danielkempster

With so many awesome new games coming out and on the horizon, what am I doing with my game time? Playing Gen 1 Pokémon, apparently.

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The Very Best, Like No One Ever Was - Phase Three

Hello and welcome to another instalment of The Very Best, Like No One Ever Was - a serial blog project chronicling my efforts to complete an "ultimate playthrough" of the first generation of Pokémon games. If you're interested in what I mean by "ultimate playthrough", I'd advise you to turn your attention to this introductory post which lays out the criteria for each of my three playthroughs and what I hope to achieve. This blog will cover my efforts to obtain the third gym badge in Red, Yellow and Blue Versions - if you haven't been keeping up with the journey so far, you can read about my quests for the first badges here, and the second badges here. When you're fully up to speed, or if you just feel like being reckless and jumping into a ten-part blog series in its third entry, then read on to find out how the third phase of each of my playthroughs unfolded.

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Phase Three - Purgin' Surge

So far my questing through the Kanto region has seen me leave my home in Pallet Town, head north to take on Brock in Pewter City, and then east through Mt Moon to Cerulean City to battle Misty. This instalment of The Very Best, Like No One Ever Was will document my journeys south from Cerulean to the port city of Vermilion, where I'll be challenging the Electric-type gym leader Lt. Surge in pursuit of a trio of Thunderbadges. How will I fare? You can find out by reading on...

Red Version - A Quick Dig to Victory

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I pick up my Nuzlocke playthrough of Red Version precisely where I left off - just outside the Cerulean City Pokémon Center after beating Misty and earning the Cascadebadge. My first order of play is to fish my other prize from the gym - TM11 - out of my bag and toss it to Torpedo the Wartortle, allowing it to replace its puny Bubble attack with the much stronger Bubblebeam. It's by no means the best Water-type move in the game, but it's the best one at my disposal right now, and should see me through a good chunk of the Kanto region until I'm able to acquire the HM for Surf later on. Since I cleared the routes north of Cerulean in Phase Two of this playthrough and already have the S.S. Ticket from Bill, I'm free to leave Cerulean via the house in the northeast of the city, which the police are no longer guarding. I'm able to cut through the building, battling a Team Rocket grunt in the back garden who relinquishes TM28 upon defeat. This TM contains Dig, a Ground-type move which is going to be incredibly useful in the upcoming battle against Surge. Tempting fate and flying in the face of the Nuzlocke gods, I teach the move to Incisor the Rattata now instead of saving it for nearer the time.

Swing King
Swing King

From here I can circumnavigate Cerulean City on its eastern side, eventually reaching Route 5 to the south. Here I'm able to catch a Mankey which I nickname Swing King. It always strikes me as odd that Mankey was exclusive to Red Version and absent from Blue Version, likely because I end up misremembering the encounter tables with those of FireRed and LeafGreen, where Mankey is available in both games. It may prove useful later, but for now I don't desperately need Fighting-type coverage and opt to leave it in the PC. I'm unable to proceed directly south to Saffron City, since the guard on duty at the checkpoint won't allow anyone to pass on account of his thirst for a refreshing beverage. Instead I need to back out onto Route 5 and navigate an underground tunnel which connects Routes 5 and 6, bypassing Saffron entirely. Route 6 unfortunately bestows no new members upon the party, since its encounter tables are identical to those on Route 5 and I already have one of every evolutionary line available in these areas. What Route 6 does have, though, is a handful of trainers itching to do battle as I follow the path south to Vermilion City. Most of these don't pose any problems, but one specific Bug Catcher has a lv20 Butterfree which comes very close to demolishing Grand Horn the Nidoking after I foolishly left it in on a super-effective Confusion. Thankfully this is our only blip in this area, and I'm able to make it all the way to Vermilion without suffering my first death.

