How about we try something new this week? You may not know this but I love me some trivia. Whether it be early concepts, connections between actors or just neat, little easter eggs, I get a weird thrill from learning and memorising this kind of stuff from all kinds of media (which did not help me during my school years when I should’ve been memorising maths). But one thing I love more than discovering trivia is sharing it with others, so I figured why not try my hand at actually writing up some fun articles all about that?
So let’s start things off with ten things you may not have known from a classic set of games that defined a lot of peoples’ childhoods – the first generation of Pokémon games, Red & Blue – courtesy of Bulbapedia and Serebii (just so you know I’m not making all this up).
1. Not Actually the First
This one’s pretty well-known amongst long-time fans but for any newer fans, did you know that Pokémon Red and Blue weren’t actually the first games in the franchise? Some may call this splitting hairs but the very first games were actually Pokémon Red & Green, which released for the Game Boy in Japan in 1996. How were these different? Well, they weren’t. They were pretty much the exact same game.
However, they would later receive an updated release called Pokémon Blue, which made a few changes and fixed several bugs and glitches that the original games had. It’s this version of the game that was released in the West as Pokémon Red & Blue. Despite essentially being incredibly outdated, Red & Green were made available to download on the 3DS’ Virtual Console but only in Japan, because I guess some fans were still nostalgic for it.
2. Critical Miss
So about those aforementioned enhanced versions. Unfortunately, they were still riddled with plenty of weird bugs and glitches; some harmless and some straight-up game-breaking. A lot of them, like one that could corrupt your save file, were pretty easy to avoid, but there were a couple that greatly affected the very basic mechanics of the game, meaning certain elements didn’t work how they were intended to.
For example, the critical hit rate. Increasing your Pokémon’s chances of dealing a more powerful attack is certainly beneficial and tempting, but if you’re playing these games, you’re better off avoiding it entirely. See, the move Focus Energy and the Dire Hit item, which are meant to quadruple the rate instead do the exact opposite, quartering the chance of landing a critical hit, essentially making them worthless. This didn’t even get fixed for Pokémon Yellow and, suddenly, my poor Mankey not doing very well in battle makes a lot more sense.
3. Tough as Oak
Not all the glitches were bad, however. Aside from the ones that players could exploit to break the game in half and make their journeys stupidly easy, there was one that revealed a piece of content that was cut – a battle with Professor Oak. Yes, the prof himself was planned to be an opponent and, for someone who can never remember his grandson’s name, he was apparently going to be one tough customer. His team were a higher level than even the Champion’s!
For those curious, much like your rival, his team would change depending on which starter you picked at the beginning of the game… sort of. He would always have a Tauros, an Exeggutor, an Arcanine and a Gyarados (those last three all being potential Pokémon used by your rival in the Champion battle – coincidence?!), with his last Pokémon being the final evolution of whichever starter you picked. So, if you picked Bulbasaur, he’d have a Venusaur.
It’s a shame this was cut since a battle with Oak would be pretty damn cool, though we would eventually get the chance to battle a professor character in the future; specifically, Professor Sycamore in X & Y, the sixth generation.
4. What Are the Wings For?
Fly is undoubtedly one of the best HMs in the games. Aside from being very useful as a quick-travel feature, it was also a good move to use in battle, which certainly put it above some other HMs. But, funnily enough, only a small handful of Pokémon from Gen 1 can actually learn it, and there are some bizarre omissions. Some make a bit of sense like Butterfree and Zubat since, despite being Flying types, you can’t exactly ride one of these across the countryside. But then again, the likes of Pidgey and Doduo can learn Fly. Doduo’s especially odd since it doesn’t even have wings.
You know who does have wings but can’t be used as your own personal aeroplane? Charizard and Dragonite. Yep, despite both being big-ass dragons and having wings, neither can learn how to fly apparently. This would be fixed for Charizard in Pokémon Yellow, but Dragonite had to wait till Gen 2 with Gold and Silver. Other Flying types like Zubat and its evolutions would later be able to learn it too but others like poor Scyther remain grounded.
5. I Can’t-O Believe It
Forgive the awful pun but did you know that the Kanto region is based on the the very same region in Japan? What, you did? Because it’s blindingly obvious since they share the same name? Okay, fair enough, but there’re a lot more similarities besides that. For starters, since the real-world Kanto is the most highly developed, urbanised, and industrialised part of Japan, this is reflected in the game-Kanto, which boasts modern-looking buildings, labs and a power plant. It also explains why the Master Ball was invented in this region and why Kanto is lacking in any myths or legends related to Pokémon compared to other regions.
Many of the game’s locations are even directly based on real places in Kanto. For example, Vermilion City has a seaport where players can board the S.S. Anne as a reference to Yokohama, which has the largest seaport in Japan. And the Cycling Road you can ride down that’s populated with bikers? That’s based on the Tokyo Bay-Aqua Line (pictured above) – a stupidly long bridge that connects Kawasaki and Kisarazu, which was under construction during development of Red & Green.
6. What Came First?
How many of you have seen this meme floating around? To many fans, this is pretty funny, but let me be that annoying asshole who explains jokes just so those not as well-versed with the series can understand it.
