I stare at my computer boringly scrolling these Ebay listings down the screen. Looking for this stupid game is killing me, it’s so elusive, yet so obvious for everyone else, and I hate it.
You probably know what game I’m talking about: Animal Crossing.
Or better said, the original Animal Crossing. The original past even the Gamecube version Americans know as first.
No, no, this game was for Nintendo 64, and entirely in Japanese. But that didn’t matter.
I’m well aware that the N64 is region-locked, but with the help of the Internet I’ve modded it to play Japanese games, and in perfect English, too (which, I note, did require a third party program).
While I was looking for a copy of N64 Dobutsu No Mori, a sudden light bulb turned on in my head: One of my best friends owns a retro game shop, and I’ve seen her sell a copy of the game before. She should have it. No, she has to at least have it somewhere.
So I changed out of my pajamas and went to my best friend’s game store (I’ve decided to call her Tammy for the sake of this story).
I dug through her expansive wall of N64 games, and no luck. No coveted N64 Animal Crossing.
“I have a special section for Japan imports, those are all American,” Tammy said. “The wall for imports is right over there. Is there anything specific you’re looking for?”
“Yeah, there is, actually,” I tell Tammy.
“Do you by any chance have a copy of Animal Crossing for the Nintendo 64?” I ask.
I swear that the moment I asked her, I could see her eyes widen for a split second before she answered me, retaining her peppy store-clerk banter.
“Well, I don’t have a copy in the store right now, but do I have one in my personal collection and I’d be happy to give it to you. There’s a few things wrong with it, but it’s mostly just minor glitches. Mostly,” Tammy told me.
She led me to a room in the back of her store counter with shelves of games lining the walls.
“It’s right over here,” she said, wheeling a small stepladder over to a shelf as she takes the game off and steps down to hand it to me, my hands trembling of excitement that I finally had this game.
“Have fun, it’s a great game.”
I excitedly went home and popped the game in my N64 as that classic, slightly N64-altered welcoming Animal Crossing title screen came into play.
The logo was still Japanese, though, because my mod couldn’t alter textures. It was only capable of detecting and translating Japanese text.
Since I had already played through a small bit of the game on an emulator, I decided I would try and access some beta maps with a guide I found on the internet, namely the Animal Crossing Wikia.
I followed all of the instructions on the guide and, like intended, I was in the beta map menu.
But one slight thing was a bit off: There was one more beta map than it showed in the picture.
This map name read “ご容赦.”
I ran this title through a translator and it translated the message to “Pardon.” It seemed kind of weird, as the other names said generic things like “Map 1/2/3/etc.”
At first, I thought nothing of it and that it was probably just a mistranslation, but then I found out that this could also translate to “Forgive us.”
I was a bit unsettled, and I felt a churn start in my stomach. I anticipated something bad inside this map. I had read too much about this kind of thing, and as stupid as it sounded, I thought that maybe this one experience was real. Maybe the terror was more genuine past the words of stories.
I knew that I shouldn’t have clicked on the map, I knew I was going to regret it in some unspeakable manner if I did, but out of sheer, burning human curiosity, I just couldn’t bring myself to select a normal map, one that was in the picture. I had to select “Forgive Us.” I had to select the map with an eerie feeling surrounding it.
I started up my game in “Forgive Us,” and straight off I noticed one minor thing, that was significant to me nonetheless. I noticed that this entire map was completely flat. And yes, I’m aware that most of these regular maps are flat, but “Forgive Us” seemed to stretch north, almost infinitely.
Since this map stretched north, I decided to go in that direction. It seemed like the only productive thing I could do on this map.
After what seemed like a few hours of running north and seemingly getting nowhere, I stumbled upon a crack in the ground where it seemed like something was buried.
I decided to dig up the hole (as I started out with every golden tool), and my character fell in the hole when I tried to, like they were trying to test the availability of pitfall seeds in this map.
Despite that, this hole seemed to extend deeper than a pitfall seed should, and I let go of my controller to just give up and let her keep falling, as I felt she would be falling for a while. I had no idea what was about to happen to my character, what I was about to experience, and considering the fact the map was called “Forgive Us” I didn’t terribly want to know.
After what felt like a couple of minutes at the time I reached the bottom of where this pitfall was taking me. Despite the fact that it was finally over, it also had a bittersweetness as I was sure something terrible would happen.
My eyes were shut, and I was reluctant to open them, but some strange force in my mind, again, human curiosity, made me want to see what was waiting before me. I, expectedly, regretted it soon after.
When I opened them, I saw what seemed to be a twisted, soulless version of the town I had made on my emulator months before. The ground, sky, and everything around me except for the buildings was completely black, like the textures were corrupted beyond repair and the game was failing to display them.
The next thing I noticed was the villagers. They were the same villagers in my emulator town as well, but as soon as I saw one of them I knew something was horribly, horribly wrong, and these certainly didn’t feel like the same villagers I knew. The villagers’ bodies were a neon red with no shading or any details, and their eyes had the same shape as normal, but solid black.
My curiosity taking full control of my actions at this point, I decided to talk to one of these twisted villagers, this one being the Bella clone.
When I pressed A to talk to her, The name inside Bella’s nametag read “alleB,” Bella’s name backwards. I wondered aloud if every villager’s name was backwards.
The only thing alleB said to me both times I tried to talk to her was “...”. She was only programmed to say one line.
Next I decided to talk to a clone of what seemed to be Dotty. Dotty was my favorite villager, and I actually felt kind of sad to see her like this. I decided to talk to this twisted Dotty, and once again, her nametag read “yttoD”, like I had theorized.
The only thing she said was “forgive us”, and then the text box closed on its own, and to my surprise, opened up again after I was already a few steps away from yttoD, this time with a different message: “we have failed”.
The moment she said that I realized something that sent a cold chill up my spine: I had deleted my old emulator town when I started looking for physical copies.
These villagers seemed as if they were stuck in this purgatorial town, actually mourning their own deletion from their pristine world.
Saying I was terrified at this point was an understatement. I wanted to break this cartridge to maybe stop the torture, my only motivation not to being the fact that my friend would probably get mad that I seemingly sacrificed her town for a RinryGameGame-styled stress test.
I tried to go back up through the hole, but these villager clones actually started chasing me wherever I unsuccessfully tried to go, and the hole I had entered through was a futile escape route, being too high up to access. I felt choked up, trying constantly to run away from these condemned villagers.
When I tried to reset, a villager-style message box appeared on the screen that said “No more dreams here. Just truth…Horrible, blissful truth…”, the text displaying letter by letter in Bebebese so quiet I had to move closer to my TV in order to hear it.
Since I had been running in circles constantly trying to keep them from getting to me, and at this point it didn’t look like I could go anywhere else, I finally gave up and let these villager clones catch my character. It felt inevitable now that my fingers were extremely sore and I was tired.
They formed a circle around my character, and the screen cut to black and kicked me back to the title screen.
On the title screen, my character was still in the town, but she looked exactly like the villagers, that shade of neon red and empty, black eyes.
On the screen where the “press start” message should be, there was some Japanese text stating: “今、あなたは私たちと一緒に嘆く.”
Again, I ran this through a translator, and this message’s translation appeared.
“Now you mourn with us.”
I pressed start and let one of my villagers set my game up, thinking maybe it would be normal this time. The villager setting me up was yttoD.