Pickymon, Chapter VIII: The Procrastinator’s Diary

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.

“I know”, I said to myself, “this week’s going to be super-busy, so maybe I’ll just play a little bit every day and keep the blog posts short, so I don’t have to do a marathon write-up when I’m back at work.”

Hi.

Wednesday

With Silph Co freed from the grasps of Team Rocket (and me wondering suddenly if those “thirsty” gatehouse guards were keeping the city shut down while the takeover happened, but actually were thirsty and were really easily bribed with a bottle of water between four of them), I decide to take a wander around Saffron City, where I discover that the town motto can be sung to the tune of the German national anthem:

Suggested next line: “Home of two gyms for some rea-son”

I pick up some goodies from the now-accessible buildings around town, then decide it’s time to hit up gym number 6. If you’re new to the story, or haven’t memorised every detail of my life including the playthrough of a twenty-year-old game that I’m doing, I’m in the process of grinding Caster, my level-15 Dratini turned level-40 Dragonair, all the way up to level 55 and its final evolution, because it will then become the only pokémon in my party capable of learning Strength, which I need to get through two dungeons en route to completing the game. That means I’m leading with her most of the time, including in Saffron’s Psychic-type gym, where she has no obvious advantage other than pure, unadulterated moxie.

Saffron’s gym is the only place in Kanto that’s taken up Silph’s teleportation technology:

Headcanon: it’s a sweet sponsorship deal

This allows me a dramatic entrance into every room, where the resident Psychics all immediately try to upstage me by announcing that they foresaw my arrival anyway. None of them took the opportunity to prepare much, the only impediment to my progress being that Caster gets KOd a couple of times, but she’s still up to level 42 by the time we reach the leader Sabrina:

Yeah, yeah, alright

The battle isn’t too tricky despite Sabrina’s team’s slight level advantage – nobody faints, Caster scores more valuable XP, Smol takes out her arch-rival, a Venomoth, and Steevee gets in on the action towards the end too. All of which means…

What do Marshes have to do with psychic ability, anyway?

So, 6th badge in the bag, it becomes apparent that despite my best efforts, Caster’s grind hasn’t hit the mark. Seafoam Islands, where Strength is a necessity, is the very next step in the game. Back to it, then! With Surf now available outside battle, I decide to pay a visit to a tucked-away spot I couldn’t reach earlier – the Power Plant.

Which means Surfing for the first time!

Doo doo doo doooo….. do do do DOOOOO dooo, do-DOOOOOO do…

Lurking outside is a Pokémaniac, who has a Rhyhorn and a Lickitung. Neither of which can learn Surf. Was he born here? Kidnapped and abandoned? He seems okay, but I can’t help but be a little concerned.

Where I can never go again.

The Power Plant itself is another example of the superb aesthetics this first generation of Pokémon games pulled off. It feels exactly like it’s supposed to – abandoned, industrial and creepy.

Time for another exciting round of ‘Bottle of Medicine to Soothe Burns or Angry Sentient Joy Buzzer?’

The grinding here is a varied job – the wild pokémon I encounter while walking are in the low level 20s, but the Voltorbs and Electrodes lying around disguised as items are around the 40 mark.

Or, y’know, exactly on it.

This quickly puts a spanner in the works – while Caster just about survives a Voltorb’s Selfdestruct, it leaves her vulnerable enough to be taken out by an Electrode shortly afterwards. I let FirePupper take down a Magneton before deciding to Dig out, heal up and head back.

So yes, it’s occasionally slightly tough going, but it’s worth it – on top of levelling Caster up to 44, I also grab something useful:

I win! It’s not some kind of electric eel that’s evolved into a land-occupying sphere, it’s actually a magic confectionary that makes my battle monsters stronger!

Towards the end, Caster and FP both get KO’d by an Electrode (again using Selfdestruct to deny me its sweet XP, just like that punk-ass bitch Koga), so I stick my slightly-neglected starter SuperSalad at the front of the team to reap some experience on our way out.

And as for my legendary friend here…

Y’know, the Clarke 720W Generator with wings.

…Iiiiiii decide to leave him be.

Hey, I may want to go back and do stuff when this run’s over, okay?

Very late on Wednesday night

I’ve turned my phone off. I’m getting ready for bed. I’m casually mulling over what I’m gonna do next. With Fly and Surf at my disposal, I can now get pretty much anywhere on the map except Cinnibar, so I ca–

Wait.

Cinnibar.

That’s… south of Pallet Town, along a route of unobstructed water.

I don’t need to go through Seafoam Islands.

I never have needed to, any of the times I’ve played this game.

So I don’t need Strength.

There… there was no point to this grind at all.

Psyduck
Actual footage of me attempting to brush my teeth after realising this

Thursday

The following morning, I choose to take a positive attitude: I DO need Strength to get through Victory Road, and Caster’s now well on her way to being ready for that, especially with the advantage that Surf brings her in the final two gyms.

