March 1, 2020

LP2: Legacy of Lugia

Game: Pokémon Crystal (Gen II)
Universal Pokémon Randomizer

Hey again, everyone! So… Our previous Let’s Play – the Crystal Cakewalk [here] – bled dry due to an inverted difficulty curve. In a bid to prolong the sense of challenge, we’re making a few tweaks to the randomizer settings. Moveset randomness is shackled by setting it to “prefer same type”. Evolutions will be forced from Lv.30 (no more Growlithe for Jasmine’s Steelix) and I’ve bumped Trainer Pokémon levels up by 20%. That’ll make whatever Whitney has Lv.26, Chuck Lv.36, and Jasmine Lv.42. Should be interesting. Hopefully these three factors combined make for a slightly saner, better calibrated run. We’ll also apply the B/W experience patch, so any late newcomers can get fighting fit quickly. All other settings are unchanged from LP1: The Crystal Cakewalk.

LP2: The Legacy of Lugia
Here we go! Prof. Elm presents us with three choices: Victreebel (not bad), Girafarig (hmm) and Dragonite (wow). That’s a no-brainer, isn’t it? Our lovely Dragonite’s a feline. We name her Cassandra. My eyes nearly pop from their sockets when I open the Pokémon summary. Cassandra’s DV spread is nothing to write home about; her moveset, however… Moonlight / Sacred Fire / Dragon Rage / Wing Attack. That seems absurdly overpowered. Dragon Rage will decimate anything in the early game. Wing Attack is a decent STAB move, Sacred Fire is great for raw power and coverage, and Moonlight complements Dragonite’s natural bulk. Even if Cassandra never learns another attack, she’s set till the endgame. Am I glad to have upped AI strength!

We venture out of New Bark, and get to sample our team options on Routes 30 and 31. Drowzee’s here. Jumpluff, that old acquaintance, seems common. There’s also Hitmonchan with Cross Chop, who can be useful if he rolls good Speed DVs and gets a variety of good physical moves. But the highlights here are Kingdra and Scizor. Kingdra proves a nightmare to catch, but the effort is well-spent: Kaiser, as he shall henceforth be called, knows Dragon Rage, Dragonbreath, Outage and Bubblebeam. That, folks, is beyond insane. Scizor, or Griphook to you and me, only knows String Shot and Megahorn. Even so, this seems like an unreasonably strong start. What you playin’ at, rando?

Our rival Silver’s chosen Victreebel. I decide to let Cassandra flex her muscles to see how much damage a super-effective Wing Attack will do – a solid 75%. What I don’t anticipate is for Victreebel to outspeed us at Lv.6 and know Outrage. Since we’re weak to Dragon moves, we lose in two turns. That’s what we get for going easy on Giovanni’s kid! Youngster Joey has a Voltorb this time. We Dragon Rage it. Cassandra reaches Lv.8, and wants to learn… Drill Peck. Oh, come on now, that’s just too good. Then Kaiser hits Lv.8, and wants to learn Twister. We overwrite his Dragon Rage without second thought. Yes, Twister is a terrible move in comparison to both Outrage and Dragonbreath, and we’ll likely never use it. The thing is – while the 40-flat damage from Dragon Rage will eventually taper in usefulness, until it does, it trivialises the early game entirely, and since we’ve been dealt a fabulous hand with two extremely powerful Dragon-types and a beefy physical attacker, and aren’t running a Nuzlocke, we don’t need it as a fallback option either. So away with it.

On the road to Violet City, we come across Aurora Beam Smoochum, AncientPower Jynx, Shadow Ball Pinsir, and in Dark Cave, Egg Bomb Meganium, all of which are interesting options that unfortunately don’t fit our team-in-the-making. I’d love a solid Electric-type, or a fast Ground Pokémon. We find a Sharp Beak lying about that we make Cassandra hold (she came with a Master Ball!) and an Amulet Coin, which we give to Kaiser. The extra money will go towards more PokeBalls.

And there it is: Violet City Gym – this randomizer’s litmus test. You, Bird Keeper Abe, show me what you’re made of! You have… Lv.11 Charizard! Perfect! With Sacred Fire and Aeroblast! Even better! A minute or so later, Abe bemoans his “loss to a rookie Trainer.” Don’t fret it, Abe – that’s the best fight I’ve ever seen you put up. Kaiser fainted, and Cassandra very nearly did, too. We even had to trek back to the PokeCenter and heal for Bird Keeper Rod, whose Machamp is a softer target. Then follows Gym Boss Falkner, who leads with a surprisingly robust Omastar, considering how it tanks a STAB Megahorn (that’s 180 attack power from a Lv.11 Scizor) and proceeds to cheekily counterattack with Bubblebeam, lowering Griphook’s accuracy and forcing a Megahorn miss, only to lower accuracy again and force yet more misses till the red peril falls. Well played, Falkner. Kaiser mops up with Outrage, and the Exeggutor that comes out next is easy prey. ZephyrBadge obtained! That was interesting, and somewhat of a challenge, which bodes well for the rest of the run.

