Okay, so I head through a gauntlet of trainers. The final one, right before the gate, informs me, The altar is just a little farther, so I can’t let you pass easily. Show me everything you’ve got!
The strength = goodness is just so straightfaced. If you aren’t a good enough trainer, I guess you just don’t deserve to see things!
Oh hey, and now my grimer’s evolving!
While it’s unexpectedly quiet and friendly, if it’s not fed any trash for a while, it will smash its Trainer’s furnishings and eat up the fragments.
So feeding grimer non-poisonous things switches its diet to absolutely anything.
It then learns venom drench.
Now that I’ve proven my superiority through victory, Go where you please! If you and your Pokemon give it everything you’ve got, there’s no place you can’t reach!
Lillie, on the other hand, can only get in here because these assholes are now out of pokemon to gatekeep with.
Ah, and speaking of, she runs up behind.
Lillie: Hah… Haaah… Sorry… I’m not…very good…at running…
Look, Japan. I know you love your infantilized girl tropes, but she’s been running around as a professor’s research assistant and spent the body of the game hiking all over. She isn’t actually bad at absolutely everything.
Lillie: Phew! It looks like we’re nearly to the altar now, aren’t we, Bonnibel… Let me take care of Salazzle for you. When your Pokemon are full of energy, then a Trainer can go anywhere in the world…
Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s the same attitude of that guy we just beat. If you and your Pokemon give it everything you’ve got, there’s no place you can’t reach! YOU + THEM = YOU GETTING STUFF. Can my pokemon go anywhere in the world? Well, who cares what they want, and anyway, they’re not going to be seeing any of it because they’re staying in their pokeballs except when I need them. They don’t even get to surf or fly around anymore!
Lillie: Doesn’t it seem that way?
And no, it doesn’t. Another NPC was telling me I should visit other regions later, but the games themselves are always sharply limited in scope. And this game in particular is a mess of meaningless roadblocks, so even the meta sense of you-the-person-outside can play different games and explore new places isn’t really getting showcased well.
I head in. Another cutscene triggers, sending the camera over to a tombstonelike pillar.
Faint letters can just barely be made out, carved into the ancient stone monument. “Ahead lies a sacred ground of trials. None who do not take part in its trials will be allowed to walk upon this earth. Those lacking the courage to defeat the totem guarding this land will be denied entry. But those who believe in their Pokemon and walk beside them shall gain great power!”
So Lillie is, once again, out of luck.
“Courage.” This presumably ties to the idea Lillie is scared of heights. Like strength being goodness, there’s the idea that battling or not battling comes entirely down to the human’s courage or lack thereof. For that matter, victory comes down to a human’s courage – you can’t be brave but not a very good battler for other reasons. So sure, believe in your pokemon, but remember it’s your belief that matters and they are, ultimately, incidental to this whole thing.
There’s no captain to be found, but it seems like you stand at the edge of a trial site.
Thanks, eleventh-hour retcon about totems being down to the tapu! I’m still going to push that artist twit off a ledge but I’ll be less furious about it.
Are you ready to challenge the trial?
Objectively, no. Am I ready to hit yes? Yes.
Rotom then repeats that this is all supposed to remind me of that first trial for some reason. Why do people keep saying this? And why would I want it to? That was the first trial, the tutorial version of trials. Why would it be good game design to do your tutorial section over again as the final one?
Ah, and it’s time for that dragon type I mostly know is probably good because it kept coming up as banned on SYOC rules! A jangmo-o with its ridiculous yellow heart head attacks me. It is a deeply ineffectual creature, using bide and then leer. I am then attacked by its evolved form, which does barely better.
I come to the crystal pillar, but there’s an exist beyond and I don’t actually care about the crystals. When I try to leave, though, I’m informed the totem pokemon is furious and will attack me from behind if I continue, and…this is somehow different than getting attacked by taking the crystal, so I can’t.
The totem battle is…underwhelming. I’m far lower level, so obviously it’s difficult, but despite how many turns it takes, there’s nothing clever on display. The totem pokemon uses clanging scales over and over until its defense is wrecked. It summons its previous evolution, who uses a bunch of stat boosts at the same time, but with a more than ten level difference, the helper pokemon’s only real purpose is to pick off pokemon that survived a previous hit thanks to affection bullshit.
