Monday, March 11, 2013

4 (unlicensed SNES cartridge)


I collect old video games; whether they're on the NES, the Genesis, the SNES, or even obscure things like the PC Engine. I visited a Pawn Shop in the city which was reputable for collectors of retro technology. While in there, I stumbled upon a game that was "given back" multiple times. The clerk gave me an SNES cartridge. It was oddly-shaped and colored, kind of like those unlicensed Bible games from Wisdom Tree. The cartridge was a very neon-ish yellow tint to it, and the label seemed to have been hand-drawn, albeit with good detail.

The name of the game was simply "4", and had an illustration of four colored blobs all next to one another. Thinking it was a generic platformer, I took it home to play. When I started the game up, I was surprised to find out that the language wasn't English. I couldn't match it with a part of the globe, but I would have to say it best matches Southeast Asian typography. The first level of the game was mildly eerie. It was a Sonic the Hedgehog-inspired game where you played as four different characters. The multi-char thing was a ripoff of Donkey Kong Country, as you had to break them from rusty cages. The level was urban-themed, and involved the player escaping from (what seemed to be) blob-thing catchers. All of the sounds in the game were either taken from other SNES games, or seemed to have been recorded. I noticed many low-quality voices, grunts, etc. Besides the characters, the enemies and objects were terribly-rendered and designed. Most of them were geometric shapes, or sprite edits from other games. I noticed that every time you killed an enemy, the Hell Knight scream from the original Doom played, and a sentence of text appeared on screen.

As creepy as it was, the red flags started to appear. Each time you "lost" a character, the scenery and sprites changed to become darker, and less colorful, until everything is black and white. As you progressed further in a level (regardless of how well you're doing), the scenery becomes gory, and somewhat psychedelic. The levels are all cliché. Urban, forest, clouds, snow, etc. In the middle of the game, it appears as if it's designed so that the player cannot progress, and continuously dies. When you lose all four characters, the screen becomes very dim, and to my shock, a low-quality scream, as well as unintelligible sentences BLAST at high volume, accompanied by pixelated, low-res images of generic gore pics; presumably from wars. The final picture shown was a pixelated image of an Asian family at a wedding. The dimmed background turns white, as a sentence appears on screen, and a voice speaks the unintelligible language.

I thought the game froze, but upon inspection, it wasn't. I turned up the volume way up. A low buzzing noise could be heard from the game, as the screen dimmed again. The Game Over screen was a close-up shot on the four main characters looking happy. The screen gets darker, line-by-line. Their faces get visibly sadder and sadder, as a generic "Wah wah wah" song comes on. The game did another buzzing sequence, prompting me to turn up the volume. Surprising me due to the noise and creepiness, a loud, long sound byte was played; which sounded like a man + woman arguing. This went on for a while, when it just stopped. The screen turned black, and in white text, three sentences appeared on screen. I tried turning the SNES off, but I couldn't. I took out the cartridge, and the image on the screen became distorted, as the upper half was white. Becoming genuinely scared, I pulled out the power cord, and re-plugged it.

I couldn't turn my SNES on. The whole "Corny horror movie" emotion overwhelmed me, so I took the game back to the pawn shop. The clerk didn't give me my (small amount of) money back, simply because he said he wouldn't know the cash value.

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