Do you like glitches? Those little flaws in a game’s coding that allow you take advantage of it and do crazy things. Do you enjoy them? Myself, not so much. I’ve only ever managed to find Missingno. in Pokemon Red and accidentally did the Backwards Longjump once in Super Mario 64. But my friend Nick used to love exploiting glitches. Note that I said “used to”. He doesn’t anymore. But I should start at the beginning.
I am and always will be a Mario fan. Nick knows this and he especially loved showing me the glitches in different Super Mario games, knowing that I disliked glitching my games for fear of crashing them; like I did with Pokemon Red. He also simply loved showing off his new games and systems. While I was still playing with an old Gamecube and DS Lite, he had a Wii U and 3DS. I wasn’t jealous, per se, merely disappointed that I couldn’t have them too.
One day Nick called me over to tell me that there was a glitch for Super Mario Sunshine that he wanted to show me. “Want to bring your copy and memory card with you?” I made a face at that. He knew damn well I wouldn’t risk my save file. After all this time I was finally close to getting the last of the Shine Sprites. “Use your own,” I snapped at him. He only laughed. Nick knew I would take the bait and yell at him, and he thought my reaction was hilarious. After he agreed to use his copy, he told me what time to be at house before abruptly hanging up.
It was a beautiful day out. Sunny, but not too hot. I put my Mario hat on before I left for the one block walk to Nick’s place; didn’t want to get sunburned. Though I didn’t like glitches, I couldn’t help but wonder what my friend had found. He sounded so…gleeful when he called. I got there on time and rang the doorbell, still pondering this. “Finally. I was starting think you changed your mind about seeing me,” he smirked as he said this. But then he always said this when I visited him. Never did figure out why he liked to tease me so much. I sighed and rolled my eyes at this. “Let’s just get this over with.”
Nick led me to where he had his console already set up and ready. The game was already on the menu screen and I noticed, with some bemusement, that he only had one save file. It wasn’t complete, only fifty-six Shine Sprites, but that was enough to unlock Yoshi and the other two nozzles in Delfino Plaza. I knew he had one hundred percent in almost every other Mario game, but only because he called to brag about it. So why was this one so incomplete? He quickly sat down and waved for me to do the same. Still feeling confused, I did.
“You’re really going to love this,” Nick grinned. This wasn’t going to be good. He selected the incomplete save and the game loaded, Isle Delfino looking the same as always, eventual camera zoom on Mario. My friend then went to the red box by the fountain and grabbed the rocket nozzle. As it became automatically equipped on F.L.U.D.D, he started to explain. “There’s something really interesting you can do with the rocket nozzle if you use it in front of the boat house.” He guided Mario to a spot just in front of the boat house, then grinned as he activated the rocket. “If you do this you’ll go up. And then you end up in the sky inside the boat house.” I didn’t understand how that could be, but as he explained I saw it happen. Mario shot up in the air. And somehow into the boat house. “Then if you do this,” Nick continued as he forced Mario to dive out of the boathouse, “no more plaza.” It was true. After Mario had dived out of that room in the sky he was in the sea. Or was he? I could still see the NPCs and the trees, but they were floating. The plaza was gone.
Nick just smiled as if he had done something wonderful and guided Mario onto “land”, though there wasn’t anything there. “That’s the Invisible Delfino Plaza glitch,” he concluded proudly. He waited for me to say something, but I was staring at the TV screen. Mario was acting oddly. His usual looking around animation was sped up, as if the plumber were looking around in a panic. He even turned in a full circle, which Mario never does in idle mode, and looked up and down. All very quickly. “…Is that supposed to happen?” I asked and pointed at the screen.
“What?” Nick turned and looked and immediately paled. By this point Mario was flailing his arms and running around in a circle. The little guy was terrified by what he was seeing, or wasn’t seeing rather. And I felt truly bad for my red capped hero. “Fix it,” I grumbled to my friend who was still staring wide-eyed at the video game character. “Undo the glitch!” I yelled since Nick hadn’t heard me the first time. With a little start, he shook out of his trance and guided Mario into an invisible building. The room appeared, which made Mario calm down, and when Nick made the plumber exit the plaza was back again. Both of us saw Mario sigh with relief at this, before his idle animations returned to normal.
Neither of us said anything, but I went home soon after that. I kept thinking about it and replaying the whole incident in my head that night as I tried to fall asleep. Maybe that’s why I had a nightmare. I dreamed I was in Delfino Plaza, and I felt something heavy on my back; which I could only assume was F.L.U.D.D. The next thing I knew I was forced to go through the same motions Mario had done to activate the glitch. And just like Mario I found myself trapped in an invisible world. Only there were no NPCs there. I was alone. I felt so afraid, even more so because I didn’t understand how any of this happened. Was this how Mario felt? I awoke suddenly to a loud clap of thunder. Never had I been so glad to hear a storm.
The next day was normal. Though I expected to hear from Nick, I didn’t. That didn’t worry me. I simply figured something came up and he was busy. Then two weeks went by with no word from him. Finally I called him up. Before I could say much more than “Hello” he told me to come over as soon as possible. I grabbed my Mario hat, like I always did, and walked over. When he opened the door he shuddered. “What?” He didn’t answer at first, then he mumbled quietly, ”Take that hat off. I can’t stand to look at it.” I did, feeling both angry and confused. “Dude, what’s up? I haven’t heard from you in two weeks.” More silence. Then Nick picked up a box I hadn’t noticed and handed it to me. “Do me a favor and take these. I don’t want them. I can’t take the fear. Mine or his. So just take them and go.”
He opened the door and started pushing me out. I didn’t get to tell him good-bye. I put my hat back on and took the box home. Imagine my surprise to find that the box contained every Nintendo console and Mario game that Nick owned. I didn’t understand why he was giving them to me. We didn’t talk much after that day but I did overhear things, mainly things my parents had asked me after his parents talked to them, that seems to explain why. It seems that Nick started having nightmares after the day of the glitch incident, and the reason I hadn’t heard from him in that two week period was he going to therapy for it. At least for one week. The other week? What little Nick hinted at the few times I talked to him and managed to bring it up, he had tried playing other Mario games the day after the incident. And in those games Mario would start to panic just like before. Nick just couldn’t get Mario to stop being afraid. And that just made HIM afraid, which led to nightmares it seems.
“Glitches are supposed to be fun. They aren’t supposed to make you afraid,” he said once, “If I knew glitches were going to be that scary I never would have messed with them.”