I still remember the times when I would spend entire days playing Pokémon. I'd trade and battle with my friend, even though I always knew he'd beat me every time. Those hours and hours on end, I never once felt bored. Awhile ago, I felt the need to replay those wonderful hours again. However, all of my Pokémon games of old were worn out and wouldn't save anymore. So, I traveled to the nearest game store to see if I could find anything.
I managed to find a Pokémon Red in perfect condition, somehow. The previous owner must not have liked it that much, and it was just left to the store to take care of. I left the store feeling good about my purchase, not knowing what had actually come under my ownership.
I got home at about 10:40PM. Sitting on my couch like I used to, I flicked on the light behind me to see by. I thought about how bad it was to have no backlight. I turned on the Game Boy, but instead of the usual start-up sequence I was used to, the screen remained blank. I turned it off, blew into the cartridge, and put it back in, expecting it to work.
The same thing happened. I stared for a moment, thinking how odd it was that a perfect cartridge could malfunction like this. But then, just as I thought this, a black splatter effect appeared on the screen, as if someone had dripped ink on it. Another one appeared, and another, and another, with less time in between each one, until the whole screen was black.
Before I had time to wonder what was going on, a pair of eyes appeared on the screen and blinked. Then, whatever had those eyes appeared to slash the screen, turning their head and bringing it down to the corner of it, creating a white mark. Then game music started playing, which sounded like the Lavender Town theme played backwards. At this moment, the slash widened to show the sprite of an Absol
I stared at it. An Absol
in Pokémon Red? How is this possible? I came to the conclusion that the cartridge was not Pokémon Red, but a version altered by the original owner, and at this point it was apparent that it was going to be quite a dark hack.
Text was now displayed above the Absol sprite, which appeared to have been done in the style of Generation I sprites. The text read, "Pokémon Sin," and appeared to be written in (pixelated) blood. Just when I was thinking, "Ooh, scary. Pfft," the title screen faded out, and in came the next, with different music.
I appeared to be in Professor Oak's Lab, but it was different. Very different. No one was there, the windows were broken, and it appeared that it was night outside. The machinery and bookshelves had spread across the room, making the whole place a mess. There were six Poké Balls scattered throughout the room. After a moment, I realized that the new music was actually a very slow version of the original Lab music, played backwards.
I decided to see what was inside the Poké Balls. Climbing a pile of books, I reached the top and selected the Poké Ball there. Then, wild Pokémon music started playing, and I heard a Pokémon cry. As I entered battle, in came an Absol. I realized that I didn't know what Pokémon I had. However, my character sprite just appeared and stayed there. I was only given one option: ►Subdue
Not knowing what else to do, I selected the option. The following scene seemed like a display of how twisted the hacker was.
My character seemed to advance on the Absol, and I noticed what seemed to be a whip in his hand. The character cracked the whip at the Pokémon, which growled at him. The Pokémon lunged forward and slashed me with the sickle on its head. My character backed away quickly and narrowly avoided being cut open. My character then ran quickly towards Absol, beat it down, tied it up, and then threw a Poké Ball at it. The Absol didn't even appear to attempt to break free. The battle then ended, and I was back in Professor Oak's Lab.
The same thing occured with the next five Pokémon, except each time I was forced to send out the Pokémon I last caught, and to cut the bindings I had placed on them. Each battle was more and more abhorrent than the last, culminating in a fierce battle between a Spiritomb
and a Celebi
that ended with Celebi
severely hurt and Spiritomb in the Poké Ball (with no bindings, since it was impossible to do).
At the end of the gruesome experience, I had caught a full team including Absol, Gastly
, Celebi, and Spiritomb. I then walked out of the door and into the outside world.
When I was outside, the Lab just rippled and vanished, leaving a dark spot where it used to be. The remains of houses were scattered around what used to be Pallet Town. I searched the rubble, not even knowing what I was looking for. All the trees were now merely stumps, broken off irregularly and laying on the ground. I was able to climb up one of these stumps, and a screen showed that seemed to be from my character's perspective.
As far as I could see, there were trees blown down everywhere. There was barely any sign of Viridian City ahead, and Viridian Forest was flattened. Behind me, in the distance, was the shape of Cinnabar Island, but something was different about it. Much different.
The island was barely poking out of the water now, and the rubble of its buildings was floating on the shore of Pallet Town. It appeared as though the volcano had exploded. I could not even see the skyline of cities such as Celadon and Saffron. Mt. Moon was much shorter, and the peak now appeared to be a giant crater.
