What's the big deal?
So this pokemon thing is still ablaze all over the world. In fact, it has grown in popularity since the release of Diamond and Pearl for the Nintendo DS. Even now the new fifth generation, Pokemon White and Black, is getting closer to release in the US. But why? What's so cool about it, anyway?
First off, I would recommend that you play it yourself and find out, although it would be a good idea to start off with a more classic pokemon game before getting involved in some of the newer ones. That way you have less to worry about in the game and you can focus on learning the basics just like all pokemon fans do. The fact is, what makes pokemon so popular is not only the cute little pokemon themselves, but that it is one of the best strategy games on the market. The card game is a totally different story, as it involves much more luck and is strictly a casual kid's game. The pokemon games themselves, however, are a unique mix of RPG, strategy, and adventure elements. This is what makes them so addictive and fun to play, even if you don't like any of the pokemon!
Pokemon is often stereotyped as a stupid chicken-fighting game. It is much more than that. The fights level up your pokemon in the same way characters level up in RPG games, although you can gather items which help your pokemon in many different ways, such as potions to restore their HP and items that increase their stats. One of the main difficulties is catching the pokemon, which is a concept that the whole genre revolves around. Except for your very first pokemon, which is usually given to you in some way or another, you must catch any pokemon that you wish to use in battle. Once you catch it, you can give it a nickname or just leave it with its species name, and then it becomes part of your team and you can use it in battle with your other pokemon. You catch pokemon using an item called a pokeball, which stores the pokemon somehow, ready to fight whenever you need it. The other main difficulty in the game is obtaining all the gym badges, which is accomplished by fighting the gym leaders of each gym. In most pokemon games, there are 8 new gyms you must beat, and there is always a final league battle which has four "elite fighters" and one more final battle. Even after this, however, there is usually a lot more you can do in the game.
So before you go around dissing a game you've never even tried, at least learn more about it, and possibly give it a try, because even if you think it's the stupidest game you've ever heard of, you can't get around the fact that is is possibly the best strategy game of all time, if not the most popular. As far as I'm concerned, it is both.
Choosing a Pokemon Game
So, did my little intro spiel whet your appetite? Are you now itching to delve into one of the most popular strategy game series of all time? If so, excellent! I will be your guide on getting started, and the first thing you should decide is which game you want to try first. I would recommend any title for Gameboy or Gameboy color, which include:
Pokemon Red, Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Yellow (for Gameboy)
Pokemon Silver, Pokemon Gold, Pokemon Crystal (for Gameboy Color)
From now on, I'm going to abbreviate Gameboy as GB and Gameboy Color as GBC for brevity. Gameboy Advance will be GBA, and Nintendo DS will just be DS.
The six titles listed above are the first six pokemon games to ever come out. So far (excluding pokemon games on non-handheld consoles) all pokemon games have come out in cycles of three. That is, two very similar games, and a third that finishes off the cycle with a few extras or slightly different gameplay. Usually, you can only catch ALL of the available pokemon by trading between the first two games in the cycle. While the third may have a different set of pokemon, it is not necessary to collect all of the pokemon. If you have the third, you will usually need both of the two others to collect all the pokemon, so I would recommend getting one of the first two, and saving the third for later.
Kanto Region: Red, Blue, and Yellow (RBY) or FireRed and LeafGreen (FR/LG)
This series of games introduced pokemon to the world. This would be your best choice to try first, as there is the least amount of extras that you have to worry about. It's just good, old school pokemon gaming. Get Red or Blue version first, and then choose Yellow if you want later to change things up a bit. If you want better graphics and gameplay, go for FireRed or LeafGreen instead. These are remakes of the original Red and Blue versions, but there is no third game for those two games. They are just remakes, although islands have been added that increase replay value. There is also an item called "Teachy TV" that you receive from the coffee guy in the second town. It has very good lessons on basic strategy topics. Watching all of the lessons on the teachy tv would be an excellent way to learn the basics pretty fast.
Johto Region: Gold, Silver, and Crystal (GSC) or HeartGold and SoulSilver (HG/SS)
If you are good at catching on quicker, or would like more of a challenge to start things off, go with Gold or Silver version. Since they are for GBC, you will notice slightly better graphics, as well as the added feature of held items. This allows pokemon to be given items to hold, and if a pokemon is holding a certain item when it needs it, the item will be used in battle automatically, saving you a turn so that you don't have to use it yourself. You can also breed pokemon at a special daycare. Another added feature is the special device which acts as a phone, a radio, and a map. If you like more stuff to do and think about, try Gold or Silver. Update: These have now also been remade, as HeartGold and SoulSilver, similar to FireRed and LeafGreen. The remakes are highly recommended, but HeartGold and SoulSilver are for the DS.
Hoenn Region: Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald (RSE)
If you've tried pokemon games before, and are looking for something a bit more exciting, try Ruby or Sapphire. They are great additions to the classic games, and they add even more pokemon to catch. There is a lot more to do in these games, and in Emerald there is even a new Battle Frontier that adds a lot more challenging things to do. In this series, each pokemon has a unique ability, that has certain effects in battle. Also, there are new berry items that you can grow, and since the game has an internal time battery, it keeps track of when the berries become ripe. There is a completely new feature called Pokemon Contests, which are a lot of fun to participate in and add a lot of new ground to the game. In Emerald, there are also a few battle tents you can have special tournaments at. The graphics and music also get a huge upgrade from the previous series, mainly because they are for GBA.
Sinnoh Region: Diamond and Pearl (third game unreleased as of now)
This is another huge upgrade to the series, and while it adds the least number of new pokemon, there is a ton of other stuff that gets added. For the DS, they took advantage of 3D graphics, which makes the puzzles in the game a bit more fun and challenging. Contests have also changed slightly, but the overall feel of the game is still the classic pokemon battling that fans of the series love. The main difference is that, while having both games helps to catch them all, it is no longer necessary, although you will need the cartridges for LeafGreen, FireRed, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald to be able to catch every pokemon.
So, no matter what you choose, you will get to experience the essential pokemon strategy game that has become so popular in only a few years. Coming up are guides on almost every aspect of pokemon gaming, beginning with basic strategy to advanced strategy to contests.
