see see see I told you the next one would come sooner! Not *quite* as soon as I'd intended, granted, and I'm going to try to move the others along even faster, but notice that it totally isn't April as I post this! \o/


I answer the phone and hear Prof. Elm sounding more frantic than he has in a good while. He wants me to rush to Goldenrod and deal with Team Rocket. I... thought I just did that. Damn but those pretty-tree-makers are persistent!

The radio card in my pokégear flares into life as soon as Rhea touches ground in front of the Goldenrod pokémon center. Team Rocket broadcasts a message over the airwaves to Giovanni, begging him to come back and save them before I barge in and run them over. Er, well, words to that effect, anyway, I'm sure. No other radio stations will play, and the Rockets have cordoned off most areas of the city like the GTS. And most of the radio tower, for that matter. Try as I might I simply cannot get up the first flight of stairs after heading inside; the guard is quite adamant about only admitting other Rockets, and he won't even let me knock the stuffing out of him and muscle past him anyway. I guess you have to give him credit for actually holding his ground instead of letting any little kid with rabid monsters go for his throat, but it certainly isn't making my job any easier.

At a loss for what to do, I scour the town looking for some unguarded building or someone to assist me. The assistance comes from the otherwise-deserted Underground in the form of Genzo the photographer—he still has that completely innocuous Rocket suit he let me pose in the first time I met him here. I slip it on and become indistinguishable from your average Rocket grunt, complete with ten-year-old stature, high-pitched prepubescent voice, childish backward cap and a face that the guard on the first floor has already seen attached to a non-Rocket head. My disguise is flawless, but just for that extra, authentic touch I change my pokégear's theme to Rocket. It'll help me get into character, of course.

Apparently the radio tower guard is more forgetful than I'd first thought, because he doesn't seem to remember my face when I show up again in Rocket garb. He buys my story about being a fellow ne'er-do-well and starts to move away from the stairs, but before I can get past him Kamon shows up and recognizes me. The idiot tears my costume off and totally blows my cover before I even get the chance to have any fun, then runs away like a money-hating pansy and leaves me with a lot of explaining to do. And by explaining I mean ass-kicking. The defeated guard finally gets the heck out of the way like he's supposed to, but I don't seem to get my costume back. I was under the impression that I'd get to complete the entire mission incognito, but alas, my career as a Rocket double-agent is over before it begins. Curse you, Kamon! Curse you! *shakes fist*

I make my way up the stairs and past a locked door on the third floor, bashing in Rocket heads as I go. (In retrospect, if this is all I was going to be doing then it's probably for the best that my disguise is gone; I have to wonder how convincing a double-agent I would've been if I kept having my rabid monsters break faces left and right.) The president appears to be alone in his office when I reach him. But when I enter the room to make sure he's okay... he turns out to be Lambda in disguise! Oh no! I was not expecting this! Well, if I can't have my Rocket costume then he can't have his innocent bystander costume, so I beat the stuffing out of his five level 30 koffing and his level 32 weezing and steal his key. The key doesn't work on the locked door, though, so this is probably the part where I hit the underground.

I see a Kimono Girl walking through the underground before I find the basement door; she speaks to me for a minute or two and then goes on her way, leaving me to unlock the door. Kamon jumps out at me as soon as I head downstairs; I'm still mad at him for ruining my brilliant, if questionable, disguise, so I'm eager for a chance to teach the bastard a lesson. It takes Ferox a while to wear his level 32 golbat down (aaaargh bloody thundershock), especially since it keeps getting confused, but he manages it. Kamon's new level 34 meganium nods off after a hypnosis from Eidol, and for once Njord is able to ice fang it to death without taking forever. One fire punch from Singe knocks out his level 30 magnemite. I try to have Targa finish off his level 32 haunter with dark pulse, but it manages to knock her out and Rhea has to revenge-kill it with fly. Njord knocks out his level 32 sneasel, and the punk finally gets out of my way and lets me continue being a terrible I mean awesome double-agent.

The basement floor is dotted with several tiles in different colors, each patch of color in its own little "room" with sliding doors. Matching switches on the walls cause certain doors to slide open and others to close; pressing the switches obviously changes which doors are open or closed and which rooms you have access to, although I didn't really pay enough attention to figure out whether the switch colors meant all that much to the puzzle. A few minutes of semi-random switch-mashing gets me into the warehouse proper, where I find a man being guarded by a few patrolling Rockets. Interestingly, if I stand in front of the Rocket but position my partner pokémon so that it stands between us, the guard doesn't react. It makes sense programming-wise, but... I guess we can add "seven-foot blue alligator that doesn't belong to anyone we know and probably shouldn't be here" to the growing list of completely innocuous things, huh?

