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Drayden wanted to speak to me about DNA Splicers or something like that. Unfortunately it seemed Team Plasma wanted to interrupt us. With a freaking flying boat with an ice cannon. I mean, seriously? They just had to be all cool about it... sorry about that. Anyway, they pretty much blasted Opelucid with ice and then decided to hang around I guess. So me and Drayden beat them up. We managed to drive them off before they could get their hands on the DNA Splicers. But Drayden, eternal doofus that he is, took them out of their secure hiding place and let the Shadow Triad steal them. We tried to give chase, but one of them held me up while the others escaped.

Cheren and hugh popped up and we agreed that we had to do something. Drayden suggested heading for Humilau City. Cheren and Hugh rushed off so I used fly to head to Undella Town.

Deciding to get some more training in, I headed into Undella Bay and surfed on my Jellicent in order to battle the trainers therein. After a short while I found my way to a cave. Hugh buzzed me on the transceiver and pondered why I was taking the long way around. I didn't even know the Marine Tube was open again, but oh well these world perils have a tendency to wait until the hero is ready to tackle them anyway.

Some black belt guy was blocking the entrance, but smashing all his pokemon aside convinced him to move. Still, the inside of the cave wasn't quite as interesting as I had hoped. There was quite a few pokemon around and some trainers of course, but nothing quite like interesting puzzles or challenges to deal with. Still, it wasn't exactly boring either so it was fine to connect me to route 22.

That route was pretty short. The rocks made it tricky to navigate and the trainers bizarrely blocking some of the openings made things more tricky. Eventually though I made my way to Humilau City.

Hugh was waiting for me, but as per typical declared that searching for Team Plasma could wait until I defeated the local gym leader. Um, OK, whatever. Oddly the gym leader wasn't even at the gym and was off swimming somewhere. I took a quick look around only for Marlon himself to pop up, chatted a bit and then dashed to the gym to wait for me.

The gym was interesting, as it involved using lilypads to cross the water. It required a bit of thinking but naturally I was able to figure things out. I defeated the various trainers I came across and made my way to Marlon at the end.

I sent out my Ampharos to deal with his first pokemon Carracosta. Though its sturdy ability saved it from an immediate KO from Discharge, it couldn't do enough damage to my pokemon to prevent the followup attack. I decided not to mess around too much though and brought in Haxorus to clean up. I opted for perform a couple of dragon dances while Marlon's Wailord pointlessly boosted its special defence before sweeping through both it and his Jellicent with some rather powerful dragon claws. I muts say I'm very surprised that a gym leader this late into my journey is only opting for three pokemon, but there you go. Another gym badge was mine and Marlon soon left.

Guess I better go see what Hugh wants now.

Current location: Humilau City
Current team: Emboar (Lv50), Ampharos (Lv51), Krookodile (Lv49), Braviary (Lv51), Haxorus (Lv50), Jellicent (Lv52).

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So apparently the route just north of Mistralton has narrow beams you can walk along to avoid the grass. Pfft, like I was wimpy enough to avoid the grass. I plowed through there like a beast. I fought all sorts of trainers and found another guy wanting a trade for a pokemon I didn't have. At another house I got told the story of these pokemon that causes a ruckus and another one had to teach them a lesson. I got them registered in my pokedex too, which was cool I guess.

Anyway, I reached the tower and got Juniper to head back to town. I was supposed to head back myself but I couldn't resist checking out the place. There were a lot of candle ghosts that's for certain and trainers begging me to beat up their pokemon. I got to the top of the tower and rang the bell. ...nothing. Huh, I was kinda expecting something if it gave me the option to ring it. A little dejected I left.

As I explored some more I wasn't allowed in the nearby mountain entrance. Seems it had collapsed or something like that. Shame. I headed back towards Mistralton. On the way I ended up catching an Emolga and remembered that the guy from before wanted it in a trade. Like I had any use for the flying rat anyway. I quickly put Emolga in my team and went back to the guy to trade for his pokemon. Not that I intended to use his Gigalith either, but another pokedex entry is fine by me.

Skyla and Juniper were going to set off for another town and I decided to hitch a ride. So did Stalker-chan. It was a swift ride and soon I was in the town of Lentimas. The town itself didn't seem to offer a whole lot but then it did seem buried in the middle of a mountain range. Whatever possessed people to build a town here?

I was asked to head seek out Drayfus in order to find out more about the legendary dragon pokemon and why this Team Plasma seem to think they can get their hands on it. Since he's a gym leader I guess it doesn't take me out of my way so I agree to do so. First thing to do though is find the route out of here.

I start exploring east of the town, passing by one path and winding up by a strange house. Curious I decided to have a look inside. What I found surprised me, as the furniture seemed to move around when I wasn't looking. I'd explore one room and find everything moved about when I left. Things got spooky too, and not just because of the Litwick wandering around. A ghost of a girl appeared several times in fleeting moments. Eventually I was able to find a lunar wing to add to my collection of items. As I did so that ghost girl appeared to me and spoke about some pokemon she was trying to reach and wanted me to do it. Looks like I have another goal to work towards. I could hardly decline, since I felt that something tragic must have happened.

I took my leave of the house, rounded the corner and headed into Reverse Mountain. There I found Stalker-chan, who finally decided to stop this charade and asked if I'd accompany her through the mountain. Well, she offered to heal our pokemon after every fight so I took her up on the offer. We explored a little and, not far in, she exclaimed that the place she wanted to investigate was further down a passage we had come across.

The place was a bit of a maze but we worked our way through it. Taking advantage of Stalker-chan's healing I levelled my team, getting my dark croc to evolve into Krookodile. In the middle of the place we found a path leading further down. At the bottom was a small cavern with a place that looked like it should house something. Nothing was there though and Bianca also seemed a little disappointed. We continued to work our way through the place but, aside from some other trainers and a mountain of wild pokemon to beat up, we found little else.

Stalker-chan opted to stay in the place for a while longer, but I'd had enough and exited into Undella Town. It was an interesting little resort, but what really caught my attention was the words of a NPC that mentioned Jellicent sometimes wandered into the bay. I knew what Jellicent were and instantly thought that one would make an ideal sixth member for my team. Eagerly I commanded Herdier to take us into the waters and we surfed around. Eventually a Frillish appeared before us. OK, the pre evo would work nicely too. I set my team to work, although with it being part ghost type I couldn't rely on false swipe to weaken it. Fortunately, my team worked well and a new pokemon was captured. I rushed to the pokemon centre, healed my team and then finally switched out my long serving Herdier with the new Frillish.

Slight problem here. Frillish was about 10 or so levels behind the rest of the team. Thankfully I did get a lucky egg from Juniper before and that mountain place was full of pokemon weak to water. I headed back there to do some training in order to get my pokemon caught up. It did so much catching up that it evolved into Jellicent upon gaining the last level I wanted. Sweet.

I healed up once more and then headed north. Before I even set foot through the connecting gate though Hugh appeared (from where I have not a clue) and challenged me to a battle. Sadly it wasn't much of a battle. He only had three pokemon on him and none of them proved particularly challenging so I pretty much wiped the floor with his team. He mentioned something about how strong we were (well, half of that was right at least) and left.

I continued north as I had wanted to before. More trainers appeared to challenge me and all fell before my might. I was on a roll here. I explored around some and collected some loot for my troubles.

Route 13 stood before me and proved to offer a few areas to visit. I explored the place, making good use of HM moves to uncover all sorts of things. Some of the loot I was able to collect looked quite useful too.

What surprised me was what awaited near the end of this route. For some reason a pokemon simply waited in a clearing, almost as if it were waiting for me. This pokemon, Cobalion, looked like it wanted to be caught, so naturally I engaged it in battle. Things looked to be a little tricky when I noted it resisted false swipe, but I managed to work its health down low and, coupled with paralysis, caught it in a few attempts. Into the PC box forever it goes and on my way I went.

I soon arrived in Lacunosa Town. I had wanted to head to the pokemon center, but Juniper and Stalker-chan appeared and dragged me to some old woman's house to hear about the legend of some pokemon on a meteorite and other such stuff. After that I was finally allowed to heal my team at the center and then had a good look around. During my explorations I bumped into Hugh again and we ended up in a team battle against Team Plasma again. The Zinzolin dude looked important but we beat them anyway, only for them to flee once more. Oh well. There was nothing else too interesting around so I decided to head on. I had to get to my next gym match after all.

Route 12 was pretty short and simply offered a few items and trainers so I swiftly moved onto Village Bridge. I must say, seeing a village built atop a bridge is an odd sight but the people seemed to like it. One of the residents let me team rest up too which was handy. After our rest we went on to stomp all the trainers around there. One poor guy was on such a large winning streak before I went and ruined it. Sucks to be him.

Onward to Route 11 then. I was making some good progress here and I continued to make short work of the trainers here. This was another short route but just before I exited another pokemon appeared before me. This Virizion seemed related to that other pokemon so naturally I opted to catch. Oh boy did this one put up a fight though. Despite inflicting paralysis and keeping its HP down to 1, it managed to make me burn through over 30 ultra balls and a couple of timer balls before it finally lost the will to fight on and let itself be caught. Perhaps trying to catch it at night with dusk balls might have been easier, but at least I got it now. To be boxed forever.

I had finally arrived in Opelucid City. I explored around a bit after healing at the pokemon center and soon found the gym. Stepping inside, I was taken aback at the sheer scale of the place. Dragon statues with one as high as I could just about see. Amazing. Still, I had no time to be struck dumb in awe. I had a gym challenge to mount.

The "puzzle" this time was a bit odd. I simply had to defeat trainers which activated elevator switches on the white dragon statue. Can't say the way it moves is particularly safe. I'm amazed I didn't fall off. On the way my Fraxure managed to evolve into its final form, which was cool.

Eventually I faced off against Drayden. I decided to let my Haxorus flex its muscles in its new form. With a quick dragon dance to begin with, it subsequently managed to sweep through his entire team with ease. Even what effectively became a sort of mirror match against another Haxorus resulted in a one hit KO. Maybe using such a powerful pokemon gave me an edge, but Drayden was using dragon types too.

The seventh badge was finally mine. Drayden asked me to wait outside. Curious I headed to the exit.

Current location: Opelucid City
Current team: Emboar (Lv47), Ampharos (Lv47), Krookodile (Lv47), Braviary (Lv47), Haxorus (Lv49), Jellicent (Lv48).

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So I headed up along Route 6 eager to see what it held. A strange pokemon crossed paths with me and a couple of sagely guys popped up out of nowhere to talk about it before leaving. ...OK, whatever.

The pokemon on this route were largely uninteresting but as pure coincidence left several of them near death anyway I still opted to catch a few for my collection. Defeating more trainers was also on the agenda. On the way my Flaffy decided it was time to evolve into its final stage.

I met up with Cheren, who gave me the surf HM and encouraged me to explore as much as I could. Certainly I decided to do so, relying on my herdier to ferry me across the waters of the route. In addition to grabbing some items in areas otherwise inaccessible I also found an entrance to a cave.

The cave was dark, so I got my Ampharos to light the place up with flash. There were various trainers and pokemon to fight as I explored. Strangely there was one entranceway I couldn't go through because some guy stood there like a doofus and wouldn't budge an inch. I made my way up to the top of the cave, thinking of the various people that spoke of a legendary pokemon. At the top, in the farthest chamber, I found... nothing. *sigh* Oh well, I did get a useful TM and a Axew I caught looked good so I added it to my team.

So next stop was Chargestone Cave. My charming stalker Bianca appeared here too. "Research" she said. Of course. Kinda sad she didn't have a present this time though. Instead she just rattled on about how I can move floating stones. Anyway, I set about making my way through the cave. None of the pokemon appealed to me to fill the last spot though, but it was good training, especially when I found the doctor who was happy to heal my team after I defeated him. My Pignite even managed to evolve into Ganon Emboar.

It was kinda strange travelling through a cave with electricity and floating rocks, but it was also interesting. Other trainers challenged me here and I dealt with all sorts of electrical difficulties but nothing my elite team couldn't handle. I crossed paths with my stalker again shortly before the exit too.

So I was in Mistralton City, where I met Professor Juniper for the first time and the gym leader Skyla. Eventually I end up with a choice - do I get on with my gym challenge first or follow Professor Juniper to Celestial Tower?

Well, the gym was closer so I thought I'd head there first. Well, I healed my team at the pokemon center first and then headed for the gym. I must say, having the gym at the end of a plane runway was rather odd, but that was nothing compared to the interior. Seriously, her gym is set instead a freaking wind tunnel? Health and safety clearly mean absolutely nothing here. Still I couldn't let that put me off. I beat the trainers and skillfully dived from one hiding spot to the next. My Axew managed to evolve in here too, which did give me a little surprise. I know I gave a little favouritism to get him caught up with the rest of the team, but that was a lot of levels. Eventually I reach Skyla and the battle began.

Her Swoobat was met by my Krokorok. Though her pokemon put a good dent in my pokemon's health, the crunch sent back was more than enough to deal with the problem. I didn't fancy hanging around to see what that Swanna wanted to do though so I called in Ampharos. As it turned out this one was all I needed for the rest, easily taking out both Swanna and the followup Skarmory. Compared to Elesa and Clay, this fight felt like such a step down.

Oh well, I accepted my prizes from Skyla, who also made a request of me. She wanted me to go fetch Professor Juniper for her. Well, I was going to head for Celestial Tower anyway so I agreed. I headed to the pokemon center to heal up.

Current Location: Mistralton City.
Current Team: Emboar (Lv37), Ampharos (Lv37), Krokorok (Lv37), Braviary (Lv36), Fraxure (Lv38), Herdier (Lv21).

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Though I had skipped it earlier, I decided to head back to the Desert Resort just to see if anything worthwhile was there. There were certainly quite a few trainers to defeat and that was nice experience. A few scattered items were also added to my ever growing collection. Relic Castle was here but most of it had been buried by the sand so I didn't find much in there. The most notable thing in the resort was a couple of wild pokemon appearing with some kind of cool effect. They didn't look shiny in their colour but I decided to catch them anyway. With that done and nothing else of interest I headed back to Nimbasa. When I checked the pokemon I had caught I noticed that they had the trainer data of of trainer called N.

Alright, I didn't need those pokemon on my team so I headed to the northwest exit of the city. Along the way I bumped into Hugh and a bunch of Team Plasma grunts. Naturally I leapt into action to help Hugh clear them out and forced them to flee. When Hugh also left I continued onto the next route.

Bianca stopped me before I got too far and gave me a HM for Fly. Now that should be handy. She also introduced me to the concept of hidden grottos and led me into one. I decided to catch the pokemon in there too before leaving.

Just before the bridge there seemed to be a trainer itching for a fight. A big crowd had gathered making it impossible to get past. Instead of simply shoving everyone aside I opted to take on the guy Charles in a triple battle. It was an interesting fight, but obviously I was the better trainer. Though one of my pokemon fainted during the battle, I was able to defeat the whole team. After that everyone moved away, allowing me passage across the bridge and into Driftveil.

Shortly after entering I came across a pair of weird guys fighting. After chasing the aggressive one off the other one introduced himself as being part of Team Plasma. Well, former Team Plasma was more accurate. He invited me to visit where he was staying, where I got to meet some sagely guy. After a quick battle (which is practically like saying hello at times) they explained their situation; how they split from the other Team Plasma and dedicate themselves to caring for pokemon to make up for their previous misdeeds. The sage guy even asked if I would take care of the Zorua. Apparently though I needed an empty spot in my party.

I rushed to the pokemon center, made a free spot in my party and rushed back. When I got there a Zoroark was waiting for me and rushed towards me. What followed was a little hazy, but it seemed to be memories from another time. I saw members of Team Plasma talking about caring for pokemon or trying to make it big. Another guy who seemed to be the mysterious N character appeared after and spoke to himself about how others are working towards noble goals in their own way.

When the memory eneded the house was empty. Unnerved I exit and then re-entered and suddenly everyone was back. I went and claimed my Zorua (who would subsequently get boxed, of course). I checked around the town a bit before setting up my team and heading for the gym.

The gym involved lighting up dark areas and the use of lifts, mostly to get a better view of the surroundings. I dispatched the various trainers that were scattered about the place and explored every part of the gym. During the battles my Sandile evolved too. Eventually I stood face to face with Clay. I must admit, I was a tad worried, as out of my four core members two were weak to ground and I had nothing super effective against such a type. Nevertheless, I headed into battle.

Leading with my Braviary turned out to be a fortunate move, as my opponent's attempt to intimidate was met with a defiant attack boost. Thanks to that I was able to easily take out the Krokorok. When Clay wanted to try Excadrill I thought this would be an ideal chance for Pignite to storm through. I was sadly mistake, as my pokemon fell to a single bulldoze. I decided to bring out my own Krokorok. What followed was an exchange of attacks with metal claws and rock smashes (for lack of a decent ground move) flying back and forth. I admit to using healing items too, partly to counter Clay's own potion use. I managed to take out the opponent without abusing my healing supplies too much and had one last pokemon to deal with. With my pokemon hurt, I decided to bring Braviary back out. Sandslash went for Crush Claws, inflicting defence drops each time. Each one also activated Defiant, leading to a victory for me.

Clay gave me a badge for the victory and a useful TM. I thought that would be it, but Clay had something he wanted to show me. He led me outside where Hugh was, and together the three of us headed for the southern part of the place. Here I was introduced to the PWT (Pokemon World Tournament), a new attraction for Driftveil. I was invited, along with Hugh and Cheren who had popped up out of nowhere to participate. Sure, why not?

The tournament was different than usual battles as I was limited to three pokemon and could not use items from my bag. Not that it mattered that much. My Braviary was my lead pokemon once again and swept through both Hugh's and Cheren's teams by itself. When it came to the final though I found Colress to stand before me, and the guy led with Magneton. While I could have tried with rock smash, I decided instead to switch out for Krokorok. A wise decision that saved me from a thunder wave. A followup bulldoze and then a flame charge from Pignite sealed the deal. The following pokemon of his team were also dealt with using clever combinations of my team, like switching to Krokorok to negate a psybeam and allowing bulldoze to eliminate the final pokemon Klink.

Victorious we left the PWT facility. The place seemed like fun, but I really should focus on my current goal before returning. Outside a Team Plasma member dashed by. Hugh gave chase, and Cheren and I followed. We ended up on a boat that was apparently a base for these guys, resulting in a load of them popping up. Of course, they were kind enough to take it in turns battling us, so we were able to wipe them all out. A different kind of sagely guy appeared to find out what all the commotion was and ordered three mysterious guys to kick us off the boat. Huh, people who didn't rely on a pokemon battle to get rid of us? That's a new one.

Well, nothing more to be done about it. Hugh left and Cheren mentioned heading to route 6. I headed to the pokemon center to heal my team, ready to move on to the next destination.

Current Location: Driftveil City.
Current Team: Pignite (Lv30), Flaffy (Lv29), Krokorok (Lv30), Braviary (Lv30), Herdier (Lv21), Lillipup (Lv4).

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Well, after my third gym victory I had thought to go visit the home town of Touko. Even though it would take me away from the gym route I thought it might have been a worthwhile detour. Sadly, workmen picked this moment of all moments to do a check on the bridge and wouldn't let anyone past. So those plans had to be scrapped.

I headed towards route 4 instead, only for that weird guy from the sewers to appear before me again. The guy called himself Colress and asked if I'd entertain him with a battle. I agreed and he opted to meet me further in route 4 for it. I headed further into route 4 and meet up with him near a bunch of rocks. Well, apparently those rocks were pokemon and, upon Colress's direction, left the area. We had our battle too, which I easily won. The guy left, muttering something about bringing out pokemon potential.

I continued further in and checked out the ruins scattered about. Trainers challenged me as I looked around and I was able to grab a few items here and there. One kid even offered me a trade, but I couldn't even remember seeing the pokemon he was asking for in the wild so I had to decline.

Around the rear of one of the buildings was a strange creature. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was a Braviary that was practically begging to be caught. The battle proved a bit tricky though as my lead Sandile's ability dropped its attack one stage, only for its own ability Defiant to immediately boost it back up two stages. Oh dear. Fortunately with good co-operation between several team members I was able to weaken it and catch it in a great ball.

My team was full at the time, but this seemed like a pokemon destined for my team. Eagerly, I cycled as fast as I could back to the city. On the way I was surprised at the pokemon breeder challenging me again. I guess she can't get enough of fights so I beat her again and got to the pokemon center. I took the opportunity to heal my team and then accessed the PC. Patrat was exchanged with Braviary. Now I was ready.

I raced back into the ruins area and continued to look around. Soon I reached a fork in the road. I opted to head to Nimbasa for now. I was shocked to stumble into something called Join Avenue and was given responsibility for attracting shop keepers and customers. I spent a little time doing this, ending up with a beauty parlour and an antiques store and boosting the popularity of the place a bit. I soon moved on and entered Nimbasa properly.

My, this place had lots to offer too. I found a trainer called Nate chatting to some strange guys in front of what I would learn to be the Battle Subway. I agreed to help this Nate in a doubles battle. I must say, those weird guys were tougher than I thought they might be, but our team were able to win. I even got a vs recorder for helping.

Exploring around showed a lot of other things too. A snooty Battle Institute that I apparently wasn't good enough to attend. Like I wanted to go in there anyway. I did visit the court and stadium buildings. Even though the teams were practising they didn't seem to mind trainers wandering around down there taking on some of the players in battles. Strange.

Then their was the Pokemon Musical. The guy running it spoke of Touko having been there and gave me the props she had used. There weren't actually that many, leading me to think that she didn't really care for it, but others spoke highly of her. I gave it a go myself, letting my Pignite demonstrate its elegance. I ultimately came to the same conclusion that I didn't like it either and left.

After a almost unsettlingly ride on the ferris wheel with a guy who complained the entire time I found the gym. Or I thought I did, but what used to be Elesa's gym was now just an attraction for the park. I did get some experience in there though and soon found the location of the real gym.

Inside there was no puzzle layout. It was pretty much a long catwalk leading up to a stage where Elesa was entertaining her fans. I fought off the three trainers leading up before I took on Elesa herself.

I must say, this fight was indeed tougher than the gym battles I had faced before. I opted to bring Flaffy out first and it used Echo Voice to take out both her Emolga and Flaffy. I decided to give my Flaffy a rest since it was suffering from paralysis and sent out Pignite to deal with Elesa's final pokemon Zebstrika. While its Pursuit did little to affect Pignite, its Volt Switch was a lot more damaging, making the battle a lot closer. My usage of Flame Charge did help my pokemon to outpace it and just managed to get the final blow in. I do think if the battle had gone on any longer I would have needed to switch.

With a victory I could be proud of acquired, Elesa awarded me her badge and gave me a TM. I was now roughly halfway through my journey. Elesa even had me appear on the big screen too. That was pretty cool. I left the gym and healed up at the pokemon center.

Current Location: Nimbasa City.
Current Team: Pignite (Lv27), Flaffy (Lv27), Sandile (Lv26), Braviary (Lv26), Herdier (Lv20), Lillipup (Lv4).

