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                              ~ FIRE RED! NOT RAPIDASH! ~

Link: http://celticmagician.deviantart.com/art/Pokemon-FireRapidash-258845380

Pokemon FireRapidash Edit

I guess you can say that since I was out of touch with the mainstream games, I never really understood that "emotional bond" people always go on about between themselves and their Pokémon. I've always been more analytical about the games and thought that these creatures were nothing more than pixels which had to be strategically used in order to win.

Maybe that's why this one ROM hack totally freaked me out. It kind of gave me a rude awakening to what I was really missing with these games. Before I go on, yes, this ROM seems to have been removed from the internet after I had played it, so don't bother looking for it. It's a stupid cliché, I know, but it's the utmost truth. I even went scouring for  this thing again to share it with you, but to no avail, so I guess for now you're just stuck with my story.

I used to play Pokémon when I was young. Blue, Red, Yellow, Silver, Gold Crystal... yeah, I played them all. I only lost interest in the games after the Ruby and Sapphire versions were released. The story had become too repetitive for my liking and the Pokémon were just plain ridiculous in my opinion. There was just no point to continue playing.

Since then, I had turned my attention to ROM hacks of the Pokémon games. I often found that they had a better storyline and sometimes, even some impressive Fakemon which could easily rival even the likes of Gamefreak and their failure of Pokémon designs. ROMS hacks were just more fulfilling for me.

Then one day, I decided to go looking for a new ROM for myself. I had played the other ROM hacks I own so much that I was beginning to get bored with them and needed something fresh. So, after a fair amount of searching via Google, a name finally caught my eye:

Pokémon ROM hack: FireRapidash version.

I clicked on the link and was brought to a rather shady-looking webpage with nothing more than a download link for the ROM and a brief description which merely explained that it was a hack of FireRed. 

I hesitated for a moment. This page screamed possible malicious virus and I questioned whether or not I should continue. However, this was the first ROM hack I found after pages and pages of searching that I had never heard about before. Curiosity can be a powerful thing.

Bracing myself for the impending virus warning, I clicked the link to download the ROM. Everything seemed to go without a hitch, even when opening the file. It seemed like a legit ROM hack and I was relieved to finally know that it wasn't going to make my computer explode horrifically.

I booted up the file in my emulator and quickly brought myself to the start page after the Gamefreak logo popped up. As a first impression, I was pleasantly surprised. The title screen was really well done and had a very appealing image of a Rapidash replacing where Charizard would have been. It looked as though Nintendo had officially made the game themselves, it was that good.

I pressed enter and skipped through the control and story explanations to get to the main game. The game started off the way most do with the Professor introducing you to the Pokémon world and allowing you to choose names and gender. I chose the male trainer for this adventure and named him RED since I was feeling uncreative that day (additionally I named my rival DOUCHE just for the hell of it). From there, the story progressed normally like it does in FireRed, which I didn't mind horribly since the original Red, Blue and Yellow games were among my favourite to play. Besides, if the title screen was any indication of what this hack might have to offer, I was game for it. The only thing that was a bit jarring was the hacked text. It was either a different font or size from the original. I only noticed this after talking to Mom and the rest of the people in Pallet Town where they had very minor alterations in what they were saying.

After venturing into the tall grass and having Professor Oak lead me to his lab, it was time for me to choose my starter Pokémon. Because Brock is the first Gym leader in these games, I typically choose either Bulbasaur or Squirtle as my starter and today I wanted something that was going to have an excellent defense in the long run, so I headed toward the middle Pokéball on the table.

However, when I hit the corresponding key for "A" button, an image of a Vaporeon came up instead of the usual Squirtle. I have to admit, I had to contain my excitement and not click "yes" when I was asked if I was sure I wanted the strong water-type Pokemon, because if Squirtle was replaced, the other two must have been as well.  I checked the other two Pokéballs. To the right, replacing Bulbasaur was an Exeggcute and to the left was a Ponyta, fitting as its evolved form replaced the titular Charizard for the game.

After some consideration, I decided to go for the Vaporeon. Ponyta was a fire-type and didn't have very good stats as far as my experience went with using that Pokémon, and  I wasn't the fondest of Exeggcute regardless of Exeggutor being a potential powerhouse. But when I selected "yes" for the Vaporeon, I was met with a very strange response from Oak.

"I don't think you want that Pokémon. Try another."

Baffled, since it wouldn't let me have it, I moved on to my second choice of Exeggcute and the same thing happened.

It seemed I had no choice but to choose the Ponyta, and I reluctantly did so. I only hoped that the creator of this hack has swapped in some useful Pokemon to use for Pewter City.

There was no prompt for me asking if I wanted to nickname the Pokémon (not that I needed it anyway, since I don't nickname my Pokémon), so I went to check it's summary to see the damage.

