Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Lone Wolf

What can I say about Wolf that you haven’t heard somewhere before? My relationship with Wolf has almost always been complicated. We grew up together and were friends when we were young. We spent most weekends and holidays together back then and we were practically inseparable. We spent so much time playing and talking about what kind of Pokémon we’d train when we grew up, it’s crazy to think how far we’d ultimately drift apart. We were like brothers in those early days. The rift began to grow between us when we entered our teens.
It’s safe to say I still don’t completely understand what happened to this day. We just began to see things differently and move in different social circles. The kids around us were getting their first Pokémon and heading off on their Pokémon journeys, but not us. I didn’t have the means to head out with a Pokémon when I was that young. Wolf, however, did have the means to leave on a Pokémon adventure. Wolf had the means to do whatever he wanted, but by that time he wasn’t all that interested  in Pokémon anymore. He was interested in money. We didn’t see eye to eye, and as a result we really didn’t see each other much at all for quite a few years. But over those years a bitterness grew between us.
As I followed those excited youngsters through the streets of Viridian City, there’s no way I could have known I was about to see Wolf again. I would never have even imagined that he was in Kanto. The last I had heard about Wolf was that he was running a small but successful business back home. I believe it was a Pokémon Rental service for people wanting to experience Pokémon battles and training, but without the fuss of leaving home or frankly doing any of the work that comes along with it. When I found out, I was hurt that I hadn’t been invited to help start it up. We grew up dreaming about working with Pokémon, and then he went and started without me. I felt so left behind by my childhood friend that I completely distanced myself from him. Speaking honestly, I may have always been a bit jealous that success came so easily to him and that he took his family’s generous start up money for granted.

I found the mysterious newcomer to town quite near the open field where I caught Nibbles. From a distance I could see him gazing up at Indigo Plateau. I rushed across the field to challenge him. The two city kids were just behind me eager to see a Pokémon battle with their own eyes. When my footfalls came into earshot, the trainer turned around and when I saw the face of my former friend I was completely stunned. My feet faltered to a complete stop. The children behind me almost slammed into my backpack because I stopped so abruptly. The expression on Wolf’s face was also one of surprise, but it quickly melted into a sneer.
“What are you doing here, Fox?” I remember him asking.
“I heard there was a trainer out here. I didn’t know it was you.” I felt my words coming out as a stutter. “I came out here to challenge you.”
“Oh. No.” His tone was sympathetic. “I mean, what are you doing in Kanto?” I felt stupid that I misunderstood him.
“I’m here to start the Sanctuary. You remember my idea, right? I want to start a Pokémon preservation park. I’m still working out the details, but Professor Oak agreed to help me get started.”
“Right. Yeah. I remember.” He laughed a little. “It’s a cute idea, but I thought you’d have given up on that by now.” I remember his tone felt so condescending at the time. I felt flush with anger. He either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Wolf turned to look back up into the mountains. “I’m here to challenge the champion of Indigo Plateau,” he announced smugly.
“I thought you were running some company back home,” I asked through clenched teeth. I didn’t really want to talk about it, but I also didn’t want Wolf to be here right now.
“Yeah. I am.” He spoke without looking at me. “I hired some managers, which gives me a bit more free time. It practically runs itself. So instead I’m here to challenge the Kanto Pokémon League.” He turned back to look me in the eye. I felt he was mocking me when he asked, “Did you say you wanted to challenge me?” He looked as though the thought was delightfully amusing. He looked as though fighting me was beneath him.
I had a newfound conviction in my voice when I answered. “Yeah. I do. Are you ready or do you need a minute to collect yourself?” I took Kiwi’s ball from its holster on my backpack strap.
Wolf looked me straight in the eyes and laughed. “You’re so serious, man. I’m ready. I’ll fight you with the junkémon I just got.” We both tossed out our Pokéballs and both our Pidgeys faced off against one another.

