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The GS Ball Mystery Deepens

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by , 23rd August 2012 at 06:27 AM (3598 Views)
I probably think about the mysteries of Johto a lot more than most fans do. These days the only mystery you see being discussed is that of Unova's Original Dragon, but frankly, after dissecting B2W2 I don't even think Unova has real mysteries to speak of (just plot holes). A mystery is something that can't be fully understood due to limited information; just because we haven't seen the Original Dragon doesn't mean that we can't envision it. In contrast, the Johto mysteries leave a lot to the imagination since the relevant elements are very vague - most likely even to Game Freak.

I started a thread about the GS Ball mystery almost two years ago. I didn't delve into my own thoughts as I was more interested in reading other fans' input; I hope that I at least corrected the misconception that the GS Ball contained Celebi. At the time, I couldn't answer one pertinent question: Where did the GS Ball come from? There is something I know today, which is a discovery I've mostly kept to myself for several months, that begins to answer that question.

Unlike any other event item, the GS Ball wasn't simply downloaded to Japanese Crystal games - there was a method to it. Generally speaking, Crystal's Mobile GB system had a feature called the Pokémon News Machine, which compiled news from the save files of players across Japan. Located in Goldenrod's Pokémon Communication Center, the machine would be updated every month with the top trainer records (including but not limited to the Battle Tower), but more interestingly, there was an additional mode with a text-based mini-game and/or quiz designed by Game Freak. None of the text was in the data to begin with, so most of it has been lost to time due to lack of documentation. The extra activity was usually (always?) carried out by having the player communicate with an NPC through the machine, who either asked questions or competed against the player (or both). For instance, in the last months of 2002 (before the service's closure) Blaine and Blue were the quiz hosts, with the former asking questions about Generation II Kanto and the latter testing the player's memory of Generation I Kanto. There was a prize for the winning the mini-game/quiz, which was generally an item like a TM. But during the months of April, May and August 2001, the prize was something far more special: the GS Ball.

Thanks to this page (a hidden gem I found last year), we have documentation of the April and May events. The person who contacted the player through the News Machine was called Chieko. There were three requirements to obtain the GS Ball: First the player had to win against Chieko in a mini-game (rock-paper-scissors in April; dice roller in May), but after doing that, Chieko would interrupt the communication by telling the player that they had to collect all 16 badges (in case they hadn't done so already). Once the player had all badges, they could resume the communication, prompting Chieko to ask them a list of Yes/No questions in order to test their "heart as a Pokémon trainer". Here are the translated questions followed by the correct answers:

1) Should Pokémon protect people that aren't their trainers? [Yes]
2) If a Pokémon is afraid of a person, is it the person's fault? [Yes]
3) Should a person who loves Pokémon strive for a goal other than being a trainer? [Yes]
4) Is a child a weaker trainer than an adult is? [No]
5) Do you think that the legends from the days of old are all a lie? [No]

At first glance the questions are similar to those from the Dragon's Den quiz. But I think that questions 1, 3 and 5 are fairly unusual and surprising for the series. Pokémon are supposed to protect people? We are usually told it is the other way around, and I had to double-check the translation to be sure. There is a goal that may be more important than training? Certainly there are other professions, but suffice to say that only the importance of training has been stressed. Some people believe the legends may have been fabricated? We've never seen such skepticism. But despite that, the correct answer tells us that the legends are the truth, at least as far as Johto is concerned.

If the player answered all five questions correctly, Chieko would recognize them as "a splendid trainer with a strong and pure heart" and tell them they were worthy of the GS Ball. The communication would end, but only upon leaving the center would a nurse approach the player to give them the GS Ball. That part is in the text dump and was even translated to English:

{Player}, isn't it? Congratulations! As a special deal, a GS BALL has been sent just for you! Please accept it! Please do come again!
But I've saved the real twist for last. The title of Chieko's activity in the News Machine was "a gift that transcends time", obviously in reference to the GS Ball. This implies that the GS Ball came from another time. The future or the past? What about Chieko herself? She curiously described herself as an Apricorn Maker from Azalea Town. Kurt is the only Apricorn Maker in Azalea, or anywhere in the games for that matter. If that alone doesn't make it obvious that Chieko herself communicated with the player from another time, then this does: In the anime, Kurt's grandaughter is called Chie (Maisy in the dub). Even though her name wasn't revealed in the games, it is safe to say that Game Freak gave her the name, and intended for Chieko to be her adult counterpart. It is hardly surprising that Chie would want to follow her grandfather's footsteps.