South of Violet City we find Leftovers lying about, nice! Those’ll work well on Griphook. We roam the grass for a while, and meet Slowking, Miltank, Bulbasaur and Snorlax, the last of which we catch – and who happens to also be holding Leftovers. Good stuff! SnoozeBttn is bulky physical type. If only we can get it to learn Rest + SleepTalk. In Union Cave we snag an Electrode with Sing and Thunder. We name it Zippy. I’ve raised Electrode in an ordinary Crystal playthrough before, and while blazing fast with great moves, it lacks the stats to truly capitalise. Electrode’s never quite as good as you think it ought to be. We’ll see about using it.

Racing through Union Cave, I inadvertently find myself raising Bulbasaur (Flaorama). Falkner gave us TM31, which is Sludge Bomb – not at all bad on an eventual Venusaur. Flaorama learns Toxic at Lv.15 to go with Leech Seed, and he’s an Ivysaur by the time we reach Azalea. The Fire weakness shared with Griphook may become a concern in due time, but for now, we’re keeping Flaorama around.

After chasing Team Rocket from the Slowpoke Well, we’re in pretty good shape for Azalea Gym. I’ve always appreciated its outdoor design, a giant banyan growing in the middle. Or I assume the Gym’s center stage is open-air anyway, an ambulatorium of sorts. Very Roman. But I digress. Bug Catcher Al runs a Blastoise / Kingdra tag team that sees me regret not raising Zippy the Electrode. Evidently inspired by the Amulet Coin it’s holding, Kaiser learns Pay Day. Gym Leader Bugsy opens with a Lv.17 Psywave Girafarig. Sorry, pal – that won’t put a dent in Griphook, who takes out the giraffe with a few clean strikes of Metal Claw. Next is a Lv.17 Gastly. It outspeeds Griphook and gets in two rounds of nasty Night Shade damage before falling. Lv.19 Swinub’s the kicker, which Kaiser dispatches with Outrage after getting a Pay Day in, just because we can. Hivebadge obtained! I’m starting to worry the 20% AI level boost may not be adequate. Hmm. We happily pocket TM49 (Flamethrower) and head for Ilex Forest, taking Zippy with us.

Ah, there’s Silver again. Forgot about him. He’s adopted a Forretress – my favourite useless Pokémon! – and gets the honour of flashing the run’s first Legendary: an Aeroblasting Lv.17 Moltres that falls to two of Kaiser’s Bubblebeams. His final Pokémon is, obviously, Victreebel (Lv.19). Zippy (now Lv.12) Sings it to sleep – how does an Electrode even sing – after which Lv.14 Cassandra takes it out with Drill Peck. That went well! Even though his Pokémon outlevel ours significantly and include a Kanto Legendary, Silver claims he lost because his ‘Mons “were weak”. I reject your reality and substitute my own, or something like that. At least he’s not lacking in bravado.

Ilex Forest is home to Baby Pokémon Pichu and Cleffa. I love Cleffa – it was the first Pokémon I ever RNG’d back in 2010. Truthfully I’ve been wanting to run a Platinum Metronome Challenge with it for ages now. Perhaps we’ll do that next. Anyhow, we artfully dodge all Trainers between the Forest and Goldenrod, and bumble straight into Whitney’s Gym. Lass Carrie’s Lv.21 Wobbuffet forces a few switches, but it’s nothing a super-effective Megahorn can’t bring down. Whitney has a Lv.21 Pichu. It’s adorable! It’s also incredibly screwed when we Megahorn it. Her second Pokémon is yet another Baby: Tyrogue. It’s a whopping Lv.24 and knows Hyper Beam, which it gets off once on the switch before Lv.15 Cassandra swiftly KO’s it with Drill Peck. Le sigh. We bag the Plainbadge, TM45 (Tackle!) and go on our merry way towards the wiggly tree and Ecruteak. Onwards and upwards!

At the Burned Tower, we meet Silver again. He blames us for his poor life choices (“it’s all your fault!”), and we make battle. He fields a Seel, and then… Mew. I dunno why you’re always lashing out, Silver. By the metrics available to us, you’re doing just fine. Mew is Lv.24 and knows Hypnosis, Psybeam, and two other moves we don’t get to see before it falls to a combination of Sacred Fire burn and SnoozeBttn’s Egg Bomb. He next sends out… Lugia. Are you serious?! It goes on to dismantle a good portion of our team with hard-hitting Psychics before Zippy takes it out with two well-placed Thunderbolts. Griphook takes care of the final Outrage Victreebel (Lv.26). Being the sore loser that he is, Silver sneers “we’d never be able to catch a Legendary Pokémon anyway.” Never was that line more appropriate. We let the Legendary Dogs out and head for Morty’s Gym.

Everything here outlevels us, sometimes by a significant margin. That’s mostly fine. Our team has impressive bulk and great offenses. We’re lacking in the pace department, however, so we can’t switcheroo willy-nilly unless the Pokémon we send in are able to absorb two hits, and live. Some actual strategy will come into play. Hurray! Morty puts up a competent fight. His Unown lead is a comfortable target for SnoozeBttn, and his Totodile a simple knockout for Zippy. But then come out the big guns. First is a Lv.27 Wigglytuff that hits Griphook surprisingly hard through type resistance, forcing a switch to Flaorama to pick up the KO. Yet Morty’s clearly saved the best for last, sending out a Lv.30 Charizard as his final Pokemon. Oh boy! A Charizard with Aeroblast at that, as we soon find out when Kaiser is oursped nd OHKO’d. Ouch. That’s the second Gym Leader Charizard we’ve seen now. Thankfully we’ve got a trump card in Zippy the Electrode. Fast like the wind with his 150 base speed, a super-effective Thunder connects and ensures the faint. Relief is me, for nothing else could have stopped that Charizard. And to think I was hesitant to include Electrode in our chosen six. Rest easy, Zippy, you’ve proven your worth – your spot on the team is assured until the fat lady sings.