I continue on, confident Lillie will heal my pokemon before I’m ambushed by the next challenge.
And indeed, here she is again.
Hapu: Our history tells us that the Vast Poni Canyon trial was the first trial ever to be held. You did a fine job clearing it, just as expected, Bonnibel!
Lillie: You’ve cleared all seven trials of Alola’s island challenge now! That’s wonderful!
So, there are a set number of trials, but also there’s been no kahuna trial here for years, and this trial itself has been inaccessible for the same reason. Now, if we were told Hapu had a little while ago become kahuna,this would be less of an issue, since we could assume that trials were moved around so that they were clustered on the other islands and only just shifted back here. Unfortunately, we see Hapu becoming kahuna, which means what we’re seeing must’ve been like this before.
No wonder there’s so many Skull kids with strong pokemon – until a few hours ago, it was impossible to clear the island challenge!
Lillie: You’ve pushed yourself beyond your limits and really became a great Trainer, haven’t you? And she could never have done it without you, Vikavolt! Let me heal you up real quick!
Fun fact, Vikavolt was my only remaining pokemon and was on a single HP.
Hapu: Look at the two of you. I think this just might work out. No, I am quite sure of it!
Lillie: The Sun Flute…and the Moon Flute. If we sound both together… Let’s go, Bonnibel!
And Rotom adds that hey! right up those stairs!! the altar!!!
I go talk to Hapu instead.
You know…parents are people, too. Then again, so are their children. They should both be able to tell one another how they feel.
That’s cool, Mr. Game Designer, but I was trying to talk to an NPC about what she thought about the whole altar business and not get cliffnotes on what you meant with the themes.
Also, there’s a gap on the stairs to show how old it is. I try to run the stoutland off it and it reacts, so then I try running each of the ridable pokemon off and see what they do. They need different recoil effects for smacking into vs trying not to fall.
I can feel the strong power of the moon… Lillie says, the sun hanging in the sky above her because I’m playing during the day for once. Nebby… I’m going to make my mother wake up and see reason before I send you back to your old world!
Is this the first time it’s directly confirmed Nebby’s from there? I know that was the implication with the fact it can make the portals, but I don’t recall if it’s said how they got it. Also dammit Lillie, Nebby is maybe dying here, stop saying you’ll deal with it once you deal with your mom who is in way less of a horrible position.
Lillie: I’m going to make her hear me… I’m going to tell her how I feel!
She. Doesn’t. Care.
I’m sorry, okay? It sucks and it’s unfair but it’s what it is. Just as she should have understood you don’t exist just as an accessory for her, you need to understand she’s never going to. You can’t make other people feel things, and you can’t risk still other people’s lives trying to make other people be what you wanted them to be. Mystery jellyfish doesn’t love your mom and your mom doesn’t love you, so can we all stop destroying spacetime now?
Lillie: Even if I’m not a Trainer, I can still do that much!
It’s not about that! Just because everybody says what matters is being a trainer doesn’t make them right! It isn’t because you were scared of heights, or didn’t like pokemon battles, or weren’t articulate enough, or aren’t a good enough runner! You can’t fix it by trying to become those things!
Lillie: The Sun Flute… It feels like it was made to fit my hand. I think I can play it…
And she smiles.
Lillie: Bonnibel, you should stand over there.
Rotom tells me I have to be completely sure to blow at the same time. In another game, I could think this would be some sort of minigame, but I think we can be sure that won’t happen here.
Will you blow the Moon Flute?
Lillie: I think we should wait until the moon has risen.
Oh hey, finally a meaning to the time difference. Well, time to change the clock back-
Nevermind, now suddenly it’s night. Dammit game. Why not just have your own internal clock rather than doing day/night with real clocks?
And doing this somehow evolves Nebby, which I guess I should’ve seen coming based on the fact Pokemon regularly has powerful monsters give birth to less powerful babies that then mature up into giant monsters again. And I guess this is more palatable than her handing a baby over to me and watching me send Nebby out to splash around helplessly as I powerlevel it to usefulness.