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The captain was more than willing to get me and Hugh across to Castelia City, and at no cost too. Not sure how they manage to stay funded like that, but then I don't remember much from the trip either. Before I knew it I was standing at the harbour at Castelia City. Hugh dashed off while I entered the city at a far more leisurely pace. As I approached the city I was in awe. My home city wasn't exactly some tiny town in the wilderness but it was small compared to this place. Some guy invited me to go track down some buddies as an optional quest I guess and gave me a free bicycle, but I had other things on my mind for now. I headed for the rightmost path that would take me north and started exploring.

One of the more notable buildings I barged in on was one for these Game Freak guys. They looked like they were involved in some project or other, but some of them were taking a break and indulged me in battles. That leftovers Clefairy was certainly an annoyance but experience is experience. As I continued on I chatted to more people and picked up some loot, passed by the fountain and headed along another northern road. I arrived at what seemed like the exit. While Castelia City no doubt held far more for me to do, I was intrigued by what pokemon may exist just outside the city. I decided to have a little peek without going too far, just to see if there would be any new creatures I would want to add to my team.

As I passed through the gate Bianca popped up behind me. I began to wonder if she was stalking me, as it was very strange that she would keep popping up wherever I was. She gave me a dowsing machine and gave me tips on assigning items for quick access before leaving. I continued out the gate and found myself in a desert region. The climate seemed so much different within the city limits that it was hard to believe the change. I spotted pokemon nearby and jumped right in with the violence. A lot of them didn't seem like good options for the team, but one of them caught my eye. This Sandile had quite an intimidating look that meant business and the type combo looked great. I called upon the help of my herdier to weaken it and then caught it with a pokeball, adding it to my ever growing team.

Satisfied I headed back into the city, past the fountain and down the next road leading back to the harbour. There were more buildings to explore here and I even got to buy an ice-cream from a street vendor and there was an art gallery too. A guy in there wanted to see a ground type as inspiration. What a coincidence that I just caught such a pokemon and had it with me, earning me a berry as a thank you. An odd way to offer thanks I guess but I'm not going to turn down a freebie. I headed back to the pokemon center and healed my team.

There was a lot of other places for me to visit too. There was the offices where the staff were apparently encouraged to battle random trainers. The fact that their CEO was a kid much younger than myself probably went some way to explain that though. It was crazy but I thrashed everyone soundly. Another building had a couple of interesting floors too. The Medal Office gave me some advice on the whole deal, but it was more or less what I'd already figured out. The next floor had someone called Fennel running some dream experiments and I was encouraged to use Game Sync. Maybe another time, as I still had stuff to do.

I arrived at the gym, only to find that the gym leader had wandered off. At a loss as to how I was supposed to earn my next gym badge, a girl called Iris came up and spoke about it. She seemed surprised at the mention of Team Plasma, but had an idea and sprinted away before saying another word. I guess it's up to me to follow her.

Well, I did, but also got a little sidetracked too. Sidetracked to the point of checking out the Passerby Analytics building and taking a boat to Liberty Garden. Nothing really of interest at either though, so I made my way over to the pokemon center. I healed my team and continued on, seeing Iris urge me to follow her. It seemed she had an idea of where those Team Plasma grunts may be heading.

Uh-huh, she had an idea all right, and I soon realised why she dragged me along. Sewers. Yeah, princess too-good-for-sewers wanted me to go in there. Hugh didn't seem to mind and rushed right in. *sigh* Guess I have no choice. I followed Hugh into the sewers.

Hugh tagged along with me and we took on the wild pokemon 2 on 2. Hugh even offered to heal our pokemon after every battle, so I just went wild and crushed any wild pokemon foolish enough to pop up in front of me. Well, someone had to bear the brunt of my pain of being forced into the freaking sewers.

Things went from bad to worse though, because somehow I managed to walk right past where I was supposed to go and ended up in an area further along with a couple of rooms. One was empty and the other had some crazy scientist lady experimenting with poisons to create medicine. She even offered me some after a "successful" experiment. So yeah, I accepted it because clearly there's nothing sketchy at all about a lone scientist working alone in a sewer with no equipment in sight.

Anyway, after being a little lost (and subsequently levelling my pokemon a few levels because of it) I wandered back and found the path I was supposed to take in the first place. Two Plasma grunts challenged us so I beat them silly. Oh, I also defeated their pokemon in battle too just to rub it in. Naturally they fled right past us afterwards. I guess they're good at losing fights and dashing away. The gym leader of the city appeared and told us that no more Plasma grunts were back there. Some weird guy appeared and muttered something about bringing out the best in our pokemon or something like that before leaving. Honestly, I just keep bumping into the strangest people.

Hugh departed after this, giving me a HM as he left (wait, where the hell did he pick this up from?) and was followed by Burgh. I briefly checked out the Relic Passage, but didn't find much other than a few trainers and items. Eager to leave, I swiftly headed out back to where Iris was, who suggested I should challenge the gym. Well, yes, that was my original goal before I was sidetracked here. I healed my team and headed for the gym.

So apparently, Burgh had decided to change the layout of his gym since Touko started her journey. The place was now covered in webbing and coccoons that served as a strange method of transport. Approaching an opening in one of them sucked me in and took me to another coccoon. I didn't really want to think to much on how that was actually working so I just went with it.

There were several trainers scattered about, including some weirdo who seemed to have been waiting inside a coccoon purely for the chance to jump out at challengers. None of them were able to put up much of a fight though, with my Flaffy and Pignite easily defeating their teams. The puzzle of finding my way to the gym leader wasn't too hard either and was simply of matter of trying openings until I got there.

I must say, compared to the mostly grey appearance of the lower area, Burgh's room at the top was simply awash with colour. I guess it was his way of expressing himself as an artist. I paid it no further mind though and challenged Burgh to a fight.

Sadly, the battle was a bit of a disappointment. Pignite and Flaffy dispatched the Swadloon and Dribble with little effort. I opted for a Charge and Thundershock combo against the Dribble to avoid the possibility of Burgh dipping into his supply of potions. Eventually he brought out his prized pokemon Levanny... who was dispatched by a single Flame Charge. Really Burgh?

Whatever, I defeated the gym leader and earned my third badge. Satisfied I headed out of the gym and healed up at the pokemon center.

Current Location: Castelia City.
Current Team: Pignite (Lv23), Flaffy (Lv22), Sandile (Lv22), Herdier (Lv20), Patrat (Lv10), Lillipup (Lv4).

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Please note that this will contain spoilers to the story and events of Pokemon Black/White and Black 2/White 2. Leave now if this is a problem to you.

So I made my way to Route 20 and met up with that odd hiker who felt it was his duty to stop people without badges from passing. He couldn't say no this time, but he did decide to show off by challenging me to a fight. Well, tried to show off anyway, but he fell like all the others. I continued onward only for Hugh and Cheren to catch up to me by some dark grass. There was a neat explanation of the potential for encountering pokemon that attack in doubles here and that is would be tough. Bianca also showed up and gave the pokedex an upgrade, showing what pokemon lived in each area I had visited, which I thought was an excellent addition.

I let Hugh play around in the dark grass and continued on my way, defeating more trainers on my way. I got to sample my own first doubles battle too, through which I soundly defeated them. The area wasn't offering anything else of interest though so I headed into Virbank City. Upon entering the city I saw an argument between two people; something about causing trouble for people and duties. Whatever. Annoyingly though that guy was hogging up the attraction to the north so they wouldn't let me in. I looked around and chatted to the people in the city. I did come across the gym, but opted not to go in just yet. Someone made a remark about the Virbank Complex and catching magnemite there. I didn't really care for a magnemite since I already had a good electric type in my team, but I figured a little exploration before my gym battle couldn't hurt.

When I walked in some guy asked me to go motivate his workers. With pokemon battles of course. Quite why he was the supervisor and wasn't doing this himself was a mystery, but it was a chance for experience so naturally I decided to go for it. I must say though, I think Health & Safety organisations would go crazy upon seeing a place like this. Parts of the complex were only accessible by walking along dangerously narrow pipes high above and the guy running the place just expected a youngster to do this without any safety equipment. I really should have reported the place to the authorities but, you know, experience. So I went all around the relatively small place and defeated the various trainers. It seems there were others in here too. Were they also sent by that supervisor guy? Honestly, what a terrible person he is.

Sadly, this area also marked the first time a member of my team fainted and it was such a lousy moment too. I had calculated the flow of a battle against one of the random trainers quite well and figured that my Mareep would just manage to defeat their Lillipup. Or would have if the critical hit gods didn't decide to smite my poor sheep right there. Of course, Tepig stormed in and wiped the floor with that dog afterwards, but it was still a stinging result. I eventually found and defeated all the workers and returned to the supervisor to pick up a nice new TM. Not sure how much use Rock Smash is going to be but it was still a nice bonus.

Before heading to the gym I did a little training to bring my levels around equal. I had long since stopped training the Patrat so I had a core team of three. During this training my pokemon learned some strong moves (Lillipup gained Take Down and Tepig learned Flame Charge) and two of my pokemon evolved too (Lillipup again and Mareep). I was feeling pretty confident now so I healed my team at the pokemon center before heading for the gym. My second badge was waiting for me in there and I was going to get it, despite once again going in with a lack of type advantage.

Apparently Roxie didn't care for a puzzle layout for her gym, as it was an underground club instead. I have to say though, I have no complaints. Especially as that music was freaking awesome. I decided to chill a bit first. After all, I've been so busy since leaving my home that I haven't had much chance to rest. Nobody would serve the "special" drinks to me though, but I chatted to people and listened to the music.

Eventually though, I knew I had to get a move on. I headed onto the stage, noting just how little care the band had for personal safety. First off, I challenged Roxie's two band mates. I was kinda impressed at how well they were able to keep jamming along as we fought. Less so impressed by their actual battle skills, neatly ploughing through their poison pokemon. With the warmups over with I approached Roxie.

As expected, the gym leader is a step above her pals. My Tepig and her Koffing duked it out, exchanging attacks well. As her pokemon neared defeat she used a super potion to keep it going. Not to be outdone, I gave my prized fighter some fresh water to even things up, leading to a victory. My Tepig continued the fight against her Whirlpede and continued on to take the victory there too. My Tepig stole the show and even evolved at the end of the battle. Roxie gave me a new badge and a TM too.

It seemed that my activities in Virbank were far from over. A man approached me and indicated that I was destined for stardom and invited me to head over to the Pokestar Studios. Intrigued I healed my team at the pokemon center and then headed for the studios. I was given a neat tour of the place and watched the movie that the ship captain I saw earlier starred in. It was hilarious, even though I don't think that was the intention. Still, it looked interesting and they let me give it a shot. The movie I starred in was mostly the same kind that I had just seen, but I was determined to shine. Using the rental Riolu they gave me, I acted opposite this guy Brycen and acted my heart out. Afterwards I checked out the result and it looked pretty sweet. I even had a fan already. Maybe I'll return here eventually to do more.

However, I had places to go so I left and headed towards where boats were docked. On the way I saw Roxie and Hugh getting into a conflict with some suspicious looking people, so naturally I dived in too. One of them thought they were all that, but my Flaffy quickly set the record straight. These members of Team Plasma (who shall be referred to as Plasma Grunts from here on) fled past us. Naturally we gave chase onto Route 20. I fought one of them myself and beat them again, only for her to dash past me again. I guess I'm not as good at catching people as I am pokemon. badumtisssh

Oh well, I couldn't get all down about that. I headed back to Virbank at Hugh's urging. Next destination is Castelia City.

Current Location: Virbank City.
Current Team: Pignite (Lv18), Flaffy (Lv16), Herdier (Lv16), Patrat (Lv10), Lillipup (Lv4).

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Please note that this will contain spoilers to the story and events of Pokemon Black/White and Black 2/White 2. Leave now if this is a problem to you.

Oh wow, the time has finally come. My mom had a call from Professor Juniper asking if I wanted to begin my very own journey into the world of Pokemon. Of course I did! I'd already had so much excitement from Hugh alone with his pokemon. Juniper's assistant Bianca was supposed to be somewhere in Aspertia City, so I wasted no time in dashing out to meet her (well, as close to dashing as I could get - if only I had some shoes that enabled running ;_; ).

I met Hugh and his sister along the way and he tagged along. Together we made our way to the lookout spot where Bianca was. Hugh hung back while I tried to contain my excitement. After a brief conversation I chose Tepig as my started. Touko had chosen Oshawott as her starter during her journey, but I didn't want to perfectly emulate her and I'm not all that big on pure grass types. I also got a pokedex, as did Hugh. To mark the occasion Hugh and I engaged in a battle. Technically my pokemon was at a type disadvantage, but being at low levels that didn't matter. What did matter was Hugh scoring a critical hit, making me think I was about to lose. Fortunately, lady luck smiled on me and granted me a battle winning critical hit too.

Bianca offered to give me a few lessons, like showing me around the pokemon centre and showing me how to capture a pokemon. I kinda felt I already knew these kinds of things, but I didn't want to be rude to her so I allowed her to deliver her lessons. In fairness, she was pretty good at it. It's pretty obvious she was doing well with her role as a professor's assistant. Before I truly set off on my journey I received running shoes from my mom and two town maps from Hugh's sister. It seems the hothead had dashed off without getting one. Oh boy, guess I'll deliver it to him.

Before I progressed too far I did a little training in Route 19. I also caught a Patrat and Purrloin, although I opted not to train the Purrloin. I got the Patrat up a few levels before progressing on to Floccesy Town. Just before I entered the town a strange man leapt down from the cliff face and offered to aid me in my growth as a trainer. That's fine, I'm sure there's nothing suspicious about waiting on cliffs ambushing young trainers offering help. I followed him a bit, but the topic of me having two town maps popped up and the guy (who introduced himself as Alder) suggested I should deliver the map first. So off I went into Route 20.

Here I fought a bunch of trainers as well as wild pokemon. It was the first chance I had to take on trainers other than Hugh and it gave a strong sense of what awaited me. Still, they weren't very difficult. A man stopped me from going too far because I hadn't earned any gym badges yet. I considered convincing him to move aside with fire, but thought better of it and heading north to the Floccesy Ranch.

Hugh was here and challenged me to another fight. He hadn't managed to progress as far as I had though and I easily beat him. I managed to hand off the map too. Hugh offered thanks but didn't seem to think he needed one in the first place. A couple headed up to us, apparently drawn by the sounds of our battle. They mentioned that one of their herdier had disappeared, causing Hugh to volunteer our services in finding it. Of course I don't mind helping, since it gave me a chance to scout out the wild pokemon too.

During my exploration of the ranch, I was able to add several new pokemon to my collection. Mareep and a Lillipup got added to the active combat team. Another Lillipup was kept in the lineup too due to its useful pickup ability. Finally a Riolu was caught. I trained my active team while I searched around for this herdier. Eventually we found it with a strange individual who proclaimed themselves part of Team Plasma. Huh, is that the same Team Plasma from two years ago? The outfit isn't anything what I'd heard about and I thought they had disbanded. Whatever, this guy's only action was to moan and then give me a free TM before leaving. Certainly a strange fellow. Anyway, we recruited the pokemon with its owner and then left.

I had no idea where Hugh had gone, but I had a meeting with a strange man. I went back to Alder, who remarked that I had already become strong and invited me to challenge a couple of kids. So naturally I stomped their pokemon into the ground (well, shocked and burnt respectively). After that Alder suggested I head back to Aspertia City to challenge the newly opened gym there. As I left to do so another strange guy was waiting for me. He gave me a medal box and said that upon clearing certain tasks I would gain medals. Cool, so with that done I headed to my next destination.

Back in my home city I headed for the trainer school after healing my team at the pokemon centre. I had a brief look around the educational materials but most of it covered stuff I already knew. With that done I headed through the door at the back. A guy called Clyde greeted me and then the gym leader Cheren. He had been on a journey before and was now taking up a post as a gym leader. This will be my first serious challenge. Before I could fight Cheren I was required to take out his two apprentices. They were no match for me though, as I soundly defeated them with my own team. Soon enough, I stood before Cheren and challenged him to a duel.

Fortunately, Cheren did not prove to be particularly difficult. I had opted not to bring that Riolu with me, despite the opportunity to exploit a type advantage. Instead my Lillipup and Tepig challenged his team and took the victory. My pokemon worked hard and took their share of injuries and stayed strong. Of course, I think Cheren's decision to spam Work Out repeatedly in the last phase of the battle made an impact too. It's no good boosting stats if you end up not getting an attack in. Regardless, I had earned the basic badge and was one step closer to challenging the league. Cheren even gave me the Work Out TM as an extra reward.

When I exited the trainer school Bianca was waiting for me and gave me the Return TM to keep. Cheren stepped out too and recorded his Xtransceiver number in my device so I could contact him anytime. Bianca recorded the numbers for herself and Juniper in there too and the four of us engaged in a four way conversation. It kinda felt strange though, especially with three of the participants right next to each other. I kinda juts let the others do all the talking and went along with the flow.

And that was that. Hugh rushed in and challenged Cheren to a fight. The pair went to the gym to fight it out, although Hugh clearly had an air of impatience about him. I had other things to worry about though. Now I had a gym badge, that guy certainly couldn't say no to me passing by. This is only the beginning of my journey.

Current Location: Aspertia City.
Current Team: Tepig (Lv11), Patrat (Lv10), Mareep (Lv12), Lillipup (Lv12), Lillipup (Lv4).

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Two years, although it feels closer to 1 year 7 months. The chronicled exploits of the trainer Touko became well known where she not only challenged the Pokemon League, but thwarted the plans of Team Plasma and befriended many pokemon on her journey. There were no doubt many things she accomplished that went undocumented too. Rumours circulated about such achievements, though it was hard to believe them all. Could one trainer really do so much? Who knows.

Well, that's simply something that'll reside in the past. The tales serve as powerful inspiration, but a new journey awaits me today. If I am to truly admire Touko and her exploits, my only choice is to establish my own mark on history. I've no idea what awaits me in Unova, but I'm going to give it my all. Many trainers have likely walked this path already, but I won't let that deter me. The secrets and challenges of Unova await.

Continue to Part 1.

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Spiral Knights itself is a largely Free to Play MMO whose business model relies on Energy to complete various tasks. As part of the drive for profits, Sega and Three Rings have released paid DLC in the form of Operation Crimson Hammer, a new set of levels culminating in a boss battle. Here I'm going to examine if this content is worth your money. Do note that as I am reviewing DLC, I'm simply going to assume you've already read my Spiral Knights review. I don't really want to go over all the basics again.

Let's address the company claim first, because this is a peculiar element. There is a claim that you unlock "three different versions" of the content, but the truth of that depends on how far you'd extend the definition of "different". About the only difference you do get between the different tiers for this content is a change of the enemy ranks. For example, the Tenderfoot Thwackers of Tier 1 are replaced by the Darkfang Thwackers in Tier 3. Combined with the changes to damage calculations between tiers this does allow for a noticeable difficulty scaling, as storming through the easiest doesn't mean you'll manage the same on the hardest setting. However, calling them separate versions seems like a rather underhanded way of implying that the challenges and layouts change between tiers. This, of course, is actually not the case.

So now I've finished with that complaint let's examine what we do actually get for our money. Well, we finally have a gremlin themed boss stratum to play around in that consists of 4 regular levels and a 5th smaller level that ends in the boss fight. There's a lot of interesting backstory involved as you find yourself tasked with assisting in an attack on a gremlin base, giving us a glimpse of the NPC military might of the knights that landed on Cradle (and yes, expect your group to do most of the work) and an insight into the gremlins that cause so many problem. This helps give some clarity as to why some gremlins have fled and taken refuge in Emberlight too.

Set pieces help to keep the story flowing. Unlike other boss stratums that have largely been a case of throwing your party in there and leaving you to it, these levels have the NPC knights making progress as you move on. As you progress through the levels you'll find yourself returning to older sections sometimes to move onto a new area and with this you'll see knights have advanced and set up base camps further inside the enemy territory, including bringing supplies and laser guns.

Sadly, anyone expecting puzzle style elements along the lines of Ironclaw Munitions Factory are set to be a little disappointed. There are a couple of areas with the alternate gate switching systems but these are largely used just for blocking respawning monsters off. There is one interesting room where you kill some enemies by hitting switches to open a gate and flinging something at the explosive blocks and the levels also bringing up the concept of huts that respawn monsters until you destroy them, but overall these levels are more along the lines of Royal Jelly Palace in that you're fighting off waves of enemies more often than not.

Of course, exciting action like that isn't a bad thing and OCH doesn't disappoint on that front. Gremlins have largely been left out in the cold for quite some time, generally lacking both in the variety, danger and personal levels of other monster families. Thwackers, Menders and Bombers are here by the ton to fight you, as are the newer elemental gremlins that recently popped up to fight you, intermingled with various turrets just to keep things interesting.

This action is buffed by the inclusion of two new gremlins. Stalkers come equipped with the recon item from Lockdown, in that they can turn invisible and apply the death mark on you (essentially nerfing your defences). Like recons, these will become visible if hit or when they attack, proving to be quite the challenge to take on as you don't know where they'll appear from. Mortafires are the second type of new gremlin and come equipped with large machines that both shield them from frontal attacks and allow them to launch missiles into the air to crash down from above. These can be a little more annoying as you can only hurt them from the rear (unless you fling a vial at them) and they seem to only stop moving around briefly when they fire. Of course, dodging incoming missiles adds an extra layer of challenge to fights.

So what about the setting itself? The levels are littered with all sorts of obstacles such as barb wire, explosive blocks/barrels and debris that block or hinder you, as well as the aforementioned respawner huts. At times you're quite close to these and must be careful how you attack enemies who care not about such matters. Progress through the levels is also structured pretty well, helping to split up a variety of ambush arenas and general encounters quite well. There doesn't seem to be much scope for actual exploration as you're very rarely given the chance to wander away from the linear path that leads to your next destination but at least this means it's easy enough to know where you need to be going. In keeping with SK tradition too you'll find some treasure here and there you'll have to pick up keys for.

These levels deliver both a boss at the end and a sub boss partway through. The sub boss is a Battle Pod you've likely already seen during the missions, although with a hint of fire element to make things interesting. The fight more or less goes the same as usual, as you have to deal with respawning enemies while avoiding the attacks of the machine and attacking it when the shield goes down. It's a nice challenge and serves as a good change of pace.

Seerus fights you for the main boss battle and this delivers an interesting take on things. During the battle you'll have respawning gremlins to worry about and attacks from the three Battle Pods such as missiles, bombs and lasers. The goal is generally to destroy the middle pod to force Seerus out, although dealing with the other pods and the enemies is something to consider too. When Seerus comes out you then have him dashing around dropping bombs, swinging a hammer that can smash off most of your health in a single strike and causing hammer induced explosions. You end up with about three phases to the fight, increasing in difficulty, like the respawning enemies cease during the first time Seerus is out but they will continue to respawn all the time thereafter.

