Back in the 80's and 90's I wasn't really a fan of video games. In fact, I would often say No to my friends when they asked me to come over and play Contra or Super Mario Bros. or what have you. This often made them think I was rather strange. I didn't much care though, all the games I had played up to that point were all the same. You play as some overpowered guy who goes around killing strange enemies. Big whoop.
However, on June 5th, 1995, my friend Victor told me about a game he thought even I would enjoy as it was different from everything else ever released. It was Summer, I was out of school and didn't really have much going on other than work, which I only did part time because I was only 15, so I said "What the heck," and agreed to go over and play it at Victor's house.
The game was EarthBound of course, and I started playing by making a new file as you would with any game. Immediately, I got a kick out of it just by the character creation menu. For those who have not played it, if you don't care about what you want to name your characters or abilities, you can actually pick an option called "Don't Care". I thought this was funny but I decided to name the main character Kirk, as that was my favorite character from the TV show Star Trek.
After I started the game, I played for about and hour because I really got into it. After that though, I decided to go home and eat dinner. Before I left though, Victor told me that I could borrow his SNES and play EarthBound because he was going away on vacation for a month in Florida. I was very happy because as previously stated, I didn't much care for other video games, so I didn't have any consoles except for an Atari 2600, my dad wouldn't let me play it though, it was just for him.
After hooking up the SNES to the TV in my room, I would play the game for hours on end when I would get home from work. It became my favorite passtime other than watching Star Trek. It took me about three weeks, but I finally beat the game. I was happy but also a bit sad because I realized that EarthBound was really the only game that I enjoyed. I decided to play it through one last time though before I took it and the SNES back to Victor's house.
I got home from work the day after to learn that my dad accidentally stepped on the game and broke it while I was working because he was up in my room putting clean laundry on my bed for me to put away. He was very sorry and upset, but I told him that it was okay because it was just an accident. That cheered him up, but inside, I was afraid that Victor would find out and kill me.
As luck would have it though, a commercial came on TV that night that advertised a video game store that fixes broken game cartridges for only ten bucks. I nearly jumped through the ceiling with joy when I saw it and immediately penciled down the address of the store. The name of the store was "Robot City Games". I went there the next day after work.
The place was like every gamer's dream. It had an arcade, board games, video games, card games, and as stated in the commercial, they fixed broken games. I went to the man behind the counter, named Bill, who told me that if I left the game there overnight I could pick it up tomorrow. I paid him the ten dollars, bought a pack of Magic the Gathering cards, and left. I was just happy that they were going to fix Victor's game. I would have hated to pay fifty bucks for a new game.
I went to pick up the game the next day, but instead of Bill being behind the counter, it was a man named Josh. I asked Josh about the game and he told me that he never received a copy of EarthBound or the name Nick Jackson, my name, in their customers list. I was a little upset about this and asked if he could check with Bill about that, as that was the man I spoke with. He gave me a puzzled look and told me that there was no such man that worked at Robot City Games. He said he would look into it though, and asked me for my number so he could call me about anything that came up.
Three days later, when I got home from work, my dad told me that he got a call from the store about my game being there. I immediately jumped onto my bike and got over there as fast as it would take me. When I finally got to the store a man named Ted was behind the counter. He said: "You Nick Jackson?" I told him yes and he said, "Hey pal, this came in for you this morning." He reached under the counter and pulled out a copy of EarthBound. I thanked him and immediately went home to go play it before returning it to Victor. I wish I could say I should have returned it to Victor at that point, but I can say now that I'm glad I didn't.
I went home and put EartBound into the SNES and loaded up a new save file. The game played absolutely normal until I got to the town of Threed. I got to the part where you have to follow the lady into the hotel to get captured by the zombies. That's when things got different. First off, you didn't hear the normal sounding goofy 8-bit noises you hear during that scene, but rather a series of what sounded like punches, groans of pain, and ropes tying as the screen went black. That was a little strange to me and caught me off guard.
After the screen faded back in, Ness and Paula weren't seen standing around in the hole like normal, but rather they were bound up in ropes sitting back to back on the ground. There was a silence for a moment and then the background faded to black as the camera zoomed in on Paula. She used her telekinesis powers to talk to Jeff, but this time, she had a slightly different dialog. Instead of her normal help us speech, she said, "Jeff, I know you can hear me, please hurry to us or they will kill us! Jeff go south to the town of Threed! Jeff, please, I don't want to die!"