The fight was absolutely nerve wracking. Not only was this my first competitive battle ever, but it was against someone I couldn’t bear to lose against. It was an understatement to say I was determined to win. Not to mention, I simply couldn’t afford to fail. I needed that money I’d get from a victory over Wolf to support myself in the future. Meanwhile, the look on Wolf’s face appeared as if he couldn’t care less.
Kiwi and his Pidgey circled each other overhead sizing each other up. Kiwi dove down into the grass and buffeted some dirt and soil up into his opponents face. I stifled a small smile that some of the dirt and grass found its way into Wolf’s face as well. The attack was a complete success, for both of Wolf’s Pidgey’s next couple attacks missed Kiwi outright. Although Kiwi had the advantage, Kiwi only managed to lightly wound his opponent before it landed a very lucky strike on Kiwi knocking him from the sky and into the grass.
I remember my heart leapt into my throat seeing Kiwi hit so hard. I immediately withdrew him and tossed out Rascal. Wolf’s Pidgey was significantly weakened now and still couldn’t see clearly. Rascal had done most of his training against other Pidgey, so I was confident he would win. He did not disappoint me. Landing a decisive quick attack on Wolf’s Pidgey put the bird completely out of commission. I watched as it fell defeated into the grass and I was flooded with a mixture of emotions. I was elated that I was now winning against my former friend, but I was sad that his Pokémon had gotten so badly hurt in the process. This battle marked the beginning of many conflicting feelings about caring for Pokémon and also battling with them.
Wolf withdrew his fainted Pidgey and tossed out the only other Pokémon he had with him. I was surprised to see him with such a rare Pokémon as Squirtle - one that Professor Oak had promised he would track down for me if I could help him test the Pokédex. Then I remembered Wolf came from a wealthy family. It probably was not that big of a deal to him to have this fairly uncommon Pokémon rounding out his team. Wolf made me so angry, so frustrated. He made it all look so easy. I think Rascal could feel how heated I was, because he was also worked up into a frenzy. After distracting the Squirtle with a series of mesmerizing tail whips, he devastated it with a well placed tackle to its exposed head. Wolf was utterly defeated, but I was still angry.
Wolf laughed as he withdrew his Pokémon. He laughed!
“You’re really worked up over this, huh?” he asked me.
I denied it even though he could see right through me.
“Well, good match. I’ll transfer you the winning credits.” He shrugged. “It was good to see you, Fox. Keep training. Maybe we can have a rematch some time.”
“Don’t you even care?” I demanded as he turned to walk away from me. “You lost! Your Pokémon are completely knocked out.” I honestly have no idea what I wanted from him. I don’t know what he could have said to make me feel better. Even in defeat his arrogance and his self-entitlement defeated my spirit. My grand victory over my rival felt like a complete failure, in part because he didn’t even care.
“Fainting is part of the training process, Fox.” He said nonchalantly. “I can afford to help them heal and get back into the fight. It’s no big deal. Next time I see you, we’ll do it all again.” With that our first encounter in Kanto was over as he casually strolled back into Viridian City. The children rushed up to me to congratulate me. Their happy, smiling faces beaming with pride at their new friend’s victory made me feel just a bit better. But my eyes kept drifting to Wolf’s back as it slowly disappeared into the city.

