When Pokemon Yellow version came out, I was about ten, I think? I remember it really well, because the game actually came out really close to my birthday, so I managed to get a hold of it before most of my friends did. By the time everyone in our admittedly small circle had managed to get the game too, I was about six gyms deep with around 60 species caught. The fact that you get all three starters in one game was so exciting to me, plus the new sprites looked so much better than the ones in Red and Blue, and I was determined to see every single one in my ‘Dex. I must’ve wasted half of my childhood almost getting there, too…
But of course, the best part of Yellow version was the Pikachu
that followed you around. Speaking of wasting my childhood. I spent so much time trying to get that thing’s happiness up – it felt like it stayed just under the maximum happiness for ages. It was totally worth it, though, because when I finally beat the elite four, my team was something like Pikachu, all three starters, Snorlax
. I was pretty proud of myself. I think the only ones I was missing when I restarted my game was Chansey
and of course Mew
, since I was fiercely anti-Game Shark. Of course, I had a really good reason for restarting my game. Well, no. It was a really stupid reason, but it seemed like a good one at the time.
The reason was Pikablu. I don’t even know where all those stupid stories about Pikablu came from when I was a kid. I heard at least ten different versions about how you could get it. Some I believed more than others, but I would’ve never admitted I believed any of them at all. I was too smart for that. I probably wouldn’t have bothered if it wasn’t my best friend Jeff that told me about this one method he’d found out. Me and Jeff, we were tight. He’d always told me about all kinds of new things I’d never heard of before, Pokemon-related or otherwise, and he always seemed to make sense. I knew he wouldn’t lie to me. It was tough, having to restart my game. Jeff had insisted that it took two brand-new Pikachus – we had to trade each of ours to each other’s Yellow versions, beat the elite four with just our Pikachu, and then use a water stone on it. Or something like that. Jeff had to convince me for a while to get me to restart my game – yeah, sure, it was easy for him, he hadn’t caught every starter and legendary – but my desire for the two of us to be the only kids we knew to both have a Pikablu won out in the end. I started a new game, named my character ASH like I always did, went through Oak’s whole spiel and got my Pikachu. I skipped over most of the dialogue, but I could’ve sworn that there were some slight differences this time around. Wasn’t really paying much attention though, I’d gone through the Pokemon opening dialogue like a million times.
Anyway, Jeff was way ahead of me by this point, he had his Pikachu and was already fighting wild Rattatas with it and talking a mile a minute about what we’d do with it once he evolved it. While he was doing this, though, I noticed another difference about the game. At the point in the dialogue when Oak gives you the Pikachu and you look at it for the first time, its face popping up in a window at the center of the screen, I realized that it didn’t have its back indifferently turned to me like it should - its happiness was already maxed out.
“Hey, Jeff, look at this!!”
“What? I hafta get my Pikachu to level 100…”
“My Pikachu already loves me and I just got it!”
“What? No it doesn’t.”
“…OH MY GOD! How did you do that?”
“I dunno!! Maybe it has to do with Pikablu!!”
We both giggled and screamed and chattered, and were generally obnoxious as we played through our games to get to the point where we could trade with each other. I kept turning around to talk to my Pikachu every few steps just to double check that it still loved me – Every time it was there to greet me with a huge smile and a heart above its head. I didn’t think to question why this would happen – I was too excited! I couldn’t believe it! I was going to get a PIKABLU! Finally, we were both at a Pokemon center, ready to trade our Pikachus with each other. We hurriedly got our link cable hooked up, both of our Gameboy Colors connected to each other.
I talked to the Link Cable lady, mashed B, blowing past all of the game’s messages beforehand, but stopped short again when I noticed a message I’d never seen before. Right after I said YES to the little dialog box asking me if I wanted to save before trading my Pikachu, the box at the bottom of the screen where text usually went stayed blank for just a few moments, and another message popped up.
"Are you sure? YES/NO”
I hesitated for a few seconds. Jeff looked up at me, more annoyed than confused.
“What are you WAITING for?”
“…Sorry, I just… my game’s just being slow.”
I hit yes. The trade started. I stared at my little Pikachu sprite before it disappeared. I heard its cry – it still amazed me that the programmers had put Pikachu’s actual voice into the game – and then it was gone.
A few minutes later, we’d traded our Pikachus to each other, and I had unfortunately discovered what happens when you trade your Pokemon Yellow Pikachu out of your party.
“What? My Pikachu won’t follow me! It’s gone!!”
“You didn’t know that happened?”
“NO! Why didn’t you tell me you butt?”
“I thought you knew! That’s how you use a stone on it!”
“I want mine back! It had max happiness already!!”
