Welcome back to Pokémon Red version! We're sitting pretty on six badges and a very strong team. Blaine and Giovanni both need to fall today, so let's not keep them waiting!

Sailing to Cinnabar

Sabrina is beaten…and now I'll admit that at this point, I have really no idea how strong our opponents will be anymore. After Sabrina, the next leg of the game just becomes a bit of a blur. I'm going to shoot to have our team at about 45 for when we face Blaine, but for now, let's get out of this city.

Running back to the PC, we grab Pidgeotto and Fly to Pallet Town. Yes, Pallet Town, because I believe that's the easier route to take to reach Cinnabar. Honestly, we don't need to battle the level 15-20 Tentacools who will be popping up...but letting Kadabra and Raichu tank the fights and the trainer battles will net them a few levels, so we'll just leave a trail of unconscious jellyfish in our wake.

Cinnabar is SUPER small compared to Saffron and Fuschia. I know it's an island and all, but you'd think they would have more infrastructure than a gym, a PokeCenter, a PokeMart, a science lab, and another science lab that's ON FIRE. If gym leaders are the town mayors (as theorized in part 2), then Blaine is doing a TERRIBLE job. There are a few things I want to do here before we hit the gym though: Get Kabuto and Aerodactyl.

Visiting the science lab, we find the good gentlemen who will manipulate the powers of science to play God and bring an extinct species back to life. He says his God machine takes a few minutes, so we'll take a quick walk around the lab, where we meet a man who offers to trade us Electrode for our Raichu. We would never take this deal, but this is actually the man who says (if you trade him) that your Raichu evolved, which is how we got the Gorochu concept. Neat!

Returning to Not John Hammond, we pick up our newest friend: Aerodactyl!

We drop off the Dome Fossil, and we'll go get our Kabuto after we get the gym key!

Hi all! Future Lily here! Yeah, I sort of forgot about Kabuto, so...no, we never went back and picked them up. I certainly could do that now, but the playthrough is over in my time so...like...yeah. Sorry, Kabuto fans!

Okay, back to Present Lily! So time to head over to the on fire science lab….which is also called the Pokémon Mansion for some reason.

Inside a Condemned Building

Let's get this out of the way: for absolutely no reason, Blaine has put the key to open his gym in what I have to assume is a condemned building...then told our 10-year-old selves to find it, knowing full well that it was full of Pokémon that SPEW poison and smoke. (You know what they say: where there's Fire types, there's smoke.)

This is hardly the first instance of Pokémon being utterly bizarre, especially when framed in the context of a magical adventure for a 10 year old, but it is the first time in this part, so I feel the need to address it. We can be nostalgic for this gem of the past AND still point out its inconsistencies or oddities. Trust me on this. I'm a Star Wars fan, too.

Okay, back to the game. Entering the Pokémon Mansion, we begin our search for the key. We know it's located in the basement, but the way to get down there is mildly convoluted. If you remember, there are statues throughout the mansion that have switches, which open electronic doors (much like in Lt. Surge's gym), and there are two switches we have to open: one in the hallway that leads to the basement stairs, and one that opens the room with the basement stairs.

Guess what? We can't open both at the same time. "So what do we do?" I hear you ask, since you might not remember if you're like me and just kind of forget this part of the game. "We have to go up to the second floor and then jump down to the first through a hole in the wall while the hall door is shut so that we can open the basement door," I reply, remembering again that we're 10 years old and that is not even close to being a realistic request, BLAINE. So let's make our way up to the second floor.

Since we're coming up on the Fire gym, Blastoise takes the lead. It feels good to have our starter back up front, and with their help, we wash away the competition. I'm not super worried about catching a Fire type or a Poison type from here - we have Flareon, who we never use, and we have Nidoking who is also Ground type and thus better than default Poison - so we don't really need to catch any new friends.

Honestly, it's tough to justify catching level 20 odd Pokémon when we're rolling into the end game and everyone is between 40 and 50. It's unfair to these Pokémon, but it's just not worth it to try to train them up sadly...that, and we found a level 38 Wheezing, which I tried to catch, but it used Selfdestruct like a jerk, so now I don't want one. We do catch a Ponyta though, because it withstood an attack from Blastoise and I felt like that more than qualifies it to make the friends list.

As we venture up to the second floor, I would like to do something that I have never done before: read the journal entries. These journals actually tell a pretty dark story if you haven't read them: a team of scientists find Mew in the jungle, and apparently Mew "gave birth" and they named the newborn "Mewtwo" -- so I guess Pokémon can have children that are technically different species? Does this only apply to legendaries? -- and then apparently they took Mew back to this Mansion/Science Lab, where they lost control of them due to their "vicious tendencies". This makes it appear that Mewtwo 1) isn't a clone of Mew, just a child, 2) was just born bad and wasn't corrupted by scientists (referencing The Pokémon Movie here), and 3) is the reason this building is mostly…not a building anymore.

