Category Archives: 2021 Posts

Pokemon Ruby – The Challenge Begins!

Welcome to yet another amazing Pokémon Adventure! I know we haven’t finished playing Pokémon Black yet, but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. You’ll see why in a second. Anyway, today we’re going to start our playthrough of Pokémon Ruby from the 3rd generation of Pokémon games. In retrospect I wish I had played Pokémon Emerald, since that’s basically the definitive version of the 3rd Gen games, but at the time of this writing I have about 15 hours of gameplay video already, and I’m not really willing to start over. I know what you’re thinking. “15 hours isn’t a long time.” Well, when you’re playing a challenge game, it can feel like an eternity.

That’s right, this is going to be a challenge playthrough. The Pokémon games are simply too easy if you play them normally, so there are a wide variety of rules you can impose on yourself to make the game more challenging. Some would even argue more fun. The most famous of these challenge rules being the Nuzlocke Challenge, where you have limited Pokémon, and you can never allow them to be knocked out. HA! Child’s play. No! What we’re going to do makes even the Nuzlocke Challenge look like a walk in the part. In fact, it may not even be possible to beat the game with the rules I am putting on myself. At least not without breeding a perfect IV Pokémon and EV Training them to absolute perfection. Neither of which I have the knowledge to do. So, what could this impossible challenge be?

Magikarp only! You heard that right. I plan to use ONLY Magikarp to beat the game. For those of you who may not know, Magikarp is useless. I don’t even mean they are weak Pokémon. There are lots of weak Pokémon that can be good if trained right. No. I mean they are quite literally useless. Until level 15, they don’t even have an attack. They can only use Splash, which does literally nothing. At level 15 they learn Tackle, one of the weakest, most basic attacks in the game. At level 30, they learn Flail, which has variable damage, but is in general not much better than Tackle. And that’s it. They don’t naturally learn any other attacks. They can’t even be taught other attacks through HMs and TMs. They will never, under normal circumstances, learn any attacks other than Splash, Tackle, and Flail.

So, let me make the rules clear for this challenge. I have found a rom editor that will replace the starter Pokémon with a Magikarp. Since Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire introduced Double Battles, I plan to catch and train a second Magikarp when the option becomes available. Other than those 2 Magikarps, no other Pokémon will be used in battle. I obviously need other Pokémon to learn HM moves to make progress in the game. That’s just unavoidable. But those other Pokémon will not be allowed to actually participate in battle. If, for some reason, they do come out in battle, it will only be to give me time to revive and heal the 2 Magikarps. They will not, for any reason, be allowed to attack. Other than that, it will be a normal playthrough. I’m not using a randomizer or anything like that.

So, there we have it. This playthrough is going to be just straight hell. It may even be impossible. But let’s see how far we can get under these insane rules.

Table of Contents

 

Gameplay

Our adventure begins with a quick introduction by Professor Birch. He shows us a Pokémon as an example, in this case an Azurill, and explains the basics about how people and Pokémon live together. He goes on to explain that, even though people and Pokémon have coexisted for a long time, there is still a lot that we don’t understand about them.

Now that we know about the Pokémon world, it’s time to learn about our player character. I don’t usually name my character anything special, but I happen to be re-watching “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy” right now. And since I’ll be the all-powerful master of life and death, forced to care for 2 tiny annoying creatures that make my life a living hell, I thought it would be fun to use that as my theme for naming this game. So, we will be playing as Grim, the new Pokémon Trainer who just recently moved to Littleroot Town.

Our first look of Grim is of him riding in the back of a moving truck with all the boxes. Not sure why we weren’t allowed to sit in the cab, but that’s going to be the least of our hardships going forward. At least we get our own room, or rather our own floor, of the new house. All our stuff is already up in our room, which makes me question what all those boxes in the truck were. But rather than worrying about that, we’ll simply gather our stuff up off the desk and head over to the lab to meet Professor Birch.

Before we manage to leave the house, our Mom calls us over to the TV to see our, surprisingly alive AND part of our lives, Dad. Apparently, he recently became the Gym leader of the Petalburg Gym, which is why we moved out here in the first place. Unfortunately, it looks like we missed seeing him on TV just now. Not that it mattered, we were heading next door to meet with Professor Birch right now anyway.

As would be expected, the Birch family was already looking forward to meeting us. Professor Birch isn’t home at the moment, but his wife suggests we introduce ourselves to their daughter while we’re here. With that invitation, we head upstairs, alone, to barge into the young girl’s bedroom, unexpected, and unannounced.

Rather than screaming at the sight of some stranger suddenly in her room, she’s actually happy to see us, or so she says. She introduces herself as May, and claims she already heard about us from her father. May claims she was hoping we would become friends. However, she’s acting very nervous talking to us right now and I’m not sure why. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact we are just standing here in silence staring at her after forcing our way into her room.