My new plan is quickly formulated: I’m gonna fly back to Pallet Town and Surf south to Cinnabar, using the trainers on the way to level up SuperSalad and Steevee. I’ll take on Cinnabar gym and the Pokémon Mansion, where I can continue to level up Caster (Surf) and FirePupper (Dig). I’ll have to see where the opportunities lie to get the rest of the team up to Pokémon League level between the last gyms and Victory Road, but there’s always the opportunity to go through Seafoam later to strengthen ‘Salad and Steevee.

Okay. We might have a workable plan here.

Back home for the first time since starting my journey, I have a chat with the weird old baby-battling Prof:

Cheers pal, helpful

After dropping in on my old mum, and finding that all she wants me to do is take a bunch of quick rests, I head south over the water. The trainers I encounter en route are all fishermen and swimmers (boasting Water types – easy XP for SuperSalad and Steevee), apart from this guy, who I find bobbing around in the sea kitted out like this:

Do I want to know where he was keeping the cash? No, I do not.

Upon reaching dry land, I discover that Cinnabar’s gym is locked, obviously prompting me to take on the Mansion first. I decide to free up some item space, so I stop by the Pokémon Centre, where I get my first taste of a good ol’ Cinnabar Island burn:

Um, YES. We make REALLY COOL BLOGS.

…and then the shop, where after stocking up on some Full Heals and Revives to save myself endless in-out healing, I contemplate offloading some more items, before finding myself rather unconvinced by their valuations:

Must be struggling to pick up Missingno.

Like, really not convinced:

When did Google Maps come out? Can’t have been after 1950, surely.

Onward! Into the Pokémon Mansion I go, with even more super cool location music, and even more creepy abandoned vibes.

Although you do question why they chose the same staircase as every other building in the game.

FP deals with most of the wild pokémon, but a high-level Muk and Weezing KO him between them. FlappyNerd steps in to take care of the latter, which results in a level-up, and…

*sniff* All growed up!

There are only a few trainers dotted about the place, but a couple of them are my first encounter with the lesser-seen Burglars. I’m not saying these guys are stereotyped or anything, but…

Oh no! It fell all over my stripy prison clothes!

I also run into a chap offering some helpful advice:

You don’t say!

With its multi-level door switches, the Mansion provides a little bit of frustration, but ultimately it’s a fairly uneventful dungeon for so late in the game, presumably as it comes so soon after Seafoam if you do things properly.

Items grabbed and trainers beaten, my work in the Mansion is done. I teach Caster the Blizzard TM I picked up, replacing Ice Beam. I also use a PP Up on it, giving it a valuable 6th use in battle, which is crucial considering how important a strong Ice-type move is against the Elite Four.

This reminds me of something

Friday

Gym time!

As well as stairs, Cinnabar Mansion’s tile-and-industrial-doors motif is also proving popular:

Trendsetters.

You open each door by beating the trainer before it, which is of course infinitely different to being unable to progress past each trainer’s line of sight. Either way, you’re forced to interact with them, which makes it all the more lucky they’re such expert conversationalists:

Totally!

The gym is, as advertised, all Fire-types, leading me to rediscover how unreasonably majestic Rapidash looks in this game:

I’m starting to see what the Fan Club Chariman’s deal is, frankly.

They’re noticeably the hardest gym opponents so far, but Caster and FP use their respective type-advantage moves to deal with them. It’s much the same with the leader, Blaine – Caster takes out his Growlithe with relative ease, FP tags in to deal with his Ponyta and Rapidash, and Caster comes back out to face off against his Arcanine. Oh, and speaking of unreasonably majestic:

Heckin’ glorious doggo

Looking forward to having such a handsome bastard on my team, I nonetheless make short work of it, although that’s somewhat helped by Blaine’s bizarre tactics of using a Super Potion before it’s taken any damage, then another when it’s taken a bit, then using Roar, which has no effect in trainer battles, all while Caster’s Surfs grind it down.

Blaine’s pun game turns out to be as weak as his tactical nous:

Headcanon: a dramatic pause between “burnt” and “out”

Despite his complete lack of effort towards the battle’s end, he still deems me fit to claim the prize:

I feel like I could’ve earnt it more, pal.

He also bestows the Fire Blast TM upon me, which FP will shortly be learning.

All of which leaves my game status something like this:

Disclaimer: screenshot taken a while later when I remembered to take a screenshot

I round off the day with a little Surf along routes 19 and 20 to seek more XP for ‘Salad and Steevee, using Fly to start from opposite ends each time due to Seafoam blocking off the middle. On the Fuschia coast, I find this cheerful chap:

Sorry to interrupt, I’m just here to knock out your beloved companions.

My visit leaves him no better:

I should probably stop talking to you, shouldn’t I? I’m just reminding of you of how you lost. To me. Just now.

With Friday’s shenanigans at an end, I clearly expected to write a post, because I took my customary team screenshot. Ah well:

Just… nine… more… increasingly… difficult… levels…

Saturday

With grinding on my mind, I decide to check out whatever I can of Seafoam Islands sans Strength, and take the opportunity to level up FlappyNerd, who’s fallen a little behind. Seafoam’s weird layout means you actually go in the furthest-away side and come out the near side:

“Yeah, let’s just build the wall here, it probably makes sense.”

