Of course Pokémon had always been a personal favorite, as it was for all kids. But as time went on, the older relics (blue, red, silver and gold) were replaced by their remakes. Things were added—suggesting that the originals were imperfect.
I had gone through the Pokémon years from red to yellow, gold to crystal, ruby to emerald, fire red to leaf green, even diamond to platinum but I stopped there while the Pokémon world continued without me. I just couldn’t bear to play the games when the Pokémon concepts had gotten so ridiculous. Deep down, I longed to relive the old, yet still entertaining Pokémon games.
Digging through my collection of old games and consoles I came across my old game boy advance. There it sat, patiently waiting with the other consoles, waiting to be played again. I picked it up lovingly, memories flooding back from days of carefree youth. I fished around the box for a Pokémon game. I found yellow and crystal and diamond and even fire red, but what caught my eye was Ruby.
Ruby was one of my most beloved Pokémon games. It was evident in the way the sticker was disintegrating. I had gotten it from the local game shop awhile ago and it was prone to glitch here and there, but being so excited to see it; I blew the cartridge and set it into the game boy. The game started up with a ping and the game freak logo appeared. After a few hits of the "A" button I was at the title screen, but there was something wrong with it.
First of all, “Ruby Version” was missing and Groudon was still in the center, but he wasn’t glowing red anymore. Instead he was filled with gray light that faintly filled and dimmed him. His eyes were no longer white but gray and dull as well. Behind Groudon was a blue background that swayed as if it was a body of water. I knew that was wrong but I guessed it was from misuse. I pressed start and waited for the continue or new game menu to pop up but instead it greeted me:
“The internal battery has run dry. The game can be played. However, clock-based events will no longer occur.”
Well that’s weird…I didn’t remember that being there before, but I assumed it had been damaged by a console lying on top of it or just misuse. Once I skipped past the text box, I hit continue and I was standing outside of my house in Little Root. The screen was tinted blue as if underwater and all the NPC’s were void of color, and moving as if they were swimming or spinning in circles; some even flailing oddly as if panicking. When I attempted to talk to them they all said the same thing.
And when my character (Reda) moved more she began to walk slower and slower. Even more discerning was that there was no music, just a continuous loop of the sound it made when you used surf in battle. I went into the other houses to see if it was like this too and of course it was.
The NPC’s just sat in their regular spots, unmoving, but when I went to talk to them they didn’t acknowledge me, not turning to face me to speak or even talk to themselves. I left and went to my house, which took awhile as Reda was walking a half-a step a second it seemed. I got inside and like outside it was tinted blue, but this time it was different.
My mom was there just like normal, but instead of her sitting at the table like always, her sprite was up at the top of the screen, in an animation I had never seen. She was up on her back at the top of the screen, haphazardly floating in space. What the hell was going on? Had my game really been that screwed up? Before I could go and investigate, my sprite moved on her own and went upstairs, passing the floating body. She got into the bed and the screen went dark.
When the screen came back, my sprite was in a small watery area. Usually the game would inform you of where you were when you entered a new area but the pull down bar gave me “???”. What the hell was going on? My character’s sprite was in the water as if she was swimming.
I knew for a fact that was impossible because you always have to get a Pokémon with surf to even think about entering the water. I tried to move but my sprite stood still, there wasn’t much space anyway. It was 9 spaces of water (including the one I was in) surrounded by walls of rock. A text box appeared.
“Don’t run, because there’s nowhere to go.”
I hit start and checked my bag for an escape rope. When it was clear I didn’t have one, the bag closed on its own and went back to the over world. She was now deeper in the water, up to where her nose would be. Bubbles were starting to appear near her head. Wait bubbles….was I drowning?! I heard a screech of a Pokémon’s cry come out of the speakers. It sounded desperate and weak. Then another text box appeared.
“There’s nowhere for you to go and no one is here to help you.”
My heart stopped. Was the game talking to me? I panicked, tapping the A button furiously in order to make the text go away, not even thinking to turn the stupid game off. Another text box opened.
“So…how’s it feel to be abandoned and left to die?”
I tried desperately to move. I tapped A to make the box disappear.
“Well? I’m waiting…”
Waiting….for my reply? My voice squeaked. “I’m scared.” The game didn’t reply and it was quiet. Another text box appeared.