Suddenly she remembers she was supposed to be helping her dad with research and runs out of the room. Leaving us standing there alone to do whatever we want in her bedroom.

We quickly follow her out of the house, but she’s nowhere to be found. Luckily, there’s only one entrance into town, so she must have headed north. Sure enough, a child at the edge of town says he hears someone shouting down the road. Looks like she managed to get herself in trouble already. Side note, where does this child live? There are only 3 building in town, My house, The Birch Family house, and Professor Birch’s Lab. Is this child homeless?

No time to worry about homeless children right now, we need to go see what’s going on up ahead. To our surprise, instead of May, we find some older man being attacked by a Poochyena. It has him cornered as he shouts for help. Upon seeing us, he tells us to look through his bag for a Poké Ball.

Normally, this is where you would get to choose between Treecko, Torchic, or Mudkip as your starter Pokémon. However, we don’t get that choice. Instead, we get Magikarp. What are we getting ourselves into…?

With this terrible decision, we send Magikarp into its first battle. Unfortunately, Magikarp is useless at the moment. It knows only a single move, Splash, which does literally nothing. There is honestly nothing we can do in this battle other than wait for death.

Thankfully, this particular Poochyena got bored of the fight just short of killing our Magikarp and left on its own. So, we somehow manage to survive the encounter and “save” this man from being killed.

Turns out, this is actually Professor Birch, so it’s a good thing we saved him. Birch wants to talk to us some more, but considering what just happened, we probably shouldn’t stay here much longer. Instead, we take this conversation back to the safety of his Lab.

As a thank you for saving his life, we get to keep the Pokémon we used earlier to save him. So, this Magikarp is now ours. Since it’s a girl Magikarp, we will be naming her Mandy.

After this, Professor Birch tells us that his daughter May is out on Route 103. Since she is also trying to become a Pokémon Trainer, it wouldn’t hurt to have her teach us a few things to get us started.

With that, we head north out of town and quickly make it to neighboring Oldale Town. Here, we find the Pokémon Center, which we will probably be visiting quite frequently, as well as the Poké Mart, where we buy as many potions as we can afford right now.

Before we leave town, I also want to bring attention to this person at the west exit. They are blocking our path and preventing us from leaving town that way. Apparently, they have discovered a rare Pokémon footprint in the mud across the exit and wish to make a sketch of it before it disappears. We’ll talk to him again later and see how that sketch comes out.

Anyway, from experience, I’m guessing we’ll end up having to battle May when we find her. So, before that happens, let’s try to train up Mandy a little. This is when the reality of this challenge really set in. In order for Mandy to get stronger, she needs to defeat opponents. But she can’t defeat any opponents because she doesn’t have any damage dealing attacks. The only option is to use up ALL 40 uses (PP) of Splash, at which point Mandy will use Struggle. This is a default move all Pokémon can use if they completely run out of their other moves. But to use all 40 PP of Splash, she needs to stay alive for at least 40 turns in battle. We also can’t heal at the Pokémon Center between battles because that will also restore the PP of Splash. To make matters worse, we only have 12 potions, and no way of getting more right now. We’re going to have to plan it out carefully, or this game will be over before it even begins.

After running from a few battles, we finally find a Level 2 Wurmple. These will probably be the weakest Pokémon we can encounter in this area. On top of having a very weak attack, they also use String Shot quite frequently, which slows Mandy down, but does no actual damage. After a lengthy battle, Mandy finally uses up all 40 PP of Splash. Unfortunately, it also took 4 potions to accomplish this. If we continue the battle, we can probably defeat this Wurmple, but Struggle has recoil damage, and no matter what we’d end up having to use a 5th potion after this battle. Taking that into consideration, we flee instead.

Our only hope of keeping this adventure going is if we make progress. So rather than wasting our few potions training, we head straight for May on Route 103. As expected, she immediately challenges us to a battle. Fingers crossed we can make it through this.

Thanks to our previous prep work, Mandy is able to use Struggle right from the beginning of the battle. It does very little damage, but it’s enough to make winning at least a possibility. After a few close calls, and a couple potions, we actually manage to defeat May’s Torchic. OUR FIRST VICTORY!

Following the battle, May compliments our abilities as a trainer. Of course we’re great, we just won a battle with a Level 5 Magikarp. Anyway, her Pokémon is dead now, so for her own safety she needs to head back to the Lab and report her findings.

We follow May back to the Lab since we really have no other options right now. When we arrive, Professor Birch compliments us for beating May on our first try. He mentions that she has been a trainer for a long time and is very knowledgeable. I find that hard to believe since she only had a level 5 Torchic, but whatever. Seeing as we are an amazing trainer, Professor Birch decides to give us the Pokédex he ordered to help his research. Any time we encounter a Pokémon, the Pokédex will automatically record information on it.