On our way to Olivine, we fight literally only a single Trainer, ie. the unavoidable engagement with Pokefan Derek who invariably brags about his Pikachu. Except this time, he’s clearly trying to throw us for a loop, sending out a Lv.20 Entei instead. What a prankster! The Entei decimates half our team. Olivine’s Nurse Joy clone seems worried. “Didn’t Joy-Clone Alpha 3B just patch up your Pokémon in Ecruteak minutes ago?”, she says. “Are you sure a dummy like yourself ought to be entrusted with the well-being of six battlepets? Huh, you fought a Legendary Dog along the way? Sure, kiddo. And I in fact have 20 natural-born identical sisters…”

Lighthouse Gentleman Alfred, who fielded a surprise Lugia on our previousCrystal Cakewalk run, in this universe has a Ledyba. Can’t win ’em all, bud. Poor Amphy is still sick with pneumonia, however, and as per usual the secret ultra-patented PokeRemedy™ is available only from Cianwood Pharmacy across the sea. Not forgetting to pick up HM03 Strength from a burly sailor at the local watering hole, we set off. The journey across the ocean is fraught with perils Caterpie and NidoranF, and we arrive at Cianwood after a minute or two of Surfing without fighting a single Trainer. Yeah. I’m practically speedrunning this LP now.

At Cianwood Gym, things start to really heat up, courtesy of a Lv.32 Magcargo. The Stormbadge can be challenging to earn even on a vanilla game, because if you’ve been raising a full team of six, chances are you’ll be outlevelled. This applies doubly to us, though Lv.20 Kaiser mops up Blackbelt Lao’s lavasnail without batting an eye. Griphook (Scizor) walls Blackbelt Yoshi’s Alakazam (also Lv.32) rather nicely. We take out Blackbelt Nob, before Blackbelt Lung – what is with these names?! – threatens to “shatter” us with his “raging fists” and promptly sends out another Entei. The tag-team of Singing Zippy and Surfing Kaiser take it out with aplomb. Kaiser decides he wants to learn Hydro Pump at Lv.22. We pass – he already knows the indelible Surf, and I prefer accuracy to a bit of added raw power. We have Outrage to go for broke in a pinch anyway. Our #1 desired move is Earthquake at this point, preferably on somebody like Griphook or SnoozeBttn. But ya can’t always get what ya want.

If you were expecting an epic confrontation with Chuck, you’re about to be disappointed. His Granbull (formerly Primeape) and Porygon2 (the erstwhile DynamicPunch Poliwrath) both carry some outright bizarre movesets. Granbull is an bulky Lv.32 now, but none of Razor Wind / Conversion2 / Guillotine impress Lv.21 Cassandra (no tower hax for you here, pal!). Porygon2 chooses to Splash at us before putting in decent damage with Sludge, and somewhat better damage with Spike Cannon. SnoozeBttn dutifully soaks up those attacks, though, and clinically ends this charade with Strength. Not much else to say here.

But the rando giveth and the rando taketh away. As feeble was Chuck, as almighty powerful is Jasmine. Normally, Jasmine has two Magnemite and a Steelix. The Magnemite aren’t a threat – they’re designed to be sturdy and hard to take down with anything but super-effective Fire attacks, hinting that the player ought to really adopt a Fire type (or moves) to deal with the Steelix to come. These Magnemite have now been transformed into a Lv.36 Clefable and… Something we don’t get to see initially, because a lengthy standoff occurs before it gets a chance to appear: Jasmine’s usual Steelix is now a Lv.42 Blissey and it is tanky. I know, it’s my own fault. I asked for this. But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself.

The moment Jasmine sends out Clefable, I’m worried. It has great special. It’s eight (!) levels higher than Zippy and 10+ compared to everyone else. Our fears prove grounded when Clefable’s MegaPunch does a number on Cassandra, forcing a switch to Griphook who instantly gets taken out by a surprise Sacred Fire. SnoozeBttn the Snorlax gets damage off with Egg Bomb but falls too, as does Flaorama when it takes one for the team so that Zippy gets a free switch-in. Any hopes I had for walling this Clefable are gone. Thankfully, Zippy’s raw speed allows him to Sing… Successfully! That’s a 60% chance, and he Thunders a few times with delight to take out the pink blob. Then out comes the dancing eggshell, Blissey. Surely we cannot win this?

Zippy outspeeds Blissey and fails the first Sing, but she doesn’t pounce and goes for Foresight. Okay. We Sing again, successfully this time, and switch to a badly-hurt Cassandra to begin dishing out Drill Peck damage. Blissey may have monumental bulk, but her physical defenses are paper thin at a base 10. The first Drill Peck deals over 50% damage. She wakes and retaliates with Hidden Power, but it’s not enough, and another Drill Peck takes her out. Jasmine’s last “Magnemite”, to our crippled team’s tremendous relief, is a Mantine. Zippy deftly handles it with a single two Thunders, the first miss thankfully immaterial as Mantine opts for Sharpen in lieu of an attack that would inevitably have KO’d Zippy, leaving us with Lv.25 Kaiser (Kingdra) and inches-from-death Cassandra only. But no matter. We take the Mineralbadge and get out of Olivine, a tad worried about things to come.