Current Team:
No Change from Episode 2

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Nibbles & Kiwi

The early days in Kanto were tough. I didn’t have enough money to survive on my own for long. What little money I did have I spent on food, lodging and a meager collection of Pokéballs. Aside from my companion, Rascal, that’s all I had. Even though I had a Pokédex on loan from Professor Oak, I was still a long way off from building the Sanctuary and filling it with Pokémon from all over the world. I remained in good spirits, but I had to make some tough financial decisions. I knew that Pokémon trainers dealt primarily in PokéDollars which were universally accepted, but in order to earn some I’d need to find other trainers interested in competitive battling for prize money. Losing was not an option, because the risk of losing money to another trainer would doom the entire adventure. Winning a competitive match certainly meant bolstering my team, so while I waited patiently for the Viridian Pokémon Gym to reopen its doors to the public, I set out to capture new companions.
Rascal was really thriving due to our training. He had grown much stronger from our first encounter in the fields beyond Pallet. His progress filled me with confidence. West of Viridian City in the foothills of the Indigo Plateau, we encountered an aggressive, little Nidoran. As absurd as it may seem, I think the Nidoran was weaker than Rascal when Professor Oak and I first caught him. He was puny and feeble, but he made up for it in sheer enthusiasm. I named that little fellow Nibbles and we began training as soon as he was rested. Nibbles was always eager to train and never shied from a challenge.
Now, I do recall the Pokédex made the distinction that Nibbles was male. I remember clearly because I pondered this several times throughout my journey in Kanto. Pokémon gender at the time was nothing more than hypothetical conjecture. There was no definitive study on the subject, and Professor Oak’s Pokédex entry on the Nidoran species compiled by me and other contemporary Pallet Town trainers would spark a more conclusive investigation in the near future. I used the computer in the Viridian Pokémon Center to email Professor Oak several times about Nibble and the Pokédex entry. He requested I find a female variant of the species, but in all my searching of Kanto that year, I was never able to capture one. The closest I came to a female Nidoran was in trainer battles which collected a good amount of data, but unfortunately not as much as I’d be collecting on Pokémon directly in my care.

Training Nibbles was a lot of work. In those early days, he was pretty useless in a battle. We relied heavily on Rascal to teach him how to handle himself and get him ready for competitive battling in the future. Some days we were out in the south training against wild Rattata and Pidgey. On other days we made our way into the shadow of Indigo Plateau to the west and were fighting Rattata and other Nidoran. Eventually, Nibble’s aggressive and enthusiastic nature paid off and he was able to protect me from all the wild Pokémon we encountered. He was ready, but unfortunately the gym was still closed. So we ventured to the north side of Viridian City for the first time to see what we could find, capture and study there.
On Route 2, Nibbles pinned down a Pidgey which I expertly captured. Kiwi was a welcome addition to the team. Kiwi was the strongest wild Pokémon we’d subdued so far, possibly stronger than both Rascal and Nibbles combined when I first met them. This made him a lot easier to train. He was able to steadily hold his own against wild Pokémon right away. The four of us continued to train around Viridian City until my two weeks worth of paid lodging expired. At that point, it was time to move on. There were no trainers to fight in Viridian City and I had given up on the gym reopening in time to rescue me from my financial crisis. I would have to take the team north through the forest to Pewter City and hope the competitive Pokémon scene was better.
I packed my meager supplies into my backpack and headed out the north gate. I would have been well on my way down Route 2 toward the Viridian Forest, except I had happened to overhear a conversation between two children. They noticed the Pokéballs holstered to my backpack and began excitedly chatting. They found it coincidental that I happened to be leaving just as a new trainer was arriving. I casually approached the children, trying to pretend I wasn’t eavesdropping, but soon was crouched down beside them. With wide and eager eyes and perhaps a hint of desperation in my tone, I asked them where I could find this new trainer in town.
They began jumping up and down in excitement, asking if we were going to battle. Laughing, I told them it would be up to the other trainer, but I was hoping to challenge him. The next thing I remember, all three of us were rushing through the city streets toward Route 22. My heart was pumping at the thought of my first trainer battle. My finances were completely forgotten, too. My brain was a complete blur. The only thing I could think about was the challenge and the thrill. Despite building and training my team for two weeks, I really wasn’t prepared for what we would find on the road to Indigo Plateau.

