Pokemon Black

Author: Unknown
Year: Unknown

I'm what you could call a collector of bootleg Pokemon games. You know, like Pokemon Diamond and Jade, Chaos Black, etc. It's amazing the frequency with which you can find them at pawn shops, Goodwill, flea markets, and such. They're generally fun games, even if they are unplayable (which they often are). The mistranslations and poor quality also make them unintentionally humorous. I've been able to find most of the ones I've played on the internet in some capacity, but there's one I haven't ever seen any mention of. I bought it at a flea market about five years ago. Here's a picture of the cartridge, in case anyone recognizes it. Unfortunately, when I moved two years ago, I lost the game, so I can't provide any screenshots. Sorry.

The game started with the familiar Nidorino and Gengar intro from Red and Blue. However, the "press start" screen had been modified. Red was there, but there was no Pokemon at his side. It also said "Black Version" under the Pokemon logo. Upon selecting "New Game," the game proceeded with Professor Oak's speech as normal. It quickly became evident that the game was essentially an unaltered version of Pokemon Red. After selecting your starter, though... If you looked at your party, you had another Pokemon in addition to the Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle you chose: GHOST. The Pokemon was level 1. It had the same sprite as the GHOSTs encountered in Lavender Tower before obtaining the Silph Scope. It had only one attack: Curse. I know there's a real move named Curse, but that attack didn't exist in the Generation 1 games. It must have been hacked in.

Defending Pokemon were unable to attack Ghost. As with the enemy Ghosts in Lavender Tower, it would only say the defending Pokemon was too scared to move. When the move Curse was used in battle, the screen would cut to black. The cry of the defending Pokemon would be heard, but it was distorted and played at a much lower pitch than normal. The battle screen would reappear, and the defending Pokemon would be gone. If used in a battle against a trainer, when the Pokéballs representing the opponent's Pokemon would appear in the corner, they would have one fewer Pokéball. The implication, I'm guessing, was that the Pokemon had died. What's even stranger is that after defeating a trainer and proceeding past the text showing how much money you won, the battle commands would reappear. If you selected Run, the battle would end as it normally does. But if you selected Curse, the trainer's sprite would be gone once the game returned to displaying the overworld. After leaving and re-entering the area, the spot the trainer had been would be replaced with a tombstone like the ones from Lavender Tower.

The move Curse was not usable in all instances. It would fail against Ghost-type Pokemon. It would also fail if it was used against trainers you would have to face again, such as your rival or Giovanni. It was usable in your final battle against them, however. I figured this was the gimmick of the game – allowing you to use the previously unable to be captured Ghsots. Because Curse made the game so easy, I essentially used it throughout the entire adventure, too. The game changed quite a bit after defeating the Elite Four. After viewing the Hall of Fame, which consisted of Ghost and a couple of very under-leveled Pokemon, the screen cut to black. A box appeared with the words "Many years later..." Then it cut to Lavender Town. An old man was standing around, looking at tombstones. This man was your character.

The man moved at only half of the normal walking speed. You had no Pokemon with you, not even Ghost (who, up to this point, had been impossible to remove from your party). The overworld was entirely empty – there were no people at all. There were still the tombstones of the trainers you used Curse on, however. You could go pretty much anywhere in the overworld at this point, though your moveset was limited by the fact that you had no Pokemon to use HMs with. Regardless of where you went, the music of Lavender Town continued on an infinite loop. After wandering for a while, I found that if you go through Diglett's Cave, one of the bushes you can cut that normally blocks the path on the other side was no longer there. It allowed me to get to Pallet Town. Upon entering your house and going to the exact tile where you start the game, the screen cuts to black.

A sprite of a Caterpie appeared. It was replaced by a Weedle, then a Pidgey. I realized as the Pokemon progressed from Rattata to Blastoise that these were all the Pokemon I had used Curse on. At the end of my Rival's team, a Youngster appeared, then a Bug Catcher. These were the trainers I had Cursed. Throughout the sequence, the Lavender Town music was playing, but it slowly decreased in pitch. By the time the Rival appeared on screen, it was little more than a demonic rumble. Another cut to black. A few moments later, the battle screen appeared – your trainer sprite was an old man's, the same as the one who teaches you how to catch Pokemon in Viridian City. Ghost appeared on the other side, along with the words "GHOST wants to fight!" You couldn't use items and had no Pokemon. If you tried to run, you couldn't escape. The only option was "FIGHT." Using Fight would immediately cause you to use Struggle, which didn't affect Ghost but did chip off a bit of your own HP. When it was Ghost's turn to attack, it would simply say "..." Eventually, when your HP reached a critical point, Ghost would finally use Curse.

The screen cut to black a final time. Regardless of the buttons you pressed, you were permanently stuck on this black screen. At this point, the only thing you can do is turn the Game Boy off. When you play a game, "NEW GAME" is the only option. The save file is erased.

I played through this hacked game many, many times. Every time, the game ended with this sequence. Several times I didn't use Ghost at all, though he was impossible to remove from the party. In these cases, it didn't show any Pokemon or trainers and simply cut to the climactic "battle with Ghost." I'm not sure what the motives were behind the creation of this hack. I don't think it was widely distributed, so it was presumably not for monetary gain. It was very well done for a bootleg, though. It seems the creator was trying to convey a message, though it seems I'm the sole receiver of this message. I'm not entirely sure what the message was, though. The inevitability of death? The pointlessness of everything? Perhaps the creator was just trying to morbidly inject death and darkness into a children's game. Regardless, this children's game has made me think, and it has made me cry.