Pokémon FireRed Nuzlocke Episode #3: The Best Laid Plans Of Magikarps And Men…

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
—Langston Hughes, “Dream Deferred”

Well Mr. Hughes, I guess we’re about to find out.

When we last left Ophelia, she was sitting at the entrance of Mt. Moon with a party that looked a little shaky on the surface, but still seemed to have great potential. Much of this potential centered around Benjamin the Expensive Magikarp, whose fearsome evolution had me dreaming of riding a Gyarados all the way to the Elite Four (and whose Water typing helped break up what was mostly a pack of Poison types). Suzy the Ivysaur felt destined for greatness from the start, but between Benjamin, Hulk the Mankey, and Reed the Beedrill, I figured at least one of them would step forward and join Suzy on that golden platform.

The Sacred Flame, however, works in mysterious ways, and so we begin this journal with the other Pokémon in the party…

My Name Is Earl

Right from the start, Earl the Nidoran felt different from any of the other monsters I’d caught so far. With his Peck attack, he was able to pull his own weight from the word go, laying waste to the denizens of Viridian Forest when I backtracked for more grinding. In no time at all he was a Lv. 12 warrior with Double Kick, which let him function as a poor man’s Hulk and face even the Rock types of Mt. Moon without fear. When I shifted my attention to the more-heralded Benjamin, not only did Earl not put or complain, but he became the primary switch-in on Route 3, laughing off the Spearows and Rattatas that made everyone else a little nervous.

And if you think he was great as a Nidoran, he was even better as a Nidorino!

I wasn’t terribly familiar with the Nidoran line and honestly hadn’t thought much about them, but Earl made a strong early impression that only grew as Ophilia’s journey continued.

On the other side of the spectrum…

A Fish Out Of Water

On some level, raising Benjamin wasn’t quite as aggravating as raising Reed because from the beginning, Ben offered absolutely no hope of fighting on his own. However, it turned out that Magikarps need a LOT of experience to level up, and I spent at least two hours running around Route 3 trying to at get Ben to at least match Earl’s level (Earl ended up gaining two more levels from the whole ordeal, while Reed and Hulk gained one apiece). Sure it was annoying, but that image of a Gyarados smacking down fools and taking no prisoners remained in my mind, and I just knew that all this effort would pay off in the end. Besides, outside of Reed nearly getting his clock cleaned again, nothing was lost in this effort except time and sanity.

It Was Only A Mountain….Right?

I started my trek into Mt. Moon slowly and methodically, carefully canvasing each area with Benjamin “leading” the charge. I knew what awaited me the moment I stepped into the darkness, and sure enough…

*sigh* All right pal, let’s get this over with.

Zubats have been tormenting me for two decades now, and I distinctly remembered how annoyed I was when I stepped into an exciting new cave during my Ultra Sun Nuzlocke, only to immediately run into one of these irritating flying bugs.

Any time you get the chance to make a Calvin & Hobbes reference, you do it.

I caught the darn thing, and a part of me wanted to keep it in my party just to block them from ruining any more Nuzlocke runs. (I recall Derrick Bitner also had good luck with a Crobat during his Crystal Nuzlocke run.) For now, though, I stuck “Bram” at the back of the party and figured I’d find a place for him later. (Spoiler alert: I did.)

The upper floors of the cave posed little challenge, even with Benjamin’s switches giving everything a free shot at my party. The minute I stumbled into Team Rocket, however, that changed…

On the surface, the battle didn’t look terribly bad: The grunt tossed out a Lv. 13 Rattata to meet Benjamin, and I went to my usual playbook: Switch to Hulk, Karate Chop the rat to pieces, and move on with my life. The problem, however, was that Rattatas learn the incredibly-underrated move Hyper Fang at Lv. 13, and when an 80-power STAB-boosted move is tossed against Hulk’s awful Defense…

The game draws first blood.

To put it mildly, I was not happy, and I voiced my displeasure by turning Suzy loose on the rest of the grunt’s motley crew. I didn’t lose a monster in my Ultra Sun run until the Totem Mimikyu fight, so having Hulk go down this early in the game wasn’t a good sign.

In retrospect, this loss was primarily Benjamin’s fault: Not only did the switch-in give the Rattata an opening it could drive a truck through, but the Magikarp’s insatiable appetite for experience points meant that the rest of the crew weren’t getting the training they needed to keep their edge. Still, this was a future Gyarados we were talking about! As long as Benjamin was alive, so were my dreams of dominance.

For now, Suzy and my new Nidorino Earl picked up most of the slack, and I emerged from the cave without further damage.

I also picked up a Kabuto lottery ticket. Hopefully I survive long enough to cash it in!

Route 4 proved to be slightly more interesting on the backside of Mt. Moon, which basically means “you can actually catch Pokémon here.” Out of morbid curiosity, I wandered into the grass to answer the question “What would I have gotten here had I not forked over the Benjamins for Benjamin?”

