When Pocket Monsters was created by Japanese game designer Satoshi Tajiri in 1996 it was nothing more than a way for the designer to relive his childhood pastime of insect collecting and share it with the residents of his homeland. For all the options available in the original games it was still quite a linear adventure, and a simplistic one at that. Neophyte game developer Game Freak (directed by Tajiri) set out to produce the original two installments Red and Green, which became such a hit that Blue was also released. Never before had Game Freak produced a game so intricate and detailed, and mistakes were made to say the least. Programming oversights, data omissions, and lack of a proper error handling system eventually led to trainers getting lost in places that looked like this:
Where we're going we don't need eyes to see.
Due to a lack of attention to finite details in their programming work, which is forgivable considering the sheer magnitude of their creation and this undertaking being the developers' first time taking on such a venture, both the Japanese and North American releases of the original Pokemon games were riddled with glitches ranging from mildly amusing to downright terrifying. Here are seven demons Game Freak unintentionally brought into the world with their magnum opus.
MissingNo (literally "Missing Number", #000 in the Pokedex) needs no introduction. MissingNo is the gold standard in Pokemon glitches and is quite possibly one of the most well known and celebrated glitches in the history of video games entirely; MissingNo's legendary visage is on par with that of the Minus World from Super Mario Bros. Glitches in future generation Pokemon games are called "MissingNo" even though they're completely different entities; it's a glitch that became the name for every other Pokemon glitch because that's what happens when you're #1.
MissingNo's familiar "L" shaped appearance, non-threatening battle cry, memorable moveset, and item duplication properties are quite vanilla today, but how would you have like to have been the first person to stumble across this beast? Can you imagine minding your own business when suddenly a random encounter begins, the screen freezes black for just a few seconds, and then…
"Oh god oh god oh god oh god." – You
Your butthole would have tensed up at this sight, and don't you deny that.
Any self-respecting Pokemaniac in the 1990′s knew the entire Pokedex (and the PokeRap) like the back of their hand. You knew #'s 1 through 151 better than your own family, so what in God's name is this abortion?! It has a terrifyingly alarming name ("MISSING" appears in it), its graphic looks like the bowels of technological hell, and while it cries and fights like a regular Pokemon you have never seen anything like this before in your life. Confronted with the unknown you then do what any starry-eyed trainer would do in this situation: you catch the damn thing.
Sometime later you decide to show your friend your awesome trophy of a glitch and accidentally skip to the Pokemon League's computer and bring up your Hall of Fame. The music crashes and turns to a single sound channel while the screams of tortured souls come through as pure static in another. Your screen flashes with the garbled mess of a computer virus and attached is a note from MissingNo reading "thank you for liberating me from my prison, this is only my first step to world domination."
"PS: Check your 6th item."
Remember that old man in Viridian City who wouldn't let you pass because he's a grumpy old fart who hasn't yet had his fill of coffee? He's just an unmentionable arbitrary barrier in the game so that you won't proceed further without delivering Oak's Parcel from the PokeMart and once you obtain your Pokedex he changes his attitude and shows you how to catch Pokemon. Or so you thought.
Unknown to him, the old man also holds the keys to unlocking MissingNo… which come to think of it might be the reason he seems so disturbed and angry at the world in the first place. Could you imagine having to harbor that thing? Sure, he could grant you all the free coffee you could ever want but still we don't think MissingNo would be suitable company at all, ever.
You can fool with the poor old man all you want if you have a GameShark and play with the cheat codes to alter wild Pokemon encounters. You can have the old man show you how to catch one of the Pokemon not present in your version of the game, you can have him catch a Mewtwo, you can enjoy a spot of meta humor and have him catch a MissingNo, or… you can force him to fight a trainer, and the game just doesn't know what the hell to do.
"You damn kids with your POKEYMAN!!!"
The old man is programmed to do one thing and one thing only: throw a Poke Ball. He still does this after the trainer sends out their glitch Pokemon and as you might expect the trainer blocks it. The old man never sends out any Pokemon (even though he appears to have 1 fainted and 5 normal Pokemon) so right now you're probably on the edge of your seat because the trainer's glitch box of the apocalypse is about to rock this grandpa's world with something fierce…
…and like the weirdest deus ex machina ever conceived the PA system from the Safari Zone chimes in and says "TIME'S UP!!"
