My Top 10 In-Game Pokemon Moments

We are now mere hours away from the long-awaited (there’s an understatement) first ever 3D entries in the main Pokemon video game series, Pokemon X and Pokemon Y. To celebrate and, quite honestly, to kill some time while enduring the wait, I decided to have a look back at some of my favourite memories the series has given me in-game. I use the term “in-game” to mean anything taking place during the game’s story (that is, anything before and possibly immediately after the Elite Four), as opposed to, say, any awesome competitive battles I have had the pleasure of participating in using EV trained, IV bred fighting machines.

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10. Patrat, the Purpose-Built Annoyer – Pokemon White

Nearly every Pokemon release has been an inherently multiplayer experience for me, because in my book that’s the way it was designed to be played. There is a tradition among my close friends and family who play Pokemon that whenever a new game comes out, we try to get together and play the first few hours alongside one another, battling after the first gym and sometimes after the second as well. As a result I try to catch and train Pokemon that my fellow players aren’t likely to pay attention to, just to make the battles more interesting. Never has this been more true than at the start of the fifth generation of Pokemon, when I caught a super-common Patrat and trained it to the mid-teens solely because its movepool seemed deliberately stacked with the most annoying moves possible. Detect, Sand-Attack, Bite, Hypnosis… I mean, really, how could I not? In our first battle Patrat was my highest-level Pokemon and I used its full irritating potential against my brother, only to dump it in a box forever afterwards. If not for that tradition, I wouldn’t have looked twice at the caffeinated chipmunk for my in-game team.
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9. Tynamo the Terrifying – Pokemon White

In layman’s terms, Tynamo sucks. It lacks any especially high stats, which is fair enough for the first part of a three-stage evolution line, but it only ever learns four moves, which makes it very, very difficult to train by regular means if you choose to use one in the main story of the fifth generation Pokemon games. However, one of these moves, the Electric-type Charge Beam (which is weak but carries a 70% chance to raise the user’s Special Attack after each use) came in handy against the Flying-type sixth Gym Leader of Pokemon White, Skyla. After I had disposed of her opening Pokemon with some other Pokemon I cannot remember and been KO’d shortly thereafter, I decided to switch in the laughably weak, under-leveled Tynamo against her intimidating but wounded Unfezant just for a laugh.

I started to fire off Charge Beams while it sat there using Leer time after time for some unknown reason. Before I could finish the bird off Skyla used a Hyper Potion on it, but by then Tynamo’s Special Attack was high enough to take it out in three or four hits. The Unfezant used Leer once more and then decided to start attacking… with Razor Wind, a move that requires one full turn of charging first. That gave me just enough time to knock it out and grab a GIGANTIC bag of EXP. Skyla then switched in her Swanna, a Pokemon that is 4x weak to Electric moves, and proceeded to use the harmless Aqua Ring. My pathetic little fish destroyed the swan Pokemon in one glorious blast of electricity, granting me even more EXP and making me shake my head at the state of the game’s AI. It was my greatest ever Pokemon Gym fluke.
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8. Kangaskhan Carnage – Pokemon Soul Silver

I’ve always been a huge fan of the early stages of Pokemon games, as this list probably shows quite empahatically. The first two gyms or so of any given game are consistently the source of great memories for me and as such, the concept of replaying these early steps in different ways has always fascinated me. So I was genuinely excited about the release of the Pokewalker accessory alongside Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver, which allowed you to convert real-life steps into points that could be used to find and catch such otherwise unattainable Pokemon as Nidoran and Kangaskhan. Yes, that’s right, Kangaskhan, the Pokemon you previously needed to hike through the infuriating Safari Zone for in order to use it during the in-game story. But no more. Best believe I made sure to get one early and use it to crush plenty of opposition along the game’s nostalgic road.
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7. A Challenge? – Pokemon White 2

D’awww look how cute the puppy is OH WAIT WHAT HOW IS IT DOING THAT WHY SO MUCH DAMAGE OH MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP… Yes, my choice to start Pokemon White 2 on Challenge Mode resulted in more difficulty than I could have hoped for, especially early on. To make sure I could experience the much harder difficulty I went to some lengths, actually paying a friend of mine to complete a copy of Black 2 inside 48 hours so I could transfer that game’s “Challenge Key” to my new game and play through the story with better AI and higher trainer levels. Gym Leaders in particular received a noticeable boost from this, each adding an extra Pokemon and a more ruthless streak to their strategies. My brother was bested four times by the ridiculously strong Lillipup from the game’s first gym, for example, and I had to endure repeated failures against the third. And what a refreshing experience that was.
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6. Solaceon Sanctuary – Pokemon Diamond