Another Poison type? No thanks, I’d rather have the Magikarp.

I wandered briefly into Cerulean City to drop off Hulk, heal my remaining monsters, and pick up a few supplies, but I quickly returned to Route 4 to continue Benjamin’s grinding. Despite its slow pace, signs of progress were beginning to appear: Ben’s Tackle wasn’t terribly effective, but he had decent-enough Defense to stand in the pocket for a battle or two and deliver an accurate throw while under pressure. (Maybe he was actually named after Ben Roethlisberger!) Everyone else seemed to be in good shape and spirits, and with Earl stepping capably into Hulk’s shoes (thank goodness he did, because Reed certainly wasn’t going to), I felt pretty good about the team and its chances against Misty in the second gym.

…And then it happened.

The Cerulean City Massacre

As Benjamin reached Lv. 17, my patience started to wear thin: Even if I used the Rare Candy I’d picked up in Mt. Moon, I still needed two more levels to reach Gyarados nirvana, and the competition on Route 4 just didn’t seem to cut it anymore. In contrast, the roads north of Cerulean City featured plenty of Trainers who offered plenty of experience, starting with the famous five that made up Nugget Bridge. Paying a visit to Bill the PokéManiac and cleaning out Routes 24 and 25 along the way would get me a Gyarados in no time flat!

I hit the Pokémon Center one last time and made my way northwards, ready to wipe my meager competition right off the bridge…and discovered that there was one more Trainer waiting for me than I expected.

I won’t tell you what I said when this joker showed up…but it was only four letters long.

I had forgotten about Cyrus since the Mt. Moon meeting that wasn’t, but I knew I was in big trouble the moment he reappeared. His team was a bad matchup for mine as it was, and he wasn’t going to pull his punches the way he did on Route 22. Toss in the fact that Benjamin was still fronting the party while Cyrus was leading with his Pidgey (which was now a frightening Pidgeotto whose level nearly equaled the rest of my team), and things did not look good at all.

The battle began, and while Cyrus’s team unleashed their full fury on me, some frantic Pokémon juggling  and a surprisingly-good defensive stand from Benjamin allowed me to KO both Cyrus’s Pidgeotto and Rattata without suffering any losses. Sadly, my luck ran out when Charmander stepped onto the battlefield: Everyone’s health (save the Lv. 7 Bram) was yellow or worse, and Potions were my only option for healing.

(Looking back, I wish I had taken more pictures of this battle, but I was so stressed/focused I completely forgot.)

A Potion-fortified Earl held out for as long as he could, but in the end it was Benjamin who had to take the brunt of Charmander’s Embers. The not-so-Sacred Flames eventually sent my Magikarp to his maker, taking all my wasted grinding and dreams of Gyarados glory with it.

Reed was the next monster up, but Bug types don’t hold up well against fire, and you can probably guess how that ended. Before giving up the ghost, however, Reed left Cyrus a parting gift: A full 5-hit Fury Attack, cutting down Charmander’s health enough for Suzy to finish it off with a single hit.

And thus the climax arrived: Suzy, with a mere 9 HP left to her name, staring down a full-health Lv. 16 Abra. At the time, I didn’t realize the stupid thing only knew Teleport—I figured it was just itching to drop Confusion on my sorry behind. As I surveyed my options, however, I realized that I had one last trick up my sleeve:

“The only excitement came at the very end of the battle, when Suzy learned PoisonPowder and Sleep Powder simultaneously and I had to decide which moves I wanted to keep.”  —From Episode #2

The move I ended up keeping was Sleep Powder, and I unleashed it here. Two Vine Whips later, both Abra and Cyrus were toast, and I was kicking myself over not pulling out Sleep Powder earlier.

You will pay for all this. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday.

So the answer to the question of who among Hulk, Reed, and Benjamin would “step forward and join Suzy on that golden platform” ended up being “none of the above.” In truth, however, Earl (who had barely hung on himself with 3 HP) had usurped all three of them long before now, and it was a good thing, because he and Suzy were suddenly all I had left. How the heck was I supposed to beat Misty now?

Back To The Grind: Zubat Edition

Despite being an afterthought in the Cyrus fight, Bram was also still around, although at Lv. 7 he wasn’t going to be much help against Misty’s crew. With a heavy heart but no other options, I trudged back to Route 4 and started grinding once again, hoping to making Bram a viable option before I took on the Cerulean gym. Bram wasn’t as useless as Reed or Benjamin, but with only lightweight attacks like Leech Life and Astonish, he had to lean heavily on her fellow monsters for assistance.

