A while ago I was looking at some of my old Gameboy games and I realised that I actually had a lot of unfinished games lying around. Among those games were Pokémon Red, Yellow and Silver. Yes, I had "finished" them by beating the Elite Four, but I never "caught them all." After a bit of research on Bulbapedia I found out that I would be able to "catch 'em all" with those 3 games. And so I once again set out on my master quest, that had started 14 years ago.
Even though the games were primitive, they were still just as fun as I remembered. And those damn Zubats still made my Pokémon faint as much as I remembered (or should I say that they made my Pokémon knock themselves out?). Many faintings later, I beat the Elite Four and after a lot of grinding, I finally got all 151 Pokémon. I finally did it, I was now officially a Pokémon master (minus the hundreds of new Pokémon in the newer generations).
When I began this endeavor, I thought it would be the end of Pokémon for me, a chapter I could close. It was quite the contrary, it reignited my love for Pokémon and I wanted to play more. Then I remember hearing rumours that our Red and Blue games weren't actually the original versions and that Japan's Red and Green games were older versions with some slight differences. I looked it up and it turned out to be true. Apparently some gameplay was different and there were a lot of bugs in the original Red and Green. The bugs, even though gamebreaking, were nothing spectacular and the only difference in gameplay I could find was that the Cerulean Cave was made easier to navigate (apparently they thought that we weren't as smart as the Japanese kids). Oh, I almost forgot about the most obvious change, the sprites looked horrible.
It was enough to make me want to try them. Just being able to laugh at the sprites would be enough to justify the purchase. I went to my usual eBay store to see if they had any. And they sure had:
Pocket Monsters Red boxed : $30 + free shipping
Pocket Monsters Red: $12 + $6 shipping
Pocket Monsters Red and Green: $18 + $6 shipping
Pocket Monsters Red, Green, Yellow and Blue: $45 + $10 shipping
I decide to go for the Red and Green combo. I used the "Best Offer" option to offer $13 (knowing the seller, that was the lowest I could go). I also gave my best offer for some other games (including Tales of Symphonia, hell yeah!) to save on shipping. He only declined one of my offers and made an offer himself. I accepted and paid for the games.
A week later I got my games. As always, the first thing I did was to check all the save-files. It's always fun to see who had the game before me and to check out their progress. When I turned on the Red version, I was surprised. The player, called Shou (the games are completely in Japanese, but I'll just say everything in English for convenience), had caught 150 Pokémon (I guess he didn't know about the Mew glitch) and did it in only 17 hours and 34 minutes. To me this seemed like an incredible time as the time on my Pokémon Yellow reads "101:33", significantly more. Opening the backpack however, gave me an answer:
POKEBALL x 99
GREAT BALL x99
ULTRA BALL x99
MASTER BALL x99
RARE CANDY x*weird symbol*3
It looked like somebody knew about the missingno glitch, I have no idea why he decided to also multiply his other balls though and why were they all at 99? Did this person have some kind of obsession to get them to 99? Another weird thing was that his Pokémon league gallery wasn't corrupted either, which should normally occur after the missingo glitch. Especially after doing it so many times. I guess it works differently on the Japanese versions...? A final weird thing was that his Charizard, Blastoise and Venusaur all had the same ID number but that could've been because of an obscure glitch that can trigger specific Pokémon to turn up depending on the special attack of the first Pokémon in the party. Still, he knew this glitch, but not the Mew glitch?
I pulled out the Red version, and put in the Green version. No save file. I immediately thought to myself "damn it! The battery must've run out." Just to make sure that the battery was really dead, I made a new save file, pulled out the game, grabbed a bite to eat, put in the game and turned it on again. The save file was still there. If the battery wasn't empty, where did the previous save file go? I'm pretty sure Pokémon has no option to delete save files and the seller stated on the item page that they don't replace batteries (I'd already had to replace some batteries in games from previous purchases).
I decided to begin my adventure on the Red version, in honour of Shou, whoever he/she might be. I chose Charmander as my starter as usual and transferred the other 2 from Green. The game played normally with only 1 significant change. Did you think Pokémon was a kid's game? Remember that old passed-out guy blocking your way? Turns out that he had a little bit too much sake. Then I got to Lavender Town. Before entering Pokémon tower I talked to that weird woman, the one that asks if you believe in ghosts, just outside of it. I was hoping that her original dialogue was something else, something scarier, but it was the same. The "YES/NO" option appeared but upon selecting "NO" the game froze. I smirked, thinking about the creepypastas I had read. I turned the Gameboy off, pulled out the cartridge and blew in it. Almost to my disappointment the game booted up normally and I fought my way through the tower.