At the Lake of Rage, we find that the Red Gyarados has shapeshifted into Typhlosion. Ooh! We instinctively chuck Cassandra’s Master Ball at it. Do we want Fahrenheit on our team? I contemplate our team composition for a moment. Ivysaur Flaorama will be an above-average special wall once it turns Venusaur. Trouble is – it shares a Fire weakness with physical wall Graphook (Scizor). I could boot SnoozeBttn (Snorlax) instead, but its ridiculous bulk and broad TM compatibility make it a prime candidate for taking on missing late-game coverage. And finally, Fahrenheit’s moveset consisting of Ember, Fire Punch, Frustration and Reflect leaves something to be desired. I resolve to powerlevel Flaorama in Mahogany’s Rocket Hideout, and to keep Fahrenheit in reserve for spots of bother at Pryce’s Gym. The Charmeleon with Sacred Fire we quickly catch at the Hideout is another for the reserve bench. We name him Z@rdon, counterpart to LP1’s Zordon. I don’t know that he’ll see any action. Time will tell.

We clear the Hideout without much difficulty. Its final Rocket Executive owns a Dratini with Dragon Rage, which would’ve been exceptionally dangerous a Gym or three ago. By now, though, SnoozeBttn has in excess of 120HP. Good luck raging through that health pool, pal! The Dratini obviously cannot, and we win without breaking a sweat. We make the three Electrodes faint – or in this case, Nidoqueen, Hypno and a Hoothoot – and backtrack out of the Hideout to resurface in the fresh, moonlit air of Mahogany Town. Aah.

It’s Gym time! There’s no telling what typings Pryce and cohorts will use in this randomiser, but we’ll bank Flaorama anyway (now Lv.28; Ivysaur’s crippling 4x Ice weakness normally makes her useless here), and withdraw Fahrenheit. I barely remember to check Z@rdon’s moveset, and find that it has… Sketch. No Aeroblast, which is unfortunate, but Sacred Fire, Fire Punch, Light Screen and Sketch. My mind races with the possibilities. We could get Z@rdon2 to Sketch Kaiser’s Outrage, or even Zippy’s Thunderbolt. It may or may not get Cassandra’s Drill Peck naturally as it levels. What to do… Well, let’s not overcomplicate things. We’ll level Z@rdon later, see what moves he gets, if any, and wrap our decision around that. First we’ll deal with old man Pryce.

We dexterously slide past all of the Gym’s spinners and come to a stop in front of Pryce. He’s suffered much in his life, he says, and is keen to show us what that means. That’s uhh… Questionable. He intends to hurt a kid? Being a bit dubious there, Pryce. True to his word, he’s all business, sending out a Singing Machamp with Hi Jump Kick that takes out Griphook – which was meant to wall it – in two turns. Feeling reckless, we immediately send in Fahrenheit. He’s had no training whatsoever, meaning no EV investment, and for all intents and purposes should be entirely ineffectual.

But he’s not. Machamp’s Sing misses, Fire Punch connects, and the muscleman goes down. Arbok comes out, and it too falls to a string of Fire Punches. And then, Pryce’s final gambit: Tyranitar. At Lv.37, it is a force to be reckoned with. But it’s also hamstrung by a plethora of type weaknesses. Kaiser outspeeds it despite a ten level deficit, and hits for almost half health with Surf. Perhaps we should’ve taken on Hydro Pump after all. Hmm. Tyranitar uses Sandstorm. We Surf again. Tyranitar uses Take Down, and hits Kaiser for ~60% health. Pryce uses a Hyper Potion. We Surf again, then heal several times. Eventually Kaiser goes down after pulling off a final Surf, leaving T-tar with a sliver of health. We bring out Zippy, and get him to Sing, then switch to Cassandra to administer a final Drill Peck. Before she can, however, Tyranitar wakes and takes itself out with Take Down. How much else of Pryce’s pain is self inflicted, I wonder? We collect the Glacierbadge, and receive a panicked call from Prof. Elm as he mumbles something about Team Rocket’s return and erratic radio broadcasts. We fly to Goldenrod to investigate.

What exactly does Team Rocket want with the Radio Tower anyway, other than to broadcast their resurgence? Wouldn’t their nefarious cloak-and-dagger schemes be best served operating from the shadows? All of Johto (and Kanto) believes the Rockets were disbanded three years ago; why so ably blow your own cover? A Rocket Scientist proclaims that taking over the Radio Tower will fulfill their “grand design”. But what design? It sure is mystifying.

The force evolution rule is starting to kick in now, with Grunts here fielding large parties that sometimes break Lv.30. One of them drops a casual Zapdos. Then another sends out Mewtwo. I giggle when the Withdraw animation aligns perfectly with Mewtwo’s head to make it look like the Pokémon is wearing a steel helmet from the Great War. Flaorama picks up Spore at Lv.29, then evolves into Venusaur at Lv.32. That’s what I’m talking about! We give her a Quick Claw. Getting to go first with guaranteed Sleep, then setting up a Leech Seed and, hopefully, down the line, building into a Solarbeam under Sunny Day is a combination that has the promise of being incredibly powerful.

