strange battle. While you have to battle them as a pair, they'd actually be more difficult as individual opponents. The reason for this is that Colleen's pokemon all seem to favor the move SelfDestruct and Explosion while Enrique's team seems to be all pokemon with the Damp ability which prevents the use of these moves. I'm really not sure why these two trainers are paired together, but here they are! With Forest and Ozone, I was able to make quick work of this team. I recommend focusing on Colleen's team while she's held back by Damp, but try to keep Enrique's team at bay as well. Unfortunately, Poliwag did manage to hit Ozone with an Ice Beam, taking him out, but I still felt like I was in pretty good condition to keep going forward.

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Variety Mode -- 4F

Basically, this one is the same puzzle as the one on the first floor, but more spaced out so it's easier to see the individual tiles. Still, I kind of found it more difficult to path around and ended up going in circles a few times. Try to pay close attention to what choices you have as you take each move to avoid wasting time. The trainers here can be battled individually yet again, but again, you'll want to save time by battling them both together.

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Unown & Unown

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Unown & Unown

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Unown & Unown

What a strange team. These trainers exclusively use Unown to fight which means each one specializes in a specific type of attack and knows nothing but Hidden Power. That means, if both of your active pokemon resist one of their types, then you can focus your efforts on eliminating the other trainer before they can land any attacks! Anytime I see a group Unown, I try to look closely at them to see if they have any sort of secret message, but as far as I can tell, the letters all seem coincidental and there doesn't seem to be a correlation with their typing, either.

==================

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And we made it to the top of the tower once again! We meet with the owner of Trainer Hill and this time, we've managed to earn the next tier up! I don't really have plans to use this Poke Toy, but it's something... honestly, I think I would rather have a Great Ball. But at least I can sell this toy?

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The ultimate prize here really isn't anything exciting either compared to the TM we could get for clearing Normal mode. This prize is an Elixir! Not even a Max Elixir! This definitely felt like the easier of the two, though, so perhaps they intentionally placed the lamest ultimate prize here. The main thing that wasted my time was just solving the puzzles on each floor and that's really not too big of a deal after some repeat playthroughs. Once you've got that path down, you should be able to easily beat that 12 minute mark!

=====================

Today was rather simple, but I imagine that's not going to last looking forward, though I'm really not sure what to expect honestly. Especially from our next course which is going to be on Unique mode!

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Trainer Hill

And we're back again with yet another Trainer Hill challenge! This time we'll be taking on the Unique Mode! This course you'll quickly find to be much more challenging than the last one in terms of the types of pokemon we'll be battling, but of course it's really just more of the same.

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Unique Mode -- 1F

A really stndard maze that's cleverly designed enoguh to waste as much of your time as possible. Just head straight down then intentionally take the longest path through to save on time, all other paths are just detours that lead to dead-ends. (Remember, you can't see the entire maze at once in-game, only a small portion).

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Kinder Bernard & Pokemon Ranger Merdith

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Magcargo & Sunflora

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Rapidash & Tangela

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Moltres & Venusaur

This looks like many teams we've seen before in Pokemon Stadium 2 and I'll say the same thing I usually do: You can tell what the strategy is here just by looking at the pokemon. However, don't bother trying to take out that Magcargo turn 1, it's just going to use Protect. Instead, focus your efforts on Sunflora. If you can take Sunflora out before it gets Sunny Day up, your life will be a lot easier going forward. I mostly got by with Ice Beam and Earthquake from River, Aerial Ace from Ozone, and both Aerial Ace and Earthquake from Forest.

Of course, the sight of Moltres is a very scary precedent. It seems they're no longer afraid to throw legendary pokemon into the mix. Granted, Moltres actually isn't a very strong pokemon at all, there's still some scary possibilities coming up.

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Unique Mode -- 2F

The second floor is full of these pillars which obscure your view of the maze. The pillars don't seem to be obscuring any obstacles as far as I can tell, so you can run freely behind them. The only thing the pillars are obscuring are the two trainers at the end. Can you guess where they are?

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Ruin Maniac Abraham & Tuber Luc

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Smeargle & Cubone

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Smeargle & Beedrill

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Smeargle & Raticate

This is an oddly easy foe. The only major threat you have to deal with here is Raticate's Super-Fang which, due to its speed, it's almost bound to get off against you. If you're trying to do a quick run, maybe try switching the anticipated target out with a pokemon that has high speed and attack? That Super Fang can heavily cripple pokemon that rely on their defenses since it automatically deals half their HP. The last Smeargle can also sabotage you by paralyzing your fast pokemon though with Thunder Wabe, so watch out!

Ultimately, it seems Luc's team is just full of a bunch of pokemon with unique signature moves that no other pokemon can learn. He even proudly boasts that he has rare moves! He's fittingly paired with a team full of Smeargle who would be capable of copying said moves. I'm not sure what kinds of moves these Smeargle have, because I really focused on taking them out ASAP. Smeargle are capable of some really deadly move combos like Lock-on and any OHKO attack if you let them stay around too long.

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Unique Mode -- 3F

This floor is actually pretty cute. The note mats on the south part of the room play the first several notes from Pallet Town's theme. The set of notes above those play out the theme of Route 101! Both of these locations are where you select your starter pokemon in their respective regions.

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Youngster Breyden & Tuber Aniya

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Charmeleon & Cleffa

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Wartortle & Wynaut

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Ivysaur & Magby

I mentioned the starter pokemon observation because, fittingly enough, Youngster Breyden's team is filled with starters! In the Japanese version, the three pokemon a trainer used depended on whether it was added first or second. Perhaps Breyden's other three pokemon were the middle stages of the Hoenn starters? Anyway, Charmelon can be a bit of a pain right after that Raticate's Super Fang as it as Dragon Rage, another fixed damage attack. Aniya's Cleffa isn't too much of a threat, but Charmelon is capable of just barely surviving an Earthquake from River. I did have a lucky break where I ended up having Ozone use Facade on Magby and got burned from its Magma Armor! Unfortunately, it survived the attack and immediately took Ozone out with a ThunderPunch, so I didn't actually get to enjoy that golden opportunity. Wartortle loves to use Protect, so if it's out along with that Wynaut, I'd try to focus your efforts on disrupting Wynaut's strategy as best as possible. River's Future Sight comes in a lot of handy against pokemon that like to hide behind Protective moves!

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Unive Mode -- 4F

I'm not sure if it saves time to battle the two trainers here individually, or to run the gauntlet all the way through, but I will say I probably should have battled them individually!

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Bird Keeper Dane & Triathlete Stephanie

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Sudowoodo & Houndoom

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Slowking & Stantler

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Entei & Articuno

Right off the bat, that Houndoom is a scary sight. My first time through, I actually hadn't healed at all because Ozone was paralyzed by that Smeargle a few rounds back. I wanted to ride it out and see how far I could get with Guts + Facade. I thought I'd been doing really well until Ozone failed to attack twice in a row thanks to his paralysis. He ended up getting KO'd before I was able to do anything and since I hadn't been healing, this cost me my first attempt. On my second attempt, I definitely made sure to go back and heal before coming back here. The Houndoom and Sudowoodo were really easy to deal with between a Steel Wing from Ozone and an Earthquake from River. Ozone had to take Houndoom's Flamethrower, but he managed to hang on with a little bit of HP left which is perfect for Endeavor! I ended up using Endeavor to bring Slowking down to how health and get the quick KO with Earthquake. Unfortunately, Stantler ended up ensuring I couldn't ride out Endeavor any further by taking out Ozone next. The last pair of pokemon though, Entei and Articuno, much scarier when my attack is at -2 thanks to Slowking and Stantler's Intimidate. Still, I had the rest of my team to fall back on, so I was able to power through the both of them, especially since Articuno's Blizzard is split damage-wise between two pokemon.

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And with that, we reached the top of the Tower for the third time!

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I probably don't even need to tell you that I got a Great Ball as a prize this time.

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If you can clear this course in under 12 minutes, though, you'll receive TM19: Giga Drain! Another duplicate TM that you could easily just grab from the Safari Zone, but again, if you only have one game then it might be a good way to get one without having to start your game over from the beginning!

================

So, that's 3 out of 4 courses! That leaves only the Expert Course for next time. I'm... honestly not looking forward to what kind of nightmarish combinations of pokemon we'll be dealing with there.

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Trainer Hill

We finally have one more course to go through at Trainer Hill and that's the Expert Course! With such a name, I'm a little nervous about what we'll be facing up against. But, we've made it this far so there's no way we can back down yet! I'll definitely say though that, if there's any course I can guarantee we won't be getting the top prize in, it's this one.

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Expert Mode -- 1F

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Cooltrainer Alfred & Psychic Edie

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Snorlax & Gengar

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Miltank & Gardevoir

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Ursaring & Alakazam

Right away, I actually wound up losing this battle getting swept by Snorlax's Earthquake and Gengar's variety of type coverage options. This gengar knows both ThunderBolt and Fire Punch, so be prepared to take it out or it'll be able to get an upper hand on a lot of different pokemon. Also try to stay wary of that Snorlax as it loves to hit you with some strong attacks of its own. On my second attempt, I led with Stars and Hill. I protected with Hill to avoid the inevitable ThunderBolt while Stars used Psychic on Gengar. While I was unable to take out Gengar on this turn, Stars was taken out by Snorlax allowing me to bring in Ozone to finish the job against Gengar quickly. Knowing Gengar would likely be targeting Hill, I used this KO as an opportunity to set up Swords Dance and Baton Passed on the following turn. Forest switched into a ThunderBolt from Gardevoir but from here, I was able to take out the rest of Edie's team with a mixture of Earthquakes and Facades. Once Edie was out of the picture, it was 2 on 1 against Alfred's entire team. His Snorlax had hardly been taking any damage at all, so it took a while to take him out, but once he was out of the picture, Miltank and Ursaring both went down fairly easily.

You do have the option to battle these trainers individually, but I personally just feel like that's not really in the spirit of the challenge. Besides, honestly, being able to go 2 on 1 against that Snorlax really helped me KO it without too many issues.

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Expert Mode -- 2F

The note pads on this floor play out the victory theme as you run through the corridors on your way to the next floor. A cute detail that almost makes you forget this whole zigzag pattern is just here to waste your time both on your way up and back down to heal as there's no shortcut around it.

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Cooltrainer Roderick & Cooltrainer Alicia

Another pair of trainers that you can choose to battle individually at the cost of some extra time.

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Swellow & Dusclops

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Machamp & Ninetails

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Ursaring & Banette

In case you can't immediately tell what the focus of these teams are based on their pokemon, all of Roderick's pokemon have Guts while all of Alicia's pokemon have the move Will-O-Wisp to inflict each of them with Burn and trigger Guts. Much like the previous floor, the winning strat here seemed to be to focus on eliminating Roderick's team as quickly as possible because Alicia's team on its own is rather defenseless. These battles will definitely both be far easier if battled individually since Roderick won't be able to trigger Guts and Alicia's team is entirely built around double-battle support.

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Expert Mode -- 3F

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Expert Terrence & Expert Carlotta

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Wobbuffet & Dewgong

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Exploud & Politoed

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Crobat & Marowak

This is a double battle that is not optional and their lead really caught me off guard with an excellent strategy I'd honestly never seen before! We all know about Wobbuffet's annoying Shadow Tag ability that prevents the foe from switching out. But then you have Dewgong who knows the move Perish Song. Thanks to Shadow Tag, you can't switch out of Perish Song and Dewgong ends up taking both of your pokemon down in an OHKO if you fail to take it out quick enough. Coupled with its intense bulk and my inability to switch into a more advantageous lead, Dewgong was able to maintain the upper hand and, while they had the chance to retreat on Perish Count 1, I was still locked in and so both of my leads couldn't escape their Perish Count dropping to 0. (While I'm pretty sure Baton Pass would allow Hill to retreat, I'm pretty sure it would have passed on the Perish Count as well). They retreated into Crobat and Marowak, so I was able to bring out River and Stars. Crobat spent its first turn using Toxic on River, so I was able to take it out fairly easily with a combination of attacks. Naturally, Wobbuffet returned and Dewgong wasn't far behind. This Wobbuffet was still basically at full HP since my focus was entirely on Dewgong before, but Dewgong was right on the cusp of defeat. I took it out before it was able to set up another Perish Song. Politoed was able to take out River allowing me to bring in Cliff. We focused our efforts on taking out that Politoed so that we could go 2-on-1 against Terrence's Wobbuffet. I kept attacking Wobbuffet while switching up between Leaf Blade and Aerial Ace to avoid Wobbuffet's Counter and Mirror Coat, meanwhile, my only hope of survival at this point was for Stars to start setting up Calm Mind while the foe could do literally nothing to her. Eventually, Wobbuffet ended up landing a Mirror Coat against the one Leaf Blade that critted, giving it enough damage to KO Forest, leaving Stars all alone for the remainder of the battle. I KO'd Wobbuffet with the +6 Special Attack Psychic and just had to cross my fingers Terrence's last pokemon wouldn't be able to outspeed and KO me nor be a Dark Type or else this battle was as good as over. Thankfully, this last pokemon was just an Exploud which I was able to outspeed and effortlessly take out with my overcharged Psychic.

This was probably the most challenging battle in this entire course, though I feel that's mainly just because I was caught off guard by their lead. Had I entered with Cliff from the start, Dewgong might not have had a chance to even use Perish Song. 

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Expert Mode -- 4F

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Pokemon Ranger Nora & Pokemon Ranger Gav

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Forretress & Gengar

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Electrode & Dusclops

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Exeggutor & Midreavus

This one was thankfully not nearly as bad. For some reason, it seemed Forretress did absolutely nothing but spam Earthquake, so when I led with Hill and Ozone, I was able to avoid all damage from him entirely. I suppose it probably also knew Explosion, but it never ended up using it against me. Meanwhile, I was able to hit Gengar with two Aerial Aces and set up with a Swords Dance from Hill. I went for a Protect one last turn which turned out to be the best decision of my entire life because Gengar caught me by surprise with an Explosion! Surprisingly, Ozone's Focus Band took effect and allowed him to hang on with 1HP! The Misdreavus he brought in next switched right into the Aerial Ace that was supposed to be for him. I finally Baton Passed into Forest to use Earthquake and start chipping away at Forretress while Ozone continued attacking Misdreavus. A few turns later, Forretress and Misdreavus were both down. Electrode and Dusclops came in and naturally Electrode would not be surviving long. I used Endeavor to bring Exeggutor down to 1HP for an easy KO and while he was asble to take both Ozone and Forest down, River was able to finish the job with a single Surf.

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Trainer_Hill_roof_E.png

Bag_Great_Ball_Sprite.png

As expected, my prize for clearing Expert Mode was a Great Ball since I'd ended with a time of 38 minutes. Yikes. But, to be expected with some of the really difficult battles I had to go through. It was rough and this was my longest time by a whole 10 minutes.

If you, somehow, manage to clear this entire course in under 12 minutes, what's your prize??

Bag_TM_Fighting_Sprite.png

...TM31: Brick Break. A TM you can literally *buy* in Fire Red and Leaf Green's Department Store and even get for free on board the S.S. Anne in that game. Why in the world did they think this was an acceptable prize for such a difficult challenge? Even the Giga Drain prize would have been a better fit here! This is absolutely not worth the struggle. Just grind out against trainers in FRLG with the Vs Seeker for the money if you have to. The only reason I could see anybody committing so hard for this TM is if you just desperately need it on a new pokemon and simply don't have Fire Red and Leaf Green. Even then, this feels like such a terrible limitation.

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Regardless of my feelings on that final ultimate prize, we've finally finished all four courses of Trainer Hill! Not much came from the challenge, but it's one more item off our postgame checklist! Next time, I think it's finally time we check out what it is Scott's been waiting to show us this whole time.

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With Trainer Hill behind us, I think it's finally time we make our way to Slateport and see if we can meet with Scott. There is still a little bit more for us to do here in Hoenn, but I think now is definitely an appropriate time to see what more new content awaits us here in Emerald! Last we heard, Scott was on board the S.S. Tidal which travels between here and Lilycove. In order to get on board, we'll need to use our S.S. Ticket! In Ruby and Sapphire, we could use the S.S. Ticket to head straight to a location called the Battle Tower, but that option seems to have been removed in this game! We only have the option to sail to Lilycove! If we're to jump to conclusions, we could immediately assume this was just a blatant downgrade, but obviously, they wouldn't take away something like the Battle Tower without replacing it with something

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S.S. Tidal

Just like in Ruby and Sapphire, after boarding the S.S. Tidal, we'll get to explore the inside of the ship.

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Of course, the biggest difference here is that Scott greets us as soon as we board! He informs us that he spoke with the captain, Mr. Briney, about allowing you to take the ferry to a place called the Battle Frontier where tough trainers like ourselves gather to push their skills to the ultimate test!

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Just like before, you can hop from room to room and battle some trainers for some extra exp. If you want to heal up, you can always visit your own cabin, cabin 2, and take a rest in your bed.

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Of course, let's not forget that you can grab TM49: Snatch in one of the cabins.

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More importantly, below deck, we can get some Leftovers from one of the trash cans... appetizing. But, this item is just as useful as it's always been! I decided to give this to Stars so that she could finally have a held item worth fighting with.

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Once we arrive at Lilycove, we can simply turn right around and take the Ferry straight to this newfound Battle Frontier!

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Battle Frontier

Now this place... is... massive. Far larger than anything we've seen to date. To give you a sense of scale, look at how tiny the Pokemon Center and Mart are on the map above. Keep in mind that the player character is about the size of the Pokemon Center's door. Most of the larger buildings here don't even fit entirely on screen at one time! This place is like a Pokemon Battling theme-park! And there is a lot to explore here! Yes, welcome to what you can consider to be the central hub of not only Pokemon Emerald's postgame, but perhaps what the entirety of generation 3 has been building up to. If you buy a used copy of this game from somebody whose already beaten the game, this is probably where their save file will be. Yes, I consider the Battle Frontier to be the "big bad final boss" of Generation 3, which is just the words I used to describe Pokemon Stadium and Stadium 2 in Gen 1 and 2. Not quite what you would've expected, huh?

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You'll notice the prominence of the Battle Frontier's logo which has been present on all the Battle Tents across Hoenn. Yes indeed, the three Battle Tents in Hoenn are sponsored by the Battle Frontier and they offer a little taste of what's to come!

Because I consider this location to be the "big bad final boss," I'm not going to cover it in too much detail just yet. There's still one more title in this generation I'd like to play through before we get to putting together our competitive teams and taking on the greatest challenge we've faced thus far. But, I can personally guarantee that we will be putting an honest effort into exploring everything the Battle Frontier has for us before we advance beyond Gen 3.

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Now, as we enter through the front gate, Scott meets with us and tells us we're welcome to visit his home here at the Frontier. As it turns out, Scott is the founder of the Battle Frontier and has been couting out the toughest trainers he could find over the course of your adventure. Consequently, that means our most challenging battles are still ahead of us!

We'll be given a Frontier Pass by the receptionist at the counter. We can access this pass the way we would normally access our Trainer Card. With this pass, we can view the symbols we've obtained, a recording of a battle, our trainer card, and a detailed map of the Battle Frontier itself since it's such a massive area. We'll go over what a lot of these things mean when we get to them, but for now, it's gonna take some baby steps. There is a lot to cover here, so today we're just going to do a bunch of the legwork and thoroughly explore this place and see some of the cool things we can find. For now, we'll be ignoring the major attractions, but if you're curious, you can speak with the other receptionists about more information.

These facilities are:

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...the Battle Factory,

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...Battle Arena,

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...Battle Dome,

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...Battle Pike,

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...Battle Palace,

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...Battle Pyramid,

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...and the Battle Tower! That's right, this tower indeed was not replaced by Trainer Hill but in fact is still available right here! And it's gotten a massive facelift from its predecessors in Crystal, Ruby and Sapphire!

We'll cover all of these facilities in more detail as we give each one its own spotlight, but for now, we'll just be using them as landmarks to help navigate this massive map as we focus on covering the finer details.

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If we start by heading straight north, we'll run past the Battle Factory and Battle Dome before eventually running into Scott's home, east of the Battle Dome, which he invited us to. It's surprisingly just a humble hut here in this massive place. On speaking with him, he'll award us with 1-3 BP depending on how many times we spoke with him. There have been several opportunities to meet him throughout our journey, some which were missable. Don't worry, though, these three BP are almost meaningless as you'll soon come to realize.

What are BP? Well, this is essentially the same mechanic as Pokemon Colosseum's Poke Coupons, if you recall how those worked. As you win battles at the Battle Frontier, you'll earn BP, gaining more and more the higher your win streak and you can exchange them for a variety of prizes which we'll detail going forward.

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Nearby, we can find a girl in another small house just west of the Battle Tower who is willing to trade her Meowth for your Skitty. While Skitty is a rather rare pokemon without the help of swarming thanks to my dead internal battery, this trade is actually arguably worth it since Meowth isn't obtainable in Hoenn by any other means.

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Meowow the Meowth even comes with a cute little letter! I won't spoil what it says, though. Mail is private!

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Battle Point Exchange Center

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In this building, as its name implies, you can exchange your BP for all sorts of prizes! The cashiers on the left will offer you some rare secret base decorations while the cashiers at the right will offer items that will help you in your battles at the Battle Frontier as well as with training up new pokemon to help you further!

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[Once again, there's a transparency issue with the decorations items as I copy the sprites from Bulbapedia, so I apologize if some of them, most notably the Togepi Doll, look off-colored in the dark theme.]

The leftmost cashier will sell you a variety of unique dolls that aren't available anywhere else. Thanks to item previews, you can actually see what these decorations look like before you buy them unlike in Ruby and Sapphire, but I figure I'll still put them here for convenience.

From Left to right, for 16BP: The Kiss Poster. For 32BP: The Kiss Cushion and Smoochum Doll. For 48BP: The Togepi, Meowth, Clefairy, and Ditto Dolls! And for 80BP: The Cyndaquil, Chikorita, and Totodile dolls!

As you can immediately tell... these prizes do not come cheap. I suppose you can consier these rare dolls to be the ultimate prizes the game expects you to work towards. But if you think these are expensive, you've seen nothing yet!

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The other cashier on the left will sell you larger PokeDolls and they're by far the most expensive items in the store. For 128BP: The Lapras and Snorlax Dolls, and for a whopping 256BP: The Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise Dolls! (If you're using the dark theme, I swear these dolls look cute rather than scary in-game...)

