Pickymon, Chapter VII: How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love the Grind

Based on a concept from @ZombieHam on Twitter, Pickymon is what happens when you decide to play the original Pokémon Red with a simple twist – you only get one team of six for the entire game. The rules are simple:
  • Including your starter, you may only catch or purchase 6 pokémon throughout the entire game.
  • No glitching!
  • Trading is not allowed, and you can’t release a pokémon to catch another – once it’s in your team, it stays in your team to the end.
  • This includes Hitmonlee/Hitmonchan, Kabuto/Omanyte and Lapras – if you pick them up, you keep them.
  • Evolution is not only allowed, but required – you can only obtain Flash (HM05) by having ten pokémon in your Pokédex!
  • The game is over when you catch or defeat MewTwo.
Our intrepid writer Charles has taken the challenge. This is his story.

Monday: I capture a Dratini at level 15, and discover I need to grind it to level 55 within two gyms to be able to teach her Strength and get myself through Seafoam Islands.

Also Monday: I begin this process by immediately giving her 4 Rare Candies.

Wednesday, at work: I realise that rising through lower levels is easier due to requiring less XP, and that using the Rare Candies to save the much harder grind of those last 4 levels would’ve been much more efficient.


So. Fuschia gym, with its invisible walls. So many, that it is, in fact, “riddled” with them, according to one trainer. As if they’d been contracted, rather than built.

Eww. Did this place bang the Gherkin building or something?

Anyway, moving on fr-


ANYWAY, the battles here aren’t too tricky, allowing me to persist with the start-Smol/Sleep Powder/switch-to-Caster-and-back tactic, levelling up my lil’ dragon nicely. Butterfree and Dratini have similar-sounding roars, which allows me to headcanon that they’ve conceived some adorable battle cry. You find your own happiness in this organised-crime-infested monster-battling world.

The gym building itself also isn’t too challenging – the “invisible” walls are actually perfectly visible as dotted lines. Much like the lack of light in Rock Tunnel, it’s a problem solved by a simple backlight. Either that, or it was piss easy back in the 90s, and I’m over-romanticising the integrity the game may have had in its own time.

Nah, can’t be that.

The last trainer before Koga is the above Juggler, who is one of the more consistent characters in the game, as he appears to be actually juggling his Pokéballs during the battle given the rapidity of his switches between Drowzee and Hypno. This draws the battle out a lot, but none of my team lose a single HP – the only negative effect is that Caster is denied any XP from facing the Drowzee, as she didn’t come out the last time it was in battle, although she had faced it before it was switched out earlier and even landed an Ice Beam on it. It’s a curious minor quirk of a glitch in any other run. In this run, where I need to pull the most epic grind I’ve ever done, it’s throw-your-phone-across-the-room infuriating.

On to Koga:

Let me stop you there, bud. I’m a ridiculous Mary Sue miracle child.

I’m all ready for Smol to dominate this one, but after three ineffectual Sleep Powders, Koga’s Koffing takes her out! Its HP is low enough for Caster to come in and reap the rewards, but that severely compromises the XP I can safely get her for the rest of the battle.

I send in FirePupper to take on his Muk, hoping the super-effectiveness of Dig against Poison types will mitigate the level difference. Fortunately, FP’s speed is high enough to get him the first shot, and he promptly takes Muk out, but not before getting a Poisoning for his trouble.

Up next is another Koffing, which FP knocks straight into the red zone with a single Dig. I switch in Caster to Wrap it up (see? See the thing I did, there?) and share out the XP.

Last up is his Weezing, on which I hope to pull the same weaken-and-switch move. But after a Dig knocks off just under half its HP, Koga chooses to COMPLETELY punk out, using Selfdestruct to KO both Pokemon and end the battle without any of my crew gaining XP from his level 43 flagship. What an absolute douche.

Totally headcanoning that he’s throwing it on the floor there

So, however things went down, I have the Soulbadge, and I’m more than halfway… to being stuck in Seafoam Islands grinding Caster against wild Pokemon before I can get her to move the bloody boulder that’s in the way.

Also, that’s a goddamn heart.

Onwards, to Saffron City! The game’s largest locale is overrun by Team Rocket upon arrival, blocking practically every useful or interesting door in the place.

You… you didn’t walk off…

It appears they’re more closely related to their Celadon cousins than their Lavender ones…

I didn’t even ask!

…but, to their credit, they are everywhere.

Alright, which one of you is gonna direct me to the exact place I need to go to foil you, again?

In exploring one of the few doors they’re not blocking, I pick up TM29, Psychic, which I may add to Smol’s moveset should Psybeam not prove strong enough later.

