Some of you may know the game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Some of you may know it as the darkest game the Legend of Zelda series ever had. But none of you know it as well, or as darkly, as I.
It was some years ago, in the summer of 2008, when I came across a copy of Twilight Princess stuck behind some random movies and an abandoned Coke bottle in one of those five-dollar movie bins at Walmart. At first, I was ecstatic. This game was one I had been searching for since 2006, when it came out! As an active Zelda player and devoted fan of the game (having tried it on a friend's console previously), I bought the game without a second thought. Something about it seemed oddly heavy, in hindsight. Then again, what do I know? Maybe it was the manual causing a little extra weight... But somehow, I don't think so now.
I drove home as happy as a clam, and hooked the Wii up to the TV as soon as I got back in the house.
"It's awfully cold--even in here," I thought to myself. The week of rain had not treated us Missourians well. It was barely over 68 degrees and the house was still freezing, as if it wasn't the middle of June.
"It didn't seem this cold at the store..." I said aloud. My cat, which had lain silent for quite a while, suddenly yelped and ran out of the room. This made me chuckle. Relieved due to my cat's wry behavior, I happily inserted the game disc.
The normal Wii bootup screen. The message to press the A button. The Home menu. Twilight Princess's icon looked as good as it ever had; the title screen was just as pretty as I remembered it. I smiled and pressed start. It gave me the typical wrist strap nonsense, and, since I had no wrist strap, I ignored it. The in-game title screen, it finally loaded! With happy thoughts and a gamer face, I watched the little cutscene the Nintendo dudes made for the title screen. That's when I noticed something odd. All the textures that laid in shadow were darker than normal, and Link's howl sounded like it was mixed with some other sound in the game--a White Wolfos, I think.
"Ah, but it was at Wal-Mart, and it has probably been exposed to quite a few months of handling and sitting in the store. Maybe it just needs to run a few times," I explained to myself. But that howl was pretty freaky.
The level select screen, and even the brightness adjustment screen, were both fine. I shook the strange feeling that the Title Screen, the cold of the room, and my cat's behavior had given me, and began the game.
A month later--yes, it took me a month--I had finally reached Arbiter's Grounds. This dungeon was one I had always looked forward to--even moreso in the past week, for I had recently learned of the Title Screen Glitch. I was eager not only to beat Stallord, but also to try the glitch. The glitch in question involved drowning Link in a quicksand pit, and then resetting the game when there's roughly two in-game inches of Link's hand left. Sounds fun, right? And what's the desired result...?
Link reappears on Eldin Bridge with only his sword and shield, no items, and limited controls. When you jump off the bridge or any other ledge, it does even more cool stuff! So, naturally, I was begging to try it out. The sand pit wasn't hard to find--after taking care of the Bulblins outside, I just had to enter and go down the stairs, and there it was, all sandy and gritty. I paused the game so I could re-watch a youtube video detailing the glitch. When the video was over and I unpaused the game, the magic began.
I drowned myself in the sand, just as the glitch video said. Then, I waited for the cutscene. When I saw the little bit of hand left, I pressed the home button and clicked Reset.
The Wii icons flashed in the style of the Home Menu, like it always did. The quiet breath before the plunge. Calm before the storm. I was on pins and needles as the screen went black. On the edge of my seat and expecting it not to work after all this buildup...
The screen lit up... Link got up... On the Bridge of Eldin. I literally jumped out of my seat and punched the air. "Yeaaah!" I screamed loudly. I could vaguely discern the annoyance of my neighbors from across the street, so I calmed down. But this was awesome, that was one thing that I had to acknowledge.
As I finally calmed my happiness and descended back into the sound barrier and within gravitational reach, I began to look around and mess with the game. No music or wind sounds, I noticed first. That's odd; almost every area in Twilight Princess, whether glitched or not, has a background noise, even if it's just wind. This was totally new--it did not possess this quality. Secondly, I noticed that footsteps sounded increasingly odd. It was as if a man with a light foot yet stone-like shoes was running calmly down a paved street; and when I stepped in water, the sound was unlike any other. Calm, yet unnervingly realistic.
