Aged games have always fascinated me on some level, but having sold most of my old games and consoles, I didn’t have many options when my latest nostalgia-fit kicked in. I could of course just have downloaded a ROM of some great classic, but a part of enjoying playing something old is that the game holds some value to you. Fortunately, I remembered that my trusty Gameboy Color was still collecting dust in the closet.
It didn’t take long for me to find the Gameboy. A game was already inserted into it: Pokemon Blau, the German version of Pokemon Blue. Having lived my childhood in Germany, playing the game always brought many happy memories to my mind, and thus I had never been able to make myself sell it. It had been a few years since the last time I’d played the game. Eager to remember what kind of party I had and at what point of the game I was in, I swiftly inserted some new batteries to replace the years-old ones.
One flick of a switch later the game was on. The screen of the violet device flickered to life, and the nostalgic intro of a battle between a jigglypuff and a gengar played. I didn’t skip this part like I used to do in my childhood, and it was refreshing to see the 8-bit art and hear the nostalgic tunes after a long time.
POKEMON – BLAUE EDITION.
Without hesitation I selected WEITER (continue). The screen cut to white for a few seconds. What came after that surprised me – the player character was in the middle, yes, but he was surrounded by various tiles with no apparent connection. Water randomly dotted a landscape of grass, pieces of buildings and cave entrances. No music was playing. I frowned at this glitch and immediately turned the game off, hoping that the save file hadn’t somehow become corrupted during the years of neglect.
When I loaded the save for the second time, my fears came true. The same glitchy landscape surrounded my character. Frustrated, I opened up the start menu to at least see what kind of Pokemons I had with me. Only when the scenery randomly rearranged itself while the menu opened did I realize where I was. Of course! The last time I’d played the game, I had been obsessed about video game glitches. Having wanted to explore all the programming quirks in my favourite games, I had successfully travelled to the famous Glitch City. I shuffled through all the info with only the eerie silence and the menu sounds accompanying me. There were only two Pokemon in my party: CITADEL, a level 82 Charizard, and HIDDEN, a level 90 Gyarados. Ah, those trusty ol’ companions, did we have some great adventures together… My character was named Blau in honor of the game.
Fascinated by being in the messed-up realm after a long time,I started exploring the scrambled “city” just like I had done a few years back. At certain tiles I could hear the surf music or the route 3&4 theme playing only for it to go away the instant I stepped elsewhere. Like usually in Glitch City, it was getting progressively harder to backtrack as previously traversable ground shifted and turned into pieces of buildings. Even though I was fortunate enough to not get permanently trapped, the distortions of the landscape forced me to head south.
After going southwards for almost ten minutes in a twisted maze of empty white spaces, solid bushes and randomly teleporting cliffs, I reached a seemingly infinite field of tall grass, abruptly cutting the partial buildings and other tiles in a straight horizontal line. When I stepped in the grass, the music started once again, only this time, the familiar Pallet Town theme was playing. I tried to go south again, but failed. I tried north, east and west too. Nope. I was stuck – the only solution would be to fly away. I was frustrated because it was extremely unlikely that I’d find a way back to this place in the Glitch City, as stepping onto one wrong tile could shape the entire place in such a way that it would become impossible to travel this far south.
I pondered for a bit about my options, but there really were none. Thus, I pressed start to open up the menu. Instead of the expected, an entirely different textbox popped up.
Möchtest Du das Spiel SICHERN?
The game was prompting whether I wanted to save or not. I thought about it for a bit – I had once encountered a glitch like this before, and it didn’t destroy my save. I selected JA (yes). However, the game didn’t save. Instead it prompted me again:
Der bisherige Spielstand wird überschrieben! OK?
I frowned; I was being asked whether I wanted to overwrite the previous save. Usually this only happened when starting a new game, so I was naturally concerned about the possible impact it could have on my save. After a moment, I selected NEIN. I didn’t want to lose my high-level Pokemon and play the game all the way until Cinnabar Island just to reach the Glitch City again. As I pushed A, the field of tall grass suddenly warped into random tiles and a very loud and low-pitched note came out of the Gameboy. Trying to turn off the device while holding hands on my ears was hard, but I managed to do it. However, the ear-piercing sound just wouldn’t stop playing! Thinking that it had to be an issue with the Gameboy, I opened the case on the back of it and pulled the batteries out. At last, the noise stopped, and I could put the batteries in again. I wanted to know whether anything had happened to the save, but being too creeped by the event I decided to go to bed. It was 1am, after all.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night. My dreams were unusually vivid, and there was something just… wrong about them.
I was walking on the main street of my home city. Whenever I tried to talk to someone, they would only say one thing: “Weiter?”. Additionally, I could only move to one direction; whenever I tried to backtrack, invisible walls or crowds of people would block my path. The theme of Pallet Town echoed somewhere far ahead.
After a while, the buildings around me started getting progressively more distorted. Yet, I couldn’t stop moving anymore. It felt like I had lost control of my legs, and was now marching forward with a steady pace like I was on tracks. The road under me was now partially water. At some points, it was completely missing, and instead of the black tarmac there were spots of pure white. The sky looked like… it’s quite hard to describe. It looked like a completely mundane blue sky was being mixed up with white static.
When my surroundings had gotten almost unrecognizable, the mess consisting of rubble and the floating pieces of buildings and trees in front of me vanished. In its place was a field of tall grass, stretching all the way to the horizon. Ominous shifting shapes danced around in the sky. With nowhere else to go, I stepped forward.
The shapes in the sky went completely still. The world fell entirely silent. I felt like something was holding my limbs in place, making it impossible to move. A few seconds passed and the world flickered away. A white void filled the entirety of my vision.
“Weiter?” called a low voice from behind me. Able to control my muscles again, I turned around. In front of my eyes was the protagonist of the classic Pokemon games, usually known as Red. His face was completely stoic.
I hesitated. “I… I…”
Red was staring at me, his eyes unmoving, fixated on mine. His gaze was demanding an answer. I could feel a shiver running down my spine.
“…No. Nein!” I shouted at his face, my mind filled with fear about what I might see if I decided to continue.
For a split second, he was still.
Then, his face warped violently. Red’s body parts randomly rearranged themselves, but in the horrible mess that he now was, I could see his mouth opening. He screamed at the top of his lungs. He screamed – with a volume so high that I felt like somebody was pushing needles into my ears. The tone of his voice was so unnervingly low and distorted that I could but start screaming myself in a horrible duet with him.
Abruptly, the white faded to black. Red was now floating in the middle of a dark void. I could feel my bed under me and knew that I had just awoken from a dream, but his scream continued. With a shaking hand I scrambled for the light switch, luckily finding it. Now that the room was illuminated, the afterimage of Red began to fade away. The scream didn’t – only it wasn’t a scream. It was a single, loud note that my Gameboy was playing. Still horrified by the trippy nightmare, I rushed across the room, grabbed the violet device, and smashed it at the wall. The screen shattered and the casing broke into many pieces. The batteries fell out, silencing the Gameboy for good. I pulled out the cartridge – somehow, it was unharmed.
It’s now been a few weeks, and luckily, the eerie visions of Glitch City haven’t appeared in my dreams since. Unsurprisingly, the Gameboy broke. The game, Pokemon Blau, is still sitting inside my closet, collecting dust once again. The tall grass made me curious and I read some reports of other people’s experiences with Glitch City, but none seemed to match that of mine. I even bought a fresh Gameboy from E-Bay to continue exploring. But every time I insert the cartridge into it, I can’t bring myself to turn the device on. After all – I’m not really sure whether I want to continue and see what’s beyond the field.