No Original Super Glue involved in the making of this post, for once! And hopefully the DS will continue to hold up until I can actually afford to waste money on a replacement.

I totally meant to post this sooner—I've got plenty of material to write about and I'm currently much farther than this entry would have you believe—but, as predicted, school and other obligations (mostly the other obligations at this point, actually) are kicking my butt and making finding the time to post rather difficult. I'll try and get things up to speed as soon as possible, though.


Bugsy has been defeated, the Cut HM has been foisted onto an unwilling Oddish slave and I've got my sights set on Whitney, so my team and I head back into Ilex Forest one last time. The path to the man who will teach my Pokémon headbutt takes me away from the Goldenrod-side exit and on a long, curving route through the trees, all fraught with irritating wild Oddish and Paras that make the whole process take longer than it should. Equally distracting is the Kimono Girl I meet some distance in. She talks to me for a while and then asks a question, after which Njord walks away from me and moves toward the exit, apparently indicating the way out; the girl then leaves and Njord trots back, allowing me to keep moving.

As I approach the Headbutt tutor I can see him back up a few steps and then rush forward, ramming his impressive girth (well, I guess it's supposed to be his head, but still...) into the trunk of the nearest tree. The entire area shakes as he hits his mark and a shower of leaves falls to the earth. Clearly this man knows how to dislodge things from trees with an exceptional amount of force; if I could get him to help me harness such amazing power in, say, a Steelix, I could very easily destroy anything I want to. That would be quite a useful boon in my quest for world domination, but at this time Steelix are in woefully short supply. It's not that big a problem, however. The man will teach any of my Pokémon Headbutt for free and will dole the move out as often as I like, so I settle for teaching the move to Njord and resolve to come back with a Steelix later.

In the original Gold, Silver and Crystal you could only use Headbutt on specifically designated "headbutt trees". In HeartGold and SoulSilver you can batter away at literally any tree you can reach save for "cut trees", although the overwhelming majority of them don't have any Pokémon hiding up in their branches. Given that you can often go through absolutely every tree in an area before you find anything—if you find anything at all—I have to wonder whether this was really a good idea, as at least with the "headbutt trees" you knew beforehand that you had at least a chance to find something. On the other hand, while trees without Pokémon will never have Pokémon, a tree that does have Pokémon in it will have a Pokémon in it almost every single time you throw one of your own monsters at it. I don't know whether the trees that will always have Pokémon are fixed and the same for every game or whether they change from card to card and save file to save file, but either way you'll want to make a note of where you are when you find something.

Luckily, it doesn't take too long for Njord to smash his face into a goldmine. He walks in front of me, barrels into the trunk and causes several Pokémon to tumble from the treetops, most of which I capture aside from the Pineco I don't want to blow up on me and a Butterfree that I accidentally knock out (after which Njord hits level 18 and evolves into a Croconaw). One such battle ends up with Njord asleep; he still follows me around outside of the pokéball even though he's conked out, and is apparently even awake enough to shudder and make an exaggerated sad face when I talk to him. I suppose that's the default response for a traveling Pokémon that's been afflicted with any status condition, and probably low health as well, but it probably would've made more sense to detect at least sleep, maybe paralysis, and put the Pokémon back into the ball until it's feeling better. Eh. I am further disappointed by the lack of sleeping Hoothoot and Noctowl in the trees. Back in GSC you could find Spearow, Fearow, Hoothoot and Noctowl in headbutt trees. Spearow and Fearow are diurnal Pokémon and Hoothoot and Noctowl are nocturnal, and so normally a nocturnal Pokémon would not be available during the day and vice versa. You would probably assume that this is because, at least in the case of birds, they are asleep in the trees, right? Headbutting a tree during the day would occasionally knock a Hoothoot or Noctowl that was asleep—literally afflicted with the sleep condition right from the start of the encounter—down from the branches, and sleeping Spearow and Fearow could be found at night. This is, sadly, no longer the case, and so I actually have to expend effort and waste several pokéballs trying to capture the level 6 Noctowl I find.

