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Opinion: Nobody Asked - A Maniacal Engineer's Thoughts on Scarlet and Violet - Part 6: Path of Legends

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Nobody Asked Maniacal Engineer
Quaking Earth Titan Defeated
It’s time for a deep dive into the second of the three major paths you’re presented with in Scarlet and Violet, the Path of Legends. This path starts out with Arven, who is now all buddy-buddy with you after having been fairly abrasive the last time you saw him, attempting to convince you to help him track down the Herba Mystica, five extremely rare condiments that are said to have magical healing powers beyond the conventional Potions, Pokémon Centers, etc. The catch is that each of these plants is guarded by a Titan Pokémon, and, in order to pick the plant, you need to defeat the Titan.

Arven's Mabosstiff
At first, Arven says that his goal is to find the Herba Mystica specifically because he’s into picnics and cooking, but fairly early on, we as the player learn that there’s more to it than that. After defeating the first Titan, we’re shown a brief cutscene after the player character leaves, that indicates that Arven is hiding something. After the second Titan is felled, Arven reveals his true purpose for collecting the medicinal plants, a desperate attempt to cure his faithful Mabosstiff, who was fatally wounded beyond the ability for conventional medicine to heal. Meanwhile, the player's legendary motorcycle eats the Herba Mystica infused sandwiches, gaining new abilities to make getting to certain locations easier.

My one minor gripe with this story, and it really is nitpicking, is the abrupt attitude change in Arven from when you first meet him at the lighthouse lab, and when he acts all chummy when he is trying to convince you to help him out with his quest. Even then, there are two built-in possible explanations that don’t stretch the imagination too far. The first potential explanation is in Arven’s dialogue itself. He is in desperate need of someone with powerful Pokémon to help him defeat the Titans, he doesn’t have friends who are strong enough, and he really doesn’t get along with Nemona. And so, with nobody else to turn to, he has no choice but to ask the player for help, despite being aggressive with them earlier. It’s the classic disingenuous “I need a favor, so we’re best buds now” routine. The second possible explanation is a bit more speculative on my part, but it does fit Arven’s character. Arven really does want to be friends, but he isn’t really sure how to approach the player after brushing them off so harshly earlier. As such, he kinda just tries to sweep that under the rug. It would explain why he rushes off before the player can answer on whether or not they want to help find the Herba Mystica. As I said, it would also fit with his socially awkwardness, having basically grown up isolated from other people thanks to being abandoned by his parents.

Double Battle Against Orthworm.png
The battles against the Titan Pokémon are really nothing incredibly special. You battle the Titan Pokémon one-on-one when you first arrive, and then, when its HP gets too low, it retreats to its cavern to power itself up with its stash of Herba Mystica. Then you and Arven battle the Titan which now has double its normal HP. It’s similar to a Dynamax Pokémon, only worse. Their stats outside of HP don't even get boosted by the Herba Mystica, and they're still using the same attacks as before. Honestly, while this was supposed to be a more original concept, after Totem Pokémon, Dynamax Pokémon, and Alpha Pokémon, it feels kind of stale.

The Ex-Titan Bombirdier, out in the wild
While I’m complaining about Titan Pokémon, there is one other issue I have with this mechanic. It’s fantastic that, aside from Dondozo, you can re-battle and catch the former Titan Pokémon, which have perfect 30 IVs in every stat together with a special Mark granting the title “the Former Titan”. That said, there is no in-game indication of this being a thing, and, especially very early on when the game was newly released, information about these sorts of easter eggs was extremely limited. So, if someone were to accidentally get into an encounter with an Ex-Titan, not knowing that it was even possible to battle the former titans, they could easily knock it out or run away, causing them to miss the easter egg. That's not as big a problem now, since as of the release of the Version 2.0.1 update alongside The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero Part 1: The Teal Mask, those encounters will respawn if the player KOs the former titan, but previously that wasn't the case.