The Imposter Director challenges us to a full-scale six-on-six, and his party of Lv.36+ Politoed, Skarmory, Aerodactyl, Poliwrath, Porygon2, and Charizard is step up from any Gym Leader we’ve faced so far. Through a very satisfying see-saw battle with much switching and a starring role for Kaiser’s Surf, We inflict a resounding defeat. This Rocket Executive doesn’t let us in on his organisation’s grand plan either – could it be world domination? – but he does helpfully spill how they’ve locked the real Radio Tower Director away in the basement of the town’s department store. Kay. Off we go, then.

Before we get a chance to properly explore the department store’s back tunnels, someone suddenly comes running. Ho, Silver! The red-haired menace is back for another fight. He goes all Kanto on us this time with Raichu, Ninetales, Victreebel, Magmar and Snorlax. Raichu knows Dragon Rage which is unusual but not a problem; SnoozeBttn casually takes out the far stronger Victreebel (Lv.38 vs. Lv.29); and Cassandra knocks his Snorlax back into a stupor. Subsequent to his loss Silver experiences a rare moment of reflection and self-doubt, the first such instance on his journey to redemption, before taking off, tail tucked between his legs. Metaphorically, of course. We turn around and get down to brass tacks, flipping switches and shifting stone on our way to the Director’s impromptu holding cell, who finally reveals the Rockets’ plan – attaining nationwide Pokémon mind control by transmitting a special signal, oh no!

Using the Director’s special keycard, we make our way up the closed-off section of the Radio Tower. To my surprise, the Rocket Executive in charge of the operation immediately contradicts the Director’s assumptions. Signal? What signal? They’re merely trying to reach out to Giovanni! Apparently everything we’ve seen so far has been an exercise in identify theft. These guys aren’t the real Team Rocket. They’re merely some ne’er-do-wells who got together to craft half-baked plans of world domination, assuming the Rocket name without Giovanni’s approval! Oh boy. The Boss won’t be pleased. He deals with imposters harshly.1 We thrash the Executive in a Pokémon battle. He disbands Team NewRocket. History repeats itself. Grateful for his rescue from a damp basement and seamless return to penthouse fat-cat status, the Radio Tower Director gifts us a Clear Bell, used to awaken the Legendary Pokémon that resides at Ecruteak’s Tin Tower. Shall we collect it before venturing to Blackthorn City? I think we shall.

Will it be the canonical Suicune? Place your bets now. The Wise Trio battles at Tin Tower are interesting. One one of them has Dragonite. Another Snorlax. And a Lugia. Where did that come from? Three victories later, we are deemed worthy and snake down the path towards the Tower. *rubs hands together* Are you ready for this? Raikou and Entei scamper off, the Suicune sprite engages us and… That cry sounds familiar. It’s Lugia again! Ah… I see what’s happening here, Sage Koji. You took Suicine for yourself, didn’t you? And now you’re trying to pass off Silver’s old Lugia to us, hoping that we’ll care for it better, so it’ll stop causing 40-day storms every time it gets agitated.2 Fine. I accept. You are wise indeed.

After some tries, Lugia is caught. We name it Silver. Its stats at Lv.40 are spectacular. Moreover, we’ve been entrusted with a mission. Silver has to go on our team. But that does leave us with a problem. Who is to go? Though it pains me, the present answer is Griphook, our Scizor. As a physical wall, I prefer him to SnoozeBttn. But his mutual Fire weakness with Flaorama is rather devastating. Whenever an opposing Pokémon carries a Fire attack, he is useless; whenever the opposing Pokémon does not not, we usually have better offensive options. I’m aware that we’re trading a two-time Fire weakness for a double Electric / Ice weakness, so this may turn out to be a terrible decision. Either way, this is a “see you later”, Griphook, not a “goodbye”.

Silver knows Psychic / Confusion / Mirror Move / Leer. That’s… Not great. His Aeroblast may have been overwritten. Will he get Recover? Mirror Move could work under a tankier setup. For now, we slap a Scope Lens on Silver for increased critical hits, and assign Griphook’s old Leftovers to Kaiser. Zippy gets Focus Band to replace his Brightpowder. We decide to go TM shopping at Goldenrod to perhaps pick up some useful moves for Silver or Flaorama. The department store has TMs for Rapid Spin, Quick Attack and Twister… And something that “has a high critical hit ratio”. Wait. Isn’t that… Aeroblast? Silver will be a happy boy!

We proceed to spend ¥100.000 on Game Coins (thank you, Amulet Coin!), then win 500 more at the slots so we can check out the Game Corner TMs, too. They turn out to be TM25 (Metal Claw), TM14 (Confuse Ray) and TM38 (Extremespeed). Hmm.3 I think we’ll pass and save our coins for Celadon, if we make it that far. The real temptation here is picking up an Ampharos for 100 Game Coins! I feel apologetic after the guarantee I gave Zippy, but… Ampharos has 115 base special to Electrode’s 80, though it’s slow as molasses and in many ways the antithesis of how we’ve been deploying Zippy. (That is, as a blazing quick puncheur who inflicts Sleep with Sing or super-effective OHKO’s with Thunder or Thunderbolt.) Though we have Flaorama to guarantee Sleep now with Spore. And (much) higher base special means we won’t have to rely on the inaccurate Thunder to output solid damage. …Well, you only live twice once.

