Pokémon FireRed Nuzlocke Challenge - Part Four

<< Part Three - The Clownbat Under The MountainBack to the Pokémon CenterPart Five - Grounded Lightning >>

Hey guys, and welcome to Part Four of my Pokémon FireRed Nuzlocke Challenge. As always, if you're not familiar with the concept of a 'Nuzlocke', I highly recommend starting with Part Zero of this blog series, as it should answer any questions you might have about the specifics of this self-imposed challenge. If you've missed any of the previous episodes, you can access them by way of the handy-dandy navigation bars at the top and bottom of this blog, so you can flick back and forth between episodes.

Today's entry should be a pretty eventful one - it covers Route 25, the gym battle with Misty, and the subsequent journey south over Routes 5 and 6 to reach Vermilion City. Get yourselves comfy, kids. It's time for the continued adventures of Team Judi Drench to resume...

Part Four - Two Badges, Three Fallen Comrades

That's right, I'm taking the soap opera approach with this one. Over the course of this blog, three members of the team will die valiantly in battle, giving their lives so that their surviving companions might proceed. But who will it be? Will Rosie the Mankey's pitiful defence finally be her undoing? Will Beryl the Rattata bite off more than she can chew with her Hyper Fang? Or could it be that our very own Judi Drench, the series' mascot, meets a premature demise? The answer lies beyond this paragraph, dear reader...

Hiker Nob and his army of Geodude will always be my favourite thing about Route 25

After resting up and making some small changes to our party at the end of the last instalment, the first thing I want to do is take Mandragora, our newly acquired Oddish, out into battle to get some crucial training in before challenging Misty. Being part Grass-type, he's currently the only Pokémon we have that poses a super-effective threat to Misty's Water-types, so I want him to at least be strong enough to hold his own in the Cerulean City gym. Route 25 seems like the best place for this, an area filled with as-yet unchallenged trainers and buckets of Exp ripe for the taking. With Mandragora at the head of my party, I start navigating my way through the maze of hedges and trainers towards Bill's house - we may as well stop by and grab the S.S. Ticket while we're here, I figure.

Initially everything goes smoothly. The indigenous trainers of Route 25 don't throw anything particularly difficult at me, mostly Bug- and Normal-types that don't stand up very well to Bird Jesus' winning combination of strength and speed. All is going well until I meet a young male Camper with an Ekans and a Sandshrew. I think nothing of it - I've taken down loads of Ekans while training on Route 4, and Sandshrew won't be able to stand up to a Water Gun from Judi Drench. I switch Mandragora out and bring in Rufus the Butterfree, knowing his Confusion will make short work of the Ekans. Rufus switches into a Poison Sting that not only finds its mark, but inflicts the dreaded Poison status effect as well. I check my inventory - no Antidotes. Fuck. Even so, I'm pretty sure I can ride this one out. Rufus gets off two Confusions to put the Ekans down, living to fight another day...

...or so I think.

What I've forgotten is that in this Nuzlocke, I've employed the rule that keeps the Battle Style at 'Set' rather than 'Shift'. The chance I thought I would have to safely switch out Rufus doesn't exist. Instead, the opposing trainer immediately brings out his Sandshrew, and the last red sliver of my beloved Butterfree's HP is consumed by his Poison and disappears into black nothingness.


It's hard to articulate the feelings that swell up in me as Rufus dies, never again to be used in battle. There's a definite pang of sadness that aches in my chest, combined with a sense of shock, and also of fear as I realise my seemingly invincible party is, in fact, as mortal as you or I. Later on, back at the PC in the Cerulean City Pokémon Center, I deposit Rufus into 'the Graveyard' (a special box on my PC reserved for fallen Pokémon), and the 'what if' thoughts begin. What if I'd switched him out sooner? What if I'd used a Super Potion instead of forcing that second Confusion? There are other rhetorical questions I could recount, but ultimately the 'what ifs' don't matter. Rufus is gone.

I fill the all-too-apparent hole in my team with Uri Geller, the Abra I caught on Route 24 towards the end of Part Three. He is level 10, he only knows Teleport, and for a while I resent him. He doesn't know any attacking moves like Confusion. He doesn't have access to useful moves like Poisonpowder and Stun Spore. He is a shitty, Adamant-natured Abra who only knows Teleport. He isn't Rufus. Sighing and cursing, I leave the Pokémon Center and once more return to Route 25 to resume the grind.

