The year is 1998, and I am not very good at video games. I have just entered Rock Tunnel in Pokemon Red, with a Charmeleon named Fzzzzz and a few under-leveled monsters. I named him “Fzzzzz” because nine-year-old Daniel was apparently overwhelmed by the “Want to give a nickname to Charmander?” screen, and reacted with pure, frustrated chaos.
For those that don’t remember, Rock Tunnel is the mountain pass between Cerulean City and Lavender Town that you need the HM that teaches Flash for. Well, you technically don’t need it, but you should probably acquire it if you’re like most humans and have an aversion to blindly stumbling around in the dark for hours. I have that HM, and I have taught Flash to Drowzee. But he is Level 10, and useless. So it’s just me and Charmeleon, fighting back against that good night.
About halfway through, Charmeleon gets poisoned. I have made this journey without Antidotes, and the Generation 1 Pokemon games are unforgiving. As I walk, the screen blips, counting down the time it will take for me to be carried back to the Pokemon Center at the entrance to the cave. Every match becomes a race to finish in as few moves as possible. And Charmeleon knew these four moves:
- Cut, which is pretty average all around, unless you’re facing a Rock Pokemon, of which there are an unlimited number in Rock Tunnel.
- Ember, which works well against Grass and Bug Pokemon, and not so well against, again, Rock Pokemon.
- Rage, which I still didn’t quite know how to use.
- Slash, which is pretty effective, but was only learned near the end of the Tunnel. Before that, Charmeleon knew Scratch, which is a lot like Slash except it sucks in every situation.
I do have a few Potions, but they are only slowing down the inevitable. With every Potion, Fzzzzz’s health goes up one space, and with every fight and step, it goes back two. I don’t know where the exit is, or how long it will take. So I just blunder through, catching the sight of every trainer in the hills. Sure, there probably weren’t that many, but to nine-year-old Daniel, there were millions, hiding in wait to take me down.
Blip. Blip. Blip.
And then finally, there was light. I made it out of the cave and onto the path north of Lavender Town. There, I hit more trainers, more people eager to see me teleported back to start. But Charmeleon perseveres. Blip. Blip. Blip. The poison eats away at Fzzzzz.
The Lavender Town Pokemon Center is in sight.
I enter the door.
I make it to the counter.
And Fzzzzz survives.