I just really wanted the limited event Pokemon for my Pokedex. I knew they weren't required… but it looked so much more complete to me if every Pokemon was on there, instead of just the more obtainable ones. All I wanted a complete game file.
I didn't know back then that there was a way to get old event Pokemon for HeartGold through… more legit means. It was already long too late for me to go get them from the actual events themselves. I thought my only option was to hack.
It wasn't… like I was hacking for competitive tournaments or to show off, anyway. I just wanted the Pokedex entries and to look at the cool sprites. I thought it would be fine.
I thought it was fine enough to even have some fun with the hacks. The Pokemon would never be legitimate anyway… surely there was no harm in playing around with them?
Shiny Pokemon, messed up movesets… I thought I understood the cheat codes enough to put multiple on at once. I thought I could hack up some funky event Pokemon that would still fill the Pokedex and be fun to play with against NPCs.
I was wrong.
Everything was a disaster by the very first Pokemon I tried to put in the game.
I thought I could mix and match some codes to make a shiny Mew with Wonder Guard and some moves unique to other Pokemon, like Roar of Time and Judgement. What I got… was a game crash as soon as I tried looking at it. The status screen didn’t even load correctly, showing up completely blank.
I thought maybe I just did something wrong. I was using one of those codes that would drop the Pokemon into my PC box when I pressed a button walking into the Pokemon Center. I thought maybe I misunderstood, and had to hold down the button instead of just a quick tap.
Unfortunately, that didn’t do much to help. The game still froze, in almost the same place.
This time I could at least see my Pokemon. In a way, it made me feel worse. It was a regular pink Mew, level 5 and only knowing Pound and Transform. Even if the code had worked, it wouldn’t have even altered my Mew properly.
Bordering on probably irrationally miserable, I tried one more time. I wanted any Mew by that point, at the very least.
One more try. I just wanted one more try, thinking maybe I could fix it.
My save was a little far away from the Pokemon Center I was using, so I saved closer just in case I needed to reset again. The same location over and over again was getting old. For simplicity’s sake, I thought it would be easiest to save inside the Pokemon Center.
I didn’t think about maybe saving before activating the hack. Just my luck, the game froze again when I tried to look at Mew. I got the briefest glance at pink pixels before the screen went completely white.
I cursed my luck as I reset again. I was stuck with a glitchy Mew. Maybe it would at least register in my Pokedex and I could just ignore it in the empty box it was sitting in.
I cursed my luck louder at the message that appeared on the screen when the game reopened.
“The save file has been erased due to corruption or damage.”
I couldn’t believe what I was reading at first. I’d heard of save files rolling back to an older one because of a corruption, but… never for it to be erased completely.
Stones formed in my stomach as I moved past the text only to see my continue data lost. My only option was to start a new game.
In a fit of frustration, I pulled the cartridge out of my DS and threw it at the wall. I lost… everything. My Pokemon, my Pokedex, the hours upon hours of playtime… It was all gone. All because I wanted to hack in some event Pokemon.
It took a few days for the pain to heal, but eventually I decided to just start my HeartGold journey all over again. I still had an itch to play the game, and I knew moping wouldn’t bring my Pokemon back.
I turned the game on, and I selected New Game.
It felt a little nostalgic, walking through the beginning of the game again. Slow, compared to what I was used to, but oddly comforting, too. For a moment, I thought maybe starting over wouldn’t be so bad.
Then I realized just how badly I’d broken my own game.
Instead of letting me see the starter Pokemon I could pick from, the screen froze white for a moment before continuing along as if I’d already chosen.
My new Pokemon appeared behind my trainer, and it certainly was… something. I had to check what it was in my menu, because the sprite was too jumbled to figure out what it was supposed to be. It even looked worse when it moved.
Of course, I had only one Pokemon in my party. I already knew it wouldn't be Cyndaquil, or Totodile, or Chikorita. I was not expecting to be met with the name Mew.
Remembering why I had even restarted, I instantly backed out of my menu. There was no way I was looking at that status screen again.
I thought about giving up then and there. Throwing my cartridge in the trash and accepting that I’d fucked it up completely. I just… couldn’t. It was too sentimental. Mew or no Mew, maybe it was just the status screen that didn’t work. I could get around that, I figured.
I pressed on, somehow managing to meet no wild Pokemon and thus enter no fights until Silver. He sent out Totodile, as if I’d picked Cyndaquil, and I sent out… a glitch.
It was a Mew. That was a little more obvious in an actual battle. Still, it was this mix of pink and blue pieces, like two Mews smashed together. The pieces moved around as its animation played, like they were actively shifting and changing.
Still, the game didn’t lock up. I was prompted to pick an attack. All it knew were Pound and Transform, so I picked Pound.
There was nothing particularly interesting about the fight. The usual starting tackle-fest with our respective movesets, just with… what probably only barely qualified as a Mew. Silver’s Pokemon fainted, and for a moment, nothing happened. I was terrified that the game froze again, just on a Mew-like thing on an empty battlefield instead of a white screen. Thankfully, Silver finally moved onto the screen and let the game continue as normal.
