This isn’t the first time this has happened – Pokémon’s history is filled with times that designs have been scrapped, reworked, or simply put to one side, before being resurrected for later games. In some rare cases, Pokémon have even been scrapped entirely, quite far into development, but have left behind traces in the game’s programming.
Today we are exploring some of the weirdest and most wonderful early designs for Pokémon that were ultimately scrapped or redesigned at a later point. These are 15 Scrapped Pokémon Designs That Were Reworked Entirely.
15. Dolly the Sheep
The second generation of Pokémon saw the introduction of Mareep, a little electric-type sheep Pokémon. Plenty of Pokéfans suspect that this is a not-so-subtle reference to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a story by science fiction author Phillip K Dick which was the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner.
Mareep wasn’t the first sheep Pokémon that Game Freak came up with, though – original Pokémon art director Ken Sugmori has spoken publicly about a design that was created for Pokémon Red and Blue which was based on Dolly the Sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal. Dolly was big news at around the time the game was being worked on, so it’s no wonder the team wanted to pay homage to the world’s most famous farm animal.
Ultimately, according to Sugimori, the sheep Pokémon they’d created was abandoned, on the grounds that the idea might prove “too controversial”. Considering how many parent groups, religious leaders, and other special interest groups objected to Pokémon when it was finally released, dropping Dolly didn’t seem to help too much.
The grand poohbah of Pokémon mysteries, fans have come up with plenty of theories about MissingNo over the years. While the entire story behind the glitch Pokémon isn’t quite clear, it’s been agreed that MissingNo is what remains of a Pokémon from an earlier version of the game which was ultimately scrapped.
The finished version of the original Pokémon games contain 151 Pokémon, but the games were originally intended to have 190 creatures, and there exists data within the game for an additional 39 Pokémon which were never fully programmed in. When a MissingNo of various forms appears in the original Pokémon games, it’s because the game is trying to access data for a Pokémon that doesn’t exist within the game.
Nine of the 39 free slots within the game have been programmed with unique Pokémon cries, suggesting that there were plans for additional Pokémon that were never completely programmed into the game. What’s more, some forms of MissingNo are Bird-type Pokémon – this type is believed to be an earlier version of the Flying-type. This has led to more speculation as fans suggest that MissingNo is what remains of at least one scrapped Pokémon design, which may have been an additional legendary bird.
Shellos is a fourth-generation Pokémon, appearing for the first time in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, and being notable for having different sprite designs depending on whether the Pokémon is caught on the east or west coast of the game’s map.
This wasn’t the first time Shellos was programmed into a Pokémon game, though – sprites for the Pokémon have also been found within the earlier games, Ruby and Sapphire.
This, fans speculate, suggests that Game Freak originally intended the Pokémon to appear in Ruby and Sapphire, before ultimately deciding to scrap their inclusion. A few years later, when working on designs for Diamond and Pearl, Game Freak returned to Shellos and elected to include it within the new games.
This kind of thing happens fairly regularly with Pokémon games – it’s believed that the 39 empty Pokémon slots within Red and Blue, which cause MissingNo glitches, are present because many Pokémon from Gold and Silver were originally intended to appear within the first games in the series.
Tirtouga is a Pokémon from the fifth generation of games, appearing first in Pokémon Black and White. The creature may have roots far earlier in the games, though, if fan speculation is to be believed.
A piece of promotional artwork from during the development period for Pokémon Gold and Silver shows off a creature that doesn’t appear in the final game. The unnamed turtle Pokémon has never been given any specific description or name, but fans have noted that it looks very similar to Tirtouga, fueling speculation that the earlier scrapped design was later reworked into a new creature, over a decade after it was originally designed.
The fifth generation of Pokémon games feature several sly references to earlier games. Fans have also noted that the Pokémon Munna, which is pink with a floral pattern, matches a line of NPC text from the original games wherein a Pokémon trainer wishes that there were pink, floral Pokémon in the area.
It’s clear from early art documents for Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire that some of the Pokémon designs for the game went through substantial changes quite late into the game’s development.
In one case, Game Freak took a single Pokémon design and sliced it up, creating three new creatures out of a single piece of concept art. Commonly known as ‘Latiaziken’ by fans, the artwork shows a trainer riding on top of a bird Pokémon with arms and legs.
