Early this morning, I was browsing the emails I had gotten during the night; a few facebook updates, a little spam, a newsletter, and an email from a sender with the name "NO MORE". The address was "Hope_abandoned". The subject? Tarnished Gold.
I was intrigued. I opened my email to find a wall of text starting simply with "I hear you're in the market for creepy Pokemon things...here's one for you. Enjoy." And then, I began to read.
Being someone who isn't nearly as computer savvy as someone from this generation should be, I know very little about what technology is capable of. Aside from email, IM, and the occasional download of something otherwise unobtainable for me at the moment, I have about the same amount of knowledge an eighty-year-old might possess about the electronic world.
For example, and for the sake of this tale I'm about to recount, I was totally unaware that someone is capable of hacking pokemon games to make their own sub-story of the world, even less so that it was possible to make a physical copy of the game in a real cartridge.
However, I happened to learn about this in one of the most disturbing ways possible.
When I was younger, Pokemon Gold was my very first game from the ever popular franchise. I became very attached to the little creatures my character (named after myself even though the character was male) and often fantasized about the adventures we would go through had a preset storyline not been in place.
That isn't quite important, though.
Was is important is the fact that I never truly let go of my childhood fantasies, the memories had from that first game were far too cherished to set free. As such, I still have my old Gold game, complete with a total abuse of the copy glitch. I refuse to restart my game though, as I'm afraid too much of the old magic would be lost.
I wanted to play a whole new game of the version that I recall being the happiest with, but older cartridges are rather hard to find outside of the Internet nowadays, the most my local flea markets have are GBA games...hardly any being Pokemon.
Fortunately for me, my grandmother still fully supports my long-standing love for Pokemon and often buys boxes of cards, toys, video tapes and other items she comes across during her frequent visits to local auctions. Granted, very little of these thing she gives me are in good condition; long forgotten items stowed away in a musty basement after the phase in their owner's life has passed hardly ever are. But, as gifts from a dear relative, I cherish them as if they were made of gold...pun not intended.
Most recently, she gave me a box with a brand new video tape containing episodes from early on in the first season, several hundred battered and well used cards, and a game cartridge with no label.
The cartridge was the familiar metallic gold color of the game I had been looking for. Even though the label had been removed, and a large red 'X' drawn in sharpie in the place where the sticker should have been, I could easily tell what it was...what other game had that color? You can imagine my excitement for finally finding another copy! -I hate ordering things online, this was a rather big relief- I thanked her profusely and promised I would play it as soon as I got home, which I did.
Getting started was difficult, not because the game was faulty, but because I had sold my GBA to my little brother several years ago for some of his better pokemon cards...once something belongs to him, it's difficult to get him to lend it out to me. Such is sibling relations, I suppose.
After much bribery, I finally got my hands on my former GBA and quickly inserted the vandalized game. Chills ran through my body as the opening 'movie' for the game began to play, sending a wave of nostalgia crashing over me, it was good to see it again.
The game opened normally, the pixelated image of Ho-oh flying through the sky beneath the title presented itself before leading into the normal selection screen. The person who owned the game before me still had the game on file, but I cared very little for what someone did before me. Considering the condition of their things, they must have been very young. I was bound to be met with a team full of Pikachu with ridiculous names.
I started a new game.
It was here that I realized something wasn't quite right with the game. The normal intro involving a Professor introducing you to the world of Pokemon didn't play out. Rather, it went more like this:
It started out with a black screen, which was quite familiar considering that’s how the Gold, Silver, and Crystal games begin. But, instead of the normal ‘What time is it?’ dialogue, I was met with…
……….. …… … Pokemon are nothing more than tools. Use them, and throw them away. ……..
The black screen faded away, revealing an empty area at night. It looked familiar; I vaguely remember it being a route in an earlier part of the game, but since I’ve been away from the game for so long, I couldn’t place it.
In the silence of this scene, the sprite of your rival –henceforth noted as Silver- walked in from the left; he moved a little slower than normal as if he were hesitant about something. Once he had moved to the middle of the screen, he stopped and turned back to look at where he came from, turned towards where he was going, and turned back towards where he had came once again.