While losing so many Pokémon was certainly painful, it also meant that the experience points I was earning was more concentrated, which meant that Suzy and Earl got as much out of the grindfest as Bram did. When I eventually returned to Route 24, the pair sliced through Nugget Bridge like a hot knife through butter, and we hurried to the nearest patch of grass for some emergency reinforcements. Unfortunately, most of the monsters there were repeats that I’d already caught (Weedle, Kakuna) or used in an earlier game (Abra, Pidgey, Caterpie). There was one exception, but…

Another Poison type?!

Sure, it was basically an inferior clone of Suzy, but it was better than nothing. I caught it, named it after one of the characters from The Odd Couple, and moved on.

Slowly but surely, Bram started showing some flashes of potential (even wiping out some entire teams on Route 25), with some heavy assists from its movepool: Bite gave me some marginal protection against Psychic-types (even a Slowpoke and Drowzee proved to be no competition), while Wing Attack was a stiff STAB move I could default to in a pinch. Still, with the decimation of my team still fresh in my memory, I decided “better safe than sorry” and burned the Rare Candy I’d been saving for Benjamin to get Bram one last crucial level:

It’s a face only a mother could love, but if it wins me a second badge, I might just kiss it.

With a decent Flying-type backing my original dynamic duo, I snapped up a few Super Potions and kicked in the door of the Cerulean gym.

Washing Away From The Competition

After rising from the ashes of my battle with Cyrus, Misty’s gym was a bit of a letdown, especially when I was expected the packed house that I saw in HeartGold and SoulSilver. The two undercard bouts provided little competition, so I went straight to Misty’s podium and demanded an audience.

To paraphrase Randy Travis, you can’t hurt someone who can’t feel nothin’ no more. Do you worst.

The answer to the question “Does Misty have a Staryu or Starmie?” turned out to be both, but it didn’t matter in the end: Bram two-shotted Staryu out of existence, and not even a Super Potion could save Starmie from Suzy’s Razor Leaves. Misty’s vaunted crew folded like a lawn chair, and I walked away with badge #2.


This wasn’t the team I expected to have at this point, but as rough as this run was, I feel pretty good about my Pokémon’s potential, Gyarados or no Gyarados. Suzy was her usual bulletproof self, Earl was a revelation who got stronger over time, and Bram made a strong case for receiving a spot on my top six. On the flip side, Hulk’s Defense made him hard to rely on, Reed was probably going to be replaced anyway, and Benjamin never got strong enough for me to really miss him. In contrast to Misty, Lt. Surge doesn’t worry me all that much: Grass types like Suzy resist electricity, and I was planning on hitting up Diglett’s Cave first anyway. Besides, after three deaths in one episode, there’s really nowhere to go but up, right?

Tune in next week as we travel underground, over the water, and towards a shocking confrontation in Vermilion City!

5 thoughts on “Pokémon FireRed Nuzlocke Episode #3: The Best Laid Plans Of Magikarps And Men…

  1. I give you credit for training up that Magikarp. Usually what I do is wait until I get the bike and take it to the day care. After that it’s just a matter of doing a gazillion laps around until it gets enough experience.

    Still, sorry to hear about your losses. I’m surprised the Gary battle didn’t do more to you honestly since that fight is a PAIN. I’m not even sure you have a lot of good options coming up honestly. After the Rock Tunnel things should definitely pick up! I’m going to start my Yellow nuzlocke and try and catch up with you too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alright. So I started my own Nuzlocke in Yellow today and well… while it’s the same land it’s obviously not the same game. For an added challenge I have my rules on “set” rather than “switch.”

      My team after beating Brock:

      – Pikachu (John) Lv. 12
      Like you, I went with a country artist for my starter’s name. He’s “wild,” and my rival is “Blue,” so I gave the nod to John Anderson.

      Nidoran Lv. 14 (Goodbye)

      Get it? Because yours is named Earl? 😁

      Rattata Lv. 11 (Joey)
      In honor of Youngster Joey of course.

      Metapod Lv. 5 (I honestly forgot to nickname it … )

      So far things are going smooth, although I definitely didn’t have luck of the draw with Metapod.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice! Good luck with your challenge (and I hope that Pikachu is stronger than mine was). I like your nicknaming scheme better than mine – that John Anderson reference was perfect :).

        I like your team balance so far (you only have one Poison type – I’m so jealous!). Rattatas are severely underrated, and while the Metapod is a bummer now (I was afraid I’d get stuck with a helpless Kakuna), but the eventual Butterfree will make up for it. G1 doesn’t give you a whole lot in terms of good Bug moves, so I always doubled down on its Psychic moves and gave it the Psychic TM.


  2. I think everyone says that four-letter word when the rival shows up before Nugget Bridge! I kind of miss that feeling when playing newer generations, though – being terrified is far better than being exasperated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s true – it’s been a long time since I’d had that kind of “oh snap!” moment in a Pokémon game. (Even when Ultra Necrozma ended my last Nuzlocke, it was just so OP and wiped me out so fast that my reaction was more like “well, I guess *that* just happened.”)

      Liked by 1 person

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