RoRo is Lv.5, and knows Destiny Bond, Thundershock, Thunder, and Thunderbolt. Whoa. That’s a starter kit if I’ve ever seen one! It might yet get Thunder Wave, or even a healing move. We’ve got to go and find out, don’t we? We raise RoRo outside Ice Path, and by the time she hits Lv.30 knows Thunderbolt, Shadow Ball, Moonlight and Substitute, which we’ve selected over Thunder Wave. I’m sorry, Zip. RoRo made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. You may join Griphook, Fahrenheit and Z@rdon on the reserve bench. With two Moonlight users now, we’ve got to get Sunny Day somehow (which turns Moonlight from a 1/2HP to a full recovery move).

The Ice Path is inhabited by Igglybuff, Koffing, Farfetch’d, and Qwilfish with neat moves like Hydro Pump, Rain Dance and Octazooka that we might have built a team around had we encountered it much, much sooner. We catch none but do pick up a variety of interestingly items while spelunking, including a Nevermeltice, a second Brightpowder, Sacred Ash and TM40 (Toxic) that Silver sadly cannot learn, but SnoozeBttn can. Hmm.

Clair’s Gym may or may not be a stern test. It ought to be. All Pokémon levels here run in the 40s. Ours are well below that. Cooltrainer Cody has a Lv.43 Moltres with Sunny Day (aha!), Aeroblast and Fire Punch. That broadens our choices of potential Sunny Day users from Magmar and Charizard to include a Legendary Bird – but where would we find a Moltres, and who would she replace? Fun fact: I raised Z@rdon the Charmeleon to Lv.30, but he never learned Sunny Day. Had I known of this Moltres beforehand, I would have had him Sketch the move.4

Clair leads with a Machamp that’s easy prey for Silver. Lugia has outrageous bulk for a Gen II Pokémon (130Def, 154SpDef) and hardly anything is going to pound through it in two hits. Certainly not this Machamp, who falls to a Psychic. Then Lv.44 Gyarados comes out – an actual Dragon type! Flaorama moves first with Quick Claw and Spores it to Sleep, then RoRo Thunderbolts twice for the win. Next is Lv.44 Kingdra, another dragon! How thematic. It’s put to Sleep and seeded with Leech Seed, but wakes on the switch to RoRo to score a KO with Hydro Pump. Flaorama comes back out to rinse-repeat and finish off the Gyarados with Razor Leaf. (Somehow it didn’t know an Ice move.)

In an example of rando perfection, Clair’s closer is a Lv.48 Mewtwo. We switch to sacrificial lamb SnoozeBttn (Lv.34) to sniff out its moveset. It knows Super Fang (ugh) and Future Sight, which it insists on using repeatedly, wasting turn after turn while SnoozeBttn chucks Egg Bombs. Come on, Mewtwo! Show us what you can do! Don’t you know Psychic? Or even Confusion? We switch to Kaiser just to get more action out of this marvel of Team Rocket engineering. It opts for Super Fang into Foresight again. We perform some rotations to pass the EXP around, heave a sigh and finally nail the Mewtwo with Razor Leaf. Fun, yet disappointing. Psychic would have wrecked us. Bitter about her comprehensive rout, Clair commands us to see a man about a dragon behind the Gym. Okay then.

Inside the Dragon’s Den is a Cooltrainer with another Moltres. How common are these now? Should we be carrying Zardon around? After completing a questionnaire that suggests we should treat Pokémon with love as equals (who would have guessed!), we receive the Risingbadge over the back of Clair’s protestations. That’s all eight badges collected now! We are worthy. We are young Master Lance’s spitting image. We are Johto’s special snowflake. I wonder what the Dragon Masters made of Silver. The red-haired guy, I mean, not our Lugia. Our Silver’s a mellow little bird that could yet decapitate you with Aeroblast if you tickle him wrong.

Elm calls. He had a special gift prepared for us, he says, but it went missing approximately 9 hours and 46 minutes ago, just around the time we picked up our first Pokémon. We travel to his lab, show him Fahrenheit, and explain how Cassandra must’ve pocketed the Master Ball before we left. Elm raises an eyebrow at this unlikely story, but does not remonstrate and skilfully transfers Fahrenheit into a regular Pokeball. “Please don’t tell anyone that Master Balls are reusable,” he says. “It’s a trade secret.” We pinky swear, step outside, teach Kaiser Waterfall, and Surf east towards Tohjo Falls, ready to take our first steps into Kanto.

Now may be a good time to talk about the future of this LP. I won’t be chronicling the journey through Kanto. I likely won’t be taking on its Gyms at all. This is because the inclusion of Kanto in GSC has always felt – and played – like an afterthought to me. Which, in terms of game development, it of course was – GameFreak famously didn’t anticipate to include Kanto until Mr. Iwata taught them a certain programming compression technique. But that’s not really the point. The Rocket arc ends in Goldenrod. Silver’s arc ends on Victory Road. The player’s arc ends with the Johto League Championship. Kanto is fan service.

So. Routes 26 and 27, leading up into Victory Road, are long and full of terrors. Not really. That Trainers here are seasoned goes without saying. Well, except that guy with two Lv.43 Spike Cannon Marowak, he doesn’t stand a chance against the Elite Four. He merely shrugs when we tell him. How many Trainers canonically complete the Johto Gym Challenge every year, I wonder?

