Pokémon FireRed Nuzlocke Episode #5: The Beat(down) Goes On

According to Newton’s Third Law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This law apparently does not apply to Pokémon, because Ophilia’s crew keeps forcing the issue and the reaction since Cerulean City has been markedly less than equal.

When we last left everyone’s favorite Sacred Flame rep, her team had just hit the Vermilion Gym like a freight train, flattening everything in their path and collecting a shiny new Thunder Badge. Unfortunately, thanks to some annoyingly thirsty guards at the Saffron City gates, we were going to have to reach Celadon City by way of Rock Tunnel and Lavender Town, which is roughly the equivalent of driving from Austin to San Diego by way of Seattle. With four strong monsters and a fifth on the way, however, Phili was more than up to the challenge.

Let’s begin this week’s journal said fifth monster, shall we?

Sleep: It’s Good For Your Health

At Lv. 13, Luna needed a fair bit of care and feeding before she became a viable option in my top six. While she turned out to be more “tank-like” than anyone else on my team (decent HP and Defense, exceptional Spec. Defense), her poor attacking stats meant she just got kicked around a bit more slowly than the other Pokémon. This meant yet another trip back to Route 4 for some extended grinding (plenty of Poison-types to unleash Confusion on) while I waited for Luna’s moveset to improve.

This isn’t exactly what I had in mind by “improve”…

In truth, her moveset didn’t seem to improve as much as Luna herself: As she moved over to Route 24 and received a steady diet of Abras and Oddishes (with a stream of Caterpies for good measure), Confusion got noticeably more powerful over time, and her Attack improved enough that Headbutt became a decent-enough second option when needed. Toss in the strengths she already had (her defensive stats compared favorably with already-evolved monsters like Suzy), and Luna’s argument for staying in my six-stack was pretty compelling.

And then she evolved…and suddenly I had a Reinhardt Wilhelm clone in my party.

The grinding regimen eventually led me back to Diglett’s Cave and Route 2, where I stumbled across one of Prof. Oak’s aides carrying the Flash HM. I’d mostly forgotten about Flash until now (it’s been slowly de-emphasized since Red/Blue), but my Oddish was more than happy to learn the move and keep me from stumbling around Rock Tunnel in the dark. Once again, the first rule of RPGs (“explore everything“) had paid off!

Beware Of Obscure Rules

With a battle-tested Hypno and the Flash HM, I finally cut down the tree east of Cerulean City and strode confidently onto Route 9. The Trainers I found were only marginally tougher than those Routes 6 and 11, but there was one tense moment when Will stepped up against a Lv. 21 Geodude and I forgot my prior training…

Long ago during my Pokémon XD playthrough, I found a whole bunch of “Battle CDs” that let me play through simulated battles that put the player in a challenging situation that taught them about some of the more obscure rules of Pokémon battles. The important CD for this story was Battle CD 07, which showed players that Pokémon that used Dig would take double damage from Earthquake while they were underground. However, there was one other move besides Earthquake subject to this damage bonus:

[In G2 and G3] “The [Dig] user can now be hit by Earthquake, Magnitude, and Fissure during the semi-invulnerable turn, and will receive double damage from Earthquake and Magnitude.”  Bulbapedia (emphasis added)

Fast forward back to Route 9: Magnitude’s variability had been getting on my nerves, so I had Will open the battle with Dig. He goes underground.

The Geodude uses Magnitude.

My mind flashes back to that XD Battle CD. Double damage.

This is bad.

Will is already short a decent chunk of HP, and his Defense is not good.

This is really bad.

In baseball terms, this was going to be a bang-bang play at the plate, and I was testing the arm of the RNG god in right field. I braced myself for the call…

SAFE! And the crowd goes wild!

Magnitude six! Move variability had once again broke in my favor: Anything higher, and Will would have likely been toast. I breathed a deep sigh of relief, chalked it up as a lesson re-learned, and hurried back to the Cerulean Pokémon Center.

