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a long rambly essay about intense


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(I realize that intense mode is being discontinued in v13.5. This post isn't really meant to be an argument to Azery/Jan etc about whether it should be removed or not. I've been meaning to write this post for some time, and don't really want it to go to waste, so here it is now.)


This essay is sort of rambly and probably doesn’t have a super clear thesis or point. I suppose it is somewhat of a defense of intense mode against accusations of being “unfair” or “too hard,” but that’s not really meant to be the central focus of the essay. I suppose it is just me rambling about design. Maybe someone will find it interesting. 



First, let’s take a step back and examine the question of how is it possible to make a good, “hard but fair” singleplayer pokemon experience. There’s a few major advantages the human player has over the AI that we must account for: 

  1. The player is capable of bringing whatever pokemon/items/movesets/EV spreads etc. to each fight, with knowledge ahead of time of their opponent’s pokemon/moveset/items/EV spreads etc. This means that the player can always bring a team with pokemon that are favored against their opponents, and can benefit from the field effects much better than their opponents do. Hypothetically, the player can even construct entire teams of 6 from scratch perfectly selected with the perfect movesets/items/EV spreads to counter each opponent, but this is super overkill as even doing something like keeping a box with a rotation of 15 pokemon gives the player huge advantages. 

  2. The player is much much smarter than the AI. The new AI is admittedly pretty intelligent and does a lot to prevent the player from running over them that the AI on older versions of the game would be totally incapable of doing, but the point still remains that there is much the player can do that is totally impossible for the AI.  

  3. The player can play each fight over and over again. This means that after a few attempts, the player can basically figure out what the AI’s next move from a given game state, since given the same game state, the AI’s actions are basically deterministic. (This is basically only true because of the removal of rolls from v13, a very good decision I commend the devs for making.) This means that you can basically always make the best play possible against the AI after a few attempts of seeing what is going on, instead of just blindly guessing in the dark about what the AI is going to do.

  4. There’s another major advantage the player has, the ability to soft reset ad nauseam until RNG goes incredibly in the player’s favor, but I am going to ignore this point, since it’s bad design to make fights that require good RNG to win. (A side note: I do think that in many cases, when people are stuck on fights, instead of trying to utilize advantages 1/2/3 by building a team that’s better against the opponent, or switching up movesets etc, they just try to get better RNG on fights by repeatedly soft resetting. This is a crutch that tends to lead to unenjoyable game experiences, especially since as you play more and more, you’ll start to have to rely on better and better rolls and will have to spend longer and longer SRing. Unless you’re playing some super insane challenge run, basically everything in the game is doable without too much RNG, and I think you will enjoy the game much, much more if you try to develop consistent strategies on fights, instead of immediately resorting to getting better RNG. This is why I don’t really have an issue with the 1.1x/1.32x accuracy boost on intense; it is generally good game design to make it so the best options are also the most fun, and rerolling fights for moves missing is both generally not really that great of a strat and also terribly boring, so making it so it isn’t even an option for the player anymore is perfectly justifiable and also good design.) 


From this list, it’s pretty clear that the player has some pretty massive advantages over the AI that must be compensated for. If you’ve played intense, you probably have a good idea of how this is done. A non-exhaustive list of advantages the AI has over you include:

  • Higher level pokemon

  • Teams built to synergize well with fields

  • Pokemon currently inaccessible to you 

  • Better moves/custom signature moves that tend to be really strong

  • Better items

  • EVs over the 510 cap 

  • Crests inaccessible to you

  • Mega evolutions inaccessible to you 

  • Megas with held items

  • Multiple megas

  • More seeds than you have access to 


If you want to understand how difficulty in intense Rejuv functions, then you must realize that battles between you and the AI are fundamentally asymmetric. You and the AI both have major advantages over the other that are very, very different. It doesn’t really make that much sense to directly compare your current accessibility to pokemon/TMs etc to the opponents, and say therefore X fight is unfair, because the entire basis of the game’s difficulty is the fact the AI has much better things than you do. It’s similar to the apples to oranges metaphor, you can make comparisons between the two, but you probably won’t be able to draw much insight from the comparison. 



