Tarnished Gold
Posted by Zukdeen.

Being someone who isn’t nearly as computer savvy as someone from this generation should be, I know very little about what technology is capable of. Aside from email, IM, and the occasional download of something otherwise unobtainable for me at the moment, I have about the same amount of knowledge an eighty-year-old might posess about the electronic world.

For example (and for the sake of this tale I’m about to recount), I was totally unaware that someone is capable of hacking Pokemon games to make their own sub-story of the world, even less so that it was possible to make a physical copy of the game in a real cartridge.

However, I happened to learn about this in one of the most disturbing ways possible.

When I was younger, Pokemon Gold was my very first game from the ever-popular franchise. I became very attached to the little creatures my character (named after myself even though the character was male) caught. I often fantasized about the adventures we would go through had a present storyline not been in place. That isn’t quite important, though.

What is important is the fact that I never truly let go of my childhood fantasies; the memories from that first game were far too cherished to set free. As such, I still have my Gold cartridge, complete with a total abuse of the copy glitch. However, I refuse to restart my game. I’m afraid too much of the old magic would be lost. I wanted to play a whole new game of the version that I recall being the happiest with, but older cartridges are rather hard to find outside of the internet nowadays; the most my local flea markets have are GBA games, and hardly any of them are Pokemon.

Fortunately, my grandmother still fully supports my long-standing love for Pokemon and often buys boxes of carts, toys, video tapes, and other items she comes across during her frequent visits to local auctions. Granted, very little of these things she gives me are in good condition; long forgotten items stowed away in a musty basement after the phase in their owner’s life has passed hardly ever are. However, as gifts from a dear relative, I charish them as if they were made of gold…pun not intended.

Recently, my grandmother gave me a box with a brand new video tape containing episodes from early on in the first season, several hundred battered and well-used cards, and a game cartridge with no label.

The cartridge was the familiar metallic-gold color of the game I had been looking for. Even though the label had been removed and a large X was drawn in sharpie in the place the sticker should have been, I could easily tell what it was. What other cartridge had that color? You can imagine my excitement for finally finding another copy! I thanked her profusely and promised I would play it as soon as I got home (which I did).

Getting started was difficult - not because the game was faulty, but because I had sold my GBA to my little brother several years ago for some of his better Pokemon cards. Once something belongs to him, it’s difficult to get him to lend it out to me. Such is sibling relations, I suppose.

After much bribery, I finally got my hands on my former GBA and quickly inserted the vandalized game. Chills ran through my spine as the opening ‘movie’ for the game began to play, sending a wave of nostalgia crashing over me. It was good to see it again.

The game opened normally; the pixelated image of Ho-oh flying through the sky beneath the title presented itself before leading into the normal selection screen. The person who owned the game before me still had a save file, but I cared very little about what someone did before me. Considering the condition of their things, they must have been very young. I was bound to be met with a team full of Pikachu or Pidgey with ridiculous names.

I started a new game.

It was here that I realized something wasn’t quite right with the game. The normal intro involving Professor Oak introducing you to the world of Pokemon didn’t play out. Rather, it was more like this:

It started with a black screen, which was quite familiar considerig that’s how Gold, Silver, and Crystal begin. Instead of the normal, “What time is it?” dialogue, however, I was met with something else.

“…..Pokemon are nothing more than tools. Use them and throw them away……”

The black screen faded away, revealing an empty area at night. It looked familiar; I vaguely remember it being a route in an earlier part of the game. Since I was away from the game for so long, I couldn’t place it.

In the silence of this scene, the sprite of your rival (henceforth noted as Silver) walked in from the left. He moved a little slower than normal, as if hesitant about something. Once he got to the middle of the screen, he stopped and turned back to look toward where he came from, turned toward where he was going, and turned toward where he had came once again.

For a moment he stood there, simply staring toward the left side of the screen before a dialogue box popped up beneath him that said nothing more than “…”. After that, he turned around yet again, only to continue off and walk off-screen.

