PokéMyths: The Truths of the Red/Green Beta
To preface this week’s article, I’d like to point out a realization that I came to shortly after establishing this series. I do recognize that myths within the Pokémon mythology can tend to be rather narrow subject as we delve further and further down this rabbit hole. So I will admit that with subjects like this week’s, I may from time to time embrace a wider approach to writing these. In other words, I will be a bit less argumentative and I will focus more on simply presenting facts this week.
So, this week we will put the Beta of the Red and Green Version games under the microscope. As with any game, the Beta version of the original Pokémon games for Gameboy differed immensely from the final version. The creatures were named even more oddly than they are now (or should I say, less imaginatively), there were trainers that were not featured in the retail version, and there were even more ways to make the game crash. It was an odd world to say the least.
There are things that have almost become sort of unofficial staples of the series. One of these staples is the theme of blissfully unaware NPC’s (Non-player Characters). No matter how old the series gets, every new game seems to have a few trainers that are just plain clueless. No other games were quite as guilty of this as the Generation 1 games. There was a very limited assortment of trainer classes at the time of their release. Each class had its own sprite and name that pertained to the type of Pokémon he/she specialized in. There was also another trainer class that was omitted, it was known as the Chief. It allegedly shared the same sprite with the Scientists and judging by the dialogue of the Team Rocket Grunts, this trashed class was most likely intended to be encountered during the Silph Co. takeover. But, it is entirely possible that this may have just been a prototype name for the Scientists.
Now, let’s get back to ignorant NPC’s. One of the original trainer classes specialized in Flying type Pokémon. These trainers were known as Bird Keepers and they often made reference to owning “Bird” Pokémon. There is actually a reason for this. In the beta, the Flying type was actually called the Bird type. This was most likely changed in the final version for the simple fact Flying Pokémon were not exclusively based on actual birds, especially after Gyarados was changed from Water/Dragon to Water/Flying. Despite the change, the trainers’ text was not altered and they’ve been referencing a scrapped type ever since. Game Freak seems to be trying to play it off in that, to this day, there are still trainers that call bird-like creatures (Pidgey, Spearow, Taillow, etc.) “Bird Pokémon.” Although it could be that creators find it humorous and enjoy referencing a past hiccup. It could go either way.
Now, I will actually dispel a rumor that has been huge for years. Mew was NOT catchable by regular means in the beta. Mew didn’t even exist yet at that point. It was a creation of one of the developers who snuck it into the games’ code at the last moment without telling his co-workers. Such is the cause of the Mew glitch in Red and Blue (and no, it’s still not under the truck). Besides Mew being a last minute addition, there were other sudden changes. Many of the original 150 Pokémon had names in the beta that were worlds apart from the names that we’ve come to love. I’ll list a few of my favorite examples. The Jigglypuff evolutionary family was named after types of ice cream, Tentacruel was Man O War, Cubone was Orphon, and Lapras was named Ness, an obvious reference to the Loch Ness Monster (although a Pokémon/Mother crossover would be hilarious).
Lapras also forces another point into the spotlight. Some of the beta designs of the original Pokémon were very archaic. Many looked like they were rejects fresh from the set of Jurassic Park.
A huge assortment of items was dropped in the testing stages as well. The gym badges were planned to be key items. But, since all items were placed in one unorganized pouch and bag space was very limited, these were simply kept track of on the trainer’s page in the START menu (in addition, the Boulder and Cascade badges would allow you to throw rocks and bait respectively). Another item that was changed was the Pokédex. It was intended to be usable in battle, much like in the anime, but there were problems getting it to work without crashing the game. The last unused item was labeled as ????? before it was removed. This incredibly badass item would allow you to surf with using a Pokémon who knew HM03. So, for all intents and purposes, it was a surf board. I’ll say it again. There was supposed to be a surf board in Pokémon.
There were also grammatical changes in multiple instances. The most interesting of these was the change to the opening trainer battle text. Before the final version, the text would read “The (trainer class) wants to fight!” While this would work for a majority of the battles in the game, once you encountered a named trainer, such as a gym leader or an Elite Four member, it would make for an interesting message.
Almost every named trainer was, as mentioned, a gym leader or an Elite Four member, excluding your rival. But, the developers intended for there to be one more trainer of this caliber. And his name was Professor Oak. The big man himself was planned to be the true final battle of the game, similar to how Red was the real final battle in Gold and Silver. He would use a team of Tauros, Exeggcutor, Arcanine, Gyarados, and the final evolution of the starter not chosen by you or your rival. Why this was dropped is unknown, because it would have been extremely epic. To add to the topic of unused trainers, there were also plans to include a female playable character (depicted in promotional art). However, this concept was dropped and was not revisited until Crystal came out in the later portion of Generation 2.
The Verdict: This article is nothing but truth. Accept it.