Now, Chie herself actually saw the GS Ball when Kurt was examining it, but she stayed behind during the Ilex Forest event. As you may recall, the GS Ball disappeared after the player inserted it into the shrine. Where did it go? One could argue that a a time loop was at play, with the GS Ball returning to Chieko's time period; perhaps Chieko only used the GS Ball as a device to make the player encounter Celebi. But that wouldn't explain why Ilex Forest was restless as a result of the GS Ball's shaking. Going back to Chieko's first question, what if Celebi protected the player, if not everyone else, from whatever the GS Ball contained? Perhaps the GS Ball was about to shake even in Chieko's time period, and the only way to get rid of it was to send it to the past (the player's present), apparently by technological means. What would make Chieko think of such a plan? If we assume that there is a single (non-linear) timeline, then Chieko had to have remembered seeing the GS Ball when she was a young girl (Chie). She may not have witnessed Celebi descending from the sky and (presumably) sending the GS Ball to yet another time period, but Kurt probably told her about it. The knowledge of that event could have inspired her action in the future. Of course, we know nothing about the circumstances that led her to do it, to say nothing about the GS Ball's origin, what it contained or what Celebi did with it.

I only have exact quotes of Chieko's questions, which were actually changed in the May update. Unfortunately, the new questions were pretty standard and tested the player's memory of his Johto adventure. The only thing I know about the August update is that the badge requirement was removed, which possibly implies that Chieko didn't appear in that month. I actually contacted a helpful person from Japan who had played through the April event, but his memory was understandably hazy after more than 10 years. He hadn't realized the connection between Chieko and Chie, so I wonder how many players did. Apparently, even in Japan the Mobile Adapter wasn't a big success, so it is no small feat to find someone who remembers the News Machine updates; I've only found documentation of 8 of them, and there were 24 overall. To be clear, it would appear that most of the updates weren't really interesting, but I still wonder if at least one other enigmatic character showed up if only for the sake of an illuminating quiz.

Shame on Game Freak for not bringing back the GS Ball for HGSS. I do hope that the only reason for that was the lack of time, given that the Pokémon Company wanted to use Celebi for the Movie 13 promotion, and Black and White were released shortly afterwards. But I wouldn't have been pleased with merely seeing a remake of the old event, anyway. In potential, there is obviously a lot more to tell about the GS Ball, whose story transcends time.

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Updated 1st September 2012 at 04:40 AM by Silktree

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  1. Robo-Floatzel's Avatar
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    To be fair, it was really Nintendo who screwed the GS Ball concept over themselves, as I thought they made some dumb decisions at the time.
  2. Silktree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robo-Floatzel
    To be fair, it was really Nintendo who screwed the GS Ball concept over themselves, as I thought they made some dumb decisions at the time.
    Elaborate please. Are you saying that Nintendo made a mistake with the Mobile GB system? I would agree that they should have designed an adapter similar to the Wi-Fi USB Connector, but I suspect that the connection would have been terribly slow for most users.
  3. The Outrage's Avatar
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    5) Do you think that the legends from the days of old are all a lie? [No]
    I'm guessing this is in reference to the Tin Tower and Brass Tower events given that there were no other "legends of old" in the series...either that or the Ruins of Alph but I don't recall anything too big about that.

