For those who have been living under a rock for the past 2 decades, Pokemon is a role-playing game phenom for the Game Boy that entered the video game scene in 1996, and would capture the attention and imagination of the entire world by the millennium's end. The game was conceptualized and developed by Satoshi Tajiri who first envisioned a game that would allow a player to encounter a world filled with never-before-seen creatures. In this world, the player could increase his/her charisma stat in an attempt to persuade these creatures into a tame compliance, and would later engage in battle against one another on the player's behalf. When this idea was first pitched to Nintendo in the early 1990's, the company was understandably skeptical. But when Tajiri recruited Shigeru Miyamoto--the man who created Super Mario--Nintendo accepted the idea.

Beginning in 1996 in Japan under the titles Pokemon Red and Pokemon Green, the franchise saw a slow start with limited success. The original concept of luring creatures to one's side had been replaced with a battle and capture system, spawning the tagline "gotta catch 'em all". When graphics and sound were upgraded in the international release of Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue in 1998 however, gamers flooded to their local gaming stores to buy their copy, and embark on the adventure that would set the world on fire. Seemingly overnight "Pokemon" became a household word as nearly every child owned a copy of the Game Boy exclusive, not to mention indulging in the anime, trading card game, and a plethora of other Pokemon themed items and hobbies that would soon be generated. Game Freak, the Japanese developer behind Pokemon that began as a small gaming magazine in the early 1980's, now saw their brand explode in a relatively short amount of time into the 2nd best selling video game series (after Mario), and provoked a 249% spike in Game Boy sales.

Now 20 years after the very first game, Pokemon as a brand has grown, and continued to persist as one of the strongest gaming titles ever seen. Still extremely popular worldwide, its trademark can be seen on Japanese stamps, currency of the small nation of Niue, and features over 700 Pokemon in over a dozen main title games. In 2016, the 20th anniversary of Pokemon's release in Japan, we revisit the game that captivated a world with the top 10 lesser-known facts about Pokemon Red/Blue!

The concept of Pokemon, as well as various characters within the game itself, are in fact inspired by and based upon the experiences of the game's creator Satoshi Tajiri. Growing up in the 1970's in a suburb of Japan's capital Tokyo, Tajiri's biggest passion in life was entomology, which refers to the collection and cataloguing of insects. Tajiri would often travel to nearby forests in search of new breeds and types of insects that he would transport to his house for study. While appalling to most, Tajiri loved collecting insects as he could hope to discover new species every day and test his ingenuity in developing different methods to catch insects by studying their behavior. In a 1999 interview, Tajiri explains that insects were mysterious to him, and that searching for insects helped him understand nature's diversity, types, and behavior. So devoted to this hobby was Tajiri in fact, that his friends and peers at school referred to him playfully as "Dr. Bug".

Pokemon was first conceptualized in 1990 when Satoshi Tajiri himself observed 2 children playing their Game Boys together with the aid of a link cable. He was fascinated by the cable's ability to connect 2 games and experiences together, and envisioned insects crawling from one game to another across the cable. Some may note that this illustration would later be adopted for advertisement purposes. With that imagery in mind, Tajiri began development on a game that would encompass many of the activities he had experienced as a child. Therefore, Pokemon would reflect his interest in catching and collecting creatures, each with different attributes to be studies and understood; it would enjoy the exploration of different environments to discover new types of creatures to appreciate diversity; and lastly, it would have creatures exclusive to each version of the game allowing gamers--for the first time--to use that immortalized link cable for co-operative means (and behavioral study as seen with Pokemon who evolve through trade) rather than just competitive reasons.

Once development was complete, Tajiri also made explicit reference to himself in the finished product. In fact, the canon name of the gamer's character in Japan is "Satoshi". Also, the bug catcher character is a representation of Tajiri as a child.

The word "Pokemon" is actually an amalgamation of 2 other words: "pocket" and "monsters". However, this was not always so.

