I still remember the day I got my first ever Pokémon game. I was around 8-10 years old at the time.
My mum and dad had just came back from a shopping trip and I was in my room busying myself with my only Pokémon related game at the time: Pokémon Stadium. I mashed the buttons on the control wildly as the oncoming attack from the opponent Dragonair sent my Jolteon's health quickly down to zero, I was just about to send out the next Pokémon in my teams line-up when my mum called me from downstairs. The console's remote fell to the floor with a loud clunk (something I would regret in later life as I now only have one working remote) as I raced out my bedroom door, I knew what was coming, something I'd been waiting for, for a long time.
My mum was in our sitting room. She held a plain plastic bag in her hands and had a welcoming smile on her face. "I got you something while I was in town. Come see." She chimed as she handed me the bag. By this point, my heart was pounding.
"Could it really be what I thought it was?"
I dipped my right hand into the bag and felt the smooth angular shape of generic card packaging. I almost couldn't contain myself as hope brewed more and more inside me. Without hesitation, I yanked out the box. Could this really be my very own copy of Pokémon Red or Blue? I held up the box so I could clearly see it, but no, this wasn't Pokémon Red, or Blue ... it was POKEMON YELLOW! The newest Pokémon game out at the time. My heart nearly did a back flip with joy, then I remembered something rather important; I didn't have a Game Boy, but, maybe...YES! I looked in the bag and there was another box. I could've died happy right there and then, because it wasn't just any Game Boy, but the limited edition Pikachu version! I gave my mum the biggest thank you and hug I could and then rushed upstairs to play my new game.
That was my first experience with a Pokémon Game Boy game, I played yellow right through to the end and all over again.
However, that's not the story I want to share today. The story I want to share today began on a copy of Pokémon Red (a game I later got off a friend who'd lost interest in the franchise.)
Now, I played through this game normally enough, just like any Pokémon game I'd played before or would play in the future for years to come, and like most youngsters who play Pokémon, (at least I hope so) I grew attached to those little pixels that were part of my team. I usually love all my Pokémon on my team, but I always had a favourite. In fact, throughout the course of several games, this "favourite" of mine was exactly the same Pokémon and this is where this story really begins.
I first caught him on my Pokémon Red Version. At the time, I was just happy to have a legendary at all, after my attempts to catch Articuno had failed many times over. He (yes, I am aware legendaries are genderless, but I give them genders in my head anyway) was a Zapdos and the first electric Pokémon I had caught that I actually really liked the design of, so he instantly went in my team. Like all the Pokémon I kept in my party I made sure to nickname him, so once I'd passed the little Pokéball coming to a standstill and the victory music chiming, I arrived at the nicknaming screen, pondering for only a few seconds before I pressed the letters which spelt out the name "DOSZAP"- to this day, I cannot recall why I picked such a strange yet juvenile name but it stuck none the less.
From here on out, DOSZAP was my lead Pokémon. I used him first in all my battles. His Drill Peck seemed to deal enough damage to faint almost all foes, and just as he had reached level 70 on my Red version, I had made it to the point in my newest Pokémon game, Gold version, where trading Pokémon with the older games became possible, so, of course, my first choice was to transfer my legendary trio.
I set up a link cable between my Pikachu edition Game Boy and my brother's purple transparent one. (Which I'd "borrowed" for the occasion)
I was so glad to be this far. This way, I didn't have to leave my old Pokémon behind! I watched as the trade screen started and the little sprite of my Articuno disappeared into its Pokéball followed by the text box final lines, "Take good care of Midnight!"(My Articuno's name) then watched as the transfer animation commenced. Where my Articuno had been displayed moments before on Red version now appeared a Ratatta, while on my Gold now gleamed the handsome new sprite of an Articuno. I marveled at the new sprite for a while before continuing the process of trading my Gold version Ratatta army with my prized Pokémon.
Moltres was next, then my Pidgeot, then Charizard, my faithful starter Pokémon, then finally, DOSZAP was transferred.
Once returning from the trade station to my Gold game, I added my new favourite, Umbreon, to the team. Then, after browsing through my new party and feeling satisfied, I headed off to the Elite Four, for my next challenge. DOSZAP led my team into battle against each of the four and impressively downed their Pokémon, one after the other, only needing to be switched out to give my other Pokémon a chance to level and avoid Bruno's Onix. It took a lot of Max Elixirs and Hyper Potions, but I made it through to Lance, and challenged him. His Gyarados fell easily, and Dragonair and Dragonite weren't too difficult. Aerodactyl managed to lower DOSZAP's health greatly, so I switched him out with Moonlight, my Umbreon, in a desperate attempt to protect my Pokémon from fainting. After several Shadow Balls and Faint Attacks, Aerodactyl was down, but the rest of my team had been lost during the previous nonstop battles and Moonlight was running low on HP now too. I knew my only chance, and as Lance's Charizard appeared on screen. I switched Pokémon, the insisting bleeping began as DOSZAP appeared on screen with a rather faint battle cry. I held my breath and selected my first command, but Charizard was quick.