A fairly common criticism of intense is that many of the advantages given to the AI violate the “traditional rules” of Pokemon. I will defend this next:


The reason why Pokemon Rejuvenation is my favorite game is not just the battles or the story or the characters, it’s the totality of the experience and the fact that aspects of the game like the battles and story and characters are interconnected. Characters have teams that feel like a genuine reflection of themselves and their personalities, and change in a manner that reflects their development as a character. This is only possible because of doing things like giving the AI these “rule-breaking” advantages. It’s simply not possible to have Ryland have Torterra as his ace or Zetta to have Silvally as his ace unless Torterra/Silvally are given some advantage they don't have in vanilla games since fundamentally, neither of them are that great of Pokemon. There is a different universe, where intense difficulty is about as difficult as it is now, but there is no violation of the “traditional rules'' of the game. In this universe, fights in the current later half of the game have you facing off against entirely teams full of pseudolegendaries and legendaries, and the pokemon variety fight against is highly limited, since it is necessary to maintain the difficulty. In this universe, while the difficulty remains, all the “heart” of the battles is gone. Instead of facing off against the thematic and varied teams of each character we have come to know and love, we get repetitive fights against the same old 100 or so strongest pokemon. If you’re playing this game solely for the battles in themselves, you might not care about this, but if you care about any of the (excellently done) “storytelling through battles and gameplay” at all, you should be thankful the devs had the foresight to make the decision of not necessarily sticking to the “traditional rules.”


Another common criticism of intense is that it pigeonholes people into using hyper-specific teams, with very little room for error or non-optimal options. I find this to be basically totally wrong. There is a lot more room for error than most people probably think there is. Much of the perception of difficulty is highly subjective, so it is a little bit difficult to offer super concrete evidence for this claim. I think the best way to do is to offer a description of what is possible on intense: 

  • A monotype for each typing has been completed. The vast majority of them have been done without resorting to using duplicates, and without abusing “cheese” (destiny bond/counter/metal burst/mirror coat etc.) or using seeds. This includes some of the most skewed matchups in the game, such as monopsychic vs E15 Geara or monofighting vs Souta. 

  • The game has been nuzlocked on intense. The person who did it, Matty, did so successfully on his first attempt.

  • The game has been completed with 0 IVs and EVs on every pokemon. 

  • The game has been completed using no more than 3 pokemon on each fight. 

  • The game has been completed using only Little Cup pokemon. Many of the hard fights in it, including E15 geara and Souta were done with less than 6 pokemon. 

  • The game has been completed only using pikaclones. 

  • A bit over a half of the game so far (up to Valarie in the Bad Future arc, last time I checked) has been completed without any pokemon fainting. 


There’s definitely a large number of challenge runs done on v13 intense that I’m missing from this list, but I think it does give a pretty good idea of what is possible on intense. Given that it’s possible to place a large number of restrictions on an intense run and have it still be very possible to complete, it’s pretty clear that there is a lot you can get away with at intense difficulty. 


I’d also like to talk about fields for a moment, specifically about changing fields. For the most part, the ability to change fields highly limits the design space of battles. If you’ve ever tried to design your own battles on a changeable field, you’ve probably realized this. You’ll realize that it is almost impossible to construct a team on a given field if the given field can be changed just by the click of the move. This is true even though most opponents do have moves that can change the field back. This is because for most fights, it is much easier to just get a field change to stick than defeating an opponent by building a team that beats their team on their field.   From the changes made to fields in v13, it’s pretty clear to me that the devs are moving away from the system of “fields as easily changeable” into a system where you’re expected to fight on a specific field for each fight and to make use of that field the best you can. Already, in v13, many of the more oppressive field effects have been nerfed, especially effects which nerfed all moves of a certain type (for example dark type moves are no longer halved on haunted field). I think this is a very good step in the right direction, the existence of field changing acted as sort of a “safety valve” for some of the more oppressive field effects, by getting rid of those oppressive field effects, having field changes is no longer necessary. 