Morpheus
Morpheus

After healing up at the local Pokémon Center, it's time to pick up a couple more new encounters. On Route 11, due east of Vermilion, I catch a Drowzee which I nickname Morpheus. This Psychic-type has often been a feature in my Gen 1 playthroughs, since Kadabra's trade-only evolution method means I've never been able to obtain an Alakazam in these games, prompting me to fall back on Hypno instead. While Psychic is an incredibly useful type in the first generation, I don't have any immediate need for it and decide to leave it in the PC for now. Far more important is the potential encounter in Diglett's Cave, a tunnel between Vermilion City and Route 11 which tracks back all the way to Route 2 and Pewter City. As you might surmise from the location's moniker, my encounter here is a Diglett, which I snag and nickname Excavator. I then head back to the Pokémon Center and add Excavator to the team, returning Needlebeak the Spearow to the PC for now given its weakness to the Electric-types I'll soon be facing.

Excavator
Excavator

The next story destination is the S.S. Anne cruise ship, but before I head there I decide to return to Route 11 and battle the local trainers and wild Pokémon to raise my team's levels a little. I set a target of lv20 for everyone and hit it in just under an hour of dedicated battling. This milestone is significant because it means Incisor can evolve into Raticate, a much more viable option than Rattata for the upcoming gym thanks to its higher base stats. It also means that Howard, my perenially useless Beedrill, finally learns a move worth using - the Bug-type attack Twineedle. While it probably won't see much use against Psychic types due to Howard's frail defences, it will make it much easier to deal with Team Rocket's Poison-type Pokémon going forward. I have no idea if Bug is supposed to be super-effective against Poison in the first generation, or if this is simply one of its many coding quirks, but I'm definitely going to take advantage of it if I can.

Anther
Anther

With a full team of lv20 Pokémon I return to Vermilion City, heal once more, and then make my way to the S.S. Anne, ticket in hand. Unfortunately it looks like the party Bill was invited to has long since ended, as there doesn't seem to be anything especially festive occurring on board. Instead the boat is packed with restless trainers itching to battle since the captain refuses to set sail. The S.S. Anne is essentially a pseudo-dungeon, its cabins filled with trainers guarding various items that can either be fought for or skipped entirely. Naturally, hungry for all the experience I can get, I opt to battle everyone on board, focusing predominantly on training Incisor and Excavator while swapping to other team members for super-effective damage when necessary. As I plunder the ship's riches Anther the Oddish reaches lv21 and evolves into Gloom, a useful development since Grass's resistance to Electric-type attacks makes it a potential candidate for the upcoming gym battle.

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Just outside the captain's quarters I run into my rival Blue once more, and as always he's itching for a scrap. I happily oblige, proceeding to tear into his team with little resistance. Incisor, currently at the head of the party, takes down his Pidgeotto with a couple of Hyper Fangs, before Grand Horn switches in and proceeds to eviscerate the rest of his squad with Horn Attack, the victory never looking in doubt. With Blue out of the way I pay the captain a visit, and in return for curing his sea-sickness with a little back rub, I'm given HM01, Cut. This move doesn't have much utility in battle, but can be used on the overworld to chop down small trees, and will allow me to gain access to the Vermilion City gym in pursuit of our next badge. Given I can't really make its moveset any worse, I opt to teach Cut to Howard. Then I heal up my team once more at the Pokémon Center, pick up a couple of Super Potions from the Poké Mart, and make my way into the gym.

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My strategy for taking on Lt. Surge's Electric-type Pokémon is to lead with Excavator, who is now lv23, and use Dig exclusively. This Ground-type move is super-effective against all three of Surge's Pokémon, and Diglett's high base speed will hopefully ensure that Excavator moves first, avoiding any potential incoming hits that could shatter its poor defences and minuscule HP. It's a proper glass cannon strategy. Should anything go wrong and Excavator bite the dust, I have Incisor waiting in the wings also ready to Dig, and if worst comes to worst Grand Horn and Anther can negate and resist Electric-type attacks respectively. I also have a strategy for getting to Surge himself, since the Vermilion City gym is infamous among Pokémon players for having perhaps the worst gym puzzle in the franchise's history - tasking the player with finding two switches hidden across a grid of fifteen trash cans in order to power down the electric fence blocking the path to the gym leader. In a move that may not exactly be in the Nuzlocke spirit, I elect to save my game when I find the first switch, meaning if I pick the wrong trash can and the puzzle resets, I can simply reload my save and try another trash can. It's a bit scummy, but it sure beats having to wrestle with excessive amounts of RNG.