When Satoshi Tajiri began development on the game that would later become Pokemon, he took inspiration from a variety of existing ideas, one of which being a Japanese fantasy show called Ultra Seven in which characters used giant monsters contained in small capsules to help them fight. The capsule part was simple for Tajiri. Using the concept of spherical gashapon capsules commonly found in vending machines around the world, he developed the idea of the Pokeball which would allow gamers to capture and store their Pokemon. More difficult to create however, was the name of this new game that used capsules to contain and transport monsters. Logically, the development team decided on "Capsule Monsters", however undisclosed trademark issues forced Tajiri to abandon that name. Shortening the name to the amalgamated "CapuMon" was one option that was explored, but it was eventually decided against as it hit Tajiri's ear wrong.

After some thought, the similar sounding "Pocket Monsters" was discussed, but having faced trademark issues once before, the team was concerned that a toy brand by the name of "Monster in My Pocket" might take offense. Therefore, the amalgamated name idea once more re-surfaced and "Pokemon" was born! Can you imagine playing "CapuMon"? Ick. What could have been...

Meowth, best known perhaps as being the antagonist Pokemon in the anime, was indeed designed to be Pikachu's rival. Not only do they have the old cat and mouse routine for evidence, but Meowth's Pokedex number of 52 is the inversion of Pikachu's number 25. As normal and generic as Meowth seems on the surface, he actually has legendary origins!

Meowth's design is based upon the Maneki-Neko, a cat of Japanese legend and folklore. Many statues and decorations resembling this cat exist, and are usually depicted with a coin around its neck or head, and one paw raised in the air (sometimes waving). Maneki-Neko translates into "Lucky Cat", and while its origins seem to be numerous, here is the legend that seems to be most prominent: On a stormy day in early-modern Japan, a cat left the grounds of a monastery it called home, and wondered not too far away. At that same moment, a feudal samurai lord passed, and stopped near a tree for rest. The samurai spotted the cat, and noticed its front paw was extended in the air, seemingly beckoning or waving to him. Intrigued by the odd behavior, the samurai walked to greet the cat, at which point a lightning bolt struck the exact spot the samurai had been resting. Crediting the cat with saving his life, the samurai investigated its ownership to the local monastery, and out of gratitude showered the holy place in wealth. The cat was therefore lucky to both the samurai and to the monastery.

As previously mentioned, there are dozens of stories describing the genesis of the lucky cat, but whatever the truth, the Maneki-Neko was created to immortalize this luck, and Meowth was designed on this Maneki-Neko. Like the Maneki-Neko, Meowth is depicted with a "koban" on his head, which is an ancient coin used in Japan. Also like the lucky cat, Meowth is depicted in the game with one paw raised, the same as the beckoning gesture from the legend. Furthermore, Meowth is the only Pokemon that can naturally learn Pay Day, a move that returns money to its owner.

One developer also claims that Meowth's appearance and color was taken from creator Satoshi Tajiri's own pet cat, but Tajiri has never confirmed this claim. It all makes you wonder why Meowth was so categorically UNlucky in the anime. Oh the irony! As another point of interest, Meowth was very, very close to becoming a playable character in the original Super Smash Bros. game. But that is a different story for a different list.

Although the various regions of Pokemon have fictional names and are meant to be made-up places, the game still holds many references to real world areas of our Earth. For example, the log entries found in Cinnabar Mansion explain that the legendary Pokemon Mew was first discovered in the jungles of Guyana. The Pokedex entry for Arcanine in Pokemon Yellow suggests that it is a creature of legend in China. However, the most startling reference to the real world comes from Pokemon Red/Blue's entirety itself, known as the Kanto region.