It's a great challenge to take on. Generally you don't need an exact specific strategy as you do with Vanaduke so you don't get people yelling at others for breaking the ice but there are common approaches that any knights would get familiar with, such as not getting smashed by the hammer. As a result, I find this battle more interesting even if the group does happen to mess up a little. It's challenging but still fairly accessible in terms of approach.

So then, time for those special items you get for completing the mission. Two are once only rewards handed out for completing the mission and have different star versions depending on which tier mission you take on (and yes, you can collect all three versions of both). The "sword" is a hammer that is the game's first fully elemental weapon. While technically marked as a slow heavy sword, it possesses a three hit combo that is fairly quick and includes a dash in the second strike to keep up the pain. The charge attack for it, while powerful, leaves you wide open to counters if just one enemy dodges as you're then stuck in performing two smashes straight ahead. The other weapon is a shadow damage bomb, where the initial blast is akin to the blast of Dark Briar Barrage, but also causes two orbs to circle around for a few seconds, damaging any enemy that makes contact. Combined with a very short charge time this can cause quite a lot of damage. The other item is something you craft by collecting three mask fragments from the appropriate tier mission and is basically the perfect helm for gunners, giving them useful defences stats, status resists and bonuses for Charge Time Reduction and Gun Damage.

In fact, the only real problem with these items is that they are hilariously overpowered. The weapon generally outdamage anything else in the game, like the shadow bomb can be spammed faster for more damage than any other damage bomb and the sword has the same power as the Divine Avenger but is fully elemental and has a faster 3 strike combo instead of the slower 2 strike one. Of course, no other helm works as well for gunners than the Mask of Seerus either.

This brings us onto the main problem the content has: splitting the community. This is content that you generally need to pay money to experience. Now Steam users have the benefit of using Steam Trade to acquire it off another user, but anyone playing the game through any other type of client (including the game's official standalone client) don't have any such option at all. For a Free to Play game to segregate the player base like this seems like a very unwise move when it could have used the game's purchaseable currency Crystal Energy to "unlock" the missions like they had done with every buyable content previously (excluding unimportant promo items).

The effect seems to be already visible at the moment. I had no luck jumping into a random party for Tier 1 or Tier 2 for example. I don't doubt that people are playing those tier missions but it seems a lot less than those in the Clockworks in general. Tier 3 seems to have more luck but even this has proved hit and miss. I spent one mission in a duo because we couldn't seem to get anyone else to join and another party started as a duo for the same reason (thankfully upgrading to a full party partway through only because a few friends logged on at the time).

So should you get Operation Crimson Hammer? If you're someone who likes to invest some actual money into Spiral Knights then this seems like a fine purchase to make, especially as you'd be gaining some powerful equipment in addition to new content. If you're on the fence about whether you want to lay down some cash for Spiral Knights then it depends on how much you like the base game to begin with. OCH is certainly a fresh and satisfying experience but it essentially amounts to 5 levels worth of actual content (roughly 30-60 minutes for your first Tier 3 runthrough, depending on skill level). You'll probably find some good replay value in it much like any regular boss stratum so it's at least worth considering. It's just worrying that they've moved around from the crystal energy model that has worked well up to this point. If Spiral Knights is to succeed, this content (especially the items) need to be made available in some manner to those who do not want to pay money or use Steam.

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If you follow my reviews then you might be aware of my Spiral Knights review as it is. However, I can't really go too indepth on a review without dragging it out endlessly. I've decided it might be good to discuss some of the aspects of this free MMO game in my blog.

The first thing I'll discuss is the three tier system. The Clockworks are basically the dungeons and the primary reason for playing. At any given time there are four gates that determine the kinds of levels you can play through. No matter which gate you play though the level selection is split into 6 distinct sections (referring to as stratums) and these are groups by two into three tiers. These form a sort of difficulty setting as well as offering better rewards the further down you play.

Tier 1

Tier 1 is the newbie tier. It's the only one you don't need to meet any special requirements to enter and gives you a good chance to get used to the game. The only really threatening scenario is the Snarbolax boss (because, well, he's a boss). In other circumstances you can reasonably get away with ignoring defensive play entirely and just charge in recklessly. Enemy numbers are smaller, their attacks are less threatening and generally they just won't push the offensive quite as viciously. Of course, Tier 1 is also the less lucrative and most people will be most eager to leave it before.

Tier 2

Tier 2 is probably the most played. It offers fairly good rewards, offers more challenge than T1 without descending into T3's difficulty and the requirements to access T2 are low enough that you don't need to invest in any crystal energy at all.

However, the difficulty spike between T1 and T2 is very noticeable. Trying to get through without a shield is pretty much suicide here. Enemies attack in larger numbers and almost all of them bring new attacks to the table. Status spreading is also more common. Sadly, when you've just come off T1 then you might find yourself dying very quickly. It takes some time to readjust to the enemy attack patterns and learning the difference between when you have an opening to attack and when you just dance away to evade getting smacked in the face. Sadly, this is also what can make random party joining a bit frustrating at times when you've improved. It can be disheartening to attempt a boss run and see some of your party members consist of people decked out entirely in 2 star gear.

Still, once you are used to the tier and are able to bear with allies who have yet to figure out the delights of actually using the shield then you can find some joys. Tier 2 is also the only one so far to feature two possible bosses. Out of the two though, I don't really like the Royal Jelly. For one the strategy doesn't really seem to extend outside of "hit it until it dies", but more worryingly it's the kind of boss where if you have "less than competent" allies it can literally make it unwinnable. Roarmulus, on the other hand, is the kind of fight where it is certainly harder to win with poor team mates but still possible (or hell, just solo it if you want).

Tier 3

My experience in this tier is more limited than the others but I've played enough to form an opinion. The difficulty jump from T2 is less than that of between T1 and T2. I suppose given the high requirements just to gain access (4 star equips cost a lot) you should ideally be used to shielding at this point. I suppose that also explains why allies in random parties tend to be less helpless (although I still find people joining that seem to lose health at a fairly high rate). The higher entry cost may be what makes that difference. It's a lot harder to just buy your way to Tier 3 than Tier 2.

While the enemy forces haven't jumped up that much there are a few standout changes. Gremlin Menders can erect a healing shield around themselves to annoy with. Gremlin Fighters have shields on their backs and a swift unexpected attack added to their movepool. Enemy numbers also tend to be more significant. I haven't entered any T3 arenas or danger rooms yet, but if these are the numbers I face in normal level spawns I'm almost dreading what will be waiting in those kinds of places.

Sadly I haven't built up the courage to face the Tier 3 boss yet. It might be best to build up some solid equipment before I dare try that.

Well, I guess that's it for my tier ramblings. Maybe I'll spill more thoughts on other aspects of Spiral Knights as I play. If anyone ever wants to team up for some Clockworks exploration then that would be cool. My ingame name is Niichi and, of course, I can access any tier of the dungeons.

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Please note that this will contain spoilers to the story and events of Pokemon Black and White. Leave now if this is a problem to you.

Yes, I decided I wanted to rechallenge the new improved Elite 4. To do this though I needed some preparations, as I severely doubted a Lv60 team would be good enough. So I did some grinding at Giant Chasm with the lucky egg. Without boring you with all the details I got everyone into the 67-68 range. It's also worth noting that I did retrieve a few items from routes 17 and 18, with the only real notable things being the Waterfall HM and Thunderbolt TM, the latter of which my current team couldn't use effectively.

Once ready I commanded Pidove to fly me to the League. I stocked up on potions and headed for the challenge. Unlike before I decided to go fight Marshall first. Being the only E4 member whose speciality I didn't possess a single super effective attack against I figured if I could beat him the rest shouldn't be a problem.

VS E4 Marshall

I led with Galvantula while Marshall sent out Breloom. Bug Buzz hit hard but could only drop Breloom to just below half HP. It's Sky Uppercut did some damage but not enough to scare me. Another Bug Buzz finished the job. Sawk came out next and I launched a Thunder at him. It wasn't enough to OHKO but thankfully the following Stone Edge missed, allowing me to finish with another Thunder.

Conkeldurr was next and I sent out Samurott. Sadly this round didn't go as planned as while Samurott hit hard with Waterfall it couldn't bring my opponent within KO range. Meanwhile that Hammer Arm was deadly enough to drop health low, allowing for the followup of Stone Edge to KO my pokemon, but not before a valiant effort to do more damage with Waterfall. Excadrill came in to finish the job with Earthquake.

Mienshao was up next so I pulled out Darmanitan. Fake Out stopped my first attack but the followup Flare Blitz sealed the deal. I sent Galvantula back out to deal with the incoming Throh. Thanks to one of my Thunders criticaling and an Earthquake missing (iluvulaxincense) I saw him off. With Toxicroak being the final opponent I brought in Excadrill to EQ it out of the field. Victory!

I left Marshall and healed my team mbefore moving onto Caitlin. I felt confident heading into this next battle.

VS E4 Caitlin

Caitlin leads with Musharna while I send out Zoroark disguised as Darmanitan. I opt for Night Slash which KOs in one hit. Reuniclus comes out next and I fire off another Night Slash. A predictable Psychic gets stopped dead, letting me Night Slash to victory. Metagross is next so I decide to switch out to Excadrill. I fire off an EQ to OHKO.

Caitlin opts for Sigilyph next, so I bring out Galvantula to the field. A Thunder attack crashes down to secure another OHKO. Bronzong is next which makes me wary. Playing it safe I bring out Darmanitan. I strike with Flare Blitz, which delivers a OHKO. The final opponent is Gothitelle, so I switch back to Zoroark. Night Slash weakenes her and she fires back Flatter to confuse. From here both sides decided to heal as I cure my Zoroark's confusion while Caitlin uses a Full Restore. Deciding to take advantage of my special attack boost though I unleash Night Daze that knocks my opponent out easily.

While better than before, Caitlin's team was still struggling to compete with the Illusion ability. I left, healed the recoil damage Darmanitan had received and then headed for the next member.

VS E4 Grimsley

Galvantula comes out first and is faced with Sharpedo. Its defences can't cope with a super effective Bug Buzz though and it goes down. Darmanitan switches in to deal with the incoming Scrafty. Fire Punch still leaves over half HP but thankfully Head Smash misses. I use the chance to use Flare Blitz, depleting the rest of its health at the cost of some HP.

I call in Samurott to fight Krookodile. Waterfall does over half HP damage. Since the Earthquake doesn't KO I follow up with another Waterfall to finish the job. Excadrill comes in as Grimsley sends in Drapion. Earthquake does enough damage to OHKO though.

I switch back to Galvantula for the Liepard. Fake Out stops my first attack but it isn't enough to save it from another Bug Buzz. Finally Darmanitan comes out again to face Bisharp. One Flare Blitz later and the battle is won.

I left, healed up the team and headed for the last member of the Elite 4.

VS E4 Shauntal

Cofagrigus comes out first and I send out Zoroark. I waste no time striking with Night Daze. It's not enough to OHKO but the Will O Wisp misses. Shauntal tries to heal off the damage but followup Night Slashes finish it off. I switch to Samurott to fight Golurk. A combination of Waterfall and Aqua Jet defeat this monster, with its Hammer Arm only able to drop Samurott to half health.

Galvantula comes out next to take on Drifblim. I aim a Thunder straight at it for a OHKO. Undeterred Chandelure comes out next so I bring in Excadrill. It couldn't withstand an EQ and faints. Zoroark comes in for Jellicent. Night Daze fires off and OHKOs, but Cursed Body activates and the move becomes disabled.

Doesn't matter as I switch to Damanitan to fight Froslass. Fire Punch is all that is needed to knock it out though, leaving Shauntal defeat.

I left, healed up and headed down below ready to face the Chammpion.

VS Champion Alder

Accelgor is first, so good job I led with Darmanitan. It managed to fire first with Focus Blast but it doesn't KO and Fire Punch does the job. With Bouffalant up next I send out Excadrill. Sadly, my own EQ is countered with another EQ and Excadrill goes down. Darmanitan comes back out and launches Flare Blitz to finish the job.

I keep my pokemon in for Escavalier and FIre Punch OHKOs easily. Samurott comes out next to face Volcarona. It tries a Quiver Dance so I hit with with Waterfall. It doesn't manage to KO and inflicts a burn back. I keep going for Waterfalls to finish it off before it can do too much damage.

Druddigon is next and I try an Earthquake with Excadrill, but a fired back Superpower KOs my pokemon. I bring in Sammurott to finish the weakened pokemon with X Scissor. I then switch to Darmanitan as Alder bring in... Vanilluxe? ?_? Whatever, I go straight for Flare Blitz, not wanting to take any chances. It may have been overkill though as my opponent goes down without a fight.

Alder congratulates me on the victory and take me to the Hall of Fame, where my team is recorded for all time as victors. At long last, I fought and defeated the Champion of Unova. There are still things I can do in this land and many challenges to face, but this here marks the completion of a primary goal.

Thanks for following my adventures this far but I feel it best to leave things here. Even though I still have pokemon to catch, sages to find and other sidequests to indulge in, I don't feel like tracking all of them in blog form and I worry those things may be more boring. So for the last time in Unova, the last update of my current location, team and stats:

Current Location: Nuvema Town
Current Team Detailed:

Samurott, Lv69, Jolly, Torrent, Mystic Water
Waterfall / Aqua Jet / X Scissor / Retaliate
Met Lv5 Nuvema Town

Darmanitan, Lv70, Jolly, Sheer Force, Lax Incense
Fire Punch / Flare Blitz / Superpower / Headbutt
Met Lv18 Route 4

Gallade, Lv100, Adamant, Steadfast, Wide Lens
Close Combat / False Swipe / Mean Look / Hypnosis
Arrived Lv100 Johto

Galvantula, Lv69, Timid, Compoundeyes, BrightPowder
Thunder / Energy Ball / Thunder Wave / Bug Buzz
Met Lv24 Chargestone Cave

Zoroark, Lv68, Timid, Illusion, BlackGlasses
Night Slash / Night Daze / Grass Knot / Retaliate
Met Lv25 Lostlorn Forest

Excadrill, Lv71, Lonely, Sand Force, Soft Sand
Earthquake / Metal Claw / Rock Slide / X Scissor
Met Lv13 Wellspring Cave

Touko, Lv??, Timid, Parasol Lady
Attack / Pokemon / Bag / Run


Vital Stats:
Adventure started - 4th March 2011
E4 Rematch cleared - 25th March 2011
Pokedex status - 292 seen, 102 obtained
Time played - 55 hours 24 minutes

«Part 12

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Please note that this will contain spoilers to the story and events of Pokemon Black and White. Leave now if this is a problem to you.

I had made my way back onto Route 13 but there wasn't much more to this route. I battled a few more trainers but with nothing more of interest I found my way to Undella Town. It appeared to be a small coastal town. I healed up at the Pokemon Center and received a Prism Scale for a guy inside. Outside a girl gave me HM06, allowing me to dive in dark patches of water. I popped into the nearby house to find the Sinnoh Champion Cynthia inside. She offered a battle but I took the opportunity to refuse. I've heard of Cynthia and I doubted my team were anywhere near ready to take her team on just yet.

I checked out a few more places but nothing stood out. There was a mansion with some kid around where the rich guy inside seemed ready to boy old crap for lots of cash. Shame I didn't have any old crap in my bag. I moved on to Undella Coast and decided to make use of my new Dive skill to go underwater where I found some ruins. I swam around down there completely oblivious to the need to breath collecting various pieces of junk before a sudden surge of water pushes me out to the surface.

I made my way back to the town, thinking how that underwater experience was easily one of the most boring things I've ever done. On the plus side the rich guy bought some of the junk off me for high amounts so it wasn't a total waste. I soon left to go through Route 14.

Sadly, route 14 wasn't that interesting. A bit of fog spread around but otherwise it was just some grass and trainers to deal. It wasn't long until I arrived in White Forest, a fabled place said to hold many wild pokemon. Or should have done, but while there were plenty of tress there were no wild pokemon and the only buildings were the pokemon center and a lone house. Aside from a few triple battles there was nothing else of interest so I moved on.

I found myself on Route 15 once again. I looked around and found some more trainers to fight that I skipped last time I was here. Aside from there I went and traded the Ditto I caught in Giant Chasm with a woman in exchange for a Rotom, which was nice. I headed back up to the transfer lab ready to pull Pidove out of the PC. Nothing else worth looking for around here so I made preparations to move onto the next destination.

Current Location: Pokemon Transfer Lab
Current Team: Samurott (Lv60), Darmanitan (Lv59), Galvantula (Lv60), Zoroark (Lv60), Excadrill (Lv60), Gallade (Lv100).

«Part 11

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In the pursuit of understanding the full extent of the options in the game I decided a bit of battling other human opponents was in order. However, since I don't really have any battle ready Gen V pokemon at this time I decided to transfer over a selection of Gen IV pokemon with movesets that would permit them entry into random battles. What you see here is a record of my experiences of the few battles I opted to enter.

Random Battle Singles

Touko's Team: Flygon, Kingdra, Espeon
Karl's Team: Ditto, Dusknoir, Alakazam

I must say I was surprised at Karl's choice of leading with Ditto. I opted to use my Flygon and attacked with Dragon Claw. I had expected Ditto to be faster and transform (perhaps holding an item that would allow it). This wasn't the case and Ditto got itself OHKOed.

Dusknoir came up next and proved to be more of a bother. Dragon Claw did less than half damage and Dusknoir opted for confuse ray. Given the damage levels I didn't play the risk and decided to switch out to Kingdra. A fortunate move as Dusknoir hit the switch-in with ice punch, which would surely have been deadly. Kingdra's Surf wasn't quite enough to seal the deal and I was left suffering from confusion again. Due to Kingdra's typing I decided to go for a risk and successfully attacked with Dragon Pulse. Dusknoir went down.

My final opponent was Alakazam. I foolishly tried switching back to Flygon, thinking I'd U-Turn out before getting KOed. Alakazam proved faster here though and ruined my plan. Espeon came onto the field and performed a yawn/wish combo. Probably didn't need to though as 2 Shadow Balls finished off the opponent while its Energy Balls failed to 2HKO.

First battle victory was mine. :D

Random Battle Doubles

Touko: Flygon, Kingdra, Feraligatr, Gallade
JPN Trainer: Tyranitar, Dragonite, Metagross, Haxorus

Time for a round of doubles. Unable to read Japanese I don't know the actual name of my opponent though. My double team of dragons Flygon and Kingdra hold the front lines while my opponent sends out Tyranitar and Dragonite. OK, I'm confident with the type matchups.

Flygon once again dives into U-Turn, hitting Tyranitar super effective and then switching with Feraligatr. Kingdra decides he doesn't like the look of Dragonite and OHKOs with Ice Beam. Tyranitar tries to counter with an Ice Beam of its own, but the poor mon was aiming at Flygon so Feraligatr takes the attack like it was nothing.

Next pokemon out is Metagross and I opt for a gamble. I allow Feraligatr to do one turn setup with Dragon Dance while Kingdra fires off a surf. While Feraligatr also takes damage from this it did allow me to wipe out Tyranitar and notably damage Metagross. Said pokemon tried a Meteor Mash, but against Kingdra's water typing it wasn't that damaging.

My opponent sent out Haxorus for the final slot. But this isn't enough. Feraligatr uses its booster power to Aqua Tail Metagross, knocking it out, while Kingdra goes for the Dragon Pulse and KOs Haxorus.

Sadly, a "communication error" occurred here and my win, while obvious, was not counted. I guess my taking down three psuedo-legendaries without a single one myself was too much awesome for the connection to handle. =D

Random Battle Triples

Touko: Feraligatr, Flygon, Gallade, Espeon, Houndoom, Kingdra
Daniel: Dragonite, Archeops, Hydreigon, Landlos, Flygon, ???

Triple battle here. Funny how this trainer has the same name as my real life name. I opted for Feraligatr, Flygon and Gallade on the frontlines in that order. I was quite worried going up against Dragonite, Archeops and Hydreigon. Worry I didn't need, because this team wasn't as strong as expected.

I decided to U-Turn Flygon out of there by striking Hydreigon and switched with Espeon. Gallade finished the job with a supper effective Close Combat, defeating Hydreigon. My Feraligatr OHKOed Dragonite with Ice Punch, leaving my opponent with only one pokemon on the field. My choice to switch out Flygon proved smart, as Espeon took the hit of Dragonbreath with very little damage thanks to its high special defence.

My opponent switched in Landlos and a shiny Flygon next. A legendary should have spelt disaster but again my team we were on top form. A combination of Espeon's Psychic and Gallade's Psycho Cut knocked out the Flygon before it could move and Feraligatr's Ice Punch dealt with Archeops. Landlos attempted a Fissure but failed spectacularly.

Alas, that battle ended there. Another "communcation error" occurred, and unfortunately I didn't note down Daniel's entire team during the preview so now I don't know who the last pokemon was. Even though I wasn't officially awarded the win, I think it is easy to see who would have emerged victorious there.

Random Battle Rotation

Touko: Kingdra, Espeon, Houndoom, Fearligatr
Red: Dragonite, Milotic, Volcarona, Thunderus

Though the one storyline Rotation battle I fought didn't seem too good I nevertheless opted for one of these challenges. My opponent had quite a healthy team up and running. Round one had Kingdra and Dragonite.

I fired off ice beam which totally wiped out the opposing Dragonite in one hit. I can only assume that my opponent wasn't anticipating such a move and was hoping to counterkill with a dragon move. Thunderus came in to replace.

For this turn I rotated to Espeon and tried to Yawn. It would have worked, except for Thunderus's Discharge inflicting paralysis, which caused Espeon's Synchorize it inflict it back. Oh well.

Rotate to Houndoom and fire Flamethrower, totally expecting the opponent to switch to Volcarona. My guess worked as that happened, but as an addeed bonus my opponent tried a fire attack instead of bug, which got nulled by Houndoom's ability and boosted special attack.

However, with that Milotic one rotate away I considered it far too risky to keep Houndoom there, so I rotated to Kingdra and attacked with Dragon Pulse. As expected, Milotic switched in and tried to surf me away. Hah, double water resistance is go!

I keep Kingdra in for a Rain Dance but find Milotic is packing a Dragon Pulse! Kingdra is hanging on and I assume I can stay in for one more attack, so I opt for surf to take advantage of the rain despite the opponent's resistance. While the attack hits hard, the enemy's critical hit Dragon Pulse sends Kingdra packing. Well played, Red.

Unfortunately for Red, Feraligatr was waiting in reserve and enters the fray. I command the use of Aqua Tail. Red tries a switch to Thunderous, but such a move was pointless as Aqua Tail, under rain's benefit, OHKOs.

Red switches back to Milotic in the hope of wearing down my battler with Dragon Pulses, but a Dragon Dance, Aqua Tail and Superpower combo prove too much and Milotic faints.

All due credit to Red for seeing the battle through to the end and rotating Volcarona in. As could be seen though, one Aqua Tail more was enough to seal the victory. A well fought battle and I earned another victory.

Random Battle Wonder Launcher

Touko: Feraligatr, Flygon, Gallade, Espeon, Houndoom, Kingdra
JPN Trainer: Serperior, Hydreigon, Garchomp, Milotic, Jigglypuff, Zoroark

Once again I can't read Japanese so I don't know the actual name of this trainer. However, this was another thrilling battle.