For a moment, he stood there simply staring towards the left side of the screen before a dialogue box popped up beneath him saying nothing more than “…”. After that, he turned back around yet again, only this time, he continued off to walk off screen.
The scene faded away to be replaced with Silver standing in the place where you first officially see him, just outside Professor Elm’s laboratory. It was clearly in a slightly later part of the game than normal as the professor and his assistants all exited the lab and went their separate ways; the assistants left the town, and Elm walked further downward off screen –which I assume that meant he left for his home and remained in town. The character of Gold was nowhere to be seen.
After that small scene, it stayed on Silver. I thought the game had frozen for a minute, but I finally realized I was able to move him. Honestly I was a little excited, Silver was –and always has been- my favorite of the rivals, it was an interesting thing to be able to play has him.
I moved him a little further downward to see if I was able to explore, but it stopped me each time I moved one step away from the front of the lab. A dialogue box popped up that said, “I can’t leave yet…”, and it backed me up a step. I moved back up to the place he had originally been standing and moved into the window, it worked much like a door as it allowed me to enter Professor Elm’s lab.
Aside from the regular equipment -bookshelves, computers, trashcans, tables, all that- the lab was empty; which was to be expected since the employees had left just a moment ago. On the table was a single pokeball, being without one at the moment, I walked over and took it.
A dialogue box popped up and said ‘Obtained TOTODILE’ but no ‘item get’ music played…apparently, stealing wasn’t condoned even by the game. After pressing ‘A’, it gave me the option of naming the pokemon, I picked ‘yes’ as I love naming these things. As it took me to the naming screen, another dialogue box popped up, interrupting the naming process:
“Don’t name it! You’ll only get attached. Don’t love it, use it.”
It was clearly the ‘voice’ of the same person who spoke in the very beginning…I found it odd…
The naming screen faded away leaving me in the empty lab, which I quickly tried to leave through the front door, but was stopped by Silver saying, “Not through there…” Again, he backed up and I exited through the window I had come in from.
As if things weren’t strange enough as they were, when I left New Bark Town to begin the adventure and stepped into the grass, it was nearly impossible to get a random battle to start. Normally, I go out of my way to avoid them later on in the game, but during the beginning, it was something I enjoyed to get my pokemon to level up…being unable to find something to fight was a little frustrating.
After several minutes of walking back and forth in patches of grass, I finally encountered a pokemon. A Sentret, nothing out of the ordinary, but when I sent out my Totodile and chose the only presently useful move he had –Scratch-, the pokemon fled. I was rather confused, wild pokemon never ran…not so early in the game. After a few more tries, all with the same outcome, I continued on to Cherrygrove.
Just before I entered the city, I recognized the small area as the one Silver had walked through in the beginning. After entering the city, I bumped into Gold, who wordlessly challenged me to a battle.
His pokemon, a Cyndaquil, was already a slightly higher level than mine (I was still stuck at level five, he was already at level seven) and, even though I had the type advantage, he beat me. Before whiting out, his sprite switched out with the Cyndaquil’s…he looked disappointed.
After exiting the Cherrygrove Pokemon Center –I hadn’t used it prior, but it was apparently the only option I had-, I walked back to the place he had challenged me only to find I was unable to battle him at this point again.
The game was getting a little annoying by now, I had no money, pokegear, or pokedex, and I was unable to battle wild pokemon. Fortunately, once I entered Route 30 onward, there were other pokemon trainers in which I could battle and easily beat…though none of them seemed eager to speak to me after I had won.
By the time I entered Violet City, my pokemon’s level was still too low to take on the gym leader. But with the money I had won from the trainers I fought before, I was at least able to buy some potions, so I felt I was set.
The lesser trainers of the gym were easy enough, I was only forced to use two of my previously purchased potions and I leveled up once. Though, as I took on the gym leader, he proved to me too much and I lost yet again. Upon winning, he did the very same thing Gold had done…and he looked disappointed as well.