The battle ends immediately and the old man acts like absolutely nothing out of the ordinary just transpired. He reminds you that you must first "weaken the target Pokemon" and on the surface it appears no lasting effects have taken place — until you check your stats.
Your name has changed to "OLD MAN". Due to the way the game handles the old man encounter it stores your actual name in the place where wild Pokemon data is stored (because this data is empty in Viridian City) and temporarily changes your player name to "OLD MAN". When the battle terminates improperly the game doesn't have the chance to reset the data and your name becomes OLD MAN. Any Pokemon you have cannot be nicknamed because you are no longer their original trainer, they do not recognize you now.
Every single instance where your name would be displayed now says "OLD MAN". If you access your PC from a Pokemon Center it's called "OLD MAN's PC". If you speak to a character who addresses you by your name, such as Professor Oak for example, he will (hilariously) call you "OLD MAN". If you check the sign outside of your home it will read "OLD MAN's house". You have become OLD MAN. He has stolen your identity and pulled off the greatest psychic cleansing ever documented. Everybody you have ever known starts calling you by the incorrect name like nothing happened. Even your own mother doesn't know you anymore.
This can't possibly be scary, can it? The name almost looks like the word "pizzazz" which is kind of fruity but at the worst would end up being a Shiny Pokemon, right? Shiny things have pizzazz?
Wrong. The "ZZAZZ" glitch is known as such because of a very specific string of data it injects directly into your save file. Unless you're tempted enough to fool with the game by using sequence breaks or a GameShark you won't come across this glitch, but God help you if you choose to peek into oblivion and play with things you shouldn't. Like the saying goes, "when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back" except in this case the "abyss" is a glitched zombie trainer who violates you in the mindgina. Glitches can be like drugs and after a while freebasing MissingNo just isn't enough to get you high; that's when you OD and this happens:
Vuvuzela wants to fight! BZZZZZZZZZZ
Let's take a look at what the christ is going on here. First thing's first: your opponent. It's you as if you were staring into a mirror and there was an interdimensional time rift that sucked Red into the cursed mirror world and unleashed the fury of Hell itself into the unsuspecting Kanto. Impostor Red has a full stock of Pokemon, though the first one appears to be poisoned. When he sends this Pokemon out it's at level 153 and its health bar wraps around the entire screen. This is what it looks like when you attempt to use a digital Ouija board to channel spirits (reference to the "Channeler" trainers unintended but pointed out).
By this point it's already too late; you are completely and utterly screwed. The game is now operating by itself and is pulling code and instructions from the 7th dimension and the only thing you can do is get your ass kicked by Pokemon of the netherworld while the mirror image of yourself laughs in a mocking tone.
There is one escape, though: throw a Poke Ball. No, seriously. Bizarro Red will block it, the game will buzz for a second, and the battle will suddenly end akin to what happened with the old man in Viridian City.
But that's not the end of it, unfortunately. You may have escaped but merely looking at the source of the ZZAZZ infection is enough to let its memetic properties propagate throughout your entire game. Earlier I mentioned the game injects a certain string of data into your game save. Check your trainer name. It's a bunch of Z's. The hex value for the letter "Z" is 99. In base-10 99 is 153, you know, the level of the Pokemon that Mirror World Red sent out. Check your Pokemon roster. They are all now level 153. Not only that, they are all Bulbasuars. Bulbasaur occupies hex value 99, which of course translates to 153. Check Bulbasaur's moveset. Every attack will be Explosion. Can you guess the hex value of this move? I'm sure you can by now; it's like a bad Jim Carrey movie.
Any trainer you fight, no matter who they are, will now be ZZAZZ. And now you are, too.
Try to watch this video without shitting your pants:
Author's Edit: Please pardon my blatant lack of technical finesse and inability to embed this YouTube video properly. The link to the ZZAZZ video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3iVFfKjklk — Resume pants soiling.
Do you have an inexplicable fear of the unknown? Do you worry one day you'll open the door to your house and on the other side instead of seeing your living room it'll be some unknown place in space and time full of hungry dinosaurs, aliens, and clones of Michael Jackson? Are you afraid of being in an elevator because you don't know what will be on the other side of those cold steel doors when they open? Holy crap, you are going to love this next glitch!
