How the Capumon Stole Christmas

It was the Wednesday before Christmas (or your choice of December holiday), and all through Japan,
They were watching TV, eating scrumptious Oat Bran;
The set was tuned to morning NHK,
For Tsunekazu Ishihara had something to say.
Matter-of-factly, cooly, he produced a black binder;
The gift that he gave us could not have been kinder.

The binder in question. Can you imagine what else could be lurking between these pages? There’s more than one way to find out…

The screen jumped to a series of images from the Capumon pitch, which
Time and time again had been seen and were known.
But then, to everyone’s surprise, something new was then shown…

(We cleaned it up for you.)

Against all odds, it’s the second page of the original Capumon sprites! We saw the first page in the biographical manga for Satoshi Tajiri, ranging from Rhydon to Nidoqueen. This page continues directly after that in the index list, starting with Cubone, and follows it exactly as it is in the final game. Graphically, however, there’s a lot to take in here…. We’ll break it down, one Capumon at a time.

Cosmetic Changes

  • Cubone is mostly the same, but its sprite is larger, and its body is rounder. Its belly is pure white instead of being the same color as the rest of its body like in the final games. The belly being a lighter color persisted in the artwork and in later games, though.
  • Pinsir is… exactly the same. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
  • Scyther (to the right of Pinsir) was once a dragon with mantis-like features, rather than… a mantis with dragon-like features. It resembles Dragon4 from the Capumon status screen mockup; the fact that Dragon4 ended up being so close to Scyther of all the Pokémon seems right out of left field. You can tell that they kept it in a similar pose when it was redrawn.
  • Lapras, like in the Capumon sketches, had no ears and nubbier limbs. No surprise here. Its sprite was shrunken down due to the size limitation change.
  • Tentacool is here, named “Ambler” (アンブラー), with more tentacles and a squidlike mouth. It seems like at this point it was a mixture of a squid and a jellyfish. It was simplified and shrunken down once Tentacruel was introduced.
  • Laugh if you must, but Shellder is just Cloyster with no large spikes on the top/bottom. In what might have been in a similar fashion as monsters like Magnemite/Magneton, Shellder was designed later and then switched sprites and names with Cloyster.
  • Gastly is pretty close; there are some minor sprite differences including its eyes having shading and outlines on the white parts. Its eyes in the final are more starkly white for better contrast. This page provides more shading detail than the Tajiri manga’s photocopy-level image quality, meaning that we can see the full shading on detailed sprites like Gastly’s. Also, its name here is its final one, Ghos ゴース, like in the Capumon concept art’s captions. Its name seemed to have been changed to Ghost ゴースト during the Tajiri manga poll era, and then changed back later.
  • Rhyhorn is much less rocky and geometric in design – it resembles the Capumon rhino-like creatures a lot more than its final counterpart.
  • Arcanine was once closer in design to a kirin/qilin than a lion-dog, with hooved feet and no stripes. Its Japanese name was “Wing” (ウィング) instead of Windie (ウインディー). Its sprite was heavily reworked later on, but its pose is the same.
  • Gyarados had the same name, but it was a large lamprey- or worm-type creature with two squiggly antennae on its head, and six legs. It resembles a tardigrade, as well. It may have still been based on a wind sock at this point. Just a creepier wind sock… like Eelektross.
  • Omega is one of the most significant discoveries from this: the identity and full name of the Pokémon that was tossed out and overtaken by Mew. It’s a robotic dinosaur/Kaiju with a glass brain chamber, spikes, and Frankenstein’s monster-like bolts on its neck. Omega was the Pokémon previously known as “O” from the Tajiri manga poll, where only its fingers, tail, and part of its foot were visible. It was crossed out on the poll, signifying its eventual deletion.
  • Blastoise is here, still going by its early name, Caravaggio. Unlike the Capumon concept art that shows it fighting Staryu, it has its cannons here!
  • Staryu is exactly the same.
  • Tangela looks a little angrier. By the time of the Tajiri manga poll, it had its final design in place.
  • The partridge was in a pear tree. Ba-dum-tssh!
Recreations by louminosus

The page underneath this one has overworld sprites, which may imply that there were no further Capumon designed by the time of the pitch – this fits with the index list division that we estimated to occur at some point after 030 (Tangela) and before 033 (Growlithe). While the first page seen in the Tajiri Manga had no names included with it, this second page has names written underneath the Capumon. While it still isn’t clear why the names weren’t in the manga’s copy of the first sprite page, these ones helped us identify that Pokemon like Gyarados and Scyther were the “same”, but had gone through a significant change in appearance.

The Sprites Under The Sprites

With a little image manipulation magic and some holiday cheer, we can get a closer look at the page after this page. It’s clear that these are overworld sprites of people. We have seen some of these before – the front and back cover for Satoshi Tajiri’s book, New Game Design, have some of the same character sprites. This is fairly solid proof that most (if not all) of the sprites on the book cover came straight from Capumon.

Image adjusted for easier viewing….

There are eight ‘rows’ of sprites here, with the seventh one seemingly blank. It doesn’t seem like there are any more to the left or beneath the eighth line, but the fact that only the upper half of this page is visible in the footage may hide further sprites, if any. It’s hard to tell where things stop and start, and many of the rows have multiple different characters per line. Most overworld characters have a total of 6 sprites, for moving and facing different directions.
In typical HC fashion, let’s look long and hard at these sprites and try to identify them.

