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The Pokémon Gyms. There seems to be one in every major town you visit. Instead of exercise, yoga classes, and expensive energy drinks, you can find Trainers willing to fight you at a cursory glance. In essence, it's just like any other outside route—but all the Trainers think it's a good idea to have one type of Pokemon you can easily mow down. Sometimes there is even a puzzle thrown in for good measure. In the end, you get a little badge, a TM, and an excuse to over-level your best mon.
After stuffing ourselves over the holidays, Rodan and I, Layell, realized that we ought to make good on our New Year's resolution to lose more weight. Sadly, all of the Gyms in Kanto no longer wanted us around after what we did last time. That, and they also were talking about "watering down the difficulty for Gen 2" or something similar. So we decided to tour the Johto region in our great tale of weight loss. Our only rule is we will only be discussing the Gyms as they appear in the second generation: no remakes today.
Our first stop in my great hope to fulfill my New Year's resolution is at Violet City. Falkner seemed like a legit fighter with the samurai outfit he wears around, so surely he could whip me into my desired weight!
Gym Puzzle: Your only real weight loss option is to walk around a winding path back and forth —this is supposed to be the puzzle for this Gym. But this is the first one in Johto, and the first ones are always simple little Gyms. This lack of puzzles will surely not continue, right?
Difficulty: If you bothered to find a Geodude—or if you picked a starter not named Chikorita—you are set for this emo haired fly-boy. I'll be honest here: if you picked that little leaf, you're really only setting yourself up for failure that will last the rest of the game. Get used to it.
Spoils of War: You get Mud-Slap, a Ground-type attack, from the Flying Gym Leader. There are no words.
Coolness: The outfit and the emo hair are quite cool, as well as Falkner's uncanny ability to have a Pidgeotto 9 levels before it's humanly possible. The problem is he explicitly tells you his Pokemon are actually his dad's, and they aren't even that good to begin with.
Overall: Falkner may not have shown you the magnificence of bird Pokémon, but at least he showed that taking your father's Pokémon and pretending to be a Gym Leader doesn't actually make you one.
So, a Bug Gym—that sounds wacky, right? I mean what are they going to have, Caterpie? Psh. If you are like me or strive to be like me, you probably thought, "Hey, this Gym will be easy!" To this, I answer: only slightly. Situated in a lush green environment surrounded by Slowpoke without tails and an old man all too intent on handling your balls, this seems like the perfect backdrop for a nice, peaceful battle, doesn't it?
Gym Puzzle: What puzzle?
Difficulty: This Gym is a mixed bag. First of all, you have the fact that Bugsy him(?)self not only uses a Metapod, but also a Kakuna. You may think to yourself, "Is this really it?" But then you see his final Ball. It shakes in her(?) belt only to unleash a rather large mantis. This is where the Gym suddenly has an increase in difficulty. Unless you have a Geodude, of course. 3 Fury Cutters later and he becomes unstoppable, so either kill him early or get wiped.
7/10, or 2/10 if you have Geodude
Spoils of War: Fury Cutter is pretty terrible apart from killing you. Only use it if you have a Scyther or Pinsir and need some STAB. This move kinda sounds like some early 2000s emo pop band. Can I get sued for comparing them to AFI? Because that's how I imagine this band would sound like.
Coolness: Well, to start, he(?) wears short shorts. That's not a good sign. Second of all, he(?) has a purple bob cut. Also not a good sign. And finally, she(?) has a butterfly net which she(?) probably carries around everywhere. Maybe it's a fetish, but it is not a good sign.
I have no idea what I just rated/10
Overall: This is the strangest Gym. Imagine Chris Crocker and a bunch of cocoons; that is what this is.
I was really excited to hear that Goldenrod City had a normal gym. I was elated at the mere thought. Maybe they'd have treadmills, membership programs, jazzercise classes! The sky was the limit for me. Sadly, this is actually a Normal-type Gym, and I had to deal with more measly Pokémon battles.
Gym Puzzle: It's hard to tell from looking at a Game Boy screen the size of a Post-It note, but the Gym is shaped like a Clefairy. That is the puzzle to this Gym, if by puzzle you were asking, "Why is this Gym's shape so awful?"
Difficulty: With the Gym shaped like a Clefairy, it stands to reason that the pink moon blob is the greatest fear for any Trainer in this flower laden arena. You are wrong. You are dead wrong. This Gym should be shaped like a Miltank tea bagging your KOed starter as its milk floods over the floor from all four of its udders. You keep trying to face that dastardly cow in combat again and again, but it's too much; it's unstoppable. If you have any male Pokémon, you're going to get Attract stalled, and your starter is almost always male. You have no decent Fighting moves, and it just sponges anything special you throw at it. It's impossible to PP stall that Rollout because it just keeps getting stronger and stronger. Nothing in the nearby Routes is nearly the same level as this and you can't afford the Daycare after so many losses to Whitney, Whitney, Whitney. The city Pokémon Center knows you by your first name, and you have had to Walk of Shame there so many times that your footsteps have imprinted into the city concrete. Truly, there is no hope, and every day is the same: more battles, more losses. You hope for a crit, for a miss, for an act of mercy.