"Enemy Charizard used Fire Blast!"
I froze momentarily.
"But it missed!"
A sigh of relief left me.
"DOSZAP used Zap Cannon!"
Charizard's health bar fell to just above half.
"Enemy Charizard is now paralyzed!"
(YES!) I mashed the attack button impatiently.
DOSZAP used Drill Peck!
The move made contact and Charizard's health began to slowly drain... What took seconds seemed to take minutes, but finally the text I wanted to read appeared.
"Enemy Charizard fainted!
Champion Lance was defeated!"
I couldn't contain my excitement as the victory music chimed and the final scenes from the game played out before me.
But I wasn't done yet.
From this day forth, DOSZAP was my all time favourite. I trained up until his level was 100, and I constantly took him to the Salon Brothers in Goldenrod for a haircut to increase his happiness. It got to the point were the only Pokémon I would carry with me was DOSZAP!
I battled with friends only using my faithful DOSZAP to down their entire team, even when my friend trained her Zapdos to an equal level, it was still no match for my precious Pokémon.
But time went by, and soon the Game Boy Advanced was released with an all new line up of Pokémon games: Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald.
With the new storyline waiting to be played, my Pokémon my Gold version was cast aside to gather dust. At first, I was a little upset I couldn't trade over my team, but I soon got over the feeling and enjoyed building up a new Pokémon party.
Months and years went by. FireRed and LeafGreen were released. I played through FireRed well enough. I caught the legendary trio, but feeling more creative, I named the Zapdos I caught "Storm", not feeling like replacing an old memory, but starting a new one.
More time went by and the release of Diamond, Pearl and Platinum was announced. I ended up with Platinum, playing through it like any hardcore Pokémon fan would.
Then finally, the games that everyone had been waiting for since FireRed and LeafGreen were due for release; HeartGold and SoulSilver.
I was so excited I constantly looked for updates and info on the new features. And I made it a point to pre-order my version before its release. (the pre order Ho-oh figure was a must have for me!)
The days passed and finally the day came were the games were out. I rushed over to game station to pick up my pre-ordered copy. After exchanging words with the clerk about how awesome this game was meant to be I headed off home itching to try it out for myself.
Now, as I had anxiously waited for its release for the many weeks before its arrival, I'd been playing my old game like mad. I had transferred my old Gold team over to Crystal version during this time and had a few play through of the Elite Four in celebration for the new games' release. So I was hoping for a nostalgic experience from my new game.
When I got home, I quickly removed the packaging from my HeartGold, taking time to admire the Ho-oh figure it came with, and the shiny front of the box art. After roughly skimming through the booklet guide, I picked up the game cartridge and smacked it into my blue DS Lite. As the Game Freak logo appeared, I had to stifle back a squeal of excitement. I watched the opening sequence in awe. The graphics had improved so much. Then, briefly hesitating on the wonderful 3D image of Ho-oh, I clicked the "New Game" option.
From here on, I didn't slow down playing through that game until I reached Kanto. After defeating Blue, I was beginning to lose interest. After all, there is nothing much to do after all the Gyms are defeated. Until, one day, while browsing through my in-game Pokédex, an interesting thought compelled me.
Why not create my dream Pokémon team?
This thought quickly turned into an obsession. I traded over my Flygon and Taillow from Emerald, my Honchkrow from Platinum, and finished off my team with my new Skarmory and Umbreon already in HeartGold.
Now, as much as I loved my dream team, there was still one empty slot that needed to be filled. I withdrew random Pokémon from my PC every now and then to fill the void, but for the majority of the time, I left it empty.
I was saving it for a very special Pokémon.
Recently, while surfing the web, I found that once you've beaten the Gym Leaders in Kanto, the legendary birds become a available for capture, and one of the trio in particular appears outside the restored Power Plant in Kanto- of course, the Pokémon in question is Zapdos.
So after preparing my team and stocking up on Ultra Balls, I headed over to the plant. Using my switch out Pokémon-Vaporeon to get there, I made sure to put my Skarmory in the PC so I would have space for my newest member once I caught him. I arrived outside the Power Plant, hopping onto the land, and sure enough, there stood the wonderful overworld pixels of a Zapdos. Without pause, I rushed up to its sprite and tapped the A button. The sprite gave out the familiar Zapdos cry and the battle began.