Team Judi Drench makes it through the rest of the trainers without incident. I'm lucky enough to land a lot of critical hits in the remaining battles, and although I know it's a stupid thought, I like to imagine my team are fighting even harder than before to avenge their fallen friend. We soon reach Bill's house at the end of the route, and while there we give him a hand with de-Clefairy-ing himself. Our reward for returning the self-professed Pokémaniac to human form is the S.S. Ticket, an important item that we'll need in order to attend the party on board the S.S. Anne that's currently docked in Vermilion City. We say our goodbyes to Bill, and return to the patch of grass on Route 25 to do some more training.

Mandragora is levelling up fairly quickly, but the myriad Pidgey on Route 25 pose a problem for him by resisting his Absorb and doing super-effective damage with their Flying-type Gust moves. As a result I end up falling back on the Official Weak Pokémon Grinding Method™, leading with the weaker Mandragora, and then switching into one of my stronger Pokémon on the first turn of battle. I spend a pretty mindless half-hour here, battling in this fashion as Mandragora's level creeps slowly upwards.

Then, in my complacency, disaster strikes for a second time.

While battling a Pidgey, I switch out of Mandragora and into Beryl, confident that a quick Hyper Fang will put the wild bird down without a fuss. But the Hyper Fang misses, and the Pidgey uses its turn, the turn it never should have had, to Gust dear sweet Beryl out of existence.


Beryl's death makes me feel even worse than Rufus'. At least with Rufus I felt like I was making the right decision at the time, even if hindsight told me there were better courses of action to take. With Beryl, it was sheer complacency on my part that brought about her demise, and I hate myself for it. Cradling the lifeless Rattata in my arms, I rush back to the Cerulean City Pokémon Center and place her in 'the Graveyard' beside Rufus. I've now lost two Pokémon, two of my original team, within the last hour.

I toy with the idea of bringing Clownbat into the party, but decide against it - an Electric-type gym is coming our way soon, so having two Flying-types in the party probably wouldn't be wise. Instead I bring in Monty the Ekans, feeling confident that in spite of his poor current moveset, he'll prove more of an asset long-term than the pitifully under-powered Howard the Beedrill. By now Mandragora is level 18, and while he hasn't learned any more potent Grass-type moves, he's at least strong enough to be doing a fair amount of damage with his Absorb attack. Bird Jesus is level 17, Rosie is level 16, and Judi Drench is level 21. I figure now is as good a time as any to enter the Cerulean City gym and challenge Misty for our second badge.

Misty may only have two Pokémon, but they're going to cause us a ton of trouble before this battle is over.

As with Brock's gym, I try to formulate a rough advance strategy in order to deal with Misty's powerful Staryu and Starmie. Leading with Mandragora makes the most sense, as he'll be able to resist Water-type attacks while doing super-effective damage with his Grass-type Absorb attack. In reserve I have Judi Drench, who recently learned the Dark-type attack Bite (which could come in real handy against the part-Psychic Starmie), and Bird Jesus, whose respectable strength and speed make her a reliable final member of my lead trio. Mandragora has no trouble dealing with the two trainers blocking the path to Misty - a reassuring assertion that my strategy should work. I talk to the leader of the Cerulean City gym, and begin what ends up being a much tougher battle than I anticipated.

Misty leads with her Staryu, which in turn opens the battle with Harden (an interesting tactic, considering she's just declared her strategy to be 'all-out offensive'. Mandragora tries to get a Sleep Powder up, but its unreliable accuracy causes it to miss, perhaps ultimately swaying the direction of much of the first half of this battle. Staryu easily out-speeds Mandragora and unleashes Water Pulse, a Water-type attack that also carries a chance of confusing its target. Mandragora ends up confused, and his first attempt at an Absorb becomes self-damaging. Keen not to let the confusion hurt Mandragora too much, I switch out to Judi Drench. Staryu throws out another Water Pulse and, would you believe it, Judi Drench succumbs to confusion as well.

This continues for about seven or eight turns - I switch constantly between Mandragora, Judi Drench and Bird Jesus, only to have the incoming critter damaged and confused by Staryu's Water Pulse. It's incredibly bad luck for me, considering Water Pulse's chance to confuse is apparently only 20%. I'm so busy maintaining this switcheroo song-and-dance that I completely neglect to monitor the HP of my Pokémon. Eventually Mandragora switches into an oncoming Water Pulse that it simply can't stand up to, and becomes my third Pokémon to die over the course of this blog.


