Welcome back to the tale of Red!

Last week, we set loose a 10-year old from his home in Pallet Town and let him run all the way to Cerulean City with nothing but a pocket full of dreams and a blue turtle who just screams his own name, making many friends (and probably a few enemies) along the way.

If you're here without seeing how our adventure began, I'd suggest going back to part 1. For everyone else, onward!

On the Road Again

As we step out of the dark Cerulean Gym and back into the sun, let's take stock of our current situation:

Knowing that Surge is coming next, we've got exactly one Pokemon who will be able to put up a fight (Nidoking) and one who can hold their own (Oddish). This is….a less than ideal situation. Luckily, the game developers conveniently provide us with a way to get a Ground-type right before we go battle Surge: Diglett Cave. So let's go get a new friend! (Gee, I wonder who it will be?)

The grass around Vermilion provides us with a few great trainer battles to help raise Nidoking. Unfortunately, he won't get much XP on the boat because it's mostly Water Pokemon, so this is our last chance to get some strong grinding in. We'll let Nidoking tank all of these fights to help give him some extra power before his gym debut, and with the volume of trainers around, we can get him comfortably into the 20's, which should help him survive against Surge.

A quick visit to Diglett Cave brings us a BIG surprise and we've got our first new friend of the session...which also makes me look like an idiot, because it WASN'T Diglett.

Moving on, let's heal up real quick and board that ship!

On the S. S. Anne

With Nidoking and Dugtrio now solidly leveled, we can give some attention to the rest of our team. I'm thinking long term now, and it's time to focus on building up Kadabra so that they can take on Erika's gym. Luckily, this place seems to be roughly 95% Tentacool and Machop, so Kadabra is the perfect Pokemon to take point.

At this point, I want to take a quick break from the gameplay to talk about the dialogue in this game: it is absolutely bizarre. I know we talked about this with the Light Years Junior Trainer in Brock's gym, but on this boat it becomes HORRIFICALLY apparent that no one proofread these lines after they were translated, because the dialogue can range from nonsensical ("I like shorts! They're comfy and easy to wear!") to downright creepy. (Remember: they are not talking to US, they are talking to a 10 year old child.) It's not all the time, but it's often enough that I have to believe either someone was just blindly translating, or they just REALLY didn't expect a 29-year old to be writing about this from a position of nostalgia 20+ years later.

We finally make it to the hallway that leads to the bridge (where the door is unlocked and anyone can just walk in on the captain), but doom descends from the stairs as we approach: Blue is upon us. Wasting no time at all, Blue sends out Pidgeotto and we're into a battle!

Blue's team has finally been allowed to level up, so he's actually pretty formidable at this stage. Luckily, we have something for all of his team members, so while it's not quite the blowout it usually is with Blue, it's still a pretty easy battle, and Oddish evolved into Gloom too! Blue says something disparaging about the ship's captain and promptly leaves.

After talking to the captain, we receive Cut, and our time aboard this creepy boat is over!

Lt. Surge

Alright, time to take on Lt. Surge! The idea of a Pokemon war still is very baffling, but honestly, it's not the weirdest part of this game and if I go down all these Lopunny holes, I'll never finish this playthrough. After hacking down the vegetation that Surge allows to grow in front of his gym (you're a gym leader man, hire a groundskeeper!), we enter the gym. As usual, we knock out the trainers first, and then we can dig through the garbage in peace. And y'know what? I lied, I'm going down this rabbit hole: there is an old man here who says Lt. Surge was his superior officer. Lt. Surge is 34, and this man...is rather old. How old was Surge when he made Lt? How old was this man when the war happened? I AM SO CONFUSED.