This design wouldn’t appear in the finished game – instead, the arms and legs would be taken off and given to Blaziken, the final evolution of Torchic, the game’s fire-type starter. The Pokémon’s body became the basis for Latias and Latios, two legendary Pokémon that are almost identical except for their color scheme.
It’s fun to see what ideas Game Freak were tossing around while working on Ruby and Sapphire. Latiaziken might not have made it into a game, but sometimes a single design can be stretched further than originally intended.
Back when Pokémon Gold and Silver were in development, fans of the original games were hungry for any new information they could find on the next titles in the series. Something about the idea of hunting out various creatures across a game world is a compelling idea, which many fans took outside of the game as they looked for new designs in every communication from Nintendo.
Kurusu was originally revealed during this period, as Game Freak shared some of its concept art and beta screenshots for Gold and Silver with the public. Later, a playable demo of the new game was created, which featured Kurusu as the water-type starter for players.
Kurusu is vaguely based on a seal, but its featureless design ultimately didn’t win it many fans, and it was eventually replaced by Totodile. Some fans speculate that Game Freak might have revisited the design when creating the Pokémon Spheal, but this is unconfirmed.
Revealed at the same time as Kurusu, Honoguma was the original design for the fire-type starter in Gold and Silver. Its name (which has never been officially confirmed by Nintendo but which is taken as accurate by most fans) combines the words hono, which is Japanese for ‘flame’, and kuma, the Japanese word for ‘bear’. Thus fans have speculated that this might have been intended as some form of fire-type bear Pokémon.
In practice, of course, the design does look very similar to a fiery Pikachu. Rumors about new forms of Pikachu dogged much of the development period for Gold and Silver, and with other Pokémon such as Marill and Pichu both resembling the franchise mascot, it makes sense that Game Freak ultimately went in a different direction for the fire-type starter in the games.
Some fans speculate that Honoguma might have ultimately been reworked to become Teddiursa, the small bear Pokémon, but aside from the scrapped Pokémon’s name, there’s not much linking the two creatures together.
The final original starter design from the Gold and Silver alpha game build, Happa ultimately changed the least over the course of the games’ development. A single-eyed lump of green with a leaf on its head, Happa (whose name means ‘leaf’ in Japanese) looks vaguely similar to a large fungus or single-celled organism.
Unlike Kurusu and Honoguma who were entirely replaced with new Pokémon designs, at some point in development, Happa received a major overhaul, becoming a different Pokémon that still bears similarity to its earlier design. Chikorita differs from Happa thanks to its fully formed body with legs, and Chikorita’s evolved form shows that the creature’s design is more inspired by the long-necked dinosaur, the diplodocus, than any microscopic life form.
The original Pokémon games had a very long development period, taking several years to go from initial concept to finished releases. Part of the problem was that Satoshi Tajiri, the man who created the initial idea for the series, had a difficult time explaining what Pokémon would be about to others, including the executives of Nintendo.
The concept of capturing, training, and battling a collection of monsters sounded both ambitious and difficult to sell, so Tajiri was required to pitch the game to Nintendo several times before he could get their approval for the game. To help convey the concept, Game Freak produced a lot of concept art with trainers battling or collecting different Pokémon – this was all done long before the game’s actual monsters were developed, so plenty of them have never seen the light of day.
One particularly interesting piece of concept art shows a dinosaur battling against a giant ape. This could be a reference to King Kong fighting Godzilla, or it could be a sly wink to Donkey Kong. Either way, fans speculate that the design may have been later reworked to create Slaking, a third-generation Pokémon based on an ape.
The Godzilla-based Pokémon from early concept art for the initial games has more links to other designs throughout the Pokémon series.
In the very early days of development, a lot of the Pokémon designs revolved around dragons, dinosaurs, and other large, scaly monsters – it wasn’t until development of the games got further that softer, cuter creatures were introduced to the series. Godzillante was a typical design for the earliest period of development, but while its design didn’t appear in the first generation of Pokémon games, it has subsequently been reworked in subsequent games.
Notably, Godzillante looks very similar to Tyranitar, a Pokémon which was introduced in Pokémon Gold and Silver, the second generation of games. It’s possible that this was one design which was considered for the original games, but ultimately shelved until the sequels.