    Before you mentioned Chie, I thought Chieko might have been Kurt's ancestor. It would make sense as to why the last question was asked...
  4. Silktree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Outrage
    I'm guessing this is in reference to the Tin Tower and Brass Tower events given that there were no other "legends of old" in the series...either that or the Ruins of Alph but I don't recall anything too big about that.
    It is true that the Ruins of Alph were too shrouded with mystery to have a legend to them. But there's also the legend of the shrine:

    Did you see the shrine honoring the protector? It watches over the FOREST from across time. I think that it must be a grass-type POKéMON.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kurt
    Whew, wasn't that something! {Player}, that was fantastic. Thanks! The legends about that SHRINE were real after all. I feel inspired by what I just saw. It motivates me to make better BALLS! I'm going!
    Granted, the legend seems to be limited to the fact that Celebi travels through time, but that alone is something that few people would believe without proof.
  5. System Error's Avatar
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    questions like 1 and 2 are why I think the series has a screwy view on things.
  6. Saiga's Avatar
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    I'm really glad you've pieced this together, it's a fascinating read! I always love to read about the mysteries in the games, and Johto is my favourite region. I hope you'll do more blog posts like this.
    Charazemma likes this.
  7. Tsutarja's Avatar
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    @Saiga; Then check out The Outrage's blogs too if you haven't done so already. They're really detailed and well-written just like this one. :D
  8. Saiga's Avatar
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    @Tsutarja Yeah, I already do. I like his as well :D
  9. Ash_Pokemaster's Avatar
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    Very well put article that can fire up pages of discussion... Kudos for putting together so many lost pieces of the puzzle that is the GS Ball!

    Regarding Maizie, we should also add another thing that supports the statement that it is almost certainly Game Freak who named the character. She is also named Chie in Pokémon Special, and not only is she not directly based on her anime counterpart (and actually had more active role), but her name is actually revealed in the Netkun website, making one think that it might come from special notes Game Freak would give the authors.

    There are many questions to be asked right now. If by going with the most simple guess, Maizie brought the GS Ball from the future. But how did she get hold of it, and why did she bring it back? As far as I know, when you seal something you must have reason to do that; and when it's close to unsealing (as implied by the fact that it was moving at one point when Kurt had it), that probably means trouble. Did Maizie bring the GS Ball to Kris/Ethan in order for them to reseal it somehow? What is so special about them to be able to do that when Maizie, an established Apricorn Maker can't do?

    There's one thing I don't quite get though. Maizie didn't travel to the past, did she? The communication was through the News Machine, so, isn't it possible that she actually used Bill's technology to communicate with the past (considering she could also have used it to transfer the GS Ball to the past)? That might actually explain what Kris/Ethan can do that Maizie can't: time-travel. Maybe, under some special conditions, the Ilex Forest has changed in the future. The Shrine isn't there, or Celebi doesn't watch over the forest anymore for whatever reason. Maybe it doesn't even exist in that time-frame.

    So, in order to reseal the Poké Ball, one must travel to a place back in time, perhaps even further than the contemporary time in Crystal. To ensure the Ball is in good hands, Maizie finds a capable trainer to carry it. She also can't communicate any further back than contemporary GSC, since this is when Bill created the technology in first place. So, the GS Ball ends up in Kris/Ethan's hands.

    Another illuminating thought is born from the fact that the GS Ball vanished in time apparently before Celebi ending its confrontation with the hero. Can Celebi even do that? And if so, why? Isn't it apparent that the GS Ball should be carried by the hero? I mean, didn't anyone ever wonder what was sealed in there, and most importantly why? I can think of three possible explanations:

    1. The way to seal the GS Ball was actually placing it in the Ilex Forest shrine, for whatever reason, and Celebi then (behind the scenes) transferred it to some other time.
    2. The shrine itself has time-travel capabilities (powered by Celebi, perhaps - that doesn't change much), so, when the GS Ball was placed there, it travelled to another era (perhaps "when it should have been"?).
    3. Maybe, and that is the most curious of all, the Pokémon sealed in the GS Ball also had time-travelling powers. On the instant the hero placed the Ball on the shrine, its powers were restored, and it used them to travel somewhere (somewhen?) far from Kris and Celebi. But then why was the story led to that point, why did that possibility even exist, and why didn't Celebi stop Kris?

    Is it possible that it was meant to be unsealed, instead of resealed?

    I don't think it's a coincidence that Game Freak curiously left out very select events from Crystal -- especially when details like the closed Safari Zone and the demolished Unknown Dungeon were revisited as details, it strikes me strange that they left out big elements from the game, like the Wise Trio and the GS Ball event. Even Kris; it seemed like absolute nonsense to replace both her and the time-travelling-related segment of the game.