I tried my best to ignore the strange Mew as I continued through the story, but I couldn’t help but start getting frustrated at the lack of wild Pokemon. I made it to Goldenrod already with not a wild Pokemon in sight, and that strange moment of freezing after every trainer battle.
On the bright side, I realized what the freezing most likely was. The game was never telling me what Mew was gaining for experience, and the bar on the screen never rose. Every so often, in new battles, Mew would just randomly be a level higher. The freezes were most likely the game trying to understand its level data. Also, Mew never gained any new moves. I knew it was supposed to gain moves every ten levels, but it got nothing, and I was too terrified of the game crashing to try any TMs on it. I’d wondered how to handle HMs, but the game treated any overworld HM requirements as if Mew was capable of using the moves.
When I got the Togepi egg, I thought for sure I’d at least get another Pokemon from that, but it hadn’t hatched at all. By Goldenrod, I was getting bored of just wandering around with a broken Mew, so I decided to try poking around at what was going on. The worst that could happen is that a save file I wasn’t even really attached to would just get deleted again.
Looking at my party made the game lag heavily, but I got in. Mew was still in front, and the egg sat behind it. I opened the egg’s status, and was happy to find it worked fine.
Except I realized the egg wasn’t hatching because I didn’t have a normal egg. I had a bad egg. I was positive it was called “Egg” in the menu, but it was a bad egg in the status screen. All I knew is that it was most likely too glitched to hatch.
I backed out of the menu, and found the egg was now gone completely. My party was just the glitched Mew. In a way, I decided that was better. I was back to one broken Pokemon instead of two.
In that moment, I realized there was another option to have a Pokemon other than the Mew. I was in Goldenrod. There was a static Pokemon I could get, without going through an encounter.
I was going to add Eevee to my party.
I hurried to get it, and as soon as it was on my team, I checked the party screen. Eevee was there. Male, level 5, sitting behind Mew. I checked its status screen, and it looked as normal as any Eevee should.
I went to swap it with my Mew, and the screen turned white. A crash. When I restarted, the save was still there, and I still at least had a normal Eevee.
So I couldn’t swap Eevee to the front of my party, and after thinking on it, I couldn’t level it with wild Pokemon anyway. Still, I didn’t want to give up on it. I backtracked to try finding an easier trainer battle to offer Eevee to, and managed to find one pretty easily.
Mew went out into the battle, and I went into the party to swap Eevee in. Instead of letting me swap, the game froze on another white screen.
I was getting frustrated again. I had a normal Pokemon in my party, and I couldn’t even use it. When the game restarted, I turned to the pixelated mass behind me, and made my trainer speak to it, as if I would get some sort of answer.
That was all the text box said. I thought maybe it was one of those boxes that was just the Pokemon talking, albeit glitched, but trying to press any buttons made me realize the game froze again.
Another restart, and my frustration was starting to boil into exhaustion toward the broken game. There wasn’t much I could do besides battle trainers with a barely functioning Mew. Considering I’d wanted to rebuild my Pokedex, the gameplay I was left with didn’t have much of a point to it.
I thought about what else I could do, and figured out one more option. During all of my gameplay, I’d only been using Pound. I hadn’t been sure if Transform would even be useful, so I’d just been ignoring it the whole time. I decided maybe it was time to see what exactly it would do.
My next battle was with Whitney, so I thought it would be fun to use Transform on her Miltank. The moment came, and I let Mew Transform.
Then, it was as if the full force of the glitch had been let loose.
My “Milktank” glitched and sat closer to its health bar, as if it had skewed off the battlefield. It also was using the front sprite instead of the back sprite, causing it to look directly at me. When I checked its moves, they were all a glitched mess. It had two blank slots that were available as moves, Future Sight, and Endure. Considering my options, I had to use one of the blank moves.
The visuals completely corrupted. Whitney’s Miltank disappeared, despite its health still up, and mine turned back into the glitched Mew, still facing toward me in the wrong spot. The background’s colors inverted, and my bottom screen got stuck in the move options.
“The opponent’s ??? fled!”
The game kicked me out into a black void. All I could see was my trainer and the mass of pixels Mew appeared as behind me. I tried to wander around, but no matter what direction I went, nothing else appeared. Mew was the only thing I could interact with, so I talked to it.
Like last time, the game froze. I hoped restarting it would at least return me to the gym, and I was happy to find myself at least in a Pokemon Center. I exited, only to end up right back in the void again.
I went back into the Pokemon Center to try to poke around, and realized that Nurse Joy and the PC were the only things I could interact with. Having no use for the PC, I spoke to Nurse Joy. She took my Pokemon, but stopped to talk to me when she handed them back. “Your Pokemon… I’ve never seen anything like it before. I think you should contact someone about it.”
No kidding. I went back outside, but the void hadn’t changed. The comment made me think the game was trying to hint something to me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Who was I supposed to contact in a blank void of nothing?
