Pokémon: More Grind

Away from my usual devices until January, I devote some attention to the Unknown Dungeon, haunt of Mewtwo. This is a mazelike area with frequent encounters with wild pokémon of about level 50 and up — approximately as strong as my strongest pokémon, but more numerous and, unlike the champion trainers, not divided up into predictable themes. It’s clear that I’m going to be doing some leveling up before I make much progress.

Naturally, I’m seeing the whole thing in terms of my recent experiences with Final Fantasy V. It’s similar in a way: where FF5 makes you choose which jobs you want to level up, Pokémon makes you choose which individual pokémon to advance. But in FF5, there’s character XP on top of job Ability Points. No matter what jobs you exercise, you’re going to wind up with more powerful characters, with more hit points and magic points. Whereas in Pokémon, when you put your Rhydon into storage and replace it with a Staryu, you just lose all the benefit of the effort you put into leveling the Rhydon.

There are basically two ways to level up a particular pokémon quickly. First, you can put it in front of the stack, so that it comes up first whenever you go into combat. Even if you immediately switch to a different pokémon, this counts as participating in combat and gets it a share of the XP. The problem is that switching away like that loses the initiative. The best way to win combat is always with a single devastating blow right at the beginning; if you can’t do that, the enemy is likely to do a move that raises its defense, or lowers your ability to attack, or paralyzes you, or even just damages you, making you go back to the Poké Center for healing earlier than you otherwise would. So this is approach is best taken when the pokémon you’re trying to level has at least some chance of winning fights on its own.

The other way is to equip the “Experience All” item, which shares a fraction of the XP from a fight with everyone in the party, even if they didn’t participate. The pokémon who participate still get the bulk of the XP, but a low-level pokémon is still going to get more from the cast-off scraps of a battle between champions than from fighting someone his own size.

The real problem, then, is what to do when the other pokémon are only slightly more powerful than you. You can’t earn disproportionate XP by sitting in the back with “Experience All”, and you can’t fight them all by yourself. Mostly what you can do is go out in short sallies and retreat to the Poké Center a lot.

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