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I make it to Surge in almost no time at all and send out Excavator to do battle. My expectation is that the little Diglett will make short work of the Lightning American's Pikachu and Voltorb, but may come unstuck against his ace, a lv24 Raichu. Should that happen, I have Incisor and Grand Horn waiting in the wings ready to finish it off. As predicted, Surge's first two Pokémon go down to a single Dig, landing no retaliatory damage on Excavator in the process. Ready for Raichu to unleash hell, I set Excavator up for another Dig, only for Surge to use an X Speed on his Pokémon, giving me a free turn to burrow underground and evade his next attack. Excavator then emerges from his burrow to land a critical hit on the suped-up Raichu, knocking it out in a single hit and earning me the first of my three Thunderbadges, as well as a TM24 containing the move Thunderbolt. Thanking the RNG gods for their kindness, I accept my spoils and high-tail it out of the gym back to the Pokémon Center where I rest up before saving the game and shutting down my copy of Red Version for now.

Yellow Version - Creative Thinking and Sequence Breaking

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This phase of the project marks my longest excursion into the Pokémon anime so far, with seven episodes covering the gap between Ash Ketchum's second and third badges. The first two of these episodes are essentially filler episodes which contribute nothing substantial to the overall progression of the series' narrative - in The Path to the Pokémon League, Ash takes on an unlicensed Pokémon gym in the middle of nowhere, and in The School of Hard Knocks, he stumbles across a Pokémon academy for a quick run-through of the "you can't learn everything from books" trope. At no point in either of these episodes does Ash catch a new Pokémon, or evolve an existing Pokémon, or visit any locations with a direct in-game equivalent. Perhaps most interestingly, these two episodes do debut a couple of the series' most memorable character traits - specifically Brock's persistent falling for every attractive female character he meets, and the start of James' shift from suave and charismatic to whiny and bumbling (accompanied by a change in voice actor, no less). But, as nothing in these two episodes really relates to the experience of playing through Yellow Version, I shan't dwell on them any further.

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Where things start getting really interesting is in the next three episodes. Across these episodes, Ash adds three new Pokémon to his team - specifically none other than the trio of Kanto starters, Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle. After booting my copy of Yellow Version back up, I decide to make obtaining these three Pokémon my next in-game goal. First up is Bulbasaur, which in the anime is encountered by Ash and his friends when they stumble across a Pokémon sanctuary in the episode Bulbasaur and the Hidden Village. There's no such forest in Yellow Version, but the developers have added an analogous event to one of the buildings in Cerulean City. There, a woman offers to let you raise her Bulbasaur if you can demonstrate a close bond with your Pokémon. This means raising the starter Pikachu's hidden affection stat above a certain threshold, something I apparently haven't done yet. Thankfully, it only takes a handful of battles on Route 4 to raise Pikachu's level and tick its affection up over the required target. With her criteria met, the woman releases Bulbasaur into my care where it joins Pikachu, Butterfree and Pidgeotto as my fourth team member.

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Next up is Charmander, encountered by Ash in one of the anime's most memorable episodes (Charmander - the Stray Pokémon) where he saves the abandoned Pokémon from certain death in a terrible storm, earning its trust and recruiting it to his team. The in-game event isn't quite as memorable, unfortunately, as it just involves speaking to an NPC on Route 25 who simply hands his Charmander over with no questions asked. In order to reach this location the player must first do battle with their rival and cross Nugget Bridge, something I'm yet to do in this playthrough. So I head north from Cerulean to engage Gary in battle once more. His team differs slightly in Yellow, with a Spearow replacing his Pidgeotto and a Sandshrew instead of his useless Abra. Spearow is no match for Pikachu, while my newly-acquired Bulbasaur's Vine Whip makes short work of the Sandshrew. Pidgeotto then takes care of both his Rattata and his starter Pokémon Eevee with a series of Quick Attacks. Gary heads into town to lick his wounds, leaving me free to advance across Nugget Bridge, defeat its trainers, and retrieve my new Charmander from the careless trainer on its other side.

