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Wednesday 22/02/2016: Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink

October 12, 2015

Pokémon HeartGold (Part 2)

In Part 1 I went over the first five badges of the Johto region and some of the new stuff in Pokémon HeartGold, now it’s time to see the rest of Johto!

Jasmine
Our protagonist Nicolas (named such because we need to follow a guy with a name and I'm lazy) leaves Cianwood City, Surfs back to Oliville and cures the sickly Ampharos in the lighthouse. Jasmine thanks the player and invites him in her Gym for a battle. You can even skip the other Trainers in the Gym! Our protagonist goes straight to Jasmine, beats her heavy Pokémon, and earns the Mineral Badge. Awesome!

Small villages hide big secrets sometimes too.
The road to the seventh Gym is pretty long; we backtrack through Routes 39 and 38, across Ecruteak City, and into Route 42 (which is the location of Mount Mortar, a cave very difficult to navigate), towards Mahogany Town. It’s a small town with a Gym, but some guy is blocking said Gym's entrance. Because duh. Don’t you hate it when NPCs block key parts of the game? Geez, this railroading is so obvious, I’m seeing the train coming towards me. No problem, I’ll just move on to the route on the right, Route 44… wha? Some guy is blocking my way there as well? He forbids me from passing unless I buy a Rage Candy Bar. And if I buy one, he tells me I still can’t pass. I wished I could just kick him in the nards, but the game won’t allow this, for obvious reasons. What the Hell do I do, then?


I wouldn't want to be the inhabitant of that lonely house
at the top when the Gyarados show up in groups...
Maybe there’s something in Mount Mortar… but all that can be found there is a Karate King from Kanto who offers a free Tyrogue if Nicolas defeats him. Yay, thanks! But damn, what do I do? In Mahogany Town, there’s a little boutique that sells weak items, but something strikes me as odd with that place. Maybe the Route up there is the way… So we head up to Route 43. There are two paths, one with a lot of grass and Trainers, and a second one with less trouble, but it’s blocked by a gate where two Team Rocket grunts will take 1000 Pokédollars from the player. Immediately something is fishy. So Nicolas moves forward and reaches the Lake of Rage. I think the guy who discovered that place was angry on the day he named it. I mean, doesn’t it just sound lovely? Hey, let’s go have a nice vacation around the Lake of Rage! Nothing bad will ever happen there, am I right? Let's try Camp Crystal Lake instead, I heard it had great cabins.

Oh Hell no, your redness is not scaring me!
Oddly enough, there are no Team Rocket grunts there, but we hear that the radio waves used by the villainous Team has disrupted the fauna of the lake, and as a result a shiny Red Gyarados has appeared. We have to battle that Gyarados and either catch or defeat it. At the same time, it serves as an introduction to Shiny Pokémon, which was an all-new mechanic in Gen 2… not so much anymore in Gen 4, but whatever. Who doesn’t want a Red Gyarados anyway? So, we head back to Mahogany Town and find that there were Rocket grunts in the mysterious shop. Phew! For a moment I was afraid the salesman was some ages-old demon planning to send the town into chaos by selling every villager what they always desired and then asking for bizarre services and pranks…

Under that shop, there’s a small Team Rocket hideout. It’s time to toss the garbage out of Mahogany Town! Nicolas steamrolls the Rocket grunts and their Pokémon, and stops the wave-emitting machine. Once more, the day is saved! Well, not quite. One thing does happen in there; at one point, Keith shows up again, but someone else appears: Lance, a Dragon-type user! Lance easily defeats Keith and then berates him for mistreating his Pokémon. Yup, it seems that all this time, Keith was really damn nasty to the creatures he caught. This exchange opens Keith’s eyes, and supposedly sets him on the path to become a better person… Good for him, I guess?

And we can finally get into Gym 7 and challenge Pryce, a very cool guy. In more ways than one. After Pryce is defeated, Nicolas gets a call from Prof Elm indicating that a radio transmission from Team Rocket is going all around the regions, a message they’re sending to try and find their old leader Giovanni. Elm tasks the player with finding where the signal comes from and defeat the villainous Team once and for all. The first idea is to head back to Goldenrod City’s Radio Tower. But it’s infested with Rocket grunts, so we’re not allowed in. We can go in the underground zone of Goldenrod City, where someone will disguise the Trainer as a Team Rocket member. Time to sneak our way into the Radio Tower!

