Pokémon X Nuzlocke Episode #2: Team-Building Exercises

Who would’ve thought a freaking Furfrou would end up being my nastiest opponent so far?

When we last left our intrepid Octoling Oliver, he was working through the training-wheels portion of Pokémon X, laying waste to rivals and Gym leaders alike on his way to his first badge. The team was solid thus far, but it had the potential to be much better, and our second week through the game saw Ollie’s team realize that potential…and then promptly squander it. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here; let’s start with the good times…

Hakuna Matata

After crushing Viola for the Bug Badge, Ollie’s first stop was a return to Route 22 to pick up the potential Pokémon partner I had put off during my previous peruse of the area. I had no idea what was available here, but I hoped I would get something good…

…and I got it.

A Fire-type monster would complement Patty and my Bulbasaur-to-be-named-later perfectly, and Litleo was one of those monsters that had intrigued me in the past, but I’d just never gotten the opportunity to really use one. That opportunity was now, and “Nala” soon became the 5th member of Oliver’s party.

While grinding to get Nala up to the same level as her new teammates, I found Nala to be very similar to Patty and Birdo: Fairly quick to level up, packed a solid punch (especially when she learned Headbutt), and possessed a well-rounded moveset (Work Up and Noble Roar provided decent support for her offensive moves). Once she was ready, it was on to greener pastures and bigger towns!

Sharing Is Caring

Before leaving Santalune City, however, the Gym leader’s sister gave Oliver a parting gift that prompted an existential crisis: The Exp. Share item, which had been buffed from previous generations to now award experience points to all party Pokémon instead of just one. It’s a handy way to cut down on grinding time, but in the context of a Nuzlocke run, did it now make the game too easy?

I had used the Exp. Share in my Ultra Sun Nuzlocke without giving it a second thought, but it was certainly fair to consider if it provided an unfair advantage to a mode that eschewed such things. Since I wasn’t sure what to do (and I abhor making decisions of any sort), I decided to leave the question to chance, and flipped a coin: Heads I could use the Exp. Share, tails I couldn’t.

In the end, the universe decided it owed Oliver a favor after sticking him with back-to-back Nozzlenoses in a recent Splatoon 2 randomizer challenge, so it let me use the Exp. Share. I figure it will help keep these posts coming out on time (putting them together takes longer than you’d think!) and if it does feel like the game is losing its edge, I can turn it off later.

The main problem I have with the Exp. Share is that if you’re focused on keeping everyone at a consistent level like I am, you end up only using slower-leveling monsters (in this case, Reese and Thumper) while faster-growing creatures like Patty become Frogadiers without ever coming out of their Poké Ball.

Hey Cinderella, She’s Back!

Route 4 ended up being fairly uneventful: The only thing I could catch that wasn’t on my blocked list was a Combee, so “Luke Combee” (because of course Mr. “Beer Never Broke My Heart” should be represented here; why should the Pokémon universe be exempt from his power?) became the temporary sixth member of my party, and I quickly mowed down the available Trainers and hurried over to meet Sina and Dexio and enter the massive metropolis that is Lumiose City.

Hey, it looks kind of dark out. Is there a Splatfest going on?

Unfortunately, a cyberattack carried out by the Sinnoh government had knocked out much of the power in the city, so nearly every street was blocked by a stern-faced utility worker trying to keep the scene clear. (Where’s Michael Locasto when you need him?) Like every good plot boulder, the grid workers funneled Oliver over to Professor Sycamore’s lab, where the professor…immediately challenged him to a battle? Thankfully, when Prof. Sycamore said he wasn’t very good, he meant it, and Ollie’s team rolled over his team of Kanto starters without any trouble.

A true Pokémon professor would know better than to step to the protagonist.
But hey, at least I got an evolution out of the deal.

Finally, the moment I had been waiting for arrived: I threatened to report Prof. Sycamore to the authorities for attempted abuse of a minor, and successfully blackmailed him into giving up one of his Kanto starters. Choosing the Bulbasaur was a fait accompli, so the only question was its sex:

To be honest, I probably would have used the same name regardless. Hey, if Johnny Cash could have “A Boy Named Sue,” I could have a male Bulbasaur named Suzy.

Suzy was back, and when I dropped back to Route 4 for more grinding, she was an awesome as ever. Leech Seed kept her alive until her Vine Whip got strong enough to crush her foes, and eventually Sleep Powder gave her a stalling option if the situation called for it. While I refused to call any top-six with Beedrill on it a “dream team,” this team was pretty darn close.

And then she evolved and became even more awesome. 🙂

Wait…who’s my rival again?

Before I left the lab, Serena had mentioned that she wanted to meet me at a nearby cafe for a private chat. I had been waiting for a challenge from her for some time, and knowing that her Chespin had a type advantage over Patty, I wanted to make sure I was ready for a potentially-tough battle. Even after doubling down on Fire types with Birdo and Nala, I spent a little extra time on Route 4 after getting Suzy II level parity with her peers just to be on the safe side.

The meeting, however, turned out to be little more than some plot dialogue, foreshadowing Lysandre and Diantha’s roles in the fight to come and confirming that Serena did, in fact, want to be my rival. Confused, Ollie made his way over to Route 5, where he was immediately challenged by…Tierno?

Apparently the dude wanted to see some cool moves, so I let him watch Thumper kick the living snot out of his team. He seemed less than inspired when it was all over:

Thumper, on the other hand, was moved enough to evolve into Diggersby and finally give me an Electric-type counter to protect Patty and Birdo.