There will be time to grieve for Mandragora, but that time is not now. Right now I have a gym battle to win, and five other Pokémon to preserve. Judi Drench becomes my first choice, mainly because neither of his attacks will be impeded by the Staryu's Harden. It's as if Mandragora's passing has lifted a curse from the entire team, because now Staryu's Water Pulse doesn't seem able to confuse me any longer. Judi lays into Staryu with Bite, and it doesn't take long to dispose of the starfish Pokémon. It's followed by a Starmie, but as planned, that fares even worse against Judi's Bite, and doesn't stick around long enough to do any lasting damage. The residual Exp earned by Bird Jesus from Staryu also pushes her over into level 18, and a wonderful transformation occurs at the battle's end:

Misty grudgingly concedes defeat, and rewards me with the Cascadebadge and a TM containing the dreaded Water Pulse. I teach it to Judi in place of Water Gun, and hope that it might end up causing as many problems for my opponents as it has done for me today. It is a victory, but ultimately a bittersweet one - something I'm reminded of as I take Mandragora back to the Pokémon Center and lay him to rest in 'the Graveyard'. It feels strange, to have lost three companions in such a short space of time. I resolve not to replace Mandragora yet, mainly because as I said earlier, Clownbat wouldn't be a good idea so close to the Electric-type gym, and Howard just isn't strong enough to cut the mustard. I decide to roll with a party of five for now, and see what the next few potential captures bring.

Which begs the question - if Team Rocket are really so villainous, why the hell haven't you locked them up yet?

Now that Misty is beaten and the Cascadebadge is in our possession, we can move on to Route 5 and pick up that next capture. The path to Route 5 is a little bit around-the-houses (or more literally, though-the-houses) and involves an encounter with another member of the mysterious Team Rocket, who's apparently just ransacked a nearby house. Given the local police force are far too pre-occupied with standing around to apprehend this rapscallion, it's up to Judi Drench and co. to dish out some cold hard justice. His Pokémon don't stand up at all to my onslaught, and after suffering so many losses in such a short space of time, it's reassuring to see that my team can still fight well even in its weakened state. The fleeing villain leaves behind the TM for the Ground-type move Dig, which is sure to come in handy against Lt. Surge's Electric-type Pokémon in the next gym. I decide to hold onto it for the time being - I'd hate to teach it to one of the team, only to lose them in a trainer battle on the S.S. Anne.

Following the path down to Route 5, I quickly head over to the nearest patch of grass and search through it until I find the first new encounter of the area - a female Meowth. I've never trained a Meowth myself, and figure it might make a suitable substitute for Beryl as our new sort-of-speedy Normal-type. I wear it down with Monty the Ekans and manage to catch it comfortably in a Poké Ball.

This little lady has the ability Pickup, meaning she randomly finds useful items as I walk around. That's sure to come in handy and will hopefully save me from spending so much money on healing items.

With Kit-E-Kat the Meowth joining the party as its (possibly) temporary sixth member, all that remains to be done before wrapping this part of the Nuzlocke up is to head south through the Underground Passage towards Route 6 and Vermilion City, our next big destination. Route 6 doesn't yield any new captures, as we've already caught all the native Pokémon species before (specifically Pidgey, Oddish and Meowth), but the trainer battles on the route do enable Uri Geller to hit level 16, providing the team with yet another evolution:

I forgot to get a picture of the actual evolution screen, so this will have to do. I'm still really bummed about that Adamant nature, by the way.

I head south from the terminus of the Underground Passage, clearing Route 6 of trainers along the way, until I finally arrive in Vermilion City. What adventures await us in this sunny port town? I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the next part of this blog series to find out, as this is where Part Four ends...

Progress Report:

Time: 6:20 --- Location: Vermilion City --- Deaths: 3
The Graveyard

As always, thanks very much for reading the latest instalment in my Pokémon FireRed Nuzlocke Challenge blog series. Part Five should hopefully be up on Tuesday, and will most likely chronicle the party's visit to the S.S. Anne and their attempt to win a Thunderbadge from the mighty Lt. Surge. Until then, take care, and I'll see you around.



Currently playing - Pokémon FireRed Version (GBA)

<< Part Three - The Clownbat Under The MountainBack to the Pokémon CenterPart Five - Grounded Lightning >>
Edited by ThomasMayhew

Rufus gone, Beryl gone, Howard deemed surplus to requirements...it's a good thing ManBuyCow don't play Pokemon! Very surprising to see 3 Pokemon go in one blog. I will miss Rufus most of all.