The Ponyta I had was female. It had a timid nature and the ability Run Away. Additionally, the Pokémon seemed to have a preset nickname: "AMBER."

I couldn't help but roll my eyes at this point, and didn't even bother to look at the Ponyta's stats. I was seriously beginning to wonder if this hack was nothing more than a reproduction of a Rapidash fangirl's fantasy.

Regardless, I continued the game and watched, disgruntled as Douche choose the Vaporeon I so coveted. Things had to get better somehow.

Next came the tutorial battle between you and your rival. Douche's Vaporeon was a male and seemed to have no nickname when it was sent out, so this Ponyta was the only thing affected by that particular coding from what I could tell.  

Thankfully, my rival's Vaporeon didn't know any water-type moves, but after a couple of turns of Tail Whip, he made quick work of my Ponyta with a single Tackle attack. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed and sped through the text as Douche gloated about his victory. From here, my rival took off and I was made to walk toward Professor Oak who told me that he was sorry for my loss and that it seemed my Ponyta wanted to make it up to me. I don't recall this occurrence in any previous games, so it was an interesting tidbit to say the least, but it did  little to quell my disappointment toward the Pokémon that was forced upon me.

After this, the game seemed to proceed as normal. Unfortunately for me, as I continued to train my Ponyta against every wild Pokémon that appeared, there seemed to be no catchable grass-types, so I knew I would have to get creative when it came to defeating Brock. I ended up catching a Nidoran (female) to raise until it learned double-kick to help me out of this scenario.

Admittedly, I would have become bored with the game if it weren't for the comments of the NPCs in Pewter city. They weren't much, just a handful of comments regarding the Ponyta on my team. Compliments such as the shininess of her coat, or how well behaved she was. They were little things of course, but they were interesting. Whoever made this hack made sure that this starter was well-involved. I was curious to see where it would lead. After all, there are eight gyms. There was still plenty of time for story development.

After much grinding, I managed to defeat Brock and things were fairly smooth after that. I managed to compile a decent team including a Pidgeotto, Nidorina (soon to be Nidoqueen when the time was right), Pikachu and Buterfree. Amber became easier to deal with after she learned Ember at level 14, but she was still one of the weakest Pokémon on my team. I only hoped that once she evolved into a Rapidash, her stats would improve, else I would box her. It would be a while since I could encounter decent fire-types though, so I had to make due.

However, something seemed odd about Amber since the Pewter Gym victory. It was so subtle that for the longest while, I just thought it was a trick of the eye; but every time she was sent out into battle, the expression on her back sprite appeared to be...frowning...as though she was sad for some reason. I would constantly check her summary every time I noticed the expression, but there seemed to be no indication of it. After a while, I assumed that the ROM was doing what most ROMS do best – lag – therefore causing some of the pixels in the Ponyta's face to distort.

In hind-sight, maybe I shouldn't have assumed it was something so simple.

By the time I beat the Cerulean Gym, it had become customary for me to speak with NPCs and other trainers frequently because of the additional comments about Amber. After the defeat of my rival while heading to Nugget Bridge, however, I started to notice that the nice, friendly comments I had been receiving earlier had started to go down south. Comments such as "That Ponyta's pretty weak, eh? Maybe you should get rid of it," started to become more of the norm. While it's true, I would swap out Amber for a Growlithe if I could, I couldn't help but feel a little shocked at the allegations. I thought Pokémon games, hacked or not, were supposed to encourage the main character and praise their Pokémon as "strong," even if they were realistically weak.

When I defeated the final trainer on Nugget Bridge and spoke to him, another message struck me.

"You have such a pretty Ponyta...but why does it look so sad?"

I shuddered. No. Those were distorted pixels I was seeing earlier. The NPC is just stating what they are seeing. It's not how the Pokémon actually feels. 

I mentally slapped myself for even letting my mind wander into such an area of thought. Amber wasn't really sad. No Pokémon could be. They're just pixels in a game. 

So then, why did I pay such close attention to her face after that? Why did I care?

As I continued onward to Vermillion City things seem to become worse. Trainers kept questioning Amber and my treatment of her, and Amber's back sprite continued to look more and more depressed with each passing battle. It was starting to become too obvious to blow off or ignore, and I began wondering what the creator of this hack was thinking when they made it.

Vermillion City itself unleashed a new can of worms with this whole ordeal. It started with the chairman of the Pokémon Fan Club. I went to speak with him in order to get the long awaited bike voucher, but his words seemed to be different than what I remembered when he went to gloat about his Pokémon.

"...My favourite is Rapidash....but I see you don't like that Pokémon. I had this BIKE VOUCHER for someone to listen to me brag about my Pokémon, but  seeing as you can't appreciate the majesty of Rapidash, I will save it for someone more deserving...."