With Tierno tossed aside, I went back to searching for a new Pokémon to start building out my bench. I was hoping for a Skiddo, but…

…Well, this was a bit of a letdown.

I think so much of Gulpins that it couldn’t even dislodge Reese from her spot on the top six. I named it “Hamilton” after the bumbling prosecutor I keep seeing on Perry Mason reruns, stuffed it in a Box, and thought nothing more about it.

Kingside Castling

Camphrier Town wasn’t much more exciting than Vaniville was, but at least it had a Pokémon Center and a small, sparsely-furnished castle going for it. The proprietor of the place was immediately called out to Route 7 to deal with a problem, which turned out to be yet another Snorlax blocking a path in a Pokémon game. Oliver offered to call Mr. Fuji from Lavender Town on his cell phone, but the first responders on scene declined the offer and lamented that their own Poké Flute had been repossessed by a man in a lavish castle at the end of Route 6. Since Ollie had loads of experience retrieving “thangs” stashed in faraway areas, he and Shauna agreed to storm the castle and retrieve the instrument.

It was a decision we would all come to regret.

First Blood

On the surface, Route 6 doesn’t look like much, consisting of a straight path with some tall grassy areas on each side that aren’t immediately accessible. Getting to the opulent castle at the end of the road wasn’t a problem, but my OCD demanded that I clear the entire route of Trainers and secrets before moving on, so once I reached the end of the road, I turned around and started to explore the leftmost grassy area.

Immediately I was confronted by a pair of Trainers offering a Double Battle against a pair of Lv. 14 Furfrou. They didn’t look like much, but neither Reese nor Suzy could do much damage to them, and their STAB Headbutts packed a serious punch. They lulled me into a false sense of security by splitting their attacks between my monsters, but about three turns in, they suddenly focused their fire on Suzy, dropping her from over half health to…wait, zero?!

Things happened too fast in real time to get a picture, but this was the end result.

To say I was salty about this would be an understatement. You mean to tell me that after waiting a whole year for Bulbasaur redemption, Suzy’s second act was already over?! And I lost her instead of Reese, who’d I been complaining about since I caught her?

I immediately switched to Patty and Birdo and slaughtered the vile dogs that had brought down my Ivysaur, but the damage was done. The “almost dream team” was already history, and at the hand of a random Double Battle instead of a fight that actually mattered. I took a deep breath, hoped that Reese’s near-death experience would propel her to an Earl-like run of success, and dragged Hamilton out of his PC box to fill the open slot. (To add insult to injury, Thumper ended up one-shotting the Sentret that popped up right after the Furfrou battle, costing me a shot at adding another team member on this route.)

Oliver hadn’t been this angry since he’d gotten kicked around in a Splatoon 2 Rainmaker rotation a few months ago, and he treated the rest of Route 6 the way he treated the Splat Zones maps that had immediately followed: He showed no mercy to anyone, and rage-rolled his way through the objective and into the ornate castle that housed the flute.

1,000?! Just for that, I hope Bernie Sanders wins the next election and taxes the living heck out of your employer’s sorry butt.

Fox Dog On The Run

I was expecting some serious action once Ollie got inside the castle, but instead he and Shauna were confronted with a frantic one-percenter who was looking for his Furfrou. Being the conniving-but-helpful people that they were, the pair agreed to search the premises for the missing pooch, including the ginormous garden out behind the house. The castle felt empty even with the many tourists walking around (money can’t buy you love, after all), and after turning up nothing but an Amulet Coin in the house, Shauna and Ollie headed for the garden and tag-teamed to capture the wayward Furfrou.

Ollie really wanted to drop a Booyah Bomb on the Furfrou’s head in retaliation for Suzy’s death, but Shauna managed to stall him until the castle owner showed up.

Finding the dog brought a reward of a superfluous fireworks show and a temporary borrowing of the Poké Flute to move the Snorlax out of Route 7. I immediately returned to the scene of the snooze, let the Camphrier castle proprietor play his song, temporarily suspended the Nuzlocke rules so I could catch the Snorlax (officially it was blocked by my FireRed run, but you never pass up a chance to catch a Snorlax, so I stuck it next to Suzy and declared it ineligible for the rest of the run), and then snuck into the grass beyond the Snorlax for my actual catch for the route…

What in the name of Bluefin Depot is that thing?

I recalled seeing Slurpuffs occasionally in G6 and G7 games, but I had no idea the darn thing had a pre-evolution as well. I ended up catching “Gertrude” (I didn’t have any justification for the name; I just thought it suited her), and while her Fairy typing and moveset was intriguing, the fact that she required a trade to evolve (and I had only 1 3DS) limited her long-term usefulness, so I left Hamilton in the #6 slot for now and made a mental note to visit my brother in a few weeks to see if I could swing a deal to borrow his system. (I now have an Ivysaur I can let go cheap, I guess…)

Conclusions

While the run ended on a low note, if I’m calm and rational about the whole ordeal, Nala’s presence alone means that my team is better than it was before. (The Amaura that’s coming later will likely fill Suzy’s slot, although I’d rather it fill Reese’s…) I’m a little concerned about the type balance right now, however, as Water-types will wreck Birdo, Nala, Thumper, and the fossil-to-be-named-later, while also resisting Patty’s primary attacks. Thankfully, Grass types are a dime a dozen in Pokémon games (I’ve already seen both Skiddos and Oddishes), and the cave ahead is known for its Zubats (Bram II, anyone?), so there’s plenty of time to sort things out before Ollie’s second Gym challenge.

Tune in next week for caves, Gyms, and more unexpected antics from the “Bulbasaur-minus-Bulbasaur Revenge Nuzlocke Run!”

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