Sunday, 10 March 2019

Quick Crappy Pokemon Reviews Extra: The PokeGods

So I was going to start posting Generation II’s reviews, they’re all done and ready to go up when it dawned on me that there was a set of Pokémon that were both Generation 1 and 2, and I hadn’t covered them. A set of Pokémon that for us completely absorbed in Pokémania during the Generation 1 era of the franchise were as big and important (if not more so) than the original 151, a group of Pokémon that we spent hours after hours hunting down, a group of Pokémon that didn’t exist but in fact did and would. What the fuck am I on about?
The PokéGods of course!

The PokéGods

A group of Pokémon beyond number 150 that had complex or secret methods to obtain and that were exceptionally powerful, more powerful than the Legendaries even! Though not all of them started out having such lofty stats, most would at one point or another be considered a PokéGod, even if they didn’t necessary look like one or have that role in the official media that was translated at that point. These were rumours spread across the internet of supposed supermons lurking in the depths of Pokémon Red and Blue’s code. Only 1 was actually there, well more if you count MissingNo and its brethren and people often did.  

Each had a ‘code’ or step-by-step instructions in how to make them appear that of course varied and varied over time as they were posted, reposted, copied, pasted and rewritten across hundreds if not thousands of crude fansites all over the interwebs. Most complicated enough so that when they failed (as nearly all did) you’d be left questioning your ability to perform the task, not the task itself. Of you could try the fake Game Genie and Game Shark codes but given my own personal issues with long strings of numbers and letters for me the end result was the same, mind you I blame myself for lots of things I didn’t do so all in all I was a perfect victim for the PokéGods.

Despite the bullshit complex ways of catching them, despite the fact that no-one seemed to have an actual screenshot of one they’d caught, despite the fact that not everyone who played Pokémon was 8, a lot of people were suckered in, I tried several codes (amongst them for Pikablu, Pikaflare, Mew, Tricket and the Mist Stone), even my most sceptical of friends attempted to get Togepi in Red & Blue.

Obviously part of the reason for this was because a lot of players actually were 8 but to really understand how we all could have been so stupid you need to understand the confused timeline of Pokémon during those early years. As a reminder you shouldn’t need; Pokémon was (and still is) developed almost entirely in Japan – the games, the cartoon and even most of the merchandise is made by Japanese companies and then has to be translated into everything but Japanese and released overseas and this takes a little while. Today we’re more used to worldwide release dates but you don’t have to go back very far for this to become a rarity, even a novelty, when Sonic the Hedgehog 2 received a worldwide launch (‘Sonic Twosday’) in 1992 it was considered a big promotional gimmick and worldwide release dates for films, even those originally filmed in English, was so rare that I still can’t get used to the idea. Generally you had to wait a year or more to get something in America and longer to be able to buy it in the UK because we were often recipients of a ‘multi-purpose’ European release meaning we had to wait for the game to also be translated in German, French, Spanish or whatever else (never Welsh though, racism?). But even by the standards of the time Pokémon took an ungodly long time to get to the west and went through some unusual stages before it did, helping us believe that there was lot more to Red and Blue than there really was.  

