Nintendo have been drip-feeding us with Game Boy classics on the 3DS for years, but few have been as eagerly anticipated as the original, OG first-generation Pokémon games, Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow. The wait is almost over, though: all three titles are hitting the eShop on February 27 for digital download, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the games’ launch in Japan.
Those old enough to remember devouring the games when they first launched will likely recall how innovative and addictive the concept – capturing and training adorable little critters then forcing them to duke it out – was. They’ll also likely remember some of the utter nonsense and outright fallacies peddled about the games in print and online; something about the game’s explosive success and vast scope, launching in the early days of the web, caused rumours and Chinese whispers to break out like a pandemic about its hidden secrets.
Pokémon wasn’t just a playground hit, it was arguably the first online cultural phenomenon (dancing baby aside), and as with all cultural phenomenons, sooner rather than later the lines between fact and myth start to blur, especially when viewed through rose-tinted lenses.
Remember, this was a time before video walkthroughs, a time when Google was just one among many other not very good search engines, many of which could be gamed by simpling pasting “Pokémon cheats” over and over again at the bottom of your terrible Geocities website in the same font colour as the background.
These same websites would then make outrageous claims about the games, masquerading as tips and guides, some of which still persist as legends and ‘facts’ even today.
So in anticipation of the return of the original 150 (or is it 151?) Pokémon, let’s get to debunking them all, shall we?
Note: All of the following ‘facts’ are lies
You can move that truck
Just as how in 2014 everyone was convinced there was a jetpack under Mount Chiliad, so in 1998 did everyone believe there was a Mew under the truck parked on an outcrop near the harbour in Red and Blue. You just had to use Strength on it, obviously, or Cut on the tires because that would clearly make a truck easier to move, or just wait 100 hours for the SS Anne to return then the door would conveniently unlock. Easy.
None of these approaches work, of course, but with no YouTube to verify your claims, back then you could make up just about any old solution, preferably involving the player doing something utterly pointless in the game over and over for scores of hours. But while Rockstar toys with players, like a cat preparing to eat its live meal, by leaving a mural on top of the mountain in GTA V that clearly shows a damn jetpack, Nintendo and Game Freak have never suggested that the truck is the key to any mystery. It’s just a static object.
It’s not hard to see how this myth came about however: everyone dreamed of finding a Mew instead of cheating or earning his or her way to one (which we’ll get to), and really, just what is that truck doing there? You have to swim to get to it, and last we checked, trucks don’t swim.
You can capture ‘Pikablu’
Another falsehood to do the rounds online and in schoolyards across the world, there is no mysterious Pikablu in Pokémon Red and Blue. In fact, there has never been a Pikablu, period. That didn’t stop rumours claiming that this ultramarine Pikachu variant could be found however. All you had to do was get a Raichu, punch in a Gameshark cheat code, beat the Elite Four 100 times and sacrifice a chicken over your Game Boy, or in another variant, wander around the power plant trying to find a secret door that definitely exists (it doesn’t) but moves to a random location in the wall with each space that you move.
Quite how this urban myth began is unclear, but it seems likely that as Marill was one of the first second-generation Pokémon to appear in the popular anime show in the late '90s, and looks like a blue Pikachu, pranksters decided to exploit the eagerness of naive 10-year-olds by suggesting it could be discovered inside the the game. Full disclosure: we were one of the naive 10-year-olds who hunted for Pikablu, and for far longer than we would like to admit.
The Lavender Town theme music made gamers commit suicide
A straight-up lie, but one that has persisted, because like the dancing hamsters set to the cantina theme, reading about it while listening to the deeply unsettling MIDI track to Lavender Town, made for an absorbing way to kill time on the internet before Twitch.
The story goes that the game caused many Japanese children to kill themselves after the launch of the first games, with subliminal messages hidden in the atonal horror of the Lavender Town score being identified as the cause. That’s all it is though: a story. You can check out one of the variants on Pastebin for yourself. It’s compelling stuff, the sort of thing that would hit the top of r/nosleep on Reddit if published today, but also complete tosh.
You can find Togepi in Pokémon Red and Blue
As one forum user recalls, so the story went: "If you used the itemfinder in Mt. Moon you could find an egg. After you walked enough the egg would hatch into a Togepi." Useless egg Pokémon Togepi was the first of the Gold/Silver generation creatures to appear in anime and marketing materials for the franchise, which probably explains this one, as does the fact that you can dig up other fossils that turn into live Pokémon in the Mount Moon area.
Shouting ‘Gotcha!’ will increase your capture rate
Many of the original sites peddling Pokémon mistruths are long gone, but you can still find the trails they leave behind on forums and game tips site. This one is particularly excellent: supposedly you could improve your capture rate on the Nintendo DS HeartGold and SoulSilver remakes by yelling “Gotcha!” into the microphone as the ball closed on your new slave. Oh, how we want to believe this one. Whoever came up with the ingenious lie had clearly been playing Diddy Kong Racing on the DS, in which you genuinely can go faster by blowing into the mic (no, really), and decided that nobody would fall for “Gotta catch ’em all!” This one strikes the right balance between plausibility and embarrassing absurdity for Maximum On The Bus Stares.
You can break your Game Boy just by playing Pokémon Red or Blue
No, you can’t brick your Game Boy by stumbling on a buggy character inside the Pokémon Tower: it’s just a Creepy Pasta story. Whoever created the video above is just telling a shaggy dog story. Or should that be a shaggy Arcanine story?
There are secret drawings inside rare Pokémon cards
“If you tear apart the Ancient Mew card you will find a paper that holds the prototype drawings of all the second generation Pokémon.”
Yes, you go ahead and do that. It will definitely be worth more afterwards.
And two myths with some truth to them...
Porygon really did make children ill
While Lavender Town’s theme did nothing more than engender the odd headache, that story about an episode of the show causing seizures really is true. Hundreds of children across Japan were hospitalised after the infamous Electric Soldier Porygon episode aired in 1997 thanks to the rapidly alternating red and blue strobe effect used in one scene. For obvious reasons we’re not going to embed it here, but you can read more about the infamous episode on Kotaku.
You can find Mew in the game
This one may surprise you, given that Mew was once the cause of so many pranks and fakes. For a long time, it appeared that the only way to get hold of the elusive 151st Pokémon was to trade with someone who’d created one with a cheat device like an Action Replay, or won one in an officially-sanctioned tournament. But hackers have uncovered just about every secret inside the games now, and exploited it as far as the code allows. Using a glitch involving enemy trainers who are able to spot you from a longer distance, it’s possible to fool the game into triggering a battle with a wild, low-level Mew. Honest.
Yes, we’re aware of the irony of telling you this exciting nugget of information after debunking many other tantalising claims. And yes, it’s possible Nintendo will remove this exploit in the 3DS digital versions. You’re just going to have to trust us, aren’t you? Happy hunting.