Hello there, my name is Scott Nowell, and I am a gamer. Now, I know that when you see gamers in these sorts of things, it normally goes like “Oh, I've been a fan of the sonic games since I was a kid, so I have no issues putting a bootleg disk with a pentagram on it into my PC.” No, I'm just a normal gamer with a love for the retro, a love shared by my friend Dan, but we’ll get to him later. Right now, I’d like to tell you about a little game I found the other day, and the strange, strange occurrences that happened when I played it. Now, when I say strange, I don’t mean that stuff happened in the game that couldn't possibly happen, so no hyper realistic blood, no satanic curses, no plush dolls with blood red eyes jumping out of the TV and killing me, after all, if that happened, how on earth did I type this up? That would be a major plot-hole in the story. No, this is about the day me and my friend got our hands on a game called Hellnight
Now, where did I procure the game in question? Before you ask, no, not at some car boot sale where some old guy with a glass eye gave me the game for free. I got it at a place in town called The Trade Inn. It’s a little store on the high street that gives you money for your old electronics. It’s also the only place in town that sells old games and movies, so I go in there a lot. On that Saturday afternoon, I went into the store to see what I could find with the notes in my wallet. As I walked in, the owner, a twenty something hipster who, if we hadn't met in a way that would mean that they would be supplying me with games at a reasonable price, we probably wouldn't have met each-other and gotten to be friends, don’t judge me. Anyway, he looked to me, getting a small smile as I was the first customer he’d had all day. I walked up to the counter and started to strike up a conversation “Hey Jason, how are you on this fine afternoon?”
He shrugged a little “Eh, I can’t complain, it’s been pretty quiet today, so I've just been fucking around with the second hand iPods. I can’t wait to see the look on some kid’s face when he starts the thing up and finds it’s full of Slipknot.”
I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at this, we’ve always shared the same sick sense of humour, I guess that’s another reason I hang out with him. I let the laughter die down before stating my business “So, getting away from fucking with kids, what’s on the menu for today?”
He gave a smug look as he took a step back “Follow me, you’re going to love this.”
I walked behind the counter and follow him into the store-room at the back, this normally happens about every month, he gets some good item in, he hasn’t sold it to anybody and he wants me to marvel at its greatness. Normally it’s pretty average but sometimes he hits a homerun. Today was a homerun. I looked to where he stopped, on the side, there was some taped up cardboard box with the word ‘Games’ written on the side. “Here you go Scott, just got this in yesterday, haven’t had a look at what’s inside yet but the guy who sent it was the same one that you got your copy of Resident Evil with the uncensored cutscenes in it last month, so there should be something good inside.”
He handed me a box opener which I happily took, cutting the top open and opening the flaps. As I looked in, I saw a variety of games for a variety of systems, old and new. “Hey, you’ve got some pretty good finds in here. For once it’s not full of old sports games.”
I start to flick through the games, getting the prices for a few of them and setting them on the side. It’s then that I found the game. I picked it out of the box, it was a PS1 game, and I gave it my usual look-over for quality. The jewel case looked in good condition, no cracks or scratches; the disk had one or two scuffs, but still looked like it worked and the cover, while a little bit faded, was clearly readable, with the words ‘HELLNIGHT’ Written on the front. The cover was pretty basic, with just the title, the company logos, Konami and Atlus if you’re interested, but no Sony logo oddly, and some weird, chain looking sun-shaped thing, on a totally black background. “Hey Jason, how much for this one?”
He looked to it, making his normal, concentrating on price making face “Hmm, let’s call it at an even fiver.”
I closed up the box and take out the stack of games I chose, paying about twenty pounds for all of them and taking my leave. As I got outside, I took out my phone and dialled up Dan, hearing his groggy voice on the other side of the line “Hmm, what? Do you have any idea what time it is?”
“Yes, it’s one in the afternoon, get your ass out of bed, we’ve got games to play, and you’re the one on food duty this time.”
I could almost feel his soul breaking at the idea of him spending money “Goddd, Alright, I’ll be at yours in an hour, and this better be something riff worthy. Last time you promised me something good you locked me in your room and forced me to play the Bratz videogame”
He hung up as I made my way home, getting there with half an hour to spare. While waiting for Dan to get there, I took care of a few things, setting up the PS1, clearing the bed of my stuff and starting up the laptop. I decided to do a little research on the game, find out what it was all about. It turned out the game was a pretty obscure one, having only been released in Japan and Europe back in ’99. The reviews seemed pretty good but from what I read, the visuals are pretty dated and the dialog is really, well, late nineties translated Japanese quality, if that should give you any idea of what we’re dealing with. One odd thing that I found was that all of the covers that I found looked different, as in there was a picture of blood splatters on a dark metal background. I just chalked this up to either a reprint or a region difference. I hear a knock at he door, assuming that it was Dan, I headed to the front door to see his tired face and a plastic carrier bag full of food in his right hand “Alright, I’m here, let’s do this thing.”
I turned on my heels as we both headed up to my room “Alright, I think you’re going to like this one, it’s a Japanese horror game translated directly to English.”