Pocket Monsters Red and Green were released in February 1996 – yes, 1996 – then in spring ’96 Game Freak used Corocoro Comic to make Japan aware of Mew, the hidden 151st Pokémon added after the removal of the debugging tools allowed enough space for one more ‘mon and in April Mew became the first ‘Event Pokémon’ with it being made available as contest prizes. Pocket Monsters Blue was then released in October 1996 (as a mail away with CoroCoro Comic), the Japanese Blue was a predecessor of ‘third versions’, the likes of Pokémon Crystal and Pokémon Platinum; it fixed glitches and improved graphics and a few other changes were made, including what Pokémon were available for capture and what Pokémon were traded with NPCs in-game. Pokémon Monsters 2: Gold & Silver was first previewed in April 1997 in MicroGroup Game Informer where the Pokémon we now know as Ho-Oh, Ampharos, Donphan and Slowking were shown, then fully revealed in November 1997 (at the Nintendo Space World ’97 convention, held November 21–23) in a very early beta form as a game for the Game Boy with Super Game Boy compatibility and early new Pokémon were shown including Mariru (Marill), Ho-Oh and unused characters like Honoguuma and Kurusu (this version has subsequently been made available online, I’ve mentioned it a few dozen times), the release for the game was set for the end of that year. The first episode of the Pocket Monsters anime aired in Japan on 1st April 1997 meaning the anime was actually in development at the same time as Gold & Silver not Red & Blue, this allowed the team to put in a Pokémon that wouldn’t debut until Gold & Silver (Ho-Oh) in that first episode and add another (Togepi) as a recurring character with the episode ‘Who Gets to Keep Togepi?’ - first broadcast in Japan on June 25th 1998. Very little information was made available on Gold & Silver after the initial reveal until it was confirmed as delayed in March 1998 (a bit late there lads) and the next Pokémon game released was another variation of Red & Green called Pocket Monsters Pikachu, released on September 12th 1998. I don’t know why Gold & Silver was delayed but I can surmise that a switch in platform (to the Game Boy Colour), work on Yellow (Pocket Monsters Pikachu) and preparing the now very successful little franchise for foreign releases probably all played their part. However promotion for the new games was still ongoing when it came to the anime people, in July 1998 Pocket Monsters: Mewtwo’s Counter-Attack was released, the first feature length film for the franchise and it and it’s preceding short featured more Pokémon that wouldn’t debut in-game until Gold & Silver (the Pokémon we’ve come to know as Marill, Snubbull and Donphan) as well as the anime debut of Mew.      
If you know your Pokémon history (and why wouldn’t you?) you may have noticed that this is nearly all happening before the franchise was released in America.  On the 8th of September 1998 the first episode of the Pokémon anime aired in the US, 20 days before Pokémon Red & Blue Versions were released there, and the anime showed a mythical golden Pokémon that couldn’t be caught in those games, which itself wouldn’t be very noteworthy if not for Mew. PLUS Pokémon Red & Blue Version were not simply Red and Green translated into English but rather ‘merged’ versions taking things from both Red & Green and the Blue version released later, leading to one noticeable mistake caused by taking the script from Blue but not the changes in what Pokémon were available for trade with NPCs, resulting in one saying that a Raichu you just traded him had evolved – Raichu does not evolve.
Who Gets to Keep Togepi aired on Marcy 27th 1999 in English and three months later in June 1999 the CD Pokémon 2.B.A. Master was released in the US, containing songs from and inspired by the dubbed anime, it was crap, but Kids WB aired a special promo video for it before its release that featured, amongst other things, clips from Pikachu’s Summer Vacation, the as-of-then untranslated short that predated the as-of-yet untranslated movie Mewtwo’s Counter-Attack, featuring shots of Marill and Snubbull. In July 1999 Pocket Monsters: Revelation Lugia became the anime’s second feature film in Japan debuting Gold & Silver Pokémon like Lugia and Slowking. Pocket Monsters Gold & Silver wouldn’t be released in Japan until November 1999, a month after Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition was released in America and the same month that Pokémon the First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back hit theatres
Or if you prefer your information to be taken in visually, this: 

click to enlarge

What comes from all those facts is that the Pokémon Anime and first movie were developed alongside the sequel games Gold & Silver made for an audience who already knew to expect a sequel to a game that had been out for over a year and that anime included elements planned for that sequel to promote it. But in the rest of the world the anime was used to promote those regions’ Red & Blue, the first game(s), with few, especially few of the target audience, knowing that a sequel was on the way and with no reason to think one would be coming any time soon; after all the first one had just come out.