No matter how many times I spoke to the chairman, I would get the same response and no bike voucher. Frustrated, I spoke to the other people of the fan club...and that's when it became really strange. The people in the fanclub, the residents of the city, even the members of the Vermillion Gym were all saying the same thing:

"Oh your PONYTA....it doesn't seem to like you very much. Maybe you should treat it better?"

I don't know why it bothered me so much. Normally I wouldn't have cared about the opinions of NPCs, but for some reason I couldn't get over how angry I was. I couldn't understand it. Why were they so focused on how I was treating the Ponyta? What was this hack trying to prove?

Fuming, I decided to head out of the town to do some training with my Pokémon, especially Amber. She was at level 39 (due to my excessive team-grinding), just one level away from evolving. At that point, I was under the impression that if Amber finally evolved into a Rapidash, people would leave me alone about her.  

That's when it happened. I set out Amber on a lower-levelled Drowzee and selected an attack, any attack, she would have killed it with one or two hits anyway. But Amber wouldn't listen to me.

"AMBER won't obey," the screen said.

I frowned. She should be listening to me. She wasn't a traded Pokémon. 

I selected another move. "AMBER turned away."

Again.

"AMBER is loafing around."

A few more rounds of this passed and I finally gave up on Amber. However, Amber wouldn't even switch out. I had no choice but to run.

"AMBER fled using RUN AWAY..."

After the fiasco was over, I went into my party to switch amber out of the lead position. However, Amber was no longer there. Confused, I went back to Vermillion City and checked the PC in the Pokémon Center, thinking that this hack may have glitched and she was in the box. Not there either.

Not sure where else Amber might have gone, I shrugged her off and turned my attention to beating Lt. Surge.

After I beat the Vermillion Gym another oddity was waiting for me outside. One of Professor Oak's Aides appeared.

"RED! There's a situation going on in Cinnabar Island. Professor Oak has asked me to take you there immediately!"

The option for "YES" or "NO" popped up. Figuring this was finally the storyline I was looking for, I selected yes and the screen faded to black.

When the game resumed, I was standing in front of  the burned down mansion of Cinnabar. A crowd had gathered around the building, which seemed strange to me, so I started talking to them. Supposedly there was a Rapidash on the roof on the mansion – which I could eventually see as I drew closer to the building – acting strangely.

I was surprised to see my rival, Douche, standing by the door of the mansion so I approached him. Talking to him, however, left me with both chills and confusion.

"Hey, RED. Isn't that your Rapidash? What did you do to it!?"

My Rapidash? Last I checked, Amber never evolved.

After speaking to Douche, the music for Cinnabar silenced and the ground shook. A text box appeared on the screen.

"AMBER'S Flash Fire," it said.

Suddenly, a sound, which I can only describe as a high-pitched and prolonged squeak sounded as the screen flashed white, pulsated red and then faded to white again.

When things came back to normal, I was shocked by what I saw.

Cinnabar was destroyed. The neighbouring gym was gone as were all the people that were there previously. Tiles of lava were everywhere, replacing the missing buildings and adding to the landscape; bubbling with in-game animation. All that remained  intact was my character sprite, the mansion and Amber.

I clicked on the arrow keys, hoping I could move about, but it was pointless. I was stuck. This scene made me anxious for some reason. The whole thing did. I wasn't sure what was going on at this point or why. I have never been this enthralled in the story of a video game.

Finally, after what seemed like minutes, a new text box appeared on screen.

"AMBER doesn't like you very much. Maybe you should have treat it better...."

The words "should have" appeared underneath "you should treat it better" like some form of subliminal message. There was a small arrow prompting for more text so I mindlessly pressed "A."

"You did not want AMBER?" The option box for "YES" and "NO" appeared.

I hesitated for a moment before selecting "YES." I did want the Vaporeon after all, so there was no point in lying.

More text.

"I knew it..."

I stopped for a moment when I saw this and felt a chill go through me. I found it strange that the text suddenly switched from third to first person like that. I looked at the flashing arrow in the bottom right-hand corner of the box and continued.

"AMBER isn't sure if it can trust you." Another option for YES/NO.

I selected "YES," unsure of what the question was, really.

Amber responded.

"No....

You did this....."

With that, the Rapidash jumped down from the roof and approached me. Then, with its cry and a flashing screen, I was flung into battle.

"Estranged Pokémon AMBER attacked!" The text said as all the sprites slid into place. 

I took a closer look at Amber. Sure enough, her nickname was in place of where "RAPIDASH" should be and she was level 40. 

But her face... I have never seen such an expression on a Pokémon sprite. It was angry, sad, hurt and anguish all rolled into one. Her mouth hung open in that horrible, disfiguring frown which had started when she was still a Ponyta. The hacker for this ROM was one hell of a spriter, because I had a really hard time looking at Amber for more than a few seconds at a time at that point.