    Perhaps they indeed did not have time to fully extend the GS Ball event where it should have been led, and decided against leaving it unresolved. I don't know if we'll ever learn more about it, but I'm at least a little more relieved that they acknowledged it by leaving it, and elements related to it, out of the remake due to time-constraints instead of mitigating its relevance.
  10. Silktree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ash_Pokemaster
    Regarding Maizie, we should also add another thing that supports the statement that it is almost certainly Game Freak who named the character. She is also named Chie in Pokémon Special, and not only is she not directly based on her anime counterpart (and actually had more active role), but her name is actually revealed in the Netkun website, making one think that it might come from special notes Game Freak would give the authors.
    I doubt that Hidenori Kusaka gets privileged information from Game Freak; there are a lot of things that indicate otherwise (most recently Special strongly hinted at the Shadow Triad being the Striaton triplet, but B2W2 prove otherwise). More to the point, the way Special handled the GS Ball was a classic case of blatantly ignoring the games. Chances are that Kusaka was made aware of Maisy's name through the anime, which is a reliable source when it comes to character designs and names.

    Maizie didn't travel to the past, did she? The communication was through the News Machine, so, isn't it possible that she actually used Bill's technology to communicate with the past (considering she could also have used it to transfer the GS Ball to the past)?
    Yes. Considering that she was from the future and didn't actually appear anywhere, I'd say this is pretty obvious.

    That might actually explain what Kris/Ethan can do that Maizie can't: time-travel. Maybe, under some special conditions, the Ilex Forest has changed in the future. The Shrine isn't there, or Celebi doesn't watch over the forest anymore for whatever reason. Maybe it doesn't even exist in that time-frame.
    Exactly. Celebi's Pokédex entries provide two explanations:
    "Revered as the guardian of the forest, Celebi appears wherever beautiful forests exist."
    "It has the power to travel across time, but it is said to appear only in peaceful times."

    Under the assumption that Chieko lived in an era in which either Ilex Forest was no longer beautiful or a war was going on (or both), Celebi could not have helped her directly.

    So, in order to reseal the Poké Ball, one must travel to a place back in time, perhaps even further than the contemporary time in Crystal. To ensure the Ball is in good hands, Maizie finds a capable trainer to carry it. She also can't communicate any further back than contemporary GSC, since this is when Bill created the technology in first place. So, the GS Ball ends up in Kris/Ethan's hands.
    From Chieko's perspective, it is possible that all she wanted to do was to eliminate the GS Ball from her present, leaving Celebi to decide what to do with it. If she remembered the Ilex Forest incident from her childhood (assuming that it always happened as opposed to being part of a new timeline), that would explain her confidence that her action would at least not result in the GS Ball being unsealed in the past.

    2. The shrine itself has time-travel capabilities (powered by Celebi, perhaps - that doesn't change much), so, when the GS Ball was placed there, it travelled to another era (perhaps "when it should have been"?).
    We know from HGSS that coming into contact with the shrine can make people disappear even without Celebi being visibly present. It is safe to assume that Celebi could send the GS Ball to another time as soon as it was inserted into the shrine.

    3. Maybe, and that is the most curious of all, the Pokémon sealed in the GS Ball also had time-travelling powers. On the instant the hero placed the Ball on the shrine, its powers were restored, and it used them to travel somewhere (somewhen?) far from Kris and Celebi. But then why was the story led to that point, why did that possibility even exist, and why didn't Celebi stop Kris?
    This possibility seems a little out there.

    Is it possible that it was meant to be unsealed, instead of resealed?
    I don't think that Celebi could do anything to affect the seal either way. My guess is that the GS Ball was sent to the very far future to essentially buy everyone time. The fact that Ilex Forest was restless implies that the GS Ball was a threat; had Celebi not appeared when it did, great danger would have befallen Kris/Ethan, who was completely unaware of what was going on. Did Chieko endanger them? Not if she remembered the incident from the past.