But there’s no way any of them thought this was the outcome. This whole end to the plot has bunch a bunch of crazy stumbling around doing random things that happen to resolve other random things.
Lillie: Nebby…th-thank goodness…you’re all right… Please don’t ever do that again! You made me worry so much! And I never imagined that sounding the flutes would give you so much power…or let you evolve into the Legendary Pokemon! Not in all of my reading… Never did I come across any hint that you would evolve into the Legendary Pokemon…
Except for the bit about the legendaries having a baby.
Also, this just sounds weirdly doth-protest-too-much. Like the first time she said it, yeah, that’s a reasonable response. But then she just keeps going on about how it’s so important Nebby believe she definitely had no idea.
Lillie: Please, Lunala… No… Nebby. Please. I need to see my mother!
See, this could’ve worked fine if she went on a quest to fix Nebby, then upon evolution, beseeched her presumably now superpowered friend to help out finding her mom because hey, you can probably do that.
Anyway, now we’re in “ultra space”, which is like normal space, but more gothy.
Lillie: How…surprising. It’s more beautiful than I would have expected…
Yes, I too am appreciating that human eyes work here, and also that we aren’t in a void of madness where the laws of physics no longer work.
Lillie: but the air is so thick here… It…almost hurts to breathe…
So presumably the ultrabeasts are suffocating when they come to our world.
You’re right…/Are you scared?
Dammit game, of course she’s scared. There’s no need to be dicks about it.
Lillie: Do you think the Ultra Beasts really are Pokemon?
I don’t know what pokemon are in the first place, so…
Lillie: I don’t know what to call them anymore…
I don’t know why confirming they live somewhere totally different from us would make you question them having a different term to refer to them by.
Lillie: We should go. Nebby lets out yet another spikyboxed cry. What is it? Are you telling us that you have to stay there? I’m…I’m so grateful to you for bringing me here, Nebby. Thank you! I guess I have to go the rest of the way myself.
I’m starting to feel like this would’ve been better as a fangame that let you play as multiple characters and had periods where you can’t use pokemon. Bonnibel really doesn’t need to be here for this, it’s Lillie’s story right now.
Continuing along, I find Guzma hanging out on on of the glowy whatevers…rocks? mushrooms? trees?
Guzma: I’m the Team Skull boss, and I’ve never been scared of nothing or nobody.
Your ignorance of double negatives means you are inadvertently correct.
But also – Those lacking the courage to defeat the totem guarding this land will be denied entry. But those who believe in their Pokemon and walk beside them shall gain great power! So, by the rules, there are only two options: you are brave and you win, you are a coward and you lose. So, if you lose, you must be a coward, and you must have lost because you were a coward, and you insist that you aren’t, which means you’ll win, except you lose, so… Man, no wonder he’s so fucked up. No wonder all the Skull kids are.
Heck, I live my life making people scared of ME! So listen to what big bad Guzma has to say…
Haha, his faaaaaace.
Guzma: How in the world did you even get to this place? I’ve got no idea how you did it, but here you are.
If you’d let Lillie get in a word edgewise, she could just tell you.
Guzma: It’s all dark here… I’ve got no clue what’s going on, but there’s beasts everywhere… I tried to catch one of those things…
We get a flashback, where, among other things, we discover Guzma attempts to catch pokemon by lunging headfirst for them.
This does explain how he got a wimpod.
Guzma: but it possessed me!
I think you should just be glad you weren’t electrocuted and stop whining.
Guzma: And that’s when it happened! My body, my mind… They started running wild, and I couldn’t do anything about it!
Again, this is way better than hugging a giant jellyfish could’ve gone for you.
Apparently attempting to overcome how unimpressed I am, he continues in full spikybox: It was like I became somebody else, and I finally felt what fear feels like! It was terrifying!