A postscript about the game's "difficulty curve":


This section isn’t really central to any of the defenses of intense difficulty, so I’m leaving it here at the end as a postscript: I think a common source of complaints about intense arises from its “difficulty curve,” which I will discuss in this section. For intense to offer a consistently difficult experience, as the player progresses through the story and gains access to more pokemon and better items, the gap in strength between what the player currently has access to and what opponents have should get larger and larger. This is because, despite the fights being relatively more advantaged against you as you progress through the story, you also have access to far more options to help you close that gap through intelligent play. I think another source of frustration with regard to the intense difficulty curve is that what I will call the game’s “difficulty style” transitions throughout the game. 

  • At the beginning of the game (start up to like Narcissa), difficulty is mostly from the opponents having stronger moves than you and stronger pokemon from you. Some opponents have fully evolved pokemon, but many don’t. The strongest pokemon you have access to in this stage is your starter and pokemon that have really good early game learnsets. Pokemon don’t have actual EV distributions. 

  • In the early mid-game (beating Narcissa up to Z/G), your opponents still have pokemon much better than yours, but movesets start to catch up a little. Earlygame powerhouses that rely on having really good early game learnsets have fallen off. Trainers begin to have actual EV sets (Valarie has 3 pokemon with actual EVs, all pokemon in Z/G have real EV sets). Some trainers might have slightly illegal EVs on their aces.

  • In the later mid-game (Amber to Souta), availability of good pokemon catches up a lot. Movesets have almost entirely caught up, with the exception of some missing TMs and some AI-exclusive signature moves. This is also the point where you start to get access to a lot of good items, mostly through sidequests and the GDC department store. Some trainers have illegal EVs on pokemon other than their aces. The game starts relying a lot more on things like seeds and illegal EVs as a source of difficulty. 

  • In the later game (post-Souta), you have access to the vast majority of non-legendaries and access to the weaker megas. At this point, there’s almost no way to make the game difficult just through opponents having better things (unless you want to give them all legendaries), so you’ll see a lot of opponents with many pokemon that have 252x4 or 252x5 EVs and some megas with held items.


I think that the transition from later mid-game to late game (and to a lesser extent from early mid-game to later mid-game) causes people a lot of trouble. At that point in the game, the player has access to a massive amount of options, and the difficulty reflects that, but most people will find being able to properly teambuild and brainstorm strategies much much more difficult when you have access to 700 pokemon instead of 200. The fact that “better pokemon/better items/better moves” is no longer the dominant mode of difficulty can also cause people many issues. In particular, conventional hyper-offense as a strategy will really struggle when it comes to fighting pokemon with 252/252/252 bulk EVs. There’s not really a point in the game where brute-forcing with hyper-offense is ever the best strategy, but the fact that its viability falls off a cliff late game is another common source of frustration. 


I think the heterogeneity in fights rejuvenation has is one of its best features. There’s many things that contribute to this, from the difficulty transitions I’ve mentioned above to the really, really great fight design it has. It keeps the player on their toes and means that you really do have to work hard and think of clever strategies, no matter what point in the game you are at. 




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Very well said. This sums up the totality of most complaints thrown around against Intense mode as needlessly oppressive, though there are some interrelated issues that I would like to quickly address.


Rejuvenation has truly shined a light upon the untouched potential of the Pokemon system, and it's unfortunate that many choose to reject these additions instead of searching for help wherever needed.


Many people in these forums or the official rejuv/reborn discord would be more than happy to assist lost players with anything concerning their experience.

Indeed, I would like to encourage anyone struggling with Rejuvenation to ask for help instead of manipulating your experience with crutches like Debug.


Rejuv never gets easier, and sooner than you think, one will find these crutches pushing them down a slippery spiral.