Interestingly enough, the "Kanto region" as it is known in Pokemon is loosely based on the geography of a region in south-east Japan known as the Kanto region. What is more interesting however, is that developers designed the in-game region around various actual landmarks in the Kanto region of Japan. While the names of these towns and cities in the game are fictional, their general location on a map and their likeness resemble real geographical landmarks in Japan. For example, Saffron and Celadon city are positioned close to where Tokyo would be situated, which is why both are large, busy, and abundant in commerce. Pallet Town is another important addition as it represents Machide city, the hometown of creator Satoshi Tajiri himself. Other noteworthy references are Vermillion city which is based on Yokohama, the largest seaport in Japan; the Power Plant which alludes to the first commercial nuclear power plant in Japan; Cinnabar Island which represents Mt. Mihara volcano; Pewter city hints at the Iwajuku archaeological site which is why Pewter has a fossil museum; and Mt. Moon, and innuendo to the Mt. Akagi meteor crater, which is why shards of "moon stone" can be found in this spot.

Although not from the first generation titles, other Pokemon games continue the tradition of simulating real world geography. While Japan is featured in many titles, other parts of the world that are replicated include New York, France, Phoenix, and Italy.

As discussed above, Pokemon is a now global phenomenon, so much so that it influences all aspects of life. As the last decade suggests beginning in 2005, not even the science community is immune from the brand's influence.

In January 2005, a cancer research center in New York discovered a gene called POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic, or as it was called for short (and the justification of this nickname is presented in the bold text) the "Pokemon" gene. This research center suggested that this newly discovered "Pokemon" gene might actually act as a sort of master switch for the creation and proliferation of cancer, and may be responsible for its spread throughout the body. When Pokemon USA read newspaper headlines that exclaimed, "Pokemon Causes Cancer", it was understandably not amused by the cute nickname picked. In December 2005 it threatened legal action against the cancer center which now refers to the gene as the far less memorable Zbtb7. "Is a research center slandering your name? Better call Saul!"

On a more positive note however, in 2008 the Osaka Bioscience Institute in Japan discovered a retinal protein in the human gene which they officially named "Pikachurin" because, as the team put it, the protein is nimble with "lightning fast moves and shocking electric effects." In short, Pikachurin is a vision protein that is necessary and essential for the eye-to-brain transmission of visual signals and for the way eyes track moving objects in the field of vision. Without Pikachurin, eye-to-brain transmission would take 3 times longer than it does when the protein is present. Therefore, researchers hope that Pikachurin may someday to able to help treat poor vision and eye disease. Who says Pokemon is not the answer to all of life's problems?

While shopping for Christmas gifts in Japan, Israeli psychic Uri Geller was dumbfounded when--as he says--Japanese children rushed to him for autographs, claiming that he was the real life Kadabra!

Interesting start, right? Let's see how we got there! Uri Geller is a mentalist who rose to stardom during the late 1960's by performing his telekinetic powers, which is to say, his ability to control and move physical objects with his mind. His signature maneuver--the one everyone talked about and wanted to see--was his ability to bend spoons with his mind. He would stare at a spoon, and a shocked audience would gasp as the spoon began to seemingly melt in his hand, bending ever backwards until it broke. Many readers may have seen this same maneuver performed by different people, and indeed many mentalists, illusionists, and magicians have mastered this trick. (Geller considers himself a mentalist rather than an illusionist because it is his claim that his spoon bending is not a trick, but rather a psychic gift).

This brings us back to an approaching Christmas in Japan. Geller was not that familiar with Pokemon, and was horrified at what the Japanese children presented to him: Kadabra trading cards that Geller felt was an unauthorized parody of himself! In November 2000 Geller attempted to sue Nintendo for $87 million on claims that the company had taken his image and used it to created Kadabra. Geller protested that Kadabra was a psychic type Pokemon, not unlike the psychic Geller professes to be, used his own signature maneuver of bending spoons, and claimed that the character insulted his Jewish faith by placing a mockery of the Star of David on Kadabra's said, and by including lightning bolt lines on Kadabra's torso that was intentionally meant to mimic the symbol of the Nazi's Waffen-SS. Even the Japanese name and Kanji presentation of the Pokemon's name Geller argued, sound and look very similar to his own.