Posted by TheManWithNoPlan

Just tragic seeing three of your team die off. May you have better luck in the future. It'll only get more challenging from here, but I look forward to reading about it.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I'm trying to think off the top of my head some of the more useful pokemon you could pick up on your way to compensate for the loss of your 3 valiant (though admittedly not outstanding by the continually inflating standards of competitive pokemon) heroes. I'm coming up short. I guess you could catch yourself a magikarp in vermillion city, but Gyrados isn't quite the powerhouse that it is now after the Physical/Special split and you already have yourself a water type.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

Holy shit, you're in my notifications feed again. And there was a sound of great rejoicing!

While I have little to say on the matter of Pokemen (it has a funnier ring to it than Pokemon), this has been a fun series to read as an outsider getting a glimpse in. Keep it up, young grasshoppah! Which, by the way, is a real Pokeman. Totes. You have to beat the game sevnty two times, then stand with your DS at the center of an active volcano and chant the lyrics of Lindsay Lohan's "Rumors," Gregorian style.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Keep it up, young grasshoppah! Which, by the way, is a real Pokeman. Totes. You have to beat the game sevnty two times, then stand with your DS at the center of an active volcano and chant the lyrics of Lindsay Lohan's "Rumors," Gregorian style.

Or you can just move the truck.

Edited by MajorMitch

Nice write-up, I'm really enjoying this series so far! I think your writing style is very well suited to this kind of blog series- you bring us into your mindset, and share your personal reactions very naturally. I felt your pain and loss as you carried your "dead" Pokemon to the "graveyard" :(

Also, I'm curious, how are you playing the game and getting your screenshots?

Posted by dankempster

@thomasmayhew: Losing Rufus hit me the hardest out of all three as well. He was hugely useful in getting through Mount Moon, dealing with the hundreds of Zubat and Team Rocket's perennial Poison-types with his all-powerful Confusion attack. I didn't really have a chance to get attached to Mandragora because he was around for such a short length of time, and Beryl was starting to lag behind in terms of both levels and usefulness. Meanwhile, both Rosie and Bird Jesus live on to fight another day! Looks like we both would have lost some money on that theoretical sweepstake!

@themanwithnoplan: I didn't think that losing party Pokémon would get to me, but it genuinely did. Especially poor Rufus, who'd been putting in serious work against Team Rocket's deadly Poison-types up until his demise. I'm not sure how much the nicknames are responsible for that, but I don't usually nickname my Pokémon, so it's at least a possibility. Here's hoping we can avoid any more bloodshed in Part Five.

@arbitrarywater: Unfortunately, one of the by-products of a Nuzlocke is that you don't really get to 'choose' which Pokémon you pick up along the way - it's all dependent on that crucial first encounter in every area. I'd love to pick up a Growlithe outside Celadon City (I've never trained one before, and I think the team could use some Fire-type coverage), but there's no guarantee I will. I'm sure fate will conspire to let me put together at least a half-decent team over the course of the Nuzlocke.

@sparky_buzzsaw: First off, it's great to know that notifications have been fixed! Here's hoping some of the other issues aren't too far behind. Second, I'm glad you're enjoying the series from an outsider's perspective. Third and finally, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if that was a real way of getting hold of a Pokémon these days. Some of the new evolution methods are, frankly, fucking ridiculous (one of the newest Pokémon evolves by levelling up with the 3DS held upside down, I believe).

@majormitch: Thanks for the positive feedback, duder. I'm glad the series is proving to be an enjoyable read for people, because I'm really enjoying writing every instalment as well. The 'Graveyard' was just something I started calling my PC box dedicated to 'dead' Pokemon, but while writing I conjured up this mental image of an actual Pokémon cemetery out back of the Pokémon Center, and just kinda went with it. As for the screenshots, I'm playing the game on a Game Boy Advance emulator on my PC and taking screen captures within the program. I won't dwell on it too much, because I know discussion of emulation is frowned upon here on Giant Bomb. I will say that I do own a physical cartridge copy of the game and was originally going to play it that way on my DS, but thought that having screenshots to accompany the text would make for a more engaging and enjoyable read. The big downside to doing things this way is that I won't eventually be able to bring the surviving party members up into X and Y, which is a shame, as I would have loved to migrate the team over if they manage to beat the Elite Four.

Posted by MajorMitch

@dankempster: I asked about the screenshots because I think it's one of the nicer touches, and I'm really glad you're doing it that way. With regards to emulation, I don't think anyone could accuse you of not having paid your Pokemon dues at this point anyway :) It is kind of a bummer that you won't be able to carry these guys up to X/Y, but I think letting us see your specific Pokemon as you catch, name, evolve, and occasionally lose them is a more than worthy trade-off. It adds a visual element to the more personal side of the journey.