This expenditure of effort sours my headbutting mood for the time being and Njord's snout probably bears a close resemblance to an accordion at this point, so we call it quits, hop over the little ledge, bid the Headbutt Gut Man adieu until I have a Steelix appropriate for skyscraper demolishing lessons and then wander out of the dark forest at last. A nice lady and her Butterfree give me a Taunt TM after I talk to them in the gatehouse, and then I repeatedly beat a small child over the head with Lambo until she evolves into Flaaffy. The rest of the quick trip up Route 34 is uneventful, save for a brief interruption by Kotone and her Marill. As I approach the daycare she stops me and pulls me over to meet the sweet, oblivious old man who runs the place. We chat for a while, Kotone leaves and the old man gives me his phone number (and possibly also his wife's—it sounded like the "phone number acquired" jingle played twice), presumably so he can call me with updates about the growth of any Pokémon I leave with him in the future.

Goldenrod City is big and flashy with a lot of very colorful buildings. One of the most colorful and bizarre is the Name Rater's house... or, well, tent would probably be a better descriptive term. The Name Rater's tent is my first destination at any rate, as I'm itching to give my Magby and Doduo names I can actually read. The Name Rater dubs my Doduo "Rhea" and my Magby "Singe" (how can you stand so much originality) and, awful limited names safely in hand, I move on to the bike shop next. On the way I pass the magnet train station and can see the rail from Route 32 extending out of it and across the city. The shop owner gives me a free bicycle in exchange for a promise to ride it and advertise his company; true to my word, I hop on the bike as soon as I'm outside and give it a test ride. It handles pretty well, although it doesn't have the ability to change gears as the DPPt bike does. This isn't really a problem for me, as I never used anything other than 4th (fastest) gear; 3rd gear is for pansies anyway.

Some chick is blocking the door to Whitney's gym, so for the time being I check out the radio tower. Whitney is in there, as it turns out, standing at the far end of the counter where they hand out radio cards for the pokégear. She moves to the side and I try my hand at answering the station's quiz; it takes a few tries and rather a lot of guessing seeing as I can't read the questions, but eventually I figure out that the answers are "yes, yes, no, yes, no" and receive the radio. The radio card screen on the ‘gear has changed quite drastically—rather than the typical sliding tuner it has a large, spherical grid and a little cursor on it, with four buttons off to the sides. The buttons are four preset stations; if I want to hear other stations, I can use the stylus to slide the cursor around until I pick something else up.

Whitney has gone back to her gym now that I've won the radio card but I'm not ready to challenge her yet; I'm told that her team's levels are lower this time, but with only Njord above level 15 I feel like I could use just a bit more training all the same. This means moving on up to Route 35 and the National Park and beating up the trainers there, maybe catching a few more Pokémon. One such Pokémon is a Yanma, luckily enough, despite the fact that they're quite rare and most people won't find them unless the nearby bug catcher calls and informs them of a Yanma swarm.

Speaking of the phone, while out in Route 35 looking for a male Nidoran I received a phone call from someone I don't recognize. The characters that made up the name weren't anywhere in my phone's memory, and it wouldn't let me ignore the call. I have no earthly idea who it was, what they wanted or what the call meant. Huh.

A little further north I run into a Stantler and, never having used one before, decide that he's a little more interesting than the Rattata and Raticate I love but have used many times in the past. I retire Kiley from active duty and replace her with said Stantler, Eidol (or Eidolon, as I call him and as the name would've been if it weren't too long for the five-character limit). At level 13 he's a little behind everyone else on top of all the other training I have to do, and I've exhausted all of the trainers up here, so it's off to the Underground to fight the trainers lurking around there. Kotone and Marill meet me again as I enter and give me a Fashion Case for holding those silly Pokémon accessories; I've got no idea what they're for as there are none of those froofy dress-up super contests in Johto, but turning down free stuff goes against my grain and so I take it anyway.

There's a coin case on the floor in the Underground and I snag that as well, but I'm a little more interested in the photography booth near the northern exit. The hiker (?) at the top will take a quick picture of one of your Pokémon, and you are given the opportunity to dress it up with accessories first; Njord objects to the moustache I try to pin on his face, so we just take a quick picture of him as-is. The man below the counter takes group portraits, and lets me pose with all six members of my team (er, well, five and the HM slave, but HM slaves are family, too). For reasons unknown I am wearing a Team Rocket uniform in this picture; perhaps he's in league with whichever Silph Co. employee thought that the Team Rocket Pokégear skin was perfectly innocent? After the picture is taken I peek into the gallery next to their booth, get some sort of accessory from another hefty man inside, admire Njord's gorgeous portrait and then finish beating up the nerds around the corner.