I knew something was messed up here. This was definitely not a part of the game nor do I think it was ever supposed to be a part of the game. However, I was curious to see what would happen next, so I continued. The game played as normal with Jeff in the school until you get to the lockers where you use the bad key machine. I opened up the locker where you normally get your first gun, but instead of obtaining the pop gun, I obtained the Desert Eagle. I actually thought that was pretty cool, so I didn't really pay much attention to that, but what happened next, was kinda messed up.
Tony got in front of the gate and instead of his normal goodbye speech he said, "If they are suffering as bad as you think they are, off them, but in any case, get back to me ASAP so that we can get back to our usual brand of fun. *strokes Jeffs arm*" This actually made me question if I should immediately go back to the store and inquire about these occurrences.
I decided to finish the game though, to see if I was missing out on anything. I went to the store, picked up Bubble Monkey, and got to where you find your first enemy, the gruff goat, and engaged it. I used the attack option and the game said, "Jeff fired the Desert Eagle. Gruff goat has been killed." The battle was over and when the battle screen exited, all the music stopped and it showed Bubble Monkey looking at Jeff for a couple seconds. Then a screen came up that said, "Bubble Monkey gave you a sad look." The music then came back and I was allowed to play again. I stared at the screen for a second, but then decided that I had to finish the game. This was too weird for me to just forget about.
I got to the part where you find Tessie in the water to take you to the other island. Surprisingly, that happened like normal, nothing off beat about it. Everything was fine until I ran into a rowdy mouse at the end of the brick road dungeon. I selected attack but a text box came up that said, "Bubble Monkey asks you nicely not to kill the rowdy mouse, will you agree and flee?" I was in shock, but I picked yes, because I wanted to see what would happen and another text box came up that said, "Bubble Monkey thanks you and you get away successfully."
I got to the end of the cave at the end when I walked outside. Normally, this is where bubble monkey leaves you, but instead, I was immediately attacked by a cave boy. I entered the battle and selected attack. The same text box asking me not to kill the enemy came up again though. This time, I said no. The game said that Jeff fired the gun but Bubble Monkey jumped in the way. "Bubble Monkey was killed, Cave boy was gravely injured and fled." The overworld came back and the music changed. Not to the Winters theme though, to the Threed evil theme. The sprite for the cave boy disappeared, but the Bubble Monkey sprite lay face down on the ground. A text box came up after that whick read, "You killed the monkey, but don't feel bad, he was useless anyway."
The whole thing with Dr. Andonuts played out like normal. I got into the Sky Runner and went to Threed. It's funny though because the music never stopped playing the Threed theme, even while I was in the lab and Skyrunner, that theme played. I got to Threed and found Ness and Paula bound up. Paula begged Jeff to release them, and it gave me an two options. "Release or Kill". I figured that if I really did kill them it would be a game over, and since that option seemed really stupid anyway, I released them. They got up and Paula went over to Jeff and a text box that said, "Paula hugged Jeff." However Ness just walked over to a corner and stood there as the music slowly changed to what sounded like very deep toned whispers.
After that, something happened, that I REALLY did not expect. A long pair of 16 bit clawed hands popped out of the wall behind Ness and slowly grabbed him as the whispers grew louder and louder. Jeff just stood still but Paula said, "STOP! WHERE ARE YOU TAKING HIM?" The game was still for about a minute until the whispers started becoming understandable. They just kept repeating, The crypt, The crypt, The crypt... After that, Ness just faded through the wall and the game went silent yet again.
Jeff said to Paula, "We can get through this and save Ness, but we have to stop Giygas. He is behind this. It's the only way." After that, I finally regained control of the game and left the graveyard. The game played as normal with the exception of much higher difficulty due to Ness's absence, some dialog changing with NPC's that questioned or noted the absence of Ness until I got to where you get to Poo's Mu training. Where you normally pass and go to Eagleland afterward, the weird ghost thing said to Poo, "You have proved that you are selfish. Too afraid to lose that which is precious to you, and too afraid to die. One such as you truly belongs in the crypt."