Guzma, continues to ramble because perhaps jellyfish-possession related brain damage: I may be the Team Skull boss, and I’ve never been scared of nothing or nobody, but…that lady…she’s on another level! She’s way far gone! She lost her mind over these Ultra Beasts. There’s no talking to her, no reasoning with her… She’s just gone…
Right right. Well, Lillie, I think that’s our cue to go. Guzma, you wanna come with?
Lillie shakes her head and gets her determined face on, then spikyboxes, That doesn’t change anything! I still have to go!
Yeah, but the only reason it doesn’t change anything is because none of this is new information.
She runs forward. Your thoughts, Guzma?
He just repeats himself. Well, unlike most of the NPCs, he has the whole perhaps brain damage thing going for him.
I follow Lillie and a jellyfishtastic cutscene happens, then we find Lusamine hanging out with them and looking completely fine.
Can we go now?
Lusamine: Look at it… The world of my Ultra Beasts… A world where the only thing that exists is the love between Nihilego and myself. So beautiful… So delicious… This is the real paradise!
There, see, you heard her, she’d got food too, she’ll be fine, let’s go.
And look, she’s also furious we’re here and pulling out the spikybox. God, they overuse that.
Lusamine: And yet you! Why must you continue to pester me?! I am sick of you. Sick through and through! Who told you that you could come here, to the perfect, beautiful world of my beasts and me? And the jellyfish chimes behind her in what sure sounds agreeable.
Really, what is wrong with this? It was upsetting when she wanted to drag a jellyfish into our world because we were told it was in pain. But going to their world where they’re fine and happy isn’t harming them.
Lillie: Think about what you are saying! What about Mr. Guzma?
We ask him if he wants to leave with us. She doesn’t have the guy chained up, Lillie.
Lillie: Don’t you care what happens to him?
This is such weird writing when Lillie’s conversation with Plumeria makes it clear she gets that her mom doesn’t care about Guzma.
Lusamine: Just leave.
Yes! Thank you! Bye!
Lusamine: I don’t need you here… I don’t need you any longer! Look around you! Look at this beautiful world that I’ve finally come to! You want me to go back to that world? That’s what you’ve come to bother me for? Even you cannot be that stupid!
Lillie: You always do that… It’s just like it was back at Aether Paradise… Only thinking of yourself and what you want…
Lusamine: What…? And why shouldn’t I! I can live here in a world filled with only the things that I love! And I will live here! I don’t care if you are my child or not! I don’t care if you were loyal to me or not! I don’t care if you’re the rarest Pokemon there is in the world or not! If you’re not beautiful enough to be worthy of my love, then I don’t NEED you!
Okay, so we finally got what her love is based on. This really should’ve been brought up back when Lillie was talking about it regarding Guzma, because her love being bad and her definitely never going to love him are two very different things.
There’s a jellyfish chorus throughout this, so it sounds like the jellyfish are totally fine with her staying there. She’s happy. They’re happy. Her staying doesn’t prevent anyone else leaving. She can’t do any damage to anyone else here, and she has no motive to hurt anyone else now.
It sucks your mom doesn’t love you, Lillie, but you have to accept that’s on her and you can’t change it. I really hate the false equivalencies of “but if you do this you are just as bad!!!” but – she wants to stay here, and you want her to come home with you, and it’s her choice that matters, and more importantly, yes, you aren’t as bad as her by any stretch of imagination, so there is no way you’d be happy with her being miserable so long as you have her.
Lusamine: That’s right! All I need to exist in my world are the things that I want to have with me! Everything else is just a bother to me!
Lillie pulls out the spikybox again. She also looks completely done with this, but not in the way I am. I am the one who is sick of you, Mother! Children… Children are not just THINGS that belong to their parents! Pokemon are not just THINGS that a Trainer can do whatever they want to! I am alive! Cosmog is alive! We are not things for you to collect! We’re not made for you to just discard when you get bored with us! That is terrible, Mother! You are terrible!
This is a great speech that really makes no sense at this point in the game. She should’ve been shouting it before Lusamine used Nebby. It’s also got the problem that pokemon are absolutely things that belong to me and I am totally collecting them all, and, in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m going to get one of the awesome jellyfish pretty soon.
Furthermore – Lusamine going to this place stops all that. There’s no one else here for her to hurt.