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The third new acquisition is Squirtle, and this one forced me to get creative. In the anime, the Squirtle that joins Ash is the leader of the Squirtle Squad, a Pokémon gang causing havoc in an unnamed town. In Yellow Version, that town is substituted with Vermilion City, where a police officer now stands in the middle of town waiting to offer Squirtle to a worthy trainer. Unfortunately it's currently impossible for me to reach Vermilion City as I haven't yet met Bill and engaged the event that unlocks the path south of Cerulean City (more on that in just a bit). So, I decide to bend the rules a bit. Using my friend Matt's 3DS which is still thankfully on hand, I trade my newly-acquired Charmander from Yellow Version into my Red Version's Nuzlocke playthrough and teach it HM01 Cut before trading it back. Since Cut can be used in the field any time after beating Misty, I'm able to get Charmander to Cut through a small tree on the south side of Cerulean, granting me access to Route 5, the underground tunnel, Route 6, and eventually Vermilion City. I feel intensely proud of my lateral thinking and problem-solving as I approach the police officer in the centre of town, but that pride rapidly dissipates when I learn that the prerequisite for receiving Squirtle from the officer is beating Lt. Surge and acquiring the Thunderbadge. Feeling foolish, I'm forced to backtrack north all the way to Cerulean City empty-handed. It looks like we won't be able to stick to the anime's developments 100% faithfully after all.

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The next episode of the anime, Mystery at the Lighthouse, poses another problem, in that it opens with Ash catching a Krabby. Krabby is, unfortunately, totally inaccessible to me right now, as it can only be caught either on the Seafoam Islands or by using a Super Rod, which is all the way out on Route 12 and will require a lot of dancing around the game's critical path to obtain. Mercifully this doesn't cause us any immediate problems as Ash's Krabby is sent straight to Professor Oak, destined not to appear on his active team for some time, meaning I can make a mental note to acquire a Krabby at the earliest possible convenience and move on with the playthrough. In this instance, moving on means finally heading to the Seaside Cottage on Route 25 and meeting Bill. Bill's appearance in this episode is a little incongruous with the games, as this rendition lives in a lighthouse instead of a cottage, and obsesses over meeting a mysterious Pokémon that apparently nobody can tell is a Dragonite even though it's very clearly a Dragonite. Instead, Yellow Version's encounter with Bill goes much the same way as it does in Red and Blue, albeit with a couple of extra reaction animations courtesy of the partner Pikachu. I unscramble his DNA, receive the S.S. Ticket as thanks, and head off on my way.

Electric Shock Showdown, the seventh and final episode of this phase, chronicles Ash's arrival in Vermilion City and gym battle against Lt. Surge and his monstrously powerful Raichu. This means returning to Vermilion in-game, taking the expected path through the burgled house this time and travelling down Routes 5 and 6 via the underground tunnel. A neat touch I notice on this pass through is that two of the trainers on Route 6 have been given a Weepinbell and a Cubone in this version of the game, seemingly directly referencing the Pokémon used by Joe and Giselle in the School of Hard Knocks episode. That's a neat little Easter egg that I don't think I would have picked up on had I not been playing the game and watching the show simultaneously. Sticking to the path laid out by the anime also forces me to start engaging with one of the franchise's mechanics for the first time across this project - the evolution cancel. By pressing B during the evolution animation, it's possible to prevent a Pokémon from evolving. Since both Bulbasaur and Charmander both reach their minimum level requirement for evolving while making the trip back to Vermilion, I have to start using the evolution cancel to ensure my team remains in line with Ash's.

