[Title theme for this go-around: Gradus Vita]
(Originally made on January 8th, 2017)
I've been waiting a long time for this day.
The beast has returned.
For the uninitiated, Dark Rising 2 is part of a Pokemon rom hack series made by the eponymous Dark Rising Girl - long story short, the first game was inhumanly buggy, lazy and laden with a difficulty curve so punishing and erratic that you might as well have fought an eighty foot tall mechanical Joe Frasier bare-handed. (Prime example: You start at level 5... and you end the game fighting a level 99 abomination with 1000 Base Stat Total and a 200 power Dark move. It's inhuman.)
The first game holds the lowest score I've given/could give to any game, fanmade or otherwise... so you're probably wondering why the hell I would be willing to go back into this series instead of casting it into the Thames where it belongs.
Well... for one, I like to stay positive and hope she may have improved as time passed, and second I want to get this dirt patch off of my list of games to let's play. The third reason is entirely because of how events I made unfolded in the last let's play - I liked them so much that I wanted to continue even if Dark Rising itself is irredeemably awful.
Oh well. Apologies to anybody who wanted to see the FFTA playthrough finished, but this was something I wanted to get off my chest the instant I finished the first Dark Rising. Couldn't hold back the temptation any longer, I suppose. (Of course, I'll finish FFTA in due time, but right now...)
Pack your bags and bring your pain pills because we're going to raise some hell.
Chapter 1 - Dawn of the New World
Yeah, I don't know what this is about. I have the right save file type and I can even do hard saves now, but I still get this message.
Oh thank god Pikachu's head isn't kaput this time around. I still have no idea how that glitch happened in the first game.
"If you're receiving this letter, you must be the person who defeated the Omni League Champion, Adrian. I am Professor Mercury and this world... is inhabited far and wide by creatures called Pokemon. You are embarking on a cruise here to the Omni Region to start your next adventure and overcome new challenges."
... Well, that's certainly different - a custom trainer sprite. I'll admit that it still has the shading problem from before, but this is a far cry compared to the simple recolors of existing characters that the first game had.
Essentially, the most you should take away from this is that an eldritch abomination called Darugis has plans to destroy the world with his personal army of idiots that your character had to slog through. You wind up here because you're still chasing the tyrant and now you're here to stop him for good, or so I hope.
I'm not even going to bother picking the genders this time, because if it's a direct continuation from the first game then of course I'm going as the girl. She looks way different in this game now that the graphics have taken a creativity upgrade.
Before, the female choice looked like Leaf with a Super Mario dress and minimal hat shading, but now they definitely look... different. Her legs aren't transparent, by the way - it just blurs together with all of this blue.
Long story short, Monica is - Christ what happened to your face, dude. We're not even out the starting line and we're already getting weird glitches.
Ahem. You are the son/daughter of a man named Jean Blake, a person said to have sealed Darugis away a long time ago... although the timeframe on that is extremely unclear because game canon Darugis is supposed to have created the universe with Arceus. (My renovations are a different story, however, and we'll cover that in time)
You assemble a rag tag group of losers to form a new generation of Team Dark Rising (yes, that's really what she went with, roll the credits already) so you can fight Darugis, but you're the only one who really matters in the long run so who cares am I right?
"I was also informed by your region's professor that you're coming with a friend."
Monica had a blonde friend? That said, he looks pretty average and has actual shading, so alright.
Believe it or not, I didn't recognize who this was at first. It's supposed to be your rival from the first game but thanks to the creativity upgrade and the blonde hair, he looks completely different. I even called him Jim without realizing it was the same guy.
What the hell happened to your palette, Noah? It's like someone spilled hot coffee all over his body.
"Please be sure you've filled out the questions correctly and have this letter sent back to me. I will see you soon!"
Alright, cool. I really have no idea of what to expect coming up - I know it's gonna be uber cheating hard, but let's hope everything else is decent enough so I won't be completely miserable.
"We have finally set sail in the Omni Region!"
Brand new region. Let's cross our fingers and hope that it's actually a brand new region and not just Kanto again.
