Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Something Oddish in Cerulean

Local Cerulean trainers were hosting a tournament of sorts on Nugget Bridge, but by the time I got there the tournament was over. In fact, the tournament was exposed as a recruiting ring for Team Rocket and was overturned by a trainer quite a few years younger than me. Although Team Rocket was gone, the trainers were still there accepting challenges and I took them on one by one without hesitation or incident. After trouncing Wolf and the Nugget Bridge trainers, I was feeling pretty proud of my team and confident in our ability to succeed.
Beyond Nugget Bridge which spans Route 24 was a short hike along Route 25 to the Cerulean Cape. Bill lived out there in a small cottage and welcomed trainers to come visit and discuss all things Pokémon with him. Just west of Nugget Bridge, I caught a second Pidgey whom I named Charlie. He was a bit stronger than Kiwi when we first met, but now that Kiwi had evolved into Pidgeotto, Kiwi was a star member of my team.
League rules dictate that trainers can only carry six Pokémon at a time in Kanto, so Charlie would soon be stored away waiting for his day to train and battle alongside his teammates. The sixth member of the team was about to be Arnold, a small Oddish I caught on Route 25. This tiny little sprout was unexpectedly strong. He single-handedly toppled an Onix in his very first trainer battle on our way to meet Bill. I knew in that moment that he would be a great asset when I went to challenge the Cerulean Gym, which was known for its fierce water-type Pokémon.

When I first met Bill, he was recovering from some rare illness. He assured me it was not contagious, but he was still not feeling quite himself. I could tell he didn’t really want to talk about it, so instead I steered the conversation to our absolute favorite topic: Pokémon. Bill is a self-proclaimed PokéManiac and no one has ever really challenged it. His obsession with Pokémon has very few rivals.
Bill is credited with inventing and operating the Pokémon Storage System that was available in Kanto at the time, and that system’s descendants are still in use today. At that very moment, Charlie was sitting in a subsection of the Pokémon Storage System that was allotted to me for my own personal Pokémon needs. Much like the Pokédex, this would prove to be an invaluable tool to help me kick start the Pokémon Sanctuary that I run today. It’s because of people like Professor Oak and Bill that Kanto was such a tremendous hot spot for aspiring Pokémon trainers back then and is still somewhat of a legendary region to this day.
Bill was delighted at my idea for a Pokémon Sanctuary. He was also interested in my resolve to not let any Pokémon faint in battle. He was shocked I was able to let go of Rascal (Sr.) and Nibbles. I assured him then and I assure you now, it was not easy. It truly broke my heart, but it was an important part of my growth as a trainer. Bill offered to help in any way he could with my project. He also offered to look after or find aspiring new trainers to take care of any future Pokémon I was forced to release by my own personal code. His love for all things Pokémon was abundantly clear.
Bill was eager to show me his favorite Pokémon, one I had never heard of before meeting Bill. He had numerous files on his computer system about the Pokémon Eevee, and Bill had been doing research into its wide variety of evolutions. Bill was a leading expert on the Kanto Evolution Stones which included Moon Stones first found on Mount Moon, as well as Fire, Water, Thunder and Leaf Stones. More would be discovered in time, but these were among the first known to transform certain Pokémon when exposed to their faint light. Bill showed me some pictures and sketches of Flareon, Vaporeon and Jolteon.
Bill and I spent several hours passing the time in conversation, but eventually it was time to head back to Cerulean City to rest up before my gym challenge. I was really happy I had taken the time on my trip to meet Bill and shake his hand. As I said, I couldn’t have gotten where I am today without Bill and his amazing work on the Pokémon Storage System.

The day after I met Bill, I challenged Misty at the Cerulean City Pokémon Gym. Unlike my devastating loss to one of Brock’s junior trainers, my new friend Arnold made short work of the two trainers in Misty’s gym. They simply couldn’t hurt him more than his own absorption could repair. All the Pokémon of the Cerulean City Gym were powerless against Arnold’s ability to drain their energy and bolster his own.
I was worried about facing Misty. I had been warned that her Starmie was one of the most powerful Pokémon in the region, so I came prepared. After defeating Misty’s Staryu efficiently with Arnold, I put her Starmie to sleep with a soothing powder that spreads from Arnold’s leaves. Though, Starmie’s powerful psychic attacks had the potential to cripple or even knock out Arnold instantly, it simply slept peacefully while Arnold nuzzled up to it and sapped its energy. Misty was soundly defeated and Arnold was the super star of the Cerulean Gym challenge.
It wasn’t the most exciting series of battles in Kanto, but sometimes strategy and planning is more important than a fast paced battle of strength and determination. I was lucky to have found such a great Pokémon like Arnold just a day or two before challenging a tough gym leader like Misty.