Now that we have the Pokédex, we might as well help fill it up by catching as many Pokémon as possible. With that in mind, May gives us a handful of Poké Balls to get us started, and sends us on our way.

Upon leaving the lab, we quickly find our mom waiting outside the house to catch us. She’s very happy to see that Professor Birch has given us a Pokémon of our own. She even gives us some Running Shoes to help us on our adventure. Because in this universe, the act of running is physically impossible if you don’t have the right shoes.

With that, we head back to Oldale Town and discover that the person blocking the west exit is done sketching the rare Pokémon footprint. We also quickly discover that this person is a complete moron. Not only was it NOT a rare Pokémon footprint, but it was literally his own footprints. How do you mistake your own footprints for that of a rare Pokémon?!

Whatever, at least we’re able to leave town now and head out to Route 102. Unfortunately, we still only have a weak Magikarp, no money, and few resources. We’re also quickly confronted with this unavoidable trainer battle we must win in order to move forward.

Thankfully, we haven’t healed since our battle with May, so Mandy can still use Struggle right away. Also, this trainer only has a single Level 5 Zigzagoon, so it isn’t a very difficult battle. Mandy even gained enough experience to Level Up and get a little stronger.

We sneak around a few other trainers in the area and head straight towards the most important thing we need for this game to become possible, an Oran Berry bush.

Berries in Pokémon games technically started in Generation 2. However, Ruby and Sapphire really overhauled the mechanic into what it is today. Throughout the region, we will find various plots of dirt where we can plant and grow berries that have various different effects. For right now, we are going to be focused on the Oran Berry, which restores 10 HP when consumed. Basically, we can grow an infinite number of weak potions to keep us going.

After we plant our only two Oran Berries we continue west, still avoiding the other trainers along the way. We quickly make it to Petalburg City and head to the Petalburg Gym. Obviously, we’re not challenging the gym yet, we’re just checking in with our dad. He’s a bit surprised to see that we managed to make the trip on our own, and honestly, that makes two of us.

We don’t get to talk much before we’re interrupted by a young boy named Wally. Apparently, he is going to be moving soon and thought maybe he wouldn’t be as lonely in his new home if he had a Pokémon to keep him company. I guess in this region handing out Pokémon is something the local Gym Leader would normally do. Unfortunately, our dad doesn’t have a spare Pokémon to give to Wally, so he instructs us to help Wally catch one for himself.

Our dad loans Wally his Zigzagoon and a Poké Ball, and together we head out to route 102 in search of a Pokémon. We quickly encounter a Ralts, which is surprising considering how rare they are, and Wally manages to catch it after a short battle.

Ralts in hand, we head back to the gym to report how things went. Wally thanks both of us for our help, and then rushes out the door since his mom has been waiting for him this whole time.

Now that that interruption is behind us, we can get back to the conversation we were trying to have. So, our dad is happy to see that we are going to become a Pokémon Trainer, and suggests we head to the next town to battle the Gym Leader there. Obviously, he is a Gym Leader too, but he doesn’t think it would be right to challenge us now. He’ll wait until we have a few badges already so it would be a fair fight.

After quickly checking out Petalburg and just as quickly deciding there isn’t anything to see here, we continue west to Route 104. Once again, we avoid all the trainers and make our way to the northern section where there is another patch of dirt with some berries growing.

If we keep heading north from here, we can go into Petalburg Woods. But at the moment, we really need to train Mandy until she can, at the very least, actually attack. So instead, we’re going to head all the way back to Route 102 and start fighting some random weak Pokémon.

Now we come to the main roadblock of this early stage of the game. After just a few battles, we do manage to gain a level, but we also burn through our entire stock of potions. Until those berries grow, we must stop playing for right now.

“How long could that take?” you might ask. Well, Oran Berries grow to fruit in 12 real world hours. Each plant will grow 2 Oran Berries, and I currently have access to 5 plots of dirt. Since I have to replant one of the Oran berries to grow a new plant, and each berry only heals 10 HP, that means every 12 hours Mandy can take 50 HP of damage before we need to stop training. Before anyone says it, yes, I’m playing on an emulator, so I COULD just advance the time. But I’m not going to do that. I’m really going to play for just a few minutes each day, training as much as I can with just the 5 Oran berries I can grow each day, just like I would have to on the real cartridge.

So, for the next couple days, I guess this is going to be my life. Pick a few berries, fight a few fights, then wait to do it all over again. Check back for more updates to see how long it takes for me to completely lose my sanity.