Lusamine: Terrible? Me? How am I different from any Pokemon Trainer, like your little “friend” there?
Because I don’t keep pokemon in ice pillars, only open holes in the fabric of reality on a controlled basis, and never had kids when I felt like I wanted dolls.
Gotta say, Lillie, you kind of walked into that one by bringing up trainers in the first place.
Lusamine: What do you do with a Pokemon you can’t use? You remove it from your party, as you please.
…that. That is the worst thing you can think of?
Lusamine presumably isn’t actually interested in constructing a coherent argument, because she switches back into spikybox: Enough with this useless talk, Lillie! I will never forgive you for stealing Cosmog from me. Never! Back when you were small, you would listen to everything I said, without question. For a time, even you were adorable to me! But you changed. You’ve become ugly. Ever since you met this girl Bonnibel…and learned to defy your own mother!
I’m not sure that’s an accurate timeline of events.
Lusamine: Bonnibel! You hateful little Trainer! How dare you intrude upon this world that was meant for Nihilego and me? It is not to be borne! And with Nihilego’s power, I will show you how wrong you were to come here!
So, despite hanging out with the others and seeming happy with that, she apparently did catch one. And…she fuses with it. Ooookay.
I really do not see what I’m even fighting for, at this point. The jellyfish love her and now she is one of them. Let’s just let whatever fucked up thing this is happen while we do other things.
I was expecting to fight her, but no, it’s her pokemon team again, who are now totemized, I guess from jellyfish power. That does seem far more in line with how the games work. (After all, if you can battle it, you can catch it, and the games have been very firm in not confusing people with pokemon.) My muk poisons her clefable, but then the poison does no damage. It’s weird. I ultimately lose, hand over several thousand yen, then go to a pokecenter while Rotom bugs me about how we can’t get to the ultrabeast’s world unless we go back to Nebby. I return, cutscene replays, and then I win!
She stays jellyfishized, and starts doing stuff with her tentacles that I guess is menacing – Bonnibel actually changes expression! – so Lillie calls for Lunala. Lunala attacks her (it’s interesting that still, pokemon battles are being kept separate from fights with something human), they defuse with the jellyfish going back in its special pokeball, Lillie runs over to her collapsed mom who suddenly says she’s beautiful. So…jellyfish possession? That would be the absolute stupidest twist.
Guzma: What now?! What’s going on?! And just when things were getting good!
Lillie: There are so many Nihilego!!!
There’s five. That’s precisely as many have been there the whole time.
Nebby shouts a bunch, the jellyfish shouts a bunch, then we’re back in our world, even Lusamine.
Hapu: I was concerned so I ascended. And what do I find but the Legendary pokemon…and a strange hole in the sky. However, I’m relieved to see you all unharmed!
Lillie: Hapu! Is my mother…?
You there, big fellow. Carry the lady, will you? says Hapu with her giant horse right there. She is weak, but I do not believe that she is seriously harmed. Hapu knows this by standing and staring at her from ten feet away. We should take her to be treated directly.
Guzma: Huh? Oh…
Then he just dumps her on Mudsdale after all.
Hapu: Bonnibel…you have done will in guiding Lillie, though she is not a Trainer. And Lillie, you too gave it your best. We will wait for you down below. When you are ready, come find us.
Lillie: Th-thank you…Hapu… Lunala…all I ever wanted was to help you get back to your own home… But instead you helped me, over and over… Thank you… Thank you so much! What is it? Shall I guess what it is you’re trying to tell us?
You…you want to keep on traveling together with Bonnibel and me…is that it? Looks like I was right! Of course I was… After all…we’ve been together so long. We’re family now, aren’t we? Of course I can tell how you feel!
…yes, because family and understanding each other’s emotions has been such a thing for you previously.
Lillie: Because I feel the same! We met so many people as we traveled around all of Alola’s islands: Professor Kukui and Professor Burnet… Kahuna Hala and his grandson Hau…and of course the hero who appeared to save you when those Spearow attacked–our own Bonnibel. And so many other people, too… I don’t know what the world you came from is like, but Alola is pretty great, too!