I could almost hear him perk up at the mention of that. Dan had always been a sucker for terrible translation jobs; maybe that’s why he likes Resident Evil so much “Alright, now you’re talking my language. Here’s hoping we find something that can beat ‘Jill Sandwich’ in terms of ham.”
As we got into my room, I grabbed the game, turning on the PS1 and my TV, starting the game up as I sat down with him on the bed, grabbing the controller “Alright, let the riffing commence.”
Now, a favourite pastime of both me and Dan is going MST3K on this stuff, seeing who can get the biggest laugh out of the other. Yes, we have a very boring life, what have I told you about judging me? Anyway, the game booted up with some terrible CGI and some white subtitles explaining the setup, talking about weird cults apparently kidnapping people off the streets of Tokyo “Well, at least Japan has something to panic about other than Godzilla for once” Chimed in Dan.
I looked over to him “Hey, this was made in 1999; Godzilla had already been killed in America.”
He got a bit confused “Then explain Godzilla 2000, he’s alive in that.”
“I meant killed in the sense of the box-office.”
We both had a good chuckle at this as the opening ended, finishing with a train crashing and the army attacking some creature obscured by the shadows, and failing horribly. The game started up and we met our other character, having escaped the burning train and fled with them into the sewer. This other character was Naomi Sugiura, or as Dan preferred to call her ‘The school girl who got lost on the way to the dating sim.’
Now, to explain the game. If you can, imagine Slender, but made a decade earlier and with even simpler graphics. You walk around in a first person perspective with a little compass in your top right corner to tell you where you’re going. It actually does have a pretty spooky atmosphere, as you never know what is going to be around the next corner. It didn’t take long for the monster of the week to turn up, dropping in our heroes from the ceiling and blocking our path, To describe him, imagine slenderman on steroids and wearing jeans, with a large, dark red patch over his right shoulder which appeared to be visibly dripping with PS1 quality blood, and a little eye coming out of it. I suppose this was supposed to invoke fear, but I kind of ruined this for us “Hey look, William Berkin has come to save us all!”
This made us laugh enough for us to get killed. When a character dies, first your companion dies, in this case Naomi, and then you if you take another hit you die. When Naomi died, she screamed pretty loud and blood covered the screen in splatters before starting to drip down the screen, eventually obscuring the character portrait. This caused my usual response of “Oh no, Konami’s jam supply is getting wasted.”
When we died, we had to restart the game, as there was no save option when we played up to that point, so we replayed through that segment and made sure not to stand still in front of the monster, instead running past him and making our way through the sewer. Eventually, with the monster on our tail, we found a shipping container and decided to hide in it. As the doors closed, the game flashed up a portrait of Naomi, clearly in a panic “Oh god, he’s coming; we’re going to die, WE’RE GOING TO DIE!”
Even without any voiceover and only a single character portrait, it was clear to see that this was the look of genuine fear, not the cartoony overdone expressions we had expected. This was not being helped by us making jokes about the monster being able to hear her screaming. Apparently our jokes were correct as the monster just ripped through the door and triggered the same death scene as before. Again, no save spots and we had to start over, again. This gets a groan from Dan “Jeez, it’s almost like they didn’t actually want us to beat the first level.”
I looked to him, a look of over-done determination to offset the oncoming depression “Come on man, if we can sit through Resident Evil Survivor, we can sit through this.”
With determination, and a bottle of coke and some pretzels in our guts, we finally made it through the opening level, getting out of the sewer and into the main level of the game, The Mesh. This is where we found some more NPCs, apparently a load of people who decided that it’s better to live underground then to live in Tokyo live down here. This was also where we mercifully found a save point, which we happily used. After walking around the opening area for a bit, we found a large room with a few characters in it. We talked to them and found out some information, along with a few fetch quests to get items to progress with the game. It was here that the game got odd again. We were talking to one of the characters for a fetch quest so that we could get a key which would allow us to open the locked doors to the other areas, when suddenly they stopped speaking and screamed, well, the textbox showed that they were speaking. A short FMV played, which showed the monster dropping down from the ceiling and grabbing the character, picking them up and ripping them in two, in quite gruesome detail, the two ends of the spinal cord clearly visible in the mess of red that was that woman’s insides. Even Dan was a bit put off by this, and this was a guy who loved himself some gorn in his games. He picked up the game box to check something as the scene plays out “Scott, how the hell is this game a 15 rating?”
I just shook my head “I don’t know man, maybe it’s a Japanese 15, they might be a lot more lenient on this sort of stuff for teens. You’ve seen Dragonball, people get ripped to shreds all the time in that.”
“True, but this is a pretty big step up from someone head-butting through a demon’s chest to make purple goo come out.”
When the scene ended, it went back to the room, the other character’s repeating the same dialog as if nothing happened, but the woman we were talking to earlier was no longer there, and there seemed to be no way for us to get that key they were talking about. We left the room and walked around the concrete jungle that was the first floor of The Mesh, the monster occasionally turning up around the corner to attack us, but ducking into another room for a moment made him run off elsewhere, giving us the idea that the monster has really bad ADD and found a shiny thing to follow. Eventually we made it to a large steel door. I just sighed a little as I saw it “Well, this was probably where we needed that key from that woman who got ripped in two like gooey tissue paper earlier.”