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When I finally reach Vermilion City, I'm able to perform another sequence break in order to adhere more closely to the events of the anime. Since I've already taught Cut to Charmander, I don't need to visit the S.S. Anne before taking on the Vermilion City gym. This means I can follow the timeline of the anime, as Ash and his pals don't visit the S.S. Anne (dubbed the St. Anne in the show) until after taking on Lt. Surge. Charmander chops down the tree blocking access to the Vermilion gym and I make my way inside. Before tackling the trash can puzzle in the same ingenious way I did in Red Version, I take a moment to formulate my battle strategy. In the anime, Ash takes on Surge twice. In the first battle, Surge wins because his Raichu outstrips Ash's Pikachu in terms of pure power. The episode has some genuine second-act drama where Ash considers using a Thunderstone to evolve Pikachu and meet Surge on even terms, only for Pikachu to Tail Whip the stone out of its trainer's hand and insist on doing things its own way. The episode then ends with an excellent rematch in which Pikachu takes advantage of its smaller frame and higher agility to wear out Raichu and score the win. In case you couldn't tell, this is probably my favourite episode of the anime so far. It really embodies the spirit of Pokémon, the idea that building a bond between monster and trainer and knowing each other's strengths and weaknesses is more important than raw numbers and brute strength. And so, I resolve to follow in Ash's footsteps and take on Surge's lv28 Raichu with my own starter Pikachu.

This was a bad idea.

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I'll hold my hands up and admit that at lv24, my Pikachu was underlevelled for this fight. That's a misjudgement on my part, since Surge's Raichu is lv24 in Red and Blue Versions, but gets a boost in Yellow due to it being his only Pokémon. But even so, I wasn't banking on his Raichu outspeeding me and flooring my Pikachu with a single well-placed Mega Punch. See, contrary to what the anime would have you believe (but logically when you stop to think about it), it turns out that Raichu's base speed stat is actually higher than Pikachu's. Raichu is therefore both stronger and faster than Pikachu, meaning there is no trade-off between power and speed in its evolution, and Ash's strategy is completely unviable in the context of these games. Thank goodness this isn't the Nuzlocke playthrough, eh? I end up bringing in Bulbasaur, setting up Leech Seed and Poisonpowder, and whittling down its health with supplementary Vine Whips while occasionally breaking out the Super Potions to heal. Raichu eventually goes down and Surge gifts me my second Thunderbadge and another TM24. On the way back to the Pokémon Center to revive my fallen Pikachu, I chat to the police officer in the middle of town who agrees to let me take the delinquent Squirtle into my care. Not entirely sure how sending my Pikachu to the slaughter convinced her I was a worthy trainer, but there you go. I now have a full team of six Pokémon, and while I still need to catch a Krabby at some point, I'm keeping pretty good pace with Ash's journey, even if I am nought for three on mimicking his gym battle strategies. That's enough Yellow Version for now, time to move back over to Blue.

Blue Version - Nidoking of the Ring

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As with the other two games, I resume my nostalgia-inspired run through Blue Version outside the Pokémon Center in Cerulean City, with a team full of freshly-healed Pokémon and an area to the north just waiting to be explored. Before I move towards Routes 24 and 25 though, there's something I need to take care of. Readers of the previous blog may recall that my Charmander and Squirtle in Blue Version have been lagging behind the rest of the team, since they're technically traded Pokémon and therefore stopped obeying me when they reached lv10 all the way back in phase one. One of the perks of obtaining Misty's Cascadebadge, though, is that unruly Pokémon will become obedient until they reach lv30. This means I can start training Charmander and Squirtle again! I make a quick diversion to Route 4, west of Cerulean, and spend a little bit of time raising both Pokémon to lv16, hitting their evolution threshold and transforming them into Charmeleon and Wartortle respectively. Not only are they now competitive with the rest of my team, but they've added two more entries to my Pokédex as well!