You also need to understand that this is all taking place in 1998/1999 and technology and the internet was very different and far more rudimentary; mobile phones could not send pictures, most didn’t even have a colour display; there was no blog culture; no wikis (including Wikipedia itself); no MySpace, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube and no way to instantly share information as you learned it; there was no file hosting sites; video game emulation was in its infancy, GameFAQs was tiny compared to what it would become and ROM hacking was a small niche hobby; search engines were still in their stone age and wouldn’t (and couldn’t) show all results and there was no Google Images. What was around instead was a wild west of amateur-quality fansites and personal sites that search engines couldn’t catalogue properly, plus MSN and P2P services like KaZaA and Napster - all on slow connections with most of the world still using Dial Up – and a fraction of the number of users we have today. We didn’t even have the internet in my house when Pokémon first launched in the UK, I used to go to a friend’s house to use it to look up hints, codes, pictures and rumours – including the PokeGods. Also a lot of Pokémon fans were 8; children, pre-teens, and children are if not more gullible than more susceptible to believing things, especially when they want them to be true and very few of them can speak Japanese (unless they are, of course, Japanese).

So who were these bloody PokéGods dwitefry and how could you ‘catch’ them?

Catching wise each ‘mon typically had its own ‘code’ unless that code was just ‘use the Mist Stone on X’ or a Game Shark/Genie code but there were common elements that were worked into many codes, some seemingly derived from the Missingno cheat and others just incorporating fan rumours and things of interest: amongst them was talking to a random NPC (‘Mr. Psychic’ the man who gives you the TM psychic was particularly popular) undoubtedly because Old Man Weedle was so important to the Missingno glitch; having a certain group of Pokémon in your party (often with three Geodudes to make up the numbers); beating the Elite Four a certain number of times; doing god knows what else a certain number of times including trading the same Pokémon; having a certain group of Pokémon in a box on your in-game PC; merging multiple Pokémon; talking to/fighting Professor Oak; using secret HMs; using the Mist Stone (again) or visiting certain areas, three of the more common being:
The ‘PokéGods City’ (though I remember a PokéGods Island being rumoured too) which is notable only because there IS a hidden city in Gen 1, the Glitch City. We were unknowingly looking for a real thing!
Bill’s Secret Garden:

And the long grass either side of Pallet Town:

These two were inaccessible areas that can be never-the-less be seen and seen from locations you HAVE to go to (the town you start in and Bill’s house) so it shouldn’t be too surprising why these were so enticing, and fans latched onto these are locations that would hold super-secret Pokémon because, really, they should. Game Freak missed a trick. Sadly ROM hacking has proven that there’s nothing beyond that one tile behind Bill’s gaff and there’s no Pokémon programmed into the long grass by Pallet Town – dream crushers. 
Why, however, Game Freak haven’t added a Secret Garden for Bill in either sets of remakes for Gen 1 baffles me.

As for the ‘Gods themselves? Read on.


But Mew is real, dwtiefry.
Fittingly for a Pokémon that was said to be the ancestor of them all, Mew is really the beginning of the PokéGods and was the best argument for them - because Mew was real and you could in fact find it through complex methods (or through using a Game Shark or Game Genie); most of the beats for the stupid-complex methods for obtaining the fake PokeGods was true for obtaining Mew – talking to a random NPC, going to a seemingly random place, doing things over and over, these were part of the MissingNo glitch which could produce Mew if you had the right characters in your name (that’s how I caught mine).
Mew wasn’t under a truck though.
What? You missed this? One of THE Urban Legends (of Zelda) in video games? Mew under the Truck. There was a long standing, very commonly believed rumour that Mew could be found under the random pick-up truck that you can find at the S.S. Anne’s port. this:

It’s the only motor vehicle in the whole game and you can’t get to it without using Surf (which you don’t have and can’t use when you get to this city). The most common version of the rumour was that if you prevented the S.S. Anne from leaving until you got Surf, surfed to the truck, used Strength to move it, beneath would be Mew. Why the shit Mew would be under a pick-up is anyone’s guess but many (including me) tried it. It became so well known that developers started making references to it, there’s references in Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, Pokémon FireRed & LeafGreen and the Pokémon: Let’s Go games!
If only there were so many references to Bill’s Secret Garden, Bulbasaur HAD a secret garden in the anime, it would have been perfect for Let’s Go! Perfect!