The electronic locks are either SUPER easy or really annoying, and there is no middle ground. The second switch is always in a can directly next to the first. but the problem is that the game only spawns the FIRST switch, and then when you find it, it spawns the second. Just because you checked the cans next to the switch can doesn't mean that they can't have the second switch after you set the first one. It takes 2 tries to get the door open, but at long last we find ourselves before Lt. Surge, and it's obvious he could not give less of a crap about who we are and why we're here. He's a jacked 34 year old who needs to look cool in front of this 10 year old. Little does he know, we have an ace up our sleeve: Nidoking knows Thrash.

Voltorb and Pikachu fall easily to the King, but Raichu is a different animal entirely. When Surge sent him out, I realized we might lose Nidoking and would need to fall back on Gloom - Dugtrio would be a last resort, it feels a bit like cheating. Raichu stared down Nidoking and….used Thunderbolt...then ThunderShock...then Thunderbolt again… Raichu only knows Electric moves and Growl. Nidoking continues doing what he always does: kicking butt and taking names. Lt. Surge surrenders the Thunder badge and we're laughing all the way to Rock Tunnel.

Secret Tunnel

Okay, we're not quite on the way to Rock Tunnel yet. First we need Flash, which if you remember, is located at the Pewter City end of Diglett Cave, just south when you get out of the cave. Since we're at Pewter AND we have Cut, we grab the Old Amber as well to pick up Aerodactyl later. With our side tasks done - yes, we got the Bike Voucher as well - it's back to Cerulean City.

We pick up the bike (goodbye SLOOOW walking speed, hello mobility!), hack down the bush blocking our path, and away we go. Right now, we're focused on leveling Kadabra and Pidgeotto so that we can take out the Grass gym, but Wartortle and Gloom will have some time to shine in the Tunnel as well. In the grass above the PokeCenter, we grab a Voltorb, who won't be replacing Pikachu - my fiance would kill me for even THINKING that - but we will be using them as a battery to light our Flash light. I'm teaching them Flash so that we don't waste the move on a better Pokemon. Pikachu takes a seat in the PC and Voltorb joins the team to light our way!

Rock Tunnel is probably one of the most frustrating parts of Pokemon Red. While Mt. Moon feels big but isn't, Rock Tunnel IS big, and it requires you use Flash, which is basically Sand-Attack that you can't unlearn. ...I have strong feelings about Rock Tunnel. Unfortunately, we're also trying to level Pidgeotto, but Rock types are bad news for Flying, so our ability to grind like we did in Mt. Moon is a bit more limited. The good news though is that we caught a few new friends while we were exploring: Machop and Geodude. The bad news is that since we can't trade either of them to evolve, we have another case of the Kadabra-Conundrum on our hands. I love Machamp, but I would rather have Hitmonlee in the party then Machoke, so these two will take a back seat.

We use our Dig TM on Kadabra, which allows us to get back to the PokeCenter to heal up a bit as we move through the tunnel. At long last, we arrive at the end of the tunnel, battle the 4-5 odd trainers who are just milling around outside of the entrance, and race into Lavender Town on our awesome bike.

From Lavender to Celadon

Lavender Town is a super weird location in the Pokemon world, in that it is EXTREMELY dark for the type of game we are playing. Luckily, we're not staying here for long, so we don't need to talk about that right now! Rest assured, I'll be addressing the weirdness of Lavender Town in the next part of my article, but for now there's no reason to stick around. I remember enough about the game (and I've played it enough times) to know that we can't do ANYTHING here without the Silph Scope. We'll just hit the PokeCenter and then we'll head out for Celadon City.

The road between Lavender Town and Celedon is full of trainers using primarily Poison-type Pokemon, so Kadabra takes point as we push on toward the big city. There's potential for a Fire-type in the grass out along the way, but to be totally honest, I think we're covered for the battle against Erika and I don't know who we would bench to put a Fire-type in. ...That, and I tried catching Growlith and he just used Roar on me right away and it was super frustrating after the 5th time, so I'm justifying not catching him.