When I entered the top level, after freeing Marrowak's spirit, the game played differently than the English version. Mr. Fuji yelled "Run away! These guys are merciless killers!" "Run away?" and a "YES/NO" option appeared. I was excited to play through an alternate version of this boss fight and wondered just how different it would be. Of course I selected "NO."
Immediately one of the Rockets came up to me and said "Big mistake kiddo, you'll regret this." My Pikachu was up first, he was a bit underleveled because his low defence meant that he couldn't fight too many battles before fainting. The Rocket sent out a more powerful Raticate, but I decided to take my chances. Pikachu struck first with a thunderbolt and a little over half of Raticate HP was gone, not a bad start. Raticate used hyper fang however, and Pikachu's HP was now deep in the red zone. Knowing the crude AI and its random nature, there was only a 25% chance that Raticate would do a quick attack. So I went with another thunderbolt. Unfortunately Raticate pulled off a quick attack and knocked Pikachu out.
The sprite fell down as usual with poor Pikachu's cry. "What a shame," I thought, better luck next time...
"... but PIKACHU got back up again!"
I didn't know what I saw, I'd never seen anything like this in a Pokémon game. The HP metre filled up half-way and suddenly the sprite crept back up again but there was a claw mark on the sprite (like when you use slash). Was the game trying to emulate battle damage in a crude way? I wondered why none of the other games used this feature, my best guess is that it would make the game seem too barbaric. Anyway, I continued the battle and selected thunderbolt once again, hoping that this time Raticate would use a different move.
"PIKACHU is too tired to use this move."
"PIKACHU used struggle instead."
As the poor creature did the attack, his cry played and it did only minimal damage to Raticate. Raticate used hyper fang and took out all of Pikachu's HP. Ah well, no experience again.
The cry played, the sprite turned into a ghost and went upwards.
I stared at the screen in disbelief. This was a Pokémon game for crying out loud! Sure Lavender Town is about death, but actually having your Pokémon die? I got a sick feeling in my stomach and my enthusiasm began to waver. I could've turned off the game right there and then. I could've prevented it by starting over again and not being so callous. But why? I realised that I was a horrible trainer. Yes I had caught all 151 Pokémon, but never once did I care that my Pokémon fainted. The only reason my Pikachu in Pokémon yellow liked me... was because I gave it potions... This Pikachu however...
I reluctantly hit the A-button and it took me to the Pokémon select screen. There was no more Pikachu. I picked Alakazam, my strongest Pokémon. I had to redeem myself so there was no more room for errors. I used a psybeam to quickly get rid of Raticate, or so I thought;
"Enemy's RATICATE fainted..."
"... but enemy's RATICATE got back up again!"
The same rules applied to the Rocket's Pokémon. Raticate got back up with the same Slash cut marks Pikachu had. I felt bad doing this, but I had no other choice. I selected psychic and finished off Raticate.
"Enemy's RATICATE DIED!"
The same fate befell the unfortunate Weezing. After the battle the rocket grunt shouted:
"I'll make you pay for this!"
and ran off.
What followed was the most troubling yet also most intense series of Pokémon fights I ever fought. The stakes were high and for the first time ever those bumbling Rocket grunts were a real threat. I almost felt as if I was drawn into the game. I felt... close... to my Pokémon.
When I beat the last grunt he shouted:
"This is far from over!
This is nothing compared to what we still have planned!"
I was finally able to rescue Mr. Fuji.
"Thank you, you risked a great deal to help me.
Why do people never learn from past mistakes?
But let's get out of here now."
Mr. Fuji teleported us to his house and gave me the Pokéflute as thanks, but there was one more thing I had to do before continuing my journey. I wanted to end this adventure where it had started, the weird old lady in front of the tower. Her text was still the same, asking me if I believed in ghosts. I replied with "YES" this time.
"PIKACHU is smiling at you from beyond."
I couldn't control my tears and they started rolling down my cheeks. Pikachu... Thank you...
After this the game played just like our versions. In honour of Pikachu, I decided to leave the 6th spot on my team empty. After I defeated the Elite Four and Green (Blue in English), Oak congratulated me and took me to the hall of fame. My Pokémon all appeared on screen one after another; Charizard, Blastoise, Venusaur, Alakazam, Pidgeot and finally... Pikachu. The sprite was faded but the smiling face was sharp. Again I felt tears welling up inside of me, but I closed my eyes... and smiled.
What caused this all of this? Was it a glitch? Did old age corrupt the cartridge, giving me access to data that wasn't supposed to be played? Or wasn't it a glitch? Was Shou trying to send a message to whoever would pick up this cartridge? Whatever it might've been, I'm actually somewhat glad it happened. It opened my eyes and allowed me to become the Pokémon master I really wanted to be.
I still play Pokémon games to this day and enjoy them more than ever, but never again have I let any of my Pokémon faint. Rest In Peace, my dear Pikachu.