Basic Strategies: Type Matchups and Pokemon Catching
Okay, starting here I will get into some basic details of how to win at pokemon battles, as well as tips on how to catch pokemon in the first place. These strategies will get you into battles and help you to know what you're doing. There is much more to learn than what is covered here, but to get started, you need to know about type matchups. It is an essential part of pokemon battling.
You can carry only six pokemon with you at any time, although you can store many more in the PC system. These six are your team, the main pokemon that travel with you and are always ready to dive into battle at your command. Choosing these six is one of the main challenging aspects of the game, and making a good team is part of the strategy that makes pokemon so fun. Each pokemon can learn up to four different moves, which can all be different types if you want. All pokemon learn new moves as they level up, and start off with a few weak moves when you first catch them. What you need to do as a trainer is choose good move sets for all of your pokemon. Read on to learn about type matchups and move sets.
First off is the battle types. Each pokemon and each move have a battle type, which determines what their base element is, and that element will be more effective against certain other elements (electric is good against water, etc.) You'll find that most of the time they make sense, so they are generally easy to memorize. However, what makes this difficult is that there are now 17 battle types (including Steel and Dark types, introduced in Gold, Silver, and Crystal). The battle chart, which you can find easily enough on any good pokemon website, is pretty much a minefield of different symbols. Without knowing what any of it means, you might be lost. So first, I'll give you an example of type matchups.
Let's say you have a level 10 rattata and your opponent pulls out a level 10 machop. Your opponent has an advantage. Why? Because machop knows the move karate chop, which is fighting-type. Your rattata is normal type, which is weak to fighting. Therefore, when machop attacks you with karate chop, his attack will do a lot more damage than your rattata's tackle. This gives him an advantage, and possibly the win, even though both pokemon are level 10. Let's shift pokemon and change this matchup to our favor. You open your pokemon list and send out a level 8 pidgey, who knows peck, a flying type move. Now you have the advantage, because flying is super-effective against fighting, just like fighting is super-effective against normal. An added bonus in this case is that fighting is not very effective against flying (which means it deals half damage to your pidgey). Now you should have no trouble winning, even with a pidgey two levels lower than the machop. Note that while a pokemon's level does determine its power to some degree, this is not the only factor, so with good strategy, even a level 6 pidgey could probably beat a level 12 machop. It would have a much better chance than a level 6 rattata, at any rate.
Again, most of the type matchups are pretty easy to remember. Grass absorbs water, water douses fire, fire burns grass, etc. Kind of like paper-rock-scissors on a much larger scale, eh? But just remember, most types that are super-effective take half damage from the types they are super effective against, so don't even bother trying to win the battle unless you know a good off-type move (more on this later). Just switch pokemon and change the type matchup to your advantage. Keep in mind that most of the NPC (non-player character) trainers you fight in pokemon all keep the same type of pokemon (and often more than one of each species). So battles shouldn't be too hard to win, as long as you have a pokemon with you that is super effective against the type you are battling. The best advice starting out is to keep a well-balanced team, unlike the NPC's you'll face. That is, have all six pokemon of different types, that way you can cover a broad range of types.
Another aspect of moves is their touch category. There are three categories: Status, Touch, and Ranged. Status attacks simply change stats around or do other effects, but don't actually deal damage, at least not directly. Touch attacks, such as Tackle, involve physical contact with the opponent's pokemon, allowing certain pokemon abilities to take effect. An example would be pikachu's static, which paralyzes on contact. Keep these in mind when using touch attacks. Ranged attacks attack with elemental powers or otherwise from a distance, and do not activate touch effects. Always use these moves when you can.
Finally, we will briefly talk about stats. Pokemon have six stats: HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed. These stats determine how powerful a pokemon is in battle, in many different ways. It is important to know what each stat is for so that you can make smart decisions about what moves to use that affect them. (An important thing to note is that in the very first set of games for GB (Red, Blue, and Yellow) there were only five stats because the two special stats, Special Attack and Special Defense, were combined into a single stat that functioned as both. All later games use the new standard which separates Special into Attack and Defense, which makes the game more balanced, as you'll see later).
First, an example. A level 12 Squirtle is up against a Geodude, also level 12. The Squirtle obviously has an advantage here...its bubble attack, being water type, does double damage against the rock-type Geodude. But Geodude has a trick up its sleeve...it uses defense curl and raises its defense stat! Oh, no! You're in trouble now, aren't you? If its defense stat goes up, it will be able to resist more of Squirtle's damage, reducing its super-effectiveness, right? The answer is no. The defense curl will be utterly useless against Squirtle's bubble attack. This is because of stat types. Each battle and pokemon type has a stat type, and knowing these is another important aspect of battling. For instance, normal, fighting, and ground types are all normal-stat types. Grass, water, and fire, however, are all special-stat types. Stat-type determines which stats are used when attacking and defending. Normal-stat types use Attack and Defense, while special-stat types use Special Attack and Special Defense. Therefore, even though Geodude ups his defense using defense curl, it doesn't make any difference because the defense stat only applies to normal-stat types. Since your Squirtle's bubble attack is water, a special-stat type, it will be affected by Geodude's special defense stat, which has not been raised.
So, battling is all well and good, but what about actually catching those little devils? After all, it's much harder to win a battle with only one pokemon rather than six...so you might want to learn a bit more about catching the pokemon. As of now, you shouldn't have too much trouble, so using strategy now will merely save you pokeballs and time. Later, however, especially when trying to catch legendaries, you'll use every ounce of strategy outlined below and still will probably waste 20-50 pokeballs to catch the legendary. But, after all, it's...a legendary!
To catch pokemon, they must be weakened. A pokemon that is at full HP, no status problem, and normal stats will be orders of magnitude harder to catch. What you need to do is combine the four elements that help pokemon be caught easier, which are:
1. Weaken it by lowering its HP. It should go without saying you don't want to faint it because if it is a legendary you will never be able to encounter it again. If you're playing anything beyond RBY, find a pokemon that can learn False Swipe, the best pokemon catching move ever made. It will never faint a pokemon (even if the pokemon has a sliver of HP left, it will still survive with at least 1 HP no matter what).