I traveled ahead until I reached the remains of Viridian City. There was only one building left standing, the Pokémon Center. I entered to find the place completely barren. The only object in the room was the healing machine. I gladly healed my Pokémon (if I could even call them my own), and then the whole Center disappeared in the same way as Professor Oak's Lab—while I was inside it.
At that moment, I heard a Pokémon's cry, and in a flash of light, the Absol I had caught appeared behind me. My character turned around to look at it. Absol spun in a slow circle, as though it were looking around, and then ran off to the right of the screen. I followed it.
I finally caught up to it when I reached a large clearing in the path of tree stumps. It was looking around when I got to the clearing, and when it saw me, it began to run again. I suddenly realized that the clearing was in fact the remains of Celadon City. I knew very well then where this game was going.
When we reached Lavender Town, Absol finally stopped and waited for me. Then, when I approached it, it went back inside its Poké Ball. I then checked my start menu. The hacker had named his trainer Tsumi. There was no option to check the Poké Dex, there was no way to save, there were no options, there was only Pokémon, Items, and Tsumi. Checking the items list, I found that the only items I had were the Silph Scope, the GS Ball, and the Odd Keystone. I closed the bag and the menu.
The following happened within more or less than five seconds. First, there was the cry of a Pokémon, the flash of a Poké Ball opening, and then a loud, howling, windy sound. Next, a screen showed that depicted Tsumi standing. Then, the Gastly I had caught passed through Tsumi, who fell backwards. All the shading drained out of Tsumi's body. When the normal screen resumed, I was transparent. If I moved, my legs did not. Tsumi was a ghost.
Gastly had returned to its Poké Ball by now, but then, Marowak took its place. The Marowak was facing directly at Tsumi, who at the time was unable to move. This went on for an agonizingly long time before Marowak disappeared, just as the Lab and the Pokémon Center had.
Next to appear was Hypno. A new screen opened, and there was Hypno, waving its pendulum at Tsumi. The regular screen resumed, and Hypno was still hypnotizing my character. Then, it lowered its pendulum. Turning around slowly, it began to walk away. My character followed, and I could not do anything about it.
The painstakingly slow walk took ages, it seemed. We walked down Route 12 all the way through to Route 15, until we stopped in the Vermilion wasteland. We were standing on the spot where the man and his Machop
had been working at before. Now there was only a statue of an unrecognizable Pokémon and some rubble around it. Hypno then returned to its Poké Ball.
Next came the Pokémon I had been dreading—Celebi. Whatever sequence of events its time travel would bring up, I did not want to experience... but at the same time, I couldn't help but wonder what I'd see. There was a flash on the screen as Celebi appeared, and then it just seemed to turn black. Slowly, however, a pinhole of white space opened up to reveal the full scene.
Pokémon and humans were fighting, together and against each other, in an all out war. Cutscenes rolled by of fighter airplanes flying, Pokémon mourning, people dying, bombs exploding, Pokémon attacks coming from every which way. It was chaos. There was no order, there was no real cause; there was only chaos. No one seemed to know whose side was whose.
The regular game screen came up again, and I was amidst the chaos with Tsumi's shading regained—but reversed. No one seemed to notice my presence. I watched as Team Rocket members co-operated with the police to attempt to bring order. It was futile.
Then, Spiritomb appeared—I did not even notice until then that Celebi had returned to its Poké Ball—and it led me all the way back the war-infected path to Lavender Town. It seemed the only place of peace. People and Pokémon who appeared to be enemies joined together to mourn the dead.
I was led by Spiritomb into the dilapidated Pokémon Tower. I could now freely control my character, but something told me not to let that get to me and to follow Spiritomb to the top floor. There, all the Pokémon I had caught at the beginning sprang out of their Poké Balls, and the Marowak that had vanished now wavered back into existence.
I could only watch as the Pokémon advanced on Tsumi. Absol slashed at him and pinned him to the ground. Gastly engulfed him and poisoned his wounds. Marowak beat him into submission with its bone club. Hypno ate all the joyous memories and good dreams from his brain. Celebi used its psychic power to lift him off his feet and condense his form into a ball of light - his soul. Then, as a final punishment, all the Pokémon worked together and forced his soul to be contained within Spiritomb—forever.
I will always remember the experience I had playing that hack. I can see exactly what the hacker was aiming for, but what I could not understand why he would express such a moral within the medium of a Pokémon game—perhaps he thought that using something so dear to someone's heart would help to drive his message home. All I can say is, it certainly worked for me.