The prizes from the cashiers on the right side are far more affordable and practical. They'll help you to earn the BP you need to buy those more expensive items for sure!

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The first cashier on the right will sell you vitamins for only 1BP Each! This is by far the fastest and easiest way to stock up on these vitamins and this in turn makes training up new pokemon far easier to accomplish rather than dumping your life savings into buying them at nearly 10,000P a pop. This also means spending money on things like TMs and cosmetics for your bases far less stressful. A very welcome change!

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The rightmost cashier will sell you some very useful held items. Be careful, though! Make sure you don't waste your BP because all of the cheaper items can be obtained elsewhere in the game for free! The King's Rock and Focus Band as well!

For 48BP, you can buy the Leftovers, White Herb, Quick Claw, and Mental Herb. For 64BP: The Brightpowder, Choice Band, King's Rock, Focus Band, and Scope Lens. Other than the White and Mental herbs, none of these items are consumable. But, you don't have to shy away from using consumable held items like berries or the herbs in most Battle Frontier facilities. These battles operate similarly to link battles where held items are restored at the end of each battle and only consumed in the context of the battle itself. I'd definitely say the Brightpowder, Choice Band, and Scope Lens are definitely the held items you want to shoot for, but for 64 BP each, it might take a while to get there. Thankfully, the held items that have been available to us so far haven't been shy of incredibly useful, either.

You might notice that this selection of items seems a bit familiar. That's because these are the very same items that can be purchased at Mt. Battle in Pokemon Colosseum! So, if you struggle with building up BP or want to save up for some of those rare dolls, you may want to consider booting up a copy of Pokemon Colosseum to get these items instead. Or, hint hint, you may want to consider exercising a little patience and killing a few birds with one stone by means we'll definitely be exploring in another title.

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Just west of the Battle Tower, there's a strange cave entrance at the top of a one-way cliff that we can't actually access from here. But, right next to that, there is the Records Hall where your win streaks at each of the Battle Frontier's facilities are recorded. After mixing records with friends who have competed at the Frontier, their win streaks will be displayed in here as well. The hall records data on every facility and every possible ruleset such as level limitations and battle style in separate tables. So you don't have to worry about technicalities like Double Battles getting mixed in with Single Battles.

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South of the Battle Tower, and East of the entrance, you'll find a small neighborhood of houses including the aforementioned Pokemon Center and mart. Those two are pretty standard, though you can buy vitamins at the PokeMart here for their traditional price if you have no other use for your money. The house just north of the Pokemon Center, though, is home to a special NPC who will actually check the IVs of your pokemon! To my knowledge, this is the first NPC who will do that! For more information on the Stats Judge, you can check out this page on Bulbapedia.

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Last but certainly not least, is the location where I think your BP is best spent. The house West of the Battle Dome. We actually ran past it in our hurry to Scott's house, but I figured it would be more appropriate to discuss BP after we got our first ones.

In this house, we'll find two old ladies who seem to rival each other. Both of these are move tutors, but not just any move tutors like the ones we've seen so far. These move tutors are special. They can each teach from a variety of moves, not just one each. In addition, they can teach their moves as many times as you like. The catch? You guessed it, each move costs BP. Thankfully, they don't get nearly as outrageous as those decorations but they're still pretty hefty! You've gotta make sure you really want these moves before you buy them!

The tutor on the left mostly teaches you moves that were available through tutor in Fire Red and Leaf Green. These are all moves that were available as TM moves in Generation 1 but not in Generation 3.

For 16BP: Softboiled. For 24BP: Seismic Toss, Dream Eater, and Mega Punch. For 48BP: Mega Kick, Body Slam, Rock Slide, Counter, Thunder Wave, and Swords Dance. Since all of these moves are available for free in Fire Red and Leaf Green, make sure you learn them from their respective tutors there if possible before wasting your BP here!

The lady on the right, as you may have guessed, teaches you a bunch of moves that were TM moves in Generation 2 but not in Generation 3. These include some very useful ones, so this is definitely the one you wanna pay more attention to.

For 16BP: Defense Curl. For 24BP: Snore, Mud Slap, Swift, Icy Wind. For 48BP: Endure, Psych Up, Ice Punch, ThunderPunch, Fire Punch.

That's right, those beautiful coverage options from Generation 2 are finally available again without the dreaded cost of taking the place of Ice Beam, ThunderBolt, and Flamethrower! I'd say a very welcome change, indeed. Still, at 48BP, these moves are rather costly. Once again, make sure you really want them when you buy them. Thankfully, if you buy them for a Male pokemon, they can be passed on to that pokemon's offspring through breeding, so keep that in mind!

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Now then, that's all the nitty gritty dealt with, but I'm still feeling a little adventurous. In addition, many of the NPC's we've spoken to while exploring the Battle Frontier were talking about a strange, "sticky-looking" pokemon with a long tail. Remember that strange cave we saw before? Well, why don't we try to figure out how to get in there?

Just west of the Battle Palace, there's a small river with a grove of trees. If we try to follow along the river, we'll find a strange-looking tree in the way. This obstacle seems rather familiar... and it's cleared in a familiar way as well! Just use your Wailmer Pail on this strange tree and...

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Sudowoodo Lv. 40

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Nothing terribly exciting about this matchup with Sudowoodo, it was just a matter of setting up a Swords Dance, taking down its HP with Slash, then using Baton Pass to work around its Block.

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From there, a Thunder Wave from Cliff and an Ultra Ball was enoguh to catch it.

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And so, we have Thicket the Sudowoodo. (Listen, I'm tired of all these forest-dwelling pokemon, there's only so many names you can come up with for a froest).

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After we cleared that Sudowoodo out of the way, we can now use Surf in the body of water behind it. We can slide down the Waterfall. (Don't worry, you don't necessarily need Waterfall to get back and there's nothing too dangerous where we're going). There's no wild pokemon in this water, so you're free to Surf as much as you want. At the very end of the water way here, you'll find a hidden cave entrance!

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Artisan Cave

This massive cave is home to one and only one wild pokemon. Can you guess who it is?

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It's Smeargle, of course! This must be the sticky-looking, long-tailed pokemon everyone was talking about! Naturally, I caught one and named it Studio. The fact that you can encounter these Smeargle at 100% here in the wild, though, is absolutely significant! Wild Smeargle only know one move: Sketch! I believe I've explained this before. With Sketch, Smeargle will permanently copy the previous move that was used by the targeted pokemon. You can exploit this to easily get your first move on this Smeargle to be whatever you want, just by attacking it with that move. You can exploit this to either make the pokemon easier to catch by ensuring it only knows a status move, or you can make full use of the opportunity by getting it to learn a really rare move! Try to think of what kind of strategy you might want to use it for and figure out how you can get it to copy the moves you want.

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In addition to Smeargle, you'll also find a full set of free vitamins in this cave if you check the large rocks as you pass them by. All of them except the Carbos can be found on this floor. Some are hidden, some are in plain view.

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Once you climb up the ladder, you'll find the Carbos at the dead end.

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And of course you'll emerge from that mysterious cave entrance we saw before between the Record Hall and Battle Tower!

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With Smeargle captured, we now have every single pokemon that was supposed to be made available through distributions with Altering Cave. We caught them all through standard gameplay, no need for any mystery gift shenanigans! Still, it would be pretty cool to see the Altering Cave functionality restored in some way one day... maybe the distribution carts for these unreleased events will be miraculously uncovered someday? Who knows?

Well, we've explored all the extra stuff here a the Battle Frontier. Next time, I think I'll be focusing on one of these facilities. I'll elaborate more on what I plan to do about the Battle Frontier in the next post, but I think there is one facility in particular that we can go ahead and take on just to show off what this place is going to be like.

So, next time, we'll make our way to our first Battle Facility: The Battle Factory!

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Aura

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Battle Frontier

So, I didn't make a post yesterday. If you read my status, you'll probably understand why. If not, I'll explain shortly. Today, though, I wanted to focus on the main feature of the Battle Frontier itself: Its many facilities which offer all sorts of new ways to battle! I said previously that we'll go over the specifics of each facility as we reach them. However, I want to take a moment to cover the general rules that are consistent across each one.

Every facility is subdivided into several categories. The majority of the facilities are divided into Single and Double Battle formats as you've probably come to expect. The exception being the Battle Tower which also has two other formats. We'll discuss those when we get there. Each format is further subdivided into two more cateogries: Lv. 50 and Open Level. The Lv 50 category only allows for pokemon up to level 50 to participate. There is no level scaling in this category, so all of your opponents will be at the cap of 50. Make sure your pokemon are up to par or you'll be at a disadvantage! I've always hated this format though for the grievances I've explained in Colosseum's Battle Mode. Your own pokemon won't be scaled down if they're above level 50, so you have to be exceedingly careful not to overlevel your pokemon. It's possible but pretty unlikely you'll clear the main story of any Pokemon game below level 50 except for Gen 2, and that's mainly because "beating the game" is really only around 2/3 of the way to what most people consider the real end of the game. Anyway, these grivances are the reason the Open Level cateogry is available.

In Open Level, all opposing pokemon will be scaled down to a minimum of level 60. This means that, as long as you have a set of three pokemon around the same level at or above level 60, you don't have to worry about leveling them all the way up to level 100 anymore! Thankfully, going forward, this will basically become the industry standard. So be prepared for some high-level battling!

Each facility here at the Battle Frontier is run by an incredibly skilled trainer known as a Frontier Brain who has been personally scouted by Scott. These trainers have created the custom rulesets for each of their facilities and excel at the battle styles within. Your ultimate goal in the Battle Frontier is to seek out and defeat these Frontier Brains to prove yourself worthy of each one's Frontier Symbol. You can think of these Frontier Symbols as being like a new set of Gym Badges. There are seven of them; one for each of the facilities. But collecting Gym Badges is like collecting pebbles off the sidewalk when compared to the challenge of collecting the Frontier Symbols. I'm going to say right now that we have yet to face a challenge as difficult as this in the entirety of the series so far. I'm not kidding when I say that this is even more difficult than beating the Pokemon Stadium titles in their entirety. In fact, Pokemon Stadium is far, far more generous in many ways.

So, why is it so difficult to defeat these Frontier Brains? Well, as you might have guessed, battling these Frontier Brains isn't as simple as just walking up to them and challenging them to a battle. Oh no. Unlike Gym Leaders, you have to capture the attention of each of the Frontier Brains yourself. That's right, you don't have the ability to challenge these Brains, you have to convince them that they need to challenge you. 

How do you catch their attention? Well, you have to perform well at their facility, of course. Exceedingly well. The numbers vary depending on the facility, but you'll have to obtain a win streak of a certain number before the Frontier Brain will take interest in you and issue you a challenge. Yes, that means you're going to have to win at these facilities many times in a row without losing a single battle. And naturally you're not going to be facing your typical Youngster Joeys. The trainers you fight here are generally on par with what you'd face in Pokemon Stadium and the like. Expect to see some highly competitive, well-thought-out movesets with frustrating combos of moves. What's more, unlike Stadium and Colosseum, there are no continues to be earned by winning a battle without losing any pokemon and there are no checkpoints of progress once you've unlocked the next level of difficulty.

Basically, imagine if Pokemon Stadium required you to clear the Stadium Mode tournaments on all four difficulties without losing a single battle or you'd have to start all the way from the Poke Ball Rank again. And at the very end, you have to battle and defeat the Frontier Brain. Except, there's also an extra layer of challenge since each facility brings with it its own special ruleset.

Obviously, this is going to be a long challenge. But, by the end, I do intend to defeat all of these Frontier Brains, no matter how difficult this may be. To show you a taste of just how challenging this is going to be, there is one facility I want to go ahead and cover today!

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Battle Factory

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We may not have pokemon quite up to par with the standards of the Battle Frontier just yet, but that's okay with this particular facility! As you gather information here, you'll quickly find that the rules of this facility are nearly identical to the Battle Tent in Slateport City! As you can probably conclude of this, each of the Battle Frontier's three Battle Tents correspond to one of the seven facilities at the Battle Frontier and offer a small taste of what's to come. But, these facilities are far more challenging than those Battle Tents from before.

The Battle Factory here is home to many researchers who are studying the way trainers make decisions when battling with pokemon they didn't raise. As such, the rules here require you to battle using a selection of rental pokemon. In Level 50 mode, the rentals are all obviously level 50 and are mostly early stages of evolution. In Open Level mode, these pokemon are at level 100 and fully evolved.

Where this facility differs from its Battle Tent counterpart, aside form the stronger, higher-level pokemon, once you select your three pokemon you'll have to win a round of seven battles instead of three before you get a new selection. If you don't lilke your selection of pokemon, you'll have to grit your teeth and tough it out with what you can get. Maybe hope your foes will bring in some stronger pokemon for you to swap with. This this is further encouraged because, if you regularly swap pokemon, the next batch of randomly selected pokemon at the start of a round may include some pokemon with higher stats than the others. Basically, each round will bring with it an all new set of pokemon with better moves and higher stats than the previous one. Stronger pokemon will be pulled from the next round's pool. The final trainer in each round will have pokemon on par with the next round, so you'll always be at a minor disadvantage there.

If you want more specifics about how this all works, check out the Bulbapedia page. I'll link these as I cover each of these facilities as they provide lots of useful insight. However, I'll be limiting my use of them. I won't be sneaking peaks at the potential movesets of the pokemon available or anything like that. I'll just be relying on my own knowledge and memory to figure this stuff out. However, I will be consulting these pages for a general understaning of how things work.

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So, before we continue, let's discuss our strategies! In order to catch the attention of the Frontier Brain of the Battle Factory, you'll need to gain a win streak of 21. Factoring in the 7-battle rounds, this means we'll need to win three rounds in order to catch the Brain's attention.

Before we go anywhere, I will mention that I actually unknowingly exploited a bug while taking on this facility. You see, the opponent's pokemon are supposed to be scaled strength-wise based on the round your current win streak in the Battle Factory. However, apparently, there is a bug in the program that causes this win streak to be read from the Battle Tower rather than the Battle Factory. This means, by not having a win streak at the Battle Tower, every round of opponents were apparently stuck at their base level while only my pokemon got progressively stronger. This definitely didn't feel like it was the case while I was playing, so perhaps my understanding of this glitch is wrong. But apparently, this glitch can cause things to be a nightmare for you in this facility if you get a really high win streak in the Battle Tower before coming here. It's unfortunate that there doesn't seem to be a way to experience this facility as originally intended without hacking the game, but I imagine in typical gameplay, you're usually only ever going to be participating in this facility with a low current win streak at the Battle Tower, so I suppose the truest experience is to challenge the Factory in this state anyway.

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Before each battle, you'll be led by a scientist into a room where he will provide you with insight on your next opponent. As you get deeper into the round, his insight will become less and less helpful, so don't rely too much on it! Still, it'll give you some vague insight into what kind of pokemon you might expect to see and what types of moves you can expect it to have. This information will be provided before you select your initial three pokemon or the pokemon you want to swap for. Keep in mind, though, you've got the rest of the round to go before you get an entirely new team, so you may end up fully committing to whatever team you choose here. Don't dedicate your entire team to countering one single trainer or you'll develop blindspots the other trainers can easily exploit. In general, I found myself mostly ignoring these.

When it comes to choosing your initial team, let's grab some examples.

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When you first select your team, you'll be presented a selection of six completely random pokemon that will look something like this. If you think you already know what pokemon you'd want to use, slow down. With an attitude like that, you're sure to get walled hard really early on. You may have been able to get away with just using your favorites back in the Battle Tent, but we're not in Slateport anymore, this is the big leagues and every decision matters! You can't judge a book by its cover. A strong pokemon might not have the moves you expect it to know. While the rental pokemon here do seem to mostly have pretty solid movesets all around, you're still going to want to make sure you select three pokemon who have builds that compliment each other. For example, if you have a fast pokemon that can deal a lot of damage, you might want a bulky pokemon that you can switch into in case your fast pokemon gets walled by a pokemon that resists all of its attacks too well. I deally, a pokemon that's strong against a type the first pokemon can't handle well. But, beggers can't be choosers. Remember that these pokemon are entirely random. You might end up with a whole bunch of defensive pokemon with absolutely no physical presence, or you might end up with a whole line of glass canons who can't hold up to a pokemon with heavy defenses.

An unfortunate side effect of everything being determined by the roll of the die means that the die often isn't in your favor. You'll need to think creatively in order to work out of awkward situations when you're backed into a corner. If you can't beat 'em with stats, maybe you can beat 'em with status moves, type advantages, or just a whole lotta luck. These factors seem to trump each other in varying ways and it's actually pretty interesting to see how they match up. If choose exclusively based on stats, you might not have the type coverage in your moveset to deal with pokemon of certain types. Conversely, if you choose exclusively based on the moves each pokemon has, you might not have the stats to back up your strategies. I advise paying extra attention to how a pokemon's moveset lines up with its stats. If it's not a strong special attacker, special types like Fire and Ice probably aren't going to do a whole lot of damage even if they're super-effective. You might be better off just using a Normal attack that has no relation.

Of course, luck is also a factor. You should know by now that many moves are stronger with the tradeoff that they're less accurate. If you're going for consistent wins, it's definitely best to favor moves like ThunderBolt over moves like Thunder even if you have Rain Dance to boost the accuracy of Thunder. You'll often feel pressured to use an electric attack right away and having to set up Rain Dance first can be cumbersome and potentially cripple other pokemon on your team if you haven't kept the rain in mind. If you rely too much on luck, it's definitely going to blow up in your face by the time you get 21 wins. Of course, luck also plays a factor in reliance on using status moves to hinder your opponent. You could set up 6 Double Teams, have your opponent paralyzed, confused, and infatuated, and still get hit by a critical hit and KO'd. The odds of that are extremely unlikely, but they're always there! Alternatively, and this one I've had happen to be numerous times, you could simply be paralyzed and have your attacks stopped four or five turns in a row allowing the opponent to get a free KO on you. Unfortuantely, luck plays a big part of these battles no matter how you look at it, so you'll want to minimize your reliance on it as much as you can. Stack the odds in your favor as much as you can as well! If your opponent has a tough pokemon you have no out to, don't be ashamed of layering up some Double Teams and disruptive status ailments. Sometimes you just have to use what the game gives you and cross your fingers as you pray that it works.

I think this facility is a great place to get a fundamental understanding of how to build a competitive team. Considering your team is likely within the range of 50-60 when you first get here, this will be the only facility you can play at without being at an immediate disadvantage. It's also the closest facility to the entrance of the Battle Frontier, so it definitely seems intentional.

Spr_RS_Aroma_Lady.png Spr_3e_036.png Spr_3e_297.png Spr_3e_257.png

Now for swapping pokemon. Let's say you battled this Aroma Lady. The same rules apply as before, but just like in Slateport's Battle Tent, you can't look at the summaries of the pokemon you're swapping for. Make sure you pay attention to how her pokemon performed during your battle. If they didn't get a chance to attack because you swept right through them, you might not want to take the chances on swapping with them. Even if a pokemon is a similar type, it might not have moves of the same type or even play the same role on the team as one of your own. Still, if you're in it for the long haul, it may not be such a bad idea to swap at every opportunity. However, doing this will add an extra layer of luck if you're not familiar with the potential movesets these pokemon can have. I recommend only doing this if you're intimately familiar with the round's pokemon after multiple attempts (and yes, there will be multiple attempts). Try to keep in mind what role a pokemon will play on the team and which poemon you should switch out for them. If you have a weak link in your team, it might not be a bad idea to side them out for something better.

I think that about covers all the advice I can really offer. I must say, though, that even with all of this advice in mind, this challenge was a hell of a task. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I'd been playing for five hours straight yesterday and couldn't get more than a single win in the third round. Every single time I went through, there was always a point where the dice just weren't in my favor. Sometimes fate really will just crap on you throughout an entire battle. But, with enough perseverance, victory is inevitable! Don't be ashamed to take a break if you find yourself getting too heated. The more frustrated you are, the more likely you are to make stupid mistakes in your haste to get back to where you were. I definitely lost my temper more times than I'd like to admit while challenging this facility and it got to the point where I'd immediately start fuming any time I saw a pokemon like Walrein or Snorlax start using Double Team or Hypno or Jynx putting me to sleep. Keep in mind, things like SelfDestruct and Sleep Clause aren't in this mode, either, so your opponent can just feel free to spam Hypnosis and put your entire team to sleep if they're lucky enough. It especially comes off as unfair because you know these strategies aren't consistent enough for you to use in your 21 win streak.

Anyway, without further ado, let's finally get into the summary of my challenge!

===================

Battle_Factory_arena_E.png

So, I originally was taking much more detailed notes on every single attempt, similar to how I handled the Battle Tent, but it quickly got to the point where I was making so many attempts that I had several pages of notes that I wound up deleting because detailing all of that in one post would make for a very long and boring post. All the tension would be gone by the second or third attempt. Instead, after I put the game down for the night and came back to it the next day, I decided to only focus my notes on the final trainers on my first successful run of each round in that session. And only the battle with the Frontier Brain will be thoroughly detailed.

=====================

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Final Round 1 Team [Open Level]:

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Hariyama

Spr_3e_297.png Spr_b_3r_297.png

Item: Focus Band Bag_Focus_Band_Sprite.png

Ability: Guts | Moves: Cross Chop, Rock Slide, Counter, Fake Out

For many battles, Hariyama was enough to do most of the work. Occasionally, I'd be faced with a threatening Flying-type like Dodrio or a Psychic-type like Alakazam. In these cases, I'd just switch to the appropriate secondary pokemon for the job and finish them off. I did find myself wishing my Lanturn had an Electric move quite a few times, though.

------------------------

Scizor

Spr_3e_212.png Spr_b_3r_212.png

Item: Focus Band Bag_Focus_Band_Sprite.png

Ability: Swarm | Moves: Metal Claw, Aerial Ace, Counter, Quick Attack

I can't stress enough how important strong physical attackers are in this challenge. Certain pokemon like Walrein, Blissey, and Snorlax can be absolutely devastating if you can't take them out quickly enough. Once they set up on you, you may as well just throw in the towel. I've had battles against these pokemon take over an hour just because I was doing so little damage to them and their Leftovers would often heal off all the damage I'd dealt between Protects and misses. The worst offender I can recall was a Walrein where I was stuck spamming Earthquake against it but kept missing because it had +6 Evasion and was spamming Protect while slowly chipping away at my health with Hail. These kinds of strategies just feel so toxic and degenerate that it honestly really ruins a lot of the fun of this challenge to me. It's unfortunate, but there's a reason Double Team is banned in many competitive formats.