Bulbasaur is pretty obvious as it’s registered as #001 in the National Pokédex (the one that covers the entire series). Mew is listed here because, in-game, it’s believed to be the common ancestor for all Pokémon. And as for Arceus… well, it’s God. I don’t need to explain any further.
But what about Rhydon? Seems like a pretty random inclusion, doesn’t it? Actually no. As it turns out, Rhydon is the very first Pokémon to have been created, according to series art director Ken Sugimori himself. This is supported by some concept art for Capsule Monsters (an early design concept for Pokémon), which features Rhydon.
7. Heheh… Booby
A lot of Pokémon tend to have their designs based on real animals and the like, though a few of them have left a lot of people (myself included) to scratch their heads and go “What the hell is that supposed to be?” One of the early ones, for me at least, was Magmar. I mean, the closest thing it looks like is a duck but that doesn’t explain much, especially why it’s a Fire type.
Well, while there’s no official confirmation, it’s possible that it’s meant to resemble a type of seabird called a booby.. This is supported by Magmar’s Japanese name – Boober. The other possibility (and what I think is more likely) is that it’s based on a Karura, a creature from Japanese mythology that has a human torso with a bird’s head and can breathe fire.
8. Spoon & Mind Bending
With the new games currently at the centre of a controversy that has turned very ugly, it should be noted that this isn’t the first time it’s happened. The series has angered people plenty times before, sometimes justified and sometimes not. One particularly notorious example involves a man called Uri Geller. If you’ve never heard of him, he’s an entertainer and self-proclaimed psychic, bending spoons with his mind before it was cool.
In 1999, a year after Red & Blue released, Geller claimed that the Pokémon Kadabra was an unauthorised parody of himself and thus sued Nintendo for £60 million (for any American readers, that’s $86.93 million at the time). While this may sound ridiculous at first, he did have something of a leg to stand on. Aside from the shared similarity of bending spoons, Kadabra’s Japanese name is Yungerer, which could be a corruption of Geller’s name.
And to add even more fuel to the fire, Geller also stated that Kadabra’s design was anti-semetic, claiming that the star on Kadabra’s head and lightning-like patterns on its stomach resembled the logo of the Wassen-SS, an armed wing of the Nazi Party. Considering Geller himself has a Jewish background, there was probably a lot of awkward collar-tugging, though it’s more likely that those patterns came from Zener cards, which are used to conduct research on psychic abilities.
Considering Kadabra continues to appear in the games with his design unaltered, you probably think that this lawsuit ultimately never went anywhere, but that’s not the case for the trading card game. Ever since 2003, there have been no new Kadabra cards made, and it hasn’t made any appearances in the anime series either since 2006. Back in 2008, anime director and storyboard artist Masamitsu Hidaka stated that no new cards would be made until an agreement had been reached on the case. As of this year, that still hasn’t happened.
Believe it or not, this wasn’t even the first lawsuit Geller was involved in – he’s apparently got a bit of a habit for suing people – and most of them ended up being dropped and outright refused. You’ve got to wonder how this one has kept going for 20 years.
9. Name’s the Same Except When It Isn’t
How about we get rid of that awful taste of legal action and treat ourselves to some weird localisation nonsense? Unsurprisingly, a lot of (if not all) the characters, like the Gym Leaders, had their names changed when the games came to the West. Takeshi became Brock, Kasumi became Misty; you get the idea. Out of all the Gym Leaders, however, Erika from Celadon is the only one to have the same name in English and Japanese, probably because Erika already sounds like an English name.
That’s not what’s weird, though. Some of you might be wondering “Wait, what about Koga? The Fuchsia Gym Leader? How come his wasn’t changed?” That’s the thing – it was. In Japanese, Koga is instead called Kyo, which comes from the on-yomi of the kanji for apricot (on-yomi meaning it’s derived from the Chinese pronunciation). You’ve got to wonder why the localisation team decided to change it from one Japanese name to another.
By the way, he has a different name in Korea as well and it’s bad-ass. There, it’s Doksu, which translates to “poison fang” – obviously a reference to his use of Poison types.
10. The Real World?
The series goes to great lengths to avoid it nowadays but during Pokémon‘s early years, it had a bit of a habit of directly referencing real-world locations. This seemed to mostly happen in the anime but the games were a tiny bit guilty of doing this as well. For instance, if you read the reports in the Pokémon Mansion on Cinnabar Island, they note that Mew was first discovered in Guyana, South America.
Another, arguably more well-known example, concerns the Gym Leader Lt. Surge. In the original games, he was referred to as the Lightning American. So America exists in Pokémon? He apparently took part in a war as well? What the hell? Recently, though, his title has been changed to the Lightning Lieutenant and it seems to be accepted by some that he’s actually from Unova, the setting of Pokémon Black and White, which drew inspiration from New York City.
Oh, and to end things off, here’s some trivia about Lt. Surge that I want to share just because I find it kind of funny. In France and Germany, he’s instead given the rank of Major and his name was changed to a more stereotypical American name – Bob. So he’s Major Bob. Not quite as cool, is it?