    Perhaps they indeed did not have time to fully extend the GS Ball event where it should have been led, and decided against leaving it unresolved. I don't know if we'll ever learn more about it, but I'm at least a little more relieved that they acknowledged it by leaving it, and elements related to it, out of the remake due to time-constraints instead of mitigating its relevance.
    I wouldn't give them credit for leaving it out, but I wouldn't take it to mean that they scrapped the concept, either.
    YamiiDenryuu likes this.
  11. Infinity Mk-II's Avatar
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    1) Should Pokémon protect people that aren't their trainers? [Yes]
    This isn't actually surprising, but it's an unfortunately lost half in the overall plot of GSC: There seemed to be a message overall about how humans and pokémon had some struggles (see: Brass Tower, Ruins of Alph) and that they are better living together. And while it mostly covered the humans half, the part where the pokémon are the angered ones is very subtle.
    However, this most definitely applies to Celebi.

    3) Should a person who loves Pokémon strive for a goal other than being a trainer? [Yes]
    In hindsight, this isn't suprising either. We are introduced to a pretty wide range of characters in these games to show things of the world that aren't so focused in pokémon training (in contrast to the first generation). Considering the character in question, it's very appropiate: Introduces her as someone who loves pokémon, and isn't a trainer.

    5) Do you think that the legends from the days of old are all a lie? [No]
    This seems to be a rather generic "Hey, this is an ancient legend in a videogame!" kind of message. That even though it's all true they aren't supposed to be presented as pure fact, so it makes sense to ask the player that.
    It's like the girl asking you if you believe in ghosts in gen I, there ARE ghosts, almost everyone that talks about something believes in it, but they are trying to present that not necesarialy everyone does.



    Aside from that though, this actually really enlightened the story behind the GS Ball and Celebi. It seems clear now Celebi shows up to protect the player. And sheds plenty of light on a character that otherwise would be extremely minor and forgotten.

    Unfortunately, I'd think the details are forever lost. The deepest lore behind this game, from all I've read (mostly from your own posts), is very subtle.

    The million dollar question still is "What does the GS Ball contain? What is its purpose?". The fact that the forest itself is restless by the mere presence of it implies that Celebi is restless, from a reaction caused by it. So it's reasonable to think it could be a threat of some kind.
    However, the GS Ball seems to react specifically to the forest. So it wasn't a threat, at least in Chieko's time.

    This brings me to what was pointed out before, she couldn't reach Celebi in her time. This means she didn't live in a peaceful time with a beautiful forest. Because anything being sent to the past is basically either to keep an stable time loop or to change the future, I'd say it's a reasonable assumption that she thought sending the ball to the past, which Kurt himself recognizes as being connected to the forest, would have it end up in the forest and that would fix something.

    So if it wasn't a threat, all I can think of is that it has some use instead.


    This all seems to be the assumption that it's an ancient artifact, but the GS Ball could as well be something developed by Chieko herself.
    And in that case, then that means whatever its use was is explicitally to be used at that point in time and space (as that's where Chieko is sending it to).

    And well, the only use I can think of an special pokéball created by an apricon master, is to catch something very special in a special situation.

    Did she want to catch Celebi in that? Or something else?

    On the other hand, even if she created it, maybe it DOES contain something from the future. But why would she send whatever that is back in time? Specially if it IS a threat?



    The idea that Chieko might've actually created the GS Ball also kinda opens back the idea that it actually DOES contain Celebi: The whole "a Pokémon should protect others that aren't its trainer" thing, she could be reffering to herself as the trainer of Celebi caught in the future, and sent back in time to protect the forest.
    But there are many flaws in this. Why'd she need to send it back in time, when Celebi existed in the past and would've protected the forest anyway? Why the particularly special ball?
    It'd explain why both the forest and the ball react to each other, but that's it.


    Sorry, I keep contradicting myself. I really just mean to speculate on the possibilities of what it could be, in addition to what you said.
    I'm also tired and not thinking very clearly. And yeah, I know this is kinda old.


    But anyway I think it's great you managed to partially solve this. There are so many questions now that wouldn't even be thought had you not dug so much...
    Silktree and FANG-TAN like this.

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