Cooltrainers Reena and Gaven both run unusual Electabuzz with Sing and Dream Eater. We see an Ursaring that Slams hard and a Kangaskhan with Egg Bomb. Nothing too remarkable. Final stage Pokémon are the definition on Victory Road both in regular runs and this rando – the forced evolution rule assures that. That’s what you want, of course, to prevent an inverse difficulty curve. It does mean, however, that this segment of the game is rather vanillesque. We don’t see many quirks anymore, either, because it makes little sense for the AI to use Splash over Sacred Fire or Zap Cannon. The madness has shook out and settled into its own brand of order.

Cooltrainer Beth forewarns us of Silver’s final coming. (The red menace, not our birdo.) He passed through here, still treating his Pokémon as “tools of war” to win at any cost. Beth is visibly shaken. Aww. Have a cookie. Registering her phone number seems to bring some comfort. So far, Pokemaniac Brent has been our only registrant the entire game, and he phones to tell me where Bill lives absolutely every time I reload the save.

Three steps into Victory Road, we find a Charmander with Crunch, Flamethrower, Fire Punch and… Ember. Aww. I was banking on Sunny Day there. In fact, I’d already nicknamed the little fella “Sunny”. I never realised it as a kid, but if you know what you’re doing, you can get through Victory Road in about 30 seconds. So, half a minute later, we learn that the pause button’s been pressed on Silver’s redemption arc. His God complex is back – he now believes he’s invincible. After seeing his Pokémon, I rather believe he’s high. The final iteration of his team has three Water types – Lapras, Octillery and Seaking – and three Grass types: Parasect and, for some reason, a second Victreebel (Lv.43) to his starter Victreebel (Lv.45). Where’s your Mew? RoRo handles the Waters, Cassandra the Parasect, and SnoozeBttn the Outrage-Bells.

Having lost, Silver doesn’t ask for his Lugia back. Maybe he’s embarrassed after all that happened. Or maybe he realises that our keeping Lugia is for the best; we certainly don’t need any more 40-day storms, with climate change and all. Silver announces he’s gonna do some soul-searching and challenge us again once he understands what it is that we possess, and he lacks. Just remember the words of Mewtwo, lad. You may have been born the son of Giovanni, the most notorious yakuza in all of Kanto. But it is not the circumstances of one’s birth that define us. It’s what we do with the gift of life that make us who we are.5

Did you know the thirty feet separating Victory Road from the Indigo Plateau Pokémon Center are a separate route? Yeah. That’s Route 23. It’s 8 steps long and features some bushes. Inside we prepare our party for the challenge ahead. RoRo gets a Magnet. We deplete our bankroll buying Hyper Potions, Revives, Full Heals and Full Restores. After a trip to the Move Deleter, SnoozeBttn loses Strength and gains Toxic. Only Silver and RoRo break Lv.40, and I’m expecting opposition to run deep into the Lv.50s, so… Here goes nothing! Oh, hold on, I gotta answer this. Pokemaniac Brent is calling, probably to tell us where Bill lives.

Ah, the Elite Four – Will, Koga, Bruno, Karen and Lance, fifth of the four musketeers. It’d be customary to talk about this LP’s final challenge in blow-by-blow fashion. But I don’t think that’s necessary. You know the facts – we’re severely outlevelled. But we have bulk. We have coverage. And we have the magical power of friendship.

Baroque party enthusiast Will is canonically the newest member of the Elite Four (I wonder who it was that he replaced). Behind the Venetian Mask normally hides a master of Psychic types, but for this special occasion he’s chosen to honour Red with a choice of Gyarados (Lv.49) and Venusaur (Lv.50), complemented by a Hitmonlee and two Shuckles. Between Cassandra (Dragonite) and RoRo (Ampharos) we wall his team pretty hard. Hitmonlee falls to a Drill Peck. RoRo Thunderbolts both Shuckle and the Gyarados. Cassandra Drill Pecks Venusaur. Job done; onto Koga.

Hitmontop, Porygon2… Yawn. Muk and Venomoth are oddly thematic Koga-classics. His closer Celebi (Lv.52) gets my attention. It knows a tricky set with Rest and Psybeam. We send in Silver to tank Celebi’s attacks and strategically whittle down its HP with Confusion and Psychic. Once it opts to Rest and falls asleep, we nail it with a couple of Aeroblasts. Strongman Bruno’s team is laughable except for that rotund Lv.55 Meganium. Yeah. Rotund. It’s polite word for bulky. SnoozeBttn gets upset when I talk about his… Girthy resilience. Anyhoo, Meganium goes Leech Seed into SolarBeam, and Cassandra happily accepts the two freebie Drill Pecks to score the KO. Nevermind that fourteen level deficit (55 to 41).6

Hey Karen, it’s been a while. Have I mentioned how you’re my favourite Elite Four member? Not just in Johto, but across all regions. That black dress looks mighty nice on you. What are you doing after this? Oh, the battle. Right.