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Now my team is a little more well-rounded, it's time to head north and take on my rival, Scott. As in Red Version, he's rocking a Pidgeotto, an Abra, a Rattata and his starter, in this case a Charmander. I open with Pikachu, which makes short work of the Pidgeotto with its super-effective Thundershock. I then switch to Charmeleon who takes down the ineffective Abra with a couple of Scratches. The Fire-type hits Rattata with Ember next, causing a lucky burn that halves the damage of its incoming Hyper Fang attack before a second Ember puts it down for good. Finally, his Charmander is no match for my newly-evolved Wartortle, especially with the newly-learned Bubblebeam in its moveset. Scott heads south licking his wounds, leaving me free to continue north across Nugget Bridge and towards the Seaside Cottage.

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There's not much to document about this part of the playthrough. The crossing of Nugget Bridge is smooth and without incident, as is the excursion east along Route 25 towards Bill's home. The main development here is that I manage to pick up two new Pokémon that will contribute towards my eventual pursuit of a completed Pokédex - Abra, which as in Red Version I manage to catch with a first-throw Great Ball; and Bellsprout, the Blue-exclusive equivalent to Red's Oddish. Both of these go straight to the PC, since they don't make up part of my already-assembled nostalgia squad, but they will re-emerge eventually. After these two new acquisitions I continue to the Seaside Cottage, speak to Bill, unjumble his DNA and nab the S.S. Ticket before returning to Cerulean. From there it's the familiar route through the "Dig House" to battle the Rocket grunt for TM28, then south to Route 5 where I catch another Blue-exclusive Pokémon (Meowth) and add it to my computerised roster, through the underground tunnel to Route 6, and past the gauntlet of trainers to Vermilion City.

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Vermilion is the first location where the Pokémon Master Guide that has been accompanying this specific playthrough really comes into its own. It highlights a number of events and opportunities available to the player in this port town, at least one of which I'd completely forgotten about in both Red and Yellow Versions. It first points me to the Fishing Guru living in the northwest corner of town, who grants me the first of three fishing rods, the underwhelming Old Rod, which can be used to exclusively catch Magikarp in pretty much any body of water in Kanto. A little further south is the Pokémon Fan Club, whose chairman will gift the player a Bike Voucher to redeem at the store in Cerulean provided they first listen to his slightly disconcerting ramblings about his favourite Rapidash. Over to the east is a trainer looking to trade their one-of-a-kind Farfetch'd in exchange for an easily-sourced Spearow. All this makes Vermilion City feel like the first location in the game where I'm tangibly rewarded for speaking to everyone, rather than being bombarded with thinly-veiled tutorials on the game's mechanics.

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The Master Guide doesn't cover Route 11 and Diglett's Cave until after the Lt. Surge fight, so I'll be leaving those areas for the next phase (although I do break sequence with a quick jaunt to Route 11 to pick up a spare Spearow to trade for the aforementioned Farfetch'd). One area it does state is mandatory before taking on the gym, though, is the S.S. Anne, due to the requirement of obtaining HM01 from the seasick captain. There's not a great deal I can say here that diverges from my experience in Red Version, since the gauntlet through the cruise liner is identical. Even the rival battle against Scott here isn't particularly noteworthy, playing out pretty much identically to the battle at the base of Nugget Bridge only an hour or so previously. One thing I do decide to do here is use a Moon Stone on my Nidorino, evolving it into a Nidoking. I'd been toying with leaving it unevolved for a while to let it learn more of Nidorino's moves, but a bit of advance research in the Master Guide reveals there isn't anything worth learning that trumps Nidoking's access to the powerful Thrash at lv23, and I feel like the evolutionary stat boost is going to come in handy in the next gym. One frustrating thing I do learn at this stage is that apparently the Nidoran line can't learn Dig in the first generation games. I try to use TM28 both before and after the Moon Stone, only to be told it's not compatible. This puts a minor spanner in the works, since I was hoping to use Nidoking in Surge's gym and this means I won't have access to any super-effective damaging moves if I do.