And so began the long, tedious process of hooking up our gameboys to each other once again and preparing and saving our games in order to trade our Pikachus back. When we were finally ready, though, Jeff paused.
“It won’t let me.”
“Huh? Is the cable loose?”
“No, Pikachu says no.”
Jeff showed me his screen. At the bottom, the message just said
We tried it again. It still didn’t work. Jeff was looking a little uneasy now – he showed me his screen again.
“PIKACHU refuses to return to ASH!”
“What the heck? Is it not supposed to come back?”
”No, I mean, I’ve traded my Pikachu out of Yellow version before, it let me bring it back.”
”Maybe it likes you too much? It loved me, so maybe it loves you too, and like, you can’t trade it if it likes you too much.”
“It’s not following me, though!”
“Ugggh! I want it back!”
“Well… why don’t we trade it to your Blue version?”
That seemed like a good idea. I booted up my Blue version, which I hadn’t played in a while – not since Yellow came out. God, the sprites were so much uglier in this version, I’d completely forgotten. While we hooked our Gameboys up again, Jeff looked at my Pikachu’s stat screen.
“Does the sprite look… different to you?”
He showed me his screen again. Pikachu’s sprite was in the corner, its stats at the bottom. I wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t said anything, but it did look a little bit different than it did in my cartridge – the difference was slight, but its expression almost seemed sadder. Or were we just seeing things?
Anyway, we both got ready to trade and this time everything went totally smoothly. I gave Jeff a Butterfree
, his favorite Pokemon, in exchange for my Pikachu, no weird extra question screens or anything. The only weird thing I noticed this time was that when the Pikachu arrived into my Blue game, its sprite was still a little… well, sadder, kind of. It was hard to notice, especially on that ugly Blue Version sprite… in fact, maybe I was just projecting what I’d seen before on to it and just imagining things, but… I don’t know. As it popped into my screen, the message at the bottom signaling the trade was over said
“Take good care of ASH’S PIKACHU!”
“I thought your name in the game was Jeff.”
“My name is Jeff.”
”No, in your game.”
”Oh. Well yeah, I always name my character Jeff.”
“This says take good care of Ash’s Pikachu.”
“…I don’t get it.”
“Me neither. Is it because it’s a Yellow version Pikachu?”
“No, I told you, I’ve traded my Yellow version Pikachu before. It was just like a normal Pikachu.”
“Maybe we should try trading again.”
“Do we have to? I’m tired of trading over and over… why don’t we battle or something?”
“I want my Pikachu back!!”
“I don’t think it wants to GO back!”
We were silent for a few moments. Could that really be what the problem was? If Jeff was telling the truth, Pikachu wasn’t supposed to do that… It made me a little uneasy, but I shook it off quickly. These games were pretty famously glitchy, after all, everyone knew about that Rare Candy Missingno cheat and all that. So I tucked the sad-looking (was it?) Pikachu away in the PC and challenged Jeff to a battle with my Blue version team against his Red version team.
We never tried to get Pikablu again after that – I barely picked up my Yellow version again, I was too annoyed at having lost my almost-full Pokedex. In fact, the next time I traded Pokemon with Jeff was when Gold and Silver versions came out, a couple of years later. By then we were both in middle school, clearly much older and wiser and beyond such myths. Friends had come and gone for both of us even in that short a time, but we stuck together, and we were both still Pokemon playing fiends. Once again, I was determined to complete my Pokedex, and in order to do so, we had to trade from the original games with the Time Capsule. Jeff would come over after school almost every day and we’d spend hours catching the Pokemon and legendaries we’d missed in Red and Blue and transferring entire PC boxes full of the original 150 Pokemon over to his Gold version and my Silver one.
One late afternoon, while we were going through the process of searching our PC boxes, I came across the Pikachu I’d traded from my Yellow version what felt like ages ago, but was really just a few years. I took a look at its sprite – it still looked kind of sad to me. In fact, its sadness seemed more noticeable to me now. Its tail seemed to droop, and it looked like it was… pouting, almost. But that was probably just the memory of it clouding my judgement.
"Hey, Jeff, boot up my Silver version, I wanna move my old Pikachu into it.”
“Oh man, I remember that thing! You never put it back into your Yellow game?”
“No, I never tried again. But I never caught a Pikachu in Silver.”
“You know, you never gave me mine back, either. I had to totally restart my Yellow version again.”
“Yeah, well. Fly to the nearest Pokemon center, okay?”
”Sure, I’ll make sure your party’s all old ones, too. Does it still look kind of depressed to you?”
I paused for a moment at his question, then showed him my Gameboy.
“It totally does. That’s… that’s really creepy…”
“It’s not just me, then?”
“No, it… it looks sadder.”