The radio tower president, who I confirm is the real deal when his face doesn't come off after repeated pinching and tugging, gives me the key to access the rest of the radio tower. I move on and end up in the basement floor of the Goldenrod Department Store, then head back to the tower to resume my climb to the top. It doesn't take long for me to run into Rocket-Lance (Proton in English, and I suppose I might as well at least use his English name to avoid confusion with Champion Lance); it also doesn't take long for Targa, now a pupitar after a few more grunt battles, to decimate Proton's level 28 golbat and level 33 weezing. Athena is waiting near an elevator a little higher up with an arbok, vileplume and murkrow, all level 32 and all relatively easy to get rid of; with her out of the way I can take the elevator all the way up to the top, where I assume my final challenge awaits.

The top floor of the radio tower looks almost like the top of a lighthouse, large and circular with quite a few picture windows that overlook what I assume is Route 35. Apollo (Archer in English) stands with his back to me, staring fixedly at one of the beams between two windows. Much as I hate to interrupt a man when he's staring at a beam, I kind of need to make him go away and so I get his attention. A level 35 houndour emerges when he finishes his lengthy monologue, and Eidol crushes it with headbutt. His level 38 houndoom doesn't go down so easily, however, as when Njord tries to fell it with surf it manages to hang on with a sliver of health left. And then does it again shortly afterward. It seems to be holding a focus band, an unusual held item choice for an ingame trainer, but thankfully its hax I mean luck runs out before it can survive a third consecutive surf. That leaves only his level 35 koffing, which poses absolutely no threat to Ferox and so is quickly flattened.

Apollo gives what I assume is the traditional "waaah I can't believe I just got owned by a ten-year-old but I thought I was awesome" speech and disbands Team Rocket before disappearing, presumably never to be see again. The president thanks me with the generous gift of a rainbow feather, stops me twice more to tell me something else as I try to leave, and then lets me go. Shiny new key item safely in my bag I figure now is as good a time as any to go and catch the legendary pokémon it came from, so I fly to Ecruteak and hit the Tin Tower.

...and I'm not going to describe what it was like just yet, because in my typical bull-headed refusal to check things before I plow ahead I did not realize that Ho-Oh would not be at the top of the tower yet. Only when I reached the top after a lengthy climb and did not see a single giant rainbowy birdie did I actually take the time to look stuff up and figure out that I need to battle the Kimono Girls first. They won't battle you until you have all eight badges, either, so I have no choice but to go back to Mahogany ho-oh-less and hope that Route 44 is no longer blocked off. You'll get your description of the fancy tower when I make my return trip and am actually supposed to be there.

Route 44 is indeed accessible when I head over that way, so I'm able to proceed to the Ice Path more or less unhindered. A bit of snow and ice seems to have spilled out of the mouth of the cave and sits in a small pile at the entrance, another of those unnecessary but kind of cool aesthetic additions; ironic that there doesn't seem to be any actual snow inside, of course, but hey, they're trying. A man stops me when I first enter and talks to me for a little while, though I don't know what about; he leaves after our conversation, and I can get started on those good ol' ice puzzles. As far as I remember the puzzles are almost identical to those in GSC, so I'm able to figure them out and push the boulders and whatnot where they need to go without too much trouble. As I prepare to leave after collecting the waterfall HM and a few other goodies, a Kimono Girl (where were you when I wanted to catch Ho-Oh *shakes fist*) slides up and then skates away before I have enough time to really yell at her. Presumably that's the last of the five, though, so they should be willing to help me when I come back with my Rising Badge.

There isn't really a lot to do in Blackthorn City aside from just going for the gym, so I'm forced to navigate the irritating series of one-way paths down Routes 45 and 46 and get some extra training in. While training I get a call asking me to come to Route 38. It only took the entire freaking game, but at last someone has called me for a rematch or free gift or something and not to tell me about how surprising tentacool are or how there are weedle in their pants or any number of other insipid things that no one in their right mind would care about. This is exactly why I never understand it when people say they "liked the phone in GSC and are glad it's coming back"—the phone is more or less the absolute worst rematch device in Pokémon history (okay, you can make a few arguments for the RSE Trainers' Eyes thing being worse). Sure they give you items or tip you off to swarms (very very rarely, let's not forget), but 95% of their calls serve absolutely no other purpose than formulaic flavor info that gets irritating after the second time. You have absolutely no control over who you want to fight or when, while the VS Seeker lets you name the time, place and opponent with minimal effort. And the VS Seeker doesn't call you about any weedle in people's pants. HGSS has made minor improvements to the GSC phone's many flaws, like the ability to "screen" or ignore calls (but what if the call you screen is a rematch call? D:) and hold every number you can possibly get so you don't have a limited selection of eight opponents/gift-givers, and the nifty addition of a little exclamation point over routes with available rematches while on the fly map so you remember where you're expected, but... seriously, if you actually like the phone then I'm sorry but something is wrong with you and have you even played FRLG or DPPt? :/

Anyway. Rant aside, the lone rematch and the trainers on the last two routes look like all of the extra experience I'm going to get for a while, so I go back to the gym and head in. The guide at the front runs up to me and tells me something, and when his speech ends Ferox disappears back into its poké ball. I guess my partner can't follow me around inside this gym, although after seeing the puzzle I'm really not sure why that is—there are other puzzles throughout the game where I can see having the partner out causing trouble, but not so much here. Huh.