-----------------------

Lanturn

Spr_3e_171.png Spr_b_3r_171.png

Item: Cheri Berry Bag_Cheri_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Volt Absorb | Moves: Surf, Confuse Ray, Attract, Thunder Wave

Though it felt rather degenerate, this round didn't really give me many pokemon that were good for taking lots of hits. (Hariyama actually isn't nearly as bulky as he looks compared to other more defensive pokemon). So, i had to resort to this Lanturn who just likes to layer on a bunch of status effects until the opponent is begging for me to just kill them already.

------------------------

This was a team I was rather comfortable with. Let me tell you that I quickly grew fond of the moves Counter and Mirror Coat over the course of this challenge. If you can correctly predict the type of move the foe will use on you, these moves can deal massive damage back at the foe and often guarantee a KO! Sometimes pokemon only have one option to attack you with, so you can get away with just spamming one or the other until they attack if none of your other attacks can do enough damage.

=================

Spr_RS_Expert_F.png

Battle 7: Expert Selphy

Reminder, the trainers and their pokemon you battle are random, this just happens to be the first round 1 I cleared in my second session. Going forward, I'll be listing only the final battle of my first victorious round. I'd love to provide a detailed list of how my strategies changed and evolved over my many failures but again, there are just far too many to keep track of it all.

Spr_3e_034.png Spr_3e_272.png Spr_3e_199.png

Though it took some doing to work around that Nidoking, I definitely wasn't going to switch an Electric-type into it, I was ultimately able to take it out by countering its Earthquake. Ludicolo was a breeze to take out thanks to Aerial Ace, Once it was down to a 3-on-1 against Slowking, victory was basically assured. But this is the easiest of the three rounds. I'd gotten past this point many times before.

====================

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Final Round 2 Team [Open Level]:

----------------------

Dodrio

Spr_3e_085.png Spr_b_3r_085.png

Item: King's Rock Bag_King's_Rock_Sprite.png

Ability: Early Bird | Moves: Drill Peck, Double-Edge, Faint Attack, Protect

I've gotta say I got very lucky with this team. Dodrio is a powerful sweeper and the move Double-Edge is effectively a SelfDestruct in its hands! It deals a ton of damage thanks to STAB, but consequently the recoil is often enough to result in it getting knocked out. I like to soften the opponent up with Drill Peck before using it to confirm the KO. Its high speed and King's Rock can also buy me some convenient flinches every now and then. Faint Attack was near useless on it, though. I never used it except for to confirm KO's against enemies with critical HP on the offchance that I happened to be facing a foe with increased evasion or something. Other than that, this move does nearly nothing even when super-effective. Double-Edge and Drill Peck are almost always the way to go.

----------------------

Milotic

Spr_3e_350.png Spr_b_3r_350.png

Item: Focus Band Bag_Focus_Band_Sprite.png

Ability: Marvel Scale | Moves: Surf, Ice Beam, Safeguard, Mirror Coat

Milotic was just a solid specially defensive wall all-around and Mirror Coat was able to save my skin numerous times. It's just a no-brainer to include a pokemon like this on your team when you're lacking in special defense.

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Muk

Spr_3e_089.png Spr_b_3r_089.png

Item: Chesto Berry Bag_Chesto_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Sticky Hold | Moves: Curse, Rest, Sludge Bomb, DynamicPunch

Muk, however, was really the playmaker. I swapped for it early on after recognizing its potential and, sure enough, almost every victory for the rest of the round was contributed to Muk setting up with a bunch of Curses, using Rest when his HP is low, eating his Chesto Berry and then lettong loose with powerful Sludge Bombs. Even when walled by a Steel Type, I could resort to Dynamic Punch to dent them. This was a pokemon that genuinely felt good to use. Stars was built around a very similar strategy using Calm Mind instead of Curse. But with the renewable Chesto Berry rather than a Blue Flute, the strategy is far more useful. The only thing Muk had to watch out for were powerful special attackers, especially Psychic types. But even then, his special defense isn't shabby. He could usually take a hit or two which was more than enough to take out the attacker with Sludge Bomb.

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Spr_RS_Psychic_F.png

Battle 14: Psychic Kaitlyn*

*I accidentally forgot to take note of her name... Kaitlyn is psychic you can battle at the Frontier... I have no idea if this is the one or not. I just remember it was a female Psychic. Not that the names of these random trainers actually matter or anything.

Spr_3e_362.png Spr_3e_142.png Spr_3e_373.png

I actually got fooled pretty hard by this Glalie. Expecting it to use a bunch of Special attacks, I switched into Milotic only to be met with an Earthquake that completely took me out. Big mistake that I honestly thought had nearly costed me the entire match. I brought out Muk and began setting up a few Curses. After Resting up, I was able to dispose of Glalie pretty cleanly. The Aerodactyl could have been a lot smoother had Milotic not gotten blindsided earlier. This became painfully awkward and its Earthquake was surprisingly capable of dealing a lot of damage. However, once I brought out Dodrio, I found out that this thing must have had a Choice Band, because it kept on using Earthquake and nothing else. Eventually, I was able to chip its health down with Drill Peck, but it was 1-on-1 now and this Salamence was a scary sight to behold. It was some luck, but I was thankfully able to take it out thanks to some poor playing from the AI. This was a win I most certainly didn't deserve, but thankfully, it wasn't the one that led me to victory. No, that one was several more attempts ahead. Had I lost this battle, I wouldn't have gotten upset because I my opponent simply made a genuine read and called my switch. It was almost disappointing that I ended up winning after that.

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Final Round 3 Team [Open Level]

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Slaking

Spr_3e_289.png Spr_b_3r_289.png

Item: Choice Band Bag_Choice_Band_Sprite.png

Ability: Truant | Moves: Earthquake, Shadow Ball, Aerial Ace, Brick Break

This Slaking was a godsend. It could basically take everything it was dealt and dish it back tenfold thanks to its Choice Band. The Choice Band itself isn't even much of a downside considering I'd be retreating a lot because of Truant anyway. It really was just exponentially more power applied to my already incredibly powerful attacks turning a lot of matchups into OHKOs. 

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Forretress

Spr_3e_205.png Spr_b_3r_205.png

Item: Focus Band Bag_Focus_Band_Sprite.png

Ability: Sturdy | Moves: Explosion, Earthquake, Giga Drain, Zap Cannon

Slaking's one weakness was that he needed to switch out a lot because of his Choice Band. Thankfully, I also managed to start with the perfect pokemon to switch into! Forretress is capable of taking just about any attack, physical or special. This one was even surprisingly adept at attacking. Not the best, for sure, but it could get stuff done if I needed some consistent physical attacks. In a desperate situation, it can even explode to basically guarantee a KO! When my team lacked in Special Attackers, Zap Cannon and Giga Drain could do the job well enough.

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Alakazam

Spr_3e_065.png Spr_b_3r_065.png

Item: Choice Band Bag_Choice_Band_Sprite.png

Ability: Synchronize | Moves: Trick, Disable, Psychic, Skill Swap

This Alakazam was a very interesting build using a strategy I'd never considered before. The idea is that you'd use Trick to bestow your Choice Band onto the foe to lock them into their current move until they switch out. Then use Disable to keep them from using that move and causing them to use Struggle instead. In a desperate situation, you can also use the Choice Band yourself to boost the power of Psychic. I honestly didn't intend to get a second Choice Band on my team, I really only grabbed this Alakazam because my team was lacking in specially offensive power. Up until this point, I was relying on a Flygon with a specially-oriented moveset and Forretress which just weren't doing enough. Unfortunately, I got Alakazam really late into the round, so he didn't actually see much play.

-----------------------

My team this time around was just incredible. It felt like my prayers had been answered and the stars aligned when I was given a team with such wonderful synergy. I knew from the start that this was definitely the run.

==================

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Once you reach the seventh battle of the third round, the scientist is about to reveal information on your next opponent as he usually does when he's suddenly interrupted over his pokenav. He speaks with the stranger over the phone before telling us the Factory Head would like to challenge you.

Honestly, after all the hours I'd invested into getting to this point, my hands were shaking with both excitement and nerves. Much like the later stages of Pokemon Stadium, I'd never considered battling a Frontier Brain to even be possible. It genuinely felt like all my hard work was paying off, but I couldn't celebrate just yet. One slip up and I could be forced to do it all over again from the beginning. Absolutely brutal.

The scientist tells you he can't provide any information on the Factory Head, so you're entirely on your own! You get your final chance to perfect your team by swapping one more time or getting prepared to face your greatest foe yet.

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Spr_E_Noland.png

Once you advance forward, the Frontier Brain behind the Battle Factory, Factory Head Noland, introduces himself to you. He tells you that he'll be playing by the same rules you do for this battle, meaning he'll select from a random pool of six rental pokemon as well. This is it, the final showdown at the Battle Factory!

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Spr_E_Noland.png

Factory Head Noland

By nature of having a team of random rental pokemon, Noland's team is arguably the easiest or the hardest in the Frontier depending on how well you raise your own pokemon. But if you've been able to reach him, you must have a pretty solid foundation for your team!

The music for Frontier Brains isn't super exciting on its own, but let me tell you, in the moment, it is absolutely glorious to hear! It's really something you've just gotta experience for yourself to understand. It takes a lot of work to get to this point so it's really exciting!

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Spr_3e_257.png

Blaziken

Spr_b_3r_289.png Spr_3r_257.png

Leading off against me, he sent out a Blaziken. It was able to outspeed me with an Earthquake, but that wasn't able to hold up to an Earthquake of my own! Blaziken went down in one hit!

----------------------

Spr_3e_097.png

Hypno

Spr_b_3r_289.png Spr_3r_097.png

I am not lying when I tell you the sight of this Hypno terrified me to my very core. Hypno is one of the pokemon that has been known to ruin my runs due to just getting lucky with landing all of its Hypnosis and KOing my entire team with Dream Eater while we're entirely helpless. I was terrified that exact thing would happen here as well and I'd be starting all over from the beginning.

Spr_b_3r_205.png Spr_3r_097.png

I decided to retreat so that, if I did get a turn with Slaking, I'd be able to use Shadow Ball instead of Earthquake. I naturally brought out Forretress and, where I braced myself for Hypnosis, I was shocked to find that it used... Mega Kick! A free turn! But... what do I do with it? My Earthquake certainly wasn't enough to take it out in one shot, but I also doubted Explosion would make much headway. I couldn't just blow up recklessly like that, so I just went for Earthquake to chip away at Hypno's health. This should make it easier for the rest of my team to take it out! But on the next turn it went for... Mega Kick again? At this point, I honestly felt relieved. I'd assumed it must have had a Choice Band and was locked into Mega Kick. As it turns out in retrospect, though, it didn't have a Choice Band at all. It just didn't use anything else. Thankfully, this Hypno actually completely lacks the move Hypnosis. The scariest thing it has access to is Swagger and Psych Up which is kind of a joke to be worried about compared to the devastation of that horrible Hypnosis strat. Since all Hypno was doing was spamming Mega Kick, it was real easy to take him out without even exploding like I was originally considering!

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Spr_3e_200.png

Misdreavus

Spr_b_3r_205.png Spr_3r_200.png

As soon as I saw this Misdreavus go for Mean Look, I jokingly called out "Go for Perish Song, I dare you!" I honestly didn't even consider that it would have the move. I expected this to be an annoying Mean Look, Confuse Ray, Thunder Wave, Attract build or something along those lines. Sure enough, though, this Misdreavus actually ended up using Perish Song! Even though it was Noland's last pokemon, he was going to steal the glory from my victory by going out on his own terms! I wasn't about to let that happen and immediately started attacking this Misdreavus with all the Zap Cannons I could muster behind my confusion. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take it out before its own Perish Song went out.

Now, in hindsight, this Misdreavus actually doesn't have any harming moves so the choice of Perish Song kind of makes sense as he was already backed into a corner. But in the moment, it was kind of hilarious to watch him basically bite the bullet. A huge relief, for sure! I was glad to be rid of this thing once and for all!

=================

Spr_E_Noland.png

After defeating Noland, he commends us for our skill and bestows upon us the Symbol of our mastery of the Battle Factory:

30px-Knowledgesymbolsilver.png

The Knowledge Symbol!

More precisely... the... silver Knowledge Symbol. Yeeah, did I fail to mention that there's a little more to the Battle Frontier than just defeating the Frontier Brain once?

30px-Knowledgesymbol.png

If you seek a gold symbol, you're only half way to your goal. That's right, you'll need to go through three more rounds to build up a win streak of 42 in order to battle Noland once again, this time at the peak of his strength. And if you haven't noticed, each round is harder than the last! If I thought getting the Silver Symbol was hard, this would be a nightmare! Keep in mind, there's no checkpoint after getting the Silver Symbol. You still have to start from the very beginning and build up that win streak all the way up to 42 in order to get the Gold Symbol, even if you already have the Silver.

That's not to say I'm totally giving up on the idea of getting all of these Gold Symbols, I'm sure it'd be a lot of fun to come back and go for them all with a fully developed competitive team. If there's any Gold Symbol I'm capable of getting, it's definitely this one! But I really don't think I want to. The fact of the matter is, if I get one of these Gold Symbols, I'm naturally going to want to get the rest, too. It'll bother me that all the symbols don't match. I also don't want to stress so much over these symbols that I end up resenting the Battle Frontier for them. It seems like it's meant to be a fun experience that you come back to at your leisure over an extended period of time. Not something you power through in a night of caffeine and energy drinks. As I described the Battle Frontier, it feels like the central hub of Generation 3 in the same way that Stadium 1 and 2 felt like the central hub of their respective generations. It's where you train up all your pokemon to participate in, it offers endless hours of content, and I just don't think it's in the spirit of the game to try and brute force all of these symbols. It's supposed to be a long-term goal. Keep in mind that I had similar reasoning for not doing Round 2 of Pokemon Stadium 1 and 2. I don't want to be stuck playing this game to the point where I end up hating it. I genuinely do love the creativity that went into the Battle Frontier!

To put into perspective just how long it took me to get just the silver symbol here, you get only 3BP every time you clear rounds 1 and 2. I was only able to clear round 3 once. For defeating Noland in round 3, you're rewarded with 14BP. By the time I had obtained the Silver Medal, I had a total of 44 BP. Dropping the 14 from my victory over Noland and the 3 from Scott, that means I've cleared round 1 and 2 a total of 9 times. There are some times in which I lost in Round 2 and I believe I lost three times in Round 3. Keep in mind as well all of the times I had to stop and think about which pokemon I wanted to use and all those obnoxious Double Team strats I had to work around. 

So no, I'm definitely not going to be getting any of these Gold Symbols. I'm honestly not even going to try for any of them. Not that I'd expect to get any on my first try to begin with. I think I'm content with just getting the Silver Medals so that we can at least meet the Frontier Brains. Don't get me wrong, the Silver Medals are still a rather large undertaking. It was incredibly difficult just getting the Battle Factory one, for the others I'm actually going to have to raise up my own competitive team. Hopefully things won't be too rough.

======================

Battle_Factory_interior_E.png

Now then, even though I've decided I'm not going for the Gold Symbols, I think this experience has led me to get a better understanding of the Battle Frontier as a whole and I don't think I want to move on just yet. Keep in mind, this is actually my first time ever reaching this point of the game myself. I've only had the Battle Frontier described to me before and the most I'd seen about it was what was shown in Chuggaaconroy's Let's Play way back when.

Now that I understand what this facility is like, I think I'm going to try and take a bit more of a laid back approach. I'm not going to go in guns blazing at each facility trying to brute force my way to the symbol as quickly as possible. I'm going to try and take my time to actually enjoy the facilities without the pressure to avoid losing at all costs. For this reason, next time, I think I'm going to unwind a bit and try out the other categories here. After all, the Level 50 category is at its most accessible in this facility. I also want to try out the Double Battle categories. I want to see how far I can get on my first try in each category.

Going forward with future facilities, this is the approach I'll take to start. While I probably won't be doing the Level 50 categories for every facility for obvious reasons, I will be giving the single and double formats a leisurely shot to give myself a chance to develop some basic strategies before trying to push for the facility's symbol. I think this is the right approach and, who knows, I might even unintentionally earn a Silver Symbol or two on my first try!

So, next time, we're going to actually just try and have some fun here in the Battle Factory! (Haha, playing video games for fun? Crazy...)

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Aura

To mark this date in history on this thread, I wanted to mention that today, at least at the time I'm writing this (it could very well pass midnight by the time the post is done), was the day of a special presentation by GameFreak showcasing some upcoming pokemon titles. I would link the video from the Pokemon official channel rather than Gamespot, but unfortunately, YouTube won't allow you to watch that video here.

The presentation began with a summary of the evolution of the Pokemon franchise as a whole which was a little surreal considering it's covers a lot of the more overlooked spinoffs that I've been playing through this series and the various hardware and software additions to the series. I thought it was pretty cool.

This presentation showed off our first solid look into New Pokemon Snap, but more importantly, the very first announcement of not one, but two major projects coming soon: First, a remake of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl by the name Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Brilliant Pearl. Second, what seems to be a spinoff based in a historical Sinnoh region called Pokemon Legends: Arceus. The subtitle implies that this will be a whole new series of spinoffs, but only time will tell in that regard.

I didn't mention the last presentation that aired during the lifespan of this thread, but the last one announced some spinoffs including Pokemon UNITE, Pokemon Smile, and Pokemon Cafe. I just sort of subtly added these titles to the backlog, but I felt the announcements in this one are fare more significant, so I wanted to ensure anyone following the thread that, yes, I'll be continuing to add new titles to the backlog as they're announced. And this means that I'll indeed be playing these games whenever I eventually reach them. By that point, it's likely these games will be very old. I will likely still play these games in between then and now, but please refrain from spoiling anything that happens in them when they do eventually release!

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Battle_Factory_interior_E.png

Battle Factory

Anyway, back to Pokemon Emerald! Last time, I mentioned I'd be taking a more relaxed look a the Battle Factory. In approaching the facility from this perspective, I've come to realize that it's rather unrealistic to explore all the remaining categories in one sitting. I'm not going to be fully committing to doing one category every post, I might do two or even three categories in one sitting depending on how long each attempt takes. Now, most of the time, there aren't going to be four categories I'll be participating in. For the most part, I'm going to be ignoring the Level 50 categories as they're the same as the Open Level categories, just with weaker pokemon. However, I feel that the ruleset of the Battle Factory in particular makes the Level 50 limitation a bit more significant since it affects the pokemon you use as well. As a result, today we're going to be taking on the Single Level 50 category and seeing how far we can get on our first try! I think this approach will allow me to provide a more intimate look into my approach to this facility. As I mentioned last time, I'll be doing this first before even considering pursuing the Frontier Brain on all future facilities when the time comes. This means you can reasonably expect one or two posts of casual first attempts at each facility before a serious attempt at reaching the Frontier Brain. However, if I happen to get to the Frontier Brain on my first try in any of these attempts, there will obviously be no need to make another post.

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Round 1 [Lv. 50]

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Sudowoodo

Spr_3e_185.png Spr_b_3r_185.png

Item: Hard Stone Bag_Hard_Stone_Sprite.png

Ability: Sturdy | Moves: Rock Slide, Faint Attack, Sandstorm, Block

Sudowoodo was the most defensive pokemon I was able to select. He really served no purpose here other than being a solid wall to soak up damage where necessary.

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Ariados

Spr_3e_168.png Spr_b_3r_168.png

Item: Lax Incense Bag_Lax_Incense_Sprite.png

Ability: Swarm | Moves: Signal Beam, Spider Web, Night Shade, Toxic

Ariados was most certainly the most useful of these three. STAB Signal Beam was a really solid attack against most of my foes and Toxic and Night Shade could help against even pokemon that resisted Ghost-types. The Lax Incense even gave Ariados better protection against rock-type attacks. The biggest weakness for Ariados is its lack of speed. If it didn't resist whatever he was up against, it'd be taking some decent damage before getting to attack. But, the power it could dish out was more than enough to make up for it, I think. At least compared to some of the weaker attacks it was up against here.

-----------------------

Minun

Spr_3e_312.png Spr_b_3r_312.png

Item: Salac Berry Bag_Salac_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Minus | Moves: Spark, Charm, Encore, Helping Hand

My choice of Minun should really go to show just how much weaker the pokemon were in this Round 1 selection. I guess Minun ended up being added as a "strong" pokemon as it isn't listed under the available rentals for Round 1, but rather Round 2. I'm not sure how that ended up happening considering this is supposed to be dependen on the number of times you've swapped in your current session, but this Minun's stats did indeed appear higher than the others, and it just happened to be the fastest pokemon with the best potential as a sweeper as terrifying as that was to say.

=================

Win 1

Spr_3e_312.png -> Spr_3e_100.png

Right off the bat, I swapped this Minun out for a Voltorb. This was before I realized this Minun actually had an advantage over other pokemon, don't yell at me! This Voltorb was still a very solid pokemon that I certainly didn't regret swapping for. It was essentially a better version of Minun moveset-wise. Ultimately, I do think I made the right choice here even if Minun might have had higher stats.

------------------------

Voltorb

Spr_3e_100.png Spr_b_3r_100.png

Item: Lax Incense Bag_Lax_Incense_Sprite.png

Ability: Static | Moves: Spark, Screech, Rollout, Light Screen

------------------------

Spr_RS_Expert_F.png

Battle 7: Expert Selphy

Well, would you look at that? It just so happens I was up against the same trainer I battled in round 1 last time! As far as I'm aware, this is just a crazy coincidence. The battles are all random and I've certainly never noticed the 7th trainer of each round being the same before. The only trainer that should be the same each time is the Frontier Brain and the ends of round 3 and 6.

--------------------

Spr_3e_017.png

Pidgeotto

Of course, by nature of the ruleset here, the same trainer means nothing in regards to the pokemon they're using!

Spr_b_3r_185.png Spr_3r_017.png

I don't think I could've asked for a better matchup to start. Rock slide was all it took to take Pidgeotto out.

----------------------

Spr_3e_331.png

Cacnea

Spr_b_3r_185.png Spr_3r_331.png

With Cacnea out next, I wasn't going to just sit here and take it!

Spr_b_3r_168.png Spr_3r_331.png

I retreated into the only obvious choice. With Ariados, a Super-effective Signal Beam made quick work of my foe.

