Pokémon Red and Green versions began development in 1989, and were considered complete and fit for release in 1995. It took a long time, because of the problems surfacing along the way. These were considered, at the time, to be due to the game being on the cutting edge of new technology, because the programmers were overcoming bugs that no one had needed to work around before.
In 1992-1993, when the first playable sections of the game we're completed in alpha form, is what started the long struggle. HM moves didn't exist at this point, instead, the player had to use items to get around. For example, the "surfboard" item allowed the player to surf across the water.
This item was still in the programming when the beta version was released, and some more hardcore gamers managed to hack into the game again. Instead of "cut", the player would use the item "axe" on trees. Instead of "flash", you would use "candle". The "escape rope" was supposed to be replaced by Dig, but for some reason that item wasn't removed.
It made perfect sense and seemed to work just fine until one of the alpha version testers used the candle inside of a building. The screen fogged up, the "smoke screen" attack animation covering everything. A text box appeared saying 'Hurry, get away'. The door sound played, the character would be returned to the over world, the building would be blackened, and you could no longer enter it.
The axe worked perfectly for removing small trees. It also worked perfectly on people and some sections of the fences that hemmed in the entire playable world. Upon using the axe on a human NPC, the sprite would vanish, and be replaced by a small patch of dark pixels. This looked most like the blood it was meant to represent in the Red version, and slightly odd in Green.
It became a morbid joke among the testers, who all assumed these things were programmed in just to try and spook them, and that they would be removed from the final versions. They were.
Escape Rope was considered a step too far by some. Upon the player standing and facing a doorway, if you were to select the escape rope, it would form a noose and the player character would be hung. The only way to get out of this was to switch the game off and continue from the last save.
One of the testers left, and a new person was hired in his place. The new guy didn't appreciate the sick jokes that the programmers played on the testers. The others simply laughed it off, and told him not to be so touchy. He insisted, however, that these were children's games, and that the programmers shouldn't be adding these things, even if they were temporary and meant as a joke.
That was so long ago, I've forgotten his name. Kenta, or something... He complained to the higher-ups about the 'added extras'. The programmers were questioned, and one was even fired over the incident. The claim was that they were wasting time and resources.
To be fair, by this time we had music and basic sound effect in the game, which made the extra effects even more gruesome. Using the axe on a person would now trigger a high pitched squealing sound along with the disappearance and the puddle of blood. Burning buildings also had an added repetitive crackling sound effect that was meant to imitate fire to the best of the old technology's ability. Lastly, if the escape rope was used, a singular crack would play.
None of the programmers actually ever owned up to putting the dark extras in. They all claimed to have never seen them before, but they began to suspect each other when they realized their jobs were on the line. Who knows if that programmer that was fired actually had anything to do with it?
It was decided that the items would be scrapped entirely, and HM moves were invented to enable the player to progress instead. The remaining programmers found that it was a lot of trouble attempting to erase the items from the code, and resorted to burying them to render them unusable or inaccessible. The effect was the same as erasing them, right?
It worked, and the whole incident was forgotten. That is, until the beta versions were released to the public. Hackers started taking an interest in the game's coding.
There were the famous incidents surrounding Lavender town and the music that so badly affected younger players. But, there were one or two cases in which hackers had uncovered the buried items in the game's coding, and the disturbing images that came with them combined with the overall music caused them to completely lose themselves. Almost no records of what happened exist, but I remember hearing on the news back then that a high school student had taken an axe to her classmates.
She's pulverized them as much as possible, turning them into indistinguishable puddles of human flesh. Her surviving friends said she had become obsessed with her new Pokémon game in the time leading up the attack. One of them in an interview for a TV news bulletin describe her as 'a maniac for Pokémon.
She was always excited about secrets in the games'. The axe wielding girl, of course, was hospitalized. She never spoke a word to anyone, but the nurses that took care of her claimed to hear her hum a tune at night. They said it was 'creepy' and 'unsettling' and made them feel uncomfortable. The girl is in her thirties by now, hopefully still somewhere secure.
An older fan of the games had his office building burned down, just months after the incident with the girl and the axe. It was played off by the media as nothing more than a tragic accident. After all, fire is quite a common risk in old, multi-story buildings full of paperwork. The strange thing about it was the only survivor was the man. Apparently, he had left the building pre-emptively, blocking the doors as he went.
All the police managed to find was that the fire had started in a stationery cupboard, the only evidence being a pool of melted wax among the charred shelves and debris. He claimed that the tragedy shocked and horrified him, and that he had nothing to do with it. He was still under suspicion, and the police found several boxes of candles and a few hacked copies of Pokémon Red and Green in his apartment.
I don't remember if he was convicted for arson after that, I just remember a news bulletin on TV showing a burnt game cartridge in the man's home.
There were more, all hushed up and forgotten with time. But with the modern world's computer technology, game ROMs, and so on, there is a real risk that someone might be able to uncover these items again. Unless, in the newer versions the old alpha coding was successfully removed, but nobody would have been looking for it in order to do so, would they?
The thought terrifies me. I don't think I can handle seeing these things happen again. Knowing that I was a part of it, that someone might eventually find me and question me... The music plays in my ears everyday, that tiny pulse of Lavender town. Although I've survived for this long, it's time to end the struggle. I'm writing this now, as a warning to anyone who may read it. Don't go looking for buried items.
My escape rope is waiting.