I am a collector of assorted hacks and bootlegs of video games; this is a portion of my journal about these strange and exotic oddities of gaming.
I am writing again because of another hacked game I came upon, this time a hacked Earthbound cartridge. From my previous encounter with Slenderman: The Game, I felt a little uneasy of buying another cartridge. But since it was near Halloween, I decided to buy one to see what it's like. It happened to be a hacked Earthbound and a normal Earthbound Cart at the local fleamarket, Green Dragon.
The seller I always go to for hacked games had a few Earthbound hacks for me. One had a low quality scanned label on it, another had a sticker on it named "Winterbound," and the last was the most interesting. The bootleg was on a blank SNES cartridge with the smudged word "Earthbound" written in red sharpie. The seller said he couldn't get the game to work due to lockout. However, from what he was told by the previous owner, this cartridge contained contained a rather nice hack with some eerie stuff in it. Seemed fitting for my Halloween game so I bought the bootlegged hack for $8 and the official game for $50. I was able to get it cheap because one seller had to get rid of his SNES games fast and the reseller, who usually inhaled games like they were his sustenance, was sick that day.
When I brought the games home, the SNES first locked out the hacked cartridge. To counter this I made a cartridge specialized to bypass the lockout chip for my hacked games. I succeeded and was greeted by the game's intro (which was unchanged).
After I started a new game I saw burning houses, heard 16-bit shrieks, and the music to the Sonic CD's boss battles, yeah that creepy song, which was somehow sampled to play on the SNES. The story said this:
"In 199x, in a small town in America, the evil demon Giygas had been unleashed. He destroyed the town and soon spread throughout the land. The only one left alive was a small boy named Ness. However, Giygas had something in store for him in the near future..."
The player starts as Ness awakening to the sight of his half destroyed house. As I walked to the door, a text box appeared.
"It is quiet except for the sound of burning wood. Something has happened to your family, your friends, your town, and soon... You... Get dressed and leave QUICKLY!"
The screen faded out and in to Ness now dressed with his clothes slightly charred. I navigated through the wreckage of the house and stumbled into the sister's room. There, I found a present with the item "red bat." I equipped it and realized that the present was next to a jumbled sprite of Ness's sister.
The body, from what I could tell, looked bitten and scratched as if by some animal. The bat was clearly used to fend off the attacker. I saw a trail of pixelated red paw prints leading out the door and followed it downstairs.
There I found the bodies of Ness's Mom and their dog, King, who looked rabid and as if he was beaten with a blunt object. Ness' Mom looked the same as Ness' sister did: torn up from bite marks and scratches. It was obvious what had happened.
Ness was frozen in place, staring at the mess, for at least a minute before I was given control again. Then I noticed the music. It was the Onett theme in reverse with occasional changes in pitches and speed. This song continued through both Ness's house and in Onett. This scene was both sad and eerie at the same time making me to start to feel a little depressed.
"This hacker sure does know how to put on a mood," I commented aloud. "I hope the rest of the story gets even more twisted." I was ready for what was yet to come.
Searching around the area of Ness's house and Onett, I noticed Pokey's house was completely gone as if it didn't exist. Also, the Treasure Hunter's house was destroyed with his burned dead body nearby. At the top of the hill there was no meteorite but instead a burning tree with several dead bodies around. After finding little in Onett (except for the dead mayor and a empty hospital), I went to Twoson and could only find a few spiteful crows that gave me only 2-3 EXP when I defeated them. Also, instead of the 16-bit sprite of the crow, the hacker used the 8-bit sprite from the original Mother on the Famicom instead. You know, the sprite that originally had a cigarette in its hand- err, wing.
The music changed to Twoson's theme, still playing in reverse with occasional pitch shifting like in the Onett theme. In the town, the only noticeable difference was that there were less dead bodies than in Onett, implying that this destruction was spreading slowly. After I started advancing through to the next town, I noticed that there was less and less destruction until the game looked normal again. The only thing was that I was underpowered and still had no companions. In fact, there were no companions. They had been erased from the plot entirely.
When I got to summer, everyone was noticeably gloomy. The Runaway Five were getting ready to leave the town and said to Ness "Run," "Drive," "Swim," "Don't," "Stop" in order from left to right. After this point some NPC's were telling Ness strange things like "you're running out of time" and "you're too slow, you'll kill us all." So I left Summer as soon as I could without having to do any quests. In fact, all I had to do was walk directly to the end.
As the game progressed things became drearier; there was a sense of impending doom. The music tracks progressively became more depressing the farther in to the game I went and the colors started to fade into black and white. The sprites had more and more depressing facial expressions as well.
By the time I made it to Saturn Valley, the game was completely in black and white. The music was also in reverse and slowed down. Mr. Saturn was frowning and almost crying with his antenna drooping. When I tried to interact with him, he said nothing. Then it was time to go back in time as a robot. When I entered Giygas's lair, I noticed that my robot looked worn and beat.
When I entered the boss room, Pokey, instead of saying his usual snide remarks, sent Giygas right away and then disappeared. While fighting Giygas, he said more than just his usual dialog. These included "You... have no help," "No... friends," "No family," "No prayers."
I was only level 3 which came after 4 hours of getting petty amounts of EXP from spiteful crows. I had no chance. Instead of the retry screen a cutscene appeared of the Earth being turned to fire. A caption below read:
Which translated out to "look what you have caused."
"If it hadn't have been for YOU, Ness would have made it." Before cutting to black with the text:
Just as I thought this was the end, a loud 16-bit scream emitted from the TV as a image of a mutilated face of Ness appeared with the caption "YOUR FAULT!" before cutting to black. After nothing happening after a minute, I shut the console off.
I realized that the end was supposed to evoke terror through guilt and empathy. Even after years of having those sorts of emotions desensitized through violent, gory video games, I still felt a bit depressed. However, the feeling lasted no more than a week.
The game is now in my personal collection. I have no intention of playing it any time soon, although it is the most intriguing piece of my collection.