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Today I was playing Super Mario 64. My star count reached about 35 when I decided to go back and get the 100-coin stars for the first few worlds. It went pretty uneventfully for awhile as I don't like grinding for coins very much, but I wanted to get all 120 stars on my file.

After a few other levels, I jumped into the painting for Bob-omb Battlefield and picked the first star, and when the level started I noticed something strange- every character (except for Mario) had been replaced by Koopa the Quick. This was odd because it wasn't like a deliberate, careful replacement by a hacker. Instead, the game simply tried to render the proper shape and animations of the enemies using Koopa the Quick's model. Some people might find it horrifying to behold, but I found it hilarious when I was attacked by the giant chain chomp that now resembled a gigantic glob of Koopa parts.

This sidetracked me from my goal of getting 100 coins and I ran up to the top to see what the king looked like. To my disappointment, he looked normal, but I decided to fight him anyway because I wanted to see if the star model would also be messed up. When I beat him, however, something unexpected happened. Instead of his usual post-battle speech, he instead said "Just remember, you deserved this.

That bit confused me, and the cold, singular message seemed rather off, but I haven't played Super Mario 64 in a long time and I figured that some other character must say that line at some point. I couldn't remember, but since the game slapped a character model in all the wrong places, it wasn't unbelievable that the same could happen to a line of text. The star dropped as normal, so I tried to collect it to get out of the stage, but I couldn't. Whenever I would try to jump into the star, Mario would take two units of damage and fall back. I was just plain irritated at this point and decided to just keep doing it until it killed me. After being ejected from the stage, I went higher up into the castle and entered Tall, Tall Mountain. Once again, the level had something off about it.

In the stage Tick, Tock Clock, the speed of objects in the level is based on the position of the clock hands when you enter the stage. There's a way to enter the stage in a "time-frozen" state and somehow the same had happened to Tall, Tall Mountain. I explored the level but was still irritated because this was keeping me from progressing in the game. To blow off some steam I picked up one of the monkeys (easy to catch since it couldn't move!) and threw it off of the mountain.

My irritation gave way to fascination when the monkey just hung in midair off the side of the mountain. I decided to jump off the mountain too, and sure enough I was able to "land" on the air and run around, so I decided to explore my new-found lack of gravity. Eventually running on air lost its novelty and I decided to head back to the mountain, but when I turned around it was no longer there. Then suddenly Bowser dropped from (higher up in) the sky. I was ready to just quit since there were no bombs in the area and therefore I wouldn't be able to defeat him. As I got up to turn off the console, Bowser's dialogue popped up.

"Don't turn off the console. That would be rude." was the first line of dialogue. This time I knew I couldn't write this off as misplaced text. I was a bit shaken at how direct that seemed, and I wanted to just go ahead and be rude, but I realized that I just may be in one of those haunted video game situations, and my curiosity got the better of me. Since I'm still alive posting this, I recognize that it's hard to imagine me being in danger here, but keep in mind that just because I'm alive doesn't mean nothing bad happened. I mean, maybe later in the story I dive toward the console to turn it off and I land poorly and sprain my ankle. Anyway, I sat back down and started advancing the dialogue.

"That's better. Wouldn't want to stop before the real fun, would we?"

I remembered that in most haunted video game stories the game seems to be able to hear the player somehow, so I tried asking "What do you want from me?"

"Revenge."

I couldn't imagine why Super Mario 64 wanted revenge on me. You think it would go after the people who speedrun the game or something but I haven't even played the game in years. "What did I ever do to make you want revenge?" I asked the game.

"Think about it, Steve. You know exactly what you did."

Suddenly, I realized that something was wrong. Really wrong, and I don't just mean with the game or my ability to write a compelling narrative. I had to rectify the situation immediately. {C I put my hand to my forehead and told the game "Uh, my name isn't Steve." I continued advancing the game's dialogue.

"Wait, really? Oh boy, I've messed up. See, I'm Steve's pet turtle. I died because he forgot to feed me for a long time. I haunted his favorite video game to try and get revenge on him."

"So the reason for those Koopa models-"

"Right, you get the idea. I'm really sorry about this, I feel really bad. Just gonna be on my way now, you can press reset and things will be back to normal."

The vengeful spirit left my copy of Super Mario 64. Before it left, I asked him to show me something hyper-realistic, and it complied. I got to see a picture of Steve's family (presumably) as skeletons, and Mario pointed at one of them and said "It's-a Steve!" while crying tears of ketchup (the spirit only had one batch of blood tears to use for Steve so I had to settle for cheaper effects).

The spirit also saved all the remaining 100-coin stars into my file as an apology, and I appreciated that since I hate grinding coins. The real reason I'm telling this story though, is because if Steve is out there, I wanted to apologize for stealing your haunted video game story, and also to remind you to feed your damn pets.

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