The Path to Sword & Shield covers new content daily as the November 15th launch approaches. This Halloween Week, we explore the darker elements of the Pokémon series.
The scene is Nintendo’s Space World November 15th, 1997. 8-bit monsters light up on-screen now in color and their battle cries are almost inaudible over all the excited chatter! Video games trend on a global scale. And Nintendo is becoming a household name. Since Pokémon Red & Green’s release in Japan, the series popularity has exploded. And eager fans line up for a chance to play a demo version of Pokémon Gold & Silver.
The demo version introduces players to Johto’s three starters, yet today’s Pokémon fan would only recognize one of these Pokémon: Chikorita.
After the event, the buzz of Space World’s demo is laid to rest in development, and its content hushes into rumor. “Pikablu” goes viral in an age before the internet, and no one has access to the beta demo. With the release of the final version of Gold & Silver and before many of those betamon could light up the screen, the last nail was hit into the beta demo’s coffin.
Twenty years pass and in May of 2018, the dead rise. On May 5th, “Gorochu”, a scrapped evolution of Pikachu, surfaces from early Red/Green data. Fans begin to discuss the potential of another Pikachu evolution. We did just get Alolan Raichu. By approximately May 16th, a screen capture surfaces of a trainer riding on Lapras with an Eevee on their head. What players would later recognize as early screens of Pokémon Let’s Go! Eevee. And the hype and theories multiply up to the end of the month.
On May 26, 2018, an anonymous leaker releases the Gold & Silver Nintendo Space World beta demo to the world. And the beta mon walk the earth again.
Data miners harvest all the programmed Pokémon: sprites and move pools. Fan artists work to emulate the original Gold & Silver official art style. The result is a Pokémon community wide explosion that echoes the 1997 Space World’s fever pitch.
Fans identified other scrapped evolutions beside Gorochu. For one, a long-requested Farfetch’d evolution: Madame.
Ditto was, also, previously given a Metal-Coat-Trade evolution to become Animon. Its data was discarded for over 20 years. But that would not keep this Pocket Monster down forever.
On Chikorita Community Day (September 22nd, 2018), Pokémon GO “glitched” and a new Pokémon, Meltan, appeared for the first time.
When Meltan was caught in Pokémon GO, it would revert back into a Ditto–a rare prize for Pokémon GO players. Meltan carries a strange thematic resemblance to Animon, the steel-type Ditto evolution. With the November 16th release of Pokémon Let’s Go! Pikachu & Eevee, Meltan became obtainable through an event that synchronized Pokémon GO with Pokémon Let’s Go!. Meltan and its evolution Melmetal were the only new Pokémon to join the Pokédex that year. Over time, fans started to forget about Animon, Gorochu, Madame, and the others. Sword & Shield were on their way.
For those Pokémon that don’t make it into the game, there’s good news: the “rejected” designs often return… in later games
James Turner, 2019
Long dead, Madame resurfaced as Sirfetch’d, the Farfetch’d regional evolution! This occurs curiously a year and 4 months after the 1997 Space World beta leak where Madame was first shown to the global audience. Considering the timeline for game production, it’s likely the Galar Pokédex was either complete or nearing completion in May of 2018. Animon to Meltan may be a stretch, as Ditto was only associated to it by the Pokémon GO release. But the reanimated “flesh” of Madame to Sirfetch’d is undeniable.
Was the Demo Leak Intentional?
We can speculate on is the content of the demo and the revelation of Galarian forms, as well as, regional evolutions. If Sirfetch’d’s conception occurred before the 1997 beta demo, it’s plausible other regional evolutions could follow the same pattern,
What Happened to These Pokémon Evolution Lines?
Vulpix: No new evolution, but evolution line received Alolan forms.
Tangela: No pre-evolution, but evolved to Tangrowth in Sinnoh. Tangrowth looks dramatically different than this artwork. Tangela was given the egg move Wake-Up Slap in Alola, despite not being available. Tangela has not been revealed in-region.
Qwilfish: No evolution, not in Alola, but had its defense raised by 10 in generation 7.
Goldeen: No pre-evolution, no new forms. Seaking has not been shown in region.
Paras: No pre-evolution, no new forms.
Ditto: No new evolution, but when first leaked Meltan would revert into Ditto after capture in Pokémon GO. Animon appears to have inspired Meltan.
Doduo: No pre-evolution, no new forms.
Girafarig: No pre-evolution, no new forms.
Meowth: No pre-evolution, but evolution line received Alolan forms. Rumored to have a Galarian form and Gigantamax form.
Ponyta: No pre-evolution, no new forms. In generation 7, received the egg move High Horsepower despite not being catchable. Was shown to have a regional variant in Galar.
Grimer: No pre-evolution, but evolution line received Alolan forms.
Growlithe: No pre-evolution, no new forms.
Mr. Mime: Mime Jr. becomes available in Sinnoh. Mr. Mime gains Fairy Type in Kalos.
Bellsprout: No split evolution, no new forms.
Farfetch’d: Farfetch’d had previously received stat boosts and new egg moves in generation 7, despite not being catchable in Alola. Pokémon Company announced Sirfetch’d on September 18th, 2019.
Pinsir: No permanent evolution, yet receives a Mega Evolution in Kalos.
Lickitung: Evolves to Lickilicky in Sinnoh. Lickilicky looks dramatically different than this artwork.
Eevee: Evolves to Leafeon (and Glaceon) in Sinnoh, as well as, Sylveon in Kalos.
Not Axed, but Reworked
Although some evolution lines from the 1997 demo made it into Pokémon Gold & Silver, they were heavily altered. These Pokémon may also rise again as Galarian forms and/or regional evolutions.
Hoothoot: Noctowl’s final design differs greatly from the original.
Marill (Demo Version Exclusive)
Hopip (Demo Version Exclusive)
Spinarak: Ariados’ final design differs greatly.
Ledyba: Ledian’s final design differs greatly. The demo artwork makes more sense with Ledian’s title: The Five Star Pokémon
Remoraid: Evolution-line redesigned to no longer resemble a revolver and a tank.
Tyrogue: Both Tyrogue and Hitmontop were reworked.
Dr. Lava on Twitter frequently features beta Pokémon in his tweets, detailing little known facts about these mysterious unreleased Pokémon.
Is November 15th, 2019 the Space World 1997 beta mon Zombie apocalypse?! Which Pokémon will rise from the dead and join your team in Galar? Let us know in the comments below and come chat over on our official Discord server. If you haven’t already follow us on Twitter for the latest Pokémon news and goodness!