I sent out Kingdra, Flygon and Gallade first. My opponent's lineup was Serperior, Hydreigon and Garchomp. This looked tough. I opted to U-Turn Flygon out, although rather silly of me to aim this at Garchomp instead of one of the other two. Houndoom replaced Flygon, which proved a fortunate move as Hydrgon attempts to fire a flamethrower, which Houndoom helpfully absorbed. Gallade's Close Combat wipes out Hydrgon in one hit too, causing Kingdra's Dragon Pulse to aim at Garchomp instead, resulting in a critical hit and another KO! Serperior aims a leaf blade at Kingdra to cause some damage too.

My opponent sent out Jigglypuff and Milotic next. With my superior numbers I decide to keep Houndoom in despite the water type on the field and fire a now boosted flamethrower at Jigglypuff, which turned out to be Zoroark in disguise. Didn't do it any good though as Houndoom OHKOs. Gallade tries to knock out Milotic with Psycho Cut but it could only drop its health below half and it strikes with Hydro Pump to down Houndoom in one hit. Serperior and Kingdra opt to exchange blows with Ice Beam and Leaf Blade respectively, with neither able to KO the other.

My opponent is forced to bring out the real Jigglypuff as their last resort while I replaced Houndoom with Flygon. Flygon quickly uses U-Turn to finish off the weakened Serperior, switching with Espeon. Gallade manages to secure the KO on Milotic with another Psycho Cut. Finally Kingdra cleans up by wiping out the Jigglypuff with Dragon Pulse.

Another battle hard fought and another victory earned. How funny though that despite being a Wonder Launcher battle we both totally ignored the option. XD

WiFi Battle Singles

Touko: Feraligatr, Flygon, Gallade, Espeon, Houndoom, Kingdra
Gary M: Rhyperior, Suicune, Venusaur, Volcarona, Haxorus, Zoroark

Time to pick a fight with someone on the forums by exchanging friend codes. Gary M was kind enough to challenge me.

My first opponent was Rhyperior and I led with Flygon. I was confident in striking with an Earthquake, but it did less than half its HP in damage, which took me by surprise. Rhyperior took the opportunity to set up Stealth Rock. This will make switching around harder. I did another Earthquake but failed to 2HKO (my opponent must have some serious physical defences). Fortunately, Rhyperior's next attack missed though, allowing me to follow up with Dragon Claw to finish the job.

Next up was Suicune. No way did I want Flygon hanging around in there so I U-Turned out and switch with Feraligatr, and as expected Ice Beam was fired off to cause little damage. I decided to Dragon Dance one turn but I wasn't expecting a powerful Hidden Power to come out. It left my pokemon near fainting. Relying on my stat boosts I struck with Superpower, which was enough to knock out Suicune.

Venusaur is next. I decide not to switch out Feraligatr since I doubted it would survive a switch in later and went for it with Ice Punch, wiping out half of Venusaur's health before it revenge KOed with Return. I replace my pokemon with Gallade, hoping to go for Psycho Cut, but Venusaur was faster than expected and put my pokemon to sleep with Sleep Powder! I didn't want to risk waiting out the turns so I switched again with Houndoom while Venusaur opted to buff itself. An unfortunate choice as Houndoom counter-KOs with Flamethrower.

Volcarona is next but I'm not too worried. I use the chance to Nasty Plot up my special attack 2 stages, while Volcarona opts to give itself some stat boosts. Not enough I'm afraid, as Flamethrower strikes again with devastating results.

Haxorus takes up the field. I keep Houndoom in and opt for Will O Wisp, aiming to cripple my opponent's physical attack. The move works but not enough to save my pokemon from a super effective Earthquake. Ouch. Kingdra takes the field and strikes with Dragon Pulse, knocking the opponent's dragon out before it can do any further damage.

Finally it is Zoroark, who goes to Nasty Plot up its special attack as my Houndoom had done earlier. Kingdra opts to Rain Dance in order to boost its water STAB and benefit from the speed boost with Swift Swim. From there it takes one Surf to ruin Zoroark's plans.

It was a well fought battle and Gary did very well. I managed to walk away with another victory and more experience with me.

I had fun fighting these battles. Yes, even those disconnected ones. Once I have finisheed exploring Unova I hope to EV train a team specifically tailored to the Gen V environment. These battles made my realize that ingame simply isn't enough to prepare you for human opponents and here I am certain I was barely scratching the surface. With much to learn I look forward to further challenges.

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Looking at the map and no current rumours to go off I decided exploring those Eastern routes was the best thing to do. Even though last time I went a bit backwards through there I decided to go through the proper order this time and so commanded my poor Pidove to fly me to Opelucid City. After resorting my team it was time to move onto route 11.

As before, I found my team to be at a bit of a disadvantage in terms of levels and it was only thanks to many of the opponent’s pokemon being unevolved that I was scraping through. Route 11 itself was also pretty short. I did notice some waterfalls and lower areas but couldn’t see any immediate way to access them. Perhaps another HM is required.

Next stop was the Village Bridge, where residents had built their homes into the large bridge stretching over the water. I first explored the lower areas and found some items. There was also something of an outdoor cafe that specialised in sandwich sales. After the chef decided to warm up with a battle against me she asked if I wanted to work as a waitress there for a bit. I agreed, thinking that it might be interesting and hopefully yield an awesome reward like an uber TM. Completing the task was easy, since three of the four customers basically ordered the same thing, but alas my only reward was one measley lum berry. What the hell? What about minimum wage? Disgusted I left and explored around some more, but only other place of interest was the house at the end where the resident was more than willing to let me crash there for a while.

Route 12 was a pretty simple location too but it did offer some training opportunities with more trainers. Good job I had rested up earlier. I took some time out to catch a few mons lurking about and soon made my way to Lacunosa Town. I had a look around but it wasn't really as interesting as I had hoped. A little creepy with some of the undertones though. Still, that wasn't what was on my mind. I recall my map pointing out a location north of the next route that got my interest. I rested at the Pokemon Center and then made my way to Route 13.

Actually making my way north proved a bit more challenging than I had first thought. The initial route was blocked by a pit and a boulder on the other side. My explorations took me to the lower watery areas and at first seemed similarly fruitless. A couple of guys decided to offload stuff they'd picked up. In mym younger years I may have gone "ew" at the idea, but these things seem to sell well at pokemarts.

Eventually I managed to find a path that took me north. I passed that boulder I saw earlier and decided to push it into the pit, using it as a shortcut back to the pokemon center to heal up. When ready I headed back and continued north and found what looked to be an entrance into a cave. The debris on the floor made it look like something had smashed through the wall rather than being a natural entrance though. I put that thought aside and entered.

I was able to spot an exit lower down but didn't want to risk sliding down to it. Besides, there were tunnels twisting around that I wanted to explore. I end up going around the whole area counter-clockwise and picked up some valuable items (seriously, who drops these things in such random places?). When finished I went around to the steps I spooted earlier and descended to the exit.

I found myself in a central outdoor area with a fair amount of mist and a lot of grassy areas. At first there didn't really seem to be any value of being there. I added a few more pokemon to the collection, including a Metagross that really didn't want to be caught. Other than that I spotted more steps I couldn't reach.

In the center of this area was a small pool. I didn't really see any significance in it but with nothing else to do here I figured I'd take a closer look before leaving. When I approached though a roar filled the air and snow began to fall. Before I'd even realized it the whole area was buried in snow. I didn't quite know how I had avoided being buried with everything else though. A strange thought crossed my mind though and I headed north as swiftly as was possible. Sure enough, the snow allowed me to reach the steps I saw earlier. I used them to enter another cave.

Inside the cave a rare creature waited for me - one I would get to know is Kyurem. I could tell just by looking that this creature was powerful and worth capturing. Without a moment's further hesitation I sent Gallade out into battle. I was confident in an easy battle but truth be told I was not prepared. This pokemon not only sported an attack that lowered the target's speed but also had a nasty trick to instantly drop Gallade's health to its own. With an unwillingness to join easily to outmatch that of the earlier Metagross I found myself going through multiple potions just to keep Gallade alive until finally one of the dusk balls clicked closed and Kyurem was added to the team.

Time to make my way out of here. Unova won't explore itself.

Current Location: Giant Chasm
Current Team: Samurott (Lv55), Darmanitan (Lv58), Galvantula (Lv58), Zoroark (Lv56), Excadrill (Lv55), Gallade (Lv100).

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I wearily dragged myself out of bed and got myself ready for the day. The room was in a much better condition than when I left it after that starter battle. Still, it was still hard to believe everything that had happened the day before. Simply defeating the Elite 4 would have been more than memorable but all that chaos with N and Team Plasma too was still whirling around inside my head. It was just as hard to think that Zekrom had sided with me (apparently not realising he would be doomed to sit in the PC forever after...).

I went downstairs and for a moment thought I was still asleep as my mother was having a conversation with herself. As it turns out though, one of them was merely an investigator called Looker. Putting the creepy tone of the disguise choice aside it appeared the sages of Team Plasma had escaped (not sure how, given the gym leaders supposedly had them outnumbered back at N's Castle) and he decided to enlist my help in tracking them down. I guess saving the world isn't enough, now they expect the hero to pitch in with the cleanup work afterwards too. The "payment" was outright odd - a fishing rod? Even mom seemed confused, but offering nothing resembling a proper explanation Looker left.

After talking with mom I left too and found my friends waiting outside. Sadly, more bad news as Cheren informed me that Ghetsis had also escaped. Still, not much to do about it now. Cedric Juniper appeared and decided to upgrade our pokedex's to enable national mode. Cool.

I decided that, with the chaos over, now would be a good time to explore those places on the map that I hadn't seen during my league challenge. The first place I really wanted to check out was a place marked on the map as the Poké Transfer Lab. Technically this meant going a bit backwards around the remaining routes but rumours I had heard got me interested. I just hoped no natural obstacles would screw me over.

I had to cycle to Accumula Town so I could withdraw Pidove from the PC and fly to Nimbasa City. After switching pokemon back I cycled East. Last time the place was blocked off but fortunately the guys had cleared out and I was granted access to Marvelous Bridge. Unova sure does love bridges. There wasn't a whole lot to this one if I'm honest. My cycle across it was interrupted partway by the Shadow Triad. They admitted to freeing Ghetsis and told me that the guy wanted me to have three orbs he was holding before vanishing. I have to say that such a development has to be one of the oddest things ever and I was unsure what to make of their intentions. I decided to put it at the back of my mind and continued on towards Route 15.

A girl in the building at the other end of the bridge asked me if I wanted to do a rotation battle and I almost regretted it. I thought my team was pretty tough, but when you face a trio that is about 12-15 levels higher than yours then those thoughts vanish quickly. Thankfully, my opponent was a complete idiot that had decked out her team with pathetic attacks and oddly decided that using Lock-on and then not following it with an actual damaging attack was somehow a good idea. Repeatedly.

Route 15 seemed a bit daunting and getting dragged into a battle with pokemon of similar levels to that scary rotation battle was worrying, but the enemy team consisting entirely of unevolved pokemon made it a breeze. Past that I explored a bit and managed to find the lab without too much trouble.

To say that the scientists inside were exciteable would be quite the understatement. One of them tried to explain some equipment to me but it was full of gaps and I didn't understand half of it. So naturally I did the one thing any sensible person would do and used the device anyway. Worst that would happen is it blowing up in my face... or tearing a hole in time and space. Whatever. What I found was a strange game where I shot pokemon with pokeballs. These pokemon were then transferred to my PC. How odd. I checked through these new additions and couldn't help feel a sense of familiarity with them. A Gallade caught my eye, with a moveset that seemed ideal for catching new pokemon. While the idea of carrying a Lv100 pokemon around might seem a bit cheap I still opted to add the guy to my team and duly replaced Conkeldurr with him.

I left the lab satisfied and reached in my bag for the mmap to see where to head next. As I did my hand brushed against something. I pulled it out and recognised the Liberty Pass immediately. I had picked it up from a deliveryman very close to the start of my journey but with all the events with Team Plasma I had forgotten about it. Quickly switching Pidove into my group I flew to Castelia City. I changed my party back and headed for the docks. The boat was about to leave for Liberty Island and I made it just in time.

Things weren't peaceful at the island upon arrival. Another tourist grouped were kicking up a fuss and it soon transpired that some Plasma grunts were after a pokemon on the island. I could only assume these guys were doing an indepedent operation here given that they apparently hadn't heard of their group disbanded and they tried to fight off my Lv49 Samurott with pokemon less than half its level. I made my way to the basement of the lighthouse and found Victini.

Not much to say about the battle. I opted to be really cheap and send in Gallade, using one false swipe to drop its health instantly to 1 and putting it to sleep with Hypnosis and throwing ultra balls. The little guy tried its best to fight back, but really there's not a lot you can do when faced with an opponent 85 levels higher. Victini was captured. Professor Juniper met me when I stepped outside and explained the significance behind the pokemon before leaving with the now arrested grunts. I took the boat back to Castelia City and pulled out the map. Time to plan my next destination.

Current Location: Castelia City
Current Team: Samurott (Lv50), Darmanitan (Lv50), Galvantula (Lv51), Zoroark (Lv53), Excadrill (Lv51), Gallade (Lv100).

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When I first set foot into the castle I was greeted by the sages of Plasma, although Ghetsis himself was missing. They threatened to take me all on at once despite N's wishes, but I was saved from time wasting here when the various gym leaders of Unova arrived to fend them off. Quite a cool big damn heroes moment. I went on ahead to find N. A few Plasma grunts were around but didn't seem interested in fighting. I guess with the caslte and Reshiram they feel that they've already won.

One of those creepy ninja guys appeared but didn't seem to want anything bad. He actually pointed me to a place where I could rest up. In the room I was shown to I met two girls - Anthea and Concordia. Anthea helped to heal my team and both girls revealed interested information about N's goals and thoughts. As expected, his innocence had been manipulated by that weird freak Ghetsis.

I continued through the castle and came across a PC that allowed me access to the storage system. I opted to keep my team as is though and carried on. Another room was said to be N's, although it seemed rather immature in appearance. Bright colours, a train set, boxes of toys. Did this reflect the inner self of the one I must now face?

I ran across Ghetsis again and he rambled on about world domination or something. Like I needed that speech to understand what kind of twisted nutter he is. I left him behind to face N.

In the throne room he faced one another, but Zekrom wasn't responded. Frustrated and perhaps even disappointed N summoned Reshiram, which crashed into the room and stood before me. In the face of such power though, the dark stone finally stirred and Zekrom awakened. The pair made a mess of the room but that didn't mmatter. Time to end this. I challenged Zekrom in the hope of adding its power to my own.

Zekrom proved to be a powerful beast, so I opted to hit with Thunder Wave straight away and then switched to Excadrill. As a Steel/Ground type it would resist everything Zekrom could throw at it. X Scissor was used to lower its health into the red and then several ultra balls to secure the capture. Zekrom was mine and without a single casualty.

I decided not to set Zekrom against its other self though and left it in the box. N graciously healed my party before we fought. Time to end this.

Unfortunately, having my Galvantula up against Reshiram wasn't an ideal start. I decided to Volt Switch out and brought Samurott in. This, however, was merely a ploy so I could then switch in Excadrill and not worry about him eating a super effective Fusion Flare. The plan worked and Reshiram attempted a hyper beam, both being ineffective and leaving it wide open! Good job too, because Reshiram was apparently faster and would have nuked Excadrill if not for the recharge needed. I brought out my Darmanitan against Klinklang. A fire punch revealed it to really be a Zoroark (how sneaky and impressive). Alas for N, Fire Punch still wiped out a lot of health and his Focus Blast couldn't OHKO. N tried to heal off the damage but what can you do when the damage is near defeat? Zoroark fell. Galvantula switched in to Carracosta and fired off a super effective thunder. Despite Sturdy activating to let it hang on paralysis set in and it couldn't move. A Signal Beam finished the job.

I kept Galvantula in for Archeops, opting to rely on Thunder again. This time it was a clear OHKO. The real Klinklang came onto the field, and so did Darmanitan to do what was originally intended. There was no way that steel typing was going to stand up to a fire punch.. or so I thought but it hung on and fired back a paralysis-inducing thunderbolt. Both sides being near defeat, I opted to switch Conkeldurr in. Despite the enemy hitting with both Flash Cannon and Hyper Beam my pokemon held out to strike with Brick Break. Last up was Vaniluxe that I sent Excadrill against. There was a certain aptness to his final team member being ice-cream mon. It managed to survive my first Rock Slide and unleashed Blizzard to bring Excadrill close to defeat, but one more slide sealed the deal and N was defeated. All that without a single legendary on my team. =)

N seemed to begin to accept views other than his own and even seemed happy. Perhaps a great burden had been lifted from him? However, this happy moment was not to last. Ghetsis burst in and rejected this ending. Alder and Cheren arrived behind me and for all of us to hear Ghetsis spilled the real goals of Plasma - to rule the world. Like we didn't know that already. To realise this Ghetsis challenged me to a battle. Fortunately, my pokemon were healed beforehand (though who did it? Nothing mentioned it...).

Ghetsis sent out Cofagrigus against my Galvantula. No time to waste I fired off Thunders to down my opponent, suffering Toxic in the process. Next up was Bouffalant, so out came Conkeldurr. A couple of Brick Breaks knocked it out but left my pokemon weakened. Worse is that Hydreigon was up next. Undeterred though I sent Excadrill out. However, this was a brutal monster that outpaced my entire team and could hit most of them for super effective damage. I somehow managed to beat it but I lost half my team and sadly ended up having Samurott PP stall by constantly healing until it only had surf left and counter attacked with X Scissor.

Ghetsis sent out Eelektross next and I pitched in Galvantula. I immediately using Thunder Wave, hoping to buy some time so I could repair my team. A flamethrower encouraged me to Volt Switch out to Darmanitan and I continued to restore my party with revives and potions. Good job I stocked up.An unfortunate critical hit knocked Darmanitan out again though, so Excadrill came in and finished the opponent off.Seismitoad was up next so I sent in Zoroark. Though not at full health, it only took a single Grass Knot to tear through that 4x weakness. Excadrill was brought back to take on Bisharp, striking with an earthquake to knock it out in one go. Somehow, I had defeated Ghetsis.

The man continued his derangeed ramblings but was soon escorted away by Alder and Cheren. N asked to speak with me and spoke of how he was surprised when, at our first meeting, my pokemon spoke of me in a way he did not understand. As he travelled he became more unsure of his goals and seemed to understand why he lost. N soon left with Reshiram, and with that our way of life with pokemon was saved.

And so the main journey has come to an end. The League was conquered and Plasma defeated. Fear not faithful readers, for there is more to the adventure of this trainer. Many discoveries to make and new places to visit. But until then, thank you for sticking with this tale for so long. I've come a long way since Nuvema Town, and I'm sure I've still got a lot waiting for me.

Current Location: Nuvema Town
Current Team Detailed:

Samurott, Lv49, Jolly, Torrent, Mystic Water
Razor Shell / Aqua Jet / X Scissor / Slash
Met Lv5 Nuvema Town

Darmanitan, Lv49, Jolly, Sheer Force, BrightPowder
Fire Punch / Flare Blitz / Superpower / Headbutt
Met Lv18 Route 4

Conkeldurr, Lv50, Jolly, Sheer Force, Shell Bell
Brick Break / Bulk Up / Rock Slide / Strength
Met Lv13 Pinwheel Forest

Galvantula, Lv51, Timid, Compoundeyes, Rocky Helmet
Thunder / Volt Switch / Thunder Wave / Signal Beam
Met Lv24 Chargestone Cave

Zoroark, Lv51, Timid, Illusion, Lucky Egg
Night Slash / Shadow Ball / Grass Knot / Retaliate
Met Lv25 Lostlorn Forest

Excadrill, Lv51, Lonely, Sand Force, Soft Sand
Earthquake / Metal Claw / Rock Slide / X Scissor
Met Lv13 Wellspring Cave

Touko, Lv??, Timid, Parasol Lady
Attack / Pokemon / Bag / Run


Vital Stats:
Adventure started - 4th March 2011
Main story cleared - 13th March 2011
Pokedex status - 135 seen, 49 obtained
Time played - 34 hours 35 minutes

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Oh boy. Compared to the relatively easy time I had experienced earlier, it seemed the game caught on and was trying to crush me now. Pokemon in route 10 were hitting a lot harder to what I had become used too - both trained and wild - and I found myself dipping into my medicines supply to avoid dashing back to the pokemon center. Hopefully this is an indication of what is to come.

Before I could make it to the end though I was stopped by Cheren and Bianca. Cheren challenged me to a battle who what I assume was to test me to see if I was ready. Given the challenge I was already facing, Cheren's battle was certainly no more difficult and I emerged victorious. Bianca apparently didn't want to join in this time but did give me items. Both wished me the best and left, leaving me to face the journey ahead of me.

The badge check gate I came across certainly wasn't what I expected. It was a series of eight gates - one of each badge - and the area beyond each gate resembled that of the gym I had beaten to earn that badge. It brought back fond memories of the challenges I had overcome to get here and it made me think of just how far I've become since selecting Oshawott to be my partner for this journey. I wonder what awaits me further on? If I succeed here, where do I go next? Such contemplations filled me with excitement and, with those thoughts in mind, I entered Victory Road.

Perhaps "road" is misleading. It's more of a mountain consisting of a series of internal cavernous chambers and external walkways. At the top awaited the Pokemon League. where I would have to challenge the elite of Unova.

Making my way through this place it seemed the enemy pokemon weren't interested in letting up. Durants especially proved resilient and fast enough to be bothersome against anything that wasn't a fire type, and being so far away from a center meant I had to continue to dip into my potion supply. Thankfully the place wasn't as confusing as I first feared and I was able to make my way up through the various chambers without too much running around in circles.

I eventually stepped out at the top and headed down the pathway to the league. The structure was certainly imposing, towering over everything. I headed to the makeshift pokemon center nearby and had my team healed up. I then made sure to stock up on supplies.

Feeling ready I exited and spoke to the guard. I entered the central chamber and found myself locked in. Guess there was no turning back from that point. Curiously, the statue in the middle had an engraving that basically told me what types each member of the Elite 4 used. It felt like them sticking on a sign saying "Please crush our teams". Or maybe they were just that damn confident in victory that it didn't matter if I picked on their weaknesses or not. I opted to leave the one with fighting pokemon for last, considering I didn't have anything to hit them with for super effective damage.

I entered the south-west doorway, intending to battle the ghost user first. The room was just as crazy as some of the gym layouts I had seen, and what I could only describe as ghostly powers took me up to where Shantal, the Elite 4 member here, awaited. Battle 1 was about to get underway.

