Hello, Geekly fans! Welcome to a new feature, where a newlywed couple play Pokémon and blog about it. Christina Ladd and I recently acquired copies of Pokémon X and Y (those classic digital representations of the artificial gender binary), and we wanted to invite you all to join us as we discover a new Pokémon world. In our pre-Geekly lives, we played through Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby (those classic digital representations of Christocentric hegemony). But now that a great friend has given us a new New 3DS as a wedding present, we can finally play together without risking divorce over who gets to use the system.
True love, I tell you.
So, each installment from now until we’re done, we’ll post an illustrated diary of our exploits. Harry will focus a bit more on narration, and Christina a bit more on sass. We’ll especially highlight the differences in our journeys—the different starters we choose, the different Pokémon we can catch, and the different ways our adventures play out as a result. Going long, we’ll have periodic battles with each other. You know, for gender binary supremacy and whatnot.
As a note at the outset, I’d like to say we’re sorry for the suspect image quality—hacking 3DS consoles to capture images is very expensive, and unlike most 3DS titles, the Miiverse Pokémon communities don’t allow posting in-game screen captures. Way to turn your flagship series into a social media phenomenon, Nintendo.
Now, our Pokémon adventure is about to begin!
Harry (Pokémon Y)
Fun fact: the Pokémon animé has been on the air for more than seventeen years. Also, I am a thousand years old and want to cry.
Instead, I swallow tears and set about recapturing my youth.
Pokémon X/Y takes place in the Kalos region, a place where people are so unbelievably fashionable they wear their sunglasses on their hats. These trainers. you’ll note, are dead ringers for Christina and me (please consult photographic evidence above).
As ever, you are introduced to the world of Pokémon by a professor named after a tree—Sycamore, in this game—who introduces the idea of Pokémon and walks you through the character creation process. He immediately starts in with the tough questions.
Prof, this is Pokémon Y I’m playing. Boy or bust!
Pokémon X and Y also offer some minor avatar selection, which I thought was pretty neat. They’re all sort of generic animé faces, but it’s nice to have the ability to pick a face that at least kind of resembles your own.
Face #1 looks like Ouran High School Host Club‘s Tamaki Suoh, and let me tell you, I am so in for that I don’t even know where to start.
I know you heard me, Prof, you rascal. But I understand. Staring into these deep blue eyes, who wouldn’t forget?
My journey starts humbly: I wake up in my pajamas, in my new room in my new house in Vaniville Town, where I’ve recently moved with my mom. There’s someone asking for me at the door. But first, priorities: I have to get dressed and admire the view.
Waiting for me outside are my new neighbors, Shuana and Serena. Why hello, ladies. Senpai has arrived.
They’ve come to get me on behalf of Professor Sycamore, who needs us all to help with a Pokémon project. Serena remarks that it’s strange that the Prof should know who I am, given that I just moved to town. Is that what you think, Serena? I guess we’re sworn enemies, then.
They take off down the road to the next town—which is literally, as we’ll see, right down the road—but I take a moment to explore my new hometown before I follow after.
The locals are apparently not good with creepy innuendo, which will be a running theme through the game. Other exchanges reveal the ways the Pokémon world differs from our own—keeping children under lock and key, for example.
Fortunately, I am no small child, and will walk through the tall grass without fear. I hold my head high and set out from Vaniville Town on the road to adventure—the road to my Pokémon destiny.
That archway down there? Yes, that is the next town, 100 yards away. I’ll be honest, this is a bit less epic of a start than I was hoping for.
A minute later I’m in Aquacorde town, where my friends have gathered at a café to talk about the mission Professor Sycamore has for us. There are a few new faces—Trevor, a fastidious kid who’s keen on completing the Pokédex. and Tierno, who’s big and friendly and obsessed with dancing. Serena and Shuana have already met the group.
By way of making pals, they ask me to pick a nickname for myself. Their choices (“S-Meister!” “Big S!”) aren’t the greatest.
The gang explains that the Professor would like us to have a Pokémon adventure, and that it would be great if we could use our Pokédexes, provided free of charge, to find out more about the Pokémon that inhabit the Kalos region as we go. Sending out unpaid minors to roam around the country collecting data doesn’t seem like it would pass a review board, but this is the way every game works; maybe the Pokémon world is especially stingy when it comes to scientific funding, and all the Professors are just carrying on the best they can. Since tall grass is the bane of free movement in the Pokémon world, the Prof. has sent along some starter Pokémon that Shuana, Serena, and I can pick from.
Pokemon XY offers the traditional choice of Grass-, Fire-, or Water-type Pokémon. Our options here are Chespin, a hedgehog who turns into a knight; Fennekin, a fox who turns into a shrine maiden; and Froakie, a frog who looks like he’s curious about when tea-time is happening. (He eventually turns into a murderous ninja who uses his tongue as a scarf, which is nasty, and frankly I get enough of that shit in Smash Bros. anyway.)
I can’t say no to a knight in shining armor. A noble defender, stalwart and strong, to protect me from all foes?
Uh…. Hopefully this works out a little better for Chespin.