Current Team:
Attacks in Blue are recently learned.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tabula Rattata

You could say this all started back when I met Professor Oak in Pallet Town. My story doesn’t start out much different from the stories of many other young aspiring Pokémon enthusiasts. The idea to build a Pokémon preserve and sanctuary came to me much earlier, of course, but I didn’t start working on it in earnest until after a very long discussion with the original Pokémon Professor. His research on the natural relationships between humans and Pokémon, particularly his work on shared habitats and habitats in close proximity, really inspired some of my early ideas of building a park that people and Pokémon could both enjoy.
I had wanted to meet Professor Oak in person for quite some time, but travel to the Kanto region was quite expensive for me as a teenager. I was seventeen when I first read some of Professor Oak’s articles in current Pokémon journals. I learned that the professor was working on a revolutionary new device that was capable of recording and studying Pokémon both in the wild and in captivity. We know this device today as the Pokédex, and back then it really ignited my budding desire to capture, catalog and build an environment in which Pokémon could thrive and people could come study or otherwise spend time with them. The Pokédex is exactly what I felt I needed to set things into motion and so I began corresponding with Professor Oak several months before we actually met in person.
Through our correspondence, the professor was more than happy to keep me up to date on his progress with the Pokédex. When it was finally ready for field testing he sent me a personal invitation to Kanto. The idea was to form a mutually beneficial relationship where I helped him test the Pokédex while he and the Pokédex itself would help me begin my arduous task that lay ahead. I spent almost all I had saved to get myself to Kanto, but it was completely worth it looking back. The Pokédex proved to be invaluable to my task, and Professor Oak himself was an amazing mentor.
The day I arrived in Pallet Town, Professor Oak and I spoke about Pokémon passionately for several hours. I understood the fundamentals of catching and battling Pokémon, of course, but the professor was shocked to know that I’d never caught or trained a Pokémon myself. During the course of our talk, he convinced me that in order to build my Pokémon Sanctuary, I would need to know all I could about Pokémon and that there was no less certain way than to begin my journey as a Pokémon Trainer. He entrusted me with one of his earliest versions of the Pokédex which was rudimentary compared to what we see nowadays, but still unbelievably advanced at the time. Then he took me out to a field just beyond the boundaries of Pallet Town where we waited patiently for an opportunity to catch my first Pokémon.
While we were sitting out in that field, Professor Oak told me that he had recently given away his last remaining Pokémon, so we would have to wait for a Pokémon significantly weakened and unable to resist capture. He also told me that if I were successful at field testing his Pokédex in Kanto, he would make sure to acquire the three beginner Pokémon that he’d recently given away to young Kanto trainers from Pallet Town. The Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur native to Kanto were extremely rare and Professor Oak was one of the few ways to get ahold of such unique Pokémon. It was a rare opportunity for me to get some exclusive Pokémon into my Sanctuary when I was able to open it. Sitting there in the tall grass with Professor Oak, I knew that this was one of those important moments in my life where everything was about to change forever. I took a great risk coming to Pallet Town with my life’s savings, but I would eventually leave with my first Pokémon companion and the very tool I would need to catch, catalog, study and care for every new Pokémon I could find. It felt amazing.

