Dave McGuckin

Team Rocket’s Blasting Off Again! – Irish Dave’s Story

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Last time we saw our hero, he had just navigated the Rock Tunnel in the dark and made it to Lavender Town; a small town full of big problems, especially in the Pokémon Tower…

It’s a new day (yes, it is) in Lavender Town; where Dave and his stable have just awoken. Near the Pokémon Centre looms the Pokémon Tower; a creepy mass burial site for dead Pokémon which is just weird and makes me uncomfortable; especially after some quick Google searches about Lavender Town (mainly looking for the Dead Raticate article) revealed the ridiculous story of Lavender Town Syndrome, which is as stupid and incomprehensible as it is creepy and unsettling. Anyway, let’s not get bogged down on that now; there’s work to do.

Visits to the houses reveal that Mr. Fuji, a kindly old man who cares for lost or needy Pokémon, has disappeared and may be trapped in the Pokémon Tower. Now, I know I can’t complete the Pokémon Tower to my personal satisfaction right now. I can do the fight with Byron, sure, but I can’t fight wild ghost Pokémon without getting the Silph Scope first. So:

Good.
Good.

Hey, look, it’s Celadon City! We all know what’s going on here. Illegal gambling operations, the grass-type gym, a dude who blocked off every entrance to his house with fencing and a small lake, and Kanto’s Biggest Pokémon Store! There’s also that weird mansion which hosts the game creators, who appear to have built the game world from within the game world. I can’t get on board with that. And, in fact, I ignore it completely; because I literally only care about the back door to that building, and the prize which awaits on the roof.

The Pokéball, not the burly dude.
The Pokéball, not the burly dude.

Another day, another theft in broad daylight, another step closer to joining Team Rocket (and probably enacting a coup d’etat, at this stage). I have abandoned part of my initial game plan and gone for an Eevee – partially because it gives Matt Holmes some more options for his ludicrous run, and partially… well, I’ll explain the rest later. The next stop is straight round to the Pokémart to make TWO very important things happen:

Drink it in, maaaaaaaaaaan
Drink it in, maaaaaaaaaaan

That’s right: the Greatest Of All Time has evolved into Raichu, and now I can finally reveal why he’s called Jericho – because Jericho shouts “RAICHU!” when he throws chops.

So, that’s the Thunderstone. But I still have an Eevee to level and I have two obvious choices; for my team continues to be devoid of a Fire type and a Water type Pokémon. The smart move strategically is to try and ensure I have one of each; there are enough Pokémon in the Elite Four and Final Rival battles that are weak to both types that having them is a sensible choice. But as my party stands, I could potentially be sacrificing Ghost, Psychic and Fighting types if I carry on this path. In fact, there is an argument that catching a Pikachu simply because I wanted to make the Raichu joke was reckless and foolhardy. But to be honest, anyone who makes that argument can SHUT UP, because I’m willing to stick to my guns. ANYWAY

STRAIGHT FYAAAAA
STRAIGHT FYAAAAA
All Pokémon Red Everything!
All Pokémon Red Everything!

That’s right. Eevee evolves into Flareon; the most stylish, elegant, bewitching, eternally beguiling, continuously charismatic and fantastically fascinating Pokémon to appear in this or any other game. Allow yourself to be seduced, enchanted, dazzled and entranced by Evee Marie!

With the stable up to 5 Pokémon, it’s time to investigate the rest of this town; namely the illegal gambling/Pokémon smuggling operation being run by those dastardly Team Rocket goons. Though, I imagine the ordinary folk in Celadon City don’t know anything about the operation, or else they would’ve stopped it already; right?

Oh, really? You know about the secret basement?
Oh, really? You know about the secret basement?
You don't even work for Team Rocket, how do you know this?!
You don’t even work for Team Rocket, how do you know this?!

Seems like a good time to investigate the Game Corner itself. Of course, there won’t be any obvious clues as to where the secret switch that definitely isn’t behind the poster on the back wall actually is, will there?

