I never really had much of a childhood, mainly because my parents were “slightly” overprotective. Which meant I had very little interaction with the more popular games, or even consoles. It wasn’t until I had reached the age of thirteen that my parents got with the times and trusted me enough to buy me a computer, and soon after, a phone as well. I had only interacted with games like Lego Star Wars and Republic Commando at my friends’. Long story short, I had to move to Virginia when I was 13. Fortunately, I was able to fit right in with the local gamers and nerds at my new school. A couple of years later, at the end of my freshmen year, I grew tired of playing my limited collection of Star Wars and Superhero based games. (My parents wouldn’t let me get games outside of those categories) So I talked to my friends, and we all decided to get GBA emulators for our phones and download the largest game series I had missed out on: Pokèmon. Of course, it took some time, but finally I was able to get my parents consent.
We all downloaded Fire Red first, because it was a remake of the original Red and Blue, and the originals were way too pixelated for my liking. Anyways, we had to have a Pikachu, since it was such an iconic character. Also, having the ability to say we had a Pikachu would be pretty prestigious (even being weak as it was).
I did some research to find the best place to catch them. I found that at the end of Veridian Forest, right before you enter Pewter city, the last two tall grass sections have the highest Pikachu spawn rate. So I headed out to catch me a Pikachu. The timing couldn’t have been worse, though. I had a fainted Squirtle and a nearly fainted Weedle. I lost the battle just as I entered homeroom, and I was forced to turn my phone off. When I got back on after school, I soon realized that my game had been deleted, and couldn’t access my last save. I thought it a little weird at first, but I did have the tendency to think I saved my game, when I really didn’t. Not to mention I shut off my phone in the middle of the game.
I restarted the game, this time choosing Charmander. Going back to the spot, I searched for at least twenty minutes before finally capturing a Pikachu. Now, it was time to begin the grind to level up my Pokemon so I could faceoff against Brock. I had Charmander, Pikachu, Pidgey, and a Weedle. It was during this time that my game began to undergo a glitching animation. You know how your screen flashes when you have a Poisoned Pokemon? I didn’t have one, but for some reason the screen kept flashing. I went to the Pewter City Pokemon Center just to be safe and after going in, I went to the P.C. where there is a Jigglypuff in the corner. It didn’t look too happy, and it had dark red eyes instead of the light blue they normally had. I went up the man next to it to talk to him, hoping he would mention the irregular eye color.
“Oh, you’re wondering about the Jigglypuff,” he said. A yes or no icon popped up. Out of curiosity I instantly chose Yes.
“He has a tendency to get a little riled up when they’re around,” he stated.
At the time I thought it was kind of odd, seeming as there was no one else around, but I just pressed on with my quest, happy that the screen finally stopped flashing.
Eventually my younger brother decided to get Fire Red for his phone as well, so I reset my game to play with him and chose Bulbasaur this time around.
“No more resets,” I promised myself.
Just like before there was the weird Jigglypuff. I sped through the gyms as fast as I could to get to Lavender Town. It was one of the most iconic towns in the game. The Jigglypuff from earlier made me want to know if anything else in the game would be affected, and Lavender Town seemed like a prime location for spooky changes. It took me a few days, because I couldn’t take more than a couple steps before running into a wild Pokemon. What made it extremely annoying, though, was that my brother and friends didn’t experience any problems. After finally getting past the bridge, I joined Team Rocket. What? I enjoy playing as an antagonist if I get the chance. After hitting the P.C. right before entering Mt. Moon, I talked to the various people. To my surprise the Magikarp seller had an extra set of dialogue. After buying the Magikarp, he said,
“This fellow was quite an easy catch, something has been upsetting the Pokemon making them more aggressive and prone to attack. This fella’ just jumped straight at me.”
At this point I went to the site I downloaded the ROM from and decided to do some investigating. While most hacks didn’t affect the game (to my knowledge) I felt it was best to make sure I didn’t get a ROM that was totally jacked up. Eventually, I drew the conclusion that when I accidentally reset my game by shutting off my phone, I corrupted some files and somehow caused the game to fill in the blanks spots with files from an earlier version of the game. Again, this was just a speculation, so I continued playing to see what else I could discover.
Finally, after an excruciatingly long time I finally got out of Mt. Moon and ventured into Lavender Town. At first glance It didn’t seem strange at all, in fact it almost seemed normal for a second or two. Then the screen began to shake, like it does when a Pokemon uses Rock Throw. I saw four Team Rocket grunts run out of the Pokemon tower with bags.
One said, “C’mon let’s get out of here! We don’t need more Marowak’s coming after us. Let’s just take these skulls and go.”