Well that's...dark.

On the second floor, we find the hole in the wall we're looking for. This part is very frustrating because there are in fact TWO holes, and you need to jump through the correct one to continue on, otherwise you have to reset your progress. How do I know this? Because we jumped in the wrong hole the first time and had to redo everything. At long last, we get everything right and we're down into the basement. There are a ton of items in this building and for the first time, we're really feeling that "20 item cap" mess with our ability to collect all the items we need...like the key to Blaine's gym. We toss a few TMs that will never see use, grab the key, and get the hell out of this awful place.

Burning Ring of Fire

After a quick run to the PokeCenter, it's time to face Blaine. If you recall, his gym has the mechanic where you can either answer a question or face the trainer, and there are like ten of these. We could answer all these questions and bypass the trainers easily...but grinding is the name of the game here, so we're just going to blast through these trainers. Blastoise makes short work of these clowns. A few of them are Jugglers, so I mean this quite literally. Finally, we find ourselves before Blaine, whose overworld sprite looks NOTHING like his actual character model.

Our team is sitting pretty right now, all comfortably mid 40's, and with Blastoise out front, we'll be ready.

Blaine sends out Growlithe and we're off! Unfortunately, Growlithe isn't the strongest Fire type and our resident weird cannon turtle obliterates that poor fire puppy. Ponyta lands next and the song and dance remain the same: "BLASTOISE used SURF! It was super effective!". Ponyta drops, and we eagerly await the next challenger: Rapidash!

This Pokémon is majestic, and if we needed a Fire type then I would ABSOLUTELY say that this should be our go-to. Sadly, I just don't see us needing one in the end game, so we'll wash away this poor unicorn (yes, Rapidash has a horn). Now Blaine presents his final Pokémon: Arcanine. Arcanine is such a cool Pokémon, and it's rumored that it was supposed to be one of the Legendary Pokémon of Gen 1 (probably replacing Mewtwo), but evidently that changed.

Still, it is an extremely cool Pokémon and we only don't have one because Growlithe was a jerk when we tried to catch it earlier in the game, so I have mixed feelings about dropping Blaine's Arcanine in such an inglorious fashion. Still, we need the Volcano Badge, so this dog has to go. Blastoise rides it out with Surf, and we have our seventh badge!

On the Road to Viridian City...Again

Look, these gym battles have been a blowout so far. Blastoise is a monster, and Giovanni is using mostly Ground-types. Guess what Ground is weak against? Water. There's no need for more training, and definitely no need for us to push for level 50 or something crazy like that. Let's just take this man down.

We Fly to Viridian (thank you Pidgeotto), and start walking North towards the gym. The old man who blocks the gym entrance has moved and he says that the gym leader has returned...yeah, getting stomped by a 10 year old TWICE would make me go home and reconsider my life too. Stepping inside, we see that the gimmick for this gym is the spinning pads. Not a huge fan of this but hey, the path forward is pretty direct. We'll avoid the trainers because we honestly don't need the XP.

We spin all the way over to Giovanni, who proceeds to act like our jaw should hit the floor. Honestly, I think back in the day, this had actually been spoiled for me by my neighbors who were ahead of me a bit in the adventure, so this was never a big reveal. Still, Giovanni promises us a tough battle and he sends out Rhyhorn to take on Blastoise.

This proves costly for him, as Rock/Ground is 4x weak to Water. One Surf and the Rock rhino is catapulted out the window. Next up is Dugtrio and this is….a weird choice. Oh, don't get me wrong, it makes complete sense in the Ground Gym, but that's just it: there's no wild card to throw us off our stride, and EVERYTHING is weak to Water now. Kangaskhan would at least have forced me to change strategy a bit since Blastoise couldn't just Surf it to oblivion...but hey, when I program a game of my own, I'll be qualified to judge.

Needless to say, Dugtrio is flushed back down their hole by our Surf, and we await the next challenger. Nidoqueen drops next, followed by Nidoking (hey, he finally evolved that Nidorino...not that it helps). Finally, furious with how the fight is going, Giovanni sends out Rhydon.

I will admit, I forgot he had Rhydon, I thought his ace was Nidoking. More than that, this monster is level 50...and also dual Ground and Rock, just like Ryhorn, who we just washed away. Regardless, Blastoise does what they do best, and Giovani is beaten! The Earthbadge is ours (as is Earthquake, which will go to Nidoking). And with that, Part 4 is finished, I hope you all had fun and I'll see you in Part 5!