But why? There isn't a switch behind it, right?
But why? There isn’t a switch behind it, right?

As with everything in this world, we have a Pokémon battle – and as with nearly every other Pokémon battle, I win decisively.

Wait, what hideout? Is there a... basement?
Wait, what hideout? Is there a… basement?

Now, let’s just remember something vital here. The members of Team Rocket are all identifiable as adults. Like, at their youngest, they’re 18. The closest in character style to them in the game are the Junior Trainers (who I’m starting to think may be like a Team Rocket version of the Hitler Youth, to be honest). So this guy here, a fully-paid up member of Team Rocket, who is guarding the switch that leads to the secret entrance of the goddamn Pokémon Mafia, is an adult goddamn human male who has just been ousted by a 10 year old – A CHILD – in a fight using domesticated magic animals. D’you know what his next step should be here? He should hit me in the head with a goddamn wrench. What does he actually do?

He literally walks away.
He literally walks away.

Good. Fine. I guess I’ll just come in, then, shall I? Not gonna lie, a lot of the screenshots I remember to take over the next 30 minutes or so of game time are just this:

Not with the whip, though. Could just hit me with that.
Not with the whip, though. Could just hit me with that.

There are a few things during my incomprehensible raid of Team Rocket’s underground lair that were worth noting, though. For a start, the launch pads that Rocket apparently stole from a mid-90’s Sonic The Hedgehog level caused me more problems than I’m willing to fully admit. In terms of battles though, Evee Marie takes the lead and, as the most underdeveloped member of the party, does run into trouble once or twice.

Yes. Yes I do.
Yes. Yes I will.

A healthy supply of Super Potions and Ethers keeps us underground for the whole run, and I take great enjoyment from the bafflingly stupid discourse from the Team Rocket goons along the way.

wp_ss_20160902_0004
Yes. You guys really suck.
I wouldn't call it breaking in, I used the door.
I wouldn’t call it breaking in, I used the door.
Someone will probably tell me how to find him soon enough.
Someone will probably tell me how to find him soon enough.
See? Idiots.
See? Idiots.

After not torturing any of them at all and getting all the information I need, I eventually get a hold of the lift key and head to the bottom floor, ready to face Giovanni for the first time. He is a sensible man, and has hidden himself behind a large door – but it’s easier to get through than Surge’s because I just have to defeat two of his idiots. This is my first encounter with an Arbok in this game though, and I had forgotten how incredible the character design is for it:

That is genuinely intimidating
That is genuinely intimidating

It also turns out that being an utter failure can see you being promoted in Pokémon as well as in real life.

Well, you got ONE of the fossils... didn't you?
Well, you got ONE of the fossils… didn’t you?

Losing to a child in a mountain gets you the job of security for the boss it seems. Also, that SuperNerd by the fossils – he was working for Team Rocket, right? Or was he literally just a scientist who manages to escape with a fossil because you’ve stopped Team Rocket catching him? I can’t remember what he says when you beat him and I didn’t screencap it…

Anyway, I finally get into Giovanni’s… office, I guess? And it’s amazing how he isn’t immediately outraged that there’s a random child in the secret lair of his illegal Pokémon smuggling/gambling operation.

Giovanni.
Giovanni.
Hey, Giovanni.
Hey, Giovanni.
HEY GIOVANNI!
HEY GIOVANNI!

Eventually he realises I’m in the room with him and… we have a Pokémon battle. Seriously, these are the worst gangsters in the history of video games. Well, that is, until I realise that his Pokémon collection is a menagerie of TERRIFYING BEASTS!

ARGH!
ARGH!
OH GOD
OH GOD

Seriously, the character designs in this game are outstanding. 20 years old, this is. Well done, Nintendo. Anyway, after beating Giovanni he does a weird speech about how impressed he is with the love and care you show towards your Pokémon, which I was too stunned by to screencap. Like, seriously; you’re THE MAFIA. This is a weird outlook for you to have, Giovanni.