The scene faded to outside Professor Elm’s lab, with Silver standing in the place you first officially see him. It was clearly a slightly later part of the game than normal, as the Professor and his assistants exited the lab and went their separate ways; the assistants left the town and Elm walked further downward off-screen. I assume that meant he left for home and remained in town. The character ‘Gold’ was nowhere to be seen.

Afterward, it stayed on Silver. I thought the game had frozen for a minute before finally realizing I was able to move him. Honestly, I was a little excited. Silver was, and always has been, my favorite of the rivals. It was an interesting thing to be able to play as him.

I moved a little further downward to see if I was able to explore, but it stopped me each time I moved one step away from the front of the lab. A dialogue box popped up that said, “I can’t leave yet…”. It backed me up a step afterward. I moved back to the place he had originally been standing and moved into the window.

It worked much like a door and allowed me to enter Professor Elm’s lab. Aside from the regular equipment (bookshelves, computers, trash cans, tables, etc.), the lab was empty. It was to be expected, since the employees had left a moment before I entered. On the table was a single Pokeball. Being without one at the moment, I walked over and took it.

A dialogue box popped up; it said, “Obtained TOTODILE,” but no ‘item get’ music played. Apparently, stealing wasn’t even condoned by the game. After pressing A, it gave me the option of naming the Pokemon. I picked yes, as I love naming these things, but a dialogue box popped up and interrupted the naming process.

“Don’t name it! You’ll only get attached. Don’t love it. Use it.”

It was clearly the voice of the same person who spoke in the very beginning. I found it odd.

The naming screen faded away, leaving me in the empty lab. I quickly tried to leave through the front door, but was stopped by Silver saying, “Not through here…”. Again, he backed up. I was forced to exit through the window I had come in from.

I left New Bark Town and decided to battle some Pokemon and level up. As if things weren’t strange enough as they were, it was nearly impossible to get into a random battle. I go out of my way to avoid them later on in the game, but during the beginning it was something I enjoyed to get my Pokemon to level up. Being unable to find something to fight was a little frustrating.

After several minutes of walking back and forth in patches of grass, I finally encountered a Pokemon: a Sentret. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but when I sent out my Totodile and chose the only presently-useful move he had (Scratch), the Pokemon fled. I was rather confused; a wild Pokemon never ran, not so early in the game. After a few more tries, all with the same outcome, I continued on to Cherrygrove.

Just before I entered the city, I recognized the small area as the one Silver had walked through in the beginning. After entering the city, I bumped into Gold. He wordlessly challenged me to a battle.

His Pokemon, a Cyndaquil, was already at a slightly higher level than my Totodile (I was still stuck at level five, but he was already at level seven) and, even though I had the type advantage, he beat me. Before I whited out, his sprite switched out with the Cyndaquil’s. He looked disappointed.

After exiting the Cherrygrove Pokemon Center (I hadn’t used it prior, but it was apparently the only option I had), I walkeed back to the place he had challenged me…only to find I was unable to battle him again at this point.

The game was getting a little annoying by now. I had no money, Pokegear, or Pokedex. I was unable to battle wild Pokemon, too. Fortunately, once I had entered Route 30 onward, there were other trainers in which I could battle and easily beat. However, none of them seemed eager to speak to me after I had won. By the time I entered Violet City, my Pokemon’s level was still to low to take on the gym leader. With the money I had won from the trainers I fought before, however, I was at least able to buy some potions. I felt I was set.

The lesser trainers of the gym were easy enough. I was only forced to use two of my previously purchased potions and I leveled up once. As I took on the gym leader, though, he proved to be too much and I lost yet again. Upon winning, he did the very same thing Gold had done: he looked disappointed, as well.

When the battle ended, I didn’t white out. Rather, I had to endure a lecture about treating Pokemon correctly. Once he finished speaking, I received a one-worded question: “Steal?”

I chose the only option given to me: “Yes.”

Silver backed up a step and slammed into the gym leader, kicking him backwards. Another dialogue box popped up, stelling me that I had stolen the gym badge, TM31, and $500.

Afterward, I whited out.