"So much has happened, it seems like forever since I started on my journey. Dad, I'm coming for you... let's do this!"
So we're starting out on a ship of all places - cool, cool.
I'll give her credit, DRG could have easily made this an exposition dump about everything that happened in the first game and that would be horrible, but thank god that didn't happen.
This guy is a Nonverbal NPC when you talk to him from the side...
But when you try to leave, he actually responds. How does she do that?
Sailor: "As requested, your Dragon Pokemon and your Pokedex are being held by Professor Mercury of Arkaios City. Lady Florina and Master Dray are waiting for you at the dock. Before you leave the ship, here are you shoes. The maidens have cleaned them off well."
The way this guy talks is really fancy. It makes me feel like Monica and pals are actually respected around for what they did in the last game, which is good because it was torture.
Ooh, I like that they give you the Running Shoes right away. Any game that does that is cool in my book.
The pointer arrow is black and purple this time around. That's neat, I guess.
This dude gives you a potion for free. Can't complain.
"Because of this, all of their doors are locked."
Yeah, I figured. Don't want you to sneak into a mid-game battle from the original FireRed with no Pokemon.
Item Balls remain as presents. Still adorable.
You get a Stardust here, so that's cool. It's the least valuable of all of the items you could sell, but you still get free money. Good stuff.
The captain mutters something about going to Unova and that's alright. Though to be fair, I'd much rather go to Unova than wherever we might land in here.
... Excuse me? Then how do people go to and leave from the island? From airplanes? From Pokemon? Because I find it extremely unlikely that no nautical business has ever happened in the amount of time it takes to make a solid living here.
"You left down in your room downstairs. Take this."
"Your room is the only one that's opened. Make sure you get your stuff before we clean up."
I'll do just that, my boy. Word of warning: You can still leave without said items, so it would have been better to create a script that stops you until you get them - I can believe she can actually do that now based on what we've seen already.
"I've decided to come to the Omni Region to expand my knowledge of Pokemon."
This should give us an accurate timeframe of when this game was made. Kalos stuff should be really interesting considering this game is still a straight hack of FireRed (I checked.)
A Master Ball right off the bat, whoo boy. This is gonna be a ride.
... Then again, if this is supposed to be a continuation from the first story, then I guess it makes sense that you still have a Master Ball from what you did. You're supposed to have two though, so what the hell happened to the other one?
(Future Dan: The Landorus you never caught used it up via plot contrivance. I knew that son of a bitch was up to no good.)
This weird green egg is actually supposed to be the Jewel of Life. I'm extremely glad she didn't forget about it and is still keeping it relevant in this game, but why would Monica just leave that lying around in the open? That's like putting the Hope Diamond on display for everyone to take it.
Hey, it's the loser crew.
Florina: [Sighs] "Be serious, Dray."
Dray: "What?! I'm excited for this. By the way, Monica. Did you do something with your hair? It looks different."
(I'm still not giving these guys portraits until I see their sprites in game.)
It is really weird seeing her as Leaf for the entire first adventure and seeing her now as this goth chick with purple hair.
Yeah, you're definitely cooler than the blue Brendan you were in the first game.
Sydney: "Enough talk! Monica, Noah, go get your Pokemon so we can defeat Darugis - now!"
Whoa, hey don't get so aggressive. We're getting to it. I should probably give a short summary of who these people are:
Dray and Florina are just there, Noah is your rival and Sydney is the only one with an actual backstory as she's a Dragon-user whose parents were killed by Darugis.
She was our enemy for the longest time, complete with an angsty, ultra combative demeanor... but she warmed up at the end. Thank god too because I was this close to using her as target practice.
???: "WELL, IT'S ABOUT TIME!"
[The professor from the intro walks into the group]
"You were supposed to be here an hour ago... come to my lab... Immediately!"
[She leaves the scene]
Florina: "You better hurry up to the lab, also. We'll see you later!"
[The entire crew leaves]
Arkaios is a real word, by the way - it means "new with reference to a beginning point" in Greek. That's a surprisingly educated reference.