-----------------------

Spr_3e_247.png

Pupitar

Spr_b_3r_168.png Spr_3r_247.png

I immediately went for Toxic with this matchup. It wasn't ideal knowing that Pupitar had Shed Skin, but the Toxic damage could add even just a little bit of extra damage to my Night Shade and help KO Pupitar faster. Thankfully, Shed Skin never kicked in so the Toxic actually did work out in the end! That said, I think the safer option probably would have been to just go right into just using Night Shade.

==================

Battle_Factory_preparation_room_E.png

Round 2 [Lv. 50]

One of the first thing's you'll notice in the Level 50 category is that the types of pokemon you see in Round 2 are significantly more different than the between Round 1 and 2 in Open Level. Many of the pokemon here aren't just stronger by having higher stats, but are instead evolved forms of pokemon available in the previous round!

---------------------------

Magcargo

Spr_3e_219.png Spr_b_3r_219.png

Item: Lax Incense Bag_Lax_Incense_Sprite.png

Ability: Magma Armor | Moves: Rock Slide, Ember, Acid Armor, Sandstorm

Magcargo was the best tank available from the selection. Its offensive presence is rather lacking, though, but it can often outlast its opponents long enough that it doesn't usually end up mattering, especially if he can get a Burn off with Ember.

----------------------------

Lunatone

Spr_3e_337.png Spr_b_3r_337.png

Item: Sitrus Berry Bag_Sitrus_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Levitate | Moves: Confusion, Cosmic Power, Light Screen, Sandstorm

Lunatone is also a solid defender, but it takes some extra setup. Its defenses aren't quite up to par with Magcargo, but this one has some solid defensive moves to get it where it needs to be. I went with Lunatone mostly because my selection of pokemon was seriously lacking special attackers.  Lunatone was the best at dealing out special damage even though it wasn't its best purpose.

--------------------------

Sharpedo

Spr_3e_319.png Spr_b_3r_319.png

Item: Scope Lens Bag_Scope_Lens_Sprite.png

Ability: Rough Skin | Moves: Slash, Bite, Water Pulse, Scary Face

By far the most threatening pokemon of this group was Sharpedo. Its Scope Lens and Slash is a powerful combination. Bite and Water Pulse look rather promising, but you have to keep in mind these are already pretty weak moves and Sharpedo isn't a special attacker. His physical attack is significantly higher. Water Pulse is better used in this case for its secondary purpose as a desperate attempt to confuse a pokemon.

===================

Win 10

Spr_3e_319.png -> Spr_3e_053.png

So, I actually made a really small-brain decision here. During Battle 10, my opponent had a Persian which took me a while to get past since my team isn't very strong offensively. I saw that this thing had Slash and Fake Out. As a Normal-type, I was thinking this would make Persian better at handling Sharpedo's job. I quickly realized I was dead wrong when I compared their summaries after the swap. Persian had significantly lower stats across the board and was holding a Silk Scarf instead of a Scope Lens. What a critical mistake! Although, this wasn't too terrible of a loss as Persian's Swagger and Torment combo could come in a lot of handy when the foe is trying to set up against me.

-------------------------

Persian

Spr_3e_053.png Spr_b_3r_053.png

Item: Silk Scarf Bag_Silk_Scarf_Sprite.png

Ability: Intimidate | Moves: Fake Out, Slash, Torment, Swagger

------------------------

Spr_RS_Pok%C3%A9Maniac.png

Battle 14: Pokemaniac Jaylen

------------------------

Spr_3e_221.png

Piloswine

Spr_b_3r_219.png Spr_3r_221.png

If I had a stronger Fire-type attack, I might have entertained the possbility of staying in with this matchup to see if I could deal with Piloswine. But as it stood, I noped out of there as fast as I could.

Spr_b_3r_337.png Spr_3r_221.png

I switched into Lunatone to protect against the inevitable Ground attack. Piloswine wound up going for Dig, so I was able to get a free turn to set up Light Screen before he surfaced and allowed me to hit him with Confusion. A few rounds like this and it was done!

-----------------------

Spr_3e_301.png

Delcatty

Spr_b_3r_337.png Spr_3r_301.png

This matchup was a rather awkward back-and-forth exchange. Delcatty was hitting me with a mixture of Faint Attack and Secret Power. Once I'd started to get my defenses built up with Cosmic Power and Light Screen, Delcatty started setting up its evasion in order to bait me into attacking instead. I took the bait and thankfully managed to take Delcatty out before it could become untouchable. Had it set up too many Double Teams, I don't know what I might've ended up losing right here.

----------------------

Spr_3e_189.png

Jumpluff

Spr_b_3r_337.png Spr_3r_189.png

This little gremlin right here decided to really make the rest of this battle hell for me. While I was bracing myself for potential super-effective grass attacks like Giga Drain or Solar Beam, Jumpluff instead went for... Psych Up. It copied all of my massively buffed defenses in a single turn... and it knew Synthesis. I thought things were over at this point, but I still had a little bit up my sleeve.

Spr_b_3r_053.png Spr_3r_189.png

Remember that Persian I swapped for earlier? As it turns out, this swap ended up saving my life in the end! Persian's moveset was just what I needed to get out of this mess! With Fake-Out, I could get some free damage right off the bat. With Swagger, I was able to buff Jumpluff's Attack and halve its chances to attack or heal. Additionally, with Torment, I was able to make it so that it could only use its one offensive move, Aerial Ace, every other turn. Since Swagger increased its Attack, I was able to quickly get Jumpluff's Attack to rival its own defense, allowing it to do significant damage to itself each time it attacked. Finally, the move Slash was the one that sealed the deal. Thanks to its high crit chance, after several turns, I was eventually able to get a crit and take out the remainder of Jumpluff's HP by piercing right through its defenses!

=================

 Battle_Factory_preparation_room_E.png

Round 3 [Lv. 50]

We've made it to round 3! Had I not already earned the Knowledge Symbol, this would certainly be an exciting opportunity!

-----------------------

Gloom

Spr_3e_044.png Spr_b_3r_044.png

Item: Pecha Berry Bag_Pecha_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Chlorophyll | Moves: SolarBeam, Sunny Day, Sludge Bomb, Moonlight

I really have no idea why they gave this Gloom a Pecha Berry. It... literally can't get poisoned. Redundant held item aside, however, this Gloom was a powerful moveset I just couldn't turn down. Normally, I turn away from the Sunny Day SolarBeam combo. However, Gloom also has the moves Moonlight and Sludge Bomb and also the ability Chlorophyll. Moonlight, contrary to what you might think, actually heals more HP when the sun is bright. (If you're confused by this, it's because Sunny Day was originally called "Clear Sky" in Japan. The implication being that, with a clear sky, the moonlight becomes brighter. However, Sunny Day was likely named after its animation which seems to imply bright sunlight specifically). This combination of traits allows Gloom to set up Sunny Day on Turn 1, take a hit, then use Solar Beam or Sludge Bomb to take out its opponent and potentially follow up with a Moonlight if/when its HP gets low. Gloom alone would go on to be enough to sweep several battles on its own as long as it could survive that initial hit.

-----------------------

Sharpedo

Spr_3e_319.png Spr_b_3r_319.png

Item: Scope Lens Bag_Scope_Lens_Sprite.png

Ability: Rough Skin | Moves: Double-Edge, Crunch, Earthquake, Surf

If Gloom wasn't enough, we also got our boy Sharpedo back and his moveset is even better than ever! Bite and Water Pulse have now been upgraded to Crunch and Surf respectively. Slash was updated to the incredibly powerful Double-Edge and it also gained Earthquake in place of Scary Face. All in all, this Sharpedo was a force to be reckoned with and is filled with strong moves allowing it to come out ready to take on just about anything!

-----------------------

Magcargo

Spr_3e_219.png Spr_b_3r_219.png

Item: Quick Claw Bag_Quick_Claw_Sprite.png

Ability: Magma Armor | Moves: Overheat, Earthquake, Rock Slide, Body Slam

In addition to Sharpedo, we also got Magcargo returning to us! Though Magcargo isn't quite as useful here. This one's moveset is built more offensively rather than defensively. Still, it could benefit from Gloom's Sunny Day and Overheat was significantly more powerful than Ember. I also needed a more defensive pokemon on my team and Magcargo was the best fit for that role.

===================

Spr_RS_Triathlete_Biker_M.png

Battle 20: Triathlete Robby*

*Once again, I forgot to take note of the name of the trainer. My bad...

----------------------

Spr_3e_315.png

Roselia

Spr_b_3r_044.png Spr_3r_315.png

Right off the bat, this Roselia proved to be a bit of a problem. I wasn't going to set up Sunny Day against it because I actually wasn't certain whether or not Roselia could have Chlorophyll (it can't). I wanted to KO Roselia as quickly as possible to hopefully avoid it getting the upper hand with GrassWhistle. Thankfully, Sludge Bomb was able to do enough to take it out well enough.

----------------------

Spr_3e_326.png

Grumpig

Spr_b_3r_044.png Spr_3r_326.png

Now here, I genuinely couldn't believe what just happened. Obviously, with this matchup, I was expecting Grumpig to hit me with a Psychic attack, so I made the obvious counterplay and switched into my Dark-type.

Spr_b_3r_319.png Spr_3r_326.png

Well, this led to perhaps the hardest read I've ever suffered. Sharpedo was completely blindsighted by a ThunderPunch the turn it was switched in! There was absolutely no way this trainer could've known I specifically had a Sharpedo to switch into as this pokemon had yet to come out. It just happened to choose ThunderPunch against my Gloom. Normally, I can pass off this sort of play as just the AI anticipating a switch from me. It's the same logic I use to justify the AI's strange behavior when it keeps using odd moves. However, it often seems rather apparent the lower-level AI just uses random moves at times. I suppose if you're assuming the opponent is going to switch into a Dark type, ThunderPunch is a really safe choice since it's super-effective against three Dark-types in this format (Murkrow, Sharpedo, and Crawdaunt) and only resisted by Cacturne, but that's a high-level tactic I've never even considered before! 

Anyway, after that incredible read, my Sharpedo unfortunately wasn't going to be doing any battling here.

Spr_b_3r_219.png Spr_3r_326.png

Since I wasn't able to get any solid damage on Grumpig at all, Magcargo wasn't able to finish the job, either.

Spr_b_3r_044.png Spr_3r_326.png

And when it came back to Gloom, it went down to an Ice Punch...

...You may have noticed this was battle 20. Had I not gotten the Knowledge Symbol yet, let's just say I'd have been beyond furious by this result. However, without the pressure of getting that win streak up to a fixed number, I was able to accept the defeat and have a good laugh over it. No sleep lost this time around!

===================

Battle_Factory_interior_E.png

I think I forgot to mention this last time, but I suppose this is as good a time as anywhere to discuss how you earn BP here. I've mentioned that you earn 3BP for clearing Rounds 1 and 2 here at the Battle Factory, but every two rounds, the amount of BP you earn is increased by one. So, for clearing Round 3, you'll earn 4BP. For clearing Round 5, 5BP, 6 for Round 7, and so on. The BP reward caps at 15 starting with Round 25. Additionally, anytime you defeat Noland, you'll gain an additional 10BP, meaning your first time clearing Round 3 and Round 6 will net you 14 and 15BP respectively. Each round progressively gets more challenging as you'll have to battle tougher and tougher pokemon, but the difficulty plateaus at Round 7. If you can reach that cap at Round 25, then you're either really lucky or clearly found some system that can guarantee your victory under any circumstances and that's honestly incredible.

Anyway, that ended up taking a lot longer than I had anticipated, and we've still got two more categories in the Battle Factory to try out! Next time, we'll be taking a look at the Double Battle format for a change of pace! We'll start with Level 50 and, if we have time, we'll try out Open Level as well. This may seem like padding, but I promise this will only be the case here. Future facilities, I'll only be focusing on individual battle formats all at Open Level and I'll be ignoring the Lv. 50 categories.

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Aura

Happy Pokemon Day!! The pokemon franchise is officially 25 years old! ...Well, technically it's past midnight already, so I guess Pokemon Day was yesterday. But that's a technicality if I've ever heard one!

Battle_Factory_interior_E.png

Battle Factory

Last time, we took a look at the Level 50 category of the Single format at the Battle Factory, so it's only natural that this time we start playing around with the Double Format! No need for formalities, let's just jump right in!

---------------------------------

Battle_Factory_preparation_room_E.png

Round 1 [Lv. 50 Doubles]

Where you might expect that double battles would ask you to select four pokemon instead of three, that actualy isn't the case. As it turns out, you only select three pokemon just like before. Perhaps having to choose a fourth would expand on the amount of luck necessary to win, so perhaps this was for the best?

------------------------

Beedrill

Spr_3e_015.png Spr_b_3r_015.png

Item: Scope Lens Bag_Scope_Lens_Sprite.png

Ability: Swarm | Moves: Twineedle, Pursuit, Endeavor, Agility

Believe it or not, Beedrill was probably the pokemon with the most sweeping potential in this set of pokemon. It had the highest speed and highest attack. Twineedle also isn't actually a bad move. Really though, it's round 1 of Lv. 50 so all the pokemon available are going to be pretty bad.

--------------------------

Magby

Spr_3e_240.png Spr_b_3r_240.png

Item: Lax Incense Bag_Lax_Incense_Sprite.png

Ability: Flame Body | Moves: Fire Punch, SmokeScreen, Confuse Ray, Smog

Magby was probably the best pokemon capable of getting over physical walls thanks to Smog and Confuse Ray, and Fire Punch is a pretty powerful Fire-type attack compared to the Ember and Fire Spin you typically see in this round. 

-----------------------

Grimer

Spr_3e_088.png Spr_b_3r_088.png

Item: Pecha Berry Bag_Pecha_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Stench | Moves: Sludge, Rock Tomb, Acid Armor, Minimize

Grimer here is yet another pokemon with an unfortunately redundant Pecha Berry. I seriously have no clue what the purpose of this is. There is literally no way for a Poison-type to get poisoned in this generation, even Synchronize won't work! The only way Grimer could possibly get poisoned is by changing its type. Even then, I'm not sure that's even possible unless it can learn Metronome to use Camouflage or Conversion.

Anyway, Grimer is pretty solid defensive wall for this first round, though it lacks the offensive presence to do much other than sit there and slowly chip away at the foe, but sometimes that's all you need. We'll take what we can get!

-----------------------

Win 1

Spr_3e_240.png -> Spr_3e_064.png

Right off the bat, after the first battle I swapped my Magby for my foe's Kadabra.

Kadabra

Spr_3e_064.png Spr_b_3r_064.png

Item: TwistedSpoon Bag_Twisted_Spoon_Sprite.png

Ability: Inner Focus | Moves: Confusion, Role Play, Future Sight, Disable

I figured Kadabra would be able to dish out a better damage output with its higher speed. It's a little easy to forget though that Kadabra isn't nearly as incredible as its evolution. Still, Future Sight is incredibly powerful despite the delay in the actual damage. It can also prove even more useful in double battles since it's easier to take out the target by the time the damage hits the next opponent. Disable on such a fast pokemon is also a pretty big help as I can often shut down a pokemon that's trying to setup with Double Team or other similar moves. Ultimately, I'm not really sure if this was the right decision, though, because I think I may have underestimated how useful Magby's Fire Punch could be.

----------------------

Win 6

Spr_3e_064.png -> Spr_3e_061.png

I was a little bit disappointed by Kadabra's performance, so I ultimately swapped him out with a Poliwhirl after my sixth win. This Poliwhirl gave my team a bit of trouble and I figured its Water Pulse would be a great replacement for Confusion, and Rain Dance could power it up further!

-------------------------

Poliwhirl

Spr_3e_061.png Spr_b_3e_061.png

Item: Petaya Berry Bag_Petaya_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Water Absorb | Moves: Water Pulse, Double Slap, Icy Wind, Rain Dance

-----------------------

Spr_RS_Black_Belt.png

Battle 7: Blackbelt Ricardo

---------------------

Spr_3e_303.png Spr_3e_100.png

Mawile & Voltorb

               Spr_3r_303.png Spr_3r_100.png

Spr_b_3r_015.png Spr_b_3e_061.png               

Right off the bat, this was a fairly uncomfortable lead. I immediately went to take out that Voltorb as quickly as possible with the combined attacks from Beedrill and Poliwhirl. I was successful in taking it out, but it managed to get off a Screech before going down. In the meantime, Mawile hit Poliwhirl with a Metal Sound to reduce its special defense.

--------------------

Spr_3e_185.png

Sudowoodo

               Spr_3r_303.png Spr_3r_185.png

Spr_b_3r_015.png Spr_b_3e_061.png               

Sudowoodo came next. I wasn't too worried about it and just decided to focus my efforts on taking down Mawile since Grimer wouldn't be able to poison it. Mawile hit me with a Crunch which dealt a solid chunk of HP, but I'd still be able to survive another hit like that. I went for Rain Dance to try and boost the damage output of my Water Pulse. Had things gone according to plan, I should've been able to get one more turn in before getting KO'd. However, Mawile's next Crunch ended up critting and taking out Poliwhirl.

               Spr_3r_303.png Spr_3r_185.png

Spr_b_3r_015.png Spr_b_3r_088.png               

This left me in a painfully awkward spot that I'd need to put some work into getting out of. Unfortunately, things went south fast when Sudowoodo finally went for Rock Slide and KO'd Beedrill and nearly Grimer as well... yikes.

               Spr_3r_303.png Spr_3r_185.png

Spr_b_3r_088.png               

With no way to really fight back, my only hope was to start spamming Minimize and to avoid damage. Naturally, this strategy didn't bode well and it wasn't long before Grimer got KO'd ending the match due to an extremely unfortunate crit right before I'd be able to turn the battle around. That Sudowoodo's Rock Slide was far more powerful than I expected it to be!

==================

Battle_Factory_interior_E.png

Unfortunately, since I lost in Battle 7, I didn't end up clearing so much as one round! This means I didn't actually get to earn any BP for my efforts. Had I earned any, though, I would've found that the BP yield of Double Battle format is actually slightly higher! While the amount still caps at 15BP, Rounds 1 and 2 actually start at 4BP instead of 3BP, so you end up getting one extra BP per challenge!

The biggest issue I've noticed with the Double Format in the Battle Factory in particular is that it uses the same pool of rentals as the Single Battle format. This means a lot of these pokemon aren't actually designed around double battles, meaning double-battle only strategies aren't as common as you might expect. You're rarely going to get a pokemon with Will-o-Wisp and a pokemon with Guts or Facade on the same team, for example. These strats may help you in deciding which pokemon you want to choose together, but don't expect the right pieces to just fall into your lap!

Anyway, since that first challenge ended so quickly, I think it's reasonable to go ahead and try out the final category as well: Double Battle Open Level!

==================

Battle_Factory_preparation_room_E.png

Round 1 [Open Level Doubles]

As expected, I'm far more comfortable with the initial selection in the Open Level category! Let's get to choosing our team once again! We've got a few familiar faces which we know we'll want!

------------------------

Fearow

Spr_3e_022.png Spr_b_3r_022.png

Item: Sharp Beak Bag_Sharp_Beak_Sprite.png

Ability: Keen Eye | Moves: Drill Peck, Tri Attack, Facade, Mud-Slap

Fearow is pretty much an instant grab. This thing is a beast and is able to tear through almost anything it faces, with brute force if it has to. It's very rare that I even have to switch out of Fearow, especially in double battles! Worst case scenario, it's capable of inflicting status ailments with Tri Attack and reducing accuracy with Mud-Slap! I often find myself using Tri Attack against pokemon I know can have Synchronize in hopes that I can get myself burned, but that niche strategy rarely works and certainly didn't at any point in this round.

------------------------

Mr. Mime

Spr_3e_122.png Spr_b_3r_122.png

Item: Leftovers Bag_Leftovers_Sprite.png

Ability: Soundproof | Moves: Psychic, Magical Leaf, Fake Out, Reflect

Mr. Mime is a great sidekick for Fearow. With Fake Out, I can stop one pokemon from attacking while Fearow can one-shot the other before it gets to attack. Additionally, Psychic can pick off defensive pokemon that Fearow can't handle. Reflect can also help to keep Fearow alive in the event that she has to take a physical hit. Magical Leaf isn't too terribly powerful compared to STAB Psychic, but it's still nice to have for certain foes like Whiscash and Golem. Of course, even on his own, Mr. Mime is quite capable of taking lots of hits.

------------------------

Lanturn

Spr_3e_171.png Spr_b_3r_171.png

Item: Cheri Berry Bag_Cheri_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Illuminate | Moves: Surf, Confuse Ray, Attract, Thunder Wave

I've definitely used this exact Lanturn before. Granted, that one had Volt Absorb, but it seems the abilities are randomly generated for each rental. That's unfortunate since Illuminate has no effect in-battle, but once again, you take what you can get. Lanturn's Cheri Berry is actually pretty nice as it means he can comfortably paralyze a Synchronize pokemon without having to worry about getting paralyzed himself.

-----------------------

Spr_RS_Expert_F.png

Battle 7: Expert Kristen

----------------------

Spr_3e_080.png Spr_3e_101.png

Slowbro & Electrode

                 Spr_3r_080.png Spr_3r_101.png

Spr_b_3r_022.png Spr_b_3r_122.png                

The first priority here was definitely to get rid of that Electrode before it caused any problems. I had both Fearow and Mr. Mime focus their attention on it. All it did is go for Swift, so we were thankfully able to avoid any serious damage.

----------------------

Spr_3e_376.png

Metagross

                 Spr_3r_080.png Spr_3r_376.png

Spr_b_3r_022.png Spr_b_3r_122.png                

From here, things evened out a bit more. I was able to focus my efforts now on taking out Slowbro. Mr. Mime set up Reflect to protect from Metagross' attacks, but Slowbro's Icy Wind didn't do quite enough to take out Fearow and he ended up taking enough damage from Tri Attack to go down on the next turn before it could attack.

                 Spr_3r_376.png

Spr_b_3r_022.png Spr_b_3r_122.png                

It was now just down to that scary-looking Metacross. But, as scary as Metagross is, we're in a very good position to deal with it. I kind of felt a bit scummy for it, but I went for Mud-Slap since it was the only attack Fearow had that could really do damage. Meanwhile, Mr. Mime laid on thick with Psychic in an effort to get Metagross' Special Defense to drop. Metagross was eventually able to land a Meteor Mash and finally take out Fearow in spite of the loss of accuracy.