I sent out my Umbreon, Shade, first, and hit the attack command using Confuse Ray. Once Zapdos was confused, I attacked it several times using Dark Pulse before switching to my Torterra, a Pokémon brought along just for the occasion. Once my Torterra appeared on the screen, I quickly used Sleep Powder, sending the Zapdos's status to SLP. Now with the Pokémon asleep it was time to try and capture it! The Ultra Ball sprite flew across the screen and encapsulated the Zapdos. The ball wiggled slightly, then stopped, I watched closely. Then, to my dismay the ball sprang open followed by Zapdos's smug cry.
"So close," I murmured before going back to my items to throw another ultra ball.
It took several attempts, but finally the words, "Zapdos has been caught!" appeared on my screen, with the happy chime of the victory music. I tapped A until the option, "give a nickname to the captured Zapdos?" came up on the screen. I clicked yes without a moment's pause and began to mash in the letters. D,O,S,Z,A and P. Satisfied to finally have the Pokémon that would lead my dream team back, I went to click end.
But as I did my actions were interrupted by a text box questioning my command.
"Are you sure you want this nickname?"
I paused for a moment before I selected yes. I don't remember ever being asked that before. "Must just be for legendaries or something," I spoke out loud with some hope it would make my words more believable. Just as the text box disappeared, another followed in its wake.
"You already have a Zapdos with this name. Is this alright?"
I stared at the screen for a moment, blinking unbelievingly. How could my game know that? Why would it matter? But I shrugged it off, and proceeded to click yes. The boxes stopped and the game went back to the overworld. I took note of the surroundings carefully, but nothing looked odd or off, so I proceeded as planned and quickly entered into my Pokémon team to switch my newly caught DOSZAP to the front. Nothing strange happened here either, I exited the Pokémon party screen to marvel at the little Zapdos sprite now following my trainer. I went over to the sprite and tapped A to "talk" to my new Pokémon. A text box came up reading the words:
"DOSZAP is starring at the power plant intently."
Now, I'd never got this textbox before, but I figured it was due to Zapdos being an electric type, so naturally thought nothing of it. But, when I opened my team up again and chose my Honchkrow to use Fly, I was bugged by another infuriating text box.
"You cannot leave yet!"
I let out a infuriated sigh and tried again. The same textbox appeared, blocking my actions. So, I went to the edge of the land and tried Surf, only to have the same message appear. At this point, I was ready to turn the game off with frustration, but as I exited the Pokémon party screen, which I had opened at my third attempt at using Surf, I noticed DOSZAP's overworld sprite had not followed my trainer's, and was still facing the Power Plant. Then a thought came to me. Perhaps this is an extra part of the in game story. So, I went over to the little sprite and tapped 'A' again. Sure enough, I got the message: "DOSZAP is starring at the power plant intently."
Now I knew what the game wanted me to do, so I headed for the Power Plant entrance. As I entered the Power Plant, the screen went blank. At first, I thought my game had crashed, but after a short while, the cry of a Zapdos sounded and the same music that played in the Team Rocket base now sounded through my DS speakers. The place looked exactly like the old Power Plant in Red, Blue and Yellow, only the graphics were up to date. I was quite excited to see the Power Plant back to its old self, unlike the small boring in-use building it had been when I'd visited it earlier in the game. So rather than get suspicious, I began to explore the new area. I ran into a few wild Voltorb and Pikachu, but nothing odd. My newly caught DOSZAP downed them easily. As I wandered further into the building, I noticed the screen began to flicker, like it would when a Pokémon is poisoned, only there was no sound to accompany it. I continued walking, and the flickering began to slow until I could see the distortion clearly with every appearance it made on the screen. It was the Power Plant, only portrayed in the graphics of the original Pokémon Red and Blue version. Eventually, as I reached the place where you would normally find Zapdos in the old games, the whole screen had turned to the grainy old image with even my trainer sprite appearing as it would in Red version. Now DOSZAP still tagged behind me, only its sprite appeared as the sprite for flying Pokémon from the old game as well, like the bird sprite that appears when you use Fly in Red and Blue. At this point, maybe I should've been worried, but I was still stuck with my belief that this was some sort of special event that occurred after catching my electric bird legendary.
I continued to trudge forward, and as I did, the ground beneath my little sprites feet began to crumble. This caused DOSZAP to utter a cry which was accompanied by a text box reading,
"DOSZAP is scared."