This was the second mention of that crypt. I was hoping that eventually I would get to find out what that was. Anyway Dalaam faded back into view as the music changed back to the whispers of the graveyard when Ness got pulled away and a giant clawed hand slowly came out of the ground as Poo was pulled under. The game faded back to Paula and Jeff and let me play again. I said to myself, "No, this is bullshit, this game is going to be way too hard without Ness or Poo!"
I pulled myself together though, and kept playing until I got to where you get the last sanctuary location. Then I realized, wait, if there's no Ness, what is going to happen with Magicant? Well, nothing happened. I got the eighth sanctuary location and the game played like normal until I got to Giygas. Let me tell you that without Ness, it was NOT EASY to do, but I finally beat him. When I did beat him though, I was upset at first because I thought that the game was just going to end like that. I was wrong.
Paula and Jeff woke up in their robot forms outside of Giygas's lair. A text box came up that said, "ESCAPE!!!!". Giant clawed hands started coming out of the chasm in the cave of time and started swiping towards Jeff and Paula. I tried to see if maybe the game altered so that I could use the phase distorter to get out, but I never got that chance. One of the hands touched me and the game froze for about thirty seconds with no music or sound or anything. A short cutscene ensued that depicted Jeff and Paula being dragged down into a hole. A deep voice echoed that said, "You may have defeated Giygas, but now you have fulfilled your only purposes. You played a dangerous game. Now join your friends, in the Crypt of the Ancients."
Crypt of the Ancients? What is that? I soon found out. The screen cut in to a narrow hallway which consisted of light green stone flooring, light green stone walls, and cages lining the walls. Some of the cages had skeletal or rotting appendages sticking out of them. There was music playing that I can't even describe. It was very creepy though. This was probably the most far out incredible thing I had ever heard of or seen in any game I had ever even known about.
Anyway, I walked down the hallway for what seemed like two minutes but was probably shorter and then finally found something. It was a room containing four doors. There were signs above each of the doors. The signs read as follows, Cage of Fear, Cage of Helplessness, Cage of Silence, and Cage of Evil. I decided to just pick a random one so I went into the one that said Cage of Silence. When I walked in, I saw a skeleton with Ness's hat on chained to the stone wall. The same deep voice from earlier started speaking, not through text, but through actual talking. It said, "This one was deemed untrustworthy and too quiet. We, the ancients, have condemned him to live on in this skeletal form in the Cage of Silence, never to speak, hear, or see anything again. He lives on, but in pure nothingness." I was then teleported back to the room with the doors.
The room labeled Cage of Silence disappeared and I was left to pick another one. I chose the Cage of Fear. Inside was the same as the Cage of Silence, but with Poo chained to the wall instead of Ness, and he looked normal but with his eyes wide open in an expression of pure terror. Again, "We the ancients have deemed this one weak, pathetic, and cowardly, he is doomed to an eternity of an endless fear within his own mind." Again, I was teleported back to the room, with the Cage of Fear disappearing. Down to 2.
I went into the door labeled Cage of Evil next. As I walked in. The music stopped. The screen cut to black, when it faded back in, Jeff was chained to the wall with vultures picking away at him. The voice came back and said, "We the ancients deem this one evil in nature, using his weapons to kill those who he no longer has need of. He will live in eternal pain, suffering, and torture in the Cage of Evil." Back to the outside room.
The last door. The Cage of Helplessness. The music stopped and the voice cut back in. It said, "We the ancients deem you innocent of all you endured on your long journey, we shall allow you, Paula, to return to your family, knowing you failed your friends and could not save them. Begone." I was instantly teleported back to Polestar preschool. I went outside and saw Paula's parents. They saw her and told her how much they missed her. After that the screen cut to black. After about thirty seconds, the voice from the crypt said, "Lead a life of purity, bravery, helpfulness, and trust, lest you suffer an eternity in the Crypt of the Ancients..." The game then shut itself off and left me staring at the screen in utter disbelief.
Three weeks later Victor returned and I returned his game and SNES to him babbling about what happened. He told me I was crazy and asked me for proof. I put in the game in the SNES and booted it up. My save file was gone. I was shocked. I told him to make a new file and play the game all the way through. Four days later he called me and told me he beat the game. I asked what he thought and as I'm sure all of you reading this expected, he said nothing out of the ordinary happened. I didn't try to press the matter any further and didn't feel like arguing my case, so I simply told him it was a joke and left it at that.
This sure was a crazy experience. An experience that only I know of, and one that I will likely never forget.