Recently I have seen this youtube video about some of the best/creepy romhacks of videogames. Stuff like "the lion king" with Simba hanging himself, Pokémon escape from lavender town, etc. One game really caught my eye though. It was called "Earthbound The Halloween Hack" and it was created by Toby Fox, the same guy who created Undertale.
As a lover of retro games I felt...ashamed I never played an earthbound/mother game before. I knew about the games and its mechanics because of some youtube videos and some of my friends playing it. But I never played one them since those old school RPG's (except from Pokémon) aren't exactly my game of choice.
Anyways, since the youtube video didn't have any download links I went to google and searched for the game. I found some sites but they all asked surveys or were blocked by my add blocker. Long story short: It took me a while until I found a good download link. Eventually I found this rather plain website with the basic stuff on it’s page: The name of the game, how big the file was and a button "download".
I went ahead and downloaded the game and ran it in my SNES emulator as fast as I could. The game booted up and my screen looked glitched, I looked rather confused thinking the rom was broken but then I remembered a friend of me who played Earthbound before and said it was part of the intro. And it was, the glitched looking colors faded and the screen displayd: "Earthbound: The Halloween Edition" and the words "New Game" while.
I opened a new save file and I had to name my character. Just as the youtube video told I wouldn't be playing as Ness or Lucas or any of the characters I knew trough Super Smash Bros. I was quite exited since I was finally going to play Earthbound for the first time.
The game started with my character waking up in an empty classroom. I walked a bit around in the class and studied the game a bit, the graphics looked clean and tidy which made me wonder if it was either like this in the original game or if it was enhanced.
The same could have been said about the music. And when I say music I don’t mean a tune playing in the background but the sound effects, all I could hear was the sound of wind blowing and floors cracking which reminded me of the Corpse Party game for the PSP. Again, due to a lack of experience with SNES games and the idea that more enhanced music was possible since I was playing a romhack, I decided that it was just a really well made hack and left the classroom to explore the game.
Once I entered the hallway I and was hit in the face by a bunch of “horror game clichés’”: the hallway was dark and some red pixelated area’s were visible on the walls and floor to resemble blood. I sighed and continued playing.
The game itself didn’t really give any clues into what I had to do, so I decided to try and find the exit to see the overworld. I walked around the school building and was really surprised about the fact that I was playing for 5-10 minutes and hadn’t encountered any NPCs. The only thing I found in the game so far were some pixelated corpses, and some ghosts.
I was quite disappointed with the game to be honest. The graphics looked good and the sound effects did give it a spooky feel but seriously? Some pixels representing blood and ghost as enemies instead of aliens. I had such high hopes for a romhack made by the creator of undertale for Christs sake. I took a breath, grabbed a soda and went back to playing the game.
After 20 minutes of endlessly strolling through a few hallways and dying by the hands of ghosts, I made it to the entry hall. The hall was pretty plain, it had access to two hallways (one on the left and I was in the right one) a staircase which was closed with “the floor is wet signs” and a door which wasn’t exactly visible due to the camera angle. I was so happy I could finally leave this lame old school building and hopefully enter the real game. I walked towards the exit and tried to leave the building…but no. The door didn’t open and some girls laugh sounded through my headphones. I smirked and thought “another cliché…but hey this might mean there some plot in this game”.
I turned around and I noticed an NPC at the end of the other hallway. I tried talking to her but all she said was “Everyone is gone…” in a yellow color text. (Another feature in the game was that texts varied in color. Poster were purple, the female NPC’s were yellow, etc.)
I walked past her hallway and entered the cafeteria where I found multiple NPCs. But again their text didn’t make much sense to me, they all said things like: “H…How could this happen?”, “Why us? Why now? We never did something wrong” and “She is crazy…We never did anything to her. This is all because of you and your idiotic friends!”.
That last line bothered me a bit, “what did I do? I don't even know who this girl is…could she be the girl who’s laugh I heard before?”. I left the cafeteria through another door and hoped to find more clues. I was getting quite interested in the game since I wanted to know what was going on.
I strolled across the school, defeated some ghosts and made my way to the 2nd floor of the school. There I saw a girl at the other side of the hall I entered. A text appeared with red colored words 'Follow me", she ran away and I could hear her laugh again.
I walked through the hallway in an attempt to follow her, but then stuff started getting odd. Every time I entered another room or hallway the screen stayed black for a while and a text with white letters showed up saying things such as "Ugly!", “Stupid”, “Fat”,…
The further I went the more offensive the texts got…they went from small insults to lines such as “nobody likes you" and "go kill yourself". The way the game became darker and an even bigger mystery gave me a kick!
I wanted to know who said these things. I kept following the girl as she kept popping up at the end of hallways saying “follow me” and “try to keep up” and her short childish laugh sounding every time she ran off. She led me to the first floor, the outside yard of the school and eventually the gymnasium.
The gymnasium was different than the other location in the game, the crappy pixelated blood and corpses were everywhere and music was playing for the first time. It was a kid chant, it was another cliché but it was so loud and weird it just gave me the chills and made me turn down my volume a bit.
The girl was standing on the basketball court in a small pool of blood. A textbox with her red text came and said "You caught up with me. Perfect! Do you have any idea what happened here?" I heard her laugh again and this time it had send chills down my spine.
Of course, I didn't know and my character didn't respond either. The girl continued talking "Of course you don't, you know nothing. You think you do but you don’t.” The textbox then featured a white text saying “D…did you do this?” The laugh sounded again but louder than ever before “Yes I did it! And the deserved it! Everyone did! All those bullies had it coming! And you in particular!"
My character responded "You killed them?! You're crazy!" I then realized my text was the same color as the insults the game showed me. I was the bully? It all made sense now…It was my fault, it's because of my character and his friends bullying this girl she snapped and…and killed everyone? The hair on my arms got up as I was in awe with how dark this game had become.
The girl responded by yelling: "YOU THINK I'M CRAZY? YOU FOOL! YOU KNOW, I COULD'VE KILLED YOU ALREADY BUT THERE WOULD BE NO FUN IN THAT! I WANT TO HEAR YOU SUFFER FIRST!” After this a battle between me and her started. The chanting kept playing in the background and it made me unable to focus, because of me attacking instead of healing or using the wrong attack etc. the battle was way tougher than it should have been. It took me a long time but I ended up defeating her, the music stopped. And the screen went black.
I blew a sigh of relief thinking I cleared the game, but then I noticed that a text showed up on the black screen, "I hope you are satisfied" was written in red letters and the sound of a gunshot came through my headset. My j
aw dropped and I felt chills running all over my spine again while I was staring at the game over screen. What I saw made me sick…an image of the girl with a bullet hole in her head...I couldn’t help but stare as hear laugh could have been heard for the last time and the title screen opened again.
I immediately turned of the game and deleted the file. I cussed and couldn’t believe what I just played. I knew the hack was meant to be one of the darkest romhacks around but still…Toby Fox couldn’t be this dark, could he?
And that's the story of the first…and last time I ever played Earthbound…