The Gen 2 ‘Mons

That’s Pikablu, Togepi, Houou, Bruno and Denryu 
But aren’t these all real too, dwitefry?
Again, these five acted as further reason to believe in the rumours (though in Bruno’s case, only very late in the day) because these were also real, and also not in the original 151, they were proof that there were ‘mons beyond that number that officially existed, they were in the anime, hell, Ho-Oh was in the very first episode! The reason for this, of course, is because Gold & Silver were in development but we didn’t know that. And if they weren’t amongst the 150, and there wasn’t a sequel coming up, they had to be SOMEWHERE in the original games, right?

After Mew (who I don’t really count because it was real) Pikablu (Marril) was THE PokéGod, the one everyone seemed to be after, probably because it looked so much like Pikachu. For a while it was considered to BE an evolution of Pikachu (a branched evolution ala the Eeveelutions) or Raichu which is wonderful in hindsight because 1) we eventually did get a bunch of Pikachu forms that have different typings and indeed an evolution of Pikachu that’s a different type (Alolan Raichu) that’s even one of Marril’s typing (Fairy) and 2) there was a third stage for the Pikachu line planned, named ‘Gorochu’ designed by Nishida, Pikachu’s creator it’s just we didn’t know about it at the time! Mostly though Pikablu was talked about as it’s own thing and a very desirable thing at that. According to RageCandyBar the most popular method of getting yourself some water mouse was the method that involved getting him from the lady by the Game Corner (who’d found him behind the Pokémon Museum) but this wasn’t a method I ever used. Houhou, generally considered the third  was nearly as huge, thanks to its appearance in the anime (and subsequent non-appearance in Red & Blue) and Togepi the same, though I can’t find any old methods for these still online and I only ever tried fake Game Genie codes for ‘em.

The far less popular Bruno (Snubbul) was said to be found in the Cerulean Cave, that one I tried. Who knows why, because I hated going through that area and didn’t particularly like Snubbul. Togepi meanwhile was said to dwell in Mt. Moon (fair enough as it learned Metronome). I never saw or heard of Denryu (Ampharos) being a PokéGod, but apparently it was and Bellossom may have been too - this makes sense given these were early Gen 2 reveals, I just never came across ‘em it seems.

Also derived from early Gen 2 material – at least initially – was Pikaflare, in fact Honoguuma – the scrapped Fire Type starter that was (sadly) replaced with Cyndquil. Funnily enough both Chikorita and the other scrapped starter Kurusu were also previewed at Space World ’97 but they never caught on and mutated into their own PokéGod 0 probably because they didn’t look like PIkachu. Pikaflare (or Flarachu) could be obtained by trading the same Pikachu 8 times then using a Fire Stone on it apparently, I never tried that but I was very aware of Pikaflare and Pikabud, a completely fabricated Grass Type equivalent of Pikablu and Pikaflare (I might have tried a Game Genie code, maybe?)

The Evolutions

With no sequels anything seemed possible when it came to Pokémon, we now know of course that no evolutionary line will go over three ‘mons long without branching but back in the late 90s this wasn’t set in stone, so the concept of there being further evolutions of Pokémon, even those that were their line’s third stage, was completely realistic. Exactly what PokéGods were evolutions and what weren’t tended to vary from site to site and month to month, like I say PIkablu started off as a Pikachu or Raichu evolution before mutating into it’s own stand alone thing, Houou was sometimes said to be an evolution of Moltres and some of these included int his section – like Dimonix, Flareth, Locustud/Locustod and Charcoalt – were sometimes considered stand-alone ‘mons as well, its’ almost like we’re talking about a bunch of rumours told across playgrounds, emails, chat rooms and rushed Angelfire and Geocities pages, but here are the generally accepted evolution PokéGods:

Sapasaur (Venusaur), Charcoalt (Charizard, sometimes Rapidash), Rainer (Blastoise), Locustud (Butterfree), Metazap (Metapod), Beepin (Beedrill), Raticlaw (Raticate), Nidogod (Nidoking), Nidogoddess (Nidoqueen), Pearduck (Golduck), Sandswipes (Sandslash), Dream Master (Hypno), Dimonix (Onix), Spooky (Gengar, sometimes Haunter), Flareth (Flareon), Lunareon, Solareon (Eevee), Omnamist (Omanyte), Mewthree (Mewtwo), Coronoa Mew (Mew)
And sometimes Wizwar was considered an evolution of Alakazam.