Once the text box left the screen, the ground below both characters gave way and the screen plunged into blackness. I waited for a while, but the screen stayed blank. I mashed the buttons wildly, and just as I was about to truly give up, I heard the recognizable 'thud' sound of my character hitting a wall. It seemed a bit impractical for a room to be made completely black, but I shrugged it off and kept walking. The area I was in seemed to go on forever and I was getting bored when a loud clash sound(like the noise as lightning flashes in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, only much louder.)uttered from my DS and the screen flashed with light. I jumped, startled not by the sound but by the image that filled the screen.
My character and Pokémon where still looking dull in their old sprites and so was the room. In fact everything would'velooked just the same...If it were not for the brilliant distortion of deformed Pokémon sprites that littered the image, the walls and floor were splattered with red pixels and the Pokémon sprites themselves were torn pulled and stretched into horrific twisted shapes. Voltorb and Electabuzz with endless black where eyes should be, mouths stretched downwards in painful looking ways. The gruesome sight flashed in and out of the blackness five times before returning the screen to darkness. I could do nothing but stare dumfounded with shock unable to press anything, but I didn't need to. The darkness was quickly followed by a textbox that read,
"Something is stirring..."
Though I was becoming unnerved, something compelled me to keep moving onward, (Curiosity, perhaps?) and eventually the void of nothingness came to an end. The sound effect for entering a new room played and the screen went white for a few seconds before revealing to me what was awaiting in it. The room was shapeless, made up of a mash of old pixels, discarded data and files, long forgotten in my game's memory bank. The music had stopped completely by now, and only one visible bunch of pixels made up a creature I could recognize. A Zapdos. Unlike the rest of the room, this Zapdos looked like the HeartGold overworld sprite for it. In fact, it would've been perfect, if it wasn't for the achingly obvious lack of colour. The sprite had a clear black outline, but was drained of any vibrant yellows and oranges it should have had. It was a blank white, empty and dull. Before I could press anything my character sprite walked over to the strange Zapdos, and automatically the signature text box popped up as it always does when you fight a legendary, but this time the text was not the signature "Gggyyrraaoooo" cry, though the sound of it certainly played out- but no, what the text box read was enough to turn my blood to ice.
"DOSZAP: How could you?!!?"
I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was seeing things. It was late at night, as it always was when I played these games, but to no avail, the text box still stayed on the screen reading those words.
This was crazy... this sprite wasn't DOSZAP. My nicknamed Zapdos still stood behind me with the outdated bird sprite to portray it. But that wasn't what bothered me the most, though. No, it was the words that the game had claimed the sprite to have uttered. "How could you?!!?" It made me feel uneasy, as if it wasn't directed at my character at all, but me. Regardless curiosity won over in the end and I tapped the 'A' button, which instantly engaged the battle sequence.
immediately I regretted it.
As the Pokémon appeared on the screen, the enemy DOSZAP's sprite appeared just like the old sprites from Red version, though the shape was all I recognized. The eyes were empty black holes and its beak appeared as though it had been welded together then wrenched open again creating tears in its edges of its mouth which remained in an open gape, black pixels littered the place the sprites eyes and tongue should have been, making it look as though the blackness wept out of it- like some horrible infected wound. Though none of this horror compared to its battle cry. At first, it sounded like it normally would, but then began to slow and distort, its pitch jumping from high to low, twisting into an agonizing wail before dying out. After such a sight, it was a relief to see my DOSZAP's sprite appear on the screen with the normal HeartGold sprite and animation
Then, the battle began...
No music played and the opposing pokemon was the first to attack.
"Enemy DOSZAP used LIAR!"
"DOSZAP's name was changed!"
I stared at the screen, dumbfounded; I hadn't even selected Attack yet, and the battle had already started, further more I was well experienced in pokemon games, atleast well enough to know 'LIAR' was not a pokemon move.
But no time to dwell on that. I watched as my DOSZAP's name was changed. The pixels distorted where his name would appear then cleared up to reveal a new name. I read the words out loud unable to make sense of them:
Replaced? What was that supposed to mean? But I didn't have time to think about it, as the enemy DOSZAP went to attack again and the battle played out without my consent.
"Enemy DOSZAP used Punishment!"
My newly named Zapdos, REPLACED, flashed red as the attack hit and let out a weak cry, just like a Pokémon does as it faints.
"REPLACED lost its sight..."
Again, I couldn't understand what had played out before me, but I had no time to think.
"REPLACED is too scared to move!"
"Enemy DOSZAP used Punishment!"
Again it flashed red and that awful fainting cry played out but the pitch, but seemed higher than before...? Maybe my imagination had got the better of me.
