Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pokemon Black

I’m what you could call a collector of bootleg Pokémon games. You know, like Pokémon Diamond & Jade, Chaos Black, etc. It’s amazing the frequency with which you can find them at pawnshops, Goodwill, flea markets, and such.

They’re generally fun; even if they are unplayable (which they often are); the mistranslations and poor quality make them unintentionally humorous.

I’ve been able to find most of the ones that I’ve played online, but there’s one that I haven’t seen any mention of. I bought it at a flea market about five years ago.
Yep, that's black alright.

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 you with screen shots. Sorry.

The game started with the familiar Nidorino and Gengar intro of Red and Blue version. However, the “press start” screen had been altered. Red was there, but the Pokémon did not cycle through. It also said “Black Version” under the Pokémon logo.

Upon selecting “New Game”, the game started the Professor Oak speech, and it quickly became evident that the game was essentially Pokémon Red Version.

After selecting your starter, if you looked at your Pokémon, you had in addition to Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle another Pokémon — “GHOST”.

The Pokémon was level 1. It had the sprite of the Ghosts that are encountered in Lavender Tower before obtaining the Silph Scope. It had one attack — “Curse”. I know that there is a real move named curse, but the attack did not exist in Generation 1, so it appears it was hacked in.

Defending Pokémon were unable to attack Ghost — it would only say they were too scared to move. When the move “Curse” was used in battle, the screen would cut to black. The cry of the defending Pokémon would be heard, but it was distorted, played at a much lower pitch than normal. The battle screen would then reappear, and the defending Pokémon would be gone. If used in a battle against a trainer, when the Pokéballs representing their Pokemon would appear in the corner, they would have one fewer Pokéball.

The implication was that the Pokémon died.

What’s even stranger is that after defeating a trainer and seeing “Red received $200 for winning!”, the battle commands would appear again. If you selected “Run”, the battle would end as it normally does. You could also select Curse. If you did, upon returning to the overworld, the trainer’s sprite would be gone. After leaving and reentering the area, the spot where the trainer had been would be replaced with a tombstone like the ones at Lavender Tower.

The move “Curse” was not usable in all instances. It would fail against Ghost Pokémon. It would also fail if it was used against trainers that 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 Ghosts. And because Curse made the game so easy, I essentially used it throughout the whole adventure.

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 Pokémon, the screen cut to black. A box appeared with the words “Many years later…” It then cut to Lavender Tower. An old man was standing, looking at tombstones. You then realized this man was your character.

The man moved at only half of your normal walking speed. You no longer had any Pokémon with you, not even Ghost, who up to this point had been impossible to remove from your party through depositing in the PC. The over-world was entirely empty — there were no people at all. There were still the tombstones of the trainers that you used Curse on, however.

You could go pretty much anywhere in the over-world at this point, though your movement was limited by the fact that you had no Pokémon to use HMs. And 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 cuttable bushes that normally blocks the path on the other side is no longer there, allowing you to advance and return to Pallet Town.

Upon entering your house and going to the exact tile where you start the game, the screen would cut to black.

Then a sprite of a Caterpie appeared. It was the replaced by a Weedle, and then a Pidgey. I soon realized, as the Pokémon progressed from Rattata to Blastoise, that these were all of the Pokémon that I had used Curse on.

After the end of my Rival’s team, a Youngster appeared, and then a Bug Catcher. These were the trainers I had Cursed.

Throughout the sequence, the Lavender Town music was playing, but it was slowly decreasing in pitch. By the time your Rival appeared on screen, it was little more than a demonic rumble.

Another cut to black. A few moments later, the battle screen suddenly appeared — your trainer sprite was now that of an old man, the same one as the one who teaches you how to catch Pokémon in Viridian City.

Ghost appeared on the other side, along with the words “GHOST wants to fight!”.

You couldn’t use items, and you had no Pokémon. 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 in this black screen. At this point, the only thing you could do was turn the Game Boy off. When you played again, “NEW GAME” was the only option — the game had erased the file.

I played through this hacked game many, many times, and 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 did not show any Pokémon or trainers and simply cut to the climactic “battle with Ghost.

I’m not sure what the motives were behind the creator of this hack. It wasn’t widely distributed, so it was presumably not for monetary gain. It was very well done for a bootleg.

It seems he was trying to convey a message; though it seems I am the sole receiver of this message. I’m not entirely sure what it was — the inevitability of death? The pointlessness of it? Perhaps he was simply 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.

(Originally seen on TinyCartridge. This hack is being made now, too. Just go here to see the progress.)


  1. :OOO
    Awesome, do want..
    thanks for posting this story and the links especially :o

  2. Honestly
    The game cartridge
    Looks so farmilar
    Its kind of scary
    Maybe I am imagining it
    But you never know

    With love

    Possible witness of the game
    Emma Marie B


    My mom reconizes it too

    Is that bad or good?

    1. bad very very very very bad

    2. I recognize it too. I don't know why, I've never played the game, but I recognize the cartridge.

    3. I recognize it too... Ahhhhh!

  3. That's terrible. What's scarier is that the ending sequence you were talking about sounds too familiar. I haven't played the game, but it must have been from a dream or something. O_o'

  4. This is one of my favorite Pokemon stories. <3
    And Emma, that can't be true because, well, almost none of these stories are true. But, you might be thinking of the older Pokemon carts. Or any game cart.

  5. Actually in truth, I actually got a bootleg pokemon game called Pokemon Black, and it was just like Pokemon crystal except the female character didnt have a hat :)

  6. Wow that's pretty cool and creepy as hell too. honestly I'd like to see this in action, but the demos don't show enough DX

  7. Surelly an amusing hack. I want to see it in action. Maybe the intention is to scare you. Think like me: the character is being controled by you, so it's almost like if the character is you and by killing him in the end of the game and not leaving any other options or ways than this or using "Curse" on everywone else it's like you are being traped and killed.

  8. thought id give a little extra info since it doesnt mention it... Ive personally played this game and i remembered accidently leaving the game running and just went on with my business till like 5-10 min later it started making noise and all the sudden there were two red eyes and a little bit later 4 words appeared and it said this...."Ghost curses you (then players name)" then shows a picture of the ghost.. needless to say i got scared. Showed the friend that let me borrow it and now he refuses to take it back......anyone want a pokemon black? lol

  9. I'll take it. I never find bootleg games of any sort the one thing I have that most people don't is my n64 and remember i'm not even 13 and I have a n64 with Oot, Majora's Mask (gold colored), 007 golden-eye I also have a snes with Super Mario all-stars, Kirby's avalanche, A link to the past (zelda game), Uncharted Waters (1&2) and that' about it I wish I had a bootleg of the 007 one though it would make it cooler I think.

  10. Now that sounds like a game I would love to play even though it's disturbing.

  11. Ok two years ago in ottumwa iowa i was walking down the street and a man had a yard sale so i stopped and looked around, after about ten minutes of looking i came across a shoebox that was full of gameboy color games. most of which was pokemon red version in japanese or chinese, any way it had a gbc so i bought it and took it home and sifted through it and in it was that exact game! i played through it and the stuff described here actualy happened! i still have the game in my safety deposite box, also the red versions have a pokemon by the name of 731 anyone know anything about this?

  12. i have that game and now i will never ever play it again that f***** creepy who would do this kind of thing

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  14. Nice story.
    But I'm a bit confused that the screen had the cursed pokemon...
    ....And the Lavender Town theme....