Current Team:
Attacks in Blue are recently learned.

Bill's Storage: Charlie (Pidgey)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Nugget Bridge Rematch

Now, you might be wondering what happened to Wolf after we parted ways in Viridian, but he couldn’t have been farther from my mind as I made my way down from Mount Moon toward Cerulean City. I didn’t care where he was or what he was doing. I really hoped we wouldn’t cross paths again, but Kanto is a surprisingly small place for a Pokémon trainer, I would come to learn. I would run into him again in Cerulean, but in the short time since I started this journey, I had changed. I had a firm resolve and determination to take care of my Pokémon, rather than win at all cost like Wolf or Team Rocket. I had suffered the heart break of losing Rascal and Nibbles, my first two Pokémon. I was still trying to find my way, but I had also grown stronger.
Before I get to Wolf, let me catch you up a bit. Along the way down from Mount Moon, I happened upon a new Rattata. He was strong and fast. He reminded me of Rascal when we last saw each other as opposed to the weak and fragile thing he was when we first met. I caught this Rattata and named him Rascal Jr. If I learned anything from encountering the Dread Rocket Raticate, it was that there was untapped potential within Rascal Jr that I would have to bring out before I could challenge the Cerulean City Gym. Rascal Jr. could be taught to deliver a cruel bite.
I trained more rigorously than ever before. I made sure Rascal Jr. was not only faster and stronger than that Raticate on Mount Moon, but had the hyper fang bite of doom in its arsenal. I did not rest until Rascal Jr met my high expectations for what he was capable of. Retrospectively, I was perhaps a bit hard on Rascal Jr because of how I was feeling about Nibble, but Rascal Jr was soon the strongest Pokémon on my team as a result. As always, although these training sessions were aimed primarily at Rascal Jr, the rest of the team benefited from them as well. Vesper even learned a powerful bite.
During this time of intense training, I was staying in Cerulean City close to our training grounds on Route 4. You simply couldn’t get around Cerulean City without hearing Bill’s name several times a day. Now Bill is a self-proclaimed Pokémon enthusiast and is credited as the inventor of the Pokémon Storage System that we all access regularly to store and transfer Pokémon even today.
Although Professor Oak first showed the system to me, I had been using it regularly to transfer some Pokémon to my sprouting sanctuary project via Bill’s storage system without ever knowing whose it was or how it got there. I had certainly taken it for granted, and I think we all do every now and then even still. I decided that before I would challenge the Cerulean City Gym, I wanted to hike out to the coast north of Cerulean and meet Bill personally. I was curious, and I was thankful.
When I was happy with the progress Rascal Jr had made, I packed up for the trip and headed out across Nugget Bridge to the north. It was there on that fateful bridge that I was tracked down by Wolf. He called out to me from behind just as I was setting foot on the bridge. Apparently he had heard that I was training in town these past few days and was eager for a rematch. I tried everything in my power to keep my face neutral and not unleash the full extent of my anguish at seeing Wolf. I’ll never know how successful a job I did.