“Well, no harm in trying the door. Who knows, maybe it'll tell us where to find the key." Dan told me, normally his gut instincts are off by a long shot, but I like to trust them, if anything so that I can tell Dan he's wrong.
I shrugged as I clicked the use button, the game oddly telling me that I used the key to unlock the door. “Wait, we never got that key, she died before she gave it to us.”
“Well, maybe our character was smart and actually pocketed it before we left, you probably skipped the text or something.”
I didn't really question this, as I wasn't really paying attention during the scene, so it was a possiblity. I shrugged this off again, seeing as I just wanted to play on, rather than reloading a save and playing up to that point again. We made it into the next area in The Mesh, after getting to another save point we took a quick snack break and played on. After walking around the corridors and dodging the monster, we made it to a small, seedy bar that was apparently down here. “I guess even the craziest people in the world still like to wet their whistle.” Dan added in as we stepped inside.
It’s here that we met another character, Kyoji Kamiya, a serial killer who was apparently on the same train as us at the beginning of the game when it crashed because of the monster earlier. After talking for a while and thoroughly freaking out Naomi, Kyoji did something we hadn’t seen yet. He told us “I have killed many people, each of them was enjoyable, but the ones I loved most were the ones who feared me. Do you fear me?”
It was then that we were given a yes or no choice, obviously asking if we feared him or not. I looked to Dan with a small smirk “So, what do you think, do we fear him?”
“Hmm, I don’t know, the baby blue coloured jacket is pretty terrifying. I’m going to have to say ‘Yes’ “
With that, I selected the yes option, although we soon regretted it. A text box appeared, with Kyoji speaking to us “Heh, I could have told you that, now prepare for the end.”
Another FMV plays, this time showing Kyoji pulling out a handgun from his jacket and pointing it right at Naomi’s head. He fired and made her fall back, blood pouring out of the fresh wound as her eyes glazed over, obviously dead. Kyoji then turned to the camera, a grin on his face as he started to talk, with actual voiceover this time, not subtitles like the rest of the game, but in unsubtitled Japanese. Now, I admit I don’t know a lot of Japanese, but I know a few words, a by-product of a love of imported anime, so when Kyoji ended his sentence with ‘Shi’ I knew he was talking about our death. He fired into the camera, which dropped to the floor with blood running over the screen, leaving Kyoji to stand over it laughing as the screen went out of focus and faded away. We took this as our character dying. When we came back to the main menu, we went to reload our save, we found that it had been erased; making us give out a collective groan of defeat, with Dan saying what was on our mind. “Fuck doing all that again, I quit.”
I sighed a bit as I sat up on the bed “I guess the game has some kind of perma-death feature.”
We turned off the game at that point, playing some Soul Blade for the rest of the afternoon, with Dan leaving for home as the sun went down. I looked to that copy of Hellnight on the bed, deciding to see what I could dig up about it online. I looked online for a Let’s Play for it on Youtube, if anything to find out what happens after that scene, as I really didn’t want to go through it all again. When I did, however, I discovered something odd. There were a lot of differences between the two versions, and these were both the European version of the game, as their version seemed to be a bit…Well, tamer in comparison. The monster didn’t had a dripping red shoulder, but a non-dripping purple version, when they ran into the shipping container, Naomi didn’t scream and the monster just breathed a little and walked away. In the mesh, the monster doesn’t turn up and kill any characters, let alone ripping them in half, so they were actually able to get the key instead of just having it on their person and, most importantly, when they got to the bar, Kyoji told the two main characters that they weren’t the same sort of prey he normally would go for, and there was no choice to make that would lead to their death if they chose wrong.
This really confused me, what version of the game did I have? It certainly wasn’t a European version, and after checking online, this stuff wasn’t in the Japanese version either, so where did these scenes come from? I decided to call up Jason, to see if he knows anything about where the game came from. “This is The Trade Inn, Jason speaking.”
“Yeah, hi, it’s Scott . Say, do you have any idea where you got that box of games from? you know, the one I got Hellnight out of?”
“Honestly no, we just get a box labelled ‘Games’ on the side of it the first day of the month, on the dot. No return address. No note or anything. Why, is something wrong with the game?”
“You could say that, there are some weird stuff in there, and it’s a lot different from what I’ve seen online. Look, next time you get another box from them, could you get me down there to open it? Between this and the Resident Evil I got last month, there is something odd about the guy who finds these things.”
"Sure thing man, I'll give you the heads up when the next box comes in. See you later."
I hung up on him at this point, sitting down and looking to the game box again, almost asking it ‘What are you?’ I have two theories as to what the game is. Either it was a unused beta of the game which they toned down the violence on, or this guy who sent the game to the shop had made these scenes and added them in. Either way, it sits on my shelf with the other PS1 games. I occasionally play it again to see what else has been changed, but the perma-death does kind of hold back my progress.
For now I’m just waiting out the clock until next month to find what else this guy sends. Who knows, maybe I’ll write about what I dig up from that box for you all to see next time.
By Scott "GrandMasterScottay" Nowell