5. Hitmontop (beta version)
The original Pokémon games introduced Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan, two fighting type Pokémon that appeared to not have any physical similarities in spite of their similar names. Pokémon Gold and Silver attempted to correct this by creating two new Pokémon in the Hitmon line: Tyrogue, the baby Pokémon which can evolve one of three ways; and Hitmontop, a Pokémon which battles by spinning on its head and kicking its three legs.
One design for a Pokémon that was in development at one point for Gold and Silver, though, suggests that the concept of a spinning Pokémon wasn’t initially intended to be part of the Hitmon family – if anything, the earlier design looks more like a Clefairy, with a large round face and pointed ears, alongside six far less intimidating feet.
4. Raikou/Suicune Cross
A lot of the Pokémon in the second generation of games went through a lot of design changes before Pokémon Gold and Silver were finally released. Some Pokémon, rather than being redesigned, were stripped out of the game entirely – such is the case with the fourth legendary beast, which may be the precursor to Suicune and Raikou.
Like Red and Blue before, Gold and Silver features three legendary Pokémon that could only be caught in certain circumstances. An early design by artist Muneo Saito, however, suggests that there may not have always been three such beasts – the scrapped Pokémon features blue skin and flowing cloud-like purple fur, like Suicune, while also having electrical attributes and stripes similar to Raikou.
While this design doesn’t appear in the final game, it appears that elements were taken and applied to other Pokémon instead, creating both a water and electric type Pokémon instead of this single creature.
3. Girafarig (beta version)
Girafarig is a Pokémon which appears for the first time in Pokémon Gold and Silver – according to its Pokédex data, the creature’s tail is actually a second head with limited intelligence, that may bite if approached by something that looks tasty. Girafarig’s name, a palindrome, is the same when written backwards, which is actually a reference to an earlier stage in its design when the Pokémon has no discernible head or tail.
The original design, which was ultimately scrapped, was a giraffe-inspired Pokémon with two identical heads – this gives a far more logical reason for its palindrome name than the later design. According to the early artwork, one head may have been a slightly darker color, although this might have simply been an attempt at shading.
2. Military Hydreigon
The fifth generation of Pokémon games introduced Deino, Zweilous, and Hydreigon, three dragons-type Pokémon which gain an extra head with each evolution.
According to Ken Sugimori, one of the main artists behind the Pokémon designs, these three creatures went through a lot of different changes before their finalized appearance. An earlier version exists but has never been seen which has a military design.
According to Sugimori: “At first, these incorporated an army tank motif, and the marks that look like a conveyor belt on the upper part of Zweilous’s legs are the remnants of that”.
Sugimori states that these designs didn’t quite work, and they were eventually “put to sleep”, before a new set of more traditional dragons were designed, which incorporated some elements from the earlier designs but ditched the army tank theme.
This earlier design raises some questions about what was planned for Pokémon Black and White – often, Pokémon designs serve the story of a game, and it does beg the question of whether an all-out military attack was planned for the game’s climax.
Appearing in an early piece of concept art for the original Pokémon games, Rokku (whose name simply means ‘rock’) is typical of most initial designs in that it is inspired by dragons and dinosaurs. It’s possible that this small creature eventually grew into Rhydon, the first Pokémon to have its design finalized, but there are also other references to Rokku throughout the series.
Rokku bears a striking similarity to the sprite used when a Pokémon uses substitute in all games, but most especially in games with unique substitute art, from Ruby and Sapphire onwards. It looks a little like Tyranitar, although it’s a lot smaller than the giant that was ultimately included in the games, and it also looks similar to Croconaw, the water-type starter Pokémon for Gold and Silver.
It seems that Rokku is often the ideal default design for Pokémon that the game’s developers have returned to regularly when looking for something that feels in-keeping with the original designs for the game series.
Game Freak are very good at taking designs and reworking them where possible. As such, while a lot of the Pokémon on this list were ultimately ditched, plenty of designs were either split up, reworked, or saw elements taken and attached to different Pokémon. Some even were simply parked before being resurrected in later games.
Considering that Game Freak likes to make references to the studio’s older, abandoned ideas, don’t be too surprised if some of the creatures on this list make appearances in Pokémon Sun and Moon, or in other games in the future.
Which scrapped Pokémon do you wish had been included in the series? Which official Pokémon should have been ditched? Share your thoughts in the comments below.