You're a weird dude.
You’re a weird dude.

And then he just VANISHES. He doesn’t even have any Psychic Pokémon who can learn Teleport. So Weird. Anyway, with the Silph Scope in my cavernous backpack, at least I’m done with Team Rocket for now, so off I go to-

ARE YOU KIDDING ME
ARE YOU KIDDING ME. I JUST BEAT YOUR BOSS.
That is a genuinely unusual outcome; well, except here
That is a genuinely unusual outcome; well, except here

With Team Rocket DEALT WITH, Christ, I head out. I still have the gym to look forward to but there’s something else I want to take care of before I head in there. I hop on my bike and quickly head out West, to a little house tucked away behind Route 16, where I meet a young girl, who makes some remarks which could be taken the wrong way if presented out of context…

Like this.
Like this.

The outcome? I’m now in possession of Fly, which leaves Koko’s move-set looking like THIS:

He knows Razor Wind too, FYI.
He knows Razor Wind too, FYI.

So it’s straight back to Celadon City, and into Erika’s Gym, trying not to be grossed out by the old pervert staring through the window on the way in. There’s a LOT of other trainers in here – but I guess that’s what happens when you create a gym environment which doubles up as a safe space for women to train, develop and grow; while simultaneously using the landscape of your video game to try and promote positive gender attitudes, right society?

Ruined it.
Ruined it.
OH COME ON
OH COME ON

The grass-based fights are no problem for Evee Marie, who’s levelled up enough to learn Ember through a combination of the Rocket grind and a couple of Rare Candies (which I don’t need to save for a horrendous grind later, like Charles did, because Evee Marie can learn Strength); and any time she’s in trouble I switch out to Koko or Booker D; whose Fly/Dig combinations make short work of the others.

Wheeeeeeee!
Wheeeeeeee!

FYI, this gym does counter the hatred I have for the “Beauty” by being home to my favourite trainer type in the game:

Like the Sasha Banks of trainers
Like the Sasha Banks of Pokémon trainers

Sadly, I forget that beating a gym leader means you can’t face any of the other trainers in the gym and make the mistake of skipping forward to Erika – but only because I want to beat her before I head out to heal up. She’s a very exciting young woman.

Erm, yes?
Erm, yes?

Vileplume looks stupid. Just putting it out there. Most of the other character designs are at least interestings… Vileplume is just a pod with huge leaves. Dumb. I take much joy in smashing it to pieces, along with her other Pokémon.

Yaaaaaaas
Rainbows aren’t made of grass, Erika.
Gawker's shut down, I wouldn't worry anymore.
Gawker’s been shut down, I wouldn’t worry anymore.

Ignoring the wider constructs surrounding notions of news media, free speech and invasion of privacy, I leave the Celadon Gym to continue on my journey. Koko flies out to Lavender Town and it’s straight into the Pokémon Tower to find Mr. Fuji.

*sigh*
*sigh*

While I’d been off dealing with Team Rocket, I’d forgotten that I was going to run into Byron here. I can’t be bothered with him. It’s getting late in the real world, but I want to scale Pokémon Tower before I stop for the night so I can put it behind me on the next playthrough. But… there’s no way around him. Cocks.

SHUT UP, BYRON
SHUT UP, BYRON

This is the most difficult Rival battle yet, but it’s definitely made easier by the fact I went to Celadon City first. He’s picked up an Eggsecute since I last saw him, which gets promptly scrambled by Evee Marie.

This was a badly timed screenshot.
This was a badly timed screenshot.

His Kadabra has learned enough attacks to make it a genuine threat, and I end up bringing Booker D in to take it out; his Pidgeotto falls victim to a one-shot Thunderbolt from Jericho and his Charmeleon is dealt with in short order too; but I’m careful not to get too cocky at this stage, even though he’s still being a dick about things.

What do you not get about this?
What do you not get about this?