2. Lower its stats (moves like Screech or String Shot/Cotton Spore work great). It doesn't matter so much WHICH stats you lower, as long as you lower stats. Raising your own pokemon's stats might help you survive longer but it won't help your chances of catching the pokemon.
3. Give it a status problem. Even when sleeping (oddly enough) pokemon can escape pokeballs. Sleeping works the best of all the status problems; however, it's a bit harder to inflict, because the moves that do so directly often have low accuracies. The best sleep-inflicting moves are Sing and Hypnosis. Yawn has 100 percent accuracy, but you must wait two turns for it to take effect, and it's only available after GSC. Sleep moves also prevent a pokemon from healing itself while sleeping, unlike paralysis or other stat problems. Second best to sleep would probably be paralysis or frozen solid. NEVER confuse a legendary because it might kill itself. Confusion is great in battles but against wanted pokemon it's a big no-no.
4. Use good pokeball types. The best kinds are Ultra Balls, Timer Balls, Quick Balls, and Dusk Balls, not necessarily in that order. The latter two are only available in Diamond/Pearl. Ultra Balls are good any time, and have the highest raw percentage of catching any pokemon. Timer Balls have a percentage that rises as the battle goes on, so begin using Ultra Balls and transition to Timer Balls after about 20 turns or so. Quick Balls work best right at the start of battle, so if you have access to all four, use Quick Balls, then Ultra Balls, and then alternate between Timer and Dusk balls. (Dusk balls work better in caves or at night; otherwise, don't use them).
The most important and best way to catch pokemon is to have a special pokemon that is only used to catch another pokemon. This might be a grass or poison type, because they learn the most stat problem inflicting moves, and a lot of grass type pokemon can also learn false swipe. Just for your information, Smeargle is the best pokemon to use for this purpose, as it can learn ANY MOVE. Getting it the moves you want is a bit difficult, but it pays off seriously in the end. I had a Smeargle on crystal version that knew False Swipe, Hypnosis, Hyper Beam, and Mean Look. (Mean Look prevents the wild pokemon from escaping, since some legendaries like the rare dogs on GSC run from you, Hyper Beam does most of the damage, false swipe gets them down to 1 HP, hypnosis makes them sleep, and voila!). Also, don't be afraid to waste pokeballs. Realize that 90% of the pokeballs you buy will simply be broken by the pokemon you're trying to catch. The other 10% makes them worth it! Also realize that even if you use just a normal pokeball the first turn against a legendary, there is still a chance, however small, of just randomly catching it. In fact, on Ruby version, I caught Latios in a pokeball after much time chasing it around Hoenn.
That's all for basic strategy. It should be quite enough to occupy your mind as you get into your first few battles. Come back later if you want more and read up on Moderate or Advanced strategies, and if you're really wanting that killer team of pokemon, you might even choose to delve into my guide on EV training.
Moderate Strategies: Off-type Move Sets, PP, and EXP
Okay, you've mastered type matchups and you want more. Well, read on to learn all about moderate strategies on how to make your pokemon team even more threatening.
The first topic for moderate strategies is off-type moves. Much, much later in the games, you might come across a situation where you can't use the pokemon you really want to, either because it's fainted and you're out of revives, or you just want to level up a different pokemon. For whatever reason, you might need to use a pokemon against types that it might not be so good against, for example, a Grass type pokemon against a Fire type. There is a way to win when in this situation, although it will be more difficult and is not recommended. But if you can master it, it will really help you out. Off-type moves is when a pokemon can learn moves that don't match its type, but are good or even super-effective against types that that pokemon is normally weak to. For instance, fighting type Machoke is good against normal and rock type pokemon, but what if it needs to face up to a flying type for some reason? This battle will not go well unless you know what you're doing.
In all pokemon games, you can get items called TM's, or technical machines, that teach your pokemon a special move once, and then are no longer useable. While not all the moves they contain are very useful, in this case, they come in pretty handy. Let's say you have the TM for Rock Tomb, a rock-type move. Luckily enough for you, Machoke can learn Rock Tomb. So, if you have an available move slot, or a move you don't want anymore, you can use the TM on machoke and teach him Rock Tomb. Now, he will have a chance against flying types because he knows a rock-type move, which is super-effective against flying type pokemon!
But we're not done yet. You still need to take care of one more important detail: if Machoke faints before he gets to use Rock Tomb, then it won't make much difference, will it? Flying is a normal-stat type, so we need to increase Machoke's defense stat, which will reduce the damage he takes from flying type pokemon, even though they are super effective. If you can get his defense stat high enough, you will be able to beat flying types without much of a challenge, although I wouldn't go around fighting Natus or Xatus anytime soon, hehe. How do you raise this stat, you ask? Well, first off you can buy Irons and feed them to Machoke, which will raise his defense stat. These also do something else related to EV's and happiness, which you can read about in a later guide. In fact, EV training would really help here as well, but it's much too advanced to cover briefly. Instead, you can also teach him Reflect, a move that cuts down on physical damage (normal stat type moves). This effect will last for five turns, so by upping his defense stat and teaching him reflect and rock tomb, you have greatly increased his chances of winning against a flying-type pokemon. In addition, you could even buy a special in-battle item called X Defend, which raises defense temporarily during battle. The effect only lasts the duration of one battle--after that, you'll have to buy more X Defends.
A better way to use this strategy is to keep in mind, for all your pokemon, types they might have to face eventually and try to teach them good moves accordingly. For instance, instead of having your Flareon learn ANOTHER fire type move, which it probably already knows plenty of, teach it an electric type move to deal with any water types later, or maybe a fighting type to smash into rock types in the future. Type diversity in move sets is one of the best ways to win more battles, or win them easier. In fact, since there are only seventeen types total, and you can have up to twenty-four moves (six pokemon times four moves each), it would theoretically be possible to have a team of six pokemon that has at least one move of every type. The trouble here would be finding a decent, balanced team that could learn such a diverse move set, and getting them to learn the best moves of each type that they can. You would then have seven remaining move slots for extra moves of types already covered (that's one move slot per pokemon plus one).