I hope you enjoyed Pokemon Ruby (GBA). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Dr. Mario (NES)

Cover Taken From TheCoverProject.net

Prediction

Ok, let’s get this out of the way right now. 2020 was a messed-up year and everyone knows it. I was lucky enough not to lose my job during the pandemic, and more importantly, never got sick. However, my work schedule has changed a bit, and I just haven’t figured out where this site really works into my typical day. I never forgot about it though, and I want to make an effort to get back into writing these articles. So, with that in mind, I thought a quick 30-Minute Review would get the creative juices flowing and remind how to put these things together.

Considering what’s going on, I thought it would only be appropriate to play Dr. Mario for the NES. I’m sure most people will be at least familiar with the name, even if they may have never actually played it themselves. It’s the game where everyone’s favorite plumber steals a lab coat and tries to pass himself off as a doctor. Of course, he is not qualified to be a doctor, and his solution to everything is to just pump the patient full of pills until either they’re cured or die of an overdose. So, let’s jump in and see if we can help Mario delay his inevitable jail time for impersonating a doctor.

Gameplay

Before we begin, we’re given a small number of options to enhance the experience. We can choose which level of the game we start on, the speed of the gameplay, and the music that plays. But really, who’s touching any of that. Maybe on later playthroughs we might start on a later level since we’ve already beaten the early ones. Not that we’d ever be good enough to beat the later levels. So let’s just accept the default settings, throw on that lab coat, and start throwing pills at patients.

Even if you’ve never played Dr Mario before, it should be quickly apparent what type of game it is. It’s basically a variant of Tetris. Unlike Tetris, however, the screen comes pre-populated with a handful of viruses which make up the main puzzle of the game. Our job is to move and rotate the multi-colored pills Mario throws until we can stack up a 4-section long chain of matching pills and viruses, at which point they all disappear. So really, it’s closer to Puyo Puyo than it is to Tetris. Now that I think about it, when did Puyo Puyo first come out? One second while I look that up… Google is telling me Puyo Puyo came out roughly 15 months after Dr Mario. So, I take that back. In reality, Puyo Puyo is like Dr. Mario.

Getting back on topic. Unlike Tetris, which is played until failure, each stage of Dr Mario has a clear end goal of removing all the viruses present on the screen. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter if there are extra pill pieces left on screen to accomplish this, just get rid of the viruses to win. After this, we move onto the next stage, which comes pre-populated with even more viruses, and we start the process all over again.

Obviously, as the number of viruses in each level increases, the levels become much more difficult. However, nothing can make the game more challenging than simply being stupid and dropping pills in just horrible positions. Honestly, current me wants to invent a time machine just so I can go back in time and strangle past me for whatever the heck this mess is that past me has created. Thankfully, Dr Mario has a very useful mechanic that makes it possible to get out of even this mess. That would be the fact that the pill pieces are affected by gravity. Once the viruses and whole pills holding the stacks up disappear, all the remaining pill pieces fall to the bottom rather than floating there like they typically would in Tetris.

To my surprise, after stage 5 there was actually a little scene where the viruses are sitting out on top of a tree just looking at clouds. Then for some reason a book flies through the air, flapping its covers like wings. NES cutscenes were weird.

Sadly, that will be the only cutscene we’ll be seeing today. By some miracle, we managed to make it all the way to level 9. But the power of my stupidity and frantic flailing eventually overcame any hope of completing the level as the pills eventually stacked up to the top of the screen. Mario better start running before the police show up.

Verdict

Price – $8.99

Even though a lot of retro games have skyrocketed in price over the last year, Dr. Mario stayed fairly stable. It was never a particularly rare or valuable game, so it’s to be expected.

Play Again? – Occasionally

Dr. Mario is easily one of those games you can enjoy coming back to on occasion and playing a game or two to unwind.

Total Deaths – 1 Dead Patient

I managed to keep the patient alive through 9 rounds, which for me ended up taking 40 minutes through a combination of stalling and bad problem solving. But one dead patient is still one too many when you’re pretending to be a doctor.

Fun Rating – 7 / 10

Tetris is fun, always has been. Likewise, most of the Tetris variants are fun. That’s why they’re still being made. Dr Mario even has a mobile game now that has pretty good reviews. So obviously, this was a fun, well received game that holds up to the test of time. It falls into a lot of the same pitfalls that old arcade style games fall into. Namely that it’s generally repetitive and becomes boring rather quickly. But it manages to be a game that you would be happy to come back to for the occasional challenge. Final thoughts, it’s cheap, it’s easy to find, and it’s a classic of the system. If you don’t already own a copy, pick it up now. It belongs in everyone’s NES library, even if it only gets played on rare occasion.

Don’t worry Mario. I’m sure Princess Peach can pull some strings so you avoid jail time.

I hope you enjoyed this 30 Minute Review of Dr. Mario (NES). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling really generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

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