Fortunately, if you have someone willing to teach you, Rejuv will soon seem like a breeze! Muster the courage and ask others before you how they got through the same problems- that's the single best thing you can do to improve your Rejuv experience!


Edited by MisterEcksYT
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So if I may chime in. I've been playing Rejuv for a while. It has indeed had some balance issues with both normal and hard mode. I'll admit that after my initial playthroughs back in the day I've stuck to challenge runs just for fun. I'm doing a fighting mono and I can see some unfair things. Some items with the pokemon and field make it so that even the fastest fighting type literally can't attack. The type also works in a power or speed decision so most don't have the tankyness to survive if they have the speed and vice versa. Yes if you have a side team ready or just go train some mons (easier than ever before) then you can beat every boss no problem. I think the biggest hurdle dev wise is making it fun for everyone. The harder it is the bigger the gatekeeping. Also most people who played Reborn first are already better than 90% of the casual pokeman player now. These two games just make you much better. Buuuuut if you haven't played these games then the hard mode crowd might coerce you into trying a mode that may turn you off from the title completely. Personally I love intense mode and I feel the reward when I finally figure out something that works. In all likelihood someone will (if they haven't already) build a hardmode shortly after the next update anyway. I'm pro hard mode but if it hurts development of a game that is just worlds better than it was originally then I'll honestly take Black/white 2 difficulty if it keeps the game developing.

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Perfectly said man,  The player gets acces to a lot of resources and with exp candy, grinding take that long, with the hospital, new pokemon nature changer, that only requires one hearthscale, you can get the a perfectly ev/iv with the right ability through an ability capsule within 15 minutes.  So looking up a new strategy and training new mons in the late game shouldn't be that hard or time consuming

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You just hit the bullseye with this post man.  I think intense mode is something that you just have to give a lot of your time to to make strategies and do in depth research about the battles. A lot of people do not want to do this for whatever reason and that's perfectly okay as they get the normal mode with some level of difficulty but you get to enjoy the story at your pace. Players want to breeze through the story as fast as they can (like binging a tv show) and this just cannot be done on intense. I get it, the story's addictive and immersing but intense does not allow you to do that. I was a normal mode player when I first started around v9 (which was hard af for me) and then gradually moved onto intense around v12. I completed v13 on intense but had to cheese a lot of fights and use shit tons of items and it just did not feel right so i played the whole game from the start on intense,set,no items. Needless to say it was an intense experience but damn ik i grew a lot as a player. I used strategies i had never used and even came across new starts that i was not aware of. It is actually sad to see the devs taking away the intense mode because of some people asking others to 'git gud',though i personally only saw it once or twice in the forum here and idk whatever happened on discord, people are really helpful here as you have stated. And i dont really see a problem in 'getting gud'. It all depends on the time that person has and a lot of people dont

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Very well said, You capture the Essence perfectly, Intense is kinda reserved for people who actually passionate about the battle aspect of pokemon, it forced you explore lots of strategies that you wouldn't even begin to think of in normal pkmn run, of course not everything is perfect here, there some battle that need a pretty niche win condition/rng, of course that is depends on your run/restrictions(Like Saki, E15 geara, Kawpodonga?) but the point is that you cant just slap a team of random six pokemon and unga bunga it, this mode demands you to think and strategize. That's why i kinda sad that some people complains a lot about Intense mode, the whole point of this mode is to push everything to the limit and was meant to be hard and almost unfair, if you want to just see the story and not bother with the battle then just set it to easy/normal mode, no need to get butthurt over it just because of you can't finish a battle and it hurt your pride, and even if you cant beat a certain battle in intense, there many guides and strategy in the forum/youtube to help you. 


well that's just my take, personally i'm kinda sad that intense is gone, i actually love the bullshit strategy that the enemy throws at you makes overcoming it all the more worthwhile, but we gotta respect the dev decision, besides the endgame in normal mode is actually hard enough to be passable as intense, that saki fight in normal mode is gonna totally wreck you if you go in blind lol.

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