The Humble Challenge: A New Look at ‘Pokemon Yellow’

Reading Time: 8 minutes
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

With the Pokemon 20th anniversary celebration, my brother Oak and I bought the re-release of Pokemon Yellow for the 3DS family. Oak (a moniker adopted after the famous PROF OAK) was quick to issue the Humble Challenge: to beat the entirety of Pokemon Yellow, using only Pokemon given to you. No caught Pokemon, no trades, just gifts. This narrows the list to 11 potential Pokemon, and their (combined) 12 evolved forms.

Of course, I had to take this challenge, but I’m a planner. So, I have designed a training schedule, including which Pokemon to use, and what their moves will be. You can see the full rules below if you want to take the Humble Challenge yourself. Are you up for it? Grab Pokemon Yellow for your 3DS (only $9.99), and launch yourself back into the nostalgic rush of Pokemon Yellow!

The rules are simple:

  • No Pokemon may participate in a battle unless it was given to the trainer.
  • The Challenger may not use Pokemon caught in the wild, nor may they trade for different Pokemon.
  • To win, the Challenger must defeat all 8 gyms, the Elite Four, and the Champion using their Humble team.
  • The permissible Pokemon are Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Hitmonlee, Hitmonchan, Lapras, Eevee, Omanyte, Kabuto, and Aerodactyl.
  • Variations include the use of the following Pokemon: Snorlax (as the Pokeflute is a gift), Magikarp (bought, not caught), and any Pokemon caught with the Master Ball (a gift item).
  • Purchasing Pokeballs and catching Pokemon is not prohibited, but using caught Pokemon in battle is.
  • After defeating the Elite Four, the final challenge is to obtain all 151 Pokemon!

I’ll be opting out of the optional rules, and will store Snorlax and Magikarp in the PC. Continue reading for my strategy.

Spoilers below!

The challenge starts with Pikachu, of course!

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Pikachu is the only Pokemon you can’t avoid obtaining, as he is given to you no matter what! Thanks to a greedy friend, Pikachu is the only Pokemon for you. The first major challenge, of course, is that the first Gym is led by Brock, a Rock Pokemon trainer. D’oh! This means your Pikachu is at a strong disadvantage, as none of its Electric-type moves affect Brock’s Pokemon! You also won’t have any other Pokemon yet; they come later. To overcome this hurdle, train your Pikachu until it learns both Quick Attack and Double Team. If you’re willing to do some grinding, level 20 brings Slam into the equation, but you should long since be able to crush Brock with lesser moves.

Before you leave Pewter City, make a mental note to return to grab the Old Amber later, as you will need Cut to get in. As you pass through Mt. Moon, you will be given the choice between two fossils, which you will later be able to resurrect into Pokemon! I address both fossils and the Old Amber at the end of the list. For my strategy, it won’t matter which one I grab.

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

In Cerulean City, a young lady will offer up a rescued Bulbasaur, but only if your Pikachu is happy. To make sure Pikachu’s happy, pop over to the Pokecenter and heal up. Then apply potions repeatedly. This action will fail, because Pikachu’s health is maxed out, but it will still make your shocking little friend happier. Bulbasaur is the only leaf-type Pokemon available in this challenge, and by evolving into Venusaur, you will gain a Poison-type Pokemon, too!

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Just after Nugget Bridge, I’ll lay hands on a Charmander. This Pokemon is a critical member of the team because it evolves into Charizard. With Pokemon Yellow, Charizard can learn Fly, making him a much-needed companion. Charizard also features very high Speed and Special stats, making him a great gladiator later. This is the only option for a Fire-type, and doubles as the Flying-type for my team.

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

In Vermillion City, a Squirtle may be obtained from Officer Jenny. While Squirtle has always been my favorite Pokemon, for this challenge I won’t be keeping it long. With balanced stats and a moderate attack, Squirtle doesn’t shine. Water-type Pokemon are the easiest to obtain in this challenge, so Squirtle doesn’t stand out too much.

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

After Saffron City, Route 7 takes the player to Celadon City, where an Eevee may be taken (stolen/rescued) from the top floor of the Celedon Mansion. Just go in the back door, and take your Eevee. Since Eevee is your seventh Pokemon, you will have to leave one in the PC. I will be putting Squirtle/Wartortle/Blastoise away. I’ll buy a Water Stone from the mall, and evolve Eevee into Vaporeon. While this removes my (likely) Lvl 30+ Wartortle from the field, it ups the potential damage of special water attacks. Blastoise’s max Special stat is 85 while Vaporeon’s is 110, a critical upgrade for later battles. Having Vaporeon in your party also gives you more leeway with Lapras’ moveset, if you’d like to try something different. I will evolve Eevee right away to maximize the stat bonuses.

If you like Squirtle, or can’t stand Pikachu following you around, you may consider evolving Eevee into Jolteon, replacing Pikachu.

*Note: Buying a Thunderstone for Pikachu will do no good! Just like Ash’s Pikachu, your Pikachu will refuse to evolve!

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

In Saffron City, you will find the Fighting Dojo gym. After defeating the Karate King, you will be presented with your very own Fighting-type Pokemon. You may choose between Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan. While Hitmonchan is tempting for its elemental punches, its (super) low Special stat means that those moves are actually a waste. I’m forced to add Hitmonlee to the lineup, but it will receive a warm welcome. At level 38, it will learn Jump Kick, and at 53, it learns Mega Kick. These two moves are mold breakers, and I have to have Hitmonlee on my team.