When the court heard preliminary hearings, Uri Geller complained that, "Nintendo turned me into an evil, occult Pokemon character. Nintendo stole my identity by using my name and my signature image." Extremely unconvinced, the court refused to hear Geller's case and threw it out of court for be unsubstantiated. Due to this ugly episode however, the trading card game no longer produces Kadabra cards for its games.

Pokemon Red/Blue begins when a fledgling trainer--controlled by the gamer--visits the laboratory of local Pokemon genius Professor Oak and acquires his/her first Pokemon. The game is considered complete when the gamer collects 8 gym badges, then battles the forceful elite four, and finally defeats his/her tenacious rival. It is at this point that Professor Oak returns to congratulate the gamer, and enters his/her name into the Pokemon Hall-of-Fame. However, it seems that Professor Oak's intentions may not have always been so commendable.

Since the game's release in 1996, unused trainer data has been discovered in the coding of Pokemon for Professor Oak. This coding pertains to Oak as a trainer, not the docile sprite we encounter in the game, which suggests that Oak may have originally been gestated as a trainer that the gamer would eventually meet in battle. This coding data shows that Oak's team consists of a level 70 Gyarados, level 68 Arcanine level 67 Exeggutor, level 66 Tauros, and a level 69 starter Pokemon, which would be the one neither the gamer nor the rival picked at the beginning of the game. A gamer can fight against Professor Oak using a glitch if it is so desired, and since we are here on GameFaqs, that glitch can easily be looked up. Convenient, right?

Pokemon developers have never commented on what the original purpose of this unused Oak data was meant to be, but the fact that his team is stronger than any member of the elite four--including the champion rival at the end--has lead to speculation that Oak may have been intended as the true final boss of the game. This claim is supported by an e-mail found on Oak's computer from the elite four issuing challenges to all trainers, and specifically requesting a visit from Oak himself. This old man may have a little bit more of a life than we first thought...

We all remember Aerodactyl, right? In the early game we are offered an "Old Amber" by a scientist in Pewter city, which we later take to a genetics lab on Cinnabar Island that resurrects this thought-to-be-extinct Pokemon, unlocking its use to the gamer. In Pokemon Red/Blue Aerodactyl's Pokedex number is 142, but in our real world, it may be number 1!

Aerodactyl's design is based on the pterosaur, a species of dinosaur that went extinct 150 million years ago. This should not be news to anyone...and if it is, then pay better attention in school! In the late 1850's, paleontologists working in Bavaria, Germany discovered numerous fossils of juvenile pterosaurs which were classified as part of the species "Pterodatylus". In October 2014 however, Steve Vidovic posted his disagreement with this classification on an online journal called "Plos One". Using updated technology, Vidovic argued that these fossils displayed characteristics that were different from the Pterodatylus genus, and was in fact a completely new species of pterosaur.

With these new discoveries in hand, Vidovic re-classified the fossils, now calling the new species "Aerodactylus Scolopaciceps", or Aerodactylus for short. This was indeed a direct reference to the Pokemon Aerodactyl! When asked why he would name his new species after a Pokemon, Vidovic explained that since the Pokemon Aerodactyl was designed based on the features of many versions of pterosaur, it "seemed a pertinent name for a genus which has been synonymous with Pterodatylus for so long due to a combination of features." How did he come up with the Pokemon reference in the first place? Well, like all good stories it came from a conversation with his team while drinking in a bar.

We all remember that there are 150 original Pokemon. 151 when one includes Mew, right? Evidently the developers at Game Freak were originally more ambitious than that, as in fact 190 different Pokemon were actually created for the first game.

When we examine the coding for Pokemon Red/Blue we discover that Pokemon actually have an unseen index number used for identification. This number does not necessarily match evolutionary chains or Pokedex numbers, which suggests that it may be the order in which the various Pokemon were created. While acknowledging this fact, the data shows us that there were actually 190 Pokemon developed for the game, and that 39 were removed before its release.