....Oh...you're still here?

Yeah, I guess we did get through this one in record time, and Part 5 will be the finale. Alright, why don't we go try to catch Zapdos and Articuno?

A Shocking Revelation

If the terrible pun didn't give it away, we're going to go get Zapdos first. A quick flight to Cerulean and a hacked down tree later, and we're looking at the little river...body of water…thing that leads to the Power Plant. So, a couple of rules for while we're legendary hunting: 1) We will only use Ultra Balls to try to catch these. We'll use the Master Ball on Mewtwo (only if we legitimately run out of other catch items), but we won't use it on the birds. 2) One try per Pokémon, no do-overs. This will be a legitimate test of skill. We have to EARN these Pokémon.

Kicking open the Power Plant doors, we begin checking out the items in the area, and there are quite a few. Don't get me wrong: half of them are just Voltorb, but the rest are actually pretty decent. We really want two Pokémon here, and while we know EXACTLY where Zapdos is, the other one that we want is a random encounter. After about 5 minutes into our adventure, we find the Pokémon we wanted: Electabuzz!

The sprite for this monster is actually spot on - Electabuzz just looks that goofy all the time and I love it. Dragonair is able to sufficiently weaken them, and we add Electabuzz to our ever-growing friends list!

Next up: Zapdos. Well, actually next up is Pikachu, then Magnemite, then Pikachu again, then Magneton...you get the idea. But the point is, EVENTUALLY we make it to our first legendary Pokémon. With a fierce cry, they swoop down upon us and the battle begins!

We're going to open with Dragonair for this fight, but there's a minor complication: We're still grinding them to become Dragonite, so they have tanked this entire building and are subsequently pretty banked up. Zapdos opens up with Drill Peck and drops Dragonair. (Yes, I was shocked as well.)

Now this is a problem: Dragonair had Thunder Wave, which I was planning on opening with to increase our catch chances a bit (Sleep and Paralysis offer the best modifiers to capture chance), so now we can't do that. In light of this, we'll have to apply another status change, and our only option for this is Poison (Nidoking knows Toxic). This is dangerous in the best of circumstances, but we don't really have a choice.

Nidoking comes out, shrugs off a Thunder Shock and unleashes Toxic, badly poisoning our foe. We follow up with Body Slam twice. Between those and one more hit of poison, we SHOULD have a solid chance to catch it...but just one chance. Unfortunately, I underestimated just how strong being poisoned by Toxic is and Zapdos faints. Our first attempt at a legendary is a bust.

A Chilling Encounter

No matter! It's on to Articuno next, and this time, we'll buy a Revive to make sure we can actually paralyze the thing. Let's not make the same dumb mistake twice. We fly over to Cinnabar, and set out from there for the Seafoam Islands. If you remember, this particular dungeon has the mechanic where you have to use Strength in order to plug the fast moving current so that you can reach Articuno. We gave Strength to Snorlax so we'll let the big fella handle this for us. We've also moved Dragonair out of the party lead spot, so we shouldn't have any mishaps.

The rocks get pushed, and before we know it, we're facing our second legendary Pokémon. With a sinister cry, it engages us. Snorlax is up front and they begin to put in some work for us, landing a few successful Body Slams and actually succeeding in paralyzing Articuno, so we won't have to put Dragonair on the front lines at all! Articuno slams back with Ice Beam and Snorlax is starting to feel that level difference. We throw our first Ultra Ball, but our foe breaks free. Snorlax is in rough shape now, but we need them to hold on just a bit longer.

A second attempt fails to catch, and now we need to heal up Snorlax or risk having to swap in a less tanky Pokémon. Snorlax drinks a Lemonade from Celadon city (which is actually one of the most cost effective healing items) and it continues to hold the line. Finally, on our third attempt, Articuno stays. We have our first legendary!

That brings us to the end of our adventure next week. Part 5 will see us try our luck at catching Moltres and Mewtwo - not to mention facing the Elite Four and Blue for the final time!

Red's Deck: 60 Cards

Pokémon: 24
4 Squirtle
4 Wartortle
2 Blastoise
4 Dratini
2 Dragonair
4 Snorlax
3 Pikachu
1 Raichu

4 Professor Oak
4 Computer Search
3 Bill
Gust of Wind
2 Switch
2 Item Finder
1 Energy Retrieval

Energy: 19
12 Water Energy
3 Lightning Energy
Double Colorless Energy

Not much changed in Red's lineup this week, but we ARE rotating out Abra and Kadabra for a slim Raichu line. That's a bigger improvement than you might think: Kadabra's Recover and Super Psy attacks both needed two Psychic Energy, which made it pretty tough to play alongside Blastoise and its mighty thirst for Water Energy. You'll almost never get all three Lightning Energy together for Raichu's Thunder attack, but Agility can put in work for just one Lightning and a Double Colorless Energy.

