Pokémon started development in 1990 as “Capsule Monsters”. It began as a series of concept art designed by Satoshi Tajiri inspired by his childhood years, during which he enjoyed bug-collecting. During the same year, he proposed the idea of Capsule Monsters to Nintendo where it was rejected but the creator of Mario and Zelda, Shigeru Miyamoto kept interest in the project. However, Tajiri had trouble trademarking the name “Capsule Monsters” so he changed it to “CapuMon” and then “Pocket Monsters”. According to some concept art, you were supposedly originally going to be able to purchase monsters from a pet-store like setting. Capsule Monsters was scheduled to be released in December of 1991. But due to there not being enough funds to continue development, Capsule Monsters was put on hold in early 1992.
During this time, 80% of the music was already completed and Game Freak Inc. later developed Yoshi for the NES and Gameboy. Due to the success of the game, in 1993, they put a poll within the company as to whether or not they should complete the Pokémon games (they were still called Capsule Monsters, by the way). Most of the votes were cast for finishing development and in the summer of 1994, what was originally called Capsule Monsters turned into Pokémon and the game resumed development.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I will tell you why.
Recently, I received a box packed with Pokémon games, merchandise, manga and basically anything related to Pokémon as a "donation" that was mailed to my home a few weeks ago. Among these items were copies of Pokémon Red and Green. They were essentially the original Japanese versions of the game except there was a note which explained to me (or any receiver of the box) that these copies were the early alpha and beta versions of the games that the writer received in a contest in 1995.
“Neat.”, I said as I took a Japanese Gameboy, inserted the Pokémon Green cartridge and launched the game.
I was met with a bland, placeholder title screen with black text reading, “POKEMON_ALPHA V.10. DO NOT COPY OR REDISTRIBUTE.”
After I read the black Japanese text (I studied Japanese at school), I pressed the start button and I was given the traditional Prof. Oak introduction. He introduced me to the world of Pokémon, asked me to tell him my character's and his grandson's name (I always chuckle at how he always forgets his grandson's name). However, after I typed my character's and his grandson's name in, the screen froze. When I noticed this, I reached for the reset button but before I could, I began to hear a quiet ticking sound.
It was like an 8-bit version of a clock. After approximately five ticks, a message suddenly appeared on the screen.
“Ughh... my head HURTS.”
The screen then cut to my bedroom. It had a different design and when I walked downstairs, I noticed the house had varied greatly in size and design. It was this big mansion with science equipment, pixelated pieces of paper strewn about the 8-bit floor and a scientist making what looked like pixelated garbles.
“This is my house. I live here with my adopted brother called JOE, who is my rival. My DAD is currently making breakfast. He is also a researcher and scientist who studies Pokémon. But my head still HURTS.”
I looked at the message. The repeated capitalisation of the word “hurts” was very unusual but I didn't think much of it. I talked to my rival but he gave me silence but not in text form, I mean he couldn't even be interacted with. Literally, he had no collision detection or anything at all. He was just a flat, non-interactable sprite with no signs of life at all.
I walked up to DAD but he only gave me the answer of, “Go get a Pokémon from Prof. Oak.”
I made my character walk outside and walk into a patch where I presumed wild Pokémon were located. Instead, I was facing a white screen where a message appeared.
The message read, "DO YOU WANT TO FACE IT?"
I was then presented with the options of "YES" and "NO". I selected "YES" without even thinking about it and I was then teleported to Mt. Moon. It was completely deserted. No trainer battles. No wild Pokémon encounters. Nothing. I traversed the rocky boundaries and when I walked to where the location of the ladder at floor one would normally be, I found a pixelated pedestal.
I interacted with the pedestal and I was without warning thrown into a Pokémon battle. I panicked and my trainer character threw a pokéball containing a Pokémon I didn't even have before. It was Kingdra, even though Kingdra didn't even exist prior to Generation II. Inserting the HEX value for Kingdra (HEX value 79) by cheat device or messing with the original game's memory and making it your main Pokémon would simply give you Missingno.
I thought that it was neat that Kingdra was originally in the game at one point in development but they cut it out due to lack of memory or something. My opponent was not even a Pokémon at all. It was this humanoid creature with bony spines on its back and some sort of plague doctor mask or something.
I was freaking out at this point, so I tried to defeat the creature as fast as I could but then I realised that the creature stopped attacking me. I couldn't attack it or even use the option to "RUN". It just stared at me for a couple of seconds before it spoke to me.
Not in text form. No, this was an actual voice speaking to me. I thought I was going crazy at this point. It was distorted, probably because of the Gameboy's sound chip but I managed to make it out.
"Hello. The reason that I am speaking to you is because I have left this message as a coded in event. You can hear me because you have activated a sequence of events. You weren't originally going to hear this, but I've added this in as a little protest to Game Freak and Nintendo.
They made us work, work and work! Because of one of the leaders of this Pokémon project, I almost had multiple cardiac arrests and I had many accidents because of this project. Also, to Game Freak, Nintendo and the player, by the end of this message, you'll get a little surprise. Thanks, Mr. Hayashi."
The screen then went black. I thought that this whole event was over but when I saw a series of terrifying images flash on the screen, I knew that this wasn't over. I saw people getting buried alive. I saw a close up view of a giant spider eating the dismembered hand of a person. As image after image flashed by, glitched music emitted from the speakers before the game reset itself.
I was relieved, glad that those images had stopped but when I looked at the title screen, I saw something different. The tile text now read "POCKET MONSTERS Green". It somehow changed back to the original game, except the trainer sprite was missing. Instead, the rival sprite was in his place.