To be fair, as someone who grew up with Gen 1, I get it. If you blew it on the Legendary birds or Mewtwo, you didn’t get a second chance. But, in general, we knew that those were powerful Pokémon, and that we should save in front of them, to give us as many chances as we needed to catch the field encounters. That said, it has been standard now for several generations for field encounters to respawn after certain tasks have been completed, such as defeating the Elite Four. Also, this was an encounter generally surrounded by other Pokémon, and, while it was programmed to not trigger unless deliberately tripped by the player, the only indication of this was a brief text box with the Pokémon saying its cry. That comes off as unusual, but without any special animation or jingle in the battle that would distinguish it from the thousands of other encounters with that particular species, it comes off more as a weird quirk rather than a signal that this is a particularly special Pokémon. With the games being as buggy as they were when they first came out, it was entirely possible for someone to either not notice that they specifically triggered the battle or to assume it was just a glitch. In my case, it was the latter. I found the Ex-Titan Klawf in Scarlet without realizing that it was a special encounter, and KO’d it. While I'm glad this issue has finally been resolved with the DLC patch making it so the encounters respawn, it's just silly that it took them nine and a half months to fix what should have been a very simple issue. I suppose that’s because they had other, game breaking issues to deal with first.

Arven, reading up on the Herba Mystica
Back to the story itself though. The game does a wonderful job telling Arven’s backstory throughout the process of battling the Titans. He went from being a character that I found obnoxious and disingenuous, given his attitude the first time I met him coupled with the “hey, buddy” approach when he wanted a favor, to a character that I found extremely compelling and interesting, and could actually empathize with. This arc also sets up the regional Professor as a character, as they have entrusted the player with the sandwich-eating legendary, and check in with the player after each Titan battle. Most of the professor’s character development does come in The Way Home, but they do play an important role in this story, and we begin to learn some of the smaller details about them.

As the story progressed, everything about Arven, including his initial aggressiveness, his clumsiness when cooking (seriously, the guy is completely self-taught, it’s a wonder he can cook at all), and his personality in general fell into place. Far and away, out of the main “quest trio” of Nemona, Arven, and Penny, I would argue that Arven is the most well developed character, and he has the depth to back it up. Nemona is a fantastic rival, and I would say she’s the best rival in the entire franchise, but, as I previously mentioned, she is fairly one dimensional, and you don’t get to see the depth to her character until after her story arc. Penny meanwhile gets outclassed in her own story arc by Clavell, mostly because she doesn’t really have a presence in the story until the very end. Arven’s struggle, both to make new friends and to save his best friend Mabosstiff, are very touching moments; you genuinely feel happy when Mabosstiff fully recovers after eating the final sandwich. The conclusion of this arc, which directly ties into the next part of the story, also sets up the relationship between Arven and his famous parent extremely well, which is good, because that particular dynamic comes to the forefront during The Way Home. Up until that point, the game had pretty much been entirely expositional about Arven’s relationship with his parent. Now, we actually see that particular dynamic playing out, when the Professor calls the player to congratulate them on getting the sandwich legendary back to its full powers.

Maniacal Engineer - signing off
The Professor, upon hearing their son’s voice for the first time in years, is happy to finally have found him. Not out of any particular parental love, mind you, but because Arven is the only one who can get into their Lighthouse Lab. That and Arven’s reaction afterward, literally declaring that even thinking about his parent makes his blood boil, puts on full display something that was merely hinted at back when we first encountered Arven, and, indeed, when the Professor first reached out to us via Clavell. When referring to how the player acquired the legendary motorcycle’s Poke Ball, the Professor states that the player must have gotten it “from a young man called Arven.” Not even referring to Arven as their son, though to be fair, there is a reason for this, as we find out later.

All in all, this particular story arc is very good, despite the bland boss battles. It provides fantastic character development for both Arven and the Professor, and it is the direct link to The Way Home as the fourth arc of the main story. I just wish that the Titan Pokémon themselves were a bit more impressive.
 
Maniacal Engineer

Maniacal Engineer

Bulbagarden Multimedia Executive
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