“You abandoned us…”
Reda started moving on her own in a circle until she sunk lower; as if she had used an escape rope. The only thing visible now was the bandana on her head. Then another text box:
“Rayquaza used DIVE!”
No animation played and the screen turned a dark blue. Reda was just barely visible. Her body was moving in place sporadically as if twitching. Another screech broke the silence.
“Let me show you what you did.”
The Pokémon menu appeared. The sprite’s animations started frantically, body parts thrashing about before slowing almost to a stop. Flare opened up the 6th Pokémon of the party; A Mightyena, was slumped down, fur clumped together like it was wet. The color had drained from him and he looked bloated almost. His eyes were gray with a red ring around them.
The same went for the rest of the team; Gardevoir, Flygon, Rayquaza, Groudon and a Blaziken named Flare, each worse than the last…all Pokemon that had been sent to Diamond. All pokemon that shouldn’t have been there. Flare was my favorite Pokémon through all of Ruby’s adventure. But I had traded Flare over to my Diamond…I was sure of it. He was no longer standing but on his knees, a clawed hand grasping his throat. His head was tilted back a little and his mouth was open. He was a bluish-gray, his eyes no longer held the passion they once did, but anguish and fear. His cry was weak and muffled.
“What happened to you…?”
Almost immediately I was returned to the over world.
“Flare: You happened to us!”
Flare screeched through the speakers and a flash streaked the screen. The text box reappeared with larger font.
“Flare: You abandoned us and left us to drown! Don’t you remember? ”
My breath stifled...I got into a pool with the game in my pocket and didn’t realize until hours later, but that was so long ago.
“Oh my god…”
My heart was beating out of my chest. “It was an accident Flare, I swear it was!” I cried desperately. I was scared, never once did I ever think about how this had affected the game.
“Flare: Now you’ll learn what it was like to drown.”
Flare screeched loudly and the battle animation started. In front of me was Flare’s sprite, standing up, yet still void of color. I sent out no Pokémon, instead there was Reda’s sprite. I had no options, so Flare made all the moves. Each move was the same.
“Flare used swim!”
And Flare’s sprite would slowly creep closer to Reda’s. I was too terrified to do anything but watch. When Flare finally towered over her, Reda’s sprite lost all her color immediately. She was the same blue-gray he was.
“Flare used strangle!”
The screen flashed black and white several times and gurgling noises came out of the speakers along with the sound effect for when a Pokémon used surf. Then I was sent back to the over world, where my sprite was lying in the water on her stomach; arms and legs limp. Then the Trainer Card opened and Reda’s sprite was like the Pokémon.
The colors had drained from her, she looked drenched, clothes and hair stuck to her. She was on her knees, looking up at the sky with blank, cold eyes filled with anguish and fear; one hand clasping her throat; the other clutching the space where her legs were resting. Her mouth was open and soon the camera started to zoom into her. Then she screamed loudly, the speakers threatening to pop. I screamed back at her in fear and then it cut to black. I didn’t know whether to throw the game and run away screaming or wait for something else to happen. The battle ended…I figured it had as the screen stayed black. A text box appeared.
“Flare: Do you understand now?”
I did. He knew I would. Flare’s sprite emerged from the black of the screen. He was fully colored once more.
“Flare: I’ll be waiting for you in the next life.”
He faded and his screech roared through the speakers, sounding almost like the game froze. My fingers twitched over the buttons, scared to push anything. Finally I mustered up the courage to push something. Another textbox:
“The game’s data file has been erased.”
The New game option appeared. I tossed the batteries out and threw the game boy into the console box. What did I just go through..? My heart pounded against my chest, tears spilling out from the corners of my eyes and palms sweating; fingers twitching with fear.
I stared at the box for a while before thinking back on Flare’s final words. “Next Life?” I ran back to the box and picked up diamond. Was this what he meant? I put the game into my DS and skipped to the continue option. I checked my Pokémon; and there in the 1st Pokémon slot was Flare, standing proudly as he always did. I turned the game off immediately.
To this day I’m not sure if what happened was real or not. Maybe I had been tired, or maybe I did see it. Not 100% sure. But I do know that that game wanted me to know what I did to it. And I know what I did to it…to them… because I have to live with it now… for the rest of my life…