                 Spr_3r_376.png

Spr_b_3r_171.png Spr_b_3r_122.png                

Kristen certainly didn't like to see what came next. Metagross' HP was already low enough, but just to be on the safe side, I hit him with a Confuse Ray and Thunder Wave before going for Surf to finish the fight.

======================

Battle_Factory_preparation_room_E.png

Round 2 [Open Level Doubles]

------------------------

Charizard

Spr_3e_006.png Spr_b_3r_006.png

Item: BrightPowder Bag_Bright_Powder_Sprite.png

Ability: Blaze | Moves: Earthquake, Aerial Ace, Dragon Dance, SmokeScreen

This was a very strange moveset for Charizard which I hadn't actually noticed until a little bit in didn't even have a Fire Attack! That's just what I get for assuming I knew the pokemon, I suppose. I did warn to check the Summary before you rent! This physical build for Charizard doesn't take advantage of Blaze at all but instead Dragon Dance which makes this pokemon a solid sweeper if I can get some setup!

-----------------------

Gardevoir

Spr_3e_282.png Spr_b_3r_282.png

Item: Chesto Berry Bag_Chesto_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Synchronize | Moves: Psychic, Calm Mind, Double Team, Rest

You always love to see a good Setup and Rest moveset! While Gardevoir can't do much to protect herself from physical attacks, she's still capable of taking some hits and Psychic can usually blast away any naysayers then sleep off the damage when necessary.

-----------------------

Dusclops

Spr_3e_356.png Spr_b_3r_356.png

Item: Leftovers Bag_Leftovers_Sprite.png

Ability: Pressure | Moves: Toxic, Confuse Ray, Double Team, Protect

This looks like a really degenerate build for a Dusclops, but all of the other options were mostly just pokemon trying to play the part that I already had Gardevoir and Charizard for. I really needed a defensive pokemon and Dusclops was the only option the game gave me, so I guess I've gotta use it.

===================

Win 8

Spr_3e_006.png -> Spr_3e_059.png

Early on, I made the choice to swap Charizard out for an Arcanine. My main reason being that I wanted a faster pokemon for my sweeper. Charizard could be great, but his strongest offensive move was Earthquake which doesn't work as cleanly in double-battles. Maybe if I had the foresight to lead with Dusclops in place of Gardevoir, but I didn't really think things through very well. So, I figured Arcanine would be a better ally for Gardevoir.

----------------------

Arcanine

Spr_3e_059.png Spr_b_3r_059.png

Item: Lum Berry Bag_Lum_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Intimidate | Moves: Fire Blast, Sunny Day, Crunch, Roar

---------------------

Spr_RS_Ruin_Maniac.png

Battle 14: Ruin Maniac Zackary

--------------------

Spr_3e_275.png Spr_3e_197.png

Shiftry & Umbreon

               Spr_3r_275.png Spr_3r_197.png

Spr_b_3r_059.png Spr_b_3r_282.png               

Right off the bat, against these two Dark Types, things were looking pretty awkward for Gardevoir. Still, I wasn't going to switch out just yet. I had some ideas. The first order of business was to take out that Shfitry and see what was lying in wait. With a Fire Blast, that task was simple enough. Umbreon led with Double-Edge against Gardevoir which was a bit scary until I saw just how little the attack actually did to me. It was almost a joke!

Spr_3e_065.png

Alakazam

               Spr_3r_065.png Spr_3r_197.png

Spr_b_3r_059.png Spr_b_3r_282.png               

Alakazam was next. While this, too, was rather awkward, Gardevoir's Calm Mind would make things a bit more manageable. I had Arcanine continue hitting that Umbreon because Umbreon likes to set up with some really annoying attacks. Sure enough, it started using Double Team, but thankfully I was able to burn it before it became too much of an issue. Meanwhile, Gardevoir continued focusing on building her Special defense. Normally, burning Umbreon would trigger synchronize, but since Arcanine is a Fire-type, he's immune to burn! With Umbreon burned, I no longer had to worry about him at all and could focus my efforts on finishing Alakazam with a Crunch and Psychic.

               Spr_3r_197.png

Spr_b_3r_059.png Spr_b_3r_282.png               

Now, it was just a matter of waiting for Umbreon's clock to run out. Of course, to speed up the process, I kept attacking it with Arcanine while Gardevoir just sat there using Calm Mind for the rest of the battle, obviously unable to do anything to actually hurt a Dark-type.

==================

Battle_Factory_preparation_room_E.png

Round 3 [Open Level Doubles]

We made it to round 3 once again! And things are looking pretty wild with this selection! Every single choice here was almost identical to the others. This was a very heavily aggro-focused selection so I had no choice but to go on the all-out offensive this time around! I tried my best to diversify my team as much as possible but many pokemon really just felt like slightly different variations of each other.

--------------------------

Exploud

Spr_3e_295.png Spr_b_3r_295.png

Item: White Herb Bag_White_Herb_Sprite.png

Ability: Soundproof | Moves: Overheat, Ice Beam, ThunderPunch, Extrasensory

This was the fastest pokemon at my disposal which really isn't saying much. However, I definitely couldn't pass up this amazing type coverage he offered! And his Special Attack wasn't particularly lacking, either! The White Herb + Overheat Combo is really nice to have as well. This would make a perfect lead!

-------------------------

Steelix

Spr_3e_208.png Spr_b_3r_208.png

Item: Quick Claw Bag_Quick_Claw_Sprite.png

Ability: Sturdy | Moves: Earthquake, Body Slam, Rock Slide, Explosion

Once again, this was a wild moveset with a lot of high-risk moves that I normally wouldn't go for, especially since I didn't have any Flying-types, Ghost-types, or pokemon with Protect to choose from. So I would never have a safe opportunity to use the moves Earthquake and Explosion without swapping. Still, as I would soon learn, that actually made things a lot of fun! I certainly would be a lot more nervous about using such a risky build in a serious attempt at challenging the Frontier Brain, but with the symbol already under my belt, I was able to just let loose and have a bit of fun with some daring plays! Honestly, I actually almost wound up losing my win streak right at the first battle by Exploding on the same turn the opponent managed to take out my Exploud. My final pokemon nearly managed to hold on for the win, though!

-------------------------

Milotic

Spr_3e_350.png Spr_b_3r_350.png

Item: Leftovers Bag_Leftovers_Sprite.png

Ability: Marvel Scale | Moves: Surf, Blizzard, Attract, Recover

This was really the only defensive moveset I had to choose from. Steelix may have had defensive stats, but his moveset was all aggro. Milotic was the only pokemon here capable of stalling a little bit, but even she couldn't set up in any meaningful way to improve her defenses. Even with her, I'd still probably just end up attacking a lot.

--------------------------

Win 15

Spr_3e_350.png -> Spr_3e_373.png

The very first battle, my foe had a Salamence. Getting a flying-type would be a huge help as it would allow Steelix to use Earthquake much more freely. I ended up swapping Milotic out because I just don't think this one was well suited for its job. Still, with this decision, I was entirely committed to going on the all-out offensive.

--------------------------

Salamence 

Spr_3e_373.png Spr_b_3r_373.png

Item: Salac Berry Bag_Salac_Berry_Sprite.png

Ability: Intimidate | Moves: Double-Edge, Earthquake, Crunch, Endure

-------------------------

With the team set up like this, I actually had a lot of fun completely demolishing the competition. I never expected such a simple strategy to work so well, but the incredible type coverage across this whole team prevented me from getting walled by even the most defensive pokemon! This team felt nearly invincible!

===============

Spr_RS_Pok%C3%A9fan_M.png

Battle 21: PokeFan Taylor

I was wondering if I'd end up getting to this point. Yes indeed, if you reach the target round for the silver symbol at any given facility after having earned that symbol, you won't be challenged by the Frontier Brain again. You'll only be able to battle with them once you've reached the requirement to battle for the gold symbol! So, instead of battling against Noland here, we'll be battling against a generic PokeFan! That's all fine and well, though it also means we won't be getting our 10 extra BP for defeating Noland.

----------------------

Spr_3e_242.png Spr_3e_103.png

Blissey & Exeggutor

                Spr_3r_242.png Spr_3r_103.png

Spr_b_3r_295.png Spr_b_3r_208.png                

I don't think I could've asked for a better sendoff than this battle, honestly. I opened up with a Body Slam against Blissey while my main focus was to take out Exeggutor right away with an Overheat. Real quick, real easy.

------------------------

Spr_3e_260.png

Swampert

                Spr_3r_242.png Spr_3r_260.png

Spr_b_3r_295.png Spr_b_3r_208.png                

Now, this Swampert really could've been anything. The result really didn't matter. You know what I'm about to do, right? How can I resist? Blissey tried to heal off the damage I'd dealt using SoftBoiled while Exploud used Ice Beam to chip away at Swampert's HP. But the real star play was the Explosion from Steelix! Down went Exploud, Down went Blissey, Down went Swampert, and Down went Steelix!

 

Spr_b_3r_373.png                 

Since I still had Salamence on the bench, though, my party wasn't wiped out and I could be declared the winner!

Now, would I have made such a risky play against the Frontier Brain? Absolutely not, but like I said before, these challenges were all just for a little bit of fun!

==================

Battle_Factory_interior_E.png

Now, when I got the Knowledge Symbol from the Single format, I gave my reasoning for not wanting to continue past my 21 Win Streak and my opinion on that matter still stands. As such, I won't be playing past the 21 Win Streak in the Double Format either. At least, not just yet. I think we've got a pretty solid taste of not only what we can expect out of the Battle Factory, but out of the Battle Frontier as a whole!

1200px-Battle_Frontier_E.png

The pokemon we've been using here in the Battle Factory are the same selection of pokemon all of the trainers throughout the entire Battle Frontier will be using. So, after battling so much here, we're a lot more familiar with the types of movesets and strategies we can expect to see in the upcoming facilities! This should give us a solid edge in battle. It also means we're going to need to put in some serious leg work if we want our pokemon to be up to par with the ones we've been battling with! There are some seriously strong pokemon available to us here! I want to be fully prepred to take on any challenge as swe go forward toward the rest of the Battle Frontier!

Anyway, as I mentioned before, I don't want to do any of the other faciltiies jsut yet. We're gonna have to put this on the backburner for a little longer while we cook up one last team of pokemon! In the meantime, as I also mentioned before we left for this place, there's a little bit more to do back in Hoenn. So, why don't we go ahead and head back there now? Next time, I think we'll be revisiting some old friends!

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1200px-Lilycove_City_E.png

As mentioned yesterday, today we'll be returning to Hoenn's mainland in order to revisit some old friends. That is to say, we'll be doing some rematches with some significant trainers!

If you recall, the Trainer's Eye functionality of the PokeNav was replaced with the Match Call functionality which works more like the phone card in Gen 2's PokeGear. Although trainers may still call you in search of a rematch just like in Gold and Silver, the Match Call menu still shares the same rematch functionality as Trainer's Eye, where a pokeball will appear next to a trainer who wants to rematch with you.

If you check your PokeNav periodically during the postgame, you might notice something a bit odd here in Emerald compared to Ruby and Sapphire.

Spr_RS_Wattson.png Spr_RS_Tate_and_Liza.png

In my case, it seems that Wattson as well as Tate & Liza want to rematch me! I believe I've alluded to this in the past, but yes, this is the very first game to introduce Gym Leader rematches! Unfortunately, they're implemented in such a strange way that I don't think I'll be bothering to seek them all out.

Still, since I have these two rematches available right now, I may as well give them the light of day to show what they're like!

==================

Spr_E_Brendan.png

My Team:

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Forest (Sceptile M); Lv. 53

Spr_3e_254.png Spr_b_3r_254.png

Item: King's Rock Bag_King's_Rock_Sprite.png

Ability: Overgrow | Moves: Leaf Blade, Dragon Claw, Earthquake, Aerial Ace

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Ozone (Swellow M); Lv. 53

Spr_3e_277.png Spr_b_3r_277.png

Item: Focus Band Bag_Focus_Band_Sprite.png

Ability: Guts | Moves: Aerial Ace, Steel Wing, Endeavor, Facade

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Hill (Ninjask M); Lv. 53

Spr_3e_291.png Spr_b_3r_291.png

Item: Lax Incense Bag_Lax_Incense_Sprite.png

Ability: Speed Boost | Moves: Slash, Protect, Swords Dance, Baton Pass

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Stars (Grumpig F); Lv. 53

Spr_3e_326.png Spr_b_3r_326.png

Item: Leftovers Bag_Leftovers_Sprite.png

Ability: Own Tempo | Moves: Calm Mind, Confuse Ray, Psychic, Rest

-------------------

River (Whiscash M); Lv. 52

Spr_3e_340.png Spr_b_3r_340.png

Item: NeverMeltIce Bag_Never-Melt_Ice_Sprite.png

Ability: Oblivious | Moves: Ice Beam, Earthquake, Future Sight, Surf

--------------------

Cliff (Magneton); Lv. 52

Spr_3e_082.png Spr_b_3r_082.png

Item: Quick Claw Bag_Quick_Claw_Sprite.png

Ability: Sturdy | Moves: ThunderBolt, Swagger, Reflect, Thunder Wave

=================

Mauville_Gym_E.png

Mauville Gym

Spr_RS_Wattson.png

Mauville Gym Leader: Watson #2

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Spr_3e_179.png Spr_3e_101.png

Mareep Lv. 36 & Electrode Lv. 36

               Spr_3r_179.png Spr_3r_101.png

Spr_b_3r_291.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

Right off the bat, you're going to notice one major change with these rematches: They're all double battles! In addition, as you'd probably expect, their teams now feature pokemon from the national dex! Wattson here now has a Mareep in place of his Electrike. Right away, I tried to protect with Hill while using Earthquake with River to take out both of Wattson's remaining pokemon at once. Mareep used Protect, however, so it was able to buy another turn, but Electrode wasn't so lucky. It was able to set up Rain Dance, but that was about it before it was taken out.

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Spr_3e_310.png

Manectric Lv. 40

               Spr_3r_179.png Spr_3r_310.png

Spr_b_3r_291.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

With Rain Dance up, I wasn't likely to get a safe switch with Hill, so I went ahead and used Baton Pass while River went for Earthquake.

               Spr_3r_179.png Spr_3r_310.png

Spr_b_3r_254.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

Sceptile would be able to resist River's Earthquake as well as Manectric's Thunder, but unfortunately Mareep was able to get a consecutive Protect off. Still, I was able to get rid of Manectric with this.

-----------------------

Spr_3e_082.png

Magneton Lv. 38

               Spr_3r_179.png Spr_3r_082.png

Spr_b_3r_254.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

This Magneton, too, went for Protect to survive yet another turn, but at least I was able to take out Mareep finally!

               Spr_3r_082.png

Spr_b_3r_254.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

From here, the battle was over with just one more Earthquake.

---------------------

Spr_RS_Wattson.png

You don't really get anything special for completing these Gym Leader rematches, just lots of money and some nice Exp! These battles are mainly just here for fun.

==================

Mossdeep_Gym_E.png

Mossdeep Gym

Spr_RS_Tate_and_Liza.png

Mossdeep Gym Leaders Tate & Liza #2

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Spr_3e_344.png Spr_3e_079.png

Claydol Lv. 49 & Slowpoke Lv. 48

               Spr_3r_344.png Spr_3r_079.png

Spr_b_3r_291.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

I led off here setting up Swords Dance with Hill while River used Ice Beam on Claydol. Ice Beam did a little over half health, so I was confident I'd be able to 2-hit the thing. It used AncientPower on Hill, but Hill was able to survive the attack. Meanwhile, Slowpoke wasted his turn by using Protect. On the next turn, I used Protect to buy one more turn of Speed Boost while River moved to finish off Claydol. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a damage range and Claydol managed to survive the second hit. This time, Slowpoke went for Calm Mind to try and set up while I used Baton Pass with Hill and Ice Beam with River. Tate & Liza used a Full Restore to heal off the damage on Claydol, keeping it around a little bit longer.

               Spr_3r_344.png Spr_3r_079.png

Spr_b_3r_254.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

I brought out Forest once again. Thankfully, River's Ice Beam was able to crit Claydol and bring its HP right back down to the red. Anticipating another Full Restore, I just went ahead and targetted it with another Ice Beam, but they didn't end up healing Claydol, so it went down. Similarly, Slowpoke went down to a Leaf Blade from Forest!

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Spr_3e_178.png Spr_3e_338.png

Xatu Lv. 49 & Solrock Lv. 50

               Spr_3r_178.png Spr_3r_338.png

Spr_b_3r_254.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

Once again, choice of moves was pretty easy to decide. An Ice Beam on Xatu and a Leaf Blade on Solrock. Xatu was able to survive, but Solrock went down in one shot. All Xatu did with its turn was try to set up with Calm Mind.

-----------------------

               Spr_3r_178.png Spr_3r_337.png

Spr_b_3r_254.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

A repeat of the last turn effectively, though Xatu's Calm Mind helped it to survive another Ice Beam. Lunatone went down to a single Leaf Blade while Xatu continued using Calm Mind.

               Spr_3r_178.png

Spr_b_3r_254.png Spr_b_3r_340.png               

The match was over at this point. A single Aerial Ace from Forest was all it took to finish the fight.

==================

Spr_RS_Roxanne.png Spr_RS_Brawly.png Spr_RS_Wattson.png Spr_RS_Flannery.png Spr_RS_Norman.png Spr_RS_Winona.png Spr_RS_Tate_and_Liza.png Spr_E_Juan.png

As you can probably imagine, it's possible to rematch every single one of the Hoenn gym leaders! These rematches will appear periodically just like regular rematches, but unlike regular rematches, where you can simply enter and leave the route until the trainer wants to battle you again, entering a gym won't make the gym leader any more likely to want to rematch you. They're just going to appear randomly. In addition, each Gym Leader doesn't just have one rematch, but four, over the course of which their team will progressively grow stronger and stronger. Because of the repetitive nature of these rematches and the element of randomness, I unfortunately won't be covering all of these rematches in this playthrough. However, I will list the final teams of each gym leader in case you're curious. Since there's a lot of animated gifs involved in the formatting, I've hidden the content in a spoiler tag.

Spoiler

 

Spr_RS_Roxanne.png Spr_3e_142.png Spr_3e_076.png Spr_3e_139.png Spr_3e_141.png Spr_3e_208.png Spr_3e_299.png

Roxanne: Aerodactyl Lv. 47, Golem Lv. 47, Omastar Lv. 47, Kabutops Lv. 50, Steelix Lv. 50, Nosepass Lv. 52

Spr_RS_Brawly.png Spr_3e_106.png Spr_3e_107.png Spr_3e_068.png Spr_3e_308.png Spr_3e_237.png Spr_3e_297.png

Brawly: Hitmonlee Lv. 46, Hitmonchan Lv. 46, Machamp Lv. 48, Medicham Lv. 48, Hitmontop Lv. 50, Hariyama Lv. 52

Spr_RS_Wattson.png Spr_3e_125.png Spr_3e_026.png Spr_3e_181.png Spr_3e_101.png Spr_3e_082.png Spr_3e_310.png

Wattson: Electabuzz Lv. 50, Raichu Lv. 51, Ampharos Lv. 51, Electrode Lv. 53, Magneton Lv. 53, Manectric Lv. 55

Spr_RS_Flannery.png Spr_3e_059.png Spr_3e_219.png Spr_3e_229.png Spr_3e_078.png Spr_3e_323.png Spr_3e_324.png

Flannery: Arcanine Lv. 51, Magcargo Lv. 53, Houndoom Lv. 51, Rapidash Lv. 51, Camerupt Lv. 53, Torkoal Lv. 55

Spr_RS_Norman.png Spr_3e_289.png Spr_3e_242.png Spr_3e_115.png Spr_3e_128.png Spr_3e_327Norman5.png Spr_3e_289.png

Norman: Slaking Lv. 57, Blissey Lv. 57, Kangaskhan Lv. 55, Tauros Lv. 57, Spinda Lv. 58, Slaking Lv. 60

Spr_RS_Winona.png Spr_3e_164.png Spr_3e_357.png Spr_3e_279.png Spr_3e_149.png Spr_3e_227.png Spr_3e_334.png

Winona: Noctowl Lv. 53, Tropius Lv. 54, Pelipper Lv. 55, Dragonite Lv. 55, Skarmory Lv. 58, Altaria Lv. 60

Spr_RS_Tate_and_Liza.png Spr_3e_097.png Spr_3e_344.png Spr_3e_199.png Spr_3e_178.png Spr_3e_337.png Spr_3e_338.png

Tate & Liza: Hypno Lv. 63, Claydol Lv. 64, Slowking Lv. 63, Xatu Lv. 64, Lunatone Lv. 65, Solrock Lv. 65

Spr_E_Juan.png Spr_3e_131.png Spr_3e_340.png Spr_3e_186.png Spr_3e_365.png Spr_3e_342.png Spr_3e_230.png

Juan: Lapras Lv. 61, Whiscash Lv. 63, Politoed Lv. 61, Walrein Lv. 63, Crawdaunt Lv. 63, Kingdra Lv. 66

 

Spr_RS_Sidney.png Spr_RS_Phoebe.png Spr_RS_Glacia.png Spr_RS_Drake.png Spr_E_Wallace.png

After having introduced rematches with Gym Leaders, you may have expected Pokemon Emerald to also feature Elite Four rematches as well! After all, Fire Red had them! However, this isn't actually the case. Strangely, the Hoenn Elite Four nor the champion never get any stronger than your initial battles with them. For the sake of my sanity, that's probably for the best.

======================

Victory_Road_1F_E.png

Victory Road

In addition to all of the gym leaders, there is one more set of rematches you may be interested in, and that would be Wally who has been striving to become as strong as you this entire time! Anytime he wishes to rematch you, you'll find him at the end of Victory Road where you battled him in Ruby and Sapphire, so be sure to fly to the northern end of Ever Grande City!

Spr_RS_Wally.png Spr_3e_334.png Spr_3e_301.png Spr_3e_315.png Spr_3e_082.png Spr_3e_282.png

Wally: Altaria Lv. 56, Delcatty Lv. 55, Roselia Lv. 56, Magneton Lv. 53, Gardevoir Lv. 57

Unfortunately, Wally never gets a sixth team member, nor does he replace any pokemon on his team. His pokemon's levels only get higher with each battle. Their movesets remain stagnant. 