Soon you just spend your days in the Game Corner, wallowing in your own pathetic sense of self. One night, after a particularly pathetic attempt at PP stalling, Whitney manages to crit your last mon to death. Walking back to the Pokémon Center in the dead of the night, you lie on top of the railroad hoping for a train to come and ease your burden. It does not come; it never comes at all. But it is only once you have hit rock bottom that you realize from there you can only go up. You get the demonic cow into the yellow one day, then with more training you get it into the red. You know you're close and victory is within your grasp. Walking through the maze of flower pots once again, you know today is the day. You KO the Clefairy with one move, and face down your fear. You hit, hit, use a Potion, crap almost there, and with a critical hit, push the dreaded Miltank into the McDonald's factory to be your next Big Mac. Hindi everywhere gasp. But you don't care anymore. You won and it only took you every recess in Grade Three to do it.
Spoils of War: Attract isn't useful, and if you ever try to teach it to something you'll probably need to use it when the opponent is the same gender that you are. Go for a Thunder Wave or Hypnosis for your status. To really rub salt in the wound, the move here isn't even Rollout. Sure, it may not be a Normal move, but I wouldn't complain if I got it. You also can use the HM Strength outside the battle, Strength being an innate skill you needed to beat this leader.
Coolness: After finally trouncing Whitney by whatever act of God (just not a Hindu god, because cows), Whitney starts to cry, and you have to walk away and walk back just to get the Badge you rightfully earned from her. I guess when you never lose you normally don't have to worry about being sad about losing.
Overall: This town deserves to be taken over by Team Rocket for having this farm girl as the Gym Leader. If only Miltank was actually good once you get it too.
What is an Ecruteak? Just a stain of culture on the t-shirt of life? Is it a tree? All the other towns are plants, so this is a plant too, right? Whatever. This city is basically the spiritual center of the Pokémon universe. It is where all the legendaries come to have a huge orgy on the top of some shining beacon of a tower (I hear Ho-Oh is quite flaming). There is a tower that must have been built during the 70s, because it is blazed. There's also a dance studio/"massage" parlor. What Gym could POSSIBLY be in this town? Spooky ghosties.
Gym Puzzle: This is the only actually difficult puzzle in the entire game. But only if you are a) blind, b) stupid, or c) both. After you get about 1/3 of the way through the pattern becomes ridiculously clear. The only real difficulty in this puzzle is having to look at the Channeler's sprite.
Difficulty: Evil. If you thought Whitney's Miltank was tough, wait until you see this asshole's Gengar. The only real way to beat this thing is to get something paralyzed/burned/poisoned before the match even starts. If you don't, you will fall victim to Hypnosis/Dream Eater. This single strategy probably got everyone who played GSC thinking "Hey, this is a cool combo! I will try using it on Netbattle/Shoddy Battle/Pokémon Online/Pokémon Showdown." Fuck Gengar though.
Spoils of War: This is the ultimate case of Game Freak trolling its young fanbase. "HEY SHADOW BALL IS REALLY COOL I CAN USE IT AS STAB ON MY GASTLY." They soon come to the realization, "Wait—I am doing absolutely no damage!" And then it hits you—Ghost-type attacks are physical gen 2, and all Ghost-type Pokémon are specially oriented. Sucks, don't it?
Coolness: He is a hippie.
Overall: Spooky, scary. These are words that do not describe this Gym. Sorry, Game Freak, you failed at theming.
A little island away from the busy world, it's just perfect for training. Chuck is even a Fighting Gym Leader, so I'll be sure to get buff while I'm here. He's so intimidating, the Gym Guide stays at the Pokémon Center out of humility, so you know he is the real deal.
Gym Puzzle: I would forgive a Fighting Gym for not having a puzzle and having just battles under normal circumstances. However, the lack of real puzzles so far doesn't make this a break from using the brain meats rather than the muscle meats; it's just more of the same. Fight, fight, push rocks, fight, fight.
Difficulty: It's hard to respect any Gym Leader who only has two Pokémon at this point in the game. The Surf HM is all at fault for this, since it opens up all of Johto. Chuck does enjoy Hypnosis with his Poliwrath, and will then try to Mind Reader and DynamicPunch you to death. It's a better strategy than Morty's Gengar in that Chuck can't be stalled.
Spoils of War: DynamicPunch has 50% accuracy and 5 PP. It will never hit and you will quickly replace it with some other move.
Coolness: He's a fighting champion, and even his sign outside says "His Roaring Fists Do the Talking". He shows his strength and, sure, it has nothing to do with his Pokémon, but it proves he is tough stuff.