Another important part about battling is PP, or Power Points. This is the amount of times your pokemon can use their moves before they 'run out' of that move and can no longer use it. If a pokemon runs out of all its PP, it uses a move called "Struggle" which damages you and your opponent equally, and has 40 attack and 100 accuracy. It is always Normal-type, regardless of the pokemon's type. This is not something you want to happen, so make sure that you never have any pokemon that knows four moves with only 5 PP each. That pokemon can only use 20 moves before it will have to struggle! Note that healing your pokemon at a pokecenter heals all PP of all pokemon, one of the best reasons to go to a pokecenter to begin with. After all, if PP didn't exist, then potions would be all you need. Unfortunately, there's no item you can buy that will increase PP in the same way. Throughout the game, however, you will encounter Ethers, Max Ethers, Elixirs, and Max Elixirs. While I usually sell these in favor of growing leppa berries, you can feel free to use them, especially in games that don't have the option of berry growing. Ethers raise a single move by 10 PP, and Max Ethers raise a single move back to full PP. Elixirs and Max Elixirs do the exact same thing, but for all of a pokemon's moves, rather than just one move. These would be more useful for the elite four, where you can't heal in between every battle except with items. Leppa berries work just like Ethers, but you can grow them indefinitely, so it's a bit more reliable even though it takes longer. Plus, you can sell all those ethers and elixirs for a decent chunk of change.
There are also two more PP items called PP Up and PP Max, both of which are pretty rare. In fact you may never see a PP Max your entire time of playing pokemon, but they do exist. The easiest way to get one is having a few numbers match your trainer ID through the pokemon lottery on the bottom floor of the department store in Lilycove City (RSE). The PP Ups are more common, because you can actually buy them at the department store in any pokemon game, but they are still a rather expensive item. You'll usually find a few in the wild or in caves. PP Ups raise a move by one power point and PP Maxes raise a move to its maximum PP value, which is different for every move. For moves with 5 PP, for instance, the max is 8. Any PP Ups or PP Maxes used beyond this point will have no effect and will remain in your inventory.
Now, it's time to move to the last topic in moderate strategies: Experience Points, or EXP. Experience is central to a pokemon's life, the essence that they are continually gaining through battles. There are certain points at which pokemon gain enough EXP to level up, permanently raising their stats. Level ups are important and even more important is raising pokemon accordingly.
The first thing I want to address is the item Rare Candy. While they might seem useful, in reality they are hurting your pokemon. There are situations where they are useful (see the EV training guide) but for the most part, don't use them if you don't have to. This is because of something I call the experience-laziness continuum. The more work you put into your pokemon, the more they will get out of it. The less work you put into them, the less they will get out of it. It's very simple. For instance, let's say you decide to be lazy and catch a level 7 metapod straight out of viridian forest (in RBY or FR/LG) rather than training a level 3 caterpie to level 7 and having it evolve. First off, the level 7 metapod will be useless, because it will only know the move Harden which raises defense. This means it has no way of damaging an opponent's pokemon. Not only that, but it won't learn any other good moves until level 10 when it evolves into Butterfree! So for the next three levels, you have an utterly useless bug that you will have to train by switching, which is covered later in this guide. Plus, when it gets to level 10 and evolves, it will be much weaker than if you had caught a level 3 caterpie and trained it to level 10. Why, you ask? Because of the all-important level ups. These level ups not only raise your pokemon's stats, but they are better than when pokemon level up in the wild, because they are...well...wild. They don't know what they're doing and, for the most part, just run around doing animal things until they are caught. This doesn't make them much of a battle monster, does it?
Rare candies also are in much of the same concept. They level up your pokemon without giving it any of the normal bonuses it would get after battling, say, 3 to 8 pokemon. Rare candies are on the lazy end of the spectrum, as is catching high-level pokemon. Here is the entire spectrum, in case you're curious:
<-- Lazy ....................................................................................... Experience -->
Rare Candies ... Catching High Level Pokemon ... Traded Pokemon ... Training
As you can see, the best way to train powerful pokemon is to train them yourself. There's no getting around it. They just end up better that way. Why? Because the more level-ups your pokemon get, the more powerful they will become.
You might be wondering, why aren't traded pokemon higher on the spectrum than trained pokemon? Don't they actually get MORE experience than ones you caught yourself? The answer is yes, they do. However, that fact makes them slightly weaker than normal pokemon when they reach level 100. This is because of a hidden value called EV's, which have to do with more advanced training techniques. There is a complete guide on this, if you're interested, but for now, just know that they affect a pokemon's stats. The more EV's, the better. EV's are only gained by battling lots of pokemon. Since traded pokemon level up faster, they don't have to battle as many pokemon, and therefore, get less EV's from their battles. This makes them weaker than pokemon that are trained by their OT (original trainer, the player who originally caught them).
To further illustrate this concept of the experience-laziness continuum, I have written a short story that could very well happen. This hypothetical scenario, in which two trainers of equal abilities meet for a trainer battle, is available by downloading or viewing this text file:
It demonstrates quite clearly what might happen, if a cocky, lazy trainer like Joe met a mysterious, astute trainer like Tom, and mistakenly decided that his high-level pokemon were enough to beat a lower-level, solid team of well-trained pokemon. In this case, the difference in levels really makes no difference at all.
Now that you know all about experience points, there are a lot of good ways for your pokemon to get them. The first way is called switch training. This is a useful technique (made even more useful by the exp. share item, which is explained below) that helps you to level up weak pokemon without damaging them in battle. When you begin a battle, the first pokemon in your list is automatically sent out in battle. So, if you put your weakest pokemon in the first slot, it will be sent out first. You can then switch it with another pokemon, and beat the opponent with that one. Now, the weak pokemon you used first will gain experience because it participated in the battle. It may not have used any moves, but it was still involved enough to learn from it. It will gain all the stat bonuses and EV's that the other pokemon does, as well as half of the experience rewarded for each pokemon it participated in defeating. The only exception is if your opponent uses pursuit on its first turn, which deals twice as much damage on a pokemon switching out. It is a Dark type move, which is super effective against Psychic and Ghost, so keep this in mind if you are going up against Dark types with Psychic or Ghost as your first pokemon.