"They certainly appreciate realism and quality. Thanks, Nintendo," I thought to myself, half-sarcastically.
Meanwhile, I noticed that my life gauge was missing, as well. Despite this, the loud "bomp, bomp, bomp" of the low-life alert continued to ring clearly. This was getting boring. No way this is all there is to this glitch. So I jump off a cliff and wait for my respawn. Just as planned, I reappear on the Bridge of Eldin. Just as hoped, I had some of my items back and could press all the buttons, and my HUD returned.
And just as feared, it returned to that old Title Screen from a month ago. The old thought ran briefly through my head: it's nothing, just a minor re-glitching. Don't think about it.
As I looked around, I noticed that most of the textures and shapes in the game were growing darker and darker, going down a shade with every few steps I took. Eventually, the ground had taken the color of wet moss and the sky was even redder than before--almost blood-colored. I shook the cold chill I got and went on. To see if it would change anything, I blew a reed to summon my horse. As if the very air had conjured her, she appeared right there, right before my eyes, without a flash or even a change of scenery. I was rejoicing at first.
Then I saw her. She looked as though she had been maimed; her model's textures had been replaced by what I presume now to be the textures from Ganon's horse, and her eyes were blood red, though they kept their typical look of trust and horse-loyalty.
"There is something so way, totally, horribly wrong here. This is just not what's supposed to happen." I thought, going on and getting on her. To my delight, she returned to her normal textures and shading...
While the rest of the world went totally, in a word, apeshit. Without a sound, the sky turned blood-red in full, the clouds overhead turning an eerie shade of black. The voids around seemed to glow with the darkness seeping out of them. The ground was almost totally black, the few models of horse grass and the Bridge alone sticking out. I rode her away from the unnerving scene, to the Kakiriko Village pathway. Normally, this would warp a player to Kakiriko Village; but this was no normal situation. I knew that, I'm sure. But the consideration was still attracting.
I finally came upon the end of the path, and the horse turned around. I warped off of it, a few feet in front. A big, black, ugly text box appeared on the screen; no styling was present, unlike in the normal game's text boxes. "Do you want to go in?" It printed, the text taking on the styling the box had abandoned. Bewildered, I pressed "Yes". Then I realized: that's Midna's line! Holy--
Then, the screen briefly went blank. It was loading a new area, I knew that. It usually fades out, but obviously nothing normal was going to happen tonight. I covered up and watched.
As Link walked down the path again, I noticed another transformation. Though the textures and darkness of the world had not changed, the clouds had taken on a dull orange color, and upon the ground were thousands of red markings. They began to move.
"How... odd...." I thought to myself. Then I pressed C, in order to get a better look.
I almost threw the controller as I realized what they really were: Shadow Beasts. God, I hate them. I could live in a world of ReDeads, chickenpox, and dirty laundry, and still like it better than the company of a virtual Shadow Beast. What was even more disturbing is how Link began to slip--as though going down a hill--towards them. I rolled back up to the place where I had presumably entered when the text box showed up again.
This time, the text box's styling was there, but not the text's. In big, blocky, Consolas lettering, it stated: "boy Foolish! Hollow World this is. Leave can not. Enter have you. Have a good bye." "Hollow World? What?" I thought to myself. After a few minutes of self-debate while the game was paused, I decided to attempt talking to a resident.
Strangely, it worked. I walked down the path, slipping as I had last time, and approached a Beast. It talked to me; it had a brand-new text box and text style. "Hello! My name is . How are you, Link?" It said. Very default. The same message played no matter which one I talked to, so I returned to the original. "I see you carry an empty bottle. It has 0 Fairies, Potions, or Jellies in it. Allow me to fill it for you." The creature replied. No apparent effect was visible, so I pressed (-).