Cogagrigus was my first opponent; a pokemon I was confident in my Zoroark in defeating. Both sides exchanged shadow balls - I move I chose to use to avoid the effect of the opponent's ability. Zoroark won while sustaining some damage. Next was Golurk, who I choose to send out my valuable partner Samurott against. The enemy looks imposing but we weren't about to run. Besides, it took only one Razor Shell to down my opponent. Galvantula was called upon next to take on Jellicent, a ghost that looked rather creepy in an unusual way.Opting not to take any risk I struck with Thunder, but was surprised to find my opponent still standing (...well, floating). A followup Thunder finished the job but my pokemon had taken a noticeable hit in the process. The last pokemon was Chandelure, who I sent out Excadrill against. A risky move of course, since both sides could hit for super effective damage. Nevertheless, I placed my faith in Excadrill doing the job with earthquake. It was a smart decision, scoring a OHKO.

After my victory I used the warp panel to return to the main chamber and noticed a spot had lit up. I guess that is how they track who I have defeated thus far. I healed my team with potions and headed to the north-west doorway. The next room was akin to a fancy mansion with elegant lighting and carpets that wouldn't be out of place in some gothic horro adventure. The spiral escalator was a bit strange though. I used it to reach the next Elite 4 member Grimsley and began my second battle.

My first opponent was Scrafty so I sent out Conkeldurr. His attempt at a sand attack was irritating but I managed to use a combination of bulk up and brick break to knock him out, though not without taking some damage. I chose to let Samurott take care of the following Liepard, which might seem odd but not when my buddy is packing X Scissor. I didn't quite anticipate Attract screwing me over so badly though, so while I managed to knock it out it came at the cost of potions. Despite the obvious type advantage over Krookodile I decided to bring Conkeldurr out due to Samurott's low health. I bulked up a few times and hit hard with brick break to OHKO the opponent. For the final opponent Bisharp I sent out Darmanitan. I opted to strike with Superpower just to take advantage of the opponent's double weakness and finished the fight with another OHKO.

I left the mansion room to return to the central chamber and healed up. My next opponent would be a psychic user but if anything that is the type I am most well prepared against. The room at the north-east had a space style setting to it and a psychic power transported me to the next member, who apparently had been in bed (what?). I engaged Caitlin in battle.

My first opponent was Reuniclus but my Zoroark wasn't scared of him. It survived the first super effective Night Slash but it was amusing to see it try and fail to hit with Psychic. One more Night Slash did the trick. I opted not to switch when she brought out Sigilyph. Caitlin apparently isn't too bright though, as despite allowing her an attack she still tried to hit with Psychic. *facepalm* Gothitelle was next and while she didn't try to hit with a non-effective attack her Calm Mind usage really was totally wasted. Musharna was next and suffered the exact same fate as her other pokemon. Did Caitlin make it into the Elite 4 based on her looks alone?

After that rather disappointing battle I left and headed to the south-east doorway of the central chamber. If any battle here would give me lots of trouble, this is going to be it. I entered the room and found a rather technological looking room that seemed to be steam powering something. A cart took my up to what looking like a ring at the top. Here Marshal greeted me and my battle against the final Elite 4 member began.

Galvantula comes out first and is faced with Throh. I waste no time firing a thunder in his face, following up with a second to defeat him. Sawk is next and I risk sending Darmanitan in. A fire punch does a lot of damage but the stone edge counterattack brings my pokemon down to 2 HP. Fortunately, this does not affect performance and a few more attacks (due to Marshall using Full Restore) finish the job. I decide to bring my own Conkeldurr out to fight the opponent's one. I used bulk up a few times to buff my pokemon while the opponent merely tried Hammer Arm. After two buffs and one of my opponent's attacks missing I decided to hit back with combinations of Strength and Brick Break. Since Shell Bell had kept my health high I kept him in for Mienshao and was able to counter-KO with one Brick Break.

Following my victory I returned to the main chamber to find the whole area around the statue glowing. I healed up and entered the light. Examining it cause the statue to descend to the lower depths, serving as a lift for me. Down below showcased a long set of steps and an impressive building. I entered and continued on to find Alder, but N was also here! From their conversation it seemed Alder had lost. Just then the Dark Stone I was carrying began to respond to something. N claimed that it was not a suitable place for a dragon legendary battle to take place and commanded a castle to rise around the League grounds (that's some construction work). He then left, intending to carry out his plan of liberation. I knew without anyone saying that I had to stop him.

Cheren arrived but it seemed purely to offer words of advice and Alder also pitched in. Not that I needed the encourage. I bravely ascended the new staircase to enter N's castle. I feel even tougher battles await me but for all those I care about I cannot fail here!

...sounded heroic, didn't it? =)

Current Location: N's Castle
Current Team: Samurott (Lv48), Darmanitan (Lv49), Conkeldurr (Lv49), Galvantula (Lv49), Zoroark (Lv51), Excadrill (Lv50).

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After dragging pidove out of the PC and using it to fly to Nimbasa City I hopped on the bike and cycled down to route 4, swinging a U turn around (no, not the attack) to get onto the path towards the Desert Resort. I had to hop off the bike when I hit the sand though as it wasn't the easiest to cycle across.

Since I had already defeated the trainers in this area before I was able to make my way to Relic Castle with no interruptions. When I got there Cheren caught up and informed me that Alder was already inside. I put aside the question of how he could have known if he arrived after me and went inside. The path that was previously blocked off was now available so I descended into the depths of the castle.

Suffice to say that my trek through their was pretty typical. Having to drop to lower floors by sinking into quicksand was certainly very bizarre and batting away the Plasma grunts was easy. Eventually I made it to the lowest floor, with Cheren magically appearing behind me as well. It seemed Alder and Ghetsis were already talking so we joined Alder to listen to the silly ramblings of pokemon liberation. It became rather obvious the more Ghetsis spoke that he, and the whole of Plasma, were massive hypocrites that didn't really have the well being of pokemon in mind. He soon left and then we discovered that the stone we had come to search for wasn't there.

It was suggested and agreed that we would discuss the matters outside, since the cave was hard to breathe in (quite how talking in a freaking sandstorm was any easier was not made clear). We were kinda at a loss though until I received a call from Professor Juniper telling me to head to Nacrene City immediately. Alder flew off ahead of me while Cheren decided to keep looking around the castle. Unfortunately, having stuff the pidove back in the PC I had to trek all the way back to Nimbasa City just so I could fly to Nacrene. I did so, cursing myself for not keeping the fly slave in my active team.

Seemed a noticeable crowd of familiar faces had gathered around the Nacrene Museum when I had arrived. It turned out that the stone we were looking for was there all along. This probably explained why Plasma were there before. Lenora gave me the stone but we were still left with the question of how to use it to awaken Zekrom. A suggestion was made to visit Opelucid City, where some people might have an answer.

I flew back to Icirrus City, dumped Pidove back in the PC and made my way to route 8. The rain was coming down hard now but I paid it no attention. The only thing it meant really was that my Darmanitan was harder to use in battles. Along the way I dropped into Moor of Icirrus but didn't really find anything interesting. I left and continued along the route.

Before I was able to step through the gate to the next place Bianca arrived on the scene, seemed to trip over her own words but managed to drag me into another battle. Still, the poor girl doesn't really seem to know how to put a strong team together and so none of her pokemon troubled me at all. She soon left, seemingly a bit upset. Did I go overboard? ...nah.

The trip across Tubeline Bridge was an unusual experience, with the trains whizzing past beneath my feet, but it was an otherwise unremarkable trip. I was soon in route 9, with more trainers to defeat. The one thing of interest here was the shopping mall. Sadly, there really wasn't anything I needed to buy from there, but I did note the vitamins counter on the top floor. May be useful another time.

Exiting the route I found myself in Opelucid City. I was quickly greeted by Alder, who took me over to the place where Ghetsis was giving yet another silly speech. What disturbed me is that some people seemed to actually consider his words seriously. What nutters.

When Plasma left I came across Drayden and Iris. Alder left for the league to challenge N. The three of us remaining went to Drayden's house, only for them to not know how to awaken Zekrom. All they could do is rely the story of their origins, which was nice and all but hardly helpful to the current predicament.

Whatever. I guess the only thing to do is head for the league myself, but for that I needed the last gym badge. Iris was selected to be my eventually opponent and so she went on ahead to the gym. I took a quick look around town, including getting involved in some triples battles, but then rested up and headed for the gym.

The layout of this place couldn't match up to some of the previous gyms (but then how exactly do you top launching trainers via cannons?) but it had an interesting quirk of jummping onto switches to move the dragon's heads to shift pathways. I wasn't having too much trouble with the trainers in there sadly, aside from a couple of enemy pokemon managing to avoid getting OHKOed. I made my way to Iris, ensured my team were in top condition and laid down the challenge.

I must say, my battle with Iris was more interesting than expected. While her first pokemon went down to a single earthquake, her second pokemon gave my Galvantula a bit more trouble and I'm sure a critical hit is the only reason my bug companion didn't get knocked out. Then her Haxorus proved to have more staying power than expected, but a few Bulk Up buffs on Conkeldurr allowed for a spectacular finish. I had earned my last badge and could now challenge the league.

I left the gym to find Professor Juniper waiting for me. At first it seemed like she had discovered something about the stone but disappointment loomed there. Instead she just provided a guide to the gate to the route I needed. I told her I didn't regret starting my journey, which certainly pleased her and she gave me a master ball. Hopefully something I won't ever needed.

I quickly went to the pokemon center and healed up before going through the gate. I was on route 10 and ready to make my way to where the strongest trainers in the land supposedly were.

Current Location: Route 10
Current Team: Samurott (Lv43), Darmanitan (Lv43), Conkeldurr (Lv43), Galvantula (Lv45), Zoroark (Lv42), Excadrill (Lv44).

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My travels took me back to the strange narrow walkways of the next route. Instead of heading into the tower through I carried on west and followed the path to a mountain that would take me to the next gym. But of course, before I could even set foot in there Cheren popped up and wanted a battle. I briefly considered commanding Darmanitan to aim its fire punch at Cheren's head, but settling for wiping the floor with his team. Because hitting the trainer and not the pokemon would just be cruel, wouldn't it?

After the battle the regional champion Alder appeared form a ledge up the mountain and commended us on a battle well fought. Always nice to get compliments, although Cheren just seemed confused by it. Not like I care. I headed into Twist Mountain.

I must say that the inside of the mountain wasn't quite what I expected. Suspended walkways attached to a hollowed out center and various contruction vehicles clearly visible at the bottom. I have to wonder what kind of nutter was leading this construction job when descended the mountain involved going through twisty internal tunnels. Was a few ladders too much to ask? I did at least find some Cubchoos to catch that I didn't expect to see until winter. I even saw a Cryogonal, but it sadly got OHKOed by a measley aqua jet. :( Plasma grunts showed up near the exit but Cheren had beaten me to defeating them and they left.

Exiting the mountain I had arrived at Icirrus City. Professor Juniper's father made another brief appearance and mentioned that he was going to check out the Dragonspiral Tower. Not sure why he felt the need to inform me though. Maybe anyone would have done but I was there.

I explored the marsh lands nearby once he had left and caught a Stunfisk - a pokemon that caught me by surprise as I expected a water type and it was electric/ground instead. I rested at the pokemon center and headed to the gym.

This gym had a neat sliding floor puzzle element with a twist that curved corners would literally take you for a spin. There was definitely more of a challenge to figuring out how to go here than in some of the earlier gyms, so I had mym hopes up as I progressed up to where the leader Brycen waited, even though the random trainers posed no challenge.

Sadly, my expectations were crushed. I already knew his team were going to be held back by their own ice typing, but to destroy his team so easily. Here I thought Skyla was a walkover. This guy was a joke and none of his team even got one attack off. I took my new badge and a TM from him and promptly made my way to the exit.

When I got outside I was greeted by Cheren and Bianca. The gym leader himself had followed me out as well. He made some remark about someone showing themmselves and suddenly those weird guys from Chargestone Cave appeared. They said that Ghetsis and N would be waiting at Dragonspiral Tower and then vanished again. With nothing better to do everyone rushed towards the tower. Cedric Juniper was waiting for us and informed everyone that Plasmma had smashed into the wall of the tower. Bianca chose to wait with Cedric while Brycen, Cheren and I stormed the tower.

Inside I took the opportunity to catch a few more mons and climmbed the tower. There were holes in the floor everywhere that made me think either the place was falling apart or had one wacky architect working on it. It wasn't long before I spotted Brycen and Cheren fighting Plasma grunts and apparently being slowed down by them. Geez, guess I'm doing everything myself, huh?

I quickly made my way to the top, batting away the annoying Plasma teams that foolishly tried to impede my progress. I didn't quite understand why though - I thought they wanted me up here? Bursting onto the top floor I saw quite a magnificent sight - a striking white dragon was there and so was N. He made a speech about pokemon liberation once again and encouraged me to find Zekrom, the other dragon of legend, before flying off.

Brycen and Cheren finally caught up to me but by then the events were over. We left the tower and returned to Cedric and Bianca. Alder himself joined us and we pondered over N's words. Alder suggested that Relic Castle might have something to do with Zekrom. Guess that poor Pidove will be giving me a left back to Nimbasa City so I can reach the Desert Resort again. Everyone bar Bianca left and I decided I should start making my way off soon to. Next stop, Nimbasa City.

Current Location: Dragonspiral Tower (Outside)
Current Team: Samurott (Lv41), Darmanitan (Lv41), Conkeldurr (Lv40), Galvantula (Lv40), Zoroark (Lv40), Excadrill (Lv41).

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Just as I was ready to leave Driftveil City Bianca popped up out of nowhere and challenged me to a match. The poor girl really has no clue but her determination is great so I happily crushed her team. She did give me the Fly HM afterwards though, which will make revisiting old places easier. Even though the only pokemon I have at the moment capable of learning the move is a small Pidove. That bird is so going to regret not running as fast as it could.

I headed onto route 6 and made my way to Chargestone Cave. Aside from thrashing trainers I came across some research building where one of the scientists wanted to see a Deerling, so I took a quick break to go catch one and show him, totally expecting a reward and not getting said reward (please note that all reports of destroying the building in a fit of rage are totally unfounded).

When I arrived at the cave Clay arrived (spookilly good timing I must say) and used his pokemon to destroy the web. He then left after handing me the TM I should have gotten at the gym. Strange guy. Thinking no more on it I went inside. Immmediately some strange guys surrounded me and provided a short escort to N. The guy mentioned something about waiting for me and left. A bit confused over that but whatever.

With that over I took a look around. With the electrically charged environment and floating rock puzzles I thought I'd stumbled into another gym for a moment. I caught a few more pokemon for the collection, but one caught my eye. I agonized over it for a while and eventually decided to switch out Munna for Joltik. Thanks Munna for all your hard work. Now have fun in the PC with the rest of the abandoned mons.

Back to the cave I got about halfway through when Bianca showed up again, but this time joined by Professor Juniper. This was quite the surprise visit and even more so when she gave us a lucky egg item (would have been nice to get this earlier though). She mumbled something about researching Klink, but I couldn't have cared less why she was there. All I knew was that I was heading to the other side.

When I reached the exit N was waiting as promised and challenged me to a battle. As before, his team consisted entirely of local creatures and this time took nearly no effort to defeat them. I had to wonder if he was really trying and then he got in a mood about battles being no good and left. It seemed Juniper wanted to leave as well, and it wasn't as if I wanted to stick around either.

Out of the cave I headed into Mistralton City. I ran into a man that quickly upgraded my pokedex before I could say anything. Turns out he was Professor Juniper's father and a seemingly eccentric chap. The girl with him was the local gym leader, but she left for some tower to see a sick pokemon and couldn't accept my challenge during that time.

I took the opportunity to look around the city. It had a nice landing strip for aircraft but talking to the people around suggested it was barely used once a day. What a silly waste of space then. I noted that there was a family that could help pokemon delete and relearn techniques, which may be useful in the future. One guy in the center claimed he could sense the hidden power of pokemon, but who knows how much of that can be taken as fact.

Bored I decided to head onto the next route and look for that tower the gym leader mentioned. It would surely beat hanging around town doing nothing. The next route had the usual grass and trainers, and I used the chance to add a few more pokemon to the collection. There were some funny wooden thin walkways as well, which were unique but a bit strange. Who the heck would build something like that for what seems like no reason? Anyway, this route also served as a point of evolution for several team members, eventually resulting in my entire team being in their final stages at this point.

I soon arrived at Celestial Tower, which seemed to be something of a resting place for deceased pokemon. I made my way upstairs to find wild pokemon and trainers still eager for battles. Strange but I'm not one to decline. Defeating trainers and catching pokemon I made my way to the top floor, where the gym leader Skyla told me she had healed the sick pokemon and it had gone already. I suspected she was just fishing for an excuse to goof off but I said nothing and let her continue. She invited me to visit the gym and challenge her. Naturally I headed straight back to the city, healed up and went to the gym, which was a hanger on the airstrip.

Elesa's rollercoaster gym had seemed "out there", but that seemed totally normal compared to Skyla's gym, which expected challengers to climb into large cannons and get fired around the place. There wasn't much of a puzzle here aside from one cannon where you had to enter it from a different direction than expected, so it took no time to reach the gym leader. I readied myself and challenged Skyla.

Unfortunately, this proved to be the easiest gym battle so far. I'm pretty sure my Galvantula could have soloed her entire team, and the only reason I sent out Excadrill was to give it some of the experience. It was quite disappointing really. Still, a win is a win and one that netted me another badge and a new TM. Now I'm only 2 badges away from being able to take on the Elite 4.

I left the gym to find N waiting for me outside like some kind of stalker. He "spoke" to my Galvantula. I thought he was just being a nutter but he picked up details he shouldn't have known. Well, not unless he really is a crazy stalker that's been on my tail since I left home to go on this journey. He did remark on me being a kind trainer though but it seemed he was still set on his liberation scheme. Anyway, I healed up at the pokemon center once he had left. It seems my next destination is Icirrus City.

Current Location: Mistralton City.
Current Team: Samurott (Lv38), Darmanitan (Lv37), Conkeldurr (Lv36), Galvantula (Lv39), Zoroark (Lv38), Excadrill (Lv37).

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I managed to push through the hustle and bustle of Castelia City to meet up with Bianca at the exit gate. It seemed Iris had been helping her train and she wanted to test her skills on me. However, even the aid of a gym leader isn't enough to allow Bianca to compete with my team. Still, I admire her determination, especially after what just happened.

Once Bianca left I went onto Route 4 ready to carry on to the next gym location. Cheren was waiting out there for some reason and opted for a battle. His team was soundly defeated by mine and he went on his way. At this point I took the opportunity to explore the area for items and trainers, although the sandstorm proved to be an issue as it chipped away at most of my team's health whenever I was fighting.

When I reached the north end I had a choice of two routes. I opted to go left and ended up at the Desert Resort (an odd name since I wouldn't call it much of a resort) which then lead to the Relic Castle. Nothing too significant there except a NPC offered me a fossil after a battle. Not one to turn down freebies I accepted, but with nothing more to do here I went back to route 4 and took the right hand exit. This led me into Nimbasa City, a city whose size felt smaller than Castelia but felt infinitely busier.

The man that ran the daycare was here for some reason but was being hassled by Plasma grunts. These guys and girls were getting annoying so I decided to beat them up a bit. The losers fled towards the funfair area, so I gave chase and ran into the mysterious N. Due to events that would take too long to explain we somehow ended up taking a ride on the big wheel together, where N rambled more about pokemon liberation. The plasma grunts had appeared when we stepped off, but before I could crush them N stood between us and occupied me with a battle. It was quite interesting that his team seemed to be made up entirely of pokemon from the local area. Did this guy not hang onto his own pokemon or something? He fled afterwards too, leaving me wondering what to do next. Still, the daycare man did give me a lovely bike as a thank you.

I headed back into the city and bumped into Bianca, who mentioned something about pokemon musicals before she headed off north. Not really interested immediately as I had another task on my mind. I withdrew the Raikou I had transferred over in the previous city and headed onto route 16 to the east. After a quick trip into the trees I wound up in Lostlorn FOrest, where a woman came racing out of her camper van and attacked! It was really a Zoroark in disguise, who seemed to have a dislike of Raikou. I used my team to fend it off and then captured it. No doubt this Zoroark would be a valuable member of the team.

I headed back into the city and explored the various buildings. The sports domes had the same lack of actual security most buildings do, allowing random people to walk onto the fields and courts without so much as a query. There was a building with special battle facilities but the setup seemed a bit advanced for my current progress.

I had intentionally ignore the musical building and tried to have a peek at route 5, after hearing about some performers gathering. However, Bianca was having none of that and dragged me (kicking and screaming) to the musical building, where we got an introduction to the concept. Essentially sounded like the middle phase of those Sinnoh contests, but I decided to give it a whirl. My Dewott got the makeover treatment and we went with the Forest Stroll theme. It was interesting to look at but I did feel like I had little involvement with the events.

I left the building to find Bianca's father had managed to make it here and was trying to force her to go home. I tried to cut in to defend her but then a strange woman spoke up. It was amazing that she was able to convince Bianca's father to allow her to continue her journey. Either this woman was very convincing or he was really weak willed. Haven't figured out which one it is yet. The woman introduced herself as Elesa, the local gym leader, and encouraged us to visit her gym.

I rested up at the nearest pokemon center and headed to the gym. Inside I was met with a bizarre rollercoaster system that I guessed was this gym's "puzzle". Not that flicking switches to change tracks was much of a puzzle. The trainers were a bit more sneaky than I thought, bringing in Emonga's to counter my ground type. Soon enough though I reached Elesa herself.

This gym battle was probably one of the trickiest to deal with due to Elesa abusing Volt Change to the extreme. Zoroark was able to handily put some dents in though, and efforts by Drilbur and Munna sealed the deal. With Elesa defeated I took my 4th badge and agreed to meet Elesa by the bridge. I left, healed up and headed for route 5.

Of course, what would a location transition be without at least one of my rivals appearing? Cheren challenged me to another battle. I guess his defeat a mere 1 route ago wasn't enough for him, so I gladly wiped the floor with this team too. That done we both headed to the bridge and crossed paths with the champion himself, with atypical crazy spiky hairdo as standard. It seems he understood Cheren's motives for training so hard and encouraged us to participate in a doubles battle against a pair of pre-schoolers. Not sure why they are getting involved in battles at such a young age though.

Afterwards we carried on to the bridge, with Cheren grumbling along the way. Elesa contacted someone on the other side to get the drawbridge lowered, which made me think how horribly inefficient it was to require one gym leader to contact the town on the other side just to allow for travel across it. In any case, we crossed the bridge and arrived at Driftveil City.

The gym leader Clay met us with a rather weird attitude, made some remark that almost suggested our crossing the bridge was responsible for several Plasma members escaping and then practically demanded our help. Gee, what a nice way to greet visitors. Before I bothered to look I went around the city checking out the buildings and the market. Nothing of particular interest though. I headed south to the Cold Storage area, fighting trainers and adding a few more pokemon to my collection. One of the containers down here held an interesting collection of ice and more containers. Here we found the Plasma members hiding out in an ill-thought out plan to hide. Cheren and I thrashed the grunts and Clay arrived just in time to escort everyone off to incarceration. His thanks was to allow us to challenge his gym. Yeah, OK, whatever.

