Turns out the last leg of our journey, short as it is, is a separate route.
After a bend in the road at the cave entrance, the map claims we’ve switched over from Route 30 to Route 31. And you know what that means: another chance at catching a new Pokemon.
This is who we end up with:
Pidgey was my go-to Pokemon when I played Blue. Not sure how she compares to the other critters we could have found in the early game, but I’m pretty happy about the catch.
Whatever the reality is, I say Pidgey is radical — no two ways about it. So we’ll name her after one of the coolest Final Fantasy characters ever.
While we’re still on the road, we spend a little time dicking around and leveling up. Other hightlights from the brief dick-around:
Edge learns Quick Attack. I remember this attack from the first game. I don’t think it did much more damage than a tackle, but it almost always hits first. Seems pretty useful.
We have our first run-in with a poisonous Pokemon. We’re able to get back to town without wasting an antidote, but it’s a close call.
And some creeper asks to exchange phone numbers.
At some point, Kain also learned Foresight, though I don’t remember when.
Nor do I know what it does…
When you use it, it just says you “identify” the enemy Pokemon. Like it’s an unidentified piece of loot. I thought maybe it’d add their stats into the Pokedex, but it looks like no.
Wow. Poor guy gets to be known ’round the world as the “hairy bug” Pokemon…
(I realize a while after this that you can just look up your move list in the menu. So oops. Foresight “negates accuracy reduction moves.” And Smokescreen, for the record, is one of those accuracy reduction moves.)
In any case, once we hit Violet City, it’s gossip time.
From the tidbits of info we pick up, it sounds like there’s some sort of weird, ruins-y tourist destination nearby, a tower haunted by Pokemon ghosts, and a mysterious tree blocking the next route. Great.
We also get some much-needed schooling at Earl’s Pokemon Academy.
Most notably, one of the students tells us that Pokemon can hold berries.
Sure enough, you can equip your Pokemon with various berries in this game. They only seem to be able to hold one at a time, but they’ll use it automatically when needed — without wasting a turn. That must be what happened in the fight with Totodile earlier.
Good to know.
More importantly, we’ve found our first gym leader. Faulkner, bird-guy extraordinaire, who inherited all his Pokemon from his dead father.
Strikes me as an extraordinarily bad idea to go up against him right now, though. Let’s do some exploring first.
It seems like there’s a heck of a lot of ways we can go, but upon closer inspection, most of them turn out to be dead ends. Azalea Town is to the south, along Route 32…
But there’s some clown who won’t let us through.
There’s Sprout Tower just outside of town…
But dealing with ghosts that we can’t even touch doesn’t sound like fun.
Then there’s the “Ruins of Alph,” which we enter all prepared for a fight…
…But there’s a whole lot of nothing to see here.
There’s even a route we missed way back between New Bark and Cherrygrove because I didn’t realize this was a door:
Buuut on the other side is Route 46.
Now, I don’t know if the numbers of routes are at all related to how dangerous they are, but since that’s the only signifier I’ve got to work with… and since 31 to 46 is pretty dang big jump… well, I’m just not willing to risk heading down that road quite yet.
So that leaves us back where we started: Falkner’s gym.
We’ve leveled up a few more times just wandering around, so maybe we’ll test our team out against Falkner’s flunkies for now.
Before that, though, some more uncomfortable dialogue!
If you believe, a championship dream can come true.
“A championship dream?” So not necessarily mine, just somebody‘s dream?
Do you believe or not?
Yeah, sure. Just give me your inspirational speech and get it over with.
…The grass-type is weak against the flying-type.
Huh. That’s… way more practical information than I was expecting.
I’ll add that to my notes. Thanks, kid.
Thankfully, I don’t have any grass Pokemon, but I also don’t have anything that will be strong against Falkner’s birds. I’m pretty sure lightning kills flying-types super hard, but we ain’t got any of those neither.
Let’s see what our normal-types can do.
One Pokemon versus our four. I like these odds. What’ve you got for us, Abe?
Well, his Spearow is level 9 — two levels higher than Kain and Edge. Four levels higher than Celes. Unsurprisingly, he beats Kain within an inch of his life, but not before we’ve Growled his attack power down a few times.
Good job! He’s defanged and ready for you, Edge.
…Except then this happens immediately after he materializes on the battlefield:
Turns out you can’t defang a bird. They have beaks.
That’s two out of the fight. And it’d be suicide to bring Celes in at her level.
Faris, this one’s yours!
She takes a peck right off the bat.
Barely a scratch, so we lay on the tackles. Only… they don’t do a whole lot. And Spearow’s next hit is a critical.
If it keeps going like this, we’re hosed.
Maybe this is the time for Smokescreen.
It works. Takes two uses, and Faris gets knocked around a little, but it works. After the second use, Spearow can’t land any hits to save his life.
A life which is… about to end.
But that was only the first trainer in Falkner’s gym. We’re not ready. It’s time for a little grinding.
We come back with a few more levels under our collective belts.
Even better, Faris has learned Ember.
We make sure to test it out on the local wildlife. The fire seems to be super effective against bugs, but not flying- or normal-types. Even so, the pidgeys we barbeque go down fast enough for my liking regardless.
Time to meet Falkner.
Faris steamrolls the second trainer and we’re into the main chamber.
Face to face with out first gym leader.
I am Falkner, the Violet Pokemon Gym leader.
No kidding. Why do you think I’m here?
Some people say you can clip flying-type Pokemon’s wings with a jolt of electricity. I won’t allow such insults to bird Pokemon!
Yeah, except that’s not an insult. It’s called science. Pokemon science.
How dare you.