Every single item slot was replaced by an empty bottle with a shadow-beast icon on it. It paused, took a deep breath, and pressed up for information. The text read this only:
"#ITEMNAME #ITEMDESCRIPTION * Useful for Shadow Beasts. * #BULLET2"
"Oh, just an unused bit of code! I bet that's what this whole world is..." I said, equipping the item and laughing a little at my slightly senseless fear. Without skipping a beat, I pressed B to use the item.
Suddenly, a loud song ensued. It was the sound effect used for the ReDead roar in this part of the Zelda series. A guttural scream.
Then, contrary to my previous relief, a totally unexpected thing happened.
I respawned on the Bridge--still in the Hollow World--as a Shadow Beast.
A Shadow Beast. Of all things to become, a Shadow Beast. My movements mimicked Link's; even drawing the sword resulted in the Shadow Beast standing up and removing a blade from an invisible spot in its back. When I didn't move, the model reverted to default form; occasionally, it would even walk around. This time, when I talked to the Residents, it was a totally different experience.
"Do not kill them! That's... one of my people." Said one.
"I know you have bugs..." Said another.
"Jovani, Jovani, idiotic troll, djoIUREewiuBF" Said another. I presume a programming mistake was at fault for the last bit, but I don't even know anymore.
And finally, the last one said something that remains in my head. Not because of what it was.
Because of the fact that it was Midna, Zant, and Link's soundbytes mixed together into real words. "This is the hollow world, you are not welcome, O foolish one. Goodbye."
And with that, the strangest event of the night occured. Zant's open-eyed face filled the screen, and then the cutscene where Lanayru explains Creation and the Triforce played... But with Zant and grown-up Midna instead of Link and Ilia. Then, the game blanked. The Wii powered off briefly, and then powered back on, and then automatically booted Twilight Princess.
This time, when I played the game (I sure learned a lesson...) everything was as normal, except one thing.
Every time a player would mention a bridge, the paragraph it would normally be in was replaced by the text "
UNKNOWN_LOC_HOLLOW_WORLD_END". This, too, was inexplicable. So I took the game out, put it in my PC, and used a program to view the contents of the disc. Oddly enough, there was a folder titled "ZHW_0_1" and inside, a .iso file called "Zelda Hidden World 1". Upon viewing it in Dolphin, the game barely loaded; all it was was a collection of various textures (shockingly dark ones) and a junkyard of old and unused code variations.
The legacy folder of Twilight Princess? I think not.
In the end, I'm sure that whoever stuck the game in there was not in the slightest a normal person. A dark one performing dark things, I'm sure, and who finally--in anger and hatred--decided to take out his frustrations on a child, or worse. I'm sure he or she never intended for the game to be picked up by someone who knew the series; I'm sure they expected some dumb loon to buy it out of impulse.
But that theory leaves the question... Who would have possibly had such power, such malevolence? And I still have the old shrinkwrap--it's nothing like what Nintendo is known for. It's all papery and like a candy wrapper. I think, looking back on that night that keeps me up sometimes, even now--six years later--that someone actually created the Hollow World... and into it they poured all of their frustrations, their hatred. I pity them.
I pity whoever should ask to borrow it.
I pity everyone in the world that has to suffer similar fates, who have to sacrifice their own sanity for the sake of another's failing art.
But most of all, I'm still scared. The cat died shortly after I bought the game; no other animal will suffer to be led on the sidewalk adjacent to my house.
What keeps me awake the most, though... Is that in the hour of twilight, as Rusl once said, I really can feel the souls of those who have left this world. I wonder for them, have they really left? The poor, tortured being that tried to escape his fate by forcing it upon another... Is he still out there--possibly finding another release? Possibly plotting a return episode?
Be glad you're strong. Be glad you don't have to live forever with something that you can't get away from any more. Be glad you aren't me.
Written by Master Ceadeus 27