At last, we make it to Celadon City, where we have a few things to take care of before pushing on with our adventure: evolve Gloom and Pikachu, pick up and evolve Eevee, pick up Fly, and get enough coins to get ourselves a new friend. We snag Eevee from the Pokemon Mansion (and I need to point out here that we basically run in and steal this thing off a guy's desk without saying a word to anyone), and then we head to the PokeMart for some evolution stones. We grab a Thunder Stone for Pikachu, a Leaf Stone for Gloom...and a Fire Stone for Eevee. Yes, we're going to make Flareon our Fire-type. I don't think it will really matter in the end, but I do want to have one in our back pocket, just in case.

We've picked up Fly from that girl just north of the Cycling Road (remember, we have to use Cut to get through the guard house's upper section) and Pidgeotto FINALLY has a flying type move for us to use against Erika (stupid duel typing with normal, they don't make Gust Flying until Gen 2), so all that's left to do on the chore list is to get enough coins for a friend.

"Are we seriously going to gamble until we can afford one of these expensive Pokemon?", I can hear you asking. To which I say "No, that would be absurd. We haven't bought anything all game and we have a ton of money, we're just going to BUY enough coins to get the Pokemon."

You may now all watch in horror as I spend 56,000 PokeBucks to buy a Dratini.

Alas, we've reached a point in our journey where we need to make some hard choices. I love our team. They can take on ANYONE at this stage...but we have a new friend who we could train up to be AMAZING (Dragonite IS amazing), so someone has to go in the box to make room for our majestic, beautiful dragon. Thinking about this, there is only one logical choice: Vileplume. Yes, the Pokemon we just evolved. Vileplume is Grass/Poison….the next gym is Grass….and a lot of it is Poison. This means Kadabra and Pidgeotto will be able to take them without problem. The gym after that is Poison, which Vileplume will not help with. After that is Psychic, which Vileplume will not help with. Then is Fire, which (surprise) Vileplume will not help with. The next time Vileplume will be good is against the Viridian Gym...at which point, we'll have Blastoise who is also good against Ground Pokemon. With a heavy heart, we put Vileplume in the box, and prepare to take out the Rocket Game Corner.

Enter Giovanni

The Rocket Game Corner is a great place to train up the team before we face Erika. It's a lot of high teens and low twenties Pokemon, most of which are not evolved for some reason, but there are enough that our team can just blitz through to Giovanni without issue. Honestly, the Rocket Grunt character model looks like he hasn't slept in 5 years and I kind of love it. The last challenge to reach Giovanni after taking out the Grunts is the spinning floor tiles...and holy crap are these things SLOW. I made a few mistakes and it took me between 3 and 5 minutes to get back to where I was because I was waiting for the tiles to finish spinning me. Later games thankfully correct this, but man was this rough back in the day.

Finally, it's time to take on Giovanni for the first time. There is a SIGNIFICANT difficulty spike between the Grunts and Giovanni (which makes sense), but we have a well trained team, so here is what we are dealing with:

Giovanni has a hilarious character model (I know, I say that a lot, but LOOK AT IT) and has an amazing Kangaskhan. I LOVE Kangaskhan. My team in Red/Blue normally has one Normal-type, and it typically ends up being Snorlax, but if we get a Kangaskhan, she (all Kangaskhans are female) will ABSOLUTELY replace Snorlax as our Normal-type purely for the cool factor.

This is a TOUGH battle for Wartortle. We're sitting pretty at Level 29, and Rhydon and Onix aren't too strong, but Kangaskhan is a beast, and it's the closest we've come to having Wartortle faint on us since we started this adventure. A few heals are needed, but we tough it out and bring Kangaskhan down with a vicious Bite. Wartortle hasn't seen much gym action but they have been a real star for our team outside of those battles. There may be better Water-types out there, but Blastoise will be with us til the end!

With Giovanni beaten, we have the Silph Scope, and now we can return to Lavender Town to get the PokeFlute. But since we're in town and all, let's get another badge, shall we?