For some reason that I just cannot pinpoint, Solaceon Town is my favourite location in Pokemon videogame history. The time between when I first arrived at this rural-themed oasis and when I decided to move on to the next story beat lasted literally hours. Sure, the Pokemon Daycare was housed there and that was certainly a factor, plus the Solaceon Ruins were a nice distraction, but there was just something about the town’s music, its atmosphere, even its one-dimensional inhabitants that kept me training my Pokemon in the grass right above and below it. I evolved a Buneary via happiness accidentally there, I found a Lucky Egg on a wild Chansey nearby, I found the place to be a great digging location to access the Underground; the list of memories attached to Solaceon goes on and on.

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5. Rosie the Really Happy Flower Thing – Pokemon Diamond


It’s probably fair to say that of all the Pokemon games, Pokemon Diamond was the one I anticipated the most. I would watch the same Japanese gameplay videos over and over again, poring over the leaked sprite lists and speculating on forums into the early hours of the night on several occasions. So when I finally got my hands on the game and started playing it alongside my three siblings back in mid-2007, I saw nothing particularly extreme about making sure that I caught a Budew and then evolved it into a Roselia before beating the first gym so I could use it in our first battle and surprise everyone.

The thing is that Budew evolves by happiness, an unseen stat usually boosted quickly by things such as grooming minigames, special items and/or spending a lot of money. Without access to any of that before the first gym, I had to resort to running around one of the game’s cities for hours and then leveling the Budew up during daylight once I guessed I had raised the invisible value up high enough. Every 255 steps one happiness point is awarded and I needed hundreds of these points before I could be sure it would evolve. So I spent most of that first night of gameplay just running. And running. The next morning my Budew, Rosie, did evolve, I got the desired reaction in my first battle with my siblings and Rosie went on to become my main Pokemon throughout that game’s story mode. I think I still have her, as a Roserade, in one of my fifth generation boxes. Still, looking back, what I did seemed a bit excessive.
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4. Ninja Bug Mystery – Pokemon Ruby

This, for me, is the perfect example of why it pays to go into a new Pokemon game with a little mystery, which I am trying to do with and Y. To date, Pokemon Ruby was the last time I went in to a new Pokemon release not knowing what every new Pokemon looked like and how to get it. Because Ruby and Sapphire were pseudo-reboots of the series focusing primarily on using brand-new Pokemon to fill the local Pokedex, this meant I was in for some awesome surprises. Chief among them was Nincada, which I caught in an early route at Level 7. I distinctly remember thinking the Bug/Ground type creature looked amazing and I spent a hell of a long time imagining what it could evolve into, because it took aaaaages to level up and had only very weak moves to fight opponents with. Needless to say my hard work paid off when it hit Level 20 and evolved into one of the coolest looking Pokemon I had ever seen. And then, of course, I got the shock of my Pokemon-playing life when an entirely new Pokemon appeared in my party alongside it. Oh, those days…
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3. Prime Quality Honey – Pokemon Diamond

I was so damn hyped about Pokemon Diamond before it came that I had my in-game team planned out months in advance (see #5 on this list). That hypothetical team did not allow for the possibility of finding super-rare Pokemon, so when I came across a female Combee (which required me to slather some honey on a special tree and come back to it several real world hours later, then contending with a less than 10% probability of encountering one) I was both surprised and over the moon. The reason? Only female Combees can evolve into the mysterious Vespiquen, the Pokemon that still holds the record for the most exclusive moves in the entire National Pokedex.