What? Was there really a Pokémon that could scare at least four Team Rocket grunts? And skulls, why skulls? After the grunts left the screen I saw it. A Pokemon towing what looked like an evolved version of itself. It dragged its companion to the middle of the town and began wailing, or at least that’s what it sounded like. This “wailing” sound that came from the Pokemon was incredibly loud. I assumed the larger Pokemon had died, by the sound the smaller one was making. Then the villagers began to come out to see the commotion. They gathered around the Pokemon and stood there. Finally able to move, I walked up the large group as a dialogue box popped up.
“Oh the poor thing, it lost it’s mother”
“Those darn Team Rocket grunts!” This was followed by more boxes, all saying basically the same thing.
Of course I was now beginning to regret being a Rocket Agent. Not because it was wrong, but I didn’t feel like getting caught. I turned to leave but was quickly approached by one of the town elders.
“Hey you’re a new face. Are you with Team Rocket,” a yes/no option came up. After some consideration, I chose no.
“The word going around is a new Rocket Recruit was inducted recently. Are you positive you are not with them?” a yes/no option came up again. I chose yes.
“Alright. But if we find you with them, we will make you wish you hadn’t messed with us, Mister!”
I took that as my ticket to leave, as well as talk to my brother about what was going on. Something was definitely wrong with the game, but then again this was an experience that only the game designers, and maybe a select few other people, knew about. So I figured, why stop?
After rushing to Saffron City, I was immediately surprised by all the Team Rocket grunts there. I went up to the guard standing in front of the Silph Co. He let me in, no questions asked. The thought of not having to fight grunts really eased my tension, however when talking to staff members they would all say strange, passive-aggressive quips, like:
“I hope they let us go. Oh wait; why am I talking to you? You’re one of them.”
“Will they ever leave- Oh, sorry. Will YOU ever leave?”
Slightly taken aback, I discontinued talking to them. It didn’t take me to long to find the right teleporters and defeat Gary. I took him out with ease and finally met Giovanni.
“Ahh, our newest recruit. A little young, but very powerful, and growing quickly too. Tell me, would you like to help me rule over all of the Pokemon?”
A yes/no icon popped up. I chose yes, because why not?
“Heh, you’re a true Team Rocket agent. You’ll do great.”
He gave me the silph scope to go to the Pokemon Tower. Apparently there was some ghost keeping some grunts from leaving with their hostage. Great, back to Lavender Town, where everyone already suspected my affiliations with Team Rocket.
I decided to avoid being seen by the townspeople as a precaution, and hoped get in and out of there as quickly as possible. This was made difficult only by the insane amount of ghost Pokémon that kept attacking me inside the tower, unlike my friends, who went through with ease.
Then after finding Marowak’s ghost and taking it down, it gave me a strange reply.
“Marowak’s spirit was not calmed, it is angry that it’s murderers sent one of their own to deal with it. You cannot escape its wrath.”
It then faded into the overworld screen. I walked past the grunts as they ran by me and down the stairs. One stopped to thank me for dealing with the ghost. I continued on to find an old man, most likely the grunt’s hostage. Oddly, I was kind of worried to hear what he had to say.
“Heh, good job on angering that ghost. You will regret it! Oh, and don’t pretend you tried to save me, I heard those villains. Keep an eye out for that Marowak! Heh heh heh!”
Thinking I was an easy target in the tower, I bolted out of there, only to be cut off by most of the people in Lavender Town.
“We warned you not to lie to us. Now you will pay for lying about being a Team Rocket Agent.”
“Hold on a minute folks, let him go. He already has trouble chasing him.”
It was the old man, I had met in the tower.
“He angered the Marowak’s spirit and it’s out for revenge. That should be enough to deal with this kid.”
Honestly after what I just saw, I needed a break, so I took a couple days off. Yet, I couldn’t get that Marowak out of my head. Plus, with overprotective parents that wouldn’t let me do much it was kind of hard to get my mind on other things. I mean one plus is that I got what could be an earlier version of the game. But then again, I worked so hard to get the actual game. I mean, I could just reinstall it again. I decided against that, so I could see what the creators wanted to do with the game.
Soon after, I got right back into Fire Red. When I got back into the game everything was just like I had left it. The man had just told everyone that I was cursed and they were beginning to back off and let me pass. I was a bit worried, hearing that a Pokemon’s ghost was out to get me, but I kept at it and soon enough I was at Cinnabar island. Hesitantly, I approached the old Pokemon Mansion. It took a lot of guts for me to force myself in there, not only because it was probably loaded with Pokemon, but Marowak was potentially waiting for me. Thankfully and surprisingly it didn’t show up. I continued getting Pokemon and grinding to ready myself for the Elite Four. I had a Venusaur, Pidgeot, Pikachu (that knew Mega Kick and Mega Punch), Lapras, Mr. Mime, and Gengar.