  • Row 1: Looks like the player sprite – you can especially tell with the left-facing sprite on the far right. It appears to be the early player sprite with the different hat that is visible on the book cover.
  • Row 2: Most of it is obscured, except for two: the ones between Scyther and Lapras. The sprites look like those of a Bird Keeper/Jr. Trainer.
  • Row 3: Mostly obscured. The one visible sprite seems to be the child sprite from the cover, which is also in the final game.
  • Row 4: An NPC girl is visible – it looks similar to Erika’s sprite, but the hair is less distinctive and they aren’t wearing a kimono. You can find her on the cover, too. The two rightmost sprites look like the bearded old man sprite from the cover.
  • Row 5: Can’t tell at all, since the NPCs are almost completely hidden behind the Capumon.
  • Row 6: Looks like a teenage girl with pigtails. The sprite under Rhyhorn may be a different NPC. There seems to be blank space in between the sprites on the left and the right.
  • Row 7: Nothing.
  • Row 8: A girl who looks suspiciously like a female counterpart for the main character. Her design is similar to the one seen in several pieces of concept art. After that is the infamous “Slowpoke Wizard” (our name for him). His sprite appears to be slightly different from the one on Tajiri’s book cover; the cape looks broader. The Wizard seems to only have one or two sprites – if he has a second one, it is totally eclipsed by Tangela. Perhaps he was meant to only face in one direction, or was unfinished? Or, maybe, like the Capumon, there is another page of overworld sprites…
A mockup using sprites redrawn from the scans and cover, as well as ones from the final game. The female NPC was fully visible in the image scan, so we were able to reconstruct it to near-completion. The transparent sprites already exist, but aren’t visible on the spritesheet, and are assumed to take up that spot.

“Hold on!” asked the readers. “Is that really it?
Show us the new sprites and then go and quit?”
But HC’s bag of presents was still only half full
They pulled a gift out, gave its ribbon a pull
What was inside sent them all into a lull…

???

“Boo! We’ve seen that already!” the crowd said in a roar.
“But look closer,” said the Chamber, “there’s something more.
Turn the contrast up, rotate, and what lies beneath
A new piece of concept art, to our disbelief!”

It looks like a town area with an isometric view of a building as well as what seems to be a raised area with sidewalks. The two characters (a male and female Trainer) seem to be standing on a lower portion of ground. The female Trainer is standing under a sort of decorative pattern. Is this some sort of bazaar? It doesn’t seem like there’s reason why this piece isn’t shown with the rest of the concept art…

In conclusion, this news was quite a big deal;
A new Capumon found, with its spikes made of steel –
A sandworm, a qilin, and Scyther’s old form
To make Pokémon better, they would be reborn.
‘Ere that you are reading this snug in your bed,
While visions of the Capumon world dance in your head,
Celebrating the plethora of art come to light:
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Sources

  • Final NPC sprites used for the mockup sheet came from The Spriter’s Resource, ripped by Polar Koala.
  • The scans of Satoshi Tajiri’s New Game Design book came from @_dcat_ on Twitter. (We did not make use of the sprite mockups in the tweet, which were made by Gira-Tan on DeviantArt.) The book cover’s original source may have been a user on Skeetendo, but the images have since been deleted.
  • The initial images and footage from the NHK broadcast came from @benisboy on Twitter. We later got a higher-quality version of the footage thanks to Obskyr.

3 Comments

  1. Thank you all for the hard work you put in to all of these articles that you do! I have read them all so many times, and I really enjoy them! Please keep up the awesome work! I am looking forward to your next analysis of whatever is discovered next!

  2. What’s interesting is that this sheet includes not just the index number like the first, but also includes both a name and the index number for the cry. And the cries match up to the final game, with the exception of Blastoise who seems to be have given Omega’s.

    If we take this along with the what we can see in the book from the Gameformer video, the only cry from the first 31 not belonging to any of the 31 Pokemon with sprites found in the Capsule Monster doc is # 3 for Slowpoke, and that can easily be explained by it likely originally belonging to Slowbro, who later got cry # 32 (and let’s not forget that Slowbro was originally called Yadon, which became Slowpoke’s final name). So that means the first 31 Pokémon likely all had a unique cry at first. Having said that, I do think that the first 17 Pokémon and the next 14 were created at different stages when the Capsule Monster pitch was being put together given the difference in information provided on both sheets.

    It doesn’t explain why Blastoise and Tangela have different cry numbers on the 1992 poll, unless their cries were changed (and apparently changed back in Tangela’s case), but I’m suspicious of any big re-indexing especially without a clearer pic of the Game Informer video or any further evidence.

    Two other things that stick out, and are speculation.
    1) Of the 14 mon on the second sheet, Rhyhorn’s cry number (#5) comes much earlier in the listing than the others (#19-#31). My guess is that the cry originally belonged to Rhydon, who later got a new cry (# 18). (Similar to Slowbro’s likely being given to Slowpoke). Whether this means they were related or even meant to be in an evolutionary line (if that existed at the time), I don’t know.
    2) Blastoise’s original cry number (#30) was used by Squirtle and Wartortle. It’s possible that Blastoise went back to its first cry at some point but then was given Omega’s for the final game but after Squirtle and Wartortle were created. There’s also the fact that the base cry for #30 belongs to a missing no that’s located in the index list just where you would expect a final evolution for Squirtle to be, so maybe Squirtle had a different final evolution after first that was changed to/merged with Blastoise. It’s a stretch, though.

    1. Excellent sum up! Don’t know about Rhyhorn/Rhydon but an alternate Wartortle’s evo is … likely, at this point.

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