=================

There is still yet one more strong trainer I'd like to discuss. However, I think this one will be appropriately left for his own post. Still, I didn't want to end my session just yet, so I decided to focus on what's become somewhat of a tradition among my Hoenn playthroughs: Of course, I want to make a secret base!

You already know where to get all the decorations, so there's no need to go into too much detail about the processes involved here, but I wanted to start once again with theming the base after the themes of the game. This time, I wanted to focus on the theme of nature and the union of land and sea.

450px-Hoenn_Route_114_E.png

I combed through all of my options and felt like the most fitting location for this secret base would be the tree on the small island on Route 114. This area is in a small pond nearby a farming community and tall mountains. It's an ideal place representative of both land and sea, I think. While I would have liked to choose somewhere closer to the actual sea, I wanted a place that felt natural and still had a lot of room to work with inside.

Hoenn_Secret_Base_Alpha.png

The inside of this tree is a "split" tree base. It splits off into two rooms, both of which have a pretty nice shape for decorating. Once I established my base, I got to work gathering the materials and decorating it!

FKpKxi1.png

As usual, this is just an approximate recreation of the base recreated by simply pasting the sprites in the relative locations in MS Paint. The exact alignment of the pixels may be off a bit here and there, but I tried to keep it as accurate as possible to how it looks in-game. With the green coloring and the theme of nature, I wanted to focus on plant life. I also went with a Thunder Mat to evoke the image of Rayquaza's thunderous presence. I dotted the mat with dolls and cushions designed after pokemon from the land, sea and sky that are all capable of living together. Meanwhile, the Treecko and Pichu dolls on the Comfort Desk were there more to emphasize forest life. Though the Round cushion is technically modeled after the pattern on Azumarill's body, I thought it looked kind of like clouds, so I put it there to evoke the image of the sky. The three posters had similar reasoning to the choice of dolls. I went with the pretty flowers and colorful plant to showcase nature's peaceful beauty as well as splash in some extra color. The Glitter Mat was just placed there to add a little bit of interaction. I would've liked to put a fun little jingle with Note Pads in this entryway, but that just takes up too many decoration slots when you only have 16 to use. Honestly, it's kind of amazing how much more space you have to work with when you're not trying to force yourself into incorporating the Red or Blue tent! This was probably the most painless secret base I've made yet! With our secret base, we're ready to mix records with the other games again!

=================

So, today was rather simple. Next time, we'll be finishing up exploring Hoenn by taking a look at one last area that's been expanded in the postgame which I've definitely saved for last for a reason.

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1200px-Mossdeep_City_E.png

Mossdeep City

If you recall, in Mossdeep City, we could return to Steven Stone's house after becoming champion and find that he's left a Beldum for us to look after.

Spr_3e_374.png Spr_b_3r_374.png

This is also the case here, and I named this Beldum "Core" after the Earth's Iron Core. I felt it was a pretty fitting name for a pokemon owned by a geology enthusiast.

In the message left by Steven, he mentions how he's left to do some soul searching, just like in Ruby and Sapphire. But where did he leave to? Well, previously I'd been led to assume he'd left the region to explore the world. However, in Emerald, we find the true answer to this question. And this answer lies in the final expanded location of Emerald's Postgame: Meteor Falls.

==================

1200px-Lilycove_City_E.png

Lilycove City

Before we head off to find Steven, however, there's one last errand I'd like to run and that involves returning to the rooftop of the Department Store in Lilycove City.

Lilycove_Department_Store_Roof_RSE.png

Spr_3e_291.png

Remember how I mentioned an interest in teaching Substitute to Hill? Well, I think it's finally time. I got rid of Hill's Slash, his only offensive move, in favor of Substitute form the move tutor here. This means Hill is now fully committed to being exclusively a support pokemon. On the flipside, Substitute is a move that has been criminally underutilized by me up until now and I think this upcoming battle we're about to take on will be the perfect place to showcase just how powerful a move this can be when used properly.

==================

Meteor_Falls_1F1R_alt_E.png

Meteor Falls

This place is large enough that you're probably not going to notice the new addition right away. But if you make your way to the very height of the first floor, where you could get TM23: Iron Tail, you'll find a brand new cavern which wasn't there before. Of course, in order to get here, you're going to need Waterfall.

Meteor_Falls_Steven_Cave_E.png

Meteor Falls -- Depths

This area has even stronger wild pokemon than any other area here. There's no items to find and the only pokemon you'll find are Solrock and Golbat, though this really could've been a good place to put a rare Johto pokemon like Larvitar or something, too, but I digress. All there is to do here is make your way to the very back of the cave.

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And it's at the deepest part of these tunnels where you'll find Steven Stone himself. As you talk to him, he'll suggest that you probably just know him as some guy who likes stones, but then recalled that you battled with him back at the Space Center and comments on how you must have known how strong he was from back then. He, too, was impressed by your abilities and seems to have come here to train his pokemon as much as he could in preparation for a battle with you. And, right now, it seems like he's ready to challenge you to the toughest battle you'll face.

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My Team:

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Forest (Sceptile M); Lv. 53

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Item: King's Rock Bag_King's_Rock_Sprite.png

Ability: Overgrow | Moves: Leaf Blade, Dragon Claw, Earthquake, Aerial Ace

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Ozone (Swellow M); Lv. 53*

Spr_3e_277.png Spr_b_3r_277.png

Item: Focus Band Bag_Focus_Band_Sprite.png

Ability: Guts | Moves: Aerial Ace, Steel Wing, Endeavor, Facade

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Hill (Ninjask M); Lv. 53

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Item: Lax Incense Bag_Lax_Incense_Sprite.png

Ability: Speed Boost | Moves: Substitute, Protect, Swords Dance, Baton Pass

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Stars (Grumpig F); Lv. 53

Spr_3e_326.png Spr_b_3r_326.png

Item: Leftovers Bag_Leftovers_Sprite.png

Ability: Own Tempo | Moves: Calm Mind, Confuse Ray, Psychic, Rest

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River (Whiscash M); Lv. 52

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Item: NeverMeltIce Bag_Never-Melt_Ice_Sprite.png

Ability: Oblivious | Moves: Ice Beam, Earthquake, Future Sight, Surf

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Cliff (Magneton); Lv. 52

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Item: Quick Claw Bag_Quick_Claw_Sprite.png

Ability: Sturdy | Moves: ThunderBolt, Swagger, Reflect, Thunder Wave

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*Unfortunately, I had to leave one pokemon behind by nature of needing a Waterfall user to get to this part of Meteor Falls, as a result, I chose to leave Ozone in the PC since he wasn't going to be capable of doing much at all to most of my foes here.

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Of course, in his place, I brought Sea the Wailord, one of my HM users.

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PKMN Trainer Steven

I'm going to say right now that this battle is by far the most difficult story battle we've yet to experience. The main reason being that Steven's pokemon are on par with those of Red in Gold, Silver and Crystal. His team is overall slightly lower than Red's, but unlike Red, a lot of his pokemon are considered competitively viable on their own. Let alone when they have a 25+ level advantage on you! In addition, if you don't have both Surf and Waterfall on your team, you're going to have to give up a party slot to a Waterfall user. I suppose the game probably expects you to carry all HMs on your team at all times, but even Gold Silver and Crystal were careful to ensure that you could get to Red without HMs as long as you were okay with finding your way through the darkness in Mt. Silver.

As expected, this battle took my many, many tries and ultimately, I just had to hope for some really good luck to win the day. I'll be handling this the way I usually handle battles that take me several tries and explore my approach to each pokemon as they show up. Needless to say, I made an exception to my "no items" mentality for Red and I'll definitely be doing the same here. Even with spamming items almost constantly, this battle is still borderline impossible without some heavy strategy. 

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Skarmory Lv. 77

Steven leads with his Skarmory. This thing is incredibly fast and it goes without saying that its level allows it to just tear through a lot of its enemies. On the offchance it can't do a whole lot of damage to you, it also has Toxic to cripple your defenses. Of course, Skarmory's primary goal is to set up Spikes to deter you from freely switching between pokemon in your efforts to stall his out, which is a strategy you're bound to try given how strong they all are.

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In response to Steven's lead, I'd usually lead with Cliff. A ThunderBolt can't quite KO Skarmory, but it can bring its health down to below halfway, meaning it's a two-hit KO. This is by far the easiest matchup in this battle. That said, Steven's moves with this initial matchup seem to be almost entirely random. Sometimes he prioritizes setting up Spikes, sometimes he goes straight for Steel Wing to try and deal as much damage as he can. After this first hit, I usually go for Reflect before going for the KO. The rest of this round of the battle always ends up forking in an unpredictable way, so setting up Reflect is the most universally good option I can go for. The most common result is that he'll retreat into one of two pokemon. However, he'll sometimes hold his ground and keep Skarmory in battle. This is the ideal result as I can take him out with ease in one more attack.

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Aggron Lv. 76

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Most commonly, he'll retreat into Aggron here. Aggron naturally has Earthquake, so I have to play my cards carefully around it. Thankfully, this quickly proves to be a very easy matchup as his Earthquake is very predictable.

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I can aways call this move by switching into Hill. Since Hill is a flying-type, he's immune to the effects of Spikes. From here, I can use Protect to avoid Aggron's Thunder and get a free Speed Boost. Then, I can use Baton Pass.

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Knowing Aggron is spamming Thunder, I can get an easy "free" Baton Pass into River. Unfortunately, River will take some damage from Spikes, but absolutely no damage from Aggron's Thunder. Unfortunately, Reflect will usually fade by this point, not that it'd be very useful in this matchup. Thanks to the Speed boost passed on by Hill, River is actually capable of outspeeding this Aggron. The boost from Baton Pass actually does matter because River will not outspeed this foe without at least +1 in speed. It's important that I outspeed because this Aggron always responds to River by charging up a Solar Beam. It's a two-hit KO with Surf, so I can take him out before he gets the chance to hit me!

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Cradily Lv. 76

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After defeating Aggron with River, Steven will always send out Cradily to follow up. Cradily will always go for Giga Drain, so staying in is certainly not an option. This is why I don't commit super hard to setting up against Aggron. (I definitely could set up a bit better but it's just not worth the effort most of the time.)

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I'll retreat into Hill here and Cradily's Giga Drain will do next to nothing thanks to my quad resistance. From here, I immediately use Protect because Cradily will go for AncientPower which, between STAB, my quad-weakness, and Cradily's level, is enough to take me out in one shot even at full HP if I don't get lucky with a miss thanks to BrightPowder. Of course, I can't keep hiding behind Protect. This is where the move Substitute comes into play.

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In case you're unaware, Substitute allows you to pay a quarter of your HP to hide behind a doll. This doll with take any attacks the foe uses against you. Because it takes all the attacks, status conditions cannot be afflicted on you while the Substitute is up and your substitute will take all damage you would have. The only way to get around the doll is to inflict enough damage to the doll to break it. The doll's HP will always be equal to the amount you pay to create it and it'll take however much damage you would take if the attack hit you. On your turn, however, you'll take the place of your substitute in order to attack your opponent at full strength.

There are some moves that interact with Substitute in ways you might not expect, but in general, you are completely safe behind Substitute. In this case, I can use Substitute to prolong Hill's survival against Cradily. Every time Cradily gets to attack between Protects, I can simply use Substitute to effectively reduce the damage I take to only 25% for the turn. Much better than getting KO'd entirely, I'd say. I'll be honest, this is a very annoying move that I really don't like, personally. Hiding behind a Substitute comes off as a little cowardly, which is why I often don't use it. But I suppose it does play an important role in the meta by punishing foes for investing too much time into building their stats and not enough into actually dealing damage and it can also help some more fragile pokemon stay in the battle longer.

Regardless, by swapping between Substitute and Protect, I can easily stall Cradily out until it uses up all 5PP for its AncientPower. From this point, I can freely set up Swords Dance while Cradily is busy trying to confuse my Substitute doll and wondering why it's not doing anything. From this point, the majority of the rest of Steven's team becomes a joke.

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With +6 in Attack and Speed, I can Baton Pass into Forest, I should also note that Substitute can be passed with Baton Pass as well, and sweep most of Steven's remaining pokemon to quickly get to his biggest threat.

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In case you're wondering, I can't baton pass into River here because I simply can't do enough damage even with toe +6 in Attack to take out the Cradily before it can break my Substitute with Giga Drain. I could potentially stall out until he ran out of PP for Giga Drain as well, but Cradily will continuously spam Confuse Ray against Hill for several turns, even though it's useless against Substitute, and he might do the same with Ingrain even though he already has it set up, so that will just be a huge waste of time.

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Claydol Lv. 75

Sometimes, Steven's second pokemon will be Claydol instead of Aggron and this makes things a lot more awkward for me. On these runs, items suddenly become a lot more important.

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Just like Aggron, Claydol has Earthquake, so its first move is easy to read.

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Instead of switching into Hill, I'll switch straight into Forest. My reasoning being that, unlike Cradily, Claydol can set up Light Screen and Reflect to protect its allies from my onslaught of evil. However, I suppose I still might be able to use Hill's Substitute for the same purpose as long as I spend the extra few turns squandering Claydol's Reflect. Perhaps I did have some more thinking to do, but I'm not going back on my victorious run!

As for this matchup, Forest resists Earthquake so I can survive a few hits, especially thanks to the first few turns of Reflect from Cliff. Leaf Blade has an increased Crit Chance, so even after Claydol sets up Light Screen, I'm still capable of KOing it pretty consistently with relative ease. That said, I've yet to note that Steven also has four Full Restores he can drop at any of his pokemon. This can often force me to use some Hyper Potions to keep Forest alive long enough to outmatch this Claydol.

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If Skarmory is still alive, it'll sometimes come back out here against Forest. If it's yet to do so, it'll take this opportunity to set up Spikes. Otherwise, it'll go straight for blood with Aerial Ace.

Spr_b_3r_254.png SubstituteG3b.png Spr_3r_227.png

If I have the boost from Baton Pass, this matchup is easy to handle. Even with the resistance, I can simply take Skarmory out with Aerial Ace.

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Otherwise, there's not much I can do to this thing and I'll just have to retreat against it.

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It's an easy switch back into Cliff who can finish what he started. Skarmory won't switch out this time.

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Armaldo Lv. 76

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Whenever Forest is out, if not Skarmory, Steven's next pokemon is usually Armaldo which is an awkward matchup for me since it also knows Aerial Ace.

Spr_b_3r_254.png SubstituteG3b.png Spr_3r_348.png

If Forest has been Baton Passed into against Cradily, this is unfortunately where the Substitute gets broken as Armaldo is capable of surviving an Earthquake even with +6 Attack. Thankfully, I'm able to do at least half of his HP so, after sacrificing my Substitute, I can still take him out with Earthquake on the following turn.

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But, coming off of Claydol, I don't have the luxury of those boosted stats, so I have no choice but to retreat.

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Once again, Cliff comes to save the day. Well, sort of. Cliff is a safe buffer to switch into, but Armaldo will sometimes go for Slash instead of Aerial Ace which has a decent chance of critting and doing lots of damage. Even on its own, Slash can do a lot to me. Furthermore, Armaldo will then follow up with a Water Pulse which, as a special attack, can do more than Slash and finish Cliff off. (Keep in mind, I've switched Magneton into Spikes, and sometimes this matchup is coming off of a matchup with Skarmory) So instead of staying in, I switch once again.

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Whiscash is capable of taking this Water Pulse much better and can dish out its own super-effective hits to take out Armaldo.

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This will often result in Steven bringing out his Aggron. Unfortunately, I can't KO Aggron as easily here without the Baton Pass from Hill. Since I can't outspeed Aggron, I can't take him out with Surf before he can hit me with Solar Beam. Yes, Earthquake is stronger than Surf thanks to Aggron's Steel and Rock typing, but Surf still deals more damage thanks to Aggron's immense physical defense but low Special defense. I did give this a try in a failed run. Since I can't stop his Solar Beam, I'll have to switch out to survive it.

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If I've yet to use Hill, this is a good time to bring him out. He can take the Solar Beam fairly well on switch-in and can set up with Protect. I can even take advantage of my Lax Incense by using Substitute until he misses with Thunder, but I've found this to be a rather pointless abuse of Substitute as, if I've yet to use Hill yet, it means I'm about to get a much easier point to set up with him.

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I can easily switch back into River to deal with Aggron by traditional means. Now, you might think that this would lead into the very same matchup against Cradily, right? Well, you would be dead WRONG

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Metagross Lv. 78

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Say hello to the biggest threat you can imagine: Metagross. This pokemon is the number one reason why items are a necessity in this battle. Metagross is capable of OHKOing almost every pokemon on my team with its incredible strength and ability to outspeed even my fastest pokemon, Forest. The only pokemon capable of surviving a hit on switch-in are River, Stars, and Cliff, but none of them can do a whole lot of damage on their own and can't survive all of Metagross' attacks. If Metagross happens to use Meteor Mash, then River will survive because of its resistance. Similarly, Stars can survive a Psychic, but all she can do is use Confuse Ray in hopes that Metagross hits itself. Cliff has the most chances of survival. He can take a Shadow Ball or Meteor Mash, but not an Earthquake or Psychic. The vast majority of my losses have been to this monster as it lays waste to my entire team. Beating this thing takes either a lot of resources or a lot of luck. Even after a Baton Pass from one of those runs where Forest has +6 Attack and Speed? Not gonna help. Metagross still survives and even eats a Sitrus Berry to add insult to injury. Also, keep in mind that Steven has Full Restores. Since I've swept through his entire team, he usually has 3 or 4 Full Restores by this point. Once he takes out Forest, he's not going anywhere for a long time.

The moment Metagross comes out, I immediately use a Hyper Potion on Hill to get it prepared because I'll need every ounce of speed I can milk out of him.

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I have no chance of setting up with Swords Dance. At least, not yet anyway. So, what is my plan? Well, right now, if I'm gonna get anywhere, I need to be able to hit Metagross first. To do that, I'll need to build up enough speed to paralyze him.

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In order to accomplish this goal, I'll once again revisit the good ol' Substitue + Protect combo to stall for turns. Ideally, I can hope for my Lax Incense to pull through for me and get Metagross to miss. This isn't likely, though, as most of Metagross' moves have 100% accuracy so I rely exclusively on the accuracy drop from Lax Incense to help me dodge damage. Most of the time, I'm just able to stall for a few turns until Hill is low on HP. In the event that Metagross does miss, however, I can use Baton Pass to retreat behind the Substitute. If I can't maintain the Substitute before my HP drops, I'll have to Baton Pass into Cliff anyway and see how things play out.

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Thankfully, since Cliff is switching in from Hill, Metagross won't be using Earthquake so I can almost guarantee I can survive the first hit as long as Metagross doesn't go for Psychic. Since I have boosted speed, I can now hit him with Thunder Wave. Ideally, this Thunder Wave will cause him to be fully paralyzed for the turn, buying me another turn to hit him with Swagger. As you may have guessed, this is really my only hope of dealing enough damage to take out Metagross: Turning its own strength against it. But this is a huge gamble. Just one Swagger guarantees nothing on my team will be able to survive any of Metagross' attacks unless it arbitrarily uses Psychic on the turn I happen to switch into Stars. Not likely at all. I have to work extra hard to avoid any and all damage going forward from here.

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In the (likely) event that Metagross is not stopped by paralysis, and takes out Cliff with Earthquake, I'll bring out my HM user, Sea, and use this as an opportunity to spend a Revive to bring Cliff back. Essentially, all my remaining pokemon besides Forest, Cliff, and Hill, are just item fodder against this thing. Each one buys me an "extra life" so to speak. In the lucky event that Metagross is fully paralyzed against one of these pokemon, I can even get a second chance to use a Hyper Potion or Revive on one of my other pokemon. This strategy may seem scummy, but honestly, I think it's really cool that this thing is so powerful I have to resort to such desperate strategies to be able to win against it. It really feels like I have to go all out using everything at my disposal to win.

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Once Sea is taken out, if I didn't get lucky enough to be able to use a Hyper Potion on Hill or a Revive on Cliff, I'll send out Stars to do so.

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After Metagross takes out Sea or Stars, I can bring Cliff back out. He doesn't have full health, but that's really not going to help him anyway. I can use Swagger now to reduce Metagross chances of hitting me further. Now, I have the cover necessary to (hopefully) be able to build up some stats.

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I'm able to safely switch into Cliff because Metagross will be furiously spamming Earthquake at this point. But once Hill is out, his tactics will change to accommodate and I'll need to rely on some luck from here on.

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Here, I immediately start spamming Substitute to take advantage of the turns Metagross will be locked behind Parafusion. Ideally, I'll get him to hit himself a few turns in a row to give me an opportunity to set up Swords Dance. Alternatively, he may snap out of confusion without doing enough damage to himself. In which case I'll have to keep using Substitute until he's stopped by paralysis and then use the doll's cover to switch into Cliff.

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From here, he'll likely break my Substitute, but I can use Swagger again. This will further increase my odds of getting Metagross to KO himself. At this point, the extra attack boost is irrelevant, he'll OHKO my entire team anyway, so I may as well make confusion deal more damage.

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Under certain circumstances, I may be able to baton pass into Stars and use Confuse Ray instead of Swagger for 100% accuracy. This is less ideal, though, because I want Metagross to do as much damage to himself as I can. Still, the free turns just from Metagross not attacking can also help tremendously in my setup. So this isn't a terrible option. I may even be able to buy a few item uses out of this choice.

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Eventually, I'll get Metagross to deal enough damage to himself thanks to parafusion, and Hill will have been able to set up enough Swords Dances, that I'm prepared for the final attack. In my final run, I was able to get two Swords Dances up. Metagross had dealt a little under half of his HP worth of damage to himself, so even without the +6 in Attack, I was pretty confident I'd have enough strength now to finish the job.

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I baton pass into Forest and Metagross immediately breaks my Substitute.

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And now, for the final blow, it's the moment of truth that I've been meticulously building up to over all this time! I use Earthquake to take out the remainder of Metagross' HP in one strike, restricting his ability to heal off the damage! Even if he'd wasted his turn with a Full Restore, I was pretty confident I'd be able to KO him with a 2HKO.