Karen leads with a Yanma. Haha, very funny. SonicBoom Persian (Lv.54) is next. Flaorama gets to stretch his legs with the Spore / Leech Seed / Razor Leaf wombocombo, and more importantly, we get to save PP on our heavy hitters. Wobbuffet comes out next. Deprived of signature moves Counter / Mirror Coat, it’s a shadow of its usual self. Here we learn that Dizzy Punch can confuse a Pokémon while that Pokémon is already asleep – but the confusion effect lasts only a turn and disappears without a text prompt. Double-statusing shouldn’t be possible at all. Weird. Alakazam is fourth, but like the Hiker ‘Zam all the way back in LP1’s Union Cave, it only knows Confusion, not Psychic, and is effectively harmless at Lv.56. SnoozeBttn patiently Egg Bombs his way through Zams pitiful physical defenses. Nidoqueen (Lv.50) is last, and falls to one super-effective Psychic from Silver.

So Karen, I know this nice place over in Goldenrod. It’s real classy. They do tapas and– What’s that? Strong Pokémon. Weak Pokémon? That is only the selfish perception of people. Truly skilled trainers should try to win with their favorites? Okay. So… 7PM tonight? We can fly there on my Pidgeot. I named him Airliner. Oh, the Champion is waiting? Fine.

Everyone on our team is Lv.40 now, if only just. We walk down the long, imposing corridor, over the red carpet past row after row of Dragonite statues. At the far end, Lance is stood on an elevated stage. We exchange a few words. Lance nods, then swooshes his cape. The music plays. It’s showtime.

Out comes Electrode (Lv.52). Oh no, Zippy! I’ve driven you into the arms of another man! I suppose you were genderless to begin with, so it doesn’t really matter. LanceZip puts up a spirited fight, more through indecision on my part on how best to counter it, and less owing to any inherent raw power. Arbok (Lv.56) lasts about 7 seconds on the field of battle before keeling over. Third is Articuno, who takes out the injured RoRo with Ice Beam. You meanie! Cassandra, Flaorama and Silver are all weak to Ice, so we play it safe and switch to SnoozeBttn for a Toxic. Arty insists on using Return where it could be using Ice Beam continually to make our lives much more difficult. But it plays along, and duly falls to Poison damage. Next is Venusaur, who succumbs to an Aeroblast in one hit, and Electrode, who surprisingly tanks one and counter-KO’s Silver. SnoozeBttn mops up with Egg Bomb & Quick Attack. Lance’s final Pokémon, Xatu, is terrifying at Lv.60. But, thanks to RoRo’s special bulk – don’t look at me like that, it’s a compliment – Xatu is unable to 2HKO. This makes it possible to Thunderbolt & Hyper Potion repeatedly, and we do. Eventually, the bird falls. Smell ya later, Xatu.

And so, showman Lance is defeated! We are truly powerful, strong and upstanding citizens of Johto, says Lance, while Prof. Oak is merely slow, causing him to miss the performance! Mary seems unhappy. Oak congratulates us at length on our stunning victory and personal growth. Lance is uncomfortable with crowds (four is a crowd+1), so he leads us into this dimly-lit room behind the battle stage where unspeakable things may or may not be done to Champions’ Pokémon by a machine that looks like a giant death robot. Oh it’s just for registration? Okay then. I’m making light of it – but I honestly love this sequence to death. And I’m not just saying that to please Karen. 7PM, by the way. Goldenrod Gate Tapas. See you there.

Do you want some closing thoughts? Probably not. But here they are anyway. This was fun. In terms of time investment, absolutely not worth it. But it was fun. Rando gave us everything we wanted. An enticing selection of wild Pokémon. An unusual but mostly plausible palette of common moves. A smattering of Trainer Legendaries to spice up ordinary encounters. Devious Gym Leaders with beefy teams. And an overall difficulty level that was engaging throughout but never soporific or brutal.

Would I tweak the randomizer settings, if I could? Just a tiny bit. Many Pokémon get strong moves early. That’s great, I love it – but these tend to get overwritten by newer, often weaker moves in Trainer movesets as Pokémon levels go up. In a similar vein, I love seeing strong Pokémon early, but I think for a better experience, late-game opponents (such as the Elite Four) could be programmed to have only Pokémon with say 500+ total base stats. Articuno was amazing to see on Lance, but his Arbok (and Karen’s Yanma and Persian) were free KO’s even with the +20% AI level increase. In the grand scheme of things, however, these are minor niggles. This LP was a fantastic custom Pokémon Crystal experience, and I can’t wait to do something similar again. The question is – which game?

  1.  Incidentally, now we understand Silver’s virulent hatred for this Rocket Reboot – they’re merely some randos who appropriated his father’s legacy!
  2. Per its Pokédex entry: If it flaps its wings, it is said to cause a 40-day storm.
  3.  STAB 120 power Extremespeed is tempting on Snorlax, though he already knows Egg Bomb. Cassandra is able to learn it too, though I can’t foresee many situations where it’d be preferable over Drill Peck.
  4.  Post-playthrough I consulted the rando log to find that Charmander gets Sunny Day at Lv.37, Charizard at Lv.1, and in a rando quirk, Chameleon doesn’t learn it at all.
  5.  There’s much more to Silver’s character as apparent from the manga. His background and motivations aren’t quite clear from the games – I’m going by what’s shown on-screen. Mostly.
  6.  Bruno also had Ninetales, Furret, Typhlosion and Primeape, in that order. All Lv.50 but Primeape (Lv.51).