Most of these could be obtained using the Mist Stone, a unique (and completely made up) evolutionary stone that could allegedly be found in the Seafoam Islands that could evolve any Pokémon from the 151 one stage further, despite that not every fully evolved Pokémon had a PokéGod or evolution, weird eh? There was also other stones that could apparently be found such as the Rainbow Stone and the Lightning Stone, not the Thunder Stone but a companion stone (Metazap seemed to be exclusively tied to this stone). The great thing about this in hindsight is that it came true too! In a scarily similar way no less! With Mega Stones and Mega Evolutions. Hell a bunch of the same Pokémon even got Megas. I’ve heard some people go so far as to say that the Mega mechanic was flat out inspired by the Mist Stone rumours of old but honestly I’m not sure I believe it, giving fully evolved Pokémon a mega-super-awesome next stage is hardly an original concept.
There’s also the fun in that Lunareon and Solareon are obviously fan names for Espeon and Umbreon - two Eeveelutions that don’t evolve from stones!

There was also a very common method for acquiring all manner of Pokémon that involved putting the Legendary Birds in your party (followed by three Geodudes, why Geodudes? Always Geodudes! They’re not even the most common Pokémon in caves let alone in the whole game) and then talking to a random NPC who would give you a PokéGod, this was a given method for at least Flareth, Charcoalt and Locustod and often it was said that you had to use this method, talking to ‘Mr Psychic’ – the man in Saffron City who gives you the TM Psychic -  to unlock the very ability to catch PokéGods, with Mr Psychic revealing their existence and thus allowing you go find and catch them. Why Mr Psychic? Fuck knows but if the Old Man who catches the Weedle ‘unlocked’ MissingNo and Mew, why not Mr Psychic?

Anyway the most popular of this lot was easily Mewthree, sometimes called Altanes, which isn’t too much of a surprise as Mewtwo was one of the most popular Pokémon period. General consensus is this concept evolved out images of Mewtwo in his armour from the Pokémon anime (which actually reduced his power not increased it – irony?) but took on a life of its own, but Mewtwo’s whole concept – a clone with a number its name – leads nicely to the assumption that there’s more of them, there was rumoured Mewfours and Mewfives too (though they were, hilariously, often dismissed as being too unbelievable).  Again it’s worth noting that sometimes Mewtree wasn’t an evolution but either a merged Pokémon or a separate, improved clone of Mew.
In fact the main non-Mist Stone way of obtaining Mewthree that was circulated was to beat the Elite Four with both Mew and Mewtwo, rest at the player’s house, then awake to find the two had merged. Which was also a code for Chrono-Mew, although you had to sue the Lighting Stone on both of them before they’d merge in that code.
Actually NidoGod was sometimes considered a merged PokéGod too, with one code having the ‘mon not as Nidoking’s evolution but a merger of Slowbro, Nidoking and Nidoqueen caused by the Mist Stone (which in this code was given to you by Professor Oak). As was Ghost, which was sometimes an evolution of Gengar but also (mainly by the looks of it) a merging of Gastly, Haunter and Gengar via Gameshark.
(RageCandyBar has a wholepage for these, the most common were the two taken from other Pokémon media – Venutoise from the Pokémon anime and Zapmolcuno from the Pokémon Special manga, as they had pictures to ‘prove’ their existence, though I remember coming across Ratichu, Pikish and Articzapmewtres. Funnily enough this is one thing that Game Freak have always avoided, even though (or perhaps because) it’s a fairly obvious thing to do, either through breeding or some kind of stone, the closest we’ve got to it is Zygarde)