I hadn’t researched much about Vespiquen due to its rarity, so when it learned the enigmatic Power Gem (a move that still has some degree of prestige attached to it due to its relatively low distribution) as soon as it evolved, I was genuinely surprised. None of my siblings or Pokemon-playing friends had enjoyed the good fortune of finding a Vespiquen, so it was a special part of my team from the get-go. I am fairly certain my brother hates the thing, as in many of our battles I would boost its defenses with Defend Order and then heal any damage off with Heal Order, making it nearly impossible to kill without a critical hit. It’s pretty safe to say the regal bee instantly became one of my favourite Pokemon of all time and remains so today.
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2. My Friend the Black and White Quilava – Pokemon Silver

Shortly before the much-hyped release of Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Silver, the unthinkable happened to me – my Game Boy Color was stolen. This brought my primary school world crashing down around me as I had nothing on which to play the game. I bought Silver anyway, clinging to the hope that it might somehow work on the Game Boy adapter for Pokemon Stadium, but alas, no dice. It wasn’t until a friend offered to lend me his Game Boy Pocket for a few hours that I finally got to begin my adventure. That meant playing the game in black and white, which was a new experience for me because I had skipped the original Game Boy entirely, but I did not care one single bit.

I started that game up, picked the fire starter for the first and only time ever, and played for hours alongside my friend up until just before my Quilava evolved into Typhlosion. That included fighting Whitney and her awful, awful Miltank. It was a little while before I was able to play the game again, but when I eventually got my hands on another Game Boy Color (does anyone remember that limited edition “Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie” GBC? Yeah, that’s the one I got) I was almost disappointed by Quilava’s colour scheme. To this day Quilava remains my favourite middle stage starter design and it achieves that on its sketch art alone – no colour necessary.
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1. The Greatest Grind – Pokemon Yellow

My experience with the humble Pidgey evolution line within Pokemon Yellow, the first videogame I ever owned, is the kind of thing that I just know will not ever be repeated in my gaming life ever again. It was based on pure childish naivete and bred the kind of wondrous attachment that can only happen in childhood, when there aren’t any worries greater than what is right in front of you. Like many pre-teen players of Yellow, I had to find out the hard way that Pikachu just wasn’t a good match-up against Brock, the first Gym Leader of the game, and his part Ground-type Pokemon Geodude and Onix. Try as I might I could not get Thundershock to affect either of them and the game offered no way for me to “aim for the horn” as the Pokemon anime had once taught me. I lost badly on my first attempt.

And so, following the example of Ash (in hindsight a terrible example to follow – has that guy ever won any legitimate badges?) I turned to a freshly-caught Pidgey of mine. Completely unaware that to the left of Viridian City lay as many Mankeys as I could have asked for, each packing their own anti-Brock Fighting type moves, and completely unaware of Nidoran’s similar abilities, I set about making that Pidgey a Pidgeotto. All I used to achieve this task was the patch of grass right below Pewter City, where the highest wild Pokemon encounter level was 5. I had tunnel vision. I had no idea what level was required to get that blasted Pidgey to evolve; all I knew was that I had to keep going until it did.

I don’t know how many hours passed as I continued to gain EXP scraps that became more and more pitiful as I went on, but I have no doubt that my unprecedented dedication was enough of a horrifying sight to my parents to lead them to instigate game time restrictions on me and my siblings a couple of weeks down the track. In any case, before long I was one-shotting every poor wild critter with Quick Attack and had no need for Pokemon Centre visits except when the move’s PP ran out. Eventually, after God knows how long, I reached Level 18 and that amazing evolution screen greeted me with open arms.

I now had a Pidgeotto, just like Ash did in the anime, and I was ready to take on anything. I stormed back into the Pewter City Gym with my beastly ally in tow, ready to put Quick Attack to use for what felt like the thousandth time. As luck (or, more accurately, game design) would have it, neither Brock’s Geodude nor his Onix had any Rock type moves to use, so my stupidly over-leveled flying monster was able to chip away at their health with Quick Attacks while taking next to no damage from Tackles and Binds. The fight was long and tedious, but I had no doubt I was strong enough to win it and eventually, win I did. Needless to say the next several hours of gameplay were an absolute cakewalk after that.

My dear pixellated ally became a Pidgeot long before I got to Lieutenant Surge and I wiped the floor with his pitiful excuse for a team when I really, really shouldn’t have. That amazing bird stayed as my highest level right up until the Champion and it remains the stupefying embodiment of the principle of sheer determination overcoming blind ignorance. I look back at that moment in my gaming career and laugh, because never again in a game have I needed to grind quite as much as I did that September night back in 1999.

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Ugh, the wait is now agonizing. I need these new games! Bring on 8am AEST Oct 12th 2013!

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