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Also in Saffron City, a Lapras can be obtained in the Silph Co. This beauty is a Water/Ice-type that has a versatile moveset. I plan on teaching it Psychic (TM), Blizzard (TM), Hydro Pump (Lvl 46), and Surf (HM). Surf is more likely to hit than Hydro Pump, and allows the player to use the Hidden Move to navigate Kanto, but Hydro Pump is hard to beat for high-level battles.

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Once you hit Cinnabar Island, you will have to make your final choices regarding your lineup. Cinnabar Island is home to the Pokemon Lab, which can reconstitute your Dome Fossil, Helix Fossil, and/or Old Amber into Pokemon. You have to choose between Omanyte and Kabuto when you choose a fossil in Mt. Moon, but the Old Amber can be picked up in Pewter City. I won’t be adding any of these Pokemon to my lineup, however.

If you don’t like skipping those fossils in your lineup, I suggest choosing for flavor. None of the revived Pokemon can learn Rock-type moves in Pokemon Yellow, so none of them have an advantage over the Pokemon currently manning the turrets. Why does it matter if they can’t learn Rock-type moves? Same-type attack bonuses are granted to attacks that match the Pokemon’s type. This bonus (STAB) improves damage by 50%, and its lack for these Pokemon can’t be forgiven in this challenge.

Once I’ve claimed all eight badges, I plan on grinding my Pokemon to at least Lvl 60 before heading for the Elite Four. This will allow me to explore different areas, and make sure I have all the moves I want. At this point, I’ll also be stocking up on Revives and items to restore HP and PP between battles. Because I’ve not bought many Pokeballs (why bother?), the money will be there, no question.

My humbly accepted party when I challenge the Elite Four will be:

Raichu–Pikachu

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Unable to be evolved using a Thunderstone, Pikachu will know the moves Thunder, Thunder Wave, Double Team, and Swift. Pikachu will Paralyze anyone it can, and avoid damage while attacking with Thunder for high damage and Swift, which cannot miss.

Venusaur

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Leveled from Bulbasaur, Venusaur will know the moves Leech Seed, Toxic, Mega Drain, and Solar Beam. Venusaur’s primary tactic is to keep itself alive while draining the opponent. This is super useful when facing the Champion, as it can be hard to keep up with his diverse team. Leech Seed’s damage is increased by Toxic, so feel free to lay down Leech Seed then Toxic. Use X-Defend, X-Special, and Megadrain to outlast anything, and use Megadrain to keep Venusaur topped off.

Charizard

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Leveled from Charmander, Charizard will ravage your opponents with its superior Speed. Charizard will know Fire Blast, Flamethrower, Fly, and Cut. Fly and Cut are utilitarian, but add some move diversity, while Fire Blast and Flamethrower lay down damage and burn the opponent, draining their health.

Hitmonlee

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Hitmonlee will focus on all-out assault with Mega Kick, Hi Jump Kick, Double Team, and Strength. Mega Kick is one of the strongest moves in the game and Hi Jump Kick benefits from the STAB feature. Double Team is for the long-game, but won’t always be useful. It will be most useful when facing a Pokemon that has been poisoned with Toxic, however, and is a great insurance move for outlasting that poison.

Lapras

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Lapras will take advantage of its extremely high hit points and decent Special with Ice Blizzard, Hydro Pump, Psychic, and Surf. It’s slow, but Lapras can take huge hits as it goes along. Lapras can easily outlast other Pokemon by taking a hit, attacking, and then being healed, just to start again. If you can combine this cycle with Toxic, Leech Seed, Paralysis, or Burns, there’s room for great synergy!

Vaporeon

Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol
Pokemon image: Nintendo, Background and arrangement: Rory Bristol

Vaporeon, evolved with a Water Stone from Eevee, with a focus on its extremely high Special and a fabulous Hit Point pool. Vaporeon’s moves will feature Bide, Hydro Pump, Hyper Beam, and Reflect. Hydro Pump is the obvious choice for STAB, but Hyper Beam and Bide make up for poor type matches. Hyper Beam is for finishing off a Pokemon resistant to Water-type moves, and Bide is for fighting opponents using less-than-overwhelming attacks. Bide matches well with Toxic, Leech Seed, and Burns left behind by Charizard, allowing Vaporeon to remain in the battle without using up the limited PP of Hydro Pump. I will use PP Up on Hydro Pump for sure, but its max is 8, so I’ll want to save those for especially effective moves.

That’s it. After that, the challenge will be obtaining the full 151 Pokemon. This can be a huge part of the overall challenge because your Pokemon are all SUPER high level, and it can be hard to level them since you’ve defeated so many opponents in the game. You will have to trade, so focus on getting appealing Pokemon to trade with others!

Are you a trainer? Will you take the Humble Challenge? If you do, challenge your friends, too! Oh, and if you have any doubts about buying Pokemon Yellow for 3DS, do note that, for the first time ever, the digital re-release will allow you to upload your 1st-generation Pokemon to the Pokemon Bank, allowing you to transfer them to your copy of Pokemon Sun/Moon, available this Holiday Season!

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