Cover art by fellow WordPresser MapleRose, whose impressive catalogue of work can be found HERE.
DISCLAIMER: As with Parts 2 (Destiny) and 3 (Hearthstone) of this series, the contents of this post will be a lot more meaningful if you’re familiar with the focal game. This time around, it involves the wonderful world of Pokemon…
People have been building gym leader teams in the Pokemon games since the series’ inception on the original Gameboy. The basic idea is that you choose one of the 18 ‘types’ (rock, flying or psychic for example) then catch, train and battle with up to six Pokemon that share it. As the games traditionally lacked an option for increased difficulty level, tackling the story mode with only one type of Pokemon guaranteed that you would regularly have to overcome teams with a distinct advantage over your own. While not as hardcore as the punishing Nuzlocke ruleset mentioned in Part 1 of this series, applying a gym leader theme to your journey provided an artificial ‘hard mode’ just as effectively.
It won’t come as a surprise to those that have spent any time in the Pokemon universe that venturing online armed with a gym leader team is pretty much suicidal. There you will face skilled human opponents with highly balanced teams and far better prediction skills than your average Bug Catcher. If the opposing team is built around the classic fire-water-grass core, the newer steel-fairy-dragon core or both then there is no way you can maintain the basic typing advantages that Pokemon battling has always revolved around. Indeed it is to be expected that your Pokemon will be taking at least double damage when hit by incoming attacks due to the in-game equivalent of scissors beating paper. Should you and your gym leader team be brave/foolish enough to enter the online Battlespot, an intimidating new level of strategy and preparation is required in order to avoid being rapidly destroyed over and over and over again.
Despite this knowledge of likely failure, my most recent Pokemon experience has focused on developing a usable Legendary Fire Team (henceforth referred to as LFT). In keeping with the Creative Questing theme of this series, my LFT steers clear of the traditional Pokemon ambition of being the very best as determined by how many battles it wins. Instead it exists as a scrapbook of sorts, with components representing each of the game versions I’ve played since returning to the franchise with 2011’s Pokemon Black. Thanks to powerful in-game weather mechanics and carefully considered training, PvP battles using this line-up have not equated to automatic defeat. I should probably also mention that I play the Double Battle format almost exclusively, and as such this LFT is made far more competitively viable due to the synergy between each team member’s abilities and moves.
Since proving to myself that it is possible to take a gym leader team online and not be crushed in every match*, the sentimental aspect of building and refining this team has taken precedence. In fact, from this point on LFT will stand for Legacy Fire Team instead, which is a much more appropriate moniker.
Now for the show and tell!
- Victini (Pokemon Black, 2011)
Perks: Victini’s Victory Star ability raises its teammates’ accuracy by 10%, which is beneficial for Reshiram, Charizard and Groudon’s more powerful attacks. Victini’s support credentials are further established by the moves Helping Hand (50% damage boost to teammates’ next attack) and Searing Shot. Searing Shot hits every other Pokemon on the field and was retained solely to finish off weak opponents and power up Heatran’s fire attacks courtesy of its Flash Fire ability.
- Reshiram (Pokemon White 2, 2012)
Perks: This particular Reshiram possesses a 31 (maximum possible) Special Attack value, but was collected back in the days before all Legendary Pokemon came with a few maxed stats. If I weren’t focusing on the legacy side of things now I suppose I could catch a more capable Reshiram in Omega Ruby, but that wouldn’t feel right. Reshiram excels at switching in to KO a weakened opponent with Flame Charge (low damage, but provides +1 Speed boost), resulting in a formidable late-game sweeper with Blue Flare and Draco Meteor nukes in reserve.
- Mega Charizard (Pokemon Y, 2013)
Perks: The X/Y generation of games introduced ‘mega evolution’, which took Charizard from being an occasional popularity pick to seeing frequent use anchoring teams such as this one. When activated, Charizard’s mega evolution process clears any existing weather conditions and replaces them with sunlight (50% boost to fire attacks, 50% reduction to damage from water attacks) for five turns. With sunlight in play, Mega Charizard’s only weakness is to rock type attacks, the typical users of which will likely be vulnerable to Charizard’s now instantly-charging Solar Beam and high speed nature. The term apex predator comes to mind.
- Primal Groudon (Pokemon Omega Ruby, 2014)
Perks: The Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby versions introduced another new in-battle evolution mechanic: primal forms. These function almost identically to mega evolution but activate automatically as opposed to when the player chooses. The weather effect produced – in Primal Groudon’s case strong sunlight – lasts as long as the Pokemon is on the field and completely negates the opposite element’s moves (no more Hydro Pump or Surf!). This makes my bulky Groudon particularly useful for resetting the weather in my favour after Mega Charizard’s sunlight has timed out or some other weather condition has been triggered. He is also the only physical attacker on the main squad and has access to ground type moves that round out the LFT’s offensive options nicely.
There are a handful of other Pokemon that have played temporary roles in my LFT including Choice Scarf Darmanitan (Black), Heatran (White 2), Volcarona (White 2) and Speed Boost Blaziken (Y). Admittedly Heatran is the only legitimate Legendary among them, but all have filled important niches and made the difference between victory and defeat at various times. Up until the PS4 monopolised my gaming time (I blame The Last Of Us, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Destiny mostly) I had been working on catching a shiny Ho-Oh in Omega Ruby. The final step would be to find a suitable Moltres to round out the original LFT concept, as well as join Charizard in representing the original and best 151 Pokemon. Perhaps that can be a project for when Pokemon Go releases next year…
*My previous attempt at a competitive gym leader team was made up entirely of Bug Pokemon. As this type have the lowest average attack and defence stats in the game, I soon came to realise that this goal was a little too optimistic from the outset. Mega Pinsir, Volcarona, Butterfree and Speed Boost Scolipede did pull off some unlikely victories against the odds, but for the most part they were decimated by super effective moves like Rock Slide and Heat Wave within a few turns.