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Now, could I have pulled some strings to get River to do this final blow a bit easier? Possibly, however, this was not something I wanted to test out this far into the battle. Even with throwing all the items I could at the battle, this win still took a lot of luck in spite of my meticulous planning. I was not about to risk the possibility of River getting outsped, even if that likely wasn't going to happen with +6 speed and Metagross' paralysis. I wasn't about to take even a .5% chance of immediate failure just because I got greedy and wanted to see if I could KO him a little bit earlier. No, I knew roughly how much damage Forest would deal with Earthquake from previous failed attempts so I was going to stick to what I knew.

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Now, believe it or not, for my victorious run, things still weren't quite over. Steven had yet to send his Cradily out. In fact, Cradily's AncientPower was capable of taking Forest out without hitting it with Earthquake. Still, I wasn't nearly as scared of this thing as I was of Metagross.

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I used my last PP for Substitute and Protect for the same strat I used against Cradily before.

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I then Baton Passed into Stars, who I'd yet to use, and set up some Calm Mind to tank his Giga Drains before finishing him off with Psychic. Simple enough.

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MVP: Hill

I can't give MVP status to anyone but Hill. No matter what I did, every strategy I used in the end was built entirely around Substitute and Baton Pass. Without these two moves, I wouldn't have stood a chance against most of Steven's team and my only chance of even putting a dent in Metagross would be Cliff's Quick Claw just happening to trigger on his first turn being out so that I can paralyze Metagross before being crushed with Earthquake.

I did actually try this battle a few times without Substitute. At one point, I actually got really close to winning because Cliff's Quick Claw did trigger! But, all I could really do was try and get Metagross to hit itself in confusion and I just couldn't get that to happen enough. Ultimately, I just couldn't make it work. So, even though Cliff also played a very critical role in defeating Metagross and Skarmory, I think Hill was a frequent presence throughout the entire battle and ultimately bought almost every single majority the rest of the team had. Still, I have half the mind to give MVP to both pokemon as their abilities complimented each other so well that they've managed to convince me that I'll likely be relying on the two of them for a lot of the Battle Frontier challenges to come. We'll have to see how things go.

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And with that, Steven is defeated! He confesses that, even back when we'd met in Granite Cave, he'd always had a strange feeling you'd end up becoming the Champion one day. He acknowledges our strength but doesn't really offer anything else for us. Unlike Red, though, there's no credit roll to follow this battle which I find to be a bit of a missed opportunity.

Do I regret resorting to abusing items as heavily as I did? Honestly, not at all. I said something similar about my battle with Red in Gold version, but I honestly feel much better about having to use items to win than I would about having to leave and grind up so that the level gap is smaller. I know grinding with your pokemon can be seen in a world-building sense as you just training your pokemon so that they get as strong as they can be, but from a game design perspective, it just seems like such a lame way to win a battle to me. In my mind, using items still requires some wit. It takes up a turn to use them. If the level gap is close enough to where I'm able to continuously use Hyper Potions until my opponent misses, then it feels a lot more scummy and less satisfying. I'm just wasting a lot of time and the battle becomes really dull. But, in this case, every turn I wasted was a chance to lose one of my pokemon in the blink of an eye. I had to deligate entire pokemon to just being chances to use items and the tension was there the entire time. Had I instead left to just train my pokemon so that they could hold up better, so that my pokemon could naturally outspeed his or take the hits that would otherwise KO them, it just wouldn't be as satisfying to overcome them, even if it would technically rely less on luck.

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With this, I think we've covered all there is to do in the main game, yet it still isn't quite over as we still have the rest of the Battle Frontier and I'd also like to return to Pokemon Contests, but I think both of these are such a huge part of Generation 3's identity that it's only right to hold off on them for now and use them both as a big sendoff to the generation as a whole. 

If you're wondering why I've yet to mix records with the previous games, I actually was planning on doing that yesterday, but on booting up my copies of Ruby and Sapphire I was reminded that my parties are all a bit jumbled up thanks to Colosseum. I don't really mind that too much, but I'd like to have everything together a bit more nicely before we take things in that direction. Even still, I think there is one more topic I want to cover, just like I did in Fire Red and Leaf Green. Next time, we'll unravel the mysteries of Mystery Gift and discuss the remaining aspects of the game that are now mostly lost to the sands of time. There are some really interesting things to find, so I'd like to dedicate a post to them rather than just mentioning them in passing. So, next time, we'll be sailing the seven seas! ...with the power of our imagination because pretending is about all I'll be able to do in regards to these.

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Alright, as mentioned yesterday, this is going to be the last post for our initial run of Emerald. I've stressed enough already that I'll be revisiting the content I've skipped out on for now, but I want to cover some event distributions.

To start with, let's talk about Mystery Gift!

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Just like in Fire Red and Leaf Green, in PokeMarts around the world, you'll find questionaires sitting on the desk which you can fill out using the easy chat system. As expected, you unlock Mystery Gift in the exact same way as in Fire Red and Leaf Green. Just enter "LINK TOGETHER WITH ALL" and the receptionist will take notice and unlock the feature for you. Make sure you save after this! You can now access Mystery Gift from the game's main menu! Of course, this feature is mostly useless today unless you happen to have access to one of the distribution carts that got lost along the way.

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With access to Mystery Gift, Pokemon Emerald also has access to the same events as Fire Red and Leaf Green. This means the return of the Mystic and Aurora Tickets! These tickets function just like you'd expect. Much like how you'd bring them to Vermilion in Kanto, here in Hoenn, you'll bring each of these tickets to one of the harbors in Slateport or Lilycove and give the ticket to the lady there in order to board the ship and set sail to the new destination.

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In addition, the events to change the wild pokemon encounters in Altering Cave are once again present in the data as previously covered, but these events were never distributed officially and, to my knowledge, it is unknown if distribution carts for these events were ever even made.

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First off, let's talk about the Mystic Ticket.

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Navel Rock

This ticket will bring you to Navel Rock. You can see that, in Emerald (left) it appears to have a slightly different look than in Fire Red and Leaf Green (right). This is in line with the differences between both iterations of Altering Cave and may just be a difference in tilesets between the games, or perhaps the design was changed late in development for one version but they never got around to changing it in the other. Either way, the difference is apparent.

What's interesting about this location is that this is actually an island among the Sevii Islands in Fire Red and Leaf Green which means that, by visiting this location, we are technically visiting the Sevii Islands which are otherwise entirely inaccessible. The music here is even identical to Fire Red and Leaf Green! That said, it's also entirely possible that this just happens to be a "parallel universe" sort of situation where this Navel Rock isn't actually the same location... but let's just try not to think too hard about that.

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Navel Rock -- Interior

Inside Navel Rock, the caves are colored distinctly as well. Where the colors were whiter in Fire Red and Leaf Green, they appear with a more yellowish hue here. It's widely believed that this was intentionally done in reference to Pokemon Gold and Silver.

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Of course, aside from color, this cave is entirely identical to the one from Fire Red and Leaf Green. Which also means...

======================

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Ho-oh Lv. 70

At the summit of Navel Rock: It's the Legendary pokemon of the Tin Tower: Ho-oh! This is an identical encounter to that of Fire Red and Leaf Green, it even brings with it the same Legendary Battle Music from Fire Red and Leaf Green! A remix of the regular Wild Battle theme from those games which, in turn, is a remix of the original Wild Battle theme from Red and Green. It's much more interesting to hear here after playing through Hoenn instead of Kanto.

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That's one event legendary off our checklist!

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Don't forget to grab the Sacred Ash left behind where Ho-oh stood as well! It may not be so useful here in the postgame, but it could come in handy if you trade it to another game!

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Lugia Lv. 70

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, you've got Lugia deep, deep underneath Navel Rock.

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And that's yet another Legendary to check off!

=================

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Our next event item is the Aurora Ticket which would have brought us to another familiar location among the Sevii Islands:

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Birth Island

Of course, Birth Island also has some slight aesthetic differences in Emerald (top) compared to Fire Red and Leaf Green (bottom). I personally prefer the way this place looks in Fire Red and Leaf Green for sure, but either way, the event still plays out the same. It's completely silent and you have the same puzzle with the weird triangle piece.

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Deoxys Lv. 30

This puzzle leads into what is still by far my favorite legendary battle theme in the entire game. Again, it's such a shame this battle is so short-lived. Anyway, just like in Fire Red and Leaf Green, you'll be battling Deoxys here in its Normal Forme. You may expect that, since we're in Hoenn, Deoxys will retain his Normal Forme here after being caught, but that's where you would be wrong!

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Yes indeed, Deoxys has yet one more form! I was surprised as a kid to find out there was still another form of Deoxys I'd never seen even after watching his debut movie Destiny Deoxys. This is its Speed Forme! In this form, Deoxys is the fastest pokemon of all in the entire generation! Other than that, though, this forme is actually painfully middling. You might think that its Normal Forme would be average across the board, but in fact, its Speed Forme seems to be the most average. With all of its focus being put into its speed, it doesn't really excel at doing any one thing. It can guarantee you get the first turn, but I'm not sure I could recommend this thing for anything other than setting up certain moves. If you're looking for a strong, fast pokemon, Attack Forme is definitely the way to go. It's not quite as fast as Speed Forme, but literally the only pokemon naturally faster than Attack Forme Deoxys is Ninjask. I'm not sure it's a good idea to compromise your stats so heavily just to outspeed a single pokemon that's likely not even trying to attack you so much as stall for time. Still, Speed Forme does have a slight advantage over Attack Forme in that it's not such a glass cannon, so if you're confident you can't OHKO your foe by going all out, maybe Speed Forme would be the way to go?

Unfortunately, by nature of how Deoxys works in generation 3, you'll be stuck using Speed Forme as long as Deoxys remains in Emerald Version.

=================

In addition to the events from Fire Red and Leaf Green, let's now take a look at some wonderful content that's exclusive to the original Japanese version.

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The Japanese version of Pokemon Emerald contaisn not just Mystery Gift, but also Ruby and Sapphire's more primitive e-reader centric counterpart: Mystery Event! In Ruby and Sapphire, you would unlock this by speaking to an NPC in the Petalburg City Pokemon Center. In this game, you instead use the same questionnaire available in any PokeMart. You'll then enter "MYSTERY EVENT IS EXCITING" using the easy chat system to unlock the feature. Again, make sure you save!

Using Mystery Event, you can now scan Japanese e-reader cards in order to load up the same events as Ruby and Sapphire!

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Most notably, this includes the Eon ticket! Once you get this ticket!

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Southern Island

With this, you can access the Southern Island where, just like in Ruby and Sapphire, you'll find either Latias or Latios, whichever one wasn't roaming Hoenn.

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Latios Lv. 50

In my case, this is would be Latios.

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In the international versions, since Mystery Event is inaccessible, the only way to get an Eon Ticket is to mix records with Ruby and Sapphire. Since this is possible, this event isn't rendered entirely unused but is just made significantly more difficult to obtain. I honestly don't understand why they would cut this functionality. It's already been released in Ruby and Sapphire and was already fully supported in the Japanese version. It just seems like an unnecessary restriction to cut Mystery Event from the international releases. Maybe too many kids in Japan were getting Mystery Gift and Mystery Event confused and wound up missing out? I really can't say but this is very unfortunate.

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Don't think things are over just yet, though! Did you honestly think there'd only be old events returning in Emerald? Of course not! Emerald brought with it one new exclusive event item obtained through Mystery Gift! This one leads to a location never seen before! ...And was only distributed in Japan...

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This is the Old Sea Map. Yes, this item was programmed into the game and even translated, but was left entirely unused in normal gameplay. The only way to access it in the international release is to use a cheating device or hack the game.

Regardless of how you obtain it, once you bring the Old Sea Map to the harbor in Slateport or Lilycove, you'll be able to follow it out to sea to a remote location.

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Faraway Island

This remote island at the edge of the world is almost entirely untouched by mankind and its location seems to have been intentionally kept a secret save for this one old map. There must be some great secret held by this island.

If you explore around the rocky shore, you'll find a lone sign.

Quote

The writing is fading as if it was
written a long time ago…

“…ber, 6th day
If any human…sets foot here…
again…et it be a kindhearted pers…
…ith that hope, I depar…”

Indeed, this location is certainly shrouded in mystery. Just what is so precious on this island?

Well, if we continue to explore deeper, passing through a small forest maze, we just might find our answer.

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Faraway Island -- Depths

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Is that... Mew!?

As soon as Mew sees you approach, it scurries into the grass. At first, you might assume that it's fleeing in fear of the presence of a stranger, but if you watch closely as you walk around, you'll find that this critter actually seems to want to play! Mew will linger around in the tall grass wanting you to chase after it. It seems even after all it's been through, this little one has yet to lose its playful spirit!

After you manage to catch up to Mew, it will want to play a different type of game. Now, it wants to battle!

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Mew Lv. 30

This is the first time in the history of pokemon that Mew has ever been made available to battle and catch! Up until now, it's only ever been obtainable through direct trading. Unfortunately, it's still locked behind an event that's never been distributed, but at least it's possible to find through cheat codes! Just like Deoxys, Mew is very low level so be extra careful when trying to catch it so that you don't accidentally KO it instead.

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And with that, Mew is finally available in generation 3! Do you know what that means? Between all of the pokemon available across all the games we've played so far, the National Dex of generation 3 can finally be completed in its entirety assuming you have access to all of the events above. That is, with the exception of the Eon Ticket which isn't actually necessary as long as you have both Ruby and Sapphire (which you'll need anyway). Still, as I've alluded to numerous times, there is yet one more title in this gen that will help to make completing the national dex a little bit easier.

If you would like to see a video of this new event, here's one I found on YouTube! Just like Deoxys, it has a bit of a puzzle-esque element to it, so I figured I should show it off here, too, since I can't experience it myself.

=====================

Now then, do you recall my allusion to the fact that we might be getting more information relating to the story of Mew? Well, this seems to be it! Not only is Mew present here on Faraway Island, but the japanese version of this event contributes a hint that seems to imply a certain character's involvement with this pokemon... Remember that sign with the faded text? Well, it's actually signed in the Japanese version.

Quote

なんねんも まえに かかれたような
ふるい かきおきが ある‥‥

‥‥がつ 6か
ここに たちいる にんげ‥‥が
ふたたび ‥‥らわれると すれば
こころ やさし‥‥で あらんことを
‥‥こに その ねがいを しるし
この ‥‥を あとにする

‥‥ジ

From what I can gather from this with my limited knowledge of the Japanese language, this seems to say mostly the same thing with some minor changes such as saying "that is my wish" or "I leave that wish here" or something like that. The English version seems to change this to "hope" instead.

Of course, the signature is faded like the rest of the text, so only the final character remains, "ji," which seems to be generally accepted as a reference to Mr. Fuji from Kanto. This small drop of lore combined with that photo of Blaine and Mr. Fuji together on Cinnabar Island seems to imply that Mr. Fuji indeed had some relation to Mew's discovery and, consequently, the creation of Mewtwo and the tragedy that stemmed from that.

Perhaps, after witnessing the horrific experiments performed on Mewtwo, Mr. Fuji sought to free Mew from the scientists and bring it to the Faraway Island where it would remain far from human influence and could live in peace. I'm really fascinated by how much depth and mystery there is to the creation of Mewtwo. It's a story that's been retold countless times and yet the cental, main canon, has never actually gone into detail about what the official story is. I kind of appreciate that there is this really heavy dark story behind the scenes that the people of the game's world almost seem like they would rather forget ever happened than preserve it in history. It's really fascinating to me!

=================

Now that we've covered these events, I think we can finally put Emerald up for now and move on to our next title. We've done three main series titles in a row, so this time we'll be kicking back with a rather simple spinoff title. One that's a little "touchy," to say the least. But I'm sure we'll be able to race right through it.

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Released on the same day in Japan and Taiwan: December 2nd, 2004, Pokemon Dash is not only the final Pokemon Game released in 2004, but is also the Pokemon franchise's first baby step into the new territory that the main series will find its home in soon: The Nintendo DS! This is a racing game in which you control Pikachu using the DS Stylus while guiding him to checkpoints which form a course.

As you might be able to tell immediately from the box art, this is also technically our first look into the upcoming generation 4 with the inclusion of Munchlax who, if I recall correctly, had already made a few cameos across various Pokemon Movies and even the anime around this time period. I suppose you can consider Munchlax to basically be the Marill of Generation 4. Words cannot describe how badly my little childhood mind was blown when I first saw Munchlax in Destiny Deoxys. Since Sapphire was my first pokemon game, this was my first time truly experiencing a new pokemon being revealed to tease upcoming titles! If only I knew about websites like Serebii back then... Well, it wouldn't actually be too long before I would discover Serebii, actually. It's kind of crazy how long ago that was yet how recent it seems. I guess that's just part of growing up, huh?

Anyway, as you'll probably immediately be able to pick up on, this game was developed by Ambrella, the very same devleopers who made Hey You, Pikachu! and Pokemon Channel! Pokemon Dash reuses a lot of assets from Pokemon Channel. I kind of wonder if the developers wanted to make a Pokemon Channel-esque game on the DS but Nintendo didn't want to greenlight that idea when they were already working on Nintendogs which fills a similar niche. I have no evidence for that narrative, but I could see something like that playing out, for sure.

Anyway, this game just screams "early DS game" from cover to cover for better or worse. The entire game is structured around control via the touch screen and, let me just say that trying to find an appropriate means to play this game for this series was a nightmare.

To my knowledge, this game has never been re-released which means my only consistent options to play it today in 2021 are to buy it secondhand for an outrageous price or simply emulate it. I'm certainly not going to condone piracy of video games or anything of the sort, definitely not, but miraculously, I do just so happen to have a rom of the game that I can run on DeSmuME. I wonder how that got there...

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So, since I'm playing this game on emulator, this means I can actually share screenshots of my own gameplay! Consequently, this means I actually have to remember to take screenshots during gameplay. As this is an action game, I'm going to go ahead and apologize in advance if I happen to miss screenshots of any important moments. My fingers are going to be spidering all over my keyboard for reasons I'll go into more detail soon, but for now I'll focus on how DeSmuME handles Screenshots... I really don't like it. I'm not sure what naming convention it uses for your screenshots, but the default names it gives each screenshot don't allow the screenshot to be stored alphabetically in any meaningful way. This means that I'll have to be manually renaming each screenshot as I take it. As you can imagine, this is very cumbersome in the middle of a race, so many of my screenshots might end up being out of order. I'll try and see what I can do next time to see if I can organize these screenshots in a more convenient way.

Now then, before we begin, we may as well poke around in the options.

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Here we can change our control style and delete our save data. There's also a third "?" option whicch I can't select. Honestly have no clue what this one is.

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The control style basically lets you choose whether you move Pikachu by pushing the stylus forward or inverting the controls so that Pikachu moves in the opposite direction that you're swiping.

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On the title screen itself, you can actually play around with Pikachu a bit by dragging different parts of him, kind of like Mario's head on the Mario 64 title screen! A cute little touch that wasn't totally necessary to include. Interestingly, this is actually reused functionality from an early tech demo for the DS where players could stretch Pikachu's face using the DS Stylus among some other things.

Anyway, we're naturally going to be jumping right in to One Player mode!

=================

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As soon as you click One Player Mode, you're automatically thrown into a series of tutorials! I suppose this Practice session is going to be what we consider our first level?

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As you can read from these messages, the goal of this game is to reach all of the checkpoints before your opponents by sliding Pikachu along the course as fast as possible toward the next destination... now here's where we'll cover my primary source of frustration with having to emulate this game.

I really don't have any other tools other than my laptop's built-in keyboard and touchpad to play this game. Because of this, the only way I can play is by keeping my mouse cursor on top of the lower screen and swiping as fast as I can, then awkwardly repositioning the cursor and swiping again, careful not to click out of the window. I've tried everything I could think of to make this easier. My first idea was to see if I could emulate this game on my phone. Being a touch-screen, it would be much easier to play this game. I could theoretically even get rid of the button overlays entirely since this game seems to be entirely controlled with just the touch screen and stylus. Works for me! However, most of the android DS emulators I could find were riddled with cancerous ads or I had to pay for a premium... I'm not going to pay for an emulator that may or may not even work and I'm certainly not going to use an emulator where I have to sit through six ads just because the game randomly decided to crash on me.

The only emulator I could find that could work with this game was RetroArch... but I quickly found another heavy issue with this. While RetroArch actually does seem like a pretty solid Android emulator, though a bit technical to set up compared to most emulators I'm familiar with, when it comes to running DS games, it has some serious design oversights. Namely, the default overlay. RetroArch doesn't have an overlay for the DS so it uses a generic one that happens to work just fine for DS titles.... most of the time. The only issue with this generic overlay is that it places a menu button right smack-dab in the middle of the bottom screen. So, if I so much as swipe my finger over these menu buttons, the game will come to a screeching halt as the emulator loads up its menus. Fine. But, this should be okay, right? All I have to do is turn the overlay off. After all, like I said before, the game is entirely controlled with the touch screen. And, sure enough, I can indeed turn the overlay off so that I can swipe and play the game to my heart's content. The problem at that point? Er... how do I bring up the menu?

Yeah... without the overlay, there's no way to bring up the emulator's menu, which means if I run into any sort of emulation bugs, I can't quickly mess with my settings to see if I can fix it or anything of the sort. Additionally, I can't use Save States to back up my progress in case I have to put the game down. If I want to get out of the game, I have to close the entire app altogether.

Recognizing this issue, I tried to look online to see if I could find a nice custom DS overlay to install to RetroArch so that I could play this game with the menu buttons being placed in appropriate locations. I did manage to find one that looked really promising, but the download link was broken. So now, I decided to just try to run the ROM on my laptop. I figured maybe there'd be some way to make the swiping easier on myself.

I combed through the settings, spend countless hours googling, and could find nothing without having to go out and buy cables... it really just isn't worth it for this one game. For now, I'm just going to have to suffer through and see if I can figure anything out by my next post.

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So, for these tutorials, you'll be in a series of 1-on-1 races against Munchlax as the game teaches you the fundamentals in each of the courses!

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This first one is pretty straight-forward. There are six checkpoints and you just have to visit each one. The arrow points to the next checkpoint, but you can also see it on the radar above. You run faster on the pavement than in the grass, too.

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It didn't take long at all to finish this first course, but we've still got a few to go!

==================

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Course 2 covers the different types of landscapes you'll interact with over the course of the game.

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Forests and sandy terrain dramatically slow you down. If you get stuck in these, your opponents will catch up with ease!

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Drowning!? Yes, don't try to run through water, you'll just fall through and I suppose Pikachu can't swim!

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Swampy terrain will slow you down like Sand but also drown you like water if you're trapped in it for too long.