It's Thursday at this point and so the National Park's Bug-Catching Contest is open. With Lambo in the front of my party I head up to the park's gatehouse. A man stands off to the side in a much more open-looking space than I remember from GSC (I can't even see the far wall)—he won't let me pass to see what all that open space is, though, so I just speak to the red-uniformed attendant and head into the park proper with my Flaaffy in my wake.

The menu on the bottom screen rearranges itself slightly, adding a "Retire" icon and a picture of a "compe ball" (the new name for park balls since Pal Park uses balls with the same name) with a number indicating how many I have left to use. When a Pokémon attacks me I can see a little net image at the top of the touch screen with an arrow next to it. This, as it turns out when I capture a bug and then encounter something else, displays the icon of the Pokémon you currently have in your possession—a helpful little reminder if you don't remember what you have and aren't sure whether you want to bother catching something else to swap with it. Your current catch is also displayed on the menu by the compe ball count.

The mysterious scoring system in the Bug-Catching Contest has always irked me; I never seem to be able to get first place despite catching what I'm pretty sure are the rarest Pokémon, and this time around I can't read what the winning Pokémon are so I can't make any comparisons... ugh. Add all this to the fact that trying to weaken several Pokémon with just one Lambo when said Lambo keeps getting poisoned by tricksy Butterfree and stupid Weedle is quite exacerbating and, well, I don't exactly have the greatest time ever. The updated aesthetic touches and whatnot are nice, and I still come away with third place and a Pinsir, but... meh.

After treating poor, put-upon Lambo at the Pokémon Center I duck back into the park to see it under normal, non-contest operation. I've noticed that the little transition images actually change with time of day, showing light blue skies in the morning to vivid sunsets in the evening; the little "hiding" Pokémon also seems to change. The park has a Hoothoot in a tree at night, for example, while a little Paras pokes its head out of the grass during midday. It's really cute. :3 Anyway, there are a few more trainers in the park, a free Quick Claw from some lady with a Persian and several items behind the fence. There's also an area that can only be reached by Rock Climb, apparently, so I have no idea what's up there and will have to come back for it later.

I've trained and stalled for long enough at this point and so head back over into Goldenrod proper to challenge the wicked witch Whitney, more or less everyone's least favorite gym leader. The difficulty most players had taking down her Miltank may have been why Whitney is the only gym leader who has actually had her levels nerfed instead of left alone or raised, but a level 19 Evil Fat Cow doesn't really sound that much easier than a level 20 one.

The Goldenrod Gym still sports its massive Clefairy layout, a choice that has always struck me as odd seeing as there's only one real Clefairy in the building and it isn't even the leader's signature Pokémon. Rather than a Clefairy-shaped arrangement of planters and blocks, however, the gym is lined with walls, staircases and arches that you must navigate up and over as well as around and through. Some of the walls and boxes are positioned so that it's hard to tell whether or not you have enough space to pass between them or need to find away around. Mildly irritating but overall fairly easy to navigate, so I'm able to pick my way through to Wicked Witch Whitney and get the battle for my third badge underway.

The level 17 Clefairy Whitney likes enough to model her gym after but not enough to make it her signature Pokémon is very easily dispatched—a quick Hypnosis from Eidol and two hearty Stomps send it packing without incident. But then, no one ever complains about Whitney's Clefairy. If you can't beat Whitney's Clefairy without breaking a sweat then you are a pansy and a failure. Miltank is, of course, the real test of a trainer's testicular fortitude. I try bringing in Lambo to paralyze her, but she seems to be holding either a Cheri Berry or a Lum Berry as the status wears off as soon as I can lay it down. The wretched Evil Fat Cow then proceeds to stomp on Lambo's head and KO her. Static doesn't even kick in, bah.