[Actual in-game music: Arkaios City]
Wait, what - HOLD ON A MOMENT THERE HOT SHOT.
There's honest to goodness custom music in this? That's insane. Not only that, this place doesn't look half bad! It's actually decent looking, although I'll admit that my expectations aren't incredibly high after the Hell that was the first game.
These are mistakes we all saw coming a mile away, but this is still hella neat.
A Mart in the first town that you don't even need the professor's permission to use? Good start.
"But it remains the most peaceful, quiet place in the Omni Region."
How long do you think it'll take before this gets proven wrong?
... Benga? As in this
You can't go inside and trying to hack your way in kicks you into a fake Link Battle room. I find that fascinating because the game seems to use that as the default "don't know where to go" pointer.
"I don't think Professor Mercury qualifies to be the region's leading Professor on Pokemon. She's way too grouchy and assertive for young trainers to ask her for advice."
Well then, that's interesting. She's referred to as an asshole yet she's still the professor... I dunno, I find that more unique than just having her be a goody two shoes professor.
She's not named after a plant either, but when I went to look up "mercury trees" I found literal aluminum christmas trees. So uh... she's a rebel?
"Professor Ivan entrusted me with your Dragon Pokemon and your Pokedex. Although the Pokedex is here, I'm afraid that your data within the Core Region is not. It has been deleted..."
How the hell did the Pokedex data get deleted? To be fair, I completely understand why they had to do this - it's a brand new game with a new array of Pokemon. Still weird, though.
"My assistant over there has a Pokedex."
Noah speaks the most sense.
They... they hand you the fully evolved versions of the starters from the last game right off the bat. That's really cool, but since I'm following a story here...
Wait, what the fuck? Corin? Why are you level 10? What kind of wizardry is this?
The worst part is that in the real Pokemon games, amazing things like level 10 Salamence are perfectly legal thanks to the madness involving S.O.S Battles.
Nice. Let's get this show on the road!
[Monica flinched at the prospect of a rival battle but notices Noah didn't come after her]
... Huh. Now that's eyecatching.
DRG managed to remove the rival battle from the start of the game... I know it's not a big thing, but this gives me hope.
Not only does this town have a Pokemon Center, there's... a person here too.
"In the Omni Region. For example, I'm an extremist."
An... extremist? Okay, I'm staying away from you.
???: "Well, I'll be leaving now..."
[The person disappears]
Hold on a second. Wasn't that the girl that you encounter at the gate to the Core League? The one that looked like a red-bandanna version of Shelly from Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire? It almost makes me wish there was a Complete Edition for Dark Rising that ironed out all of the flaws.
It'd have less stupid bullshit in it, all be in one game and not be ungodly stupidly broken regarding the difficulty and bug-testing.
[This place has a custom theme too but I don't have it]
I don't like the route theme as much as I do the actual city theme, so what can you do. The fact there's even custom music at all is mind-boggling.
"You must be the other trainer we were told to look out for."
How does Monica know what Team Galactic members look like if she doesn't come from Sinnoh?
Grunt: "That's right! We're back and we're taking over! Only this time, we're much larger thanks to Master Cyrus's pact with Team Rocket, Aqua, Magma and Plasma. But you won't be able to see us take over the world because I'm eliminating you right here!"
Oh lordy loo, here we goooooo. Right, I should explain this - in the first Dark Rising, there was a side plot element involving Giovanni and how he was going to make a pact with every other Team to take over the world and dethrone Darugis. I'm really fond of this idea and surprised that she's bringing it into the second game, but only two problems with it.
One, Darugis is already a major threat and powerful to the point where he can just breathe and people would die. All of the antagonists of the real Pokemon games coming together as one big group would be something that requires a story of its own, so they're wildly out of place in this game with a pre-established villain.
Second, the idea makes no sense if you take it at face value. If you pay attention to the actual series canon for Pokemon, none of the teams would realistically come together if they've been dismantled by the player characters. Galactic and Plasma are the worst examples of this because Cyrus is supposed to be hurtling through the Distortion World and Ghetsis is... well, let's just assume he lost his sanity to the point of being incoherent. (Have you seen him at the end of Black/White 2? His Hydreigon having a Life Orb is supposed to be symbolic, you know...)