Nidorina was the Pokémon sent out, being the next in line after Amber had – I had guessed it by now -"ran away."

I figured I could end this battle rather quickly, considering the majority of my Pokémon were a lot stronger than Amber stat-wise; but  every time my Nidorina moved, her attacks would miss.

Amber's moveset seemed to have changed as well. From what I could tell, she had re-learned Stomp, even though I had replaced it with Agility two levels ago, and had somehow managed to learn the move Frustration – which she used frequently – alongside Fury Attack and the already-known, Take Down. What's more, she was causing hefty amounts of damage and I found myself struggling with the few potions I had at my disposal to keep my team afloat.

Additionally, there was something strange that would happen with the passing of each turn. The screen would quickly fade to black and then back again, but each time it came back, Amber's appearance seemed to change.

I began to notice it about three turns into the battle and I'm not sure how many turns passed to see it at its most severe (12, maybe?), but Amber started to become thinner, her features sunken, and her colour turning into more of a grayscale monochrome. By the end, she looked more like a gaunt, shiny Rapidash instead of the way a Rapidash should normally look. Her now protruding ribcage and blackened eyes accented that dreadful, gaping mouth. 

I can't remember if I had started to cry at this point. I remember that I felt horrible, depressed even. It was almost like watching an animal starve to death right before my eyes, and the pain was just as real with watching the Rapidash sprite decay away like that.

Finally, after being brought down to my last Pokémon (my Butterfree), a message popped up.

"AMBER is tired..."

The battle still continued, but I now noticed that the Rapidash was no longer attacking and that my attacks could finally land. I used Confusion on Amber. She went down to about half her health (in the yellow).  Another message appeared.

"AMBER would like you to finish it."

I can't express how painful it was for me to press the corresponding "A" button to unleash  the second and final attack on the Rapidash. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty. It was if I was killing the thing.

When the fainting animation played for Amber, there was no text that followed. Even when the battle music changed to the victory music, no experience was gained by my Butterfree.  Coming back into the overworld, Amber was still standing in front of me.

"You did this..." The text box said and then, the Rapidash began to rotate on the spot. It was slow at first, but began to build in speed as the text continued.

"Youdidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthis youdidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthis youdidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthis youdidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthis youdidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthis youdidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthis youdidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthisyoudidthis!"

I'm not sure how long the wall of text lasted. I kept plowing through it with "A," just wanting this whole thing to be over with. Finally, the text box disappeared. Then, Amber – still spinning at a rapid pace – erupted into blue flame. Her cry went from normal, to high-pitched then to a lower pitch as as she then careened herself to the left of the screen and into the water where she  disappeared.

Then, Blaine's sprite slowly emerged from the bottom of the screen and called out to my character.

I can't relay everything what he said to me. My memory isn't that good. All I know is that the text was a blatant mix of original and hacked and was somewhat jarring to read. To paraphrase, he told me that the scene with Amber was a tragedy, that she was a Pokémon so desperate for acceptance from her master that she unleashed her fury on everything around her. 

He turned to me, and I swear to you, I will never forget what he said next:

"Do you know why this happened, RED? It's because you have forgotten to treat your Pokémon with love and respect."

"You have forgotten to treat your Pokémon with love and respect," I remembered those words. They were the ones that Oak says to your rival after you defeat him in the Elite Four.  I never really took note of those words back then, but now that they were directed at me, I felt differently. I wondered, was all this really my fault? Was it really my fault that these horrible things were happening in this ROM because I didn't treat my Pokémon as though they had thoughts and feelings of their own? 

I didn't know what to think anymore.

Blaine continued with his speech after that, now being more direct with me. He scolded me for using Pokémon as tools and that I should be ashamed of what I did to the Rapidash. To wrap things up, he told me that he would never tell anyone about what transpired if I were to do one thing: Give up training and change my ways.

A final YES/NO option appeared and when I selected yes, the emulator closed itself. I couldn't find any of the files for the ROM afterwards either.

I picked up my old GameBoy Colour a couple of nights ago and started to play through the original games again. Things seemed different now as I played them. I payed more attention to my Pokémon  and smiled about the nostalgia of the original storyline.

I'm considering getting caught up with the games, finally, to see how this world has been evolving. It's been so long since I've played an official game.

I'm into my Silver version now, and from what I can tell, there is still one thing bothering me.  You see, I had made a point to catch a Ponyta or Rapidash in all my games and name it "Amber," to somehow make up for what I had done. But no matter how hard I try, it's not the same. These Pokémon are not Amber, nor will they ever be. I am trapped in my own guilt remembering the images of that poor Rapidash. I don't think this empty feeling will ever leave me because of it. 

I guess, in a way, it is a suitable punishment for my actions. Because after all...

I did this.

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