But that's sort of okay, as it turns out, because I'd rather have the Evil Fat Cow asleep than paralyzed. Putting her to sleep is much easier said than done, though. Hypnosis's horrible accuracy and Eidol's lower speed make it very hard to land a good one between flinching from Miltank's Stomp and falling prey to Attract. A great deal of bunnying around between Eidol (thank god for Intimidate and the occasional successful Hypnosis) and Njord (to leer at her and hopefully get in some Headbutts) finally results in Eidol fainting and Njord too weak to risk bringing in on a faster Pokémon. Thankfully, the newly-christened Rhea is able to come to the rescue with Quick Attack—the first one isn't enough to finish Miltank off and so Rhea takes a nasty hit from Rollout (the only time Whitney actually used it, huh... funny, I remember constantly getting steamrollered by Rollout in GSC), but she hangs on with 3 HP left and finally tips the Evil Fat Cow with a second preemptive strike. Ding-dong, the witch is dead, huzzah! Whitney starts bawling and refuses to give me my hard-earned badge until the lass below her tells me that she'll calm down eventually; I don't know why the Pokémon League keeps such a sore, immature loser on the payroll, but I get the badge and the Attract TM from her at length. Miltank is something I've never used before, either. Tauros, sure, but not Miltank. I'm satisifed with Eidol for now, but I might give my own Evil Fat Cow a try in SoulSilver...

Next on the agenda is making Morty cry, but before I can do that I actually have to get to Ecruteak. And before I can do *that* I have to beat the crap out of the Sudowoodo blocking the unreasonably tiny path between it, Violet and Goldenrod. I get the Squirtbottle from the flower shop next door and proceed to water the scrawny little rock-tree. No, seriously, I don't understand how I can't get past something so small and thin just by shoving it aside—or at least find an alternative way to move it instead of banking on the generosity of a strange girl in a flower shop! I dunno, Gold's a guy, he can water things without a watering can... or maybe he could be a little less crass and just have Njord use Water Gun on it... feh. Long bout of complaining short I water the Sudowoodo and capture it, after which the girl standing nearby gives me a Berry Planter to grow my own and some berries to start me off.

A few battles later and I'm in Ecruteak City, with its nicely-done traditional Japanese-style buildings and awesome music. Bill talks to me in the Pokémon Center, although why he's there I don't know as there is no longer any need for a "Time Capsule"; all the same, I make a quick run back to Goldenrod to visit his house and grab a free Eevee (level 5). His little sister also gives me his phone number. In GSC Bill would call you to let you know that your PC box was full and that you'd need to change to an open one if you wanted to catch more Pokémon. Now that Pokémon have automatically been deposited in the next open box ever since Ruby and Sapphire I don't know why I need his number, either...

Back in Ecruteak I grab an Itemfinder from a man in the house left of the Pokémon Center. The Itemfinder has gone back to being a key item after its brief stint as a Pokétch app in DPPt, but rather than just beeping and telling you that you're near a hidden item it has its own special interface on the touch screen when used. As with the Pokétch app Itemfinder you tap the little radar area and wait for a response to know whether or not you've found one of those magical invisible potions and whatnot.

The Kimono Girls' theater is my last stop for this post; it'd be nice to get Surf for Njord and not have to rely on Water Gun as his only Water-type move, especially considering that his special attack isn't stellar. Only one Kimono Girl is on the stage and a member of Team Rocket is up there with her; he seems to be harrassing her. When I approach the stage they exchange words and then, inexplicably, the Rocket starts to spin in place. He stops his ridiculous dancing when I talk to him and tries to challenge me to a battle. His lone level 12 Koffing is hardly a threat, however, and is easily crushed. The vanquished villain flees, the dancing damsel in distress thanks me, I pout about missing the fun Eeveelution battles that used to be there and then receive the Surf HM from the old man and his Psyduck (wasn't it a Rhydon in GSC?) sitting in the audience.

Making Morty cry like a little girl will have to wait for next post, which hopefully will not be as long in the making as this one is. In the meantime, though, here's me team.

They Who Make Gym Leaders Cry:

Croconaw Stantler Flaaffy Doduo Magby Oddish
Njord (M) Eidol (M) Lambo (F) Rhea (F) Singe (M) Oddit (M)
L21, Naughty, Torrent L18, Naughty, Intimidate L18, Adamant, Static L18, Lax, Early Bird L18, Rash, Flame Body L6, Calm, Chlorophyll
-Ice Fang
-Thunder Wave
-Quick Attack
-Faint Attack
-Sunny Day
-Sweet Scent

Next one will be here in fewer than ten days this time, I promise. Shouldn't be too hard to write about, though—the Pokéthlon is pretty bangin' cool. :D