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Steven and Miki

Hello, I am a Pokemon fan, I've played Pokemon Blue since I got it a long time ago when I was a kid. However, as I grew I grew more and more interested in these hacked games that are apparently in any thrift store, on eBay, or handed out by homeless people to random passersby.

I didn't have the pleasure of meeting these people, I merely found this particular cartridge in a trash bin when the garbage truck backed into my neighbor's dumpster.

I noticed the game and asked the trash man if I could take it, and he didn't seem to mind. It was thrown away after all. I of course checked with my neighbor to confirm if they actually didn't want it, though they seemed perplexed, as if they'd never seen it in their life.

Their son made a grab for it, a little boy who saw the Charizard on the cover, crying out "Pokémon! I want mommy!", but his mother told him no, seeing as I found it. He didn't even have a gameboy anyway, he just liked Pokémon.

Thinking nothing more, I simply went home, looking at the cartridge's sticker on the way. Just a plain old Red Version, the sticker torn slightly with a little black sharpie heart drawn on the chest of the Charizard, but that was expected with such an old game, someone likely vandalized it. I had Blue Version as a kid, so I was a bit eager to see the, albeit minimal, differences Red Version had. I was rather disappointed by what I saw when the title screen showed up.

"Pokémon: Cuddled Red Version."

Well damn it, it was a hack. Hacks were neat and all, but they had zero monetary value, the originals quite valuable by now, and I wanted to play Red anyway, not this crap. Oh well, it was free, might as well try it.

The name was odd however, Cuddled Red? Seemed too familiar to me, my friend told me about a Strangled Red story, but, I wanted to play to see if it would be scary.

The more I thought about this though, the more interested I became. My initial disappointment turned into curiosity, I wanted to know what the creator had made, and I was going to note everything I saw. The first oddity I noticed was the start screen had a Charizard next to the trainer instead of a Charmander, also, the Pokémon never cycled through like the original versions did, it just stayed Charizard, even after five minutes of waiting.Shrugging, I hit start, noticing there was no Charizard cry as I did, like there was supposed to be.

I saw there was a "Continue" option, so I figured I'd do what everyone did with used games and see what the previous owner had done.

"… No…"

I blinked in surprise. No? What do you mean no? The game wouldn't let me continue no matter what, though on the fourth attempt, I heard the Charizard cry, quiet and barely audible, but there. Shrugging it off, I decided to just hit New Game, like I would have done after checking the old file anyway.

The screen cut to black for a while, no Prof. Oak, no starting theme, just nothing at all. Eventually, the screen came back, showing a bedroom, two beds, two TVs, and a computer in the corner. My trainer sprite was the usual one, consistent with the original Red Version. I was curious as to why it didn't ask my name, though that was answered as I opened the pause menu, noticing my Trainer was named "Steven". No, this isn't my real name or some stupid crap like that, this game isn't self-aware or haunted, at least not that I know of, it just had a name chosen already.

Curious, I saw he had the starter amount of money, no badges. He didn't look like red though, his hair was longer, almost reaching halfway down his back, Red's usual smile replaced with a confident smirk. Honestly, I found this sprite much cooler than Red.

Next I checked out his Pokémon, a single Charmander, level five, named "Miki". Nothing was odd about it… or should I say her, with the name and all. She had beginning Charmander stats, only knew Scratch and Tail Whip, basic stuff. The game seemed relatively normal.

Returning to the game, I walked about the room, noticing Steven's long hair was present on the back of my trainer sprite when my back was turned to the camera. I didn't recognize the house, but I descended the stairs to see more. Downstairs was another trainer, who spoke to me the instant I came down.

Mike: Ready yet?

Steven: Yeah.

I assumed this "Mike" was my rival, pre-decided for me, a replacement of Blue most likely, though I thought back to the bedroom having two beds, realizing they weren't just rivals, they were brothers. They talked back and forth, basic Pokémon dialogue, become a pokémaster, catch em all, stuff like that, before having a little argument over which is better, Charmander or Squirtle, which of course led to the introduction battle, like the one vs. Blue in the lab. Simple enough, Scratch, Tackle, Scratch, Tackle, til I won purely for having the first turn.

I took note of how much better Steven's sprite looked in combat than Red's, a different pose, his hair looking like it was blowing in the wind, a brief, minor upgrade, but still, much nicer.

I left the house after some more banter with my "brother", stepping out to the Pallet Town theme. Going to the east, I found this was indeed Pallet Town, the house was simply on the outskirts to the west. I noted there was no mysterious grassy field like in normal Pallet Town. Wandering about, I decided to check in on Red's home.

His mother was inside and when I talked to her, she commented on how handsome Steven looked, hoping her son would look up to him as a role-model for when he became a trainer himself next year, which of course led me to realize this game took place a year before the original Pokémon. Red was even upstairs, playing the SNES in his room, commenting "I'm gonna be the best too when its my turn!"