Actually, I was willing to show them that they're not even
worth the dirt beneath my shoes, but hey, if you want to
stop me from kicking all of their asses, go ahead.
…This fails. Fast. As soon as Nicolas gets in, Keith shows up behind and blows the cover. And yet this is the guy who hates Team Rocket with a passion! Dude, I was going in there to kick them out! You ruined my plan, you stupid moronic plan ruiner! Ah, whatever. The cover is blown off, but I still wanna blow some Rockets out of this building. I’m gonna kick their asses so hard they’ll need a passport to come back to Johto! Sadly, we can’t go far enough in the Radio Tower, as many parts of it are locked with a card key, and even when we reach the director, it turns out to be a Rocket in disguise, so we need to find the real director to get the card key. Oh, and “fake director”, would you like to learn to fly? I really want to see you try!

Well, I've dropped the disguise... Let's see how the Rockets like that!

So, what do we do? Well, there’s the second portion of this “dungeon” in the Goldenrod underground, which is where more grunts are hidden along with a few of their scientists and admins. But before we can reach them, we need to beat Keith again. Seriously, just give up. You lost the last time, you lost every other time, just abandon already, Keith. You’re my rival, I want to keep on hating you, I don’t want to start feeling pity. Anyway, past Keith, there’s a lot of grunts… and we finally meet the actual director of the Radio Tower, kept hostage in the underground warehouse. He hands Nicolas the key card. So, guess what? We need to go back to the Radio Tower and put this organization to sleep…. Forever!

Let's see if this guy has anything special...
Nope!

In the Radio Tower, Nicolas fights off a few more grunts, a few more scientists, and finally gets to the Executives. Let’s see, one of them has a weak team, one has a full team of Koffing and Weezing (Can’t tell if fetish… or just insane), then one who has a more diverse team, and we finally get to Team Rocket’s new boss: Executive Archer.

He looks as surprised as I was. I just imagine Sterling Archer saying
"A lowly crook has my name? Okay, he's going to die."

Pfft! Lame.
I suspect the Trainer in front of us has none of the wits, the courage or the creative dangerousness of THAT Archer. In fact, this guy didn’t even have a name until the Gen 2 remakes rolled around! Seriously! It’s only in HeartGold and SoulSilver that he was given a name, which means that in the actual Gen 2 games, Team Rocket was so un-memorable, the people at Game Freak didn’t even bother with giving names to the executives! That’s how low these guys have fallen! …Okay, Archer is kind of a cool name, I’ll give him that. Though maybe too close to Archie, the leader of Team Aqua...

The battle against Archer is suitably difficult for this point in the game, but he gets defeated quickly enough. Team Rocket’s blasting off again, for the last time! Now that the Team is officially disbanded, Nicolas can resume his adventure across Johto. To thank the player, the radio director offers him the Rainbow Wing (in HeartGold) or the Silver Wing (in SoulSilver). Once we’re back to Mahogany Town, we can finally get across Route 44, into the Ice Path, and towards Blackthorn City, home of Clair, the eighth Gym Leader and a Dragon-Type specialist. Blackthorn City was also the residence of a clan of Dragon users, which sounds impressive… That is, until you remember that Gens 1 and 2 had only four Pokémon with the Dragon type, and that other Pokémon who looked like dragons didn’t actually have the type, such as Charizard, Gyarados or Aerodactyl.

...I hate when Gym Leaders don't
accept defeat! IT'S A PART OF
THE JOB DESCRIPTION!
...I hate this girl.
When she is defeated, Clair refuses to give Nicolas the rightfully-earned Rising Badge. Nope, apparently getting to beat her strong as Hell team and her monstrous Kingdra wasn't enough! Instead, we have to head into a place called the Dragon’s Den, an underground lake on which was built a shrine for a powerful Dragon-type Pokémon. The way to the shrine is covered in Trainers. When you get to the shrine, a wise man will quiz the player on his treatment of Pokémon, and if you get it all right, not only do you finally get the Rising Badge, but you’ll even be offered a Dratini!