When the battle ended, I didn’t white out, rather I had to endure a lecture about treating pokemon correctly from the leader. Once he finished speaking, I received a one-worded option: ‘Steal?’
I chose the only option given to me, ‘Yes’.
Silver backed up one step and slammed into the gym leader, kicking him backwards. Another dialogue box popped up telling me that I had stolen the gym badge, TM31, and $500.
After that, I whited out.
This is how it continued on for the remainder of the game, while I was able to defeat lesser trainers on the paths to cities and in the gyms, I constantly lost to the leader and was forced to steal their badges. The ‘steal’ option also worked on people who would normally give you items in the game, this is how I was able to obtain key items such as the Itemfinder, the bicycle, the water pail, HMs, and many more…They refused to give me anything otherwise.
Anyone I spoke to either refused to talk, greeting me only with “…” or lectured me a little on how to properly treat pokemon…it was beginning to get that way with Nurse Joy as well. By the time I had progressed to Goldenrod City, anytime I whited out, she’d scold me.
Pokemon continued to avoid me as well, if I wanted to better my team I had to hope that the pokeballs I used worked the first time. What was stranger about random battles is that, even if I locked the pokemon in battle with Mean Look, the pokemon passed out. Literally. After my first attack of Mean Look –If I got to the first attack that is, sometimes the pokemon had a higher speed than mine-, before I was able to choose another, the pokemon would faint on its own.
The dialogue box proclaimed, “-POKEMON- forced itself to pass out!” and the battle ended.
The only thing that seemed to go normally for me was the battles with Team Rocket. I always won against them and they always treated me like a punk kid getting in their way.
The rest of the game up until a certain point isn’t entirely important. Aside from win, lose, and steal, everything was more or less normal. While my pokemon matured slowly due to frequent losses, they did grow to like me a little as I began giving them haircuts and other little things to boost our bond. The last I had checked, the person who rated their happiness –one of the very few people who spoke to me normally- said “It’s quite cute.” I know you must be thinking that this isn’t disturbing at all, that I should just accept the fact that this is simply a hack made to tell Silver’s side of the story…Well, I did and it was, but I’m not quite finished yet.
Once I had finally made it to Kanto -continuing the process of win, lose, and steal-, I ventured into Viridian City. The second I stepped foot into the city, the music cut off. I thought for certain that this was simply a glitch in the programming, that I was now to walk through a soundless game. But as a stood there for a moment, a very faint noise picked up and faded away.
I was now sure that the music had messed up, like it was trying to play, but couldn’t. But as I stepped back into the route I had just come from, the music picked up perfectly…it was only Viridian City that was silent.
I was now curious, so I stepped back into the silent city and began to explore. There wasn’t a person in site…No one out in the open, no one in the houses, not even anyone in the in the Pokemart or Pokemon Center. The city was entirely empty…just the silence and the occasional soft noise which I still hadn’t identified.
As I walked towards the gym, the sound grew a little louder. I figured the noise was coming from the inside, so I entered. There was no one there either, but that was to be expected, the gym was always empty until much later.
The noise didn’t play in here, but it was still dead silent.
I walked up to where the gym leader normally stood and, as I walked past the spot and into the brink wall –I do that sometimes, I like the noise- I was transported to another room…the wall had hidden a set of stairs. This place was silent as well…but the noise began to play yet again. It was much louder this time, just a bunch of random, high-pitched noises…but it sounded like screams.
By this time, as you could well imagine, my heart was pounding…I don’t take screaming –or things that sound like screaming- very well due to an unfortunate experience with a very graphic haunted house when I was three years old…but I digress.
Regardless of my pounding heart and shaking hands, I explored the room…which was tinted in a muted red much like everything was in Pokemon Red. The room followed a sideways zigzag pattern and the ‘screams’ came at random, some short, some long and drawn out…it sounded as if someone was being tortured.
As I continued down the zigzagging hallways, I came across several disturbing images; sprites of NPCs without their heads, as well as heads without bodies. Anytime I tried to examine the bodies, Silver simply said “Don’t look…”
The bodies and heads became more frequent as I went on, clogging up the hallways and leaving only a small path for me to follow…and the screaming became more frequent.
