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Ghost Marowak

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Once, I managed to catch the Pokémon Tower Marowak, you know, the ghost one? Usually, it’ll slog off any Pokéball thrown at it. Out of curiosity, I tossed a Master Ball at the Marowak. If you’re wondering, I had hacked an infinite amount of Master Balls at the beginning of my Pokémon Blue save for the sake of convenience. It was the equivalent of an airplane read in terms of Pokémon game playthroughs, so I didn’t really care.

I was expecting the game to break immediately upon capture since the ghost Marowak probably works differently from your usual Marowak caught in the wild. Nothing happened, however, and the game went on just as planned. It appeared in the last slot of my party seeing as I had yet to add a sixth. At the very least, I expected a sort of Missing No. type issue, but the game appeared to have treated it as a normal level 30 Marowak. It wasn’t even a Ghost Type, though if you fought ghost Marowak in-game it never is a Ghost Type.

I had always wondered what would happen if you did manage to catch the ghost Marowak. This all happened as Gold and Silver were being hyped for release, so I was only an innocent kid with an overused Game Genie. Since then, I’ve found out that using a cheat device to catch the ghost Marowak will leave you with a real one, although the only thing I used a cheat device for was the infinite Master Balls at the beginning, which makes this catch even more peculiar. I was satisfied with the Pokémon, of course. Nothing in particular happened, so I completed my business at the Pokémon Tower and went back out to Lavender Town.

I expected, with all the hype, something to finally happen in Lavender Town. The music didn’t seem different at all, and upon talking to everyone else I concluded that all was well in PokéLand. I healed my Pokémon at the PokéCenter like normal and went along on my merry way to Saffron City. I didn’t notice it until later, but the guard at the gate didn’t just let me through; he was gone. Anyway, Saffron City was free to roam regardless. In continuation of the game’s plot, I made my way to Silph Co. only to discover again that the place was empty of the usual Rocket Grunts on every corner. In fact, the whole city was empty. The Pokémon gym? Empty. I visited the routes just north, south, and west of Saffron. Empty. I didn’t notice how devoid of trainers Route 8 was until now. I shut the game off in a fool-hardy attempt to return to my previous save before the Pokémon Tower. It sucked because I was still in Celadon City. At least I had beaten Erika and gotten the Rainbow Badge. So all I had to do was leg it back to Lavender Town and do the Pokémon Tower all over again - without catching the Marowak, of course.

All was well. The NPCs were intact and nothing seemed to be very telltale glitchy. I accidentally walked into the grass on Route 7 in my haste to quickly finish the Pokémon Tower again. It was the usual Pidgey, only this time I sent out the Ghost Marowak.

What the ****.

I checked my party. Apparently, every Pokémon had fainted except the last Pokémon in my party, which happened to be Ghost Marowak. My items were gone as well. The battle choices were fairly standard - FIGHT, PKMN, ITEM, RUN. I tried to run, but it wouldn’t let me escape. I had no choice but to fight.

Ghost Marowak had your standard moves - Growl, Bone Club, and Leer. Bone Club, being a Ground Type move, could not hurt this Pidgey. When rolling through the move choices, I found that the cursor could select the seemingly empty move slot. I selected it. The game froze, the music fizzing out into that itchy static sound as if I just pulled out the game during play.

I tried the game save again, this time checking my party before leaving Celadon City. My other Pokémon were knocked out cold with the only healthy Pokémon being the Ghost Marowak. I checked its stats. Once again, typical Marowak. The only weird thing was its lack of a trainer name. A thing I didn’t notice before. It didn’t say ????? or anything - it was literally blank.

Naturally, I went to the PokéCenter to heal my fallen comrades. It didn’t work. For one thing, it acted as if I only had one Pokémon. The other thing was that my other Pokémon were gone. My PC boxes were empty, and my first Pokémon was Ghost Marowak.

I didn’t know if this was some cruel programmer prank, but it couldn’t have been a hack seeing as I my mother bought the game from Toys ‘R Us way back in 1998. Was it the fault of using a cheat device? Seeing as Pokémon Blue was always my “sandbox” game (Pokémon Yellow was my “serious” game), I trekked on into the wild Blue yonder (yes, that was a bad pun).