Except for the part about the very air density being wrong, I mean.
Lillie: Of course you want to see it all! It’s just like Kahuna Hala told us… You can go so many places and meet so many Pokemon and people, and they will enrich your life! But not with me… I’m not a Trainer, Nebby. I can’t take you on the adventures you want. I can’t give you the fierce battles you want. Bonnibel… I want you to face Nebby as only a Trainer can. And I want you to give it a ball to call home. I know this is what Nebby wants… It doesn’t want this journey with you to end. And I want you to grant it this wish!
I save and decide to see what happens if I just faint it, then that happens by accident thanks to poisoning at a sliver of health. The answer is nothing whatsoever. The game won’t acknowledge it happened. I try again, and although Lunala uses different moves, Muk’s part is identical – crunch, second crunch that does a ton of damage leaving a sliver, poison touch activating.
I try to catch it in a moonball, but I’ve only got one, so I get it in a diveball instead, because I like the color.
And it’s psychic/ghost, which explains why crunch worked to great.
Said to live in another world, this Pokemon devours light, drawing the moonless dark veil of night over the brightness of day.
I am then asked about nicknames. Because some random idiot trading me a pokemon deserves their awful choice preserved forever, but Lillie using a name this whole game doesn’t count.
Okay, so I get it now – ability is shadow shield, which cuts the amount of damage opening moves do. That’s why I kept seeing the amount of damage a move used vary so widely.
Out of guilt, I put it in my party. But we all know it’s getting swapped out again soon.
Lillie: Lunala… No… Nebby. Nebby, you belong with Bonnibel now. She will be the one to raise you. Just like any parent should raise their child. She will be your mother now.
And this just – this makes no sense with any of the parent/child storyline. We just went to alt-hell to retrieve Lillie’s mom because she was deadset on the idea that you have one mom forever and ever and no matter how incredibly good of an idea it is to cut ties and make a new family you refuse.
I may not have been able to do anything for you, Nebby…but I’m still glad I took you that day. So go with Bonnibel and see the world! Have battles against strong Pokemon where you can use your full power. Meet other Trainers who will make your heart dance with the thrill of it all… That’s the kind of world that Bonnibel can share with you! If it’s you, Bonnibel… I know I can trust you to raise my Nebby well. Take good care of it! And I…will go to my mother. I need to see for myself that she’ll be all right.
She walks away, then turns. Nebby! Don’t always be trying to get out of your Poke Ball the way you always wriggled out of my Bag! And…and don’t forget that you’re strong now. You’ll have to be careful not to accidentally hurt anyone until you get used to your strength! And…and you can’t just go running off to some other world anytime without telling anyone! You’ll make Bonnibel worry! She starts to walk off again, and pauses. OK… I’m really… I’m really going this time. Alola!
Well, that was awful.
Cutscening isn’t over, though.
Nanu: Cripes, but I hate this place… It’s exhausting climbing all the way up here. At least you gave me a good show, though. Guess it was worth coming this far. And the prof did ask me and all… Look, once you’ve completed all your island trials and done your grand trials, then you’ve got to do one last thing… The final trial. Basically it’s a ceremony, you see? You beat all four kahunas in a row. But things are a little different this year. Now that we’re getting a real Pokemon League here in Alola, too.
oh god does the bad news ever end
Nanu: So, girl. I hope you can bother yourself to come along to the base of Ula’ula Island’s Mount Lanakila. You remember Tapu Village, don’t you? Where the folks were doing construction work? He’ll be ready and waiting for you there. I suppose I could take you along with me… You want to do that? Come now, with me?
No offense but you are very creepy. No
Nanu: Not many kids make it all the way to the final trial, but there’s a handful every year. You won’t be able to go easy on this one. These are real battles. No holding back.
Good lord is that badly timed. Let me off the platform, let me move around a bit, maybe get into some stupid wild battle, let what I just did fade a bit, and then tell me that there’s some super big deal battle thing coming and it’s like, so real, the realest, biggest deal ever, you’ll have to fight people in a controlled and safe environment with no permanent consequences for losing!!!