I headed to the pokemmon center to rest up, but I also contacted another trainer to perform a tradeback so my Gurdurr (evolved from Timburr) could evolve into its final form. I also managed to pick up some eggs in exchange for pokemon I possessed, which will save me from having to trade for them later. Resting up I went to the gym, only for Clay to free the prisoners when Ghetsis turned up out of nowhere. The vanished as quickly as they appeared and I was left none the wiser as to why they were there at all. No matter, my 5th gym challenge was waiting.

Clay's gym interior consisted of a series of elevators and girder walkways. It wasn't hard to figure out the correct order to use them in so it wasn't long before I made it to the central elevator that took me low down into the very bottom of the chamber. Clay waited for me.

Compared to the Elesa battle, this one didn't quite have the same bite. Two of his team fell quickly, and only his Palpitoad proved to have enough staying power to force a switch, if not enough raw power to be truly threatening. With his team down another badge was mine, but he held off on the customary TM. Instead, he asked me to meet him by some cave that I presumed was along the next route. Oh well, I got the important. I headed back to the pokemon center to rest up, ready to make a move to my next challenge.

Current Location: Driftveil City.
Current Team: Dewott (Lv30), Darumaka (Lv31), Conkeldurr (Lv30), Munna (Lv29), Zoroark (Lv30), Drilbur (Lv28).

«Part 3
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The trip through route 3 didn't take much time, but I did run across a couple of Audinos along the way. I caught the first purely to add to the growing collection and defeated the other, which netted a scarily high amount of experience. Sweet!

The trip took me to Nacrene City, home to the next gym leader. Upon finding out that the gym specialised in normal types and my team had basically nothing to take advantage of that I decided to scout along the next route, which took me to Pinwheel Forest. Aside from a few more trainers to beat I snagged a few vital extras - a Rock Smash TM that was ultimately used to deck out half my team with a fighting attack and a Timburr pokemon - a fighting type with the excellent sheer force ability. Pansear was dropped to make room for this new team member. Satisfied I made my way back to the gym after a brief training session to get Timburr caught up.

To think I thought the first gym strange. Not only did this one have its entrance at the rear of a museum but its puzzle layout involved finding memos in books scattered about various book shelves. It wasn't particularly difficult though and the mook trainers proved no trouble at all. Soon enough the way to the leader opened up. I took a quick rest-stop at the nearest center and then made my way to the leader Lenora.

The battle against her normal types was swift but memorable. It marked the first time one of my own team fainted, thanks to her Herdier's take down proving more trouble than expected. My Drilbur's efforts were followed up by my recently evolved Dewott's rock smash. Watchog was dealt with easily by Timburr.

Afterwards some commotion was heard and we rushed out in time to see Team Plasma steal the head of a dragon skeleton. Burgh arrived on the scene and together we gave chase to Pinwheel Forest. Burgh decided that going through the twisty messy forest path was a job suitable only for the young female trainer (what a wuss) so while he took the nice clean straight path to prevent them from escaping that way I took the detour route, fighting trainers from both Plasma and random nobodies that apparently I had to take on despite the supposed urgency of the situation. Thanks to a nurse outside acting as a healing stop I managed to catch up with and reclaim the skull, earning thanks from Lenora.

When everyone had gone and I had rested up it was time to move on, but not before I caught a Petilil for collection purposes. I decided to hold back on snagging anything else yet as my pokeball supply was running low. I exited Pinwheel Forest and crossed Sky Arrow Bridge, a setup so obviously done just to show off. The view was amazing though.

At the end I found myself in Castelia City. Suffice to say this city was huge and finding my way around would be no easy task. I scouted around to check out locations of everything. I fought through the Battle Company and registered with the Passerby Survey people. Of special note is that I activated the relocater and got my legendary shiny beasts and Celebi transferred over. I used the opportunity to get Zorua, although he was quickly boxed. Lv10 was a bit behind my team and a dark type wasn't suitable for the current area. Not to worry though - I have plans for its evo later.

My challenge at the gym would have to wait, as Plasma decided to stir up more trouble. I was tempted to tell those involved to solve their own bloody problems, but when I discovered they had stolen my friend Bianca's pokemon... well, that's like flicking the "berserk mode" switch. We searched all over the city and found them trying to hide out in a building near the gym (at least that explains why it was empty earlier). The grunts tried to repel Burgh and I with battles and swiftly regretted their actions. What was left of them ran inside, but Iris and Bianca joined us and together we forced our way in. That creepy dude Ghetsis made some speech, they handed Bianca's pokemon back for some reason and vanished. Whatever, like any of their previous appearances made any sense either.

Everyone departed and I wanted to resume my league challenge, but once again I felt I was unprepared to take on the speciality gym type of bug. I headed over to route 4 to see if I could snag something useful, and indeed I did. After a battle in a sandstorm Darumaka was added to the team, a nice fire type. I rested up and headed back to the gym.

This gym was just as strange as the others, with soft walls made from what I assume is solid honey. Quite how those don't just collpase into a puddle is boggling. This gym wasn't much a puzzle even by the existing standards. Dispatching the trainers and pressing switches, I soon found myself face to face with Burgh.

This gym battle proved to be the easiest yet. I had heard of bugs being tougher around in Unova, but Burgh's team wasn't much trouble. My Darumaka only had to defeat one of them on the leader's team. With another victory down I prepared to make my way to the next location, but exiting the gym Bianca gave me a call and challenged me to a battle. I guess if she's waiting by the gate to route 4 then I'm not going to have to go out of my way, so why not? I took a rest-stop at the center, taking a moment to complain to myself about the sheer size of the city, and then headed off towards where Bianca was waiting.

Current Location: Castelia City.
Current Team: Dewott (Lv23), Darumaka (Lv22), Timburr (Lv21), Munna (Lv21), Woobat (Lv16), Drilbur (Lv21).

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So I returned to the town and checked around the school. Apparently I just missed the gym leader but got a battle with Cheren from my troubles. I soon left (playing since Yellow - not as if I need to read up on status conditions) and headed for the gym to find Cilan apparently waiting for me (did he seriously have nothing better to do?). A quick convo later and I was inside.

The inside of the gym was strange. I'm used to the idea of puzzle based layouts, but a gym in the form of a cafe? Whatever. The puzzles were pretty simple as long as you have a good understanding of type matchups. Completing them and seeing off the lackies hanging around I was matched up against Cilan. His Lillipup was defeated soundly by Oshawott and the Pansage was made easier thanks to the Pansear I had received previously, though it was odd why he opted to use vine whip against my fire type. With the battle over I received my first gym badge and a TM.

Upon exiting the gym I came across Professor Fennel, who managed to find time in her schedule to not lock herself up in her room. She asked for my help in getting some dream mist from a pokemon and gave me the cut HM. Well, I guess I could, so I used the new move to explore the Dreamyard a bit deeper, with Bianca tagging along for the trip. We swiftly found the pokemon Munna, as well as some of those Plasma grunts who decided to be rough with Munna. Then they tried their luck against me (I guess Bianca wasn't worth the hassle). Compared to the gym leader battle these guys were no trouble. A slightly disturbing sequence later and the grunts had left and we had the dream mist. Fennel said something about this allowing for game sync but I was more interested in the Pal Pad I received from her assistant. This should come in handy.

Before moving on I headed back to the Dreamyard. I intended to use the grassy area to train a bit, but I also took the opportunity to catch a wild Munna that popped out to say hi. I'm sure it's skills like Yawn will be useful. Once I felt ready I rested my pokemon at the nearest center and continued on my journey. It wasn't long after passing by the day care that the Plasma grunts were stirring up more trouble, stooping as low as stealing a little girl's pokemon (what, did they want to score extra points in the bad guys leaderboard?). Cheren and I decided to beat the crap out of them... or rather we defeated them in pokemon battles and reclaimed the lost mon. We returned it to the little girl and I got some heal balls for the trouble. Awesome, the balls I consider the most pointless. ._.

I took some time to catch a bunch of other pokemon in the local area. Pidove, Blitzle and Roggenrola found themselves boxed, while Woobat and Drilbur are added to the current team. With all that set I feel ready to start making my way to the next town.

Current Location: Route 3.
Current Team: Oshawott (Lv15), Lillipup (Lv15), Pansear (Lv14), Munna (Lv14), Woobat (Lv13), Drilbur (Lv13).

«Part 1
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Please note that this will contain spoilers to the story and events of Pokemon Black and White. Leave now if this is a problem to you.

Beginning my adventure in the region of Unova was certainly an exciting prospect. While it has been necessary for me to keep up with various bits of info over the time since knowing about these things, I have tried to limit that knowledge and I know that even then knowing bits and pieces and actually experiencing things firsthand can be quite different.

I already knew who I was choosing as my starter. I've never really been one for grass types as the starter and I didn't like the idea of the fire type, so I picked out Oshawott. Even managed to get a good nature with Jolly, though this did shoot dead my idea of a surf/blizzard combo for later on.

Immediately after my ingame friends Bianca and Cheren challenged me to two battles, which I easily won and subsequently found that the chaos had totally trashed my room! It was quite the funny scene and also quite perplexing that Mom was apparently quite cool with the idea of cleaning the whole mess up again (something that seemingly would take a while, given I went back a short time later and found it in the exact same condition I left it).

A quick visit to the local professor was in order. She had us trek over to route 1 to demonstrate catching pokemon and then went on ahead to the next town. Our little group decided to have a little catching contest in the area, which wasn't hard to do since my friends only ever had 2 pokemon at this point and there were only 2 different wild pokemon in this route. I added both Lillipup and Patrat to the team, although only Lillipup would see any real use afterwards. With my little "victory" we checked out Accumula Town.

Well, Bianca and I were given the tour of the Pokemon Center by the professor. Cheren had disappeared off somewhere. After exiting the Center I soon found him with a crowd of people and got my first sighting of the Team Plasma giving some speech of Pokemon Liberation. This also marked our first time seeing the mysterious N, who mumbled stuff about pokemon talking. What a strange guy. Once he had gone I was given a Liberty Ticket by a deliveryman at the Pokemon Center. Doesn't look like it can be used yet but I'll hang onto it.

Unsure of what to make of these events exactly I headed to route 2. Here I added Purrloin to the team, who would swiftly be left relatively unused too. Nevermind though. I battled some trainers along here and had a rematch with Bianca, but that was an easy fight. Finally I found myself in Striaton City. But then wandering around I found out the gym leader wasn't at the gym and there was a little place called the Dreamyard on the East side. Exploring this yielded a few more trainer battles and a girl who gave me a Pansear to add to the team. Hopefully this will be a valuable addition to the team.

Current Location: Dreamyard.
Current Team: Oshawott (Lv11), Lillipup (Lv12), Patrat (Lv4), Purrloin (Lv6), Pansear (Lv10).

»Part 2

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The 6th round resulted in a four way tie, forcing a tie breaker to decide the ultimate winner. Twin_Master managed to just squeeze ahead of the compeitition this time, as he picks apart Solid Snake's portable adventure on the PSP in Peace Walker. Does this game capture the stealthy and somewhat humourous legacy set by the series so far? Hit the source to find out the details.

 Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker     Score: 4.8/5
 Genre: Stealth

 It is perfectly suited for the portable console and should not
 be missed by any self respecting Metal Gear Solid fans.


quote Twin_Master


Kojima really raised the bar with his latest gift to the Playstation Portable, hoping to rise above the disappointing Portable Ops, which had built up a lot of hope for the series on the Playstation Portable but really failed to deliver. Its arrival did provide the portable gaming community with its own slice of Metal Gear Heaven; however, it seemed very short lived and quite frankly unsatisfying. The expectations of Portable Op’s were sadly not met, and some could say this was due to the fact that Kojima had minimal involvement with the project's development, merely acting as a producer. Suffice to say, Peace Walker has come to redeem its predecessor, with Kojima taking the reins in a more hands on approach as Director, Producer and Writer, to bring a true Metal Gear Solid game to the PSP and share with us a truer Metal Gear Solid experience than we could have possibly hoped to have imagined before.

Overview
Peace Walker is set 10 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3, in the year 1974. Located in Central America, Big Boss appears to have become more distant with the government which set him up. Loosely following off from where Portable Ops ended, Big Boss has begun development of his own Mercenary unit, endeavouring to create his own and very first Private Military Company, the Militaires Sans Frontières (Soldiers without Borders). Big Boss, in partnership of the unit with Kazuhira Miller, are contacted by a Costa Rican professor and student at a Peace university, to deter the invasion of a mysterious military force called the Peace Sentinels from invading Costa Rica.
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The winner of the 5th round of Articles of Excellence is a familiar reviewer at Neoseeker, and this time Ori Ginx turns to the Xbox 360 to provide an insight into the Alan Wake game. The game is a mystery but past the enigma what goodness does the title hold, if any? The course has all the details for you to find out.

 Alan Wake     Score: 3.5/5
 Genre: Mystery Adventure

 It has a very strong story and high production values, but the
 controls and variety in gameplay and environments leave something to be desired.


quote Ori Ginx
While I had a good time with this game, it didn't hit me in the same way a large majority of reviews - both professional(ly stupid) and the users of Gamefaqs - would lead me to believe. Maybe it's that I set myself up for disappointment after reading those reviews and spending $99 on a copy that I just didn't think Alan Wake was the holy grail it was made out to be. Don't get me wrong, it's a good game, but it's not great.

Story: Alan Wake, a best selling author, has been suffering from writer's block for two years, and to try and cure it, he takes his wife known as Alice with him to a small town known as Bright Falls. There, they get a hotel key, but it's not for the room they wanted - it's for a house in the middle of the nearby lake, Cauldron Lake. If only they figured it'd be a bad idea to stay there based on the name, though they thought it was the right key... but they were given this key by a mysterious woman in a black veil. Wouldn't you be suspicious? But hey, we make mistakes, and this one sets Alan on a quest to rescue his wife and find out just what's with the possessed townsfolk otherwise known as The Taken that attacked him the night Alice fell into the lake.

Alan Wake takes a much more subtle approach compared to other games that play out like survival horrors, following a psychological suspense instead of a surprising funhouse scare. The story constantly takes influences from novels written by Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, along with a clever reference to The Twilight Zone, and the trappings are clear, but putting these different influences into an interactive medium really changes things. The way that the story is told, coupled with the many twists throughout, makes Alan Wake one of the most unique narratives ever seen in survival horror video games. While the story tends to lose a bit of momentum in the later chapters, Alan Wake possesses a story that stands tall alongside its influences. From the characters to the twist occurrences throughout, the narrative draws the player in with such finesse that you'll no doubt want to follow Alan's story from beginning to end.
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Round 4 of Articles of Excellence has the winning review delve into the depths of Muramasa: The Demon Blade on the Wii. Coming from the same minds that gave us Odin Sphere and possessing just as much visual charm as its predecessor, Muramasa intends to provide the same enjoyable adventure to the current generation. Dark Dom takes control and dashes in sword swinging to see if the core gameplay delivers as much as the graphic style does.

 Muramasa: The Demon Blade     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: Action, Fighting

 If you have an urge to play a good arcade-style game with a
 hint of RPG, then this game is for you.


quote Dark Dom


I've never been that much for the "video games as art" argument. Beside games like Shadow of the Colossus and Okami which definitely took my breath away with their unique and attractive imagery, I've always thought of a game as being a form of entertainment and nothing more. Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a work of art and a fine one at that. If it were possible, you could hang up a screen in an art gallery, allow people to play Muramasa and it would blow their minds.


Everything in Muramasa: The Demon Blade looks crisp and extremely detailed


Muramasa: The Demon Blade features two playable characters: Kisuke, a young male Ninja being chased for crimes he cannot remember committing and Momohime, a princess of Narukami Han who runs away from her castle and becomes possessed by a foul swordsman named Jinkuro. While both characters don't have a large amount of variation in fighting style besides aesthetic details, their stories run in different directions. Kisuke heads from western Edo to western Kyo, while Momohime heads from western Kyo to western Edo. They both encounter different situations and both have their own unique eight bosses to encounter.

As I mentioned beforehand, Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a beautiful game. It's a side-scrolling fighting game with unique 2D hand-drawn, interesting and detailed graphics. Characters look very pretty and enemies are inspired by Japanese legends. There are a good variety of enemies but you do find they tend to be recolours. Not as though that is a problem when they look so great anyway. The music is of a true traditional Japanese style and the sound effects and voices are excellent and top-notch. Fortunately, the game has kept Japanese voices so the experience feels very authentic.
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For the 3rd round of Articles of Excellence we got treated to an insight into the Xbox 360 2D fighting game by Arc Systems Works. Already known for their Guilty Gear series, this was a good chance to see if they could use that experience for a new fighting game, and Aevers is the one providing the guided tour. Whether they managed to hit the sweet spot away from their other series can be discovered at the review source.

 BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger     Score: 4.3/5
 Genre: 2D Fighter

 It's an excellent fighting game that every enthusiast should
 get their hands on.


quote Aevers


Oh boy, was I impatient or what? Blazblue was released last year in Japan and North America, and we had to wait a good 10 months before Australia and Europe got their copies. I thought that we got our copies only maybe a few days later then them, but I guess with some games, they take their sweet time to get them shipped overseas. Either way, this is a fantastic fighting game. Now, I know that it'd look dated in the eyes of the industry due to sprite based graphics and 2D movement, but the effects of all of the special moves, the amount of button combinations through the roof, the voice acting in the story mode and online modes will tell you otherwise.

The story of Blazblue revolves around a wanted criminal known as the 'Grim Reaper', Ragna the Bloodedge, and the overbearing Novus Orbis Librarium establishment that Ragna seeks to topple. Throw in some Library officials, vigilantes after Ragna's bounty, and a few shady figures and you have the gist of the story. Every character has their own story mode which plays out through the fights themselves and lengthy cutscenes that are fairly static, with pictures of the characters speaking to each other. Several times during each character's story, you have the option to decide what path to take. These decisions lead to different opponents and story paths and may ultimately determine which of the character's several endings you receive. The overall plot is extremely convoluted and can be difficult to understand. Completing every character's story mode unlocks the supposed true ending. This answers several questions, but you'll still likely be scratching your head at some parts unless you happen to be a very smart and comprehensive gamer. A gripe some of you may have is the anime styled humor that's uttered by a certain character. For those who don't know, anime styled humor is often... well, very corny to say the least.

But lets be honest - Blazblue has a fantastic cast of fully realized characters that are either compelling or entertaining in their own way. The fact that Blazblue is a fighting game that actually has a decent story to begin with is worthy of praise, but the fact that it manages to go even further beyond that is certainly admirable. While the story mode still does pale in comparison to something more fully realized like an RPG, the folks at ARC System Works really deserve credit here for giving players a reason to get behind a particular character aside from 'His/her moves are good.' I'm starting to get a bit of a Soul Calibur 3 vibe from this storyline, since it was pretty detailed.
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The 2nd round of Articles of Excellence has ended and the next winner selected. Capcom's Megaman is one of those easily recognised video game characters and their choice to do retro-themed releases for him are no secret. Their second attempt has arrived and it's time to see whether they could capture the magic of the older generation games while still competing with the new. Crazyhand delves in deep to find out.

 Mega Man 10     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: Platformer

 Go get it today! Excellent graphics, excellent levels,
 cool weapons - awesome everything!


quote Crazyhand
If you could tell from my Mega Man 9 review, you could tell that I wasn't exactly impressed with it. It didn't meet the hype or anything. Granted, a 7/10 will tell you that I was at least reasonably satisfied with it, so it was at least a step in the awesome direction. However, that's like saying 50 Cent: Blood In The Sand was fantabulous because it wasn't diarrhea dog shit like 50 Cent: Bulletproof (granted, I enjoyed Blood In The Sand for what it's worth, but it wasn't anything great). Mega Man 9, however, fell victim to cheap tricks at times, making it a bit of a frustrating romp to go through, like wading through a swamp of shit and piss at points. Mega Man 10, on the other hand, was definitely what I wanted. FAIR challenge, like actual tricky obstacles and actual tricky bosses at times, not this one hit death shit Mega Man 9 tried to sodomize you with on a few levels. So with that in mind, let's dive into it!

The story is a bit interesting. There's a robotic flu going around known as Roboenza, and all the robots that it infected go berserk. Dr Wily runs over to Mega Man and Dr Light to tell them that his machine which supposedly cures the flu has been stolen by one of the infected robots. There are a couple of twists, though they'll be seen from space. Then again, it's an 8-bit game, and as we all know, they're not big on story. What we get, though, is fairly cool. Nothing engaging, nothing awesome - just a premise, which is usually all that's needed.

Mega Man 10, like Mega Man 9, plays like Mega Man 2. No sliding and no mega buster means you'll be relying on running, jumping, and of course, the ability to use the powers of the 8 robot masters, so long as you've acquired them from their dead corpses. Of course, that's just for Mega Man. His brother, Proto Man, can use the charged shot and slide, though he takes double the damage, so it really depends on how you want to handle each of the levels.
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Articles of Excellence has reached its 3rd year and so a new batch of winners will be coming through. Here is the winner of the 1st round of this year. Sam Fisher returns in Ubisoft's long running stealth series and along comes a new set of tricks, but the question is whether this game does justice to the series or not. Krantos gives us his verdict - check the full review to see for yourself.

 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction     Score: 4.0/5
 Genre: Stealth

 Overall, is Conviction good? More or less, yes, but it does
 break one of the Cardinal Sins of Game Design in my opinion.


quote Krantos
So after a VERY long wait, Splinter Cell: Conviction is finally here. With new, gadgets, new moves and a new look, Ubisoft Montreal takes the bestselling Franchise in a different direction, but is it a good one?

Well, kind of.

The game gets off to a rocky start with Sam Fisher being contacted by an old friend in Malta. What follows is a rather clunky and confined tutorial section that really makes the player feel like they're on rails. This is followed by the infamous bathroom interrogation scene. The next level opens things up a bit more, but still feels too linear, and this pretty much sets the stage for the rest of the campaign.

During development, someone at Ubisoft made the claim that each area is like a mini-sandbox and that the player would be able to progress through however they like, but this is seldom the case. More often than not, the choices for progressing boil down to a frontal attack or one or two obvious stealth options that still require you to eliminate some, if not all, enemies. For old-school Splinter Cell fans looking to "Ghost" (get through a level without using gadgets or killing/incapacitating anyone) the option is rarely there. This railway-like approach gets worse when the game throws in some forced action areas. The worst of these in my opinion was one that requires you to defend a computer from waves of terrorists.

Someone criticized the game saying that it was borrowing too heavily from Uncharted. I’ve never played the Uncharted games, so I can’t cite details. What I can say is that Conviction definitely took the style from those types of games. What I mean, is that the focus of the campaign is really about the story this time rather than trying to find excuses for Sam to sneak around in as many different areas as possible. While I would put that down as a step in the right direction, the game makes the mistake of putting the player in too many plot-based action sequences so that it barely resembles previous titles. Franchise progression is one thing, and I whole-heartedly approve of many of the gameplay changes, but when the game starts to feel like a completely different genre, it’s a bit too much.
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Articles of Excellence is an ongoing contest where we vote upon the best user reviews submitted over two weeks periods. Recently we marked the second year of the event by holding the second all star round. Gamecube Guru fought off strong competition to claim this year's winning position with his Eternal Sonata review.