The Blackthorn City Gym's interior has been completely redone in red. Specifically, The Floor is Lava bright screaming fiery red. A series of platforms floats on the sea of molten rock, some with an arrow panel that moves or rotates the platform when you step on it. Several have warp tiles on them that bring you back to the entrance. The idea is to turn the platforms like giant Tetris pieces and then move them across, forward or back so that you can walk onto the next one, battling dragon trainers as you go.

Clair, the only gym leader in Johto to get a roster change instead of keeping the exact same team (for the love of god why doesn't Morty have misdreavus rrrgh) waits on the last platform and wastes no time sending out her level 38 gyarados. Ferox is able to defeat it with two thundershocks, although in previous failed attempts to beat her I noted that she will switch gyarados out for one of her dragonair if she feels it's too threatened. Those dragonair are both level 38 as well; Rhea is able to wear the first one down with fly and quick attack, but the second one manages to paralyze her and ends up defeating her, Eidol and Targa before Singe finishes it with faint attack. Her last pokémon, her level 41 Kingdra, makes quick work of Singe and Ferox and does too much damage to Njord with dragon pulse for me to risk attacking it. I end up having to stall it out with hyper potions until it runs out of PP for that move and is forced to use hydro pump, hyper beam and smokescreen. Said smokescreen makes life extremely difficult for upwards of fifteen minutes, but after a prolonged struggle Njord is finally able to knock it out and earn me my last badge.

...or not! Still stubborn as ever, Clair refuses to give me anything other than my prize money and demands that I pass the challenge of the Dragon's Den. This requires fishing out my red gyarados and teaching it whirlpool. The old man guarding the entrance moves aside when I speak to him, granting me access to the cave and to the two ace trainers I don't remember being there in GSC. One of them has a dragonair that knows surf and thunder... pretty sure that's more diverse than Clair's dragonair, huh.

As a quick aside, I'd like to note that I got called for another rematch while exploring (wow, two rematches! I love the phone!) and that, when I defeated the guy, he gave me what I think is a super potion. Apparently some of the rematch trainers will give you little additional prizes for beating them. Doesn't make up for how evil the stupid phone is, but it's a decent addition and I'm not going to turn down free stuff. Oh oh oh and also Mom bought me a choice scarf! She can actually purchase some pretty cool items now.

Back to the Dragon's Den. I hop into the water and surf around in an attempt to get to the dragon fang I think I'm supposed to find. I notice that when Gyarados uses whirlpool it doesn't counteract the spinning the way it did in GSC but instead just has me power straight across it. Not sure that makes any sense since the attack is supposed to be fairly spinny in nature, but okay.

I retrieve the dragon fang, but Clair doesn't turn up with the badge she owes me; either that's not the entire challenge or it isn't even relevant to the challenge anymore. I double back to the shrine in the center of the lake and head in to speak to the elders; maybe they know what I'm supposed to be doing.

I walk up to the elders automatically as soon as I enter, passing walls painted with a pretty gyarados motif as I go. The elders ask me a series of questions, each with three answers. I thought that this was what you were supposed to do to get the extremespeed dratini, but no one gives me anything until Clair walks in and seems surprised that I didn't fail. She hands over the Rising Badge and then storms out after being reprimanded by the elders. When I leave she stops me again and gives me TM59, then mentions Route 27—I guess she's telling me how to get to the Pokémon League.

Elm summons me to his lab again when I exit the Den, so I fly back home and receive a master ball from him. Kotone (Lyra in English) is there as well, and I guess she still has no faith in my ability as a competent trainer because she seems stunned that I actually have all eight badges. Some friend.

I'm still pretty sure that I should have an extremespeed dratini right now—I'm not planning on using it in my team, but I would like to make sure I get a male one so I can breed extremespeed onto other little dagrons later. I return to the Den and finally get the dratini I was expecting, woot, and we'll call it quits here for now.

Gold and the Rockettes:

Feraligatr Stantler Magneton Dodrio Magmar Pupitar
Njord (M) Eidol (M) Ferox (X) Rhea (F) Singe (M) Targa (F)
L36, Naughty, Torrent L32, Naughty, Intimidate L34, Bashful, Sturdy L33, Lax, Early Bird L32, Rash, Flame Body L33, Naughty, Shed Skin
-Ice Fang
-Confuse Ray
-Magnet Bomb
-Thunder Wave
-Quick Attack
-Fire Punch
-Confuse Ray
-Faint Attack
-Sunny Day
-Dark Pulse
-Rock Slide

Next post: Ho-Oh! No really this time! god I suck

Note: This is the end of the run; there will be no more posts.