To speed up the story, and because nothing of huge significance happened, I’ll skip to where things started acting up again. Right after beating Gary.
Oak did his usual rambling about Pokemon and being the best, when Giovanni burst through the door and strode right to me. Talking to Oak, he said,
“The number one Pokemon Master is also a Team Rocket agent! Our plan is almost complete to rule the world, just one last thing.”
Then a semi-transparent Marowak walked into the room.
“Of course, with that much power, you might overthrow me kiddo. So I’ll just take all your Pokemon.”
I checked for my Pokemon, and like he had said they were gone. I had a feeling I knew what would happen next.
“Now I think that Marowak has some unfinished business with you. Ha ha ha. Thanks for all your help, bub.”
A battle sequence started. The text “Marowak’s spirit is challenging You. What will you do?” appeared. I tried running. “You can’t escape Marowak’s spirit.”
“Oh well,” I thought to myself, “this is where it all ends.”
But then another text box popped up. It read, “Marowak senses good in you. She will give you a second chance, but she will always be watching you. Be careful!”
Now I know I should have seen that coming, but then again I wasn’t expecting to have some ghost stalk me. Could I possibly capture or lose it? First I could hardly see it, the ghost had a very faint outline and always moved away from me. And secondly it always followed me. Even when I tried to fly somewhere, it would be waiting for me at whatever location I was at.
Anyways I took a break from the game after that. Of course I didn’t want my parents to think I was getting addicted, giving them another reason to keep me from playing more games. But after that confrontation things got weird.
I’m not one to believe in haunted games or games affecting real life. I’ve read all those stories like Ben Drowned and what not. Plus those stories involved a “haunted” game not some glitch I was able to use to access some early version of the game. But anyways I began to catch glimpses of a faded creature following me. As usual it disappeared when I tried stopped to see it a little better.
I continued to carry on with and observe the game. As I played, I began to see more ghosts, or Marowak screwing with me. Not much time had passed before they became more visible. Then I began to realize, it was probably the ghosts that were riling up these Pokemon and scaring them. Anyways, I decided to go back to Pewter City, where I first began to notice these game changes. And, sure enough, there was a ghost standing near that Jigglypuff.
A couple of weeks later, I had finally gotten used to all the ghosts, and I had all the available legendary Pokemon. As I was strolling through some grass looking for trouble, I realized that Marowak began to walk towards me.
“It seems you have the strength to finally help me.”
Ok, I have to admit that at first I was confused. But soon, I began to realize what was happening. I continued on to see what Marowak wanted.
“I want revenge on Team Rocket. Don’t you, too? Treating us like mere conveniences to further their plans for domination. So will you help destroy this menace?”
I accepted, because honestly I was a little pissed at Giovanni for tossing me aside. So it wasn’t only Marowak getting revenge.
“It’s too dangerous to talk to you here, I’ll visit you in the real world.”
Now I was spooked, of course I shouldn’t have let that bother me. But it still did, now I know there have been games that break the fourth wall, but could this be one of kind of scenarios? In the following days I was too scared to sleep, even going as far as recording me sleeping during the night didn’t help me. I couldn’t concentrate in class and my grades began to slip, but I could care less at the moment, this game had taken a turn for the worst and affecting me. During this time I began to dig in the internet to see if I could find anything much more deeper than looking at some ROM sites, and skimming over Google. I went to every search engine I could find. But all I could find were beta hacks and mods, and the occasional Roblox Pokémon game.
The last thing I could think of was contacting Nintendo, but since ROMs aren’t legal, I decided it was best not to risk getting in trouble.
So my diagnosis? I seriously screwed up my game. Finally, I gathered up the courage to open up Fire Red on my phone.
Once I entered the game Marowak spoke.
“You’ve been gone for some time now haven’t you? Two weeks and three days right?”
I sat there on my bed, staring at that dialogue, re-reading the line. Then I realized that some games pulled stunts like that, like those games in the early 2000’s. Everything happening in this game had been stunts pulled in later games.
I was suddenly not afraid and decided to play one, until my phone crashed.
After a couple of hours of work I was able to get my phone on and functioning without having to hard reset. Instantly I installed a virus and malware app to go through my phone to find anything.
At the end, Fire Red was clear, I went ahead and got rid of it anyways.
Anyways fast forward a year, that experience had been buried. And when Pokemon Go was released I slightly remembered when I had gotten Fire Red but didn’t dare want to bring back everything. After going through the tutorial I went into town to find some Pokemon, ironically the first Pokemon that I ran into was Marowak. It was slightly transparent, and when I went to capture that’s when everything came back.
“It has been a really long time since we’ve talked. A year, two months and ten days was it?”