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And here is where, embarrassingly, I hit my first wall. I can't stress enough how awkward this game is just using a touchpad. Here, I'm expected to push through this swampy terrain, but I'm pretty confident it's literally impossible. I can get painfully close to the other side, but Pikachu always drowns just before getting there! I tried building up momentum by running along the stone arrow, but you lose all of your momentum immediately as soon as you enter the swamp.

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I was honestlya bout to call it quits, but I decided to see if I could go around. Sure enough, I could go all the way around this massive puddle of mud to get to the other side... but, obviously, this is not going to bode well if I ever run into this as an obstacle in future courses, which I think is probably bound to happen eventually. In fact, after we're introduced to a mechanic later on, I think it's practically guaranteed we'll have no way around it period at some point!

I looked around to see if I could find some sort of Action Replay code to work around this limitation. Maybe some sort of "ignore terrain" code, but nothing of the sort. Ultimately, if I find myself at an impass, I might just have to use a cheat code to unlock all the cups and play them all one by one. However, I'm not going to cut my losses just yet. I do have some ideas on how to get RetroArch to work, so I think next time I'll be switching over to that. Unfortunately, this idea might mean fewer screenshots to share since I won't be able to simply map it to a hotkey. But I'll try to see if I can find a workaround. Besides, it's not like screenshots with DeSmuME are super helpful, either. For now, let's focus on getting through this tutorial level!

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Thankfully, for these tutorials, Munchlax is nice enough to wait patienty at each checkpoint for us to catch up if we happen to fall behind. So, even though it took me 6 and a half minutes to get here, I was still able to get 1st place! ...even if it was out of pity.

==================

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The third practice course covers some standard powerups.

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The Forest Speedup, as its name implies, increases your speed while running through the forest! In other words, while it's active, you won't slow down in the trees.

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Likewise, the Sand Speedup has the same effect for sand!

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Naturally, there's a Swamp Speedup as well which not only prevents your speed from decreasing in swampy terrain, but also protects you from drowning!

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Lastly, we have Lapras who you can ride on to travel over water! Just be careful not to miss and accidentally fall in the water or you'll lose quite a bit of time!

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And there's the end of the 3rd race!

=================

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In Practice race 4, we finally get to see the feature this game seems most proud of: The Hot-Air Balloon!

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By collecting balloons from Diglet, you can use them to float upwards into a hot-air balloon!

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From here, you'll fly high over the land from where you can look down and see a bird's eye view of the course. When in the Hot-air balloon, the top screen will turn into a radar which shows what your target checkpoint is and what its surrounding environment looks like.

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You'll need to scan the environment below until you find the checkpoint you're looking for and then skydive down and try to land as close to the checkpoint as possible! Pay attention to its surroundings as well, because you might need to run straight for another balloon immediately after!

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After hopping from island to island using balloons, this course ended with significantly less humility.

==================

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And now for the 5th and final practice course!

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If Pikachu is diving from a balloon, he can't land in a forest! If you're about to fall into one on accident, the game will try to alert you with a big warning sign!

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If you can't get to safe ground in time, you'll end up losing a lot of time as Pikachu has to rise all the way back up into the air and dive all the way back down again. In this case, you need to make sure to land in the patch of green grass south of the checkpoint, then race through the trees to get to it rather than just landing right on it like normal.

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One interesting addition here is that you can pop Pikachu's balloons by tapping on them with the stylus. Pikachu will fall faster with each balloon that gets popped, but this will also restrict the amount of terrain he can land on without getting stunned.

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Pay attention to where you're landing! If you pop your balloons over solid rock, it's not going to end well.

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With a little bit more to go, I finished the final race!

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And now, for completing Practice mode, I can actually play the game!

===============

Yeah, so this game is definitely really awkward to play with just my touchpad, so I'll definitely be switching over to android for the next post and seeing how well that turns out. I don't think it'll be remotely possible to win some of these races if I only have a touchpad to use.

So, next time, let's take a look at what this RegularGP is like! 

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Alright, so I decided to return to RetroArch and was able to make this game actually playable! Thankfully, after playing the tutorial, I'm pretty confident that you don't actually need to press any buttons at all except to skip the intro, so I can simply leave the overlay on to skip the intro and then turn it off before getting into actual gameplay. A downside to playing on RetroArch, however, is that I'll be relying on using screenshots from my phone rather than through the emulator, so you're going to have to deal with an unfortunate black space at the bottom of the screen. That's just what the screen looks like while I'm playing without an overlay.

Anyway, looking at what I can see of the menus so far, it's looking like this game has three different grand prix, each with five cups containing five courses each. Looking online, it seems that the other grand prix might be the same courses but with different opponents or slightly different rules. I'll definitely take a look at them when we unlock them in order to see whether or not it'll be worth playing through each cup in each grand prix. In addition to the three grand prix, there also appear to be two more modes I've yet to unlock, which I'll also take a look at before we're done.

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In the Regular GP, the only cup we have access to start with is the Green Cup! I believe in order to unlock the next cup, you have to get at least 3rd place in the previous one. So, it looks like there's quite a lot of room for error!

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Green Cup -- Course 1: Green Fields

When we start up our first course, Green Fields, we meet with our opponents in this Grand Prix: Bulbasaur, Teddiursa, Munchlax, Torchic, and Meowth.

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At the end of the race, Pikachu will float off in a balloon, your time will be recorded, and points will be distributed based on your placement. 1st place gets 8, 2nd gets 5, 3rd gets 3, and so on. If you've played any given racing game you're probably familiar with this system.

This first course was pretty standard as you'd probably expect. Just a simple series of straight lines across pavement from checkpoint to checkpoint. Some of the checkpoints actually are a bit off the path, though, so in those cases it may be faster to cut some corners. By doing so, I was able to get a pretty solid lead on the competition! Of course, this is only the very first course of the cup. We can't expect the whole game to be like this!

===================

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Green Cup -- Course 2: Running Through

This course was somewhat similar to the first, though this one features more open grass and some moments where you can use forest speedups to help save some time. As it turns out, making a beeline straight for the next checkpoint isn't necessarily the fastest option. Sometimes with a bit of a detour, you might find a helpful item that'll save some time in the end. Unfortunately, near the end I ended up committing a bit too hard to one of the forest speedups and ended up missing it, which costed me first place as Meowth was able to get to the final checkpoint just before me!

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With this, Meowth and I were now tied at 13 points. I should probably mention that you won't be seeing many screenshots during the actual races because every time I take a screenshot, I have to press the volume and lock button on my phone which pauses the game until I tap again to save the screenshot. It's a little annoying but it's far better than having to rename a screenshot and playing this game with a mouse!

===============

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Green Cup -- Course 3: Beach Path

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This course features some more terrain that slows you down. Additionally, this is the first level real course where it's important to keep in mind that you have to go to the checkpoints in a specific order. Two checkpoints may be right next to each other, but you may not necessarily be visiting them both at the same time. Pay attention to where the arrows are pointing!

Somehow, Meowth must have ended up getting lost at some point in this race because, though he was rough competition for the first couple of races, he didn't even make the top three this time! This blunder allowed me to get a solid buffer on second place in the total standings.

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Green Cup -- Course 4: Footprint of Mankey

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This one was our first real race involving hot-air balloons! I ended up getting lost trying to find one of the checkpoints, which costed me a bit of time, but I was still able to get first place, so apparently I was able to save enough time elsewhere to get a solid enough lead. As always, you definitely want to make sure you pay attention to the land below, not just to look for your target checkpoint but to see if you can plan the fastest route to the nearest balloon or next checkpoint. You might be able to save a lot of time by taking a small detour for a powerup you saw from the sky! Also, remember that you can pop your balloons to land faster! You don't need any balloons to land safely in grass or sand. Just be extra careful not to land in the forest or water!

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Green Cup -- Course 5: Pikachu Island

This last race basically combines your knowledge of all previous races. It's all still pretty standard. Once again, it seems Meowth's fallen behind, guaranteeing me first place!

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We got first place, and Pikachu seems quite proud of his gold trophy! Just like on the title screen, you can pull on Pikachu's face on this screen to show off that beautiful new Nintendo DS tech!

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After finishing Green Cup for the first time, you'll unlock Time Attack where you can play any individual course and aim for a higher score. For getting at least 3rd place, you'll also unlock the next cup: The White Cup! This brings with it five more courses which we'll be taking on next time!

Now that we've finished a cup on RetroArch, I think next time I'll have a better understanding of where I want to take screenshots, so hopefully you'll see a more consistent format for these posts going forward.

I have to say this game is honestly a lot more fun than it seems most people give it credit for. Is it worth the full price? Probably not, but if you can get this game for cheap, it doesn't seem like a bad game by any means. If I had to guess, the game will probably start to get repetitive after a little bit, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It seems like a fun game to just pick up and play and I've already honestly had to stop myself from doing that a few times for the last couple days. It's honestly a little tough to stop myself from playing more than one cup. It's nice to be able to take a step back from all the hardcore planning and research from the main series and just enjoy a simple racing game. I do think I'm going to enjoy the next few days and I'm honestly not expecting this game to ever get super serious in terms of competition. But, only time will tell.

Next time, we'll move on to the second cup in the Regrular GP: The White Cup!

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While booting up the game, I figured I should take a screenshot of what the emulator looks like with the overlay I've been complaining about from the beginning of this game, just to show how intrusive it is to actual gameplay while it's active. If my finger so much as slides over any of the buttons on top of the touch screen, the button gets pressed, and that includes the quick menu buttons. The center one pauses the game and brings up a menu while the one on the right fast-forwards the game. The one on the left isn't so bad, it just changes the D-pad to a Circle Pad. But still, in a game entirely controlled by swiping in a variety of directions, youd efinitely don't want all these buttons clouding up your bottom screen. Since these buttons are all useless to me anyway, I'm just playing with the overlay off. The only reason I was hesitant to do this before is that sometimes emulators have difficulty saving data. I like to use Save States to backup my real saves just in case there's a setting I'd missed somewhere in the emulator. But, if I can't access the menu from in gameplay, that's not an option. Thankfully, the game does indeed autosave and the emulator has no problem keeping progress stored, so we have nothing to worry about in that department!

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Now then, last time we finished the Green Cup in 1st place and unlocked the White Cup! So today, we'll naturally be moving on to the five courses there!

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White Cup -- Course 1: White Snow Land

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This course starts out in a icy wasteland as its name implies. This ice wasn't covered prominently in the tutorial, but by now you can probably guess that it functions just like sand and comes with its own ice speedup powerup!

I will say that this course definitely starts to up the difficulty! It's not nearly as straight to the point as the other games. You really have to practice your pathfinding skills and sometimes have to weigh your options of which powerups to collect. It might look like you want a snow speedup, but the next checkpoint might be in the middle of a sea of trees. You're going to end up running through a much wider variety of terrain now. You also have to start making decisions as to whether or not you want to use the balloon for each checkpoint. Previously, if you saw a balloon near a checkpoint, you could simply assume the next checkpoint would require the use of the balloon. But here, you can sometimes collect balloons even though the next couple of checkpoints are right next to each other. Try to pay attention to how far away the next checkpoint is by the color of the arrow. If it's green, the next checkpoint is far away and you'll definitely save time using the balloon. But, if it's red or yellow, you might only waste time by hopping into the balloon.

That said, the checkpoint might still be nearby and require the use of the balloon. It might be on an island nearby. Sometimes if you can't find an immediate path to the checkpoint, you're best off just using your balloon. Because of this, I generally recommend trying to hold onto a balloon as long as you can. There doesn't seem to be a time limit on it. Of course, when using a balloon, keep in mind how many balloons you need to land on which surfaces. Hard surfaces like stone require two balloons to land safely, softer terrain like grass requires one balloon, and sand doesn't require any balloons. Pop your balloons where it's viable to save some time on your descent!

One more additional challenge is that, here, the world below is full of a lot of similar-looking geometry, so it's a little bit harder to locate the next checkpoint. Pay attention to which direction the arrow was pointing before you go into the air! And try to memorize the layout of the land below so that you can plan out your path to collect the best powerups!

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I definitely made quite a few blunders, but thankfully there's some room for error. I was still able to get first place with a decent buffer on second.

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White Cup -- Course 2: Trial Swamp

Course 2 was once again pretty similar to Course 1, this time swamps are thrown into the mix. Watch for arrow patterns in the stone to show you where the best places to cut through are and use powerups to cross the swamp more efficiently wherever possible!

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I was able to get first place once again, though there was some awkwardness where I wound up straying too far from the main path and getting a bit lost in an open field. This costed me a large portion of my buffer on second place and it's sloppy gameplay I imagine I'll need to work on in order to clear the later levels!

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White Cup -- Course 2: Lake of Mystery

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This course is where things start to get particularly tricky with diving! You'll have to pay extra care when diving. Normally, you can just dive right onto or near the checkpoint. However, this one actually caught me completely off guard: It's located on an entire island of trees! In order to get to it, you'll have to scan the nearby area to find a Lapras and sail to the island!

My blunder with trying to land on the island actually costed my lead for a little bit.

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Thankfully, I was able to overtake Meowth by stealing a lapras from him. If you get to a Lapras first, another Lapras will spawn in its original location for other racers, but it'll take a few moments which means the first person to get to it gets a headstart over you.

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Once again, I got first place! Though my buffer seems to be getting smaller and smaller. Things might start getting tough sooner than I expect.

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White Cup -- Course 4: Cracked Plains

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This course is full of all kinds of mix and matched terrain. Try to run in terrain you have powerups for and make beelines for nearby ones. Once again, try to memorize the path below while using balloons and see if you can anticipate where you'll go next. Try to plan the powerups you get accordingly. Sometimes you might need to pass up on some in order to keep a powerup you'll need for a longer stretch a bit further.

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First place again! At this point, with one more course, it's actually impossible to get anything but 1st place, even if I get last place. Because I have more than an eight point lead over Meowth who is second place overall. Just some typical racing game knowledge you get from playing Mario Kart throughout your childhood!

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White Cup -- Course 5: Luvdisc Island

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These courses are definitely getting longer! Once again, this final course combines your knowledge gained from the previous courses. Try to put it all together and watch for forest islands!

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For winning first place overall, I'm awarded with a gold trophy for the White Cup!

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And now, since we got at least third place in White Cup, we've unlocked the Blue Cup along with the next five courses! This game is already showing an extra layer of complexity I honestly wasn't expecting from the reviews of this game I've seen in the past, so I'm genuinely interested in seeing how this game continues to shake things up going forward!

Next time: We do just that by taking a look at the Blue Cup!

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And we're back again with yet another cup! I'm gonna be honest, what you see at this point is kinda what you get with this game. There doesn't seem to be much more to talk about with this game, so I'm sorry if these posts are starting to seem a little redundant. That's not to say the game's boring, just that it's not exactly the deepest game you'll ever see.

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Blue Cup -- Course 1: Zigzag Road

Just as the tagline suggests, this is a level filled with zig-zagging paths that wind their way through rough terrain. You'll want to watch your radar for powerups that can help you run quickly through the terrain to create shortcuts allowing you to run straight to the checkpoint. Make sure you collect the right pads and avoid the wrong ones!

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Torchic wound up getting 2nd here, I lost a bit of time by accidentally collecting some of the powerups that were placed as obstacles.

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Blue Cup -- Course 2: Steering Stream

Much like before, but this time you'll often be presented with choices of two powerups. One might seem like the wrong choice in the moment, but save you some time in the long run.

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I got first place by quite a margin even though it honestly felt like I was playing pretty badly. I won't complain, though!

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Blue Cup -- Course 3: Mud Plateau

The game definitely warns you about the mud, but not so much about the need for Lapras. Keep an eye on where they are or you might end up having to go searching! The name also alludes to the presence of a pleateau which is indeed here. I believe this is the first instance of a cliff which basically functions the same as cliffs in the main-series titles. You can drop down from above but can't climb them. You'll need to find a way around the cliff in order to get on the other side Lapras or a Balloon might be able to help with that!

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I lost a lot of time here after getting stranded without a balloon because I'd accidentally misused one. Accidents happen, but there's a lot of room for error in this game so far!

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Blue Cup -- Course 4: Star Lake

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This one went a lot more smoothly. Just remember to keep an eye on Lapras wherever you can! It can often save a lot more time to use Lapras than a balloon.

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Blue Cup -- Course 5: Jirachi Mountain

As always, the final cup is a mixture of knowledge from the previous courses. And look at that: The final checkpoint is located on an island shaped like Jirachi! Not much of a mountain, I'll admit, but there it is!

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Once again, not too much trouble at all!

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And of course, after getting first in the Blue Cup, I've obtained my third Gold Trophy!

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And now, the Yellow Cup has been unlocked with yet 5 more levels! There's just two more of these and then we can take a look at what the rest of the game has in store! Next time, we'll be moving on to the Yellow Cup!

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Once again we're back with yet another cup in the Regular GP! Today we'll be taking a look at the Yellow Cup and, this time, I decided I'd make a bit more of a conscious effort to include screenshots in the middle of races rather than just the beginning or end. I figured it might help me more accurately recall the details and struggles of each course. It does put me at a moderate disadvantage, but it's really not going to matter for more than maybe a second at most of my time.

I can definitely say, however, that the Yellow Cup here is where these GPs actually start to get rather tough. I actually found myself a bit nervous about my placement more than a couple times and even failed to get first place for the first time in one! I can't overstate the importance of memorizing the layout of the ground from above because this is where the game starts to punish you pretty hard for not paying attention.

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Yellow Cup -- Course 1: Smeargle's Mark

This course is an an archipelago of islands which you'll need to travel between using Lapras and Balloons. Don't rely too much on the balloons because you might end up having to actually move further away than you'd like to get to a densely forested island and some of the checkpoints are even on the surface of the water! The nearest Lapras or balloon might be really far away from the closest landing spot. I'd say only use balloons if there just isn't a Lapras immediately nearby. Otherwise, go for the Lapras as surfing over the water is a pretty quick way to get around, and gives you a lot more freedom of movement in the open seas!

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Overall, this first course wasn't anything too bad, though there were some hiccups where I got caught with my pants down on more than one occasion after taking flight only to find there's nowhere convenient to land. Definitely could've had a cleaner time, but you can't complain too much about first place!

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Yellow Cup -- Course 2: Lava Island

And here we're introduced to yet another new type of terrain that we've yet to see: Lava. Like Water, you want to steer clear of lava unless you have the appropriate powerup. In this case, a lava speedup which will make you immune to the effects of lava and allow you to run quickly on top of it to boot. If you touch the lava without this speedup, Pikachu will bounce slightly into the air and, if he lands back in the lava, he'll drown with the same effect as water, wasting an incredible amount of time. Even just getting popped into the air can waste a lot of time on its own, so you definitely want to be careful when exploring the lava's edge!

This level also subtly introduces a rock speedup which functions exactly how you'd expect it to: it allows you to run faster on rocky terrain and stone paths.

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This course was fairly simple as it was more of a tutorial for lava. Still, there were some trickier aspects expecting you to be experienced with the game's other mechanics. For example, I did end up getting fooled by a lookalike checkpoint. Pay close attention to the details on the radar when diving from the sky!

I should also note that this stage is almost entirely covered in rock. This means that you can't pop any balloons to increase the speed of your descent without crashing into the ground. That said, slowly drifting down from the height of your dive takes a massive amount of time and I'm pretty confident you're still going to save time by just popping both of your balloons and rubbing your screen to get Pikachu to wake up than landing carefully. You can call it pokemon abuse, but I have a trophy to win, dammit!

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Yellow Cup -- Course 3: Glacier Island

Just look at this mess of a map from the overhead view! This, I'd say, is the first map that really punishes you for not paying close attention to the terrain while flying. If you don't memorize the way to go, you'll end up falling down one-way cliffs and having to use a balloon to get back up to the top of the mountain. There are narrow paths galore and it's hard to control Pikachu precisely in this game, so it's pretty likely you'll fall off a couple times here. I fyou do, though, there are balloons near the choke points, so you won't be penalized too terribly much, but the time it takes to float into the air and drop back down can hurt you pretty badly. You also want to pay attention to what way the ledges are going. You won't want to dive down on the wrong side and have to go out of your way to find another balloon!

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Yes, this race was my first time failing to get first place in a race. I got stuck in third! This was due to a number of screwups, mostly involving my failure to map out the area below in my head. There was a lot of dropping down the wrong ledges. Big time losses everywhere! Not my proudest race.

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Yellow Cup -- Course 4: Sand Island

Yet another "pick a powerup" level. This time complete with more prominent use of balloons and laprases! Try to take advantage of the fact that you can land safely in sand even after popping both of your balloons. Try to drop into the edge of the sand and then run onto a nearby path or grassy area on your way to the next checkpoint. As always, pay attention to the terrain below when in the air and try to go out of your way for the appropriate powerups, but don't commit too hard, because sometimes a powerup might not be as useful as it seems. Knowing how far out of your way to go for a powerup seems to be a key part of getting good at this game!

This level ended up netting me another rather large time loss. I recall a point where I saw a Lapras on my radar and tried to make my way through a field of sand without a sand speedup, only to find that I couldn't find the Lapras anywhere because it was actually on a small island just offscreen. I had to instead waste further time going all the way around to a balloon. This happens a lot on this map, a Lapras may appear close on your radar, but actually there's a body of water separating you from it, so you actually need to use a balloon to get to it.

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In spite of my embarrassing time losses, I seem to have been able to make up for it and still claim first place! Which is good, because, had I lost first place to Meowth, he would've taken the lead in the overall standings thanks to my blunder in Course 3!

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Yellow Cup -- Course 5: Pallet Island

Once again, we've got a course that's a conglomeration of the other courses' focuses. The lava part of this course even features checkpoints on the lava's surface, requiring the use of Lava Speedups! You definitely want to pay attention from the sky or you'll waste a lot of time here!

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Thankfully, I was able to make it to the end and claim first place in spit of some further blunders, but this allowed me to secure my lead!

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And with that, I was able to complete the Yellow Cup!

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We've now unlocked the final five courses through the Red Cup! With how many mistakes I'd made in Yellow Cup, I'm honestly a little bit worried about how Red Cup will work out for me. However, I've yet to drop below first place in overall rankings in this game, so I'm not too terribly worried just yet. Still, that banner shows off some rather treacherous-looking terrain which admittedly doesn't look very fun to navigate under pressure. But, who knows? Next time, we'll see just how it goes in the Red Cup!

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