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After curing the captain's seasickness and watching the S.S. Anne depart, I use my newly-acquired HM01 to teach Cut to Ivysaur, overwriting Tackle in the process. I've never really been one for using HM slaves in Pokémon games, even bearing in mind how inconvenient it is to be stuck with useless low-base power moves on my final team. Since this is intended to mimic my original playthrough of Blue Version, that means that by the end of this project I'll have a Venusaur with Cut, a Charizard with Strength, a Blastoise with Surf, a Pidgeot with Fly, and a Raichu with Flash. And speaking of Raichu, it's time to head over to the Vermilion gym and give Lt. Surge a taste of my nostalgia team. Once again I manage to game the trash can puzzle with innovative use of the save system, and it's not long before I'm squaring up against Surge for the third and final time in this phase. My strategy this time is to blitz through his team using Nidoking, which will be immune to any incoming Electric-type attacks while dealing decent damage with Horn Attack and, should the situation call for it, Thrash. Ivysaur is in reserve with its electrical resistance, while Wartortle and Pidgeotto will be kept well clear of the front lines on this one.

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As in Red Version, Surge is back to a team of three this time around - Pikachu, Voltorb, and a lv24 Raichu as his ace. Nidoking proves to be a great choice for this fight, negating Pikachu's Thundershock and putting it down with a single Horn Attack. Voltorb is next and while it doesn't manage to deal any damage, its higher speed means it does land a worrying Screech to lower Nidoking's defences before it too falls to Horn Attack. in comes the Raichu and since Nidoking is staring down two defence drops, I decide to go all-in and use the high-powered Thrash to try and wrap things up quickly. It turns out that Surge's Raichu only knows Mega Punch in Yellow Version, though - in Red and Blue, both of its damaging moves are Electric-type, meaning it can't do a thing to Nidoking as it thrashes into it and secures the victory. For the third time this phase, Lt. Surge is defeated and bestows upon me the Thunderbadge and a TM24. I toss this to Pikachu immediately, teaching it the powerful Thunderbolt move in place of its puny Thundershock. With victory sealed, all that remains is to return to the Pokémon Center, heal up, and save the game before powering down the 3DS on this phase of the project.

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And with that, I'm another step closer to finishing this ludicrous undertaking. This phase ended up being pretty interesting, with the "every possible encounter" mentality of the Nuzlocke format making Red Version a much more exploratory experience than either Yellow or Blue so far. It was fun being able to manipulate some factors across playthroughs to essentially sequence-break Yellow Version in service of keeping it as close to the anime as possible, and it's also great to finally have a full team of six to fall back on in that game, albeit slightly disappointing to discover that there's a significant amount of overlap between my teams in both Yellow and Blue Versions. It's neat to see the trend of beating the gym leaders with different strategies continuing, too, with an all-out "glass cannon" approach using the speedy Diglett in Red, the much more stall-oriented tactics of Bulbasaur after Pikachu's untimely demise in Yellow, and leaning on the bulk, muscle and type resistance of the recently-evolved Nidoking in Blue.

The next phase will mark the start of a significant separation in the critical paths of all three of these games. While Red and Blue Versions will continue towards Celadon City and target Erika as the next gym leader, Yellow is going to go pretty spectacularly off the rails in an effort to emulate Ash's journey and make Sabrina the opponent for my fourth badge. It is something that is definitely possible, since in theory everything between Misty and Blaine can be approached in a variety of non-linear ways, although I've never attempted it personally before. One thing's for certain - it's definitely going to make for some interesting reading. Speaking of which, thanks very much to those of you who've been reading this series so far. Whether you've been heeding my advice and reading from the beginning, or have flown in the face of convention and skipped straight to this specific sentence, your readership is appreciated. I'll be back in a few weeks with phase four of The Very Best, Like No One Ever Was. Until then, take care, and I'll see you around.

Daniel

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