Wolf had a stupid, cocky smirk on his face when he threw out his first Pokémon which was a Pidgeotto. It was plain to see that he considered this his prize bird in the collection and it was fun for me to see the smirk wipe off his face when I tossed out my recently evolved Kiwi, now a formidable Pidgeotto himself. The two bright-breasted birds squared off against each other on the ground, then took to the sky.
Kiwi and I launched our all-too-familiar “sand in the face” technique which had yet to fail us. Wolf’s Pidgeotto had suffered this indignity once before but still fell right into our trap. It’s ability to land any hits on Kiwi tanked and Kiwi was soon the victor of the Pidgeotto contest. Wolf was frowning now as he threw out his next Pokéball.
His next Pokémon surprised me. It was a curious little yellow creature that I hadn’t encountered yet. More surprisingly, it was completely useless in battle. I believe Wolf had just caught it earlier that day and didn’t even bother to train it yet. It was easy pickings for Vesper, who I can rarely say had easy pickings. The Abra (as the Pokédex informed me) seemed particularly weak to Vesper’s ability to leech life out of its opponent. It took out the weak little Abra without any problems. I heard Wolf let out an audible curse and it was my turn to smirk.
Wolf’s third Pokémon was a Rattata. I could tell just by looking at it that it was a tough little fellow. Still, I couldn’t resist tossing out Rascal Jr and sizing up which of us had the better trained Rattata. As Wolf’s Rattata attempted to lower Rascal Jr’s guard with disorienting tail whipping, Rascal Jr chomped down hard. Following up with a very quick attack, Rascal Jr proved to be the winner of this match up and without even taking any hits at all.
I knew Squirtle, or one of its evolutions would be Wolf’s final Pokémon based on our previous match. I admit I was a bit worried about it,  but I kept Rascal Jr out on the bridge to hold his ground. Wolf’s Squirtle managed to land a couple of tackles on my agile Rattata, while Rascal Jr used his own tail to disorient the Squirtle. Then Rascal Jr bit down on Squirtle with such ferocity that it knocked it completely out of the match. Victory was ours and it felt so damn good this time.
I really felt like the superior trainer. Thinking back on Viridian City, I could see now the difference between a trainer who took his training seriously, and someone like Wolf who just took it all as an idle hobby. I felt bad for Wolf’s Pokémon, honestly. They fought so hard for him and he didn’t even care.
When Wolf extended a hand for me to shake, I simply shrugged. Wolf stifled a small laugh and shook his head. I remember him saying, “It was good to see you, Fox. Keep up the hard work.” Then he turned and walked back into town. I watched him go this time, remembering how angry watching him leave made me the last time. This time I felt almost nothing. This time I was stronger both as a trainer and in my resolve to train harder - to train especially harder than Wolf.

Current Team:
Attacks in Blue are recently learned.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Dread Rocket Raticate

Mount Moon is an interesting place. Located in northern Kanto, it’s notable not only for its wealth of Pokémon Fossils, but also its extraordinary rate of meteorites per year. I spoke with Gym Leader Brock about it before leaving Pewter City and learned that it was somewhat a rite of passage for Pokémon trainers heading out from western Kanto to the eastern plains. There were certainly easier ways to get to Cerulean City and Saffron City, but Brock assured me that if I was serious about Pokémon training, Mount Moon was the best way to go.
Mount Moon is an arduous climb and littered with numerous interlocking caves that weave beneath the peak. It was not for the faint of heart, but it would be a chance to bond with my Pokémon in the wilderness. I used some of the winnings I earned at Brock’s gym to stock up on food, potions, and a handful of Pokéballs before setting out down Route 3 toward the famous landmark mountain.
Along Route 3, I battled a very enthusiastic Shorts Appreciation Fan Club. Delightful young trainers eager to challenge Brock and head off on their own through Mount Moon, but mainly obsessed with shorts. It was along this route and among these youngsters that I first heard the name Team Rocket whispered. According to these young campers and hikers, Team Rocket had set up an operation of sorts at Mount Moon and their presence there was deterring a lot of trainers from passing through.
Back then, Team Rocket was an organization to be feared. They had a lot of influence over everyday life in Kanto, and very few people had the courage to stand up to them. However, as a newcomer to the Kanto region, I was truly clueless at the time. I could see that the kids were unsettled by the thought of Rocket grunts lurking in the caves of Mount Moon, but I was incapable of understanding what this threat meant to them, or what it would come to mean to me. I pressed onward down Route 3 hoping to reach the base camp and Pokémon Center at the foot of Mount Moon before nightfall.
Along the way, I managed to catch a Spearow who I gladly added to the team. I named him Shakespear. Shakespear would come to serve me well inside the dark tunnels of Mount Moon. He needed some training before we entered, so I set to work using the base camp as our new base of operations. Shakespear proved to be a formidable bird and was not unlike Kiwi in his ability to grow quickly adept at fighting and training.
While we were training in the shadow of Mount Moon, Lucky developed a powerful psychic attack that had the potential to inflict confusion upon his opponents, and I noticed Nibbles able to inject a bit of poison from the tip of his horn with some regularity. I was certainly impressed in the team’s progress. It was time to start our trek through the underbelly of Mount Moon.