This is how it continued on for the remainder of the game. While I was able to defeat lesser trainers on the paths to cities and in the gyms, I constantly lost to the leader and was forced to steal their badges. In addition, the steal option also worked on people who would normally give you items in the game; this is how I was able to obtain key items like the Itemfinder, bicycle, the water pail, HMs, and more. They refused to give me anything otherwise.

Anyone I spoke to either refused to talk, greeting me only with “…”, or lectured me on how to properly treat Pokemon. It was beginning to get that way with Nurse Joy, as well. By the time I had progressed to Goldenrod City, she would scold me any time I whited out.

In addition, Pokemon continued to avoid me. If I wanted to better my team, I had to hope that Pokeballs I used worked the first time. What was stranger about random battles that if I locked the Pokemon in battle with Mean Look, they would force themself to pass out. Literally. After using Mean Look (it would only work if I got the first attack, however), the Pokemon would faint on its own before I could choose another attack.

The dialogue box proclaimed “-POKEMON- forced itself to pass out!” and the battle proceeded as if I had KO’d the enemy Pokemon. However, my Pokemon didn’t get any EXP.

The only thing that seemed to go normally were the battles with Team Rocket. They always treated me like some punk kid getting in their way, which was normal, and I always beat them in battle.

The rest of the game, up to a certain point, isn’t entirely important. Aside from stealing, losing against gym leaders, and being unable to battle wild Pokemon, everything was more or less normal. While my Pokemon matured slowly due to frequent losses, they did grow to like me a little, as I began giving them haircuts and other little things to boost our bond. The last I had checked, the person who rated their happiness (one of the few people who spoke to me normally) said, “It’s quite cute.”

I know you must be thinking that this isn’t disturbing at all and I should just accept the fact that this is simply a hack made to tell Silver’s side of the story. Well, I did. It was. However, I’m not quite finished with my story.

Once I had made it to Kanto, I ventured into Viridian City. The second I stepped foot into the boundaries of the city, the music cut off. I thought for certain that this was a glitch in the programming and that I was forced to continue through a soundless game, but as I stood there I heard a very faint noise pick up before fading away.

I was now sure the music had messed up, like it was trying to play but couldn’t. I stepped back into the route I had just come from and the music picked up perfectly. It was only Viridian City that was virtually silent.

I was curious, so I stepped back into the silent town and began to explore. There wasn’t a person in sight; no one was out in the open or in the houses. There wasn’t even anyone at the Pokemart or Pokemon Center. The city was entirely empty. All there was was the silence and the occasional soft noise that I still hadn’t identified.

Eventually, I decided to go to the gym. As I got closer, the noise grew louder. I figured it was coming from inside. When I entered, there was no one inside. That was to be expected, as the gym was always empty until much later in the game. The noise didn’t play in the gym, either, but it was still dead silent.

I walked up to where the gym leader normally stood. I was getting a bit bored by this point, so I decided to walk into the walls, starting with the one I was standing in front of. As I walked past the gym leader’s spot and into the wall, I was transported to another room. Apparently, the wall had a hidden set of stairs.

This place was also silent, but the noise began to play yet again. It was much louder this time, and was made up of multiple, random, high-pitched noises. It sounded like screams.

By this time, as you could well imagine, my heart was pounding. I don’t take screaming (or anything that sounds like screaming) very well. It’s due to an unfortunate experience with a very graphic haunted house when I was three…but I digress.

Regardless of my pounding heart and my shaking hands, I explored the room. It was tinted in a muted red not unlike the same red that everything was tinted in Pokemon Red. The room followed a sideways zig-zag pattern. The screams came at random. Some were short, but some were long and drawn out. It sounded as if someone was being tortured.

As I continued down the zig-zagging hallways, I came across several disturbing images: sprites of NPCs without their heads, as well as heads without bodies. Any time I tried to examine either of these, Silver simply said, “Don’t look…”. The bodies and heads became more frequent as I went on, clogging up the hallways and leaving only a small path for me to follow. The screaming was becoming more frequent, as well.

The screen began to flicker as I walked, as if one of my Pokemon were poisoned. I was certain none of them were, but I opened my party menu to check, just in case. None of my Pokemon were afflicted with poison, but their health had started to lower. In an attempt to fix this, I picked a Super Potion out of my bag and tried to use it on my Feraligatr. A dialogue box popped up and said, “It won’t have any effect.”