"REPLACED lost its voice..."
Voice, this time? What is going on? No time to think again, as it continued.
"REPLACED is too scared to move..."
"Enemy DOSZAP used Punishment!"
Again, it flashed red, and a screeching cry, which was now obviously increasing in pitch.
"REPLACED lost all hope..."
It was only now that I noticed the sprite for REPLACED had become severely distorted in places. Now, I was becoming worried. Its health was also low, so in a desperate attempt to save my Pokémon, I pressed along on the arrows waiting for the opportunity to select items and heal my poor Pokémon. But, it seemed the game was already ahead of me, and I was greeted by the startling message.
"DOSZAP: You can't heal a fake!!"
This text box quickly parted and the battle moved on. I gladly let it, too caught up in the madness of what my game was telling me, as if it could see what I was doing, hear me.
"REPLACED is in pain! REPLACED used Struggle!"
The pathetic animation played as my Pokémon struggled, only managing to chip away a small portion of DOSZAP's health.
Then, the recoil of Struggle hit REPLACED and the frustrating bleeping of low health began to sound out through my DS Lite's speakers.
"DOSZAP used Drill Peck!"
One last agonizing screech blurted out and the sprite of REPLACED stretched, twisted, and scattered into nothingness in front of me.
I blinked, staring at the screen, as my trainer now stood in place of the departed Pokémon and my options for battle appeared.
"This is insane," I whispered out loud.
Then, I clicked to enter my Pokémon party in a desperate attempt to send out a Pokémon that could defend me, but again the game would not let me- no, not the game, DOSZAP... DOSZAP wouldn't let me. I was greeted by another comment from him this time reading,
"DOSZAP: NO! This is between you and me!"
Now I was angry and confused and couldn't hold back shouting out loud.
"WHAT DO YOU WANT?!'" I screamed at the screen.
I was slightly thrown off at the fact it replied, though the idea this was an in-game hoax still hadn't left me completely. After all, the DS does have a built in mic. Regardless, I continued to shout.
"WHY? WHY WHAT?!"
The text box continues to fill with the endless question issued by this Pokémon.
Until, finally, it stretched across the screen crashing it into a jumble of mindless W, H and Y's.
I went to switch the game off, just as the screen went blank, but one finally text box filled the void, and upon reading it my heart got stuck in my throat.
"WHY DID YOU REPLACE ME??!!"
I stared in dismay, suddenly aware of what was going on. Despite how crazy it sounded, it was the only thing that made sense.
This was my DOSZAP, my DOSZAP that I'd loved and cherished like no other Pokémon in-game, the DOSZAP I'd kept with me throughout the first two Pokémon generations...
Then tossed aside for a shiny new game. Leaving it in a cartridge that would eventually run out of battery and die.
The screen faded back to the overworld and my trainer sprite stood in front of the drained, terribly sad looking Zapdos sprite.
REPLACED was no longer tagging behing me.
I ran my fingers across the screen tracing the zapdos's sprite, for a moment feeling terribly guilty for what I had done.
But clearly, I was not forgiven.
"DOSZAP used Destiny Bond!"
It happened so fast, a horrible squeal uttered from my DS raising its pitch with each chime, sending my head into a spin. The DS screen cracked beneath my finger tips, my mind clouded and then everything went black.
When I awoke, I was still on my bedroom floor where I had sat to play my game. My DS lay sprawled out in front of me. Shards of screen stood straight up caught in my carpet, making it look like a grinning mouth jagged with teeth. still in a haze from my blackout I picked up my DS without thinking. The screen was dark, the back lighting gone, but within the dullness of the screen, I could just make out a textbox holding one simple sentence:
"It's okay now... You'll never leave me again."
I read the words out loud, still not grasping their meaning. Then, I noticed the slight smear of blood between the mesh of broken screen. I instantly looked at my hand, and sure enough, blood oozed from the tip of my thumb, where a small shard of the plastic screen had caught itself in flesh. I pulled it out, only flinching slightly, none of this seemed real, so I assumed it wasnt and switching off the bleak screen of my DS. I busied myself cleaning up the mess.
Prehaps I shouldve taken the event seriously, maybe even tried to continue playing the game despite the broken screen? I guess its too late now...
At the time, I never really understood the final words my DOSZAP had shown me, but who would have? It's just a game, with all its functions programmed into it.
Though, maybe, if I'd paid more attention, the scar he left me on my right thumb would have healed... and those tormenting nightmares of a bird... The one thats always there when I close my eyes chasing me, hunting me down to tear at me with unforgiving anger, joining in with my terrified screams with its own mournful screeching.