We have all heard of MissingNo., the glitch pseudo "Pokemon" whose image appears as indiscernible glitchy blocks and a name suggesting that the number of this "species" is absent from the Pokedex. Actually, these MissingNo. that are encountered are the remnants of those 39 Pokemon that were removed and left undeveloped. Therefore, there are 39 versions of MissingNo. that can be encountered, and when connected to a generation 2 version of the game (Gold/Silver) a MissingNo. will sometimes appear as the Pokemon its coding had originally intended it to be. This was confirmed in an interview with a developer of Pokemon who acknowledged that 190 were originally created, but 39 were intentionally withdrawn due to restrictions on programmable space as well as to be saved for the generation 2 games.

For those fans of the series wondering which Pokemon were removed, they are: Scizor, Shuckle, Heracross, Ho-oh, Sneasel, Teddiursa, Ursaring, Slugma, Magcargo, Swinub, Piloswine, Corsola, Remoraid, Octillery, Delibird, Mantine, Skarmory, Houndour, Houndoom, Kingdra, Phanpy, Donphan, Porygon 2, Stantler, Smeargle, Tyrogue, Hitmontop, Smoochum, Elekid, Magby, Miltank, Blissey, Raikou, Entei, Suicune, Larvitar, Pupitar, Tyranitar, and Lugia.

When Pokemon Red/Blue first hit the shelves, everyone was aware of the existence of 150 different species of Pokemon. However, as more and more gamers began exploring this title, rumors began to surface about a 151st Pokemon named Mew. Most people dismissed these rumors as idle gossip, especially since Nintendo itself could not confirm such a Pokemon. As it turns out, Mew was real, and Nintendo could not report on its existence because it was just as oblivious as we.

The magazine Nintendo Power issue number 134 eventually revealed the truth about Mew in an interview with the developers at Game Freak. As they explained, Mew was indeed conceptualized, but eventually removed from the game. However, 2 weeks before development of Pokemon concluded and after the debugging faze of the process had likewise been conducted, one developer noticed that there was just enough data space to add one more Pokemon, and so he did in the form of Mew. Due to the fact that nothing new is supposed to be added to a game after it has gone through the debugging process, Nintendo was kept unaware of this unsanctioned addition, for if it knew, the project would be delayed, or perhaps even debunked. In this interview, Game Freak described Mew's late inclusion as one developer "pranking" another, and it was not supposed to be accessible or even appear in the game unless the team wanted to reveal Mew through post-launch activity.

As alluded to earlier, Game Freak's innocent prank did not go exactly as planned. A glitch in the game (not found due to Mew's inclusion being absent from the debugging process) could be exploited in order to legitimately encounter Mew in the early portions of the story. Some gamers stumbled upon this glitch, and so rumors of a secret, legendary 151st Pokemon began to spread across the world. In an age where the internet was far less prominent, information about Mew, how to capture Mew, or even if rumors about Mew were true were very hard to come by, and largely relied on word-of-mouth. Nonetheless, these rumors produced a very positive effect on Pokemon as more and more individuals bought the game, and shared information in search of the elusive, mythical Pokemon. Eventually Game Freak held a "Legendary Pokemon Offer" that gave 20 contest winners the data for Mew, thus confirming the elusive Pokemon's existence.

Sales of Pokemon Red/Blue exploded both before and after the official confirmation of Mew. What boggles the mind the most however, is that so much success is owed to an illegal prank concerning information kept even from the publisher.

In a 1999 interview, Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri said that he sleeps for 12 hours, then works on Pokemon for 24 hours straight. His claim is that this irregular schedule helps him create new ideas. As crazy as it sounds, there must be something credible to his claim as 20 years and over a dozen main title games later, Pokemon is ever an enduring and popular video game franchise. With its moderate success in 1996 and the initial assumption that Pokemon Gold/Silver would be the last game of the series, it is safe to assume that the team at Game Freak has exceeded their own expectations.

A list could probably be produced to present the top 1,000 facts about Pokemon as a whole, but this time, and in celebration of 20 great years of the Pokemon video games, I hope you enjoyed these top 10 lesser-known facts about the original versions that changed the world!


List by Hanzaemon_ (05/31/2016)

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