I was disturbed. None of this was supposed to happen. Regardless, I continued on. I hoped that if they all fainted from this, I’d be taken back to a Pokemon Center and things would return to normal. I was stupid to assume that.

I continued along the morbid path, the screen flickering in and out. I began to notice that Silver himself was beginning to move a little slower, as well. I don’t know what, but something was draining my Pokemon’s energy as well as my own. Finally, Silver stopped. A dialogue box had popped up telling me that all my Pokemon had fainted, but it didn’t exactly say what I’d hoped.

It said, “ALL DEAD.”

I was ready to cry, but I couldn’t stop myself from trying to get to the end of this disturbing experience. If I didn’t do this now, I’d just be tempted to try it again some other time.

I finally reached the center room. The screen was tinted a deep red now. I assumed this was to simulate the fact that the room was filled with blood, despite only a few bodies being scattered around it. In the center were a few live figures: a man, an unknown Pokemon, Gold, and another Pokemon I could only assume was his Typhlosion.

Gold’s Typhlosion attacked the man’s Pokemon, but it was quickly struck down. Its sprite turned red, grey, then disappeared. It appeared that the man’s Pokemon had killed it. Silver’s sprite stepped forward on its own and the man finally acknowledged he was there.

GIOVANNI: “Ah, son, you’ve made it. Come to see your rival’s demise, have you?”

This caused Gold to turn around to look at Silver. The only thing he said was, “…”. Silver continued to move on his own. He approached Giovanni and kicked him backwards. It obviously enraged the man.

GIOVANNI: “You’re going to help him? You’ve become just as weak as the others! If he seems worth saving to you…perhaps I should show you that there’s no sense in getting attached! MEWTWO, take care of him!”

Mewtwo obeyed his creator’s command and approached Gold. I’m still uncertain of what it actually did, but it struck Gold, causing a scream much louder than before as the sprite of Silver’s rival lost its head, faded to deep red, and then grey.

GIOVANNI: “I told you long ago, Silver. Either manipulate or be manipulated. POKEMON are nothing more than tools. People are nothing more than tools. After they’ve served your purpose, they’re no longer useful…MEWTWO. Kill him!”

The Mewtwo didn’t obey this time. Giovanni’s words must have angered it. It turned to him and actually spoke.

MEWTWO: “…You’re no longer useful…”

It struck Giovanni just as it had done to Gold and Typhlosion, but the scream Giovanni produced was much longer than any other I had heard. Mewtwo was torturing him. Finally, the scream faded into nothingness and Giovanni’s sprite did just as Gold’s did, leaving only Silver and Mewtwo alive in the room. As Mewtwo turned to face me, I knew that wouldn’t last for long.

MEWTWO: “…Not useful…”

It struck me, initiating a battle in which I was totally unable to participate. My sprite was in the place of any Pokemon, with my health dwindling past the halfway point. However, I knew it didn’t matter either way. I chose to run, but I couldn’t. I chose to attack, but I had nothing to use. I just had to stand there as Mewtwo used Psychic on Silver’s defenseless image.

Even with the sound turned to a low level, the scream coming from Silver was disturbingly loud. The screen lingered as the battle screen faded away until Silver’s sprite turned from red to grey, which I now assume symbolizes the coldness of death. Silver, along with Gold and everyone else who had been unfortunate enough to wander into this place from Viridian, was now dead.

The screen faded to black except for Mewtwo’s sprite, which remained in the center of the screen. My paranoid mind immediately made me think he was somehow going to turn on me next, but the word “END” faded in underneath him before the screen cut to black and took me back to the opening sequence.

I’m still unsure why this was made, why someone shoved it into a box to sell, and why I happened to find it. I can assure you I’m swearing off all randomly found games, too. Either it’s new, or I’ll never risk touching it again.

Unfortunately, the game I just described has slipped out of my possession since that first playthrough. I have no idea where it is, but I hope it’s rotting in a dump somewhere.