The Rainbow Badge

Alright, it's time to take out Erika and her posse. After swinging by the PokeCenter to heal up and swapping Kadabra into the lead spot, we head to the gym and find that we can't get in because there's another bush in the way. Why don't these gym leaders maintain their premises? Aren't they like the mayors of their town? Can't they afford a groundskeeper to ensure the gym is clean and accessible to all? ...What is the governing body of the Pokemon world anyway? These are all valid questions, but for now, I need to go back to the PokeCenter, store Wartortle, and get Vileplume back out to Cut open the way to the gym.

Now that we're FINALLY inside, it's a good thing we have Vileplume because this gym is just full of trees we would have to cut down. We drop the trainers surrounding Erika, and now it's time to take on the leader herself. Erika is very zen about starting a major battle, but when she opens with that Victreebel you know she means business. Unfortunately Kadabra gets hit with Sleep Powder IMMEDIATELY and we're stuck at Victreebel's mercy for a few turns, which is bad because they're also using Wrap on us, so even when we wake up, we can't attack. This is a bad spot to be in, so we'll switch Kadabra out for Pidgeotto to try to get the speed advantage. Fly serves us well and we're past her first Pokemon.

Next up is Tangela, and I have to say, this Pokemon is adorable. They're just a pair of eyes and shoes poking out of a blue bush. I love it, and they're shaped like a friend. Sadly, while I love Tangela, Pidgeotto HATES them, and proceeds to pluck this weed in 5 seconds flat. Last up is Vileplume and it's back to taking the fight seriously because we are once again put to sleep. We need one of these Pokemon up and fighting, so we have to choose: Kadabra or Pidgeotto? It's a tough call but ultimately Kadabra is the better choice because we can heal them while Pidgeotto takes the hits. Thanks to Pidgeotto's sacrifice (they don't faint, just take a bit of a beating), we get Kadabra back into the fight and Psybeam rips through Vileplume. Our fourth badge is secure, and that is a good place to pause our journey for today.

This Week's Decks

As we continue with our Red adventure, we'll keep updating Red and Blue's decks, as well as creating decks for the major battles we encounter. This week, we have 5 decks: Red, Blue, Surge, Erika, and Giovanni. These aren't competitive by any means, but they're a fun opportunity to build a deck with the original cards that reflects the adventure we're taking in the game!

Red: 60 cards

Pokemon: 23
3 Nidoran
3 Nidorino
1 Nidoking
3 Squirtle
2 Wartortle
3 Pidgey
2 Pidgeotto
1 Dratini
3 Abra
2 Kadabra

Trainers: 21
4 Professor Oak
4 Bill
4 Computer Search
3 Gust of Wind
2 Switch
2 Pokemon Trader
2 Energy Retrieval

Energy: 16
4 Rainbow Energy
1 Water Energy
4 Grass Energy
3 Psychic Energy
4 Double Colorless Energy

This deck's pretty different from the one we built last time! We've got a bigger spread of Pokémon on our team now, and that's reflected in our new build straddling four evolution lines, across three different types: Grass, Psychic and Water. Dratini is effectively our mascot right now (and an ADORABLE one at that, easily worth 56,000 PokeBucks), but Kadabra's a different story, packing the very solid Super Psy to deliver 50 damage for three energy. We can't cheat its cost with Double Colorless Energy - Kadabra demands a full three energy cards - but it doesn't rely on a coin flip like Nidorino and Nidoking.

We were pretty OP back in Part 1, but in Part 2 we ran into a few struggles and the decklist reflects that: Energy Removal's gone and we're running one less Gust of Wind. That's because we need more Trainer cards to help the deck stay consistent: Pokemon Trader helps get us to the Pokémon we need, and Energy Retrieval recovers the right energy at the right time when we have to discard it with Professor Oak or Computer Search.

The energy line here is a bit tougher to manage with three different types of evolved Pokémon instead of just two. Wartortle only needs one Water Energy, while Kadabra and Nidorino both rely on two of their respective Basic Energy for their best attacks, so we're skewed toward Grass Energy and Psychic Energy.