"Dokokashira" is Japanese for "where is it", meaning "where is the door". This isn't "where" as in "it's right around the corner", it's "where" as in "where does the other side of that door lead to?" Yes, that's right, this whole glitch revolves around the phenomena of walking into what you think is the Pokemon Center and ending up in the middle of the burned out Cinnabar Island laboratory (with or without a sore B-hole). The "Dokokashira Door" glitch is the roofie of the Pokemon world.
This has "good idea" written ALL OVER IT.
This glitch is only accessible in Pokemon Red and Green, the original two Japanese titles from 1996. It was patched by the time the Japanese Blue was released, and is not present in the North American release of the game. The reason given is because this glitch was "extremely hazardous" unlike, you know, the ZZAZZ glitch or anything like that.
Starting the glitch requires a fresh game because you need to have Oak's Parcel in your inventory. You then must press Select and act like you want to change its place in your item list except rather than swap an item you attempt to exchange it with the first Pokemon in your party (which also requires use of the Select button). From this point the glitch is active, you have sacrificed your only Pokemon to the gods of the underworld, and every "cycle" of the game (every 4 steps taken) will cause the warp point of every door to change to another location. By forcing the game to swap one set of data with another it turns your only Pokemon into the anomaly stored at hex value "FF" and also shuffles around other data in the game, namely the door location data.
Oh, and that bastard Oak won't ever get his package because you decided to finally open it and found out he ordered the key from The Lost Room.
Of course, with such a rigid set of operations with the glitch (every 4 steps) there's no doubt a table that has been created by someone with way too much time on their hands. With careful planning you can use the Dokokashira door glitch to walk straight into the Hall of Fame room, access the computer, and beat the game with zero Pokemon in your party.
Pretty sure that place is FULL of radiation, Ash…
In basic terms the Pokemon game stores its Pokemon data in a single location occupying 256 slots of data (256 converted to hex is "FF", the maximum). 151 of these slots are legitimate Pokemon, about 40 of them are MissingNo, and a few dozen are trainer data. Attempting to use a GameShark to "force" a specific encounter with a trainer ID will cause you to fight a glitchy trainer, not a Pokemon. Through creative circumnavigation, however, you can force the game to read these slots of data as "actual Pokemon". If it sounds like a bad idea you're absolutely correct but curious people do it anyways, and that's how "EC" was discovered.
"EC" is the hex location where this glitch is stored. Most glitches have a name people can use to describe it even if it's a garbled mess of letters and symbols (e.g. "LM4″). EC has no discernible name. The safety net, then, would be to name it based upon what its sprite looks like. EC also has no sprite, not even a garbled "L" shaped mess like MissingNo. At the very least people could use its type, species, or other potential identifying data to name it, but it simply does not exist. EC is literally an invisible specter whose data normally corresponds to Lt. Surge.
He looks like an angry old lady in cargo pants.
Entering "01ECD8CF" into a GameShark results in battling Lt. Surge as a wild encounter. Most of these glitchy trainer fights possess the same roster of garbage data, but Surge is different. The Lieutenant will actually attempt to send out EC, which is frankly unheard of. EC almost always freezes the game but if the ROM remains stable enough the Pokemon you send out to do battle with it emerges from its ball with a "frozen" status effect, its HP bar wraps the screen, the location where its name belongs fills up with 9′s, and the screen eventually crashes and turns into a mess of HP bars and numbers. Lt. Surge ends up winning every single time, basically.
"EC" is the only hex location in the game where data actually does not exist. There is nothing there… which obviously cannot be correct because Lt. Surge is there. EC is the equivalent of Schrodinger's cat. It exists and does not exist simultaneously.
Most people who are familiar with MissingNo are familiar with its close cousin M. The two glitches are almost identical at first: they share the same attacks, they both look the same, they both duplicate items, they both crash the Hall of Fame, and their names both start with (or consist of) the letter "M". M is entirely different, however, and that should be realized the moment you first encounter it and hear it scream like a Zapdos hyped up on crack.
M occupies hex slot "00″ in the ROM and its full name appears as "== 'M ==" where "==" is an ever-changing graphic depending on what Pokemon you use to fight it. It is not known why M is the odd-man out when it comes to the other 40-something MissingNo but M is "the one". M is also the only MissingNo to feature evolutions and has three of them: at level 138 M will evolve into Clefairy, M can spontaneously turn into a Rhydon unprovoked if you already have an M in your party, and at any level other than 138 M will evolve into Kangaskhan. To Pokemon theorists and creepypasta fans everywhere M is the "missing link" in the whole Kangaskhan, Cubone, and Marowak trifecta of mommy-issues nonsense even though M is a block of pixels that also has two other unrelated evolutions.
