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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...
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.
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.
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.
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 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...
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 Mountain||Back to the Pokémon Center||Part Five - Grounded Lightning >>|