The Zubat was one of the easier Pokémon to sketch,
due largely in part to their huge colony within Mt. Moon.
They don’t write this on any of the brochures that I saw, but Mount Moon is absolutely infested with Zubat. You can’t go three feet without being assailed by another Zubat, and so naturally the next great addition to Team Fox was a Zubat named Vesper. As I’m sure you can imagine, if you are at all familiar with Zubat, Vesper was a bit of a nightmare to train. That might actually be an understatement.
As we methodically made our way through Mount Moon, I was determined to get Vesper up to par with my other traveling companions. He would often open up a battle with other Zubat, or with the occasional trainer we found along those winding paths, only to be replaced with Shakespear who was an absolute terror in those tunnels.
Shakespear earned his place on my team as the number one Zubat deterrent on Mount Moon. He could out-perform them at every turn, pecking them out of the sky and sending a message that we were not to be trifled with by other Zubat. Those other Zubat did not get that message, however, and continued to plague us the entire time.
Among the outer caves of Mount Moon, I ran into a wide variety of trainers. As Brock had mentioned, it truly did seem as a thoroughfare for aspiring trainers to test their resolve against both the forces of nature and each other. In this particular case, Mount Moon served to test young trainers against a never ending onslaught of territorial Zubat. There were young boys and girls, among them a bug catching kid who wandered too far from Viridian Forest, I presume. I passed and challenged the occasional hiker and a science enthusiast. None posed much of a problem for my team and the pain of losing Rascal felt like it was passing somewhat.

In the heart of Mount Moon, I finally encountered members of Team Rocket. As I approached in the darkness, I heard them talking. Another young trainer had passed through quite recently and dealt them a severe Pokémon beating that still had them upset. Instead of keeping him out of their operation, he had apparently just blown straight through them and their Pokémon without hesitation. When they saw me lurking in the darkness, eavesdropping on their conversation, well they decided to take out their frustrations on me.
Although most of them were weakened by this previous trainer to a point where they couldn’t even muster a Pokémon to participate, there was one trainer in that dark tunnel I will never forget. He was the champion of their little operation under Mount Moon, and he would make me pay for wandering where I wasn’t wanted. He only had one Pokémon to face my five, but it was enough. I was lucky he didn’t have any more.

This Rocket Grunt had an absurdly powerful Raticate, an evolution of my previous Pokémon, Rascal. I knew I had to be careful and so I threw out Lucky to face him. Lucky had recently learned to harness particles on its wings into powerful toxins, and so I had Lucky blow a debilitating sleep powder onto the Dread Rocket Raticate as I would come to call it. As expected, the Raticate dozed off gently and opened itself up to tormenting psychic attacks from Lucky.
What I did not expect was its incredible resilience to Lucky’s powerful psychic ability. This ability had taken down numerous thick skinned Geodude along the tunnels of Mount Moon, but the Raticate was formidable. I could tell it was almost defeated, but just as Lucky was going to incapacitate it, Dread Rocket Raticate woke up. It quickly evaded the next attempt to spread a sleep powder. Then it bit down and it bit down hard on Lucky. It was a blow so devastating that Lucky was indeed lucky to not pass out from the strain. I had to switch.
I took a moment to collect myself with all the other Rocket grunts gathered around to cheer on their formidable leader and his terrible Raticate. I knew his Raticate was on the verge of defeat. It would only take one more solid hit to knock it out of the fight and claim a victory. Vesper was still useless. Kiwi and Shakespear were valid candidates, because of their speed and agility. But of all my Pokémon, Nibbles had the most solid defense with his very thick hide, so I felt if any of them were going to survive that devastating hyper fang it would be Nibbles.
Sadly, I was wrong. Nibbles came out of his Pokéball twitching his long ears and ready to face any challenge. Nibbles didn’t even have the chance to see what hit him. That damned Raticate bit down on Nibbles head so hard that he was done in seconds. There was no time for Nibbles to react. His fight was over before it had even begun. I let out a loud wail that echoed through the caverns beneath Mount Moon, but that exclamation of shock and disbelief was drowned out by the numerous members of Team Rocket whooping and hollering at their leader’s small victory.
It would be short lived. Kiwi came out and could sense my distress. He launched a brutal quick attack on the Dread Rocket Raticate and ended the fight in a single decisive blow. Team Rocket was not amused, but they were out of Pokémon and wouldn’t dare lay a hand on me with my trained Pokémon at my side ready to defend me.
I carefully excused myself from whatever nefarious plot they were hatching in that large cavern. They allowed me to pass on my way without any more provocation. They probably said a bunch of intimidating junk that those gangster types like to say, but honestly my heart was sunken deep into the ground. I wouldn’t have heard anything they said. Although probably meaningless to them, I had failed Nibbles and now we would part ways forever.
Speaking honestly, I had high hopes for Nibbles. He was so small and weak when we met, but he had the heart of a champion. I thought Nibbles would be with me on Victory Road, facing down the Elite Four and the Indigo Champion. I thought we would take on the world together, but these foul Team Rocket hooligans put an abrupt end to that fantasy.
I nursed Nibbles back to good health in some quiet corner of Mount Moon and spent our last remaining moments together just appreciating the company. Much like with Rascal, I tried to explain to Nibbles why it was important to me that he lived out the rest of his life here on Mount Moon (and I could truly think of no better place for him) and why I would have to press on without him. I shed a few tears and gave Nibbles a careful hug, avoiding his poisonous horn. He seemed to understand and with a final look at me, he scampered off into the darkness.
I soldiered on for Rascal and Nibbles. I pressed on to Cerulean.

