So get this, my cousin told me...
Rumors were how we explained the unexplainable in gaming. When something would happen in a video game that defied understanding - be a graphical glitch or enemy who seemingly appeared out of nowhere - rumors would rush in to fill the void left by understanding. Some were out-and-out fabrications, others took a sliver of truth and spun it way out of proportion. And if you're like us, chances are someone pulled the wool of "fan theories" over your eyes on a few occasions.
Here are some of our most notorious memories of being fooled by video game rumors. It may be hard to believe, but without the modern conveniences of Wikipedia and sites such as The Cutting Room Floor it was hard to prove, disprove, or even fully understand something as simple as, say, a glitched out sprite appearing in Pokemon. After you read through our stories, be sure to leave your own in the comments below. There's no shame in it; we've all been duped at one time or another.
Maxwell McGee searched long and hard for the PokeGods
Explore the hidden forest behind Bill's house. Talk to Mr. Psychic after catching all 151 Pokemon. Beat the Elite Four 10/50/100 times. These are just some of the ways a gullible Pokemon master might use to capture the most powerful - and entirely fictional - Pokemon ever: the PokeGods. This pantheon of pocket monsters includes Raticlaw, an impossible evolution of Raticate, and Doomsday, who's about as edgy as the name implies. But a couple - MissingNo. and Mew - are genuine, and in the late-90s that was all it took for this rumormill to catch fire.
I don't remember where I first saw the term "PokeGod" - likely some GeoCities Pokemon fan shrine - but I do remember the excitement I felt battling MissingNo. for the first time in Pokemon Blue (and subsequently getting 99 rare candies). So I saved my allowance and eventually bought a GameShark for the Game Boy Color specifically so I could test these PokeGod rumors more easily. I used a walk-through-walls code to get behind Bill's house: nothing. I gave myself all 151 Pokemon and visited Mr. Psychic: nothing. I even went a few rounds with the Elite Four with a team of level 100 Pokemon before finally realizing 'People lie about stuff on the internet.'
Ashley Reed thought Banjo-Kazooie's ice key would do something
Sometimes a really bizarre video game rumor turns out to be true, and while the results can be amazing, they can also be kind of lame. That's what happened to me, because I believed I could somehow lay claim to a mythical ice key hidden in Banjo-Kazooie and it would lead to something incredible. And while the first part turned out to be true, the "incredible" bit? Not so much.
For those who don't know, in the winter level Freezeezy Peak (no, that's not a typo), there's a cave with an unbreakable window in the back. Look through it and you'll see an ice key spinning on the other side, giving off the universal signal that this is a collectible. There's no way to get at the key normally, and in my tender youth my friends convinced that it led to some awe-inspiring treasure, if it could only be reached. Fast forward ten years, and I discovered a post-game cheat mode (fans will know it as Stop 'n' Swop) that removed the window and gave me access to that beautiful key. Which did nothing, as it turns out. Rare tried to make up for it in Banjo-Tooie by having the ice key start off a quest that ends with Kazooie becoming a backpack-nesting dragon, but by then, the magic had kind of worn off.
Justin Towell had many level select woes
People at my school swore the Mega Drive's level select cheat for Sonic 1 worked on the Game Gear version too, only you had to hold button 1 and press start instead of A because of the buttons being different. I was pretty sure that wasn't the case, but that didn't stop me from trying... more times than was probably healthy.
To this day, I still maintain I skipped Act 3 of Green Hill by holding a certain button after the spinner on Act 2. But I "couldn't replicate it" as the glitch-hunters would say. But I totally did. That level select was a nonsense rumor, though. I was starting to think Sonic 3's level select was a lie too, but I did eventually get that one to work. Fun times, and when I say "fun" I actually mean "frustrating waste of youthful energy." Meh.
Sam Prell went beyond his limit to find Sonic in Super Smash Bros. Melee
The year was 2002. Riding the bus home with a copy of EGM in my hand, I was stunned to see an image of Sonic the Hedgehog bouncing across a Super Smash Bros. Melee stage. I was a veteran of the Sega-Nintendo Wars, having sided with the Blue Blur. And yet, there he was, in a Nintendo game, beating on Nintendo characters! Poor Sonic hadn't had the greatest run of games lately, so his inclusion in a legitimately great fighting series that my step-brothers and I played religiously seemed like a blessing. And all I had to do was beat 20 Wire Frames in Cruel Melee.
I immediately set myself upon this challenge, practicing day and night. My usual strategy of "use Donkey Kong to ground-pound until you develop carpal tunnel syndrome" didn't work against these super-high level opponents, so I had to become legitimately good at Smash Bros. It took weeks, maybe even months, but I finally did it: I beat 20 Wire Frames. And then... nothing. I'd heard about the image being a fake, but I just wanted to believe so badly that I thought the claims pegging EGM's prank as a lie were the real lies. If I just played hard enough, just got good enough, I would make it happen. But alas, Sonic never appeared in Melee, and my dreams went unfulfilled.
But hey, at least I got really good at Fox and Mewtwo! I won pretty much all my matches after that.
Anthony Agnello sought to rid himself of his Croft Manor workout attire
In the late 1990s, when print still ruled the video game journalism world - but after Electronic Gaming Monthly had made April Fools' jokes de rigeur - I got hooked on the most obviously fake secret ever committed to print: Nude Raider. The trick suggested that you had to pull off a flawless series of button entries jumping off of a sculpture/fountain at the edge of the swimming pool in Croft Manor. When Lara emerged from the water, she'd do so sans her Croft Manor workout attire.
An entire evening I spent trying to do this, my fifteen-year-old brain so committed to the pursuit of polygonal breasts that I didn't stop to think, 'There's no way in hell this would be in a commercially released PlayStation game coming out just a few years into the lifespan of the ESRB'. Joe Lieberman would have burned every copy himself. Only after perfectly pulling off the trick as described three times did it dawn on me: I'm an idiot. Well done, EGM2 editors. Well done.
Dave Roberts attempted one of the most infamous rumors of all
Everyone who's played Final Fantasy 7 knows at least one Aeris revival rumor (and look, I know it's Aerith, but it was Aeris back when I played it so deal with it). Find all those toy soldiers, collect 100 tissues, or do some other super obscure thing, and everyone's favorite frigid heroine will come back to life, ready to dole out revenge against Sephiroth for giving her that unwanted body piercing. I shrugged off most of these rumors after a point, but I remember being so intrigued by one my friend printed off and brought to school that I actually gave it a shot. And it... didn't go well.
I can't remember the specifics, or find it online (it might have been concocted by my friend, now that I think about it), but the idea was that you were supposed to get a ridiculously high score in Gold Saucer's Speed Square. Doing this would get you an item that would repair the Tiny Bronco, granting you access to an island not accessible by the Highwind or a golden chocobo. On that island would be an item that could revive Aeris. I wasted so many hours and so much Gil attempting to reach that high score, but gave up once I deemed it impossible, figuring that the rumor was totally bogus. Then I just borrowed my friend's GameShark and that was that.