Time for a note about how experience is divided up. For two pokemon, it's quite simple: each pokemon gets 1/2 of the experience. Let's say that you use three or four pokemon, or even all six, to beat a single pokemon. We'll call n the number of pokemon that participated (that is, were in battle at some point, but didn't necessarily use any moves). Then, without using the exp. share, the amount of experience gained by each individual pokemon is total/n, that is, the total EXP divided evenly among the number of pokemon. If the exp. share is held by a pokemon in your party, however, there are two things that can happen. If the pokemon holding the exp share participated, it gets an automatic half of the experience. The other half is then divided like normal among all participants, INCLUDING the pokemon holding the exp. share. That means that if you only used two pokemon, the one with the exp. share gets 3/4ths of the total experience! This is probably the easiest and fastest way to level up a low-level pokemon. Now, if the pokemon holding the exp. share didn't participate, it only gets the half that the exp. share gives it, and then all the actual participants get an even slice of the rest.
The second way to have pokemon gain experience is called siphoning. This involves battling much weaker pokemon that way you can beat them with the pokemon that needs the experience. However, since they are much weaker, this full experience will not be much, but the bonus with this method is the EV's you get. You will be able to gain many more EV's than normal, because you will be battling many more pokemon than normal, since they give out smaller amounts of EXP. You will want to make sure these pokemon give out good EV's, however. For more information on siphoning, check out my guide on EV training. This is one of the most basic forms of it. It takes the longest, but is worth the most in the end.
So, you've had a dose of moderate strategies now. Think you can take more? Check out the advanced strategies guide for information on evolution, stat problems, and advanced battling techniques.
Advanced Strategy: Type Matchups Mean Nothing!
Confused by the title of this segment? Then you're probably not ready for this guide yet. Go over my other guides again and you will probably gain more from them. However, if you know what I'm talking about, it's time you learned how to really cut into the opponents you're now facing. Or, if you want to see what's ahead, read on anyway.
More and more into the game, and especially during major battles such as gym leaders and the elites, you will begin to notice that type matchups mean less and less. You might even find that your pokemon are losing to types they should be strong against, even at higher levels than the opponent. This is where it's time to employ advanced strategy.
The reason for these happenings is that boss battles, as I call them, are rigged. Period. I have proved it to myself countless times and in many various ways, which I will not bore you with here. Just know that I, as a human being, am thoroughly convinced that these battles are rigged in the opponent's favor. And rightly so! What is fun about a game that you can blaze through without the slightest bit of trouble? Wouldn't you rather be beaten in the best challenge of your life than win in a complete massacre? I know I would, and that is one reason I think pokemon games are so much fun. Those tough, tough boss battles. Of course, if you get your pokemon's level high enough above your opponent's, you can win just about any match. But if you are like me and you go charging in straight to the elite four without training much for it, then you are about to find out how you can turn this into a win, where other amateurs would surely find demise.
Well, okay, time to fess up--I was defeated for the second time going in to the Elite Four recently as I played Pokemon Diamond. This game (and I'm sure Pearl is the same) is probably the hardest so far. Not only are the boss' pokemon at abnormally high levels, but they are TOUGH. I didn't do too bad, however, as I beat the Elite Four, but was murdered by the League Champion's FINAL pokemon because I only had one pokemon left unfainted (and didn't have any revives left). If I could have only beat that one pokemon, I would have beaten the game. I must admit that the only other time this has happened (being defeated with my current team upon my first entry to the Elite Four) was when I was new to pokemon playing on Yellow version. I didn't know nearly as much about the game as I do now, and I'm sure that was a factor in my loss. But not this time...Diamond kicked my butt, no doubt about it. But I digress...
I'll go into Dual Type matchups first, because they are the easiest of the advanced topics. From there I will cover stat problems and evolution, and then I'll move on to a tips and tricks section which has a lot of little things I have learned over my extensive exploration of the pokemon genre.
Let's take a look at pokemon types. These are the same as battle types, except as of GSC, pokemon can have up to two separate types, which influence the type matchup multipliers. There are now ten different possible type matchups:
Unitype Matchups (the original four)
Super-Effective (example: Flying attack vs. Fighting pokemon) = x2 damage
Not Effective (example: Water attack vs. Grass pokemon) = x0.5 damage
Immune (example: Ground attack vs. Flying pokemon) = x0 damage
Normal (example: Fire attack vs. Normal pokemon) = x1 damage
Dual type matchups complicate things a bit. Knowing your opponent's types is half the battle. If you aren't aware of what is good against them, you'll have an awfully tough time beating them.
Super-Effective/Not Effective (example: Fire vs. Water/Grass) = x1 damage
Super-Effective/Super-Effective (example: Electric vs. Flying/Water) = x4 damage
Super-Effective/Normal (example: Grass vs. Normal/Water) = x2 damage
Normal/Not Effective (example: Fire vs. Normal/Water) = x0.5 damage
Not Effective/Not Effective (example: Fire vs. Water/Rock) = x0.25 damage
Any / Immune (example: Normal vs. Flying/Ghost) = x0 damage
Knowing these is a key to being good at pokemon battles. If you know what kind of damage you'll be dealing, you can make wiser choices about which moves to use. For example, if you have a Roselia that knows Mega Drain (40 attack) and Giga Drain (60 attack) and you are facing a Barboach (Water/Ground type) then either attack, being grass type, is super effective against both of Barboach's types and will deal x4 damage regardless. Therefore, save your Giga Drain's power points and use the weaker grass attack, which will still do in Barboach because of the x4 damage. This will help later, when you need that extra power, especially since you can't heal during the elite battles. Of course, you could always grow a bunch of leppa berries, but aren't those such a pain to grow and use? I always forget to restore PP until during the battle...
Stat problems are always a tough nut to crack. If you have the right item(s), you can just heal them instantly, but what if you can't waste a turn on using an item, or you don't have the correct one? Well, here's my advice on each stat problem, and what to do if you run out of the correct item.
