I never thought I would witness something like this... I've constantly read about games that could do things that they weren't meant to and always shrugged them off as implausible. But the fact that it has happened here now, and with such an unknown game is such a surprise to me...
Before I go on, I might as well establish something others have before; I fairly enjoy the game series of the Giana Sisters, despite me getting into it only a few years back. The thought of it starting off as a Mario knockoff Nintendo couldn't stand to a thoroughly original experience always amused me.
Recently I decided to come pick up Giana Sisters DS, particularly on an October evening after struggling through my completionist ways on the Halloween special from Twisted Dreams. I put it in my 3DS and loaded up the game. After starting up my save file, I noticed something about the World 9 map; there was a small button tucked away in the bottom right corner of the map screen, just underneath the Back to Title Screen button. Out of curiosity I carefully tapped the edge of the button and managed to load up "Level X-0".
I found Giana standing in a flat grassy area as rain fell. There wasn't a background; nothing but a solid dark-green filled the empty space. What I noticed was odd was that the level started off with 666 seconds on the clock, which is only a natural thing for the hell-like levels. I walked forward for a while and, to my surprise, saw Maria, Giana's sister, sitting on the ground, her eyes closed. This really caught me by surprise because I've always heard that Maria was nowhere to be found in the game. I approached her, and she said "This... This was his doing..." I saw that she was sitting in front of a save flower and a skull sign, despite there being no hazards in sight. It was at this point I decided to take pictures of the screen with my camera, hoping that the raw evidence would explain this secret level I have discovered.
I wandered beyond that point (noticing that the save flower doesn't even work) wondering what Maria even meant, and I found a particularly familiar structure... the beginning of World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros.? Even the power-up was in the right spot, and when I grabbed it, I noticed once again that something was off. Punk Giana wasn't as smug as she usually is, her face rather appearing blank and emotionless. I took another picture and continued onward through the practically barren level. Soon enough I saw a few owls, stomped already. Now I'm beginning to feel like Maria meant someone has been here before, but why? Continuing on, I spotted a red diamond just barely out of my jump height. It's the only one on the level according to the touch screen, but I had absolutely no way of getting it. Maybe those owls would've let me? I don't know, and I don't think I'll ever know.
I continued on and saw another pipe, but it seemed to have a greenish tint to it. I decided to ignore it, but the screen wouldn't let me go any further. It was at this point that the level intro music that had been playing throughout the level was starting to creep me out. I took another picture of the screen and trusted my Mario instincts, holding down on top of the pipe. Sure enough, Giana fell right through and was transported to an empty, black screen. Giana just kept falling and falling, almost endlessly as the music slowly grew quiet until it was non-audible. At this point I noticed another change in Giana's sprite; her pupils looked larger than before and the makeup under her eyes seemed to be running, as if she were crying. Finally she landed as the screen slowly scrolled to the right to reveal... Mario?!
I quickly took another picture, not even noticing that it became corrupted upon taking it. Mario had his hat tilted over his eyes, and his clothes were desaturated and dull. It almost seemed familiar somehow... I didn't have time to think about it as Mario slowly crept towards Giana, as she appeared even more frightened. He then dashed at her at full speed, disappearing when he touched Giana as her transformation animation played back and forth endlessly. At this point I was incredibly frightened; for once I realize just how painful the animation looks for poor Giana, and seeing it loop over and over just hurts to watch. I also noticed that the clock was already ticking down to 20 seconds, and when they finally ran out, both screens cut to black with the normal time up noise, only louder than it should've been.
The screen slowly faded in to Maria sitting down again, except with two save flowers next to each other. At this point I realized that skull sign wasn't a warning; it was a grave. Giana's grave... and someone else's...? After a bit, a text box appeared reading "Here we go." Maria then stood up after it disappeared, and I found that I could control her at this point, although she remained at a slow walk no matter how far I pushed the circle pad. I went to the left for a while until I saw Mario again, and I quickly grabbed my camera again to take another shot. He was looking away from Maria, and I noticed that I had both a Soda Bottle and Bubble Gum in my inventory. I thought for a moment; should I use the gum and escape? Or try to fight back with the soda? I quickly decided on the gum and tapped it, blowing with all my breath into the microphone.
As Maria went higher and higher, the screen grew lighter and lighter, and her sprite grew darker and darker. It continued until the screen was completely white and Maria was completely black. Soon the screen grew black as well, as the sound of rain continued. After a while, the touch screen faded to black as well, and a text box appeared on it, reading "Are you happy now? Happy that you have let your family perish for your own good?" I truly felt sick to my stomach after reading that; I just had Maria abandon her sister, not even trying to avenge her. I wasn't able to think about it for very long as Maria appeared on the screen again, along with the gem that was meant to free Giana from her dream.
Suddenly Maria began to transform into something I wish I had never seen; Her hair dyed into a deep blue, her irises darkened into an empty, bleeding black, and her expression twisted into a devilish toothy grin. I managed to take one last photo before the screen cut to black one last time, as the touch screen read "Close this software and return to the HOME Menu?" (I suppose if I were playing on the regular DS, it would've just shut itself off.) It at least let me calm down slightly, although the disturbing sprite of Maria will never leave my mind.
I still have the game in my possession, and I still managed to enjoy the other games all the same, but I will never under any circumstances play that level again.
Perhaps if I told this to those at Black Forest Games, I would receive an answer...