Isn’t it interesting how you always seem to find Byron hanging out in places where Team Rocket are up to something? And that he never seems to do anything about stopping them (since we know that simply beating them in a Pokémon battle will drive them away)? Hmmm…

Anyway, into the Tower. I remember hating this in the past but it isn’t too bad this time round. I do hate the Channelers, though.

Praying on grieving Pokémon trainers?
Praying on grieving Pokémon trainers?

They seem like a classic example of Phony Mediums Conning Vulnerable People, and I for one am glad that they’ve all been possessed by Ghastly’s and forced to do… oh, actually, I probably could’ve done without having a thousand trainer battles in here so I’ll maybe take back the last bit.

You're telling me, look at poor Bulbtista!
You’re telling me, look at poor Bulbtista!

This section also allows me to meet one of my favourite Pokémon of all time, and I am sad that I can’t have one on this play-through.

Aaaah, Haunter... oh, Booker D, this is a terrible idea.
Aaaah, Haunter… oh, Booker D, this is a terrible idea!

That Haunter nearly totals the entire stable because it just kept using Confuse Ray like a jerkface, so we duck out to the Pokémon Centre and grind our way back up – to find that we were literally moments away from this thing:

Goddamnit.
Goddamnit.

There’s only two more Channelers to go and they’re my favourites.

WE'RE NOT SAYING THE Z WORD!
WE’RE NOT SAYING THE Z WORD!
Your guess really is as good as mine on this one.
Your guess really is as good as mine on this one.

And, finally, we find the supposed cause of all this trouble.

You aren't even a ghost!
You aren’t even a ghost!

We take the bonehead down (and I realise I haven’t encountered any wild Cubones in here, which is weird) and are about to head upstairs…

Wait... what?
Wait… what?

I don’t want to have another existential crisis here, and I know that canonically that Marowak was dead – but that Marowak wasn’t dead. There are only 3 ghost Pokémon and Marowak isn’t one of them. I KILLED A MAROWAK.

OH COME ON
OH COME ON

Quelle surprise, upstairs are a bunch of Team Rocket goons, who appear to have Mr. Fuji trapped in a small corridor, for some inexplicable reason. Actually, I’m genuinely not sure what they’re doing here at all, and we don’t appear to actually find out.

FYI; Golbat is genuinely terrifying.

WHAT ARE YOU
WHAT ARE YOU

The Team Rocket battles are fought and won in typical style:

Yep.
Yep.
Sure.
Whatever.
Whatever.
I am literally getting away with it at every turn.

Finally, after a long day, 2 encounters with Team Rocket, one gym battle, 2 Pokémon evolutions and more ghosts than the entire run of Scooby Doo, I make it to Mr. Fuji ready to take him and his racist salt* back down to his home, safe and sound.

Well, yes. Because you were a hostage...?
Well, yes. Because you were a hostage…?

It turns out Mr. Fuji wasn’t being held captive by Team Rocket at all; certainly not to his knowledge. So, seriously, what were they even doing there in the first place? This whole Lavender Town segment is just weird. Either way, we down to the house and he passes on the Pokéflute, so now I can wake up those damned Snorlax blocking all the roads. As I’m about to save, I realise I still have a Rare Candy on me, so I decide to just give it Bulbtista for kicks.

Good choice.
Good choice.

And that’s where we finish today; ready to head on to the next adventure. But where to next? There’s still an empty space in that stable…

Making good time now...
Making good time now…

 

*Mr. Fuji’s racist salt is a reference to a segment on The Edge And Christian Show That Totally Reeks Of Awesomeness (or TEACSTTROA for short) on the WWE Network (available now for just £/$9.99), in which they discuss the fact that former WWE manager, Mr. Fuji, used to throw salt in peoples’ eyes, and that was super racist. This was in the 80’s and 90’s when people didn’t know any better though.

Of course, it’s difficult to do a wrestling-themed run through and not mention the passing of Mr. Fuji this week; especially as his in-game equivalent is intricately involved in a story around that very theme. So, I’ll finish off with this.Mr Fuji

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