Building The Bench

With Luna flourishing and my HM-holding Oddish clogging up my final party slot, I was in no hurry to add new monsters to my team. It’s a good thing, because neither Routes 9 nor 10 held much potential for recruiting a cool new Pokémon to the Sacred Flame’s banner. (The only new option that had been added was Voltorb, and my LeafGreen Electrode rendered that option moot.) Once again, there was a single Pokémon for me to catch…

And of course it’s a Poison-type.

Ekans had been following me around for a while now (had I not bought Benjamin, I would have gotten one on Route 4), so I knew it was only a matter of time before I ended up catching one. One Poké Ball later, “Baroness” (a G.I. Joe reference, since Baroness worked for Cobra) was on her way to Bill’s PC.

But hey, at least I might get something cool in Rock Tunnel, right?

Wrong.

Machops are one of those monsters that show up in darn near every Pokémon game, and while they’re useful for carrying HMs, I’ve never had much interest in putting one in a six-stack (and while I’ve said the same things about Nidorans and Zubats, I wasn’t as desperate to fill my party as I was before). Still, it was nice to know I would have a few options available if Will got caught underground by Magnitude again, so I grabbed the Machop, named it after Ronda Rousey, and sent it to be roomies with Baroness.

Whaddya Mean It Can’t Evolve?

While Pokémon FireRed is technically a remake of Pokémon Red, it’s still a G3 game, and thus is well aware that some of the original Pokémon evolutionary lines have expanded since the late 90s. Unfortunately, when it comes to those new monsters, the game takes a strict constructionist approach to the topic:

“To keep the same spirit of the originals, players can’t evolve their Pokémon like Chansey and Golbat until the National Dex is obtained.”  Serebii (emphasis added)

Blissfully unaware of this, I was really excited when Bram reached Lv. 30 and suddenly acted like it was about to evolve. The usual cut scene started, things started to flash, and then…

What?! I didn’t hit the B button!

So from now until either Bram or the Elite Four falls, I have to go through this bizarre charade every time he levels up, without any explanation? (What’s worse is that while an Everstone is available from Oak’s aide at the Rock Tunnel Pokémon Center, you need to have caught 20 monsters to get it, and I’d only gotten 17 at the time.) I know that any software is going to have issues like this, but at least tell the player what’s going on next time.

Rock On

So…yeah. Rock Tunnel happened.

I’d like to say there were some moments of excitement and drama as I crawled through the dark to Lavender Town, but there really weren’t. Not only were my Pokémon more than powerful enough to smack down everything in their path, but anytime there might have been a hint of danger (Gasp! A Lv. 25 Slowpoke is challenging Bram!), Ophilia’s team stepped up and delivered some killer blows (*yawn* Another critical Bite—bye Slowpoke).

Okay, there was one interesting development. Just when you thought Suzy couldn’t get more OP…

By the end, I was flaunting my power by intentionally tossing Pokémon into awkward situations (i.e., Will against Flying-types) just to test the limits of the Sacred Flame’s protection. Even with a bonus bunch of Trainers waiting to ambush me just outside the tunnel exit, “The Phili Five” just could not be stopped.

My team’s post-tunnel status. If only Will hadn’t taken that Pidgey’s critical hit…

Laying Rivals To Rest

Lavender Town presents players with a bit of a dilemma: Celadon beckons from Route 8, but Route 12 also teases you from the south, and the Pokémon Tower looms ominously above you. Where should you go next?

My Marowak from Red and Genger from SoulSilver meant that there wasn’t anything I could catch in the tower, but I could sense an evil force within its walls that I just had to investigate. It turned out, however, that the force wasn’t actually evil—it was just lame:

How convenient: Once I’m through with Cyrus’s Pokémon, he won’t have to go far to bury them!

It seems that Cyrus had already forgotten about his embarrassing showing on the S.S. Anne, because he was ready to have his head handed to him once more. His Pokémon was slightly stronger this time around (with levels in the low to mid 20s), but they were still badly outclassed by Ophilia’s Lv. 30+ monsters.

Still, like any good rival Cyrus knows how to press our buttons, and after Bram sliced through his first three Pokémon without breaking a sweat, he introduced me to a new member of his team:

YOU POISON SON OF A BEEDRILL. That was supposed to be my Gyarados!