Now, obviously I know I need to be heading for Silph Co. Outside their building, the guard is leaving me an open goal…

Must be bored of exposition.

…so naturally, I leave him to it and go to take on a gym that isn’t even a gym.

The Fighting Dojo’s teams will be super-vulnerable to Smol’s Psybeam at a moment’s notice, allowing me to keep up with the plan of switching Caster in for XP while they’re asleep.

The first trainer’s team is hanging around the low level-30s, so once his Machop is down, I let Caster take on his Mankey all on her own. Marginally outlevelled and rocked with an early critical-hit Karate Chop, she still gets the job done. This grind has hope!

I run through the rest of the Blackbelts, giving Caster a shot on her own here and there, then come face-to-face with this conversational 5th Dan:

I like to imagine he just said the word “grunt”, rather than grunting

He’s not too tricky a prospect – his Hitmonchan’s Fire Punch nearly takes out Smol, but he’s low enough on HP by that point that Caster would’ve been able to handle it.

Post-battle, the conversation’s still top-notch:

Hurrrh! Gawrrhah! Yes, you were, pretty easily!

And Caster, having doubled in level since I picked her up, hits the next big milestone on her journey:

Bets on how many times I double-checked that Dragonair can’t learn Strength?

Clearly impressed by the beauty of evolution, Blackbelt Boss steps up his small-talk game:

…the piss out of my Hamlet fanfiction?

Back at Silph, that dude’s still napping, so I’m in! This building’s one of my favourite features in the game, with its awesome music and how it genuinely feels like a big company’s skyscraper:

You can totally imagine someone taking a shot at Adrian Veidt right here!

The Rockets distributed through out Silph’s 11(!) floors are the usual affair – routine battles with mostly Poison types (Smol takes the lead, natch), dropping huge hints completely unprompted:

Mate. You may as well just tell *me*.

The opponents on offer are almost all Rockets and, curiously, Scientists. Furthermore, the dialogue from the Scientists strongly hints that they worked for Silph and turned on them, which means this isn’t just a stick-up, it’s a full-on coup.

And of course, every coup needs some entertainment.

Spoiler: he dropped his balls

4 of the Rockets are apparently brothers:

You’d hope this meant some ethnic diversity, but no.

They’re all easily beaten, and all proclaim that their brothers will avenge the loss. Momma must be proud.

There’s plenty of goodies hidden in corners to find in Silph Co, so my hunt around for XP is punctuated a little b– wait, who’s that lurking over there?!

“Well, actually, it’s me”

Oh man, I’d totally forgotten there was a Rival Battle here. Making a mental note to Dig out and heal before stepping into that room, I work my way through the rest of the immediately-accessible opponents, then commence my journey through the teleporter-assisted labyrinth proper.

One upsetting scene I come across is a woman hiding in a corner, facing the wall (unlike her Silph colleagues, who move or look around), who screams “Stop! Help!” when I talk to her, until she realises I’m not with the Rockets. Sometimes there’s a fine line between consumer reading too much into things and creator not reading into things enough.

To open some crucial doors, I need to find a Key Card. This doesn’t take me too long, but upon discovering what turns out to be it, I find I have no more room for items, and spend ages racking my brains about what I can safely toss at this point.

Then I remember I’m carrying like 15 Pokéballs.


All that nonsense sorted, I heal up and go to take on Mansplain. My plan of using him to boost Caster’s grind goes awry, as she’s KOed early on, but that does give everyone else a chance to flex their battle muscles and share out the XP. Which is nice, but still doesn’t get me closer to my immediately pressing goal.

Luckily, though, I still have this guy to beat:

It almost seemed inevitable.

And having taken a trip to the Pokémon Centre before coming up here, I have Caster back in play.

And I put her out first.

And she wrecks his entire team, losing less than half her HP.

Yeah, like, really badly too

The tearfully-grateful Silph president rewards my heroics with… a Master Ball. Gee. Thanks.

Almost like people trapped by a violent corporate coup don’t have time to read my blog, or something.

Anyway. No time to sulk. Mission Grind is well on track – Caster has gone up TWENTY-FIVE levels in two days, and is now the second-strongest member of my team. I don’t wanna jinx anything, but… I’m afraid we might just be absolutely killing it.

Now watch me realise I need to teach someone fucking Waterfall or something tomorrow.
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About Charles Wheeler

Charles Wheeler is a casual and proud. He has exclusively owned Nintendo consoles for Zelda and Pokémon-related purposes, and invites you to consider the subjectivity of art instead of judging him. He is also a spoken word performer, socialist activist, pro wrestling referee, and owner-father to four rats.
View all posts by Charles Wheeler →

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