To make it all work, we're pushing ahead a little further on our Pokémon journey! Last time around we stuck to cards from Base Set, Jungle, and Fossil, but this time we're borrowing a card from the original Team Rocket expansion to hold everything together: Rainbow Energy. For the low low cost of 10 damage, Rainbow Energy can fill the role of any one Basic Energy, making our life a lot easier. Double Colorless Energy is back at four too, helping power along Nidorino, Nidoking, Wartortle, and Pidgeotto.

Blue: 60 Cards

Pokemon: 26
4 Rattata
3 Raticate
4 Pidgey
3 Pidgeotto
4 Bulbasaur
3 Ivysaur
3 Abra
2 Kadabraa

Trainers: 16
4 Professor Oak
4 Bill
4 Computer Search
2 Switch
2 Pokemon Trader

Energy: 18
4 Double Colorless Energy
7 Psychic Energy
7 Grass Energy

Blue's deck continues to echo ours, but he's made some improvements! Last week his only evolution was Pidgeotto, but this time around he's got Ivysaur, Kadabra, and Raticate in the mix. Ivysaur's Vine Whip is solid at 30 damage if you're paying for it with Double Colorless Energy, though Poison Powder is still really expensive at three Grass Energy. Kadabra fares better with Super Psy at 50 damage. Raticate is a bigger upgrade than it might look like, since it builds off the deck's backbone of colorless energy; its first attack is pretty great economy at 20 damage for any one energy, while Super Fang can bring bigger Pokémon down to literally Bite-sized range.

We're not giving blue that Team Rocket tech - no Rainbow Energy - so his Pokémon and energy counts are pretty high. That leaves him with less room for trainer cards, but like us, he's relying on Pokémon Trader to help keep his strategy together. Switch is back to give him a little maneuverability, and the core draw and search cards are omnipresent to keep the deck reliable. That energy count could go a little lower to accommodate a few more trainers, but he'll figure it out in time. Overall, Blue's a much bigger threat now than he was a week ago.

Erika's Deck

Pokemon: 22
4 Bellsprout
3 Victreebel
4 Oddish
3 Vileplume
4 Tangela
4 Exeggcute

Trainers: 22
4 Professor Oak
4 Bill
4 Computer Search
3 Pokémon Breeder
2 Item Finder
2 Gust of Wind
2 Switch
1 Super Potion

Energy: 16
16 Grass Energy

Erika's lineup is based around two Stage 2 Pokemon, Victreebel and Vileplume. The basics in those evolution lines are pretty alright: Bellsprout's Call For Family attack helps set up another line toward a Victreebel in case your opponent takes down your first copy, and while Oddish's similar Sprout attack probably won't see play for two Grass Energy, it's a tanky little fella at 50 HP. Neither is bad. Going up the chain, Weepinbell's really solid with 70 HP and a 30 damage attack for two energy, but Gloom is pretty bad at 60 HP with weak attacks.

The good news? Erika's an experienced Gym Leader who knows how to grow and tend to her Pokémon. We can safely assume she'd take the most direct path to wherever she wants to go, so we're going to skip Weepinbell and Gloom entirely in favor of the trainer card Pokémon Breeder! With three copies, you'll have a decent chance of drawing into it along with the right Stage 2 Pokemon - and you've got Computer Search to fill the gaps and Item Finder to bring back cards as needed.

Once you start to unleash your evolved Pokémon, this deck really takes off! Vileplume can heal your Pokémon a bit, but it's really a one-plant wrecking crew thanks to Petal Dance - with the right coin flips it can deal up to 120 damage. Victreebel's a little less powerful but much more strategic: its Lure attack is dirt cheap at one energy, and it mimics the Gust of Wind trainer card, bringing out your opponent's weakest Pokémon so you can beat them up for prizes. Its second attack isn't bad either, locking a Pokémon in place so it can't retreat.