Beginning with some background behind the game, we are guided through the fantasy RPG by tri-Crescendo - a vivd colourful adventure shining forth from the sea of games sporting more muted palettes. With clear sections, excellent use of images and more than enough detail, it is clear exactly why this review was chosen as the eventual winner. Go ahead and check out the review to see for yourself why it won, and feel free to drop the author a congrats or two too.

 Eternal Sonata     Score: 4.7/5
 Genre: RPG

 However, with an epic soundtrack, colorful anime-inspired visuals, coupled off with an
 excellent story and a very engaging battle system, Eternal Sonata comes as
                  recommended to anybody, especially those into JRPGs.


quote Gamecube Guru


Haha, 360 loses another exclusive.
Ported from the 360 over to the PS3, Eternal Sonata manages to maintain the awesomess from the 360 version, and add a few big drops of awesomesacue to the PS3 version to make it worth your money if you have both. Now, the PS3 isn't that loaded with RPGs, and normally, an RPG fanatic wouldn't shell out money for a PS3, unless they happen to be into other sorts of games, and odds are, they aren't. However, with Eternal Sonata on the PS3, maybe things will change. Maybe... As far as I'm concerned, it should. It plays, looks and sounds like a title that should be selling units and should make the PS3 popular with RPG enthusiasts who didn't get a 360 (which is scarce as far as I know, because many RPGs have appeared on the 360, whereas there aren't too many for PS3, at least, that you can't get on 360 as well). Hell, it should be the JRPG equivalent of Metal Gear Solid 4... or at least inFAMOUS and Killzone 2! Has a couple of minor gripes - most of which doesn't even feel like them, depending on your perspective - but still damn impressive, and perfectly able to show off what the PS3 can do to, once and for all, silence the 360 fanboys.

A dreamy symphony of a universe.
The story behind Eternal Sonata is that the famous composer, Frederic Chopin, is lying on his deathbed. Okay, so that's it, right? Wrong! This game takes place within Chopin's mind. Instead of a boring opera house filled to the brim with living violins and whatnot, you have a literal dream land, kind of like a typical RPG world (forests, mountains, towns, etc). In this world, Chopin is aware that he's dreaming, though he possesses not musical overtures that will lull the enemy to sleep, but rather, magic and prediction of the future, as well as being able to read people's thoughts (sounds cool, but this is a dream he thought up; unless it's uncontrollable, he should already have it planned out). He soon meets up with the heroine, Polka, and a couple of street urchins, Allegretto and Beat. This ragtag group sets out to confront the ruler of the country of Forte, Count Waltz, about the high taxes he has placed on everything except the questionable medicine known as Mineral Powder, which seems to be like a nuclear cure for cancer - it'll work, but at what cost?
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Winner of the 60th round of Articles of Excellence. EA's sports game updates come out like clockwork, but determining whether each is a worthy successor or little more than a roster update can be difficult. EricF takes on FIFA 10 to see for himself what this installment holds. Check the source for the full review.

 FIFA 10     Score: 4.7/5
 Genre: Sports, Soccer

 I would certainly recommend this game if you were a fan of Fifa 2009. The game
 would be sold at a cheap price now, so you'd even get yourself a bargain.


quote EricF
Simply, A GrEAt Purchase




With the speculations of last year's game, the pressure was piling on EA to produce a game of an even higher quality. Rumours had been told that PES were in for a huge, dramatic improvement from their 2009 sale. With a high amount of pressure being placed in the hand's of EA, only time could tell whether they were capable of handling such pressure for 2010.

I was a huge fan of the game last year, as you may have noticed if you read my review for the 2009 series. I knew were improvements were needed, and I felt it was key that EA tweaked their game when September was approaching. Being a former PES fanboy, I found it difficult to adapt to Fifa once again. Last year was the first Fifa game I properly played in about 5 years or so. While PES became absent from my heart, I could only rely on EA's quality to amuse me for another year of football gaming.

GAMEPLAY
For me, there was certain tension when purchasing this game. I knew the gameplay last year was good, but I also knew that Fifa had an inconsistency in the past. I was unsure whether the game would be a big hit for me, or just another add-on from the previous year. EA diminished my thoughts when I first put the disc in. It became clear to me how much had changed from last year, and the impact became fierce upon my first few hours of gameplay. It was much more realistic when running with the ball at your feet with a top striker. Previously, taking players on was significantly about pace and acceleration. But Fifa now show an insight on strength and balance, while it becomes much harder for a fast attacker to run at a well-built centre half. This was a huge aspect to their new game, because it was far too easy to score and concede once the ball was played to a swift centre forward.
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Winner of the 59th round of Articles of Excellence. Ech0ez takes us on a magical journey through the WiiWare title LostWinds where the wind is used to solve the various puzzles of this sidescrolling platformer. As a representative of the WiiWare service does this game manage to work? The thoughts are positive, so check out the review to see why.

 LostWinds     Score: 4.0/5
 Genre: Side Scrolling Platformer

 If you’re looking for a really enjoyable platformer or puzzle game you’ll be
 hard pressed to find a more enjoyable and innovative game than Lost Winds, but unless you’re specifically looking for a game in this style you’ll probably find that Lost Winds seems somewhat overpriced.


quote Ech0ez


Created by Frontier Developments as a launch title for Nintendo’s WiiWare service, Lost Winds is a charming side-scrolling puzzle-based platformer game where players must use the infra-red pointer on the wiimote to control the wind in order to manipulate their surroundings and progress through the game. It was met with a generally positive response from critics and is generally regarded as one of, if not the best game available on WiiWare and it won several awards during the year of its release. Having recently picked up the game myself now that the sequel has also hit WiiWare for purchase, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the game.

During the course of the game you take on the role of Toku; an adventurous young lag clad in rather fancy red clothing and an absurdly large hat whom discovered a mysterious stone after he plummets through a breaking bridge and into a cavern below. The stone turns out to be a fragment of a mythical relic created long ago and it contains the Wind Spirit Enril whom explains to Toku that some time prior to the events of the game the Spirit of the Sun and Moon Balasar went against the code of spirits and had humanity worship him as a god, at which point the rest of the spirits created the Spirit Stone in order to imprison him. Balasar proved to be too powerful to simply be contained so Enril effectively gave her life in a heroic sacrifice by transforming herself into a tornado to bind Balasar while he was sealed. However as time went on Balasar’s hatred transformed him into something far deadlier than anyone could have anticipated and he shattered the stone and escaped, whilst Enril remained stuck in a fragment of it with very little of her power left. Toku agrees to help Enril search for the other spirits and the two set off on their journey which results in them learning that Enril’s powers can in fact be restored through the use of shrines built by a mysterious race called the Melodias, and that Toku’s grandfather Dio whom also happens to be a spirit has sealed his memories away and that by restoring them and his powers he’ll be able to contact the other spirits.

I’m sure you’ve gathered from that description that Lost Winds has a pretty simplistic storyline and besides two sequences that are told in a ‘storyboard’ fashion the majority of it is explained through speech bubbles during interaction with other characters. Lost Winds is the first part of a series of chapters that are going to be release to WiiWare as time goes on (The second part is actually out at the time of writing this) and as such Lost Winds effectively serves as the ‘prologue’ to one whole story, but this does little to detriment it. You don’t really need an elaborate storyline for a game like this that prides itself in amazing simplicity, and what story there is works fantastically for what it’s intended to be.
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Winner of the 58th round of Articles of Excellence. A series that started firmly in the realms of 2D side scrolling and since found a home in the first person adventure set of Prime games. Dark Arcanine takes us on a tip through the Wii installment and shows us just how the console has been used for this game.

 Metroid Prime 3: Corruption     Score: 4.9/5
 Genre: First Person Shooter

 This game deserves all the praise it received through the reviews of others,
 showing off what you can do with the Wii if you actually try.



quote Dark Arcanine


TBefore this, I had very little knowledge about the world of Metroid. It’s my first game of the Metroid series and I’ve only ever used Samus previously in the Super Smash Bros. series. I saw this game as a pre-owned title for a good price and I was in the mood for a new game, so I picked it up remembering the positive views of people at its time of release. Delving into this game, I had very high expectations in due to the high reviews (nine out of ten on average) and the description of it being the best first-person shooter controls ever designed. So how does a game to wrap up a trilogy released later than originally expected size up?

Welcome to the Metroid Universe, you’re about to dock with Battle Ship Olympus for briefing on a current problem after having just watched a cut scene involving some sort of Dark Samus. The overview of the plot is that you and several other bounty hunters have been called upon by Admiral Dane to receive information from the Aurora Unit (242). This unit was saved from the corruption of a deadly virus, of which it asks you to remove from other units in the galaxy. It’s at this point that the ship is attacked and it becomes vital to escape and get to planet Norrion. It’s here that you’ll be first confronted by Dark Samus, who in their attempt to kill you, ends up corrupting your (and the other bounty hunters’) bodies with Phazon. After receiving a PED Suit, you’re sent off to different planets in order to unravel the mysteries and ultimately save the galaxy.
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Winner of the 57th round of Articles of Excellence. A game that originally had a home on the NES that combined platform ideas with puzzles elements via a shape shifting blob companion. This game provides a current gen refresh with a new installment that seems to do its fair share to earn praise, but you'll have to check the source for Ech0ez's full insight.

 a boy and his blob     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: Platform

 A Boy and His Blob is undeniably one of the best games available for the Wii.



quote Ech0ez


The Platforming genre has been around since the dawn of video games, but it rose to popularity during the third through fifth generations of video games consoles. Many brands from the genre are known by almost every gamer in existence; Mario, Sonic, Spyro, Metroid, Crash Bandicoot and so forth there are literally dozens of huge franchises that are predominantly made up of Platformer games. However despite completely dominating the gaming industry for so long, in the last two generations Platformers have been usurped from their throne by Action games, particularly FPS and as of late have almost been completely wiped off the market. Most Platformers released these days are either heavily mixed into other genres, or relegated to downloadable titles that often go unnoticed with a few notable exceptions (Braid, Lost Winds, ect). As such for a fan of Platformers such as myself, I was ecstatic to find out about A Boy and His Blob.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the game’s history, A Boy and His Blob was originally released on the NES and has also found a home on the Wii’s Virtual Console recently. The game was a rather innovative Platformer Puzzle hybrid that made use of inventive mechanics centered around a shape shifting blob. Fast-forward to November 2009 and the game finds itself completely remade for the Wii, with beautiful hand-drawn graphics and a redesign of the innovative gameplay to keep it up to date with the current demographic whilst still retaining the ‘Retro feel’ the somewhat old-school styled title has.
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Winner of the 56th round of Articles of Excellence. A series long held high in the survival horror genre lands on the Wii with a new direction that leaves behind the ideals of the originals. Dark Dom guides us through this scary new world and lets us know exactly why this game is worth it if approached with no preconceptions. Check the source to see it in full.

 Silent Hill: Shattered Memories     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: Survival Horror

 It's not very scary and it's a bit too short, but the deep emotional
 and psychological story will have you thrilled until the end.


quote Dark Dom
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is not a sequel to the Silent Hill series, nor is it a prequel. In fact the only thing you could associate this Silent Hill with any of the other games in the series are the character names from the first game released in 1999. Shattered Memories is a re-imagining developed by Climax Studios, the same company that created Silent Hill Origins for PSP and PS2. Now don't confuse this with a re-make, the game is not a re-make. Not associating this game with any of it's predecessors the first step to enjoying it.

It's snowing heavily outside, a well dressed man tosses a few ice-cubes into a glass and pours himself a whiskey. The intercom buzzes. "The new patient is here. They're early." The man accepts the person in, saying they can start. Straight afterwards, a car veers through the snowstorm and off the road, through and fence and into a ditch. A man with glasses unbuckles his seatbelt, and falls into the snow. It's dark. It's quiet. It's cold. "Cheryl!" the man cries out. Your daughter is missing, and you're in Silent Hill. Not a good start.
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Winner of the 55th round of Articles of Excellence. No, this isn't one of the old 2D side scrollers. Gamecube Guru takes a critical look at the 2006 3D incarnation on the PS3 and examines just why the game has been slammed by many. His own thoughts are quite negative about the game as well and you can see why at the source.

 Sonic the Hedgehog     Score: 1.5/5
 Genre: Platform

 It just didn't want to cooperate with the player, especially when it
 comes to certain characters, situations, and the camera controls themselves.


quote Gamecube Guru


Revival? From what!?
Sega promised that this particular game would revive the Sonic franchise, and get it going the way it was. May I ask... how did Sonic die, exactly? Shadow The Hedgehog? Nah. That game was decent enough. Sonic Heroes? Maybe... I remember that game glitching out towards the end, though it had a strong start, so... I'm kind of in limbo here. But yeah, the idea of a good 3D Sonic game was but a pipe dream. They almost did it with Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, but failed because they added other styles that were executed terribly at best. But hey, let's check this out anyway, maybe it'll make a decent spiritual successor to Sonic Adventure 2.

Time travel, princesses, and hedgehogs. Better get my "smart" drink.
The basic story is that in a region known as Soleanna, a princess by the name of Elise is having a parade in honor of the god, Solaris, when all of a sudden, Eggman swings by to attack the city and kidnap her to get a jewel from her... which I guess is a Chaos Emerald. Sonic comes by to rescue her.. only for her to be taken again, and now Sonic has to foil Eggman's evil plot. The one thing that stands out in Sonic's plot is that Eggman is finally a bit of a threat. He's not like his Sonic SatAM counterpart, but at least he's not a complete joke. Other than that, Sonic's story never really kept me awake. It's... kind of like a typical Mario story, plus some light bestiality. Not exactly a favorable story...

Unfortunately for Sonic, the Term-- or rather, Silver the hedgehog comes by to kill him in order to prevent the fall of Skyn-- I mean to prevent Sonic from unleashing a demon known as Iblis (seriously, the Silver part of the plot was making me think of Terminator). In the future, Iblis dies over and over again thanks to Silver and his partner, Blaze, but he always comes back good as new. As advised by Mephilis, they travel back in time to kill Sonic to prevent this. Silver's story is fairly interesting, until you realize just how much sense it makes - not all that much. The basic foundations are there, but afterwards, you probably might want to think about what substance you put into your body before proceeding, because the story ends up... well, it makes you want to leave your brain behind, I'll leave it at that.
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Winner of the 54th round of Articles of Excellence. If you've heard of first person shooters then chances are you've heard of the Half-Life games. Ech0ez decides to give a close inspection of Half-Life 2 and gives us his verdict on what it does for the genre and the gamer. Why hand it such a score? Check the source to see.

 Half-Life 2     Score: 5.0/5
 Genre: First Person Shooter

 Half Life 2 isn’t merely a good game, it’s a masterpiece within
 the video game industry and whilst it certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone, it’s something that has to be experienced if you consider yourself a ‘gamer’ in any shape or form.


quote Ech0ez


“So wake up Mister Freeman… wake up and smell the ashes”
As those final words leave the G-Man’s lips you know you’re in for one heck of a game. Half Life 2 is a First-Person Shooter although with the amount of times it effectively kicks the general standards of the genre in the balls and proceeds to dance around them makes you wonder whether it’s really in a genre of its own. Either way Valve’s sequel to the original Half Life; a groundbreaking title that outright redefined it’s genre and the gaming industry as a whole would have to be something truly mind-blowing to top the original game. Packing the newly developed Source Engine (Well newly developed at the time anyway) Half Life 2 set out to redefine the industry once more, and there’s certainly no denying that it succeeded. Looking back over 5 years later, was Half Life 2 really as good as it was revolutionary?

The game kicks off with a rather surreal opening sequence featuring the G-Man talking to our protagonist Gordon Freeman in a way that could probably creep out even the toughest gamers. Following on from the events of the original Half Life the G-Man has employed Gordon and presumably placed him in some inter-dimensional stasis or something along the lines, the G-Man’s powers are never really touched upon enough to understand exactly what it is he does. Either way as the G-Man so rightfully puts it Gordon’s time has come once again, and so it is time for us to take up crowbar once again and rabidly beat things to death. Following the scene Gordon is transported to planet Earth some 20 years after the events of Half Life, and quickly discovers that the impact of the Black Mesa Incident has finally come through in full force. Portals all around earth have opened up enabling many alien species to invade and also attracted the attention of the Combine; an empire consisting of several different species that dominate planets and enslave the populations. With earth now under Combine control Doctor Freeman finds himself in City 17; the center of their empire and home of the Citadel; the Combine home base of operations. Before Freeman find himself in any serious trouble he runs into some of his old allies from Black Mesa including Dr. Kleiner and the newly introduced Alyx Vance; daughter of Doctor Eli Vance from the original Half Life. After a bit of chit chat and Gordon getting a hold of his infamous HEV Suit, providing him with enhanced abilities and resilience to damage as well as environmental hazards Kleiner attempts to have Alyx and Gordon teleported to Black Mesa East, the headquarters of the resistance against the Combine. Unfortunately things go wrong and Gordon finds himself outside Kleiner’s lab with the whole of City 17 on red alert. Having nothing on hand but a crowbar, Gordon is forced to make his way through the canals in an attempt to escape the Combine.
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Winner of the 53rd round of Articles of Excellence. The Legend of Zelda series has quite a remarkable legacy and expectations are high for the latest installment Spirit Tracks. Ech0ez guides us through this fantasy adventure of trains and demons to give us an idea of whether or not this game lives up to the series standards. How does it fare? Check the source to see for yourself.

 The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks     Score: 4.7/5
 Genre: Adventure

 The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a fantastic game which
 gets somewhat slow at times, but overall it’s truly superb.


quote Ech0ez
The Legend of Zelda is franchise is synonymous with the word good, almost all the games in the series have met with amazing critical reception, and the demand for the games is ever rising. The latest entry in Nintendo’s legendary series is Spirit Tracks. Released for the Nintendo DS on December the 11th Spirit Tracks takes place 100 yeas after the events of Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. It kicks off in the same fashion it’s two predecessors did; with a storyboard briefly explaining the basic back-story to the game. Sometime after the events of Phantom Hourglass, Link & Tetra’s crew of pirates arrived at a new land and christened it ‘New Hyrule’ and reinstated the Hyrulean monarchy. An age of peace followed but it was short lived, with appearance of the demon king Malladus. Malladus takes over the land, but is eventually stopped by the Spirits of Good and imprisoned beneath the land using shackles that cover the land itself, all of which intersect at the Tower of Spirits; created by the Spirits to maintain the shackles. The weakened Spirits departed to the heavens and left the land in the hands of the New Hylians.


"Damn it my evil plot was foiled by those shiny triangles!"

Fast-forward to the events of the game itself and the kingdom is flourishing, and the shackles that imprison Malladus have become known as the ‘Spirit Tracks’ and are used as a railway system across the land. You take on the role of a descendant of the Link whom was the protagonist in Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass. An aspiring apprentice engineer this new Link is just about to set-off to Hyrule Castle to attend the graduation ceremony that will crown him a Royal Engineer. Link travels to the castle and heads to the ceremony where he is bestowed the title of royal engineer by Princess Zelda herself, whom reveals to Link that the Spirit Tracks are disappearing and that she needs him to take her to the Tower of Spirits to find out what’s going on. She warns Link to be weary of the mysterious Chancellor Cole whom she suspects may have dark motives, and has Link guide her out of the castle by giving him the royal uniform which is the same as Link’s traditional tunic, and from there they meet up with Alfonzo; the master engineer and former soldier whom taught Link all he knows about trains. Just as the three make there way out of Hyrule Castle aboard Link’s train, the Tower of Spirits is shattered and the Spirit Tracks begin to disappear, causing the train to crash. Much to the horror of the trio Chancellor Cole appears and reveals himself to be a demon and along with his second in-command; Byrne, they easily overpower Alfonzo and Link and then proceed to murder the Princess, taking her lifeless body with them.
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Winner of the 52nd round of Articles of Excellence. Gamecube Guru manages to snatch another win with his review of one of the biggest games of 2009. With a mountain of hype to overcome and the shadow of its successful predecessor to deal with, did this game succeed? I guess the score's a giveaway there but read the review to find out why.

 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: First Person Shooter

 However, it’s fun as hell to play, so you can’t really say no
 to this game, especially if you have a craving for co-operative play.


quote Gamecube Guru


Not exactly a monolith like its big brother... but that doesn’t stop you from playing this one too.
Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is essentially the biggest first person shooter to have come out since the first Call Of Duty... or even Rare’s duo on the N64; Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. For the fourth time in a row, the series has set the curve for the genre by doing a very, very impressive job with the multiplayer. Maps might be a little cramped, but it just makes for chaotic action. Fast forward a couple of years, with the sequel garnering heaps of attention. Does it manage to impress just as much, or even more, or did it end up like World At War and everybody didn’t really give a shit about it, except for one feature? The short answer is that it’s just as impressive as the first Modern Warfare, but for some different reasons. The long answer... well, read on.

Might as well be in Russian; it’ll still leave you wanting more. In this case, crazy accents!
The story is that it’s been 5 years since the events of the first Modern Warfare game. Zakhaev is like god to the Russian extremists, and you know what this means? More terrorism! Yeah! Time to get the US Rangers and the Task Force 141 onto this! The way that it’s told is through mission briefings and some instances throughout missions, like any other first person shooter.

Unfortunately, a decent amount of the storytelling will be largely ignored, because briefings also serve as the loading screens before missions, and once that bar fills, it’s time to press Start and not give a shit about what else is being said. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, because the story has a decent amount of plotholes. Remember when I said Zakhaev becomes the god of Russian extremists? You never know how or why this is, and no amount of replaying Modern Warfare 1 will help you. That’s just one thing out of a fair few “plots” you’ll be left hanging, just to figure it all out. In other words, the story is your typical first person shooter story; won’t get in the way of the carnage.
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Winner of the 51st round of Articles of Excellence. During his endeavor to spark interest in classic gaming as part of the Classic Gamer's Society, Matt Addison gives us a review of the SNES RPG Lufia II. Despite the technical limitations that current gen games don't suffer, this game still seems to possess all the key ingredients that make up a truely epic RPG. Check the review to see his full opinion on the matter.

 Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals     Score: 4.5/5
 Genre: RPG

 All in all, this game is a great example of what an RPG
 should be and is worth playing even if it is quite old to this day.


quote Matt Addison
What can I say. There is not much to fault in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, however I couldn't give it a perfect score - for that would make me a fickle person indeed.

From the onset, it is very clear that this game is going to have a very cliched 'save the world' plot. That being said, the developers tackled this problem in a way that is both entertaining and memorable.