Paralysis: Stick with it. This is probably the best stat problem you could have, choosing from them all. It is basically a coin flip to see whether your attack hits or not. Note that it prevents you from getting a worse stat problem such as poison :)
Poison: Nasty, nasty. Never let this one out of control. If you can't heal it, I would strongly recommend switching pokemon. It can give the opponent the edge they need to wipe your pokemon out in one less hit. A poisoned pokemon in your list is better than a fainted one. There's always Revive, though...
Ice: Well, you can do nothing. Don't just sit there and wait to thaw out...it's not going to happen. Switch pokemon before you get killed.
Fire: Doesn't do as much damage as poison, but it doesn't really matter what type you are, you can get burnt no matter what. Try to heal but don't fret about it, and if your HP gets low, switch out.
Confusion: Switch out immediately. Never damage yourself if you don't have to. Confusion is the one stat problem that can stack on top of any other stat problem, so don't let it prevent you from winning the battle. (...stupid golbat...if it didn't know confuse ray, it wouldn't win a single battle, ever...)
Infatuation: Man, I hate this one. Isn't it so annoying that your pokemon will disobey you because it has fallen in love...with the ENEMY? I mean, if I'm just paralyzed, that's not too bad, but come on! It's time to switch out, for sure.
Sleep: Wait it out unless you're about to die. Most pokemon wake from sleep fairly quickly, and you can always heal them while they're sleeping. Unlike confusion, the game keeps track of how long your pokemon has been sleeping, and will wake it up after so long. No pokemon can sleep for more than a certain amount of turns, depending on the pokemon. Some even have an ability that lets them wake from sleep earlier, or prevents them from going to sleep altogether. (Sorry, no cheap shots...if you were thinking you could teach it rest and get an instant heal, it will not work. Rest can't affect pokemon with Insomnia or Vital Spirit)
Note about all stat problems: If you're playing RSE, go to the ash guy east of fallarbor and get the blue, red, and yellow flutes. These three flutes will solve most of your problems. Blue = wake up, Red = cure infatuation, Yellow = confusion ends. All flutes can be used indefinitely and will never break or stop working.
So, on to evolution. What's the big deal anyway? So the pokemon looks cooler...but is that IT? I mean, is that all you get from it? I think I like Wailmer better than Wailord any day...
While evolution doesn't accomplish anything major, it does add slightly to your pokemon's stats, more than just a level up, and often pokemon will learn better moves once they have evolved. Evolution also gains pokemon bonuses from every other gym badge you have, so you might want to wait until you've conquered all the gyms to evolve your pokemon. In some cases, if you let your pokemon remain in its basic stage long enough, it will learn a really good move that the evolved form does not. However, this is few and far between. An example would be Wailmer. It evolves into Wailord at level 40, and doesn't learn anything at level 41. Wailmer, on the other hand, does learn a move at level 41...Water Spout, the water version of Eruption. They both do more damage the more HP the user (not the opponent) has. Nice, eh? And to think it only takes one more level to get. The big thing with evolution is...know your pokemon and their move sets. Knowing is half of the battle with this game. And the other half is counting on your opponent to do something stupid.
Now, it's time for my tips and tricks.
Sometimes, you will be sitting there, thinking, "Which move do I use?" One of the most important things to remember is that, in battle, if you have a choice between a status move or a damaging move, ALWAYS choose the damaging move. Status moves are nice, but damaging moves are what defeat your opponent's pokemon. You'll find, especially early on, that using nothing but damaging moves will greatly increase your chance of winning the battle. However, this is mainly because your opponents are morons (ahem...Caterpie using string shot ten times in a row even though he hits first when the battle starts...cough).
I'm not saying that there aren't times where it is good to use a status move. In fact, it can be a key element in helping to win battles. But knowing when, how often, and how to most effectively use them will help you. First, pick GOOD stat moves to use, like Bulk Up or Screech. Bulk Up raises two stats (Attack AND Defense) and Screech harshly lowers the opponent's defense (which is the same as Tail Whip lowering it twice). Second, use them a lot at the start of the battle, and then DON'T SWITCH OUT YOUR POKEMON. Switching out after using an X item or a stat raising move completely wastes the turn that you used to do the move or use the item, so keep the pokemon in battle as long as possible. Third, try to use stat moves on yourself more than your opponent, because your opponent will either die or be switched out at some point, also wasting the time you spent using the stat lowering move. Finally, be sure you're using a move that is HELPING YOU. Don't be stupid like the NPC's and use Amnesia (sharply raises Special Defense) if your opponent is attacking you with normal-stat type moves (the non-elemental ones, like rock, fighting, and steel).
Next, always have your pokemon learn the fully accurate moves (like Faint Attack, Shock Wave, or Aerial Ace). These moves will ALWAYS hit regardless of accuracy lowering or evasion raising by your opponents. The only time they could miss is if the opponent's pokemon has used a move like Fly, Dig, or Dive, and is not shown on the screen. This is an awesome way to have your opponent waste turns trying to lower your accuracy while you just keep hitting them the whole time. By the time they decide to use a damaging move, they're done for! On the other side of the coin, NEVER waste time lowering your opponent's accuracy. Relying on chance is not a good way to win battles, and as I said before, most of the hard battles are hard because they are rigged--I am not kidding! Besides, no matter how low your opponent's accuracy is, there's always a random chance that you'll still get hit no matter what. You can never lower your opponent's accuracy, raise your evasion, or both, enough times to prevent them from hitting you. Even if you could, by the time you did, you'd be a goner! Don't waste turns like the NPC's do. Learn from their mistakes, even use them to your advantage, but don't copy them!