Victreebel and Vileplume work together nicely, and since this is a pure Grass deck there's no trouble finding the right energy to keep them in the fight. Eight basic Pokémon wouldn't make for a working deck, so we're filling in with other Pokemon from Erika's gym: Tangela and Exeggcute. If you want to break canon a bit and supe her up even more, you could replace them with Scyther; its free retreat cost and 70 HP lets it tank a bunch of damage while you get your heavy hitters ready.

Lt. Surge's Deck: 60 Cards

Pokemon: 19
4 Pikachu
3 Raichu
4 Voltorb
4 Magnemite
4 Electabuzz

Trainers: 24
4 Professor Oak
4 Bill
4 Computer Search
3 Gust of Wind
3 Switch
3 Scoop Up
3 PlusPower

Energy: 17
15 Lightning Energy
2 Double Colorless Energy

Lt. Surge is...uhhh...well, he's not very good. Like we mentioned before, the character makes zero sense when you chart his past on a timeline, but to make matters worse, he just doesn't have a ton of Pokemon to work with. We're going with Base Set Raichu instead of Fossil Raichu, because the Agility attack on the base version is an interesting little dode effect that can leverage Double Colorless Energy; the Fossil versions has slightly higher HP, but it needs a whopping four Lightning Energy to attack and for that massive cost, Gigashock is really underpowered.

From there we're going to fill in Lt. Surge's lineup with Pokemon from his gym. Now, make no mistake - Voltorb and Magnemite aren't great. Magnemite's Thunder Wave can Paralyze on a coin flip and it's probably the highlight here, but honestly, Surge's lineup was so weak we decided to bend the rules a bit and give him a leg up with a powerful Pokémon that's at least on-theme: Electabuzz!

That's right, we pulled in the mighty destroyer of worlds, Base Set Electabuzz. This card was one of the pillars of the first dominant strategy in the Pokémon TCG back in 1999, which revolved around Basic Pokémon with high HP and cheap, efficient attacks to constantly pressure your opponent. Together with Base Set Hitmonchan and Jungle Scyther, Electabuzz was central to the deck known as "Haymaker", which would play as few as 10 Pokémon and 30+ trainer cards for maximum aggression and control.

For one Lightning Energy, Electabuzz can Thundershock for 10 damage and Paralyze on a coin flip. For one Lightning and a Colorless, it can Thunderpunch for 30 damage and 10 more if it wins that flip. It's fast, it's easy, and we're going to let this so-called war veteran have four copies as a thank you for his service (as impossible as that service may have been, given his age and how calendars work). Switch, Scoop Up and PlusPower help make the most of Electabuzz, saving it when it's in danger or just getting Voltorb out of the Active position when it's clogging the field.

Giovanni's Deck: 60 Cards

Pokemon: 19
4 Nidoran
3 Nidorino
4 Onix
4 Rhyhorn
4 Kangaskhan

Trainers: 24
4 Professor Oak
4 Bill
4 Computer Search
4 Gust of Wind
4 Switch
2 Scoop Up
2 Energy Removal

Energy: 17
4 Double Colorless Energy
6 Fighting Energy
7 Grass Energy

Look, Giovanni was no pushover in our playthrough this week, and his deck comes together to reflect that. Nidorino is an effective pick in Red's deck powered by Double Colorless Energy, and it's great here too, but it's just the beginning: Giovanni's a DCE master, using it to fuel impressive attacks with Rhyhorn and Kangaskhan. It's sort of like a charactery version of that Haymaker deck we were talking about. Giovanni's build uses lots of Basic 'mons that offer good ratios of damage to energy, and can sop up lots of damage with their high HP. Switch and Scoop Up help prevent your opponent from snagging prizes, Gust of Wind keeps the hits cooking, and we even gave Giovanni a couple Energy Removals to make him tougher. This might be a character deck, but as character decks go it's all killer and no filler. Giovanni's not here to make you hot cocoa and talk about your feelings, he's here to score his six prizes and leave you in the dust.