I had a strange experience with a Pokemon romhack, one I won't let myself forget.

To introduce things quickly, I love to play romhacks with original stories in the downtime between generations, and one day I had been in the mood to try a new one out. To my surprise, when I went searching I found heaps of videos and forum posts praising a hack I had never even heard of, Pokemon Reflection Blue. Apparently it was another hack that took Pokemon FireRed and put the hacker's own spin and polish on it, but this one was apparently so well made that it was a contender for the best of its kind. I had neglected to take note of who created the hack, but I had noticed plenty of well known names among both hackers and let's players singing its praise.

I hadn't been looking for a FireRed+ romhack, and there were many others out there, but the deluge of positive attention got me curious. Pokemon Blue had been the one I owned as a kid, too. So I decided I'd give Reflection Blue a chance.

The hack started as expected, the beginning of the Gen 1 remakes playing out. There were adjustments to the dialogue and streamlining to the the beginning process, but I quickly found myself settling into the familiarity.

Given my starter choice, I chose Bulbasaur for old time's sake - that had been my starter in Pokemon Blue, and I had given mine then the silly name of Bulby. Nowadays, perhaps I overthought my names a little, but Eden's a nice name for a Venusaur in my eyes.

There's only so much I can say about the hack itself from there on out without going off on a tangent. For basically being a FireRed+ hack, I liked it a lot. There were lots of funny and interesting NPC dialogue changes here and there, bonus encounters and areas based off the anime (and even an area based off the Gameboy Pokemon Trading Card Game, which surprised me), and lots of neat little easter eggs. Missingno. was even in it! (Though it didn't duplicate my stuff... I suppose that was to keep things fair.) I know it was playing to my nostalgia, but it worked, and so I rushed through the hack with excitement whenever I had free time to play even if I was just playing the plot of the Kanto games over again.

It was late out and quiet in the house the day I got to the Elite Four. They were strangely very easy and underleveled after the well-balanced difficulty the rest of the hack had shown. This tempered my excitement somewhat, but even as I tore through the Elite Four battles I held up hope for the champion.

But the champion's room was empty when I entered it, and my sprite moved to the center of the room and just stood there for a while. There was no music, and I almost thought the game had froze until another trainer came in. This trainer used Red's sprite from Pokemon Red, grayscale and all. He walked up to my trainer slowly.

"Do I know you from somewhere?" the text box said, and then a battle began. The music was still silent, and half the screen looked like the Gameboy Pokemon battle screen. On the other side was Red's title screen sprite. "JOHN wants to fight!" I was a little surprised at that - John was the name I had used as a kid in Pokemon Blue. It was one of the preset names, though, so I figured it was a coincidence.

But I felt a chill when he sent out a GB-styled Venusaur named Bulby, though its face was blanked out. It was nearly evenly matched with Eden level-wise, so I switched to my Houndoom and made quick work of it with Flamethrower. But I knew the name was more than a coincidence when John sent out a faceless Lapras named Ralph - I remembered asking my dad for a name suggestion when I had got my Lapras then since I had no "bright" ideas, and that was what he had suggested and I used. Each other member of John's team had matched what I had used as a kid against the Pokemon Blue Elite Four (albeit faceless) - some who's names I had even forgotten with time until now.

The battle went by quicker than expected, and I wasn't sure how I felt when it ended. "I can't remember... sorry, I must have been mistaken." the victory text simply said, with no music, prize money, or congratulation. The screen faded to black, and my emulator suddenly crashed.

Something in me made me too afraid to start the game again. Instead, I searched my drawers to try and find my old Gameboy and Blue cartridge. They were right where I had last put them a few years ago when the internal battery had gone dry and wiped my save. I didn't know what I expected when I got it to start up, but... it was as I left it. No save file, internal battery dead so no saving possible.

I think I may have cried myself to sleep that night, to be honest with you. In the morning the first thing I did was try to find information on Pokemon Reflection Blue, but it was like every mention of it had vanished overnight. No videos, no forum threads, no downloads... I even made my own posts on several different sites, asking about it, but nobody seemed to have heard of it at all, and when I tried to put the rom up for download to prove it existed, the downloaded file corrupted every time.

Finally, I just decided I'd try to run the rom again, as I had nothing else I could do. My save file was completely gone, but the game started and worked as normal. When I saved and stopped, though, I realized it didn't create any save files. With some testing I realized it couldn't take save states either, as any I made would crash the game. There was no way to save my progress, at all.

So I replayed it again without saving or closing the game out at all. It was all the same as before, the final battle even crashing the emulator at the very end.

I've replayed it a few more times after that, though the game itself stays the same. It's started crashing more and more often recently, though, and I'm lucky if I can even get anywhere near the Elite Four anymore.

I'm kinda scared that eventually, the crashes will reach the beginning of the game and I won't even be able to start it up anymore. I know it's weird, but when I think about it, it's the only real trace I have left of my first Pokemon team, and the one I had made in the hack as well.

Like before, soon my memories will be the only proof it ever existed, I guess.