Now, catching that first Pokémon was not at all what I was expecting. It’s safe to say that my first Pokémon was quite possibly the most feeble and sickly Rattata within three miles. We saw many healthy Pidgey and Rattata soaring through the air or scurrying through the grasses, but the professor assured me that we’d only be wasting our Pokéballs on them unless they were weakened. It was a daunting test of patience, but finally the most pathetic Rattata the world has ever known crossed our paths and was easily captured. He was scrawny and weak, but he was mine and I really did adore that little fellow. I named him Rascal and we were instant friends. Once I was armed with my own captured Pokémon and a Pokédex, Professor Oak and I parted ways. He told me to head north towards Viridian City - a bit of a sleepy hamlet compared to the cities I was used to back home. Along the way I could train Rascal and I would be able to find a gym in Viridian where I could continue the training.
Some of my toughest challenges as a trainer were those first few days with Rascal. He was honestly much too weak to face a full strength Pidgey or Rattata, so again we had to choose our battles carefully. I made sure he was well fed, rested and groomed, but actually getting battle experience and building up his strength was a tedious job. Although your first Pokémon is intended to keep you safe from wild Pokémon that have a tendency to be territorial, Rascal couldn’t really protect me from much of anything on that initial trip up to Viridian City. We made our way very slowly and carefully avoiding unwanted attention. I took the time, hiding in the long grass, to sketch Rascal and wild Pokémon alike, but we did everything in our power to avoid unnecessary battles. They could have been a disastrous and premature end to my Pokémon journey.
Rascal and I did come stumbling into Viridian City sometime after dark that day, if I recall. I was broke having spent everything I had just getting to the Kanto region, but what little I did have I spent on Pokéballs and some lodging there in the city. I spent at least a week in Viridian City. Part of the reason was waiting for the Pokémon gym to reopen after a mysterious closure some time before we arrived, but part of me was also taking the time to slowly build up Rascal’s strength and endurance. Alongside Rascal, I carefully studied the Rattata and Pidgey found along Route 1 which connected the city to Pallet Town. At first, Rascal could only confront other Rattata that we found alone and vulnerable, but slowly - painfully slowly - he built up enough strength to defend against healthy Rattata and Pidgey as well. It was a harrowing week of hiding and running from the strong, and building up Rascal’s ability and confidence on the weak, but we managed to persevere.

Current Team:

The Pokémon Sanctuary Project

Alola! Welcome to my new writing project!

I've been a Pokémon fan since I picked up Pokémon Red in 1998 just before my 18th birthday. Over the years, I have toyed with the idea of building a comprehensive Pokémon zoo of sorts. It's a huge undertaking that grows with every passing generation of Pokémon game that adds more Pokémon to collect. I've started and failed a few times over the years to create a comprehensive collection of Pokémon to carry forward into future generations.

The closest I came was in a Pokémon Emerald run I did in 2008 (roughly). I'm not sure if those creatures are still on a copy of Emerald, or stored in the Ruby/Sapphire Box on some Gamecube memory stick somewhere. I may try to hunt them down in the future, but for the purposes of this project I'm starting from scratch, and I'm starting where it all began. I'll be playing through the Virtual Console version of Pokémon Red.

I'm going to be documenting this journey in the form of a serial narrative. I hope to upload a short story every week as I progress through Pokémon Red with my created character, Fox, who aspires to be a world renown Pokémon collector and zoologist. In order to make his story more interesting to read, I will also be doing the initial playthrough as a Nuzlocke Challenge that I will detail below. As I handle the writing, my brother will be doing some original art for the series to spice up the adventure. I hope this will make the experience fun and interesting for personal friends and Pokémon fans alike.

The Nuzlocke Challenge
  1. Any Pokémon that faints must be released. 
  2. Only the first Pokémon encountered in each area can be caught. No second chances. 
  3. All Pokémon will have personalized nicknames to make them more endearing. 
These are the basic rules of the challenge and speaking retrospectively they really make the early game quite challenging and intense. I've never had more tense encounters in an RPG in my life. In addition to these rules, I have also decided that (for the sake of the narrative) I will not be using a starter Pokémon. The challenge starts for me when Fox catches his first Pokémon on Route 1 and then trades away the Charmander he used to catch it. I've run from all battles before that point and just rushed to a point where you can catch your Pokémon. So Rattata or Pidgey (no spoilers! don't look at the episode title!) will be the first and only Pokémon on my team leaving Route 1.

Addendum: I will not be catching an HM Slave. All HMs will be taught to actual members of the team unless I hit a roadblock. If the path forward requires an HM that I absolutely cannot teach without catching a new Pokémon, then an HM Slave may be caught. If that occurs, that Pokémon will only exclusively be used for the HMs and never for battle, but I will be trying to avoid this at all cost. Having one of four battle moves taken up by an HM adds to the challenge, but I won't accept it as a loss if I get to an impasse due to HM nonsense and am forced to catch an extra Pokémon.