The Unique PokéGods

Some PokéGods however, were wholly original, or at least ended up as wholly original. Shadybug, Tricket, Doomsay and Doomsday were the big names here. Doomsay and Doomsday are noteworthy simply because they span the entire of the PokéGod phenomenon (roughly late ’98 to 2000 in America), their names first appearing on a list as early as November ’98 that was simply ‘reporting’ what the English names for Gold & Silver Pokémon were supposed to be when the games came out over here:

152. Houou
153. Topegy
154. Pikablu
155. Tyranticus
156. Primator
157. Doomsay
158. Doomsday
159. Psyke
160. Wizwar
161. NidoGod

And lasting all the way to the release of Gold & Silver where many rationalized the two as in fact being Houndour and Houndoom. Something that this list might actually support when you think about it, You’ll notice that the first few are in fact correct – that’s Ho-Oh, Togepi, Marril and Tyranitar – and while NidoGod may have only been based on the rumour of new evolutions Primator, Psyke and Wizwar could easily have been applied to random Gold & Silver Pokémon that had been seen somewhere or somehow (Aipom, Natu and Xatu being good candidates, though Slowking, Tsuinzu, Espeon, Umbreon, Delibird, Nameeru and the werewolves would all work). Doomsday also had an awesome design associated with it:

Posting it twice cos it's that cool.
No one knows who made that, but look at that thing, that is a Pokémon called Doomsday, that is the Pokémon straight from H.P. Lovecraft we’ve always wanted.

Meanwhile Tricket and Shadybug never had any images associated with them (those are mock-ups by fans up there) but were just consistent. Shadybug – a bug that hid under a leaf, and Tricket – a powerful cricket that knew the attack Sing – were originally thought of as being part of the same evolutionary line before, at some point, becoming unique Pokémon with Tricket taking off in popularity and Shadybug being left behind. Tricket’s code (which was ‘Nintendo Approved’ much like some Pikablu and Mew codes) involved beating the Elite Four with a team made up of only the Weedle and Caterpie lines and, of course, talking to Professor Oak, who would give you a Tricket if you said you were a bug collector (yo’d also need a box with just the Paras and Venonat lines in it, of course). We would eventually get a pair of cricket Pokemon and they would, indeed, be themed around music, Cricketot and Cricketune, a spooky coincidence.   

It’s also worth noting, again, that sometimes Doomsay was said to be an evolution of Haunter and Doomsday an evolution of Gengar and sometimes Doomsday was a merged PokéGods made up of Gengar and Missingno.  I know, right?

Actually MissingNo accounts for the last few big name PokéGods as these – Anthrax, Millennium/Mysterio, Ruin and usually Psybir and Psybird were just names given to various glitch Pokémon that some sites treated as real ‘mons, Millennium being M’. if you’re confused the ‘MissingNo’ trick didn’t just bring up the MissingNo you’ll find if you Google that, or the one you’re thinking of if you’ve heard of it (or the one I reviewed), it could bring up several garbled things depending on what character were in your name, the most common of which being M’ – as well as random Pokémon like Snorlax, Kangaskhan or Mew – as well as the generic Ghost sprite used in Lavender Town’s Pokémon Tower and the Kabuto and Aerodactyl skeletons used in the museum (because they were stored in the old Pokémon slots). There were either mistaken for or considered to be PokéGods or real Pokémon. I never knew that Psybir or Psybird were these, though it does make sense as MissingNo et all were Bird Type, a type that was cut and folded in with Flying during development.   

So What Happened?

Well more information came out and more things got translated into English, simple as that. As this happened the PokéGod rumours became less and less likely, once Gold & Silver was being previewed in the English speaking world and especially once it was released that was the end of it, fans – embarrassed by being taken in I’d say – began to laugh and scoff at the PokéGods and discussion on them either died or was banned. The internet matured, new types of technology came in and nothing quite like the PokéGods will ever happen again, though Fakemons are still circulated as real with each new generation none have and none really can, take off like the PokéGods. We probably think this is a good thing, that it proves how we’ve advanced but I think its just modern life further sucking the fun out of everything and forcing kids to grow up too soon.
Not too over the top, right?

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