Another thing to remember is ITEMS. Held items can be especially helpful, provided you have good ones. Excellent held items include leftovers, macho brace, focus band, and bright powder, as well as the type helpers (like poison barb which increases damage for poison type moves, and etc. for all the other types). These items will give you a great advantage over your opponents. My favorite item strategy so far is Shedinja that knows double team and toxic, as well as holding the focus band. Shedinja can only be hit by Flying, Rock, Dark, and Fire types because of its ability and type combo. Use toxic and then double team over and over, so they're begging for a hit while you sit there and watch them lose HP. If they do manage an occasional hit, the focus band will keep you at full health--because Shedinja only has one HP! If only you could give Spiritomb the ability Wonder Guard...sigh...(evil laugh). Admittedly, this is once situation where lowering your opponent's accuracy is a good thing and really helps. Other than exceptions like this, try to avoid accuracy and evasion moves. This is a specific, individual-pokemon strategy, but using such moves randomly will not help.
Finally, a word about choosing pokemon carefully. You want to look up what gyms are coming up or what types you will be facing in the next area, and match your pokemon accordingly. This will allow you to train up the best and most balanced team possible. If you can choose a dual-type pokemon over a unitype, do so. The unitype will possibly have stronger stats and better moves in its own type, but the dual type will allow you to accomodate more types and be stronger against a wider variety of attacks, which is better in the long run. Unitype pokemon come and go much faster, and you may not be able to adapt your team fast enough to beat the gym you are facing. For instance, if acquire a pikachu (electric type) for Misty's gym (water type) then the next few areas you are coming up to have a lot of ground type pokemon, and pikachu will be squeamishly weak to them. However, if you had gotten a Chinchou (electric/water) instead (a bit of a reach, I know, but bear with me) you would be better suited to beat the ground types that will be common in the next few areas (Diglett's Cave and the Rock Cave before Lavender Town). In this case, trading in a Chinchou might work better for you...hehe...as there's no way to catch one that early in FireRed/LeafGreen (or at all in RBY since it was native to the Johto region).
So, there's the final strategies for you, short of becoming an elite master and EV training your pokemon. There's a bit of work to be done in that category, so I would recommend you go try your hand at the advanced strategies. When you feel you are ready to put the finishing touches on your team (although it's better to start EV training midway through the game) then you should take a look at the EV guide.
EV's And IV's
First off, you should know the common denominators between EV's and IV's. They stand for Effort Values and Individual Values, respectively. For the most part, they accomplish the same exact thing: they make a pokemon's stats higher than other pokemon when it levels up. They ADD TO a pokemon's stats. How they do this is completely different. What you are about to read is two separate guides on how to EV train and how to IV train your pokemon. I will tell you right now, both methods are extremely difficult and are for very advanced trainers who want their pokemon to be top-notch. If you are just getting into pokemon, this is not a good place to start. If you've beaten several of the games many times over, however, I believe you are ready to start EV and/or IV training your pokemon. I will warn you that IV training is the harder of the two; therefore, I will cover it last.
So, when a pokemon levels up, what exactly happens? The answer is, you don't want to know. It's a bunch of crazy mathematical stuff that no one in their right mind would ever want to look at, except the people who programmed it. The good news is, you don't have to know what happens. You just have to know HOW it happens. Let me demonstrate.
You level up a level 5 rattata to level 6. It gains +1 HP, +2 ATK, +0 DEF, +1 SP. ATK, +1 SP. DEF, and +1 SPEED. What does this mean, and where did it all come from? The answer is EV's and IV's. Effort Values and Individual Values both determine how many points each stat gets on a level up. They determine it in much the same way, by totaling up a number of points, dividing it among the levels the pokemon has until it reaches level 100, and distributing it as evenly as possible. Let's put it this way: if your pokemon had no EV's or IV's, (or rather, they were all zeros) then when it leveled up it would get no bonuses whatsoever. Its stats would remain the same, and leveling up would mean practically nothing.
EV's give a stat one point for every four EV's. So 4 EV's = 1 stat point. But how do you get EV's? There are currently only two ways to give your pokemon EV's, and that is by defeating or participating in the defeat of another pokemon, or giving it one of the six stat raising items, such as Iron, Calcium, and HP Up. Each pokemon gives a pokemon that defeats it a number of EV's in a certain stat. What EV training involves is targeting the pokemon that give out EV's for the stat you want to grow in, and battling only those specific pokemon for that stat. You might ask, well, can't I just battle a bunch of level 1 rattatas and get my stats crazy-high? The answer is no. EV's have a max of 510, which means no pokemon can have any more EV's than 510. Also, no individual stat can have more than 255 (although it would be a waste to put 255 EV's into one stat because the final three would be wasted; remember, it takes 4 EV's to make one stat point). So anyway, what it all means is that you need to find out what pokemon give out EV's for the stats you want to raise on your pokemon. Around level 50, your fully EV-trained pokemon will be gaining +5 and +6 to their EV stats rather than +2 and +3 on level ups. At level 100, this can amount to about 127 extra stat points than a non-EV-trained pokemon! That's a lot of extra power! So is it worth it? Absolutely, but they are aptly named as "effort values" because EV-training requires a great deal of effort on your part. You can't just battle any pokemon, anywhere. You can ONLY battle the pokemon that give out the right EV's that you want. Any other EV's will still count towards the max of 510 but will be wasted in the stats you don't want them in. Once the max has been reached, however, your pokemon has finished its EV-training and can now battle whatever pokemon you want it to. You will find that as it gains levels, it becomes much more powerful than even well-trained pokemon of the same or higher levels than it. It gives it an edge over those tough gym leaders even at levels up to 10 below the opponent. It's amazing what EV training can do when done properly. If you've ever battled a friend and been wiped out by a much lower-level team, there's a good chance your friend EV-trained the pokemon (or cheated and got pokemon with full EV's and IV's upon receiving the egg or being caught).
I won't bother to re-list them here, but you can find on almost any good pokemon site a list of all pokemon EV's, which pokemon give them out, and how many they give out. Now, the best way to go about EV training (if you have enough money to spare) is to buy the first 100 EV's for the stats you want with the stat raising items (Protein, Iron, Calcium, Zinc, Carbos, and HP Up). Pick the stat combos you want for your pokemon and then give it the correct amount of stat raising items. Each stat raising item gives your pokemon 10 EV's (2.5 stat points) in the corresponding stat. The catch is, you can only give your pokemon a max of 100 such EV's in each stat because you can only feed it 10 of each stat raising item. After that, it won't be able to have any more of them, and you'll have to EV-train against the correct pokemon to get the rest.