The screen began to flicker as I walked, just like it would if one of my pokemon was poisoned…but none of them were. Just in case, I checked the status of my party. None of them were poisoned, but their health was going down. In an attempt to heal them, I picked a super potion out of my bag and used it on my Feralligator.
A dialogue box popped up and said “It won’t have any effect.”
Now I was disturbed, I knew none of this was supposed to happen. Regardless, I continued on, hoping that if they all fainted from this, I’d be taken back to a pokemon center and things would return to normal.
…It was stupid of me to assume that…
I continued along the morbid path, the screen flickering in and out. Finally, Silver stopped as the dialogue box popped up telling me that all my pokemon had fainted…but it didn’t say what I had hoped…
It said ‘ALL DEAD’.
By now, I was read to cry, but I couldn’t stop myself from trying to get to the end of this disturbing experience…if I didn’t do this now, I’d just be tempted to try it again some other time…
Finally, I reached the center room, which was now tinted a deep red…I assumed this was to simulate the fact that the room was filled with blood, however there were only a few bodies scattered around it. In the center, there were a few live figures, a man, a pokemon, Gold, and another pokemon I could only assumed was his Typhlosion.
Gold’s Typhlosion attacked the man’s pokemon, but it was quickly struck down, its sprite first turning red, then grey, then disappearing…the man’s pokemon had killed it.
Silver’s sprite stepped forward on its own and the man finally acknowledged he was there.
GIOVANNI: Ah, son, you’ve made it. Come to see your rival’s demise, have you?
This caused Gold to turn around to look at you; the only thing he said was “…”
Silver continued to move on his own; he approached the man and kicked him backwards…Which obviously enraged Giovanni.
GIOVANNI: You’re going to help him? HA! You’ve become just as weak as the others! If he seems worth saving to you…perhaps I should show you that there’s no sense in getting attached! MEWTWO, take care of him!
Mewtwo obeyed his creator’s command and approached Gold. I’m still uncertain of what it actually did, but it struck Gold, causing a scream much louder than before as the sprite of Silver’s rival lost its head and faded to deep red to grey.
GIOVANNI: I told you long ago, Silver, Pokemon are nothing more than tools! People are as well. Use them and throw them away once they’ve server your purpose. MEWTWO, kill him!
The Mewtwo didn’t obey this time; Giovanni’s words must have angered it. It turned to him and actually spoke.
MEWTWO: …You’re no longer useful…
It struck Giovanni just as it had done Gold and Typhlosion, but the scream Giovanni produced was much longer than any other I had heard…Mewtwo was torturing him.
Finally, the scream faded away into nothingness and Giovanni’s sprite did just as Gold’s did…leaving only Silver and Mewtwo alive in the room. As Mewtwo turned to face me, I knew that wouldn’t last for long.
MEWTWO: …Not useful…
It struck me, initiating a battle in which I was totally unable to participate. My sprite was in the place of any pokemon, my health was full, but I knew it wouldn’t help. I chose to run, but I couldn’t…I chose to attack, but I had nothing to use…I just had to stand there as Mewtwo used Psychic on Silver’s defenseless image.
Even with the sound turned to a low level, the ‘scream’ coming from Silver was disturbingly loud. Even as the battle screen faded away, the scream lingered until Silver’s sprite turned from red to grey – which I now assume symbolizes the coldness of death-…Silver, along with Gold and everyone else who had been unfortunate enough to wander into this place from Viridian, was now dead.
The screen faded to black, all except for Mewtwo’s sprite, which remain in the center of the screen. My paranoid mind immediately made me think he was somehow going to turn on me next, but the word ‘END’ simply faded in just underneath him and the screen cut to black, taking me back to the opening sequence.
I’m still unsure why this was made, why someone just shoved it into a box to sell, and why I happened to find it…But I can assure you that I’m swearing off all randomly found games…either it’s new, or I’ll never risk touching it again.
The game I just described has slipped out of my possession since that first play through…I have no idea where it is, but I hope it’s rotting in a dump somewhere.