There's Monica's new backsprite - she's a purple-haired Dawn with red clothes. Yeah, I never said the game was completely free from palette swaps of existing characters...
The Grunt themselves is cannon fodder. They're easy peasy no matter which dragon you choose or what Pokemon you get on this route.
Earth Power is normally a horrible choice for Garchomp as they're not Special Attackers, but there's no Physical/Special split function in this hack... so yeah, Corin has a free 90 base power move right at the start of the game, as she rightfully should being the Pokemon of a legendary heroine.
These guys give a ton of experience too - just one Stunky and it knocks Corin straight to level 11. I guess that's cool.
("I wonder where the others are.")
Yeah, where did Dray and the others go? Did they leave before the goons showed up?
... Exclamation boxes are also black for some reason.
[One ass-whupping later, Monica receives a call from her phone]
[A message pops up on screen]
[Theme I would use here: Invitation of a Crazed Moon]
*1: A Whimsicott that managed to be a complete badass twice in the DR1 playthrough.
*2: A Reshiram encountered at the end of DR1. She was part of something complicated involving the Tao Trio and mostly sat around to tell LP!Monica about Arceus being the real bad guy.
*3: A Giratina encountered at the 8th gym badge town. You were never actually supposed to capture them, but thanks to the game's impossibly broken nature, you can get one for free while it still acts like you caught it for someone else. Sheol was just... there for only two scenes - he went Lali Ho in the team set-ups and mused about Monica's power. That's about it.
If we're really continuing from the last game, then having the whole team here plus some of the guys from the Snakewood let's play (Because as it turns out, this series is part of a saga with Snakewood thanks to DRG mentioning it at one point).
The amount of prep work I had to do before this first chapter went up was insane - I nearly spent the entire day on it.
Fun fact: Floatzel and Staraptor aren't normally in the game, so I had to expand the game's Pokemon count just to include them. I also added in some new surprises... so that's crazy.
A cool thing is that there's Kalos Pokemon in here, although their sprites are a bit... off. Still, they're there if you want to use them.
Found a Buneary! So not only do we have old LP Pokemon here, we also have brand new ones like Iris here. Too bad there's no Mega Lopunny in this game, because you know I would wreck house with a monster like that.
Birth Elimination? What the hell are these guys planning?
... Fancy name there.
By walking, you idiot.
(That guy from before wasn't kidding, sheesh.)
Huh. Interesting world-building there. Also, how low do you have to be to attack baby Pokemon and young trainers? Like that's serious scuzzbot territory.
Oh wait, Darugis is controlling the evil teams to do all of this - they're not functioning on their own. That makes a little bit more sense, but again...
Believe it or not, Tabula Rasa does stand for something - an absence of pre-conceived ideas or goals... a clean slate. Given how this place is supposed to be where young kids go and befriend baby Pokemon to make them their partners, that's actually excellent. Props to DRG.
[Actual in-game music: Tabula Rasa]
It's a pink cotton candy forest... that also has its own theme. Strange, but this whole beginning bit is still nice, all things considered.
"You're here to assist the group of people over there in kicking these weirdos out of Tabula Rasa. I'm right, aren't I?"
???: "Do I look like one of them? Instead of conversing with me, you should get a move on. Your friends are having a tough time. I'll just watch from here."
[Actual in-game music: Wild Pokemon]
I am consistently impressed by all of the custom music here. All of the baby Pokemon are at level 5, by the way.
There were some more Galactic grunts around here, but they went down easy peasy.
Rocket Grunts are here too, apparently. They have different Pokemon from the Galactic guys...
But they go down just as easily. Getting poisoned sucks, especially when you remember that you're not going to have a team like I do right now.
Wouldn't say that, bucko.
Who just leaves these incredibly valuable healing items in the middle of a baby Pokemon forest?
Everyone's getting their time to shine.