It will help immensely to study the individual pokemon you want to focus on, and pick a strategy that matches the natural stat bonuses of that pokemon. For instance, a grass-type like Bulbasaur would not make a good physical sweeper, because its natural type is a special-stat type. It would probably make a good special sweeper instead. Another example--a pokemon like Snorlax, that doesn't have particularly good stats except for HP, would make an excellent tank (see below for explanations of the various strategies and EV distributions).
The idea with a physical sweeper is to have a normal-stat type pokemon that can take out pokemon it is super-effective against, and maybe some it's not, in one hit. This is because you will max out the EV's in the attack stat, which affects physical damage--that is, it doesn't matter what your opponent's stats are, as long as you are using only normal-stat type moves, which get their attack bonus from the attack stat. One-hit KO moves can be a good idea, but they almost negate the effort of making a physical sweeper to begin with. You want to have four solid, normal-stat type moves all of different types, so you can take out quite a variety of pokemon in one hit. The other stat you want to max out is speed, so that you can hit first, hopefully with the finishing blow. Keep in mind that even with Attack EV's maxed out, you still have over half of the maximum EV's (510) left to distribute.
Physical Sweeper EV Distribution:
Attack: 252 / 248, Speed: 252 / 128, Sp. Attack: 4 / 128
A note about distribution charts: These are the amount of EV's you put into each stat for the best strategical configurations. Slashes indicate optional numbers, and are consistent with respect to one another. For instance, a value of 8 / 4 in attack and 4 / 8 in defense still add up to 12 regardless of whether you choose the option before the slash or after, as long as you pick the same option for both. Stats not shown get 0 EV's. Also note that no matter what configuration you use, there will always be 2 extra EV's that will never add to any extra stat point, ever. This is due to the fact that whoever thought up a max of 510 EV's obviously doesn't know how to divide by four (or, perhaps, has a good sense of irony). So it really doesn't matter where those extra two EV's go, you can pretty much ignore them and treat the max as 508.
Exactly the same as a physical sweeper, but for special-stat types rather than normal-stat types.
Sp. Attack: 252 / 248, Speed: 252 / 128, Attack: 4 / 128
A tank is a pokemon that can take a large amount of damage without fainting. It can even resist damage well so that it takes even less. Pokemon that do well as a tank are those that have naturally high IV's in HP due to their species, such as Snorlax. Speed is pretty much ignored, as tanks don't need to be fast. They just need to be able to survive a lot of hits. Usually their move sets include "annoying" status moves that continually damage the opponent. Staple moves for a tank are Sandstorm, accuracy lowering moves, poisoning moves, and possibly a One-hit KO move just to really tick your opponent off. Get the idea? You sit there watching their HP slowly melt away, while taking little to no damage yourself. Then when they think they're about to get you, you use Rest or whip out a potion...and let out an evil laugh.
HP: 248 / 172, Defense: 128 / 168, Sp. Defense, 128 / 168
This kind of pokemon has really good attack stats and, while it's pretty easy to beat, can usually inflict A LOT of damage before it faints. Depending on the configuration and the pokemon, you can get varying levels of effectiveness with a shark.
Atk: 252 / 168, Sp. Atk: 252 / 168, Def: 0 / 84, Sp. Def: 0 / 84, HP: 4
As you can see, the possibilities for different EV-training strategies are endless, and you could probably come up with quite a few more of your own. The key here is experimentation, and trial and error. With practice and experience, you'll be a top-notch EV-trainer who is winning battles consistently against higher-level pokemon.
IV's work a little differently than EV's, although they do the same thing--they raise your pokemon's stats. However, instead of a 4:1 ratio, IV's raise your stats at the full 1:1 ratio (meaning that 1 IV adds 1 stat point rather than 4 EV's for 1 stat point). Therefore, IV's are much more effective at raising stats than EV's. The catch here is, IV's can NEVER BE CHANGED. That's right--once you have caught a pokemon or received an egg, that pokemon's IV's are set in stone. They are calculated automatically and saved as part of the pokemon's hidden information. IV's are the reason that pokemon are different, the reason you may have found some pokemon naturally weaker than others and harder to level up and train. IV's are the reason some species of pokemon have naturally higher HP's and others have higher Special Attack stats. If there's one pokemon that always gets fainted no matter what the odds, or seems to never do well in battle, there's a good chance that it has poor IV's. Also, the max is much lower than that of EV's: IV's have a max of 31, and a pokemon that has IV's of all 31 is extremely unlikely (and probably was obtained by cheating). You might be wondering at this point, if IV's are permanent, how can you IV-train your pokemon? The answer is, you really can't. The only way to get good IV's is to become a pokemon-breeding master. What you do is calculate your pokemon's IV's after it hatches, which involves saving your game and using a bunch of rare candies, because IV calculations are the most accurate when your pokemon is at least level 20. Then, you restart the game. If the IV's you calculated were good, you keep that pokemon and begin EV-training it. If not, you try again with a new egg. It's that simple. I'm not going to go into the details of how to calculate IV's here, but as I said, any decent pokemon site will have a guide on how to do this. This guide is just to introduce you to the subject and explain it so you can understand what it is you need to do. Then you can decide for yourself if it's something you want to pursue, and if it is, then go out and make the best pokemon ever! IV training is immensely harder than EV training, so I would recommend you EV train first to see how you like it. Then, if you become good at it, IV training might be the next step for you. At any rate, good luck in your pokemon endeavors, and may your team conquer all those it meets with deadly efficiency!
Diamond and Pearl: Underground Guide
Due to circumstances, I can't actually post this guide on Hub Pages. You can download it from my website by right-clicking this link and then save target as...
Feel free to download and distribute, or post somewhere, whatever. Just DON'T EDIT the guide please...read the disclaimer if you have any questions. This is my work and I think I should be given credit for it, don't you?
At any rate, enjoy the guide, and do have a good time playing pokemon.
Guides soon to be added are Contests (RSE and DP) and Happiness evolution. Stay tuned and check out these guides when I finish them!
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