A History of Pokémon through the Internal List

Some of you may have heard that there were originally 190 Pokémon planned for the original Japanese Red and Green versions, 39 of which (perhaps 40 – more on that later) were scrapped because of memory issues just before debugging began.
The primary evidence for that is found within the internal code of the games – more specifically, in the internal Pokémon ID list – where most of the details for each Pokémon are stored.
At first glance, this list may look completely random: it starts with Rhydon at 001 and ends with Victreebel at 190, the evolutionary lines are often fragmented, third stage evolutions are listed before their respective previous stages, the starters and the legendaries occupy random slots, and so on.
As messy as it may look, this list also evokes a feeling that something hides deeper within – as if the order of the Pokémon adheres to a sort of mysterious logic. Interviews with the developers seem to hint at the fact that the list follows the very order in which the monsters were coded into the game,  teasing the curious with the promise of a glimpse into Game Freak’s creative process, and therefore, into the development history of the first ever Pokémon games.  Continue reading →

A History of Pokémon through the Internal list – MissingNo. Descriptions

Finally, we arrive at one of the most speculative and experimental parts of researching Generation I. In this article we will summarize the MissingNo. patterns and also list a bunch of hypotheses for each, from most to least plausible.

Another general shared pattern among every MissingNo. is redundancy, so we might expect that some monsters had been deleted because they were too similar to others. We can also assume the existence of several cut evolutionary relatives (about one fourth according to our estimation), since, as Nishida and Nishino stated in the 2018 interview with Famiuri, when they had to make the final cut, they ultimately favored diversity above long evolution lines. Enjoy! Continue reading →

A History of Pokémon through the Internal list – 5

By the time that Period 5 started, the Kanto overworld was most likely similar to the final game. The drastic change, both in the games’ environment and design choices, began in Period 3; many of the Period 1 and Period 2 Pokémon became uncommon, relegated to the Safari Zone, or made extinct in order to make room for the more friendly looking fauna. In Period 4, the creators exclusively focused on expanding on  previous concepts, so by Period 5 they realized that the routes were a little bare and still in need of new inhabitants.

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A History of Pokémon through the Internal list – 4

We left off at Period 3 and its vastly expanded concept of evolution and experiments with the methods through which Pokémon could evolve and be obtained, like evolutionary stones, branched evolutions, and fossil revival. We also saw the first attempts at creating new lines for yet single-stage Period 2 Pokémon, like the Dratini, Machop, Ekans, Paras and Poliwag lines. Period 3 ends with the first instance of a brand new three-stage line added at once with the Weedle line. That pivotal period of development gave momentum to what we label Period 4, which ranges from index numbers 115 to 156.  Continue reading →

A History of Pokémon through the Internal List – 3

It’s been generally reported that Pokémon production was put on hold again in 1993 for a whole year, although we couldn’t find any first-hand source to back up this claim. The internal list suggests that a drastic shift in the games’ overall design occurred after this hiatus period. Mid 93 to early 94 would make sense for another hiatus, albeit shorter than reported, when taking a look at Game Freak’s bustling release schedule during that period (they were developing Mario & Wario, Nontan and Pulseman simultaneously!) According to the sources, we can deduce that production resumed in late 1993/early 1994. In fact, as recounted in the 2018 Yomiuri interview, Pikachu had been already designed before the Super Game Boy release in mid 94.

(Many unsourced reports are available online about the 1993 hiatus. For the moment we won’t quote any, as we’re unsure of their credibility. Hopefully, a more valid source will surface in the near future that will allow us to better clarify this interesting gap in Pokémon’s history.) Continue reading →

A History of Pokémon through the Internal List – 2

In 1990, Satoshi Tajiri pitched Capsule Monsters to Nintendo. Shigeru Miyamoto was very impressed with Tajiri’s previous work and became his mentor, so Capumon was approved and the initial release date was set for December 1991.  During the first year of production, Game Freak likely produced several prototypes and demos, but development was difficult and irregular, as Tajiri was also developing other games in parallel (Yoshi) to finance the production. Furthermore, most of the team’s energies went into developing a satisfying trading mechanic, which was the core factor of the game, and Capsule Monsters was far from finished at the end of 1991. Luckily Yoshi‘s sales exceeded expectations and Game Freak could resume production at a calmer pace.

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A History of Pokémon through the Internal List – 1

The Generation 1 Pokémon Internal ID list might look random, but it can be broken down into 5 different “Periods” that we are now going to analyze along with first-hand sources and vestiges in the game data, in order to produce a guide to identify some of the 40 MissingNo.’s key characteristics. During our journey, we will also learn about the reasoning behind the design of the first Pokémon games themselves, and possibly discover connections that aren’t obvious in the final release, as many changes happened throughout the turbulent 5-year long development period.  Let’s start by analyzing the first Period of Pokémon development! Continue reading →

A Closer Look at the Satoshi Tajiri Biographical Manga

On May 17th, 2018, Game Freak designer James Turner (the creator of Pokémon like Vanillite, Golurk, and Poipole) tweeted pictures of a few excerpts from the then-recently published manga about Satoshi Tajiri’s life and the creation of Game Freak. Interestingly enough, despite claims from the developers that most of the documentation about the first two Pokémon games either never existed or was lost to time, one of the panels in this manga contains a look at an internal poll during development.
Our curiosity piqued, the Helix Chamber team – made up of translators, coders, people who know random trivia about the franchise, nerds, magnification wizards, you name it – gathered together, obtained a copy of the manga, scanned everything, and were able to unearth quite a lot of information. Continue reading →

Lines, Tigers, Slots Bare, Oh My!

In 2004, Game Center CX interviewed Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri for one of their episodes. While discussing Pokémon development, Tajiri hands Arino a mysterious booklet titled “PM (Pocket Monsters) Kaiju Zukan” (怪獣図鑑, Kaiju Illustrated Catalogue), which looks like an official index of Pocket Monsters. (図鑑 zukan is, in fact, the same word used for the Pokédex). By analyzing the footage of this interview, we were able to determine that at least four individual scrapped Pokémon (now the infamous MissingNo.) have been hiding within this footage, right in plain sight, for 14 years! 

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