 

“Oh, they could easily just walk through if we didn’t have walls at all? That can’t be right.”
The battles inside, exclusively consisting of wild pokémon, are easy but low-yield, but at least I find some incredibly useful items:

Gee. Thanks.

As previously realised, the puzzle involving water current is impenetrable without Strength, so I’m limited in my movements.

Maybe if I kick it in juuuuuuuust the right okay ow.

I decide to call time on this detour and head to Viridian to take on the final gym. Clearly, once again, I expected this to be the conclusion of a post, so here’s the squad as it stood:

I think a grand total of three of the eighteen numbers on this screen have changed from my efforts here

Sunday/Monday

And so we come full circle, and an extra bit, via a bit where I jumped ahead and went backwards, and skipped a cave that I went back to anyway but not properly. Also it’s not a circle. I’M IN VIRIDIAN CITY, GOD.

News!

Good!

Even my usual fountain of gym knowledge doesn’t know the Viridian leader’s identity:

See?

Well, taking a stab in the dark, thinking about someone who’d have a reason to be away, and looking at the transport system that I’ve only seen in one oth-

Y’know what? Yeah. Total mystery.

The trainers present fewer Ground-types than the brief suggests, but Caster deals with pretty much everything in her path. One manages to reveal an interesting tactic to me in using an X-Attack on his Dugtrio while it’s underground mid-Dig, which I had no idea was possible, and which may prove useful come Elite Four time.

Meanwhile, all this fronting about Giovanni gives the place a kind of cultish vibe:

“I’d better show him my collection of lima beans that look like him!”

Meanwhile, the theme of unjust hubris pervades:

…he said, shortly before I very easily beat him.

And finally, my gym journey comes to its grand finale against the boss man himself:

Fwahahaha! Your name is on a plaque just inside the door!

 

Amazing, isn’t it.

Anyway, the battle. Once again, Caster takes charge, taking out his whole team, with only his top two of Nidoking and Rhydon landing any damage, and only the former surviving past one turn. As such, Giovanni gives me the EARTHBADGE, the 8th and final component of my ticket to the Pokémon League. Here is the proof in the screenshot that I took a microsecond too late:

-HARLES IS GREAT

Here is more proof:

Good enough.

And so, this part of the quest is complete:

Look at that little boss.

On the way out, I check in with mastermind here:

Yeah okay bye

And I take a second to appreciate my achievements:

Ugh. Douche.

And now, there’s nothing standing between me and the Victory Road dungeon where I need Strength to progress, and Caster’s still 7 levels below her vital final evolution.

Oh wait, there is something standing in the way:

This douche.

I try to blow him away with just Caster, and she manages to take out half his team and level up to 49, but his Gyarados does enough damage to warrant switching Steevee in, and his Alakazam takes Caster out completely. FlappyNerd, now looking badly under-levelled at 37, suffers the same fate, as does SuperSalad. Smol finally takes it out (with a Tackle, because after that wrecking-ball job it deserved the humiliation).

With his Charizard up last, I switch in FirePupper, who I figure can handle this with Dig if I don’t have a Revive in my bag to grab some important XP for Caster. Luckily I do, and a couple of Surf takes Mansplain’s starter out, to share the XP between my two chief firefighters.

Defeated, Mansplain tells me I need more practice, then buggers off towards Pokémon League despite his whole team being KO’d. Early on in this project, I was hoping there’d be a running gag in him actually turning out to be fairly inoffensive, but they did manage to write him into a bit of a jerk, albeit a pretty vanilla one.

So, there’s nothing for it but Victory Road, and grinding vs whatever trainers and wild pokémon I find in side, which presumably will be higher-level than anything I can find elsewhere. Before I head up, I pause before the Pokémon League front gate, listening to the gorgeous, stirring music, and remembering all the twists and turns of the journey we’ve been on to get here.

It’s actually rather moving.

The walk/Surf up to Victory Road has eight guards who only let you through if you have one of the eight badges. It’s a nice way of giving you a little shot of pride for all that you’ve achieved so far. Conceptually, though, it does make you wonder why exactly you’d be allowed to come into each of these specific areas before you have the full set.

Welp, no Rainbowbadge yet, guess I’ll break out my Maze Runner LARP gear and catch a Ditto.

The guard staff includes two poor buggers who are employed to tread water all day, waiting for trainers to float past.

Look, kid, it’s better than my last gig as a buoy on Cromer beach.

Once I’m through that demonstration of Kanto’s bloated security budget, I head into Victory Road for a poke around, but I quickly discover that there are no trainers to battle before I can shift boulders, and the wild battles consist of reams of level 22-24 Zubats and Machops. As such, I had back out into the long grass, where things are a little more rewarding, with an abundance of Dittos and Fearows, plus the occasional Arbok, all hovering between the 30s and 40s.

After I get Caster up to level 50, I decide to leave it there for the day. Three more levels to go before I can cash in my 2 Rare Candies, evolve her, teach her Strength, and finally progress. The grind of grinds is almost over.

I spent hours grinding this pokémon and all I got was an awesome pokémon

And that is where we leave it for today, with this sentence that solely exists to push me over the 3000-word mark. See you next time, if you haven’t thrown your computer out of the window.

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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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