I left the PokéCenter. As far as I knew, all of Kanto was empty. Hell, the only thing constant must’ve been the cheery 8-bit music. Going back into the PokéCenter wouldn’t work and I would just hit a wall where the door should open. PokéMarts functioned like this, too, though I could get into every other building normally. I couldn’t get back into Erika’s gym since I needed to use HM Cut, which I no longer had as my items went along with every Pokémon I had but Ghost Marowak. I should mention now that I never got a nickname prompt for Ghost Marowak. It’s not wholly important, trust me. It was just MAROWAK.

If all the NPCs were gone, I wondered about the Pokémon. Once again, I ventured into the grass on Route 7. After a few eerie steps, a battle began. My opponent?

A wild Cubone.

I sent out the only thing I could: Marowak. Run was disabled. Item was useless. I picked Bone Club. It was a one-hit KO, seeing as Marowak was several levels higher than Cubone. I returned to the overworld and took a step to get the hell out of that grass, only to immediately encounter another Cubone. I defeated the Pokémon as they came, finally making it out of the grass. I was only about six or seven tiles in, but having so many wild Pokémon encounters one right after the other was just uncanny.

I continued towards the western Saffron gate until I managed to get into another wild battle - away from the grass. Cubone again. Not surprising. This even happened inside the gate house. By the time I reached the eastern Saffron gate that led to Route 8, Bone Club was down to 0 PP. With no items and no way to get into PokéCenters, the next battle I would have was… interesting, to say the least.

Anyway, it was another Cubone. It was only then I realized that each and every Cubone I had fought so far had the same level as the last. I already made the obvious connection of Cubone to Mother Marowak, but this revelation stung.

I sent out Marowak again, feebly using Leer and hoping to just spam the moves I had left until I could only Struggle. Leer lowered Cubone’s defense accordingly. Cubone, at last, had a chance to attack back, but it couldn’t.

It was too scared to move.

I checked Marowak’s summary again. It was still a Ground Type. The battle would stall with Marowak using Leer or Growl and the Cubone being too scared to move. I was tempted to flick the power off and restart, but I let the battle drone on until Marowak could only use Struggle - or at least, I had hoped it would have Struggle. I recalled the game-breaking “-” move I used earlier and used it.

Marowak used Bone Club, oddly enough. There was no reaction or effect on Cubone, but Marowak apparently fainted. Suicide, I guess. Its HP bar and name disappeared, but its back sprite remained. There was a sudden sound, as if Cubone fled, though nothing on the screen indicated anything was happening. Suddenly, Cubone’s HP bar drained and it fainted. There were no message boxes saying either of the Pokémon fainted, but at last the battle ended. The screen turned black and I expected to be brought back to the start menu, but no dice. In fact, the game was hanging at this black screen.

I waited a few minutes if anything might happen. Eventually the black slowly edged away, revealing the Pokémon Tower’s first floor, though of course the NPCs were gone. The in-game menu was disabled and all I could do was walk.

Eventually, I made it up the tower and walked to the place where you encounter the Ghost Marowak. There was no music, making the place even more eerie. There was an item where you would find Mr. Fuji as he was being held hostage by Team Rocket, though. I went to see what it was, of course. The usual item acquisition sound played, but there was no message saying what it was. My menu was enabled again, and even though the cursor rolled through every selection, the only thing that ended up working was the Trainer Card. (I named myself BENDER, by the way.)

As you can imagine, it was pretty torn up. The faces of gym leaders were ruined by random patches of numbers and letters, the usual border corrupted by various in-game tiles. My name wasn’t BENDER anymore, becoming a random line of letters and numbers. A couple “letters” of my new name were actually NPC and Pokémon menu sprites. The amount of money I had appeared to be a lot as the row of 9s ran off the screen. It was a mess of unused and used data. I pressed A again, hoping to just get out of that thing, seconds after I realized I was missing the typical trainer sprite.

It appeared moments after I pressed A. No, it wasn’t some disembodied Red sprite with blood all over it.

It was a Marowak sprite. Even though every pixel of the sprite was in its right place, it looked a little sadder.

I pressed A again, only to hear the desperate sound of its cry.

The next day, I tried to see if the game save could be salvaged, but the only thing I heard upon continuing the game was the Marowak cry against a dark, formidable background. I didn’t play Pokémon Blue for a while.

A few weeks after that I lost the game somewhere in my room and haven’t seen it in years. I’ve since played FireRed, and though I know there’s no way in hell that kind of crap can happen in FireRed, I’m still uneasy battling that Marowak. Regardless of the new-fangled everything that came with the remake, I can still hear the glitchy 8-bit loop of a Marowak in mourning…

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