The rest of the deck's effectively the same as last week: you'll want to use Blastoise's Rain Dance to load it up with Water Energy and fuel Wartortles, while leveraging Dragonair and Snorlax with Double Colorless Energy. We dropped a Gust of Wind to fit a fourth DCE in the mix, Switch keeps your Pokémon safe and mobile, and Item Finder and Energy Retrieval are once again present to retrieve the cards you discard for Professor Oak and Computer Search. Worst case scenario, you can always Item Finder back your one Gust of Wind if it lets you take a clutch prize.

Blaine's Deck: 60 Cards

Pokémon: 24
4 Magmar
4 Ponyta
3 Rapidash
4 Growlithe
3 Arcanine
4 Vulpix
2 Ninetales

4 Professor Oak
4 Computer Search
Gust of Wind
2 Switch
2 Scoop Up
Energy Retrieval

Energy: 16
12 Fire Energy
4 Double Colorless Energy

The Pokémon in Blaine's gym make this an easy build: we know we want 16 Basic Pokemon and the only options are Ponyta, Growlithe and Vulpix. We're going to sneak in Magmar to flesh everything out and get our numbers up. With that lineup we've actually got a good collection of Pokémon that share some common traits and work well together.

In the early days of the Pokémon TCG, Fire Pokémon often had attacks that would spend energy to deal lots of damage; some of them even offered a tradeoff where your Pokémon would take a bit of damage to dish out uncommonly powerful hits. You see that here: Magmar and Arcanine both have Flamethrower, dealing 50 damage for three energy but discarding a Fire Energy in the process; and in Ninetales' Fire Blast, requiring a whopping four Fire Energy for 80 damage and demanding a discard. We'll run two copies of Energy Retrieval to support those hefty costs and keep the fires burning!

Take a look at the spread of Pokémon and you'll also see that Blaine can make great use of Double Colorless Energy: Ponyta's Smash Kick is a solid 20-for-2 attack you can fuel for one DCE, and once it evolves into Rapidash it can use that same energy card to fuel Stomp for 20 base damage and 10 more on a coin flip. Rapidash is really good here because its free retreat cost gives you a lot of room to manage your board. Meanwhile Ninetales' Lure attack is basically a Gust of Wind on a stick for one Double Colorless, and Arcanine's heavy-hitting Takedown deals 80 damage for a Double Colorless and two fire. Ninetales is by far the toughest evolution to deal real damage with, but don't underestimate Lure in a pinch. Board control wins battles!

Switch and Scoop Up let you rescue your bigger Pokémon - especially handy with Arcanine's high retreat - and two copies of Gust of Wind add to the control offered by Ninetales. In the grand scheme of things this deck's pretty easy to pilot, and brings the heat right to your opponent.

Giovanni's Deck: 60 Cards

Pokémon: 24
4 Nidoran♂
3 Nidorino
4 Rhyhorn
2 Rhydon
4 Diglett
2 Dugtrio
4 Kangaskhan

Trainers: 20
4 Professor Oak
4 Computer Search
Gust of Wind
2 Energy Removal

Energy: 16
4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Rainbow Energy
4 Fighting Energy
4 Grass Energy

Last week's Giovanni build leaned hard into Nidoqueen and Nidoking, but this time around Giovanni evolved his Rhyhorn into Rhydon and picked up a Dugtrio along the way. Suddenly the strategy's more about big Fighting-type Pokémon with big attacks and big energy costs!

Nidorino remains rock solid with two attacks that make great use of Double Colorless Energy, and a single Nidoking follows through on that while adding some more HP when needed. Rhydon keeps Rhyhorn's Horn Attack, another Double Colorless outlet, and it's way tougher to take down with 100 HP. Dugtrio's not as beefy, nor is it as easy to use, but Slash can put in work as you try to build toward Earthquake. You'll likely spend your early game harassing your opponent with attacks that use Double Colorless Energy, as you work toward a bigger Fighting attack on Dugtrio or Rhydon.

With more evolutions Scoop Up is off the table, but Giovanni's doubling down on Gust of Wind and Switch for board control. That Team Rocket Rainbow Energy makes it easier to balance your energy needs between grass and fighting, and a couple Energy Removal cards makes Giovanni even more threatening. This probably isn't the best of the Giovanni decks we've made so far, but with a ton of big evolutions and some nasty control tricks, we send him out on a nefarious note that really reflects the character.