The hero of the game is Maxim, a man who does not know who his parents are, or even why he is so good at using a sword. The advent of a red star flying over his home town sets him out on an adventure to find the cause of it, and later discover that he is destined to save the world. Encountering an enigmatic woman, he later learns this fact and sets out on his quest to find the others who are scheduled to fight by his side, woven into the great tapestry of fate. Along the way, others will join the party to temporarily assist with various ventures that require the hero to fetch various items that in turn grant access to other areas of the world.

The cast of characters that join Maxim are all quite colourful and have their own personalities which contribute to the story as a whole. There is even friendly rivalry between some cast memebers as well as the enemies, which paces the game in a way which can be enjoyed by all. Humour is often thrown into the mix in the form of quippy remarks or strange items that Maxim can obtain in his journey such as the Charred Newt. Some of the artwork for the enemies can also be quite entertaining. Although unintentional on the developers behalf, the skeletons look like they are in quite a promiscuous position, for example.
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Winner of the 50th round of Articles of Excellence. Namco's fighter goes PS2 exclusive for its second entry on the PS2 and brings with it not only new fighters but new ideas and tweaked gameplay mechanics. The result may not be what 3D fighting fans have been looking for though. Check the source to see why Vergil Ties holds this opinion.

 Soul Calibur III     Score: 1.5/5
 Genre: Fighting

 This has to be one of the most frustrating high-profile
 fighting games I've ever played.


quote Gamecube Guru
Soul Calibur is known as one of the best fighting game series of the last couple of generations. Allowing characters to take up the various swords and axes to add a bit of bite and power to the fighting engine, Soul Calibur managed to rake in the audience it needed to flourish and grow into the powerful franchise it could have been... yes, could have been. Soul Calibur 1 and 2, as well as Soul Edge and Soul Blade, started the series on a legendarily high note, offering a slightly better storyline than the average fighting game and allowing for sword to sword combat, as well as 8-way movement (trust me, this was new back in 1995), memorable characters and an easy learning curve. Jump to 2005, and Soul Calibur 3 has just been released. Suffice to say, it doesn't live up to Soul Calibur 2's standards... it might have meant well, but due to some poor decisions and questionable programming, the game is far from enjoyable.

The main storyline is that Siegfried is free from Nightmare's control, and he wants to defeat Nightmare fully while attempting to seal the evil blade otherwise known as Soul Edge. Meanwhile, Nightmare finds another host, but wants Siegfried back and wants to destroy Soulcalibur. While all of this goes on, the other characters race to get/destroy Soul Edge or Soulcalibur, depending on whether they're evil or not. All of this develops in arcade mode, which is a very nice touch that I'll point out later, but the backstory is also fairly good for a fighting game. Actually, it could do well for an RPG backstory... in fact, the whole story could do very well in an RPG, considering the depth it all has, which is a surprisingly high amount for a fighting game.

That one thing that will lure you into the game would have to be the visuals. These are some pretty impressive graphics. Textures are well on the mark and the main characters look nice as. To make it simple, Soul Calibur 3 makes for some nice eye-candy. It doesn't challenge the PS2's processors to push their limits, but thankfully, you won't be seeing any lag either, and it's very nice to look at. The only thing that's not so good is the created characters, who, no matter what you do, will always look generic and uninspired, and since they're the people you'll be looking at throughout the main mode of the game, you'll probably be a little annoyed, though they're not too bad to look at either. Not nearly as good as the main characters, but still presentable.
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Winner of the 49th round of Articles of Excellence. Originally a 360 release, Eternal Sonata made its appearance on the PS3 and Gamecube Guru gives us his insight on what makes this such a compelling RPG. A colourful vision backed by a more involving battle system and classic staples of the genre. Check the source to see more.

 Eternal Sonata     Score: 4.7/5
 Genre: RPG

 However, with an epic soundtrack, colorful anime-inspired visuals, coupled off with an
 excellent story and a very engaging battle system, Eternal Sonata comes as
                  recommended to anybody, especially those into JRPGs.


quote Gamecube Guru


Haha, 360 loses another exclusive.
Ported from the 360 over to the PS3, Eternal Sonata manages to maintain the awesomess from the 360 version, and add a few big drops of awesomesacue to the PS3 version to make it worth your money if you have both. Now, the PS3 isn't that loaded with RPGs, and normally, an RPG fanatic wouldn't shell out money for a PS3, unless they happen to be into other sorts of games, and odds are, they aren't. However, with Eternal Sonata on the PS3, maybe things will change. Maybe... As far as I'm concerned, it should. It plays, looks and sounds like a title that should be selling units and should make the PS3 popular with RPG enthusiasts who didn't get a 360 (which is scarce as far as I know, because many RPGs have appeared on the 360, whereas there aren't too many for PS3, at least, that you can't get on 360 as well). Hell, it should be the JRPG equivalent of Metal Gear Solid 4... or at least inFAMOUS and Killzone 2! Has a couple of minor gripes - most of which doesn't even feel like them, depending on your perspective - but still damn impressive, and perfectly able to show off what the PS3 can do to, once and for all, silence the 360 fanboys.

A dreamy symphony of a universe.
The story behind Eternal Sonata is that the famous composer, Frederic Chopin, is lying on his deathbed. Okay, so that's it, right? Wrong! This game takes place within Chopin's mind. Instead of a boring opera house filled to the brim with living violins and whatnot, you have a literal dream land, kind of like a typical RPG world (forests, mountains, towns, etc). In this world, Chopin is aware that he's dreaming, though he possesses not musical overtures that will lull the enemy to sleep, but rather, magic and prediction of the future, as well as being able to read people's thoughts (sounds cool, but this is a dream he thought up; unless it's uncontrollable, he should already have it planned out). He soon meets up with the heroine, Polka, and a couple of street urchins, Allegretto and Beat. This ragtag group sets out to confront the ruler of the country of Forte, Count Waltz, about the high taxes he has placed on everything except the questionable medicine known as Mineral Powder, which seems to be like a nuclear cure for cancer - it'll work, but at what cost?
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Winner of the 48th round of Articles of Excellence. Vergil Ties dives into one of the most well known RPG series with a review on the PS2 game Final Fantasy X. Amidst the lengthy cutscenes, turn based magic fueled battles and over the top special killer techniques the resulting opinion provides a hesitant recommendation. Check the review to see the full reasoning behind this.

 Final Fantasy X     Score: 3.5/5
 Genre: RPG

 That’s not to say that Final Fantasy X is a BAD game,
 but rather, just a boring one.


quote Vergil Ties
One game that the PS2 needed to carry Sony’s legacy of excellent RPGs over to a new console was Final Fantasy X. It had everything: Cutting edge graphics, seemingly epic storyline, excellent soundtrack and some high quality cutscenes amongst a different sort of leveling system and old school turn based gameplay. It could’ve utilized what it had to make a game that will excel Final Fantasy IX (which is one of my favorite RPGs), but instead decided to take the Final Fantasy VIII route and put way too much emphasis on cinematics and justifying and (often) overcomplicating nothing that anybody actually cares about. That’s not to say that Final Fantasy X is a BAD game, but rather, just a boring one.

Rather than start at the root of what’s wrong with Final Fantasy X, let’s start on a high note. The highest note I can think of has to be the graphics. Holy shit, are they good or what? The textures are realistic looking, giving the illusion that it’s like wandering through a real forest or wasteland. Speaking of forests and wastelands, the variety of environments are fairly good. From the traditional wasteland level, to ruins and even to big, sprawling cities, Square spared no expense in giving us different environments to look at, and the colors that they’re all represented with are perfect. Amongst that, character models look pretty damn nice. There’s a lot of attention paid to detail in terms of clothing and hair (sure, the main character is pretty much Cloud with his hair gelled downwards, but that’s not a bad thing, right?).

The one thing that forces me to drop my jaw is the immense amount of detail put into the FMV scenes. These scenes are a testament to how much the PS2 can take in terms of graphics. The quality is pushed well through the roof, forcing the player to sit back and enjoy them.
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Winner of the 47th round of Articles of Excellence. Dark Arcanine gives Neoseeker's book section some much needed attention with his review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. His impression is a largely positive one that recognizes the improvements made from previous books in the series but with note of certain writing flaws. Go to the review to see his full reasons.

 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban     Score: 4.4/5
 Genre: Fantasy

 Overall, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is an excellent book which unlike the other two, even has an acceptable length.
 As such, it’s a welcome addition as the best book yet in world of Harry Potter.


quote Dark Arcanine
Introduction:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third instalment in the Harry Potter book series. Having now survived Voldemort three times, Harry is developing quite the reputation. The question is will he strut his stuff with Dementors surrounding the castle and a mass-murderer called Sirius Black hunting him down? Or will he be too scared and revert back to the state he was in within the first book?

Plot:

Having a thing for danger, Harry always likes to start the year with complications. The year before he escaped his adoptive parents’ house in a flying car and proceeded to use it to get to Hogwarts. This year after blowing up his aunt, he runs away only to be confronted by a large, black dog and saved by the Knight Bus. Facing possible expulsion for the use of magic underage in the presence of Muggles, what is in store for Harry this year?

Following on from the strong focus maintained throughout Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rowling ensures that all parts of the plot come together in their relation to the title of the book, being the prisoner of Azkaban or in other words, Sirius Black. Enticed by overhearing the Weasleys, Harry makes it his mission to try and find out the truth about the connection between himself and Sirius. Meanwhile Sirius is also trying to get close to Harry, breaking into Hogwarts multiple times and constantly watching…
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Winner of the 46th round of Articles of Excellence. Having already sampled the SRPG waters of the DS with Luminous Arc I opted to play this PS2 upgraded port after hearing some rather good things. It's a good game too, but some odd design choices weaken the final experience.

 Disgaea DS     Score: 3.8/5
 Genre: Strategy

 The campaign mode itself is quite large, and then throw in the bonus Etna mode and the multiplayer
 battle system and you have a worthy game in your hands.


quote Insanity Prevails


I'd already heard a fair bit about Disgaea DS before I picked up the game. It has been praised for being a witty excellent take on the SRPG genre, with various gameplay features cited as defining factors that separate it from the crowd. So my expectations were put a bit high when I slipped the game card into the DS and turned the power on. My conclusion? It's good but not as great as I had hoped, as the game does have problems holding it back.

Graphically, the game makes extensive use of 2D sprites in 3D environments. Despite the small size the characters show a fair amount of detail that makes each one easily recognisable. With the wealth of classes comes as wealth of different appearances and wonderful designs, although it's worth noting that created characters always take up the same appearance based on their chosen class. More than just an aesthetic issue, this can actually become a little confusing when the enemy is using units of the same classes, as enemies don't appear onscreen any different to your own units outside of the map screen.

Speaking of which, the second screen is used very effectively in this game. Sometimes an object on the map might obscure your view, which is an issue in any isometric game. Not only does this game let you rotate the camera in 90 degree increments but the top screen also displays a map showing a grid, coloured squares and character placements. Allied and enemy units are also signified by different icons, letting you know if you're about to unleash your ultimate spell of destruction on your own partner...
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I love RPGs. Perhaps the idea of taking turns like gentleman to attack may seem odd to those more involved in more action focused titles, but the genre holds great appeal to me. However, even I must ponder what lunacy drives some of the genre's more common traits. Today I would like to discuss the concept of having allied player characters snatched from you.

This blog post will contain spoilers for some rather old games.

Techincally I could use spoiler markup, but I don't want to.

Anyway, some RPGs seem to have this rather annoying trait of snatching allies right out of your hands, and often without warning. It may be an important plot point, a test of skill or done merely for the lulz on the part of demented designers. It almost doesn't matter why though, because the very action almost wants you to dive in and start smashing things personally.

Some RPGs are on the lesser end of this frustration. In other words, these are the games that give them back to you. Often this comes quite late, but you're given some relief in knowing that all the hard work still exists to be used at some point.

Skies of Arcadia is a fine example. You have three permanent party members (once all three are gathered into one group) and then a fourth member that switches between three possible choices as you progress through. Although late, a point comes where you can choose between all three, and while the game is almost over at this point it's not bad and at least returning characters are auto-levelled each time. The end game still exists and various sidequests can still exist at this time.

But then you have the monsters, and by that I'm not referring to the generic enemies you carve up with whatever pain-inflicting object you can put your hand on. These are the games that watch over you carefully raising a character only to gleefully snatch said person away from you on a rather permanent basis, possibly holding back a laugh so maniacal it would put the evil dictator you're fighting to shame. It's the ultimate kick in the balls, because any hard work is instantly destroyed and it often means trying to train a replacement to serve in their role who at this point is going to be woefully inept at pretty much anything.

My first encounter with this horror was Evolution Worlds on the Gamecube. It was also my first RPG outside of the world of Pokemon. The game is effectively split into two parts. During my initial playthrough I was busy using Linear Cannon (who, as far as video game characters go, was a cute girl and also a very strong supporting party member). I worked to open up her skill sets and train her stats. Then as the first segment was coming to a close she was bloody kidnapped, leaving me to defeat the midgame antagonist with a fairly weak Gre trying to fill the third spot.

Linear was rescued and was usable again, so I went about using her in my active party again with the hope that the game would continue in a logical sense; a hope that was duly crushed under the weight of deja vu. More skills gained, more stats raised and then she gets kidnapped again, leaving me to once again trying to fill the now empty third slot with a weaker character to defeat the end game boss. WHAT THE *bleep*?!?! STOP STEALING MY FAVOURITE CHARACTER YOU *BLEEP*S!!!

Quite how that experience didn't turn me off the genre entirely is a mystery, but hey, here I am. Now, it's not as if games can't pull off the character steal well, but there are better ways to go about it than just taking them away without any options or warning.

Tales of Symphonia has nine playable characters but only eight party slots. Kratos does leave you for a notable period of time early on, but this is where ToS differs from the norm. You have the option of getting Kratos back, but doing so means permanently losing another character whose playstyle is virtually identical (although their personalities and appearance couldn't be more different).

This choice isn't exactly obvious, and chances are most players wouldn't even realise it exists for their first playthrough. However, the point remains that the choice is there. We're going to lose someone and we can't change that. However, we have the power to decide who, and that swings things in the game design's favour.

So there we have it. There's no need to remove the concept entirely, because we all know that killing off a popular character can raise interest in even the blandness of stories. However, there are ways to do it right that won't result in a controller getting buried in the TV.

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The last time I played a Castlevania game it was way back on the NES. Can't remember exactly which one but I do remember getting stuck on a boss that had a head-like thing that bounced around. It was a hard game I never finished.

Now on the DS I hear about these newer Castlevania games. The series is said to still be quite hard so I decide to try it out once again.

Well, the game certainly is difficult. Perhaps not 8 bit difficult - especially since I can easily spam healing items simply by stockpiling cash and unloading it all at the local shop - but it's certainly a step up from other DS offerings. I died. I died a lot. Every boss so far has killed me at least once, but usually more. Even generic enemies can be quite challenging when you're being rushed by mobs of them and that has led to a few deaths where I got careless.

One irritating aspect is when fighting enemies near the edge of an area's screen, which happens a lot here. Get hit and you risk getting knocked back into the previous area. Wouldn't be so bad if the enemies didn't fully regenerate when you leave a screen.

Glyph system seems pretty cool, by allowing me to mix up varying attack methods. Generally the game seems free enough to allow me to basically spam the same kinds of spells against almost everything, so it's more of an enjoyable option to throw in hammer/lance combos. The support glyphs have some interesting adventuring properties and the gylph sleeve lets me set up three combinations and switch quickly between them.

Level design is pretty solid so far though not as much room for wandering off the beaten path yet. They are opening up more as I progress though so that's likely to change.

The story is a bit confusing at the moment though. Albus is currently playing the role of antagonist, but I've absolutely no idea why. Perhaps this will be explained later on, but right now I'm totally in the dark.

Game looks promising. It addresses the difficulty issue many games suffer from and a rather atmospheric setup to boot.

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Figured this might a nice addition to my user reviews - providing some thoughts on first impressions I get from playing games, and seeing if my opinion stays the same as I continue to play.

The one thing that concerns me right now about Rune Factory 2 is the fairly poor NPC interaction. One of the strengths of Animal Crossing was that the NPC villagers were varied. There were limitations, but they did cycle through quite a number of phrases and would randomly mention different items or people. By comparison Rune Factory 2 feels very weak, as most people so far just seem to repeat the same phrase or two all the time. Granted they do say other things if I give them something or pick a bulletin board task, but I want more variation when I just chat to them, so that chatting to them feels more than being something I have to do.

Must admit that the actual range of tasks seems more impressive than the traditional Harvest Moon game. An issue I'd had with past HM games is the lack of stuff to do outside outside of farming. It's not that they didn't have other activities, but rather that they were very limited and most tended to get as repetitive as the farm work could. RF2's RPG elements may not be as fleshed out as more focused RPG elements, but it's a worthwhile distraction, and then mixing in farming, mining, cutting, fishing and running errands for the villagers and I'm seeing a more widespread choice of tasks to accomplish.

Was kinda hoping the touch screen would make item management easier, but apparently it's harder than it looks to click onto onfield objects to interact with them. Seems easier just to use the button layout once I got used to it. Dual screen hasn't been that helpful thus far either. The overworld map isn't very telling aside from displaying the location name, which could have been done on a single screen. Dungeon maps are limited by the fact that right now the dungeons aren't that complicated, although I note that various paths appear locked off so that might be subject to change later.

The pause subscreen is very handy in here. I can keep track of various aspects like items, relationship levels and settings in here. A bit odd that it doesn't remember my preferences for relationship sorting but otherwise it helps to see stuff here. Button layout is more friendly than FOMT too, so I don't accidentally give an item to the wrong person when they are close together or end up throwing a precious item away. The targetting cursor also makes it clear where I'm aiming.

In short the gameplay's running smoothly so far, but I haven't played long enough yet to determine if the game can keep the pace going well enough. I'm hoping NPC interaction picks up. Maybe if I start taking on more bulletin board tasks I might start to care more.

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5.0




2004, the year of the monkey for the Chinese calendar. This year was home to many important and memorable events. Facebook was first founded at Cambridge, Massachussetts, which would go on to be a big factor on the Internet of today. The New England Patriots defeated rivals Carolina Panthers 32-29 at Reliant Stadium to win the Super Bowl. NASA launch MESSENGER, a probe whose purpose is to study the various aspects of Mercury. 2004 was also home to another important event, as it was this year that Kokoro (formerly Rikkulover) deigned to register at the Neoseeker website; a member whose contributions to the website in many forms have been most welcome.

To begin with I feel compelled to discuss the visual style Kokoro comes with, and this can be broken down to several different aspects. First of all is the choice of graphical style Kokoro blesses the site with. It's fair to say that appreciation of the female gender is a common trait shared across much of the male demographic, and so the choice of Misa Campo, a name embedded in the world of modelling, is an inspired choice. The style applied to the images - that of clarity and simplicity - also works very well to enhance the overall impact.


Such an impressive visual style.


While we are discussing images I think it is only right that his Neo Gallery gets a worthy mention. Alas numerous images have since disappeared from there, possibly due to the amount of awesomeness causing the servers to spontaneously explode, but even without them the gallery is well worth a look for anyone. There are a few lovely ladies for the eyes to gaze upon and we can also gain the satisfaction of seeing the various avatars Kokoro has used over the years.

Post styling is not an uncommon thing these days, but like most things there is both a right and wrong way to manage it. Kokoro falls into the former category, as the simple elegance of applying the purple colouring allows his posts to stand out with *bleep* the neo markup tags that too many people fall victim to. The colour choice itself is a strong one, being both appealing and easy to read on either post coloured background.

Well, enough about looks. Being an amazing member of Neoseeker is more than just looking pretty, so I should move on to the more practical aspects of the review. Kokoro's posts don't just look awesome but contribute a lot to the discussions. If there's one thing you can count on then it is his ability to formulate an opinion about many different matters and a willingness to add to such discussions by sharing his opinions and responding to various comments made. This ability to tackle a wide variety of subjects is a trait to be admired and allows threads across the forums to thrive.

The content of his posts can vary as well based on the type of conversation that is ongoing. Simple lax chatting along the lines of favourite characters or similar topics do not call for twenty paragraph theoretical studies, and thus he is wise enough to approach these matters with a similar attitude, providing another view while refraining from alienating others that would be intimidated from essay-sized responses. On the other hand, deep thoughtful debates or conversations require more than the odd sentence and Kokoro manages to construct suitable responses to match these too. It's a form of adaptability that many members could learn to use if given the time and effort.

Regardless of the length and depth of a post, one can always count on the content being insightful, informative or just plain interesting to read. Well, for such a person I think valuable forum postings was always going to be a given. Kokoro is the kind of person who can acknowledge superior products, like his choice of Firefox over IE, and has such maturity, like questioning the concept of getting drunk and the questionable 'benefits' of it. With a posting rank currently of Crusin' then you can be sure that there is no shortage of valuable posts to read.


A screen of Kokoro in action.


Thankfully, Kokoro does not restrict himself to the forums. The addition of the neo blogs have served as another outlet for many members, and it should come as no surprise that Kokoro should also find this a worthwhile place to go. He has a few interesting blog submissions to look through, such as the contemplations of moderatorship, discussion of the appeal of violence in video games and even examining the degradation of Internet humour through the form of memes. The comments made by him in various blogs by other members possess the same element of valuable contribution without being overkill that pervades his forum postings too.

Gamegrep has also benefited greatly from his posting additions. Kokoro has dedicated time to submit no less than 10 news articles to add to the wealth of information provided, and has offered many comments and responses to many articles (and not just his own either) that helps to expand on the original topic of the news offered that allows members to reach ideas and conclusions that might not have been possible otherwise. Alas he is no longer an active force on that area, which is a shame as I am sure that GameGrep would only benefit from his activity there as it once did.

Forum and article comments is not all Kokoro has to offer to Neoseeker though. In fact, his contributions extend far beyond that. He has added a lot of significant data to Neoseeker's database over the years, such as game cheats, release dates and descriptions. He has also been responsible for the addition of several full profiles, helping to greatly expand on what the site offers its visitors and members. Such dedication to acquiring the correct information in sufficient volumes, verifying the accuracy of said data and compiling it all into acceptable submissions is a worthy character trait.

The biggest portion of neopoints earned is through the form of user reviews. Kokoro has an impressive lineup of 82 reviews across a broad range of products that aim to inform and advise on the quality and content of them. By presenting simple concepts and concepts his opinions are expressed directly without wading through mountains of text that can ramble on about meaningless things forever. If an element is bad you find out immediately and if something works then it's acknowledged quickly.

Wiki editing also seems to be a focus of interest for this member. He has worked on no fewer than sixteen different wikis, adding and editing content as is deemed necessary. The information and edits provided are of great value to the informative nature of the wikis that fans from all over will come to and learn about their favourite series. The sheer number of different wikis worked on shows a vast range of knowledge of different subjects and allows his assistance to spread to many different areas.

Kokoro, just a member? Hardly. If anything I do not think Neoseeker would be quite the same today if not for the years of membership that he has provided to the website. With a strong talent for valuable discussions, a desire to contribute to Neoseeker's vast resources and a wonderful visual style to top it off, Kokoro is simply an amazing member that the community cannot do without.

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