News got out earlier this week about Game Freak's plans for Pokémon on the Nintendo Switch, but the hottest bit of Pokémon news might be from 20 years ago. A ROM of the Pokémon Gold and Silver beta shown at Space World 1997 leaked onto the Internet, and it's a veritable treasure room of unused sprites, maps, and Pokémon.
Pokémon's remained relevant for decades because of how attached we are to the series' titular monsters. We grew up alongside our favorite monsters. They're real, they're strong, and they're our friends. It's cool to get a glimpse of these iconic characters in their awkward teenage years.
It's also interesting to see who made the cut in the final game, who was wildly altered, and who was discarded entirely. Pokémon fans on Reddit and Twitter are picking apart the data and translating it. There's already a spreadsheet containing all the information available so far, and it's updated regularly.
Armed with these new pages of Pokémon zoology, I decided to pick out my ten favorites who underwent big changes before launch—or were taken out behind the barn before they had a chance to frolic in an actual game. May Arceus let their memory shine as bright as the tail-flame of a healthy Charmander.
Hanamogura (Chikorita's second form)
Starter Pokémon are kind of notorious for having boring second forms, so it's cool to see Game Freak intended to go in a completely different direction with Chikorita's second evolution. "Hanamogura" (whose name means "plant mole") is very flower-like. It almost resembles a lotus blossom. Hanamogura eventually became Bayleef, whose design shares a lot in common with Chikorita's final evolution, Meganium.
Aquaria (Pokémon Gold and Silver's lost Water starter)
Chikorita is the only starter in the beta who's familiar on any level, though. The other starters include a Fire-type bear ("Volbear") and a seal / sea monster Water-type ("Cruz"). Cruz is of note because even though Totodile eventually took its place as Gold and Silver's Water-starter, Cruz's final form ("Aquarius") looks like a cross between Generation V's Samurott and Generation VII's Primarina. Old designs die hard.
Mameshiba" Pichu (Pichu prototype)
Pichu is in the beta, but its design is barely more than a bean with pointy ears and tiny limbs. The internet has gone absolutely mad for this little legume-mouse, which is why I can't stop thinking of him as one of those cartoon "Mameshiba" beans that roll out of kids' dinners and belt out inappropriate trivia. Mameshibaaaaa~!
Antenna Cleffa (Cleffa prototype)
Like Pichu, the pre-evolution of Clefairy sported a very simple design. And, like Pichu, the internet's fallen in love with it. Something about proto-Cleffa's serious face and antenna is just darling. He's a star! No, literally, he's shaped like one. Clefairy and its ilk is from the moon, after all.
I always had a soft spot for Girafarig, whose name I can't spell to this day. It pleases me to know this dark stalker of the Savannah has a prototype design that's kind of terrifying. See, proto-Girafarig almost looks like its final version, but instead of carrying its dark side in its tail, it has a whole other head—a dark head with an evil grin—hitching a ride on its hindquarters.
That means this head would've leered at you every time you choose Girafarig to fight for you. "Yes! Yes! Summon me, child! I thirst for blood and hunger for bones."
Kohnya (baby Meowth)
Much as the internet loves bean Pichu and star Cleffa, cats always come out on top. Kohnya, a kitten version of Meowth, has already garnered a big fan club. Astute fans have even noticed it's got a little 5-yen coin in his forehead!
Beta baby meowth is adorable Isn't that a 5 yen coin on its head?? pic.twitter.com/ciPRTi6a2e— Mi-eau JapanExpo - D205 (@Mi_eau) May 31, 2018
Animon (evolved Ditto)
Animon is an evolved form of Ditto, though the circumstances of the change are mysterious; an item seems to be involved, but it's not clear how. All we know is Animon is one distressed Ditto. Look at how it's screaming. It's seen things in that nightmare camp you call a "Daycare," man. Maybe it's a mercy this poor thing never saw life beyond a sprite sheet.
Sui (Suicune prototype)
Pokémon Gold and Silver's legendary canine trio can be found in the beta, including the ethereal Suicune. All the dogs have simpler designs compared to what made the final cut (early Raikou looks like it may have inspired Gen IV's Luxray or Gen V's Zebstrika), but Suicune's early form is a little unnerving. When I look at it, I'm reminded of the Nina-Dog chimera from Full Metal Alchemist, and I know for a fact I'm not the only one.
Leonine Donut Porygon 2 (Porygon 2 prototype)
Porygon 2 was initially swapped his bird form for a lion's bod. The change is intriguing on its own, but Pokémon fans who've made the trip to famous Japanese doughnut joint Mister Donut noticed Porygon 2 initially looked a great deal like the bakery's mascot, Pon de Leon. Huh. Now I'm hungry.
Raitora (An electric tiger—the long-lost "Gorochu?")
Earlier this month we learned Pikachu had a third evolution named "Gorochu." It was cut, but the evolution would've bestowed Pikachu with fangs and horns. When I look at Raitora, another lost Pokémon who's featured on Gold and Silver's beta sprite sheet, I think about Gorochu. True, Raitora lacks horns, but it's an Electric-type with a suitably thunderbolt-shaped tail. It's also got fangs for miles. Well, Gorochu or not, I love this little beast. I bet its fur is just crackling with static.
those proto-pokemon designs.... sobs pic.twitter.com/MZ0H2f2hGe— allie (@Grind3h) May 31, 2018
Need more Pokémon in your life? The answer to that question is always an automatic "Yes." Check out our guide to everything we know about Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu, Pokémon Let's Go Eevee, and Generation VIII for the Nintendo Switch.