Murkrow are blistering, and that's all I'll say on the matter. Out of all of the grunts here, this guy had the greatest chance to beat me and it was still something low like 5% or something.
"She tried to protect me from the bad people, but she wound up fainting... They took Tommy and his Bonsly up to the play pen area."
I feel so bad for these kids. They just want to get some Pokemon so they can be trainers yet the plot of DR2 happened.
Okay, you guys are officially taking it too far. Although logically, shouldn't they kill their own Pokemon if they're going to be true to that message?
"Don't finish that sentence..."
Oh dear god, they're referencing Captain Planet. I'm howling here.
[Monica slaps her into oblivion]
"We've been ordered here by Giovanni himself to stop the birth of all Pokemon in the Omni Region."
What the hell kind of morbid plot is Darugis putting into everyone's brains lately? That's genuinely screwed up if ridiculous given the scale of it.
The battle went the way you think it did.
Holy shit, I caught a Happiny. I think they're a rare pokemon here, guys. Lucky Dan, eh?
A bit too generous, huh.
I'm uber suspicious of this game now.
Oh lord, here we go.
Cyrus: "Indeed I am."
Dray: "Monica, we'll hold off his grunts. You take care of him!"
Cyrus: "Your attempt to stop us now is futile. We shall rid the world of Pokemon entirely!"
[Theme for this bit: Cyrus's actual battle theme]
The first actual boss in the game and it's with Cyrus of all people. Monica is almost getting PTSD flashbacks to that guy in the first game that looked a lot like him.
Cyrus is also a pain in the ass to beat. His Murkrow is the least of our problems and they're still strong enough to sweep through most of the team. Pursuit and Wing Attack really hurt.
Thankfully he decided to be stupid and use Confuse Ray. Ambes didn't hit himself once and wound up paralyzing the damn thing into oblivion. Nice.
His Sneasel is a mixed bag. Sometimes he's really smart and uses Icy Wind to beat through the team, yet other times he will randomly Low Kick Gale for piddly damage. I don't get it.
(While we're still at it, why does Garchomp's sprite have that weird thick outline?)
CYRUS'S GYARADOS, THOUGH
What a monster this thing is. Not only do you have the level mountain range at work again, you have to fight a fully evolved Pokemon... while the rest of your team should be around level 12 with one pseudo-legendary and about five baby Pokemon. It's ludicrous.
It gets worse, though. Just take a look at this:
WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO PEOPLE, DUDE
Being difficult doesn't automatically make your game better, nor will people grind to meet with whatever threat you throw them with. You'd think with this being the second game she'd learn from the mistakes of the first, but apparently not.
A Level 20 Gyarados with 250 EVs and no real way to combat it other than grinding an Elekid that will most likely die in one or two hits? Come on. This is actually not the worst of it, because aside from having Scald (a STAB move that burns and is boosted by a held item), he also has... and stay with me when I say this here, but... HYPER BEAM.
GODDAMN HYPER BEAM AS YOUR FIRST REAL CHALLENGE.
Through a long and complicated series of events, I managed to defeat Cyrus with no casualties. I was stuck for an hour or so on this, and it's not even the first chapter... what a start, huh?
Yeah no kidding, how are you supposed to beat that??
"That Pokemon who's protecting the boy and his Bonsly is glowing!"
Cyrus: "Argh. Everyone, retreat!"
he be a pirate
Dray: "No way. Monica, we'll chase after them! Meet us later!"
Oh hey, they're legit helping Monica out. That's far better than whatever the hell they were doing in the first game.
"I was scared until you and the green Pokemon showed up."
This kid managed to have both Virizion of the Swords of Justice and Monica show up to save him. Lucky dog.
Virizion: ("You're this generation's chosen savior. Arceus does not make mistakes, you are the one. However, do not let anger fuel your motivation to win. That will give Darugis the edge in this battle. Goodbye, Monica.")
But yeah guys, that's all I can fit into one chapter. Next time on Dark Rising 2, we're going to... do something that will likely wind up with me getting frustrated. I dunno with this game. See you then.