Overall: We came for the medicine and stayed for the Gym. While off from the mainland, it's a great break for a bit of fun; just make sure you take it easy when you're Surfing back, since you don't want to Chuck!
I don't like these port towns; they're the most bland cities, because water seems to be the only feature. At least this one is more fleshed out than the one with that silly veteran. A giant lighthouse is erected in the southeast. What could possibly go wrong?
Gym Puzzle: This is the most pathetic puzzle I have ever seen. It is the Robin of Gyms. The Zoidberg. The pookar. At least Falkner's was a longer walk.
Difficulty: I just noticed looking back on this game how difficult most of these Gyms actually were. Magnemite is quite strong to begin with if you do not have a Ground-type Pokémon. Honestly, you should have a Geodude by now because he is broken in this game, but I digress. This Gym is tough without him. Steelix has Sunny Day as if to say "Hey, Water Pokémon—I despise you and all that you stand for." He is kind of a dick. Don't use Steelix, folks; you will encourage his habits.
Spoils of War: IRON TA—oops i missed the caps lock button due to how low the accuracy of this move is.
IO(damn i missed again)/10
Coolness: She wears a sundress; that is like the antithesis of cool. She also complains about her Pokémon dying too much. She would not be a pleasing fuck.
Overall: This woman made me cross deadly seas to get some crappy medicine. I didn't see her using Steelix and Sunny Day for me to ensure a safe trip on the way there. Apparently she really likes her Steelix.
After clearing Team Rocket out of their little shenanigans, you have to wonder who is the leader of this place and how could they have been so daft as to ignore the complete takeover of their small little town? Of course it's the senile old guy; that is completely fair. Pryce of Ice-type fame ought to have a skating rink in his Gym, and as two Canadians, Rodan and I felt we were quite up for the challenge.
Gym Puzzle: I never liked ice sliding puzzles, and in Gyms there is an easy but obnoxious way to figure out if you are going the right way. If you fight somebody, then you are going in the right direction. If you do not fight somebody you're probably not going the right way. The sad part, however, is that this is the biggest Gym puzzle in Johto.
Difficulty: Here is the problem with Pryce and most of the Johto region, in that the level balance is completely and utterly out of whack. Jasmine's weakest Pokémon is level 30 and highest is 35, and she has three Pokémon. Pryce has three as well, but his weakest is 27 and his highest is 31. If at any point you needed to raise the level of a Pokémon falling behind, now would be the best time to do so.
Spoils of War: Icy Wind is what you receive upon thrashing this old geezer, and if most of the Trainers in Johto were of some high level and constantly outspeeding you then you might want to use it. However, after you get access to Surf, all level growth in the Trainers grinds to a complete halt.
Coolness: That look Pryce gives you in his sprite is just oozing of egotistical seniority. He knows you're some snot-nosed kid, and if leveling in Johto made any sense he would have schooled you while you were still wearing diapers. Plus, he is wearing shorts and a t-shirt in his ice-rink of a Gym. That takes some serious balls; it's beyond cold—it's frigid.
ice ice baby/10
Overall: I leave one ice puzzle arena to find myself in one giant cave of ice puzzles to bang my head over; what an ice coincidence! Pryce ought to freeze to death.
A city in the mountains. Pleasing and full of dragons. Now that all the stalling with Team Rocket is over with, it's time to meet the constantly in trouble little Lance. There is also finally enough sense to have a move deleter in Blackthorn so you can get rid of that Cut on your main battlers at last.
Gym Puzzle: How do you fit lava inside a Gym? This defies even the imagination. My theory is Game Freak was really stressed out over how to make a Gym that fits a dragon-theme. Their first idea must have been "HEY, LAVA". This isn't the best idea, as it would not work out in the real world and only serves as a disconnect between us and the game. It's cool though.
Difficulty: When I was a young lad, I faced Clair. I only defeated her for the first time about four years ago. I honestly had no idea how to beat Kingdra—it came across as having no weakness. And when you finally got it to low HP, BAM HYPER POTION, then the next turn BAM HYPER BEAM. I cried.
Spoils of War: DragonBreath is cool. Too bad nothing learns it.
Coolness: A dominatrix Dragon tamer. This is one of Game Freak's most amazing cases of designs matching the character. Except, after you beat her, she goes off crying like a baby (Whitney's sister?). This drags her coolness down by 6 points. That's how strong of a disconnect this stupid moment is.
Overall: I cannot believe they failed with a Dragon Gym this much. The Gym's still cool, though.
Let's not mince words here: Johto is the worst of all the regions and each Gym is in a competition with the others to make a blander Gym. The biggest crime here is that these games managed to also destroy all of the Kanto Gyms as well. It's no wonder this small unremarkable region resulted in about 200 episodes of anime filler. Until next time, keep collecting those Badges!
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