Game Freak originally wanted Pokemon to have over 65,000 unique versions

Pokemon unique versions

As in, 65,535 variations instead of two editions

The original pitch for the entire concept of Pokemon unique versions included more than two! Tens of thousands were in the cards, actually. Through unearthed documents and interviews, Did You Know Gaming made a discovery of their own recently: the original pitch for Pokemon involved exactly 65,535 different versions of the same fundamental game. Let’s break this down.

Why did Pokemon have 65,535 versions?

Originally, Game Freak wanted each and every copy of the game (in the initial run at least) to feel special. As such, games would ship with a unique version of what became known as Pokemon Red/Blue [Green], with tens of thousands of variations. That means different Pokemon (which forces more trades), or apparently (and this is partially what led to the downfall of the mechanic) variations of map layouts. So why 65,535 exactly? Well it’s simple: that’s the highest value the Game Boy could take before there were significant issues with the cartridge.

It didn’t make the cut because legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto himself put a stop to it! That’s actually how the color system of the games became a thing: out of the desire to more simply communicate which “version” you’re playing. Since users couldn’t identify which version out of 65,535 they owned (alongside of manufacturing complications), the “two editions” layout was adopted.

The battle system was completely different, or didn’t exist

According to a set of those same interviews, battling “made it in at the last minute because Nintendo demanded it.” Originally you simply watched the Pokemon fight on their own, but Nintendo dubbed the system “boring.”

To take this concept of streamlining even further, “HP bars were almost cut,” alongside of most player information altogether. Instead, there were going to be vague notifications like “that was a big hit [that hurt]!” and the like to notify players in regards to damage. A lot of this is chalked up to Game Freak’s lack of prior RPG experience.

Buying Pokemon with in-game currency was originally a big part of the game

So here’s another fascinating factoid: the “catch ’em all” focus wasn’t originally the only major way to get Pokemon. Game Freak had a system in place where you could simply buy Pokemon at in-game stores, or “with other players.” The system was scrapped after feedback, because “people would spend too much time saving up their money instead of catching them in the wild.”

The first generation almost had a mechanic that let you take trainer’s Pokemon if you won

This is probably the wildest bit of info that could have made the biggest waves if it went into the original edition: for sure if it stayed longer than that. Did You Know Gaming uncovered another mechanic: playing for keeps.

The idea came about from playing Menko cards (a physical card game in Japan), which has the same “winner takes your stuff” mentality. It was scrapped in the prototype phase however, because it felt too bad for players to raise and connect with a Pokemon, only to have it taken away.

I mean, any one of these could have drastically altered the entire history of Pokemon as we know it! You can read more about the above in text form here from Did You Know Gaming contributor Dr. Lava.

Chris Carter
EIC, Reviews Director - Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step in January of 2009 blogging on the site. Now, he's staff!