The Glitchology and Urban Legends of 'Pokemon'

When the “Pokémon” franchise was still in its infancy, we had access to the Internet, but not in the same way we do today. It wasn’t a thing kids I knew spent a lot of time with. You would often learn about Easter eggs (special features hidden in games by their developers) in various games from strategy guides or word of mouth. The latter of which was obviously not as reliable.

When I was fairly young, my aunt shared some Easter eggs for “Pokémon: Red Version” that she had found on the Internet with me. These all required that one had collected all 150 Pokémon (151 if we’re counting the elusive Mew), and so I couldn’t verify a single one until I had found each one. I spent a good chunk of my childhood catching all of them, and when I finally did, I was pretty psyched to see “Mewthree,” one of the special legendary Pokémon rumored about on the Internet.

The rumor turned out to be just that: a rumor. All I received for my trouble was a lousy in-game certificate; it wasn’t even an item you could use. I was very disappointed. Interestingly enough, however, Nintendo recently unveiled a new Pokémon to be seen in the upcoming “Pokémon X and Y” which strongly resembles Mew and Mewtwo. Perhaps the legendary “Mewthree” will exist after all!

There was also the first generation rumor that one could find Mew under the truck that could be found if one hacked their  cartridge or used a cheat engine of some sort. The truck was off the coast of Vermillion City, on the same screen as the S.S. Anne, though not visible from the dock.  The problem with this theory was that even with a Gameshark, there was no actual way of lifting the truck, and thus no one could prove Mew was underneath it.

And then there are the more creepy rumors. Many players speculate that the Pokémon, Cubone, is the orphaned child of a Kangaskhan. Since Pokémon don’t seem to die of natural causes, the mother of the soon to be Cubone would have had to have been killed in some way. After the mother Kangaskhan had died, the child would wear the mother’s skull, and thus a Cubone was born. This theory is supported by the similar appearance of the Kangaskhan baby to Cubone’s, and Cubone is also known as the “lonely Pokémon.”

Not all rumors from the first generation of Pokémon turned out to be false, however. The most well-known and useful glitch in are the “Missingno/M Block” encounters. To see “Missingno” in one of the first generation games, the player would speak with the old man in Viridian City, then fly to “Cinnabar Island.” Once there, the player would surf along the right-hand edge of the island, up and down, until the glitch Pokémon was encountered. The benefit to this was that seeing “Missingno” in the wild caused the item in your sixth inventory slot to be duplicated to a ludicrously high quantity. This could be performed on rare candies to quickly level up a player’s Pokémon to 100, or to get enough Master Balls to catch any wild Pokémon at will.

Everyone knew that catching “Missingno” was a bad idea. Whenever anyone shared the technique for performing the glitch, they advised against this. I did not heed the warnings of my fellow trainers though, and decided to capture the Pokémon anyway. Upon doing so, I immediately noticed strange changes in my game. Wild Pokémon had their sprites chopped up and then rearranged, and some sound effects sounded off. When I checked my “Hall of Fame” at the PC, the Pokémon stored in its database were all glitched out, and the music changed to a strange ambient song that was not present anywhere in the normal game. I released the Pokémon, but aspects of my game save were altered in an irreversible way.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the strange rumors and occurrences surrounding early “Pokémon” titles. Unfortunately, later installments in the “Pokémon” saga are more well ironed out and do not contain nearly as many strange glitches and oddities as found in the first generation. Still, there will always be rumors.


Illustration by Danielle Burch.

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