I was starting to like this hack. It was interesting, a completely new adventure, a different character, hell, Steven even seemed to have a history with the people in his town, a reputation, a personality beyond a silent protagonist. The people in town talked to him as a person, making conversation, not just spouting tutorial crap. Even Blue's sister had new dialogue, they seemed to be in a relationship too, as the dialogue ended with a kiss and a heart over her head.

Prof. Oak simply wished me well, giving me a Pokedex to aid my adventure. He wasn't giving it to me to be the reason behind the adventure like every other Pokémon game out there, he gave it to me out of kindness, something to help me on my way, a gift. I was liking this more and more with each second, the game seemed to have an actual story now! I was somebody, not just a cookie-cutter protagonist anyone could be, not some blank sheet that could be replaced without notice.

The story was different, though the actual game play remained unchanged. I went north like I was supposed to, went from town to town, collected badges, received the praise of the leaders. Steven's fame even seemed to spread, as some NPCs would talk like the knew him.

I used Miki for every battle, and she was growing surprisingly fast. She handled Brock with ease, even pounded Misty with no trouble at all. She wasn't as adversely effected by super-effective attacks as others, did more damage than a regular Charmander, she was a veritable powerhouse! She even became a Charizard at the mere level of twenty-five, not bad at all I must say.

Things started to get weird though as soon as I reached Lavender Town. I know, I know, Lavender Town is the focus behind every creepy story and the like, but it was the only place that was noticeably different. There was no Team Rocket invasion, which I found odd, though I did remember this was a year in the past, so the invasion wouldn't occur until Red's time. I tried to enter Pokémon tower, aiming to get a Ghastly, but that's when it go odd.

Steven: I have no reason to be here…

Steven wouldn't go into Pokémon Tower no matter what I did. This was weird, I mean hell, there are a million places in Kanto you really have no need to be, little random houses with nothing but children NPCs for example.

Why was it here that Steven wouldn't enter, instead a textbox saying, "I don't want to go in there, it's too sad" appeared. So, I led Steven on his way.

The game progressed normally from there, the remaining gyms fell and eventually I made my way to the Elite Four and defeated them.

As with Blue, my "brother" Mike was there before me, initiating the championship battle, which Miki swept with ease. The aftermath of the battle was quite pleasant, none of the tension that was present between Red and Blue at the end of their match, the brothers congratulated each other on their progress and shook hands, before the screen went white, no Hall of Fame, nor any credits.

When the screen came back, it was at the house again, the two brothers sitting at the computer, conversing with each other.

Steven: I don't want too…

Mike: Come on, I just gotta borrow her for a second to finish the Pokédex, the entry won't register unless she recognizes me as master for just a second. Steven: But she's my Miki…

Mike: I promise I'll give her back, come on, please?

"Yes?
No?"

I was a bit perplexed, so I hit No to be cautious.

Mike: Come on, please?

NO

Mike: Come on, please?

I selected No one more time

Mike:... I understand.

I was in shock to see this, as my friend at school told me that you'd need to choose yes and something would go wrong.

I watched Mike's NPC leave the room, and... oddly, Miki appeared infront of Steven. He said to her with a text box, "I would never give you up" 

the next text box read in a slightly different font, "Charizard-char-zard"

The screen went dark, there was an old man now in a room with a Charizard, I tapped on the arrow pad, and he moved. I soon realized, this was further along. 

A younger NPC came in, he kind of looked like the standard Blue sprite from Pokemon Blue, and he said "I'm going to be the best trainner." He let out of his Pokeball a Charmander. 

the game froze, then, the screen showed elderly Steven and Miki, they were listening to a radio of some sorts, and they had heard about the Team Rocket's attack on the poor mother Marowak. They started heading to the Pokemon Tower, to fight for the justice of Pokemon, but, Steven collapsed, he had a heart attack, he looked kind of like the man who needed his coffee... suddenly I saw the animation for Fly, but... it was Miki's sprite. She flew him to Lavendar Town, and she went alone into the Pokemon Tower, leaving Steven with Mr.Fuji.

Miki... helped stop Team Rocket, however, when she came back for Steven, he was weak. They stayed together in the hospital, until the screen went dark. Some white words appeared on the screen as the Pokemon Silver Lavendar Town theme played, the words said, "When a Pokemon Trainer truely cares for their Pokemon, it is frienship until the end, Pokemon and their Trainers are inseperable, friendship is the key to happiness" The screen went back to the start up screen... I tried to load my game, but it said "No" again, and then the Charizard roar...

For I had understood now, why you couldn't skip to the end, because, at the end... was the end of the journey of Steven and Miki, it had shown me what would have been.

Cuddled Red... because they were there for each other... from the first meeting, to the sad end.

I ended up giving the cartridge to a best friend of mine, and telling them to give it to their friend when they were done, and helping continue the chain... I don't know where it is now... but hopefully the message of friendship spread, and, if the selected "Yes" for the trade... I hope Miki would be ok.

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