Unable to decide what to make of this, we were both silent as we prepared the trade.
“Maybe it really will evolve into a Pikablu,” I joked after a while, trying to lighten the mood. Jeff laughed.
“I have like twelve Marills. I don’t even like Marill
. You ready?”
“Yeah, I’m sending it over.”
We lolled around watching the trading animation for a little while, discussing our mutual distaste for Marill and Azumarill
, when suddenly Jeff jumped up from the corner of my living room floor he was sitting on.
“Holy CRAP! It’s SHINY!! Your Pikachu is shiny like the Red Gyarados
I practically bowled Jeff over trying to get to see my screen, snatching the gameboy color with my Silver cartridge in it. He was right – there was the little star icon on its stats screen, and its body was a very different shade of yellow than it should be. It was the first Shiny Pokemon I’d ever seen besides the red Gyarados
from the Lake of Rage. I was completely overjoyed, so much so that I barely noticed how unhappy the sprite also looked, and my mood carried through the entire rest of the evening, after Jeff had gotten picked up by his mom, after I’d eaten dinner with my family, and that night, as I lay in bed under the covers, playing Silver version with a light attached to my link cable port.
I was leveling up my Pikachu, waiting for it to evolve so I could finally own a shiny Raichu
. But it never happened. Level 30… nothing. 35… nothing… and I was starting to get sleepy. Then I remembered – Pikachu evolved with a Thunderstone, not by leveling up… duh. And I’d just gotten one from a trainer I’d beaten! I flipped through my inventory screen as fast as I could until I found it near the bottom of the Items list, selected USE and then my Pikachu.
“ASH’S PIKACHU refuses!”
…What? I tried it again.
“ASH’S PIKACHU refuses!”
It… it didn’t want to evolve? Didn’t that only happen in Yellow version? Could it not evolve at a certain level or something? And it was still using the name Ash from that old version… I checked my Pikachu’s stats screen just in case, and with a creeping shudder, realized that I hadn’t been imagining things before – its sprite in this version of the game looked depressed as well. In fact, it was a lot more visible now – pretty much beyond a doubt, that sprite wasn’t normal. It was definitely frowning, and looking slightly down. I quickly closed out of the stats screen, and desperately tried one last time to use the Thunderstone on it.
“ASH’S PIKACHU refuses!”
I groaned a little, half out of exasperation and half out of nerves. Why was my game doing this? Why this one Pikachu? All I wanted was a shiny Raichu
!! I put my Gameboy down quietly, not wanting to alert my parents that I was still awake at this hour, and took a deep breath. So there was some kind of glitch or corrupt data around this one particular Pokemon or something. Fine. That’s not weird at all. The original games were really glitchy.
…Maybe I could breed another shiny Pikachu and evolve that?
Without a second thought, I Flew on my Crobat
to Goldenrod, grabbed a Jigglypuff
out of my PC to breed my Pikachu with, and biked over to the Day Care. I was almost glad to get that Pikachu out of my party and into the little pen outside the Day Care – it felt like a dark cloud had been lifted from over me. I stepped outside – the two sprites sat idling behind the white picket fence of the Day Care, just like they normally would. Hopefully they were compatible. Oh wait, I could check that, couldn’t I? Heading back inside, I talked to the old man I’d given Pikachu to.
“Your PIKACHU and JIGGLYPUFF are doing just fine! The two don’t seem to like each other very much.”
Crap. So much for that. Maybe I could find a Snubbull
or something to breed with it instead. As I contemplated this, however, another line of dialogue popped up on screen.
“Your PIKACHU seems too homesick to play with other Pokemon.”
I whimpered. I’d never seen that happen before. My strategy guide definitely never mentioned that happening, either. What was going on?
“Your PIKACHU doesn’t seem to want to level up. Would you like it back?”
Doesn’t it normally cost money, even for five seconds of Day-Care? Doesn’t want to level up? What?! I took it back and frantically checked its stats screen again. Its sprite had changed once again. Was… was it crying? I flipped through the each of the three screens – I don’t even know what I was looking for at this point, I just needed some kind of a sign that I was just imagining this whole thing, I suppose – and on the third one, under the “OT” section I saw the word “ASH”. Below that, just barely fitting on the screen, was a three word phrase.
“PLEASE COME BACK”
That proved it… something was wrong with that Pikachu. Maybe it was a glitch? Maybe I really should put it back into my old Yellow version? But I’d lost my the cartridge months ago…
Finally, I decided I’d just get rid of it. Clearly, the thing was glitched up. I didn’t want it messing up my game. Faster than was probably necessary, I walked to the nearest PC, selected the Pikachu and then selected RELEASE. I noