Ah, Pokemon Red, one of the original Pokemon games… Back before there were near 500 Pokemon, back when all that mattered was catching them all and beating every Trainer in your path, none of that frilly Beauty Pageant or other stupid mini-games. Just 150 Pokemon (well, a few more if you could find Mew or messed around for a bit near Cinnabar) and YOU.
Er, so anyway… I’ve been wanting to play a Pokemon game… I don’t why, maybe it’s to hype myself for HeartGold and SoulSilver, or maybe I just felt the urge to “catch ’em all” or whatever. Regardless, I picked up my old Pokemon Red and started to play. Of course, as one might expect from the title, I did something a little different… I decided to play as one, and ONLY one, Pokemon throughout the entire game. Something not new, obviously… people have done it before, but I wanted to see if I can challenge myself and do it. Well, I succeeded, and… to be honest, it was easier than I thought it’d be, unfortunately. But, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
I went into this with only my knowledge of the game (which I hadn’t played since I was… twelve or so) into this, I decided that Squirtle would probably be the best choice for the solo run. Not that I thought it’d be the easiest, actually. I originally thought going through with Bulbasaur would be the easiest, seeing how easy Grass types have it against the first two Gym Leaders. Also, I already figured I wasn’t ready for the “challenge” (i.e. grinding for five or so hours) of choosing Charmander, seeing the huge disadvantage it has against the first three Gym Leaders. Of course, as I was soon to learn, picking Squirtle made it just a little easier than I’d thought it’d be.
One thing I forgot to think about, however, was the raw stat points of the three Pokemon. While it can vary slightly, Squirtle and its evolutions have the highest Defense of the three starters. Of course, one can get pretty unlucky and its Squirtle to level up without big boosts to its Defense, but… that wasn’t the case for my little Pokemon. I don’t know if he’s just average or slightly above (seeing as I don’t know what generation the stats on Bulbapedia are from), but its definitely not bad. That basically means my Squirtle (well, Blastoise now) is a TANK. Normal attacks only really take off about 5 HP, and attacks it’s weak against can’t OHKO it, though some of the stronger Thunder attacks still take off a good chuck of life. Yeah, I know, Thunder moves are typically “Special” moves, but it seems my Blastoise is good in the “Special” Stat too, which I’d assume would work towards its Special Defense as well. The point is… it looks like I was wrong about Squirtle being the “average” choice of the three.
It seems that one of the major things that you have to do when playing a Solo Run is to one hit KO (OHKO) EVERYTHING. If you don’t, you run a good chance of getting your ass handed to you with the enemy’s attack. Of course, the advantage of playing with only one Pokemon is that you level up quickly, since you won’t be switching other Pokemon in. Soon enough (for me, it was around Mt. Moon), you’ll get strong enough to OHKO almost everything, though you still have to watch you for those few high-level Pokemon.
So, as one would assume, by the time I’d gotten to Lt. Surge’s Gym, I was OHKO’ing everything with Water Gun or Bite. Even when I fought the Gym Leader, I was able to do the same with two of his three Pokemon (though I missed my second Bite against Raichu and almost had a completely fried turtle to show for it). I didn’t even grind, I just fought the Trainers along the way! I’d never go out of my way to walk around grass fields, seeing as most of the Wild Pokemon are lower leveled than the ones Trainers had anyway.
One bad thing I DID notice about Squirtle and its evolutions was that they were really susceptible to status effects. Who knows, it may have just my luck, but it seemed I was getting confused and paralyzed a lot more than I usually did, and when I was put to sleep, I’d be asleep for 3+ turns. I can’t say if certain Pokemon are more likely to get hit by status effects than others, but it sure as hell FELT like it. Erika handed my ass to me when one of her Pokemon put my Blastoise to sleep and pummeled it to death with Grass attacks. D: Then again, it seems status effects don’t come up as often in the Red/Blue games than it does in later generations (at least, from my experience), so it seemed it was only a minor convenience.
I’ve noticed that throughout my playthrough my Blastoise would run out of PP. A LOT. I can imagine this problem with most Solo Runs, though. Since you typically use six Pokemon in a normal playthrough, you don’t usually have to worry about your Pokemon running out of PP, except for moves that only had five points in the first place. If you’re only using one Pokemon, however, even with OHKOs you’ll be finding yourself running low on moves often, since most routes are crawling with Trainers, and caves have you fighting wild Pokemon every other step. I had to keep going back to Pokemon Centers to recover SupaSoaka’s PP (yes, I named my Squirtle that) more often than I wanted to… and since I never bothered to catch a HM Slave for Fly, I was always walking the way back. It was a pain, but something I figured I’d get into from the start.
Let’s see, as for the Elite Four… I had a bit of trouble. At that point, I figured I was leveling up too fast, so I started to avoid trainers. I made it to the Elite Four at level 70, which I thought might have still been too high, but I decided against that once I started fighting them… Also, I decided to limit my moveset slightly by one, only having one Normal move and two, not using any TMs (though I did use the HM Surf so I didn’t need another slave). So, if anything was resistant to Water, I’d have to try and chip away health with Bite.
So, walking into the Elite Four, I got a taste for what I was in for with Lorelei. As an Ice Pokemon user, they are naturally resistant to Water, so… it was a pain. While I was also resistant to them, her Pokemon was just as good as SupaSoaka at chipping away my health… and her Cloyster, man… it naturally has high Defense, so Biting it to death took a awhile.
But, Blastoise prevailed, and I moved on to Bruno. He told me he weight-lifts with his Pokemon everyday. I’m not quite sure was that means, but it makes Bruno sound like a badass. Too bad most of his Pokemon were Ground-type, so my Blastoise could easily OHKO it with Water Gun. His Machamp was a pain though… a Hydro Pump followed by another move made relatively short work of him, though.
Old lady Agatha wasn’t really difficult either. After listening to her talk about how Oak was a handsome Pokemon Trainer waaaaay back in the day, I quickly beat down her Ghost Pokemon. I couldn’t Bite them, obviously, but seeing as my moveset contained three Water moves (Water Gun, Surf, and Hydro Pump), it didn’t really limit me. Damn old lady trying to get in my way for the next challenge…
…The leader of the Elite Four himself, Lance! As most already know, Lance fights with Dragon Pokemon, which are hard to catch, and even harder to level up properly, but are WELL worth the effort… and Lance will show you the fruits of such labors by beating your ass down. I had a rough time with him, seeing as his dragons had a lot of endurance, and most of them (if not, all) were resistant to Water attacks. The Dragonites took 4-5 Bites to take down… which wouldn’t sound so bad if they didn’t have the all powerful HYPER BEAM move. Hyper Beam does a TON of damage, though it leaves the user drained and unable to attack the next turn. Which is good, because I needed the time to heal SupaSoaka after those, usually. Also, the Dragon Rage attack, while not as powerful, still took a neat chunk of health off. Eventually, though, I beat him, and I was the new Champion! Oh, wait…
Dammit! Friggin’ Gary beat me here! (Yes, I named him Gary, not Blue…) Jerk. I’m just going to have to teach him a lesson. I honestly thought he was going to be harder, but I guess his strategy of using varied Pokemon types made it easy on me. There weren’t too many that were resistant to Water attacks, with two weak against it, so for the most part I was able to OHKO most of his Pokemon. Taking down his Venusaur was difficult, though… it was only nine levels under me, and with it having my weakness, I was taking a good amount of damage. However, Gary was quickly done for, for him to whine about it not being fair. Sucker.
In the end, the thing about doing a solo challenge, no matter who you choose is that… it doesn’t quite feel like you’re playing Pokemon. One of the main catches of the game is you “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!”, but you don’t do that with a solo run. Sure, I caught a few “HM Slaves” so I can use Cut and Strength when I needed to move on, but that’s it. My Pokedex rounded out at a meager five, and I’m sure Professor Oak was extremely disappointed with me. The excitement of going to a new area to find new Pokemon, and that small chance of finding that rare Pokemon and the anxiety of trying to catch the Legendary birds without using that Master Ball… all gone. What you’re left with is basically a normal RPG where you have only one party member (that happens to be a monster). Since the game’s meant for something different, overpowering was pretty easy, and most of the game’s just spent Biting everything to death (which sounds quite morbid). It just sucks the fun out of it.
I think that sometime, though probably not soon, I’ll try another Solo run. However, I’ll do my homework, and pick a Pokemon more worthy of the challenge I want. Also, I’m thinking I’ll do a game for the Gold/Silver/Crystal series (though probably not the upcoming remakes… I want to enjoy them the way they were meant to be), since I think it’ll be more interesting. With two leagues to fight through and lots of added features to second generation, I think that’ll add a lot to the fun as well. Guess we’ll see when I decide to try it out again!