I name my Chespin Duncan, a fine name for a hedge(hog) knight. Before we get started on the adventure, I have to check with my mother. On the way out of town to get my permission slip signed, Shuana challenges me to my first battle.
Back at home, I hand the Professor’s letter over to mom, who immediately makes things awkward.
She wishes me well, my family’s pet Rhyhorn harrumphs at me on the way out the door, and I’m finally off on my Pokémon journey. I grind a few levels, but I don’t have as much patience for it as Christina does. I also don’t bother to catch much of the local wildlife—I prefer to catch and train only Pokémon I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with for a while.
On the other side of Aquacorde Town, just steps from Santalune Forest, I get the traditional Pokéball tutorial. Serena show’s how it’s done, snagging a Pidgey. Shuana is dumbfounded—not at the curious fact that Pokémon you assault and kidnap spontaneously become your friends, but the fact that Pokémon live inside Pokéballs (and, later, PC servers). I’ll be the first to agree this is weird, but come on, Shuana. You already have a Pokémon that was inside a Pokéball in a box when you picked it up.
Steps afterward I am challenged by my first trainer in the wild—Youngster Austin! Step one on your journey: defeat a small child. Austin commands the mighty Zigzagoon, but Duncan is more than up to the task. “You should have told me you were THAT strong!” Austin whines. I take his lunch money (120).
With that, Duncan and I stride forward into the shady Santalune Forest. More on that next week, Pokéchill fans!
What a coincidence, Professor Sycamore also starts my game by stating the obvious (gee wiz, we live in a world with pokemon? How could I have missed that for 12 years?) and yet being chronically unaware of the person standing before him. I decided to play as Daenerys Targaryen.
But, because this is still a Japanese game, I chose the name May Kasahara. Ten million points to anyone who gets this reference. I am also a devoted mirror-gazer, but I managed to go outside long enough to meet my rival, who’s a boy named Calem. X and Y are really pushing this whole gender thing rivalry thing, we didn’t just make it up. I can’t believe you can no longer name your rival. Mine would have been Noboru Wataya, which again, ten million points if you get that. But Calem is close to my ex-boyfriend’s name, so watch me live my best life now by beating him at every opportunity. Especially since beating him means setting everything he loves on fire.
Anyway, Douchey McRivalpants and some others meet up with me at a cafe, and they decide that I need a nickname. This is one of those places where culture doesn’t translate as well as language. Yes, little boy, in American you can nickname someone you just met. What a magical land of informality and poor impulse control!
We eventually get down to brass tacks and all pick our pokemon. I immediately began hyperventilation. I hate these choices. I never had anyone to trade with growing up. I mean, okay, I did, but my brother and I were so tightfisted that we were never willing to give away pokemon. That’s why I married a man who would finally trade pokemon with me. Love really is beautiful.
Tragic childhood aside, I chose Fennekin, but I was extremely tempted by Froakie, who is marginally more adorable. Fun fact: as with every Pokemon game, I will eventually have a team made up of the cutest and likely pinkest pokemon there are. Igglybuff, I’m coming for you.
I head off with Rei-kun–so named because it was going to be Rei-chan, after Sailor Mars:
–but somebody decided to make her male, so -kun it is (I know -chan is gender neutral, but I was annoyed). Then I immediately start level grinding.
Look, there are some things I’m just good at. Patient level-grinding is one of them. In the original, I prided myself on never once using repel. I haven’t so far in this game, either.
Little did I–or the game designers, probably–realize, but there’s a patch of grass you can use to level and catch pokemon in before you get to the official pokemon-catching tutorial. So it was only after I was ready to move on that I ran into Rival O’Pubes, who mansplained using pokeballs to a woman who had just caught six.
Farts Buttsson aside, this is the first place where Harry and I begin to differ. He catches few pokemon and concentrates on his team, while I take the pokedex mandate seriously–or fall victim to the “Gotta Catch ’em All!” marketing device, whichever way you want to look at it. But hey, I forgot that you get XP in these games now for catching pokemon as well as defeating them, so it evens out.
It’s not as if many of the early pokemon are much help anyway. There’s your usual cast of weaker and low-level pokemon, including Pidgey, one of my old standbys, and some new friends whom I’ll be releasing once I level them to their final forms.
Overall my impressions of this game are good so far. It’s not deviating from the standard pokemon formula in any terribly significant way, but who cares? That’s what we wanted anyway, and it’s a different enough adventure to still be fun.
Harry & Christina
Thus ends our first pokemon adventure as a married couple. We’ve enjoyed pretending to be people we’re not in a world where it’s acceptable to send pre-teens on months-long journeys and force them to solve all differences with pit-fighting animals that can regularly do more damage than natural or industrial disasters. As for accepting rare animal specimens as the only payment for research services, and being forced to compete with multiple rivals for minimal funding, well, we’ve been grad students. We already knew what that was like. So in a way, this journey is a metaphor for our marriage. We just keep going along, collecting cute things, learning and gaining experience–and eventually we’ll battle each other for supremacy over the continent and all the animals therein.