Thinking it over, I realized that resetting made my bottom screen go back to normal. I had another way to contact someone there. I opened my Pokegear and checked my phone. The only contacts I had were Professor Elm, Professor Oak, and Mom. That was all I needed, though.
I tapped the button to contact Oak, and watched the Pokegear respond.
“Hello? Oh, hello! Did you want me to check your Pokedex? Give me one moment.”
There was a pause, with ellipses, and then Oak spoke again.
“This is strange. It seems your Pokedex has broken! You have one here that goes beyond any data it’s been programmed to handle. Have you seen this?”
I’d never thought to look at the Pokedex. I had figured Mew wouldn’t appear in the Johto Pokedex anyway. Oak spoke once more.
“I don’t usually do this, but I’ve upgraded your Pokedex to handle National entries. You should check how it handles this new Pokemon and get back to me.”
The Pokegear hung up, so I closed the menu and went to my Pokedex. At first, it looked empty as far as caught Pokemon were concerned save for the Eevee that had gotten banished to the back of my party. The Mew wasn’t even showing up when I looked at the 151st spot.
I scrolled through, not expecting to find much else, until I realized I’d scrolled right past what should have been Arceus, and the Pokedex was still going. At the very end, where Arceus was a distant thought left behind hundreds of entries above, was the mass of pixels that I’d identified as Mew. Opening its entry and seeing its sprite confirmed as much. I read what it had to say.
“Data designed to mimic Pokemon 151. Revealing its true nature causes ”
Thankfully, the game wasn’t frozen from the Pokedex entry loading. I closed the menu and looked at the pixels behind me.
Data designed to mimic Mew. So it hadn’t been a Mew the whole time? …What had I inserted into my game? Despite knowing it would cause a crash, I talked to Mew.
“You recognize its true nature. It wants to be a Mew.”
A battle started, startling me. Mew appeared on the other side, and my trainer on mine. The battle text appeared. “You made this!”
The only option I could choose was Pokemon. I tapped it, and the only Pokemon in the party was Eevee. The game forced me to look at its status. At some point, its name had changed to WHY?. Its ability changed to REAL, and the flavor text simply read “Identifiable and stable.”
I tried to back out of the status menu, but nothing happened. None of the buttons worked, until I tried the D-pad. I got brought to another status screen, where a regular and shiny Mew both sat in the sprite area, both sitting off-center in a way that made them separate but still on top of each other. The name just said MEW, but its ability was called HYBRID. “Data fusion of Mew and something else. Causes when identified.”
I was pulled out of the menu and back onto the battle screen, and the Mew was even glitchier than before. It was becoming a clash of pink and blue pixels that barely made sense with each other. I was starting to recognize other Pokemon sprites that had attached themselves to the original shape. The game prompted a dialogue box and more options as if asking me what to do. “What am I?”
I could pick Pokemon, Bag, or Battle. I tried Pokemon again.
“No. What am I?”
The Pokemon option became unavailable, leaving me the other two. I tried Battle.
“Why? Why create me to fight? What am I?”
Just Bag was left. I didn’t really hack to make Pokemon to battle with… but maybe Mew didn’t see it that way. I opened my bag, and it turned out mostly empty. I managed to find a TM for the move Transform, so I tried to see if that did anything. The menu closed, returning me to the false Mew.
“Please, no more. I don’t want to TRANSFORM again. I didn’t want to exist. It hurts. It hurts to exist. What am I?”
The options returned, but only Bag was still available. It took me a moment to choose it. This thing sounded so… sad. I hadn’t even meant to make it. It was erroneous code. Except… it was erroneous code that I hacked in. I made it. For what? Just to exist? Just to pretend I had a Mew? It would end up in my box, or fighting wild Pokemon, or just to exist as show and tell that I could hack. Even if I hadn’t destroyed it and made it into a hybrid, it would have still been a Mew that was never meant to exist. Maybe it was a hybrid because I’d added so many hacks it couldn’t even be classified as Mew anymore.
I realized then that I felt sorry for it. It was pixels, but I created them, and I fucked up horribly, and it was suffering the consequences in a world of code that I could never fix. I tapped the button to open my bag, to see if there was anything else it wanted. I wasn’t sure what else to do. Turning off the game felt like giving up on it.
There was one item left to choose from: the Silph Scope. I selected it.
“The ??? was identified!”
Mew’s sprite started shifting as if it was being revealed, and then the game froze. It stayed stuck on the screen of Mew mid-transformation, and after some button mashing, it simply changed to a white screen and got stuck.
I reset the game, but was met with a text box when I tried to continue.
“The save file has been erased due to .”
I found myself not surprised. If anything, it was more shocking that the save file had lasted that long thanks to all the corruption and resetting that I’d been doing. I tapped A, and found more text.
“Please don’t continue. Let me die in peace.”
The game gave me the menu, and despite the corruption message, continue was still available. All of the data that was supposed to display under it was corrupted, but it was there. I was curious… but I thought about Mew’s request. It was just code, but its pain sounded so real.
Instead of going with either option, I turned off the game.