Ah, do I have to? I don't care about the Legendary
Pokémon right now!
Now, we have all eight badges, you know what that means: Elite Four, here we come! Oh, but wait, what’s that? Prof Elm gives the player a Pokéball and tells him to visit the Kimono Girls of Ecruteak City? Alright, I guess… So, we head there, defeat the Kimono Girls (who all use evolutions of Eevee), and as proof of our victory we get access to the location of the Second Generation’s legendary bird. In HeartGold, we fight Ho-Oh on top of the Bell Tower. In SoulSilver, we fight Lugia in the Whirl Islands. Either way, these Pokémon are valuable additions to the team. The other Legendary bird only becomes available later. So, can we finally go fight the Elite 4 now?

Yes! However, the Elite 4 is located outside of Johto, in a little place better known as… Kanto. Yep, we’re revisiting the roots! Our character heads down from Blackthorn City into Route 45, then Route 46 (possibly passing by the Dark Cave), and reaches Route 29 towards New Bark Town. From there, we can Surf on Route 27, which also allows us to visit the Tohjo Falls. Then there’s Route 26, which leads to the Pokémon League Reception Gate. In there, a Pokémon League official verifies that Nicolas has all of his badges, and then lets him through. No going to Kanto just yet. And for some reason, the left path is blocked as well. Fine then, let’s move on into Victory Road!

As usual, Victory Road is the final exam that tests the player’s exploration and puzzle skills. In the cave, abilities such as Surf and Strength are required, and there are many powerful Trainers awaiting. You know, it must be kind of a pathetic life; these Trainers have to wait in that cave, challenge every Trainer who’s on the way to the Elite 4… I have two theories. Theory one, these are employees of the E4 who, unlike the other Trainers everywhere, were hired to pose as an additional challenge as the main character is navigating through the cave. Theory two, these Trainers don’t have the level to take on the E4, so they lurk in what is the final dungeon in hopes of encountering Trainers with an even lower level than theirs. Easy preys. And thus their Pokémon level up. But the joke’s on them, since the player character is so strong.

Will...
...and Koga...
Past that cave is the impressive Elite 4. Oh, but before that, we get another battle against Keith. And it does seem that he has turned over a new leaf. He’s no longer fighting out of spite, but because he really wants to become a better Trainer. We need more rivals like that in the world. The nasty, better-than-you attitude is very trite and tiring on a rival character these days. Keith is defeated yet again, but this time he takes it well. Seems that he’s learning. So, are we finally getting to fight the Elite 4?

Yes? Finally! Took well over five thousand words, but here we are. First is Will, a Psychic-type master. He’s dressed like a jester. Just my luck, I’m starting to hate those. Whatever. Next is Koga, ex-Gym Leader from Kanto, a ninja who specializes in the Poison type. He gave his role as Gym Leader to his daughter Janine when he was offered a spot in the Elite 4.

...Bruno...
...and Karen...
Then it’s Bruno, who returned from the Gen 1 Elite 4. He’s still a master of Fighting-type Pokémon, but of course he has improved his team with a Hitmontop. He still inexplicably includes an Onix in there, and yet, no Poliwrath in sight. Last but not least is Karen, Dark-type amateur, one of the rare few Trainers who like this Type. Imagine that: ever since the Dark type has existed (since the second generation!!), there has NEVER been a single Dark-type Gym, and yet there’s been three Elite 4 members (in Gens 2, 3 and 5) with that Type up to this point. The Heck?

Whatever. After these four opponents are defeated, we can finally reach the Johto champion… and it’s none other than Lance. He’s back from the preceding Generation, where he was merely the fourth Elite 4 member… well, now that we’ve reached this point, better give it all we got!

And last but not least... LANCE!
It’s a tough fight, and Lance defends himself well! But the player is stronger, and is awarded the not-all-that-awesome title of Pokémon Master. …What? It’s only going to be awesome later. Sure, it’s great, and it opens a lot of doors, but it could be even better. It only started getting really awesome in the sixth Generation. Before X and Y, you wouldn’t get a parade for defeating the E4.

Defeating the Elite Four reveals a whole new world of possibilities; the Oliville City Harbor is open now, and our character has earned a ticket to travel from Johto… to Kanto! There are quite a few things to do on the ship: Trainers to fight, Plates to collect (for Arceus)… oh, my memory of it is a little foggy by now, because I used the ship only once in the games, and I never got to use it again… and I can’t replay the game to explain it in greater detail…

Anyway, here we are: Kanto, where the franchise started. Where the greatest Trainer in the world began his journey, three years prior. The second half of this game takes place here! I’ll cover that in Part 3.