Pokemon creepypasta is the worst kind.
But none of this is the reason why M has made this list. If you initiate battle with M and decide to capture it, after the game tells you M's been caught…
ENEMY M USED WATER GUN!
What the hell? It's still there?!
When fighting M, if you capture it, the battle doesn't terminate properly even though M's sprite has vanished and the game has correctly added the glitch to your party or open Pokemon box. Either that, or M can replicate itself endlessly and you can never win. If his surprise post-capture attack doesn't scare the living hell out of you and you throw another Poke Ball at it… you'll catch a Ditto. A perfectly harmless, completely 100% legitimate, Ditto staring at you with his goofy expression of being completely stoned and complacent.
And nobody knows why this happens.
Dozens of basement dwellers have disassembled and reassembled the Pokemon ROM and studied it in and out, bit by bit, and there is no explanation for the "phantom" Ditto. It's just "there"… and nobody has a reason why. None. Not even a theory.
"I WILL EAT YOUR SOULLL*cough cough* i mean, oh hai!!~~ :3"
For something as benign and goofy as MissingNo the creature can evolve into some pretty scary shit rather fast, and this isn't "evolve" in a Pokemon sense. First there was the original MissingNo that started this list off. Then there was M, a distant cousin with a branch evolution to rival that of Eevee's. Finally, we've come to Charizard M, the embodiment of Hell itself in a Game Boy game.
Charizard M is not a Pokemon. It certainly looks like one (guess who) but it's not. It should not exist, it is not from this world and is comprised of a programming language forged in the very core of the Earth. Charizard M is beyond what can be described as a "programming anomaly" and mythology states that Game Freak didn't even put it in the game; the master copy of Pokemon was blasted by a bolt of lightning and this happened. Do not treat Charizard M as a Pokemon, for you will be sorely indebted to the Beast in the worst way possible for a Pokemon trainer: without warning or provocation it will eat and transform your Pokemon. Permanently.
#006? More like #666.
Charizard M occupies hex slot "FF" on the cartridge. "FF" is as far as you can go in hex data; Charizard M is the end of the road. Eagle-eyed readers will recognize the location being critical to the Dokokashira Door glitch as well as Charizard M itself making a cameo in the ZZAZZ glitch video; Charizard M is the womb that birthed virtually everything that is evil and tarnished in the Pokemon world.
The couple dozen or so glitches before Charizard M are all boxy glitchy messes that don't do much until you reach location "FF" and discover the final boss of Pokemon. "FF" doesn't even correspond to a Pokemon, it's where the game stores the data for the "cancel" menu option. If you dare try to force an encounter with the Cancel button then you're a total moron and deserve the full fury that this demon can unleash upon you. It's cry is a mess of static that ruins the audio of the game and by the time you hear it you cannot run. You are in its domain now.
If you're stupid enough to capture Charizard M and add it to your party you won't even see it in your roster; it will appear as a blank space. If you move it to the top of your list guess what happens? You will lose your other five Pokemon; they will be masked in nothingness by Charizard M because the game reads this creature as a "stop" order. You will no longer be able to heal these Pokemon at a Pokemon Center nor can you interact with them in any way. You just shoved them into a portal to oblivion where they are being violated (by furries) as we speak.
Think it's a good idea to store Charizard M in a Pokemon Box? Are you stupid? If you put this thing into a box the same will happen to everything in said box; it will vanish. Poof. If you're not careful with how you handle Charizard M you will end up with more Charizard M's. No, you didn't misread that; these things multiply if left to their own devices. Not only that Charizard M has the ability to turn your other Pokemon into copies of itself. If you play with Charizard M everything you have ever caught in your game will become Charizard M.
Don't look now but IT'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU.
André Bardin is a confessed Pokemaniac and freelance writer in the video game industry. When not wasting time practicing the dark PokeArts he maintains a regular humor column at GatorAIDS and is employed by indie studio TrackMill. He recently published a book on games called "Nintendon't: 25 of the Worst Video Games Ever" (available at Amazon). André can be reached via email (andre [at] trackmill [dot] com) for any and all inquiries.