Current Team:
Attacks in Blue are recently learned.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Battle for Boulder Badge

After the devastating loss of Rascal, I went back to training out on Route 2 with Lucky. There was no way a mere Metapod was going to stand up to Gym Leader Brock. I had confidence that Rascal, Nibbles and Kiwi would help me earn the Boulder Badge, but without Rascal my confidence faltered. It took us a few days, but eventually Lucky sprouted wings and evolved into Butterfree, a significant improvement over the lovably little lump of a Pokémon he was as Metapod. I did not neglect Kiwi and Nibbles during this time, either, but their progress was a bit less important.
Once Lucky had evolved, I spent what little money I had on a couple of potions at the PokéMart. Although they were expensive, I would not let another Pokémon fall in the Pewter City Gym. I absolutely would not. My nerves were shot as I stepped into the gym for the second time. I remember I was sweating and shaking just thinking about facing Brock. I saw the Junior Trainer who had bested my poor Rascal. He gave me an approving nod, but it did little to improve my disposition. Brock stood at the far end of the gym and beckoned me forward. He had seen my fight with the Junior Trainer several days ago and was eager to face me.

I clenched my jaw tightly as I threw out my first Pokémon. Kiwi met Brock’s Geodude face-to-face in the gym’s arena. We wasted no time kicking up as much dust as possible to obscure Geodude’s vision. Brock had Geodude spend most of its time curling up into a defensive ball, but every now and then it lashed out with a tackle that it simply couldn’t land on Kiwi. When I felt it’s accuracy was sufficiently incapacitated, I withdrew Kiwi and used Nibble to wear down the Geodude slowly but surely. The Geodude was powerless in the dust Kiwi’s sand-attack had kicked up and against Nibbles relentless tackling.
Then Brock threw out his champion, the Onix. I tossed Kiwi back into the ring hoping to repeat our earlier performance on Geodude. Kiwi kicked up as much sand as he could, but Onix still managed to land a lucky strike on him. It hurt Kiwi enough to discourage me from keeping Kiwi on the field any longer. Nibbles was sent out while Onix merely bided his time. I knew immediately that any attacks on Onix while in this defensive state would be unleashed twofold onto its attacker. Your only choices are to crush it swiftly, which is difficult against a rock hard Pokémon like Onix, or to wait it out.
Nibbles began to stare down his opponent while it remained in its defensive posture. Slowly this would lower the Onix’s defenses and leave it vulnerable to a massive strike. Eventually, Nibbles was exchanged for Lucky who covered the Onix in its string shot while it continued to wait for our attacks. Feeling safer, Kiwi returned to the battle to continue whipping up sand into Onix’s face. Then as soon as Onix released its defensive posturing, Kiwi slammed it with a gust from his wings and knocked the Onix to the floor.
That was how I won my first badge in the great region of Kanto.

Brock was impressed and clasped me firmly on the back with a great slap of his hand. He knew about Rascal, of course, and was pleased at my stance on training. He liked how patient and defensive I was and as a reward not only gave me a handsome sum of PokéDollars, but a Technical Machine that would teach certain eligible Pokémon his Onix’s signature technique of biding time and waiting for the counter strike. This strategy didn’t really work out well for Brock that day, so I wasn’t sure how I would incorporate it on to a team that I intended to take as few hits as possible. I didn’t want to be rude, though, so I graciously accepted the TM #34 and the Boulder Badge.
I was now officially on the road to challenge the Indigo Plateau League. I really hadn’t come to Kanto expecting to do something quite that dramatic, but I was slowly being pushed in that direction. Professor Oak had prompted me to take this journey and running into Wolf made me question what the journey really meant to me personally. The encounter with the snarky trainer in Viridian City helped me shape my personal goals and encouraged me to challenge the gyms to seek reputation and understanding in the world of Pokémon training. Now, I had my first badge pinned proudly to my backpack and I was on my way to the next adventure — with considerably more money to spend thanks to my winnings.

Current Team:
Attacks in Blue are recently learned.