First this joker keeps me from realizing my dream of having a Gyarados, and then he goes and gets his own?! I let Suzy stomp his Gyarados extra-flat in response, and then turned Will loose on his Charmeleon to wrap things up. Cyrus left the tower in shame, and his Pokémon became the newest headstones in Pokémon Tower.

Optical Optional Illusions

Beyond schooling Cyrus, however, there wasn’t much else to do in Lavender Town. Without the Silph Scope, the monsters there weren’t even useful for grinding, and they didn’t seem to want me around anyway.

Darn it, where’s Luigi when you need him?
Oh… Right. (Image from The Daily Dot)

I decided to check out Route 12 first, but outside of a few unmemorable Trainer battles (even the Lv. 27 Goldeen was about as much of a nuisance as it was in Super Smash Bros.), there was nothing to do without a better Fishing Rod. All trails eventually led back to Route 8, and while the Trainers still couldn’t match the intensity of The Phili Five, there was one encounter that caught my attention:

Whoa, I didn’t expect to see you here…

Growlithe is one of those Pokémon that I’ve always thought was kind of cool, but for whatever reason I never seemed to get the chance to add it to my party. While I had already earmarked the last slot in my top six for a Water-type Pokémon, Growlithe/Arcanine might be an option in case one of my current starters falters (Will has looked a little shaky today, although it hasn’t always been his fault, and despite being 1800+ words into this journal I haven’t mentioned Earl’s name until now).

Growlithe’s moveset made this capture a bit tricky (she had Bite for Luna, Ember for Suzy, and thank goodness her only Roar failed), but eventually “Lassie” was burning in the service of the Sacred Flame.

Don’t worry—I’m special for way more reasons than just this. 😉

Time To Kick Some Grass

By the time I made it to Route 7, I was beginning to wonder just how long this week’s journal was going to be, so I decided to leave Celadon City’s usual tourist traps (Dept. Store, Game Corner, etc.) for episode #6, and made a beeline for the Celadon Gym. There were a ton of Trainers hanging around for a change, but Will, Luna, and Suzy made quick work of them all, leaving Earl and Bram to deal with Erika herself.

I’m kind of on a tight schedule, so let’s make this quick.

My opening strategy was simple: Set Earl on the ground in front of Erika’s monsters and calmly dare them to beat him. The best Victreebel and Tangela could do was paralyze him with Stun Spore, and based on how little damage their attacks were doing, he could have probably spotted them another dozen hits and still clobbered them.

My impatience led me to bring Bram in to one-shot Vileplume, but in the end it didn’t matter who I used: Erika’s Pokémon were no match for The Phili Five. In fact, Gym battles seem to be getting more one-sided the deeper I get into this game.

Now there’s the understatement of the century.

The Rainbow Badge was mine, but I had one last piece of business to handle: Recognizing Earl’s impressive stand against Erika as his crowning achievement, and…well, crowning him:

Get it? ‘Cause he’s a Nidoking? …Okay, I’ll stop now.

Conclusion

You know things are going well on a Nuzlocke run when your only worry is that your Pokémons’ raw power are draining all the challenge out of the game. (After all, people tend to get tired of teams who just win all the time.) I know fortunes can change in a hurry in these sorts of challenges, but I just don’t see any problems on the horizon. Koga has absolutely no chance against this squad: Everyone resists Poison (even my puny HM Oddish), and Will, Luna, and potentially Earl will have super-effective counterpunches. Sabrina’s Psychic Gym still looms, but given all the dungeons in between now and then (Game Corner, Pokémon Tower, and Silph Co., not to mention Cycling Road and the entire coast of Southeast Kanto), Ophilia’s team could be pushing Level 45 by the time she gets there, or maybe even 50!

Tune in next week as we tackle games, ghosts, and Fuchsia City!

One thought on “Pokémon FireRed Nuzlocke Episode #5: The Beat(down) Goes On

  1. Oh wow, Battle CDs…some good advice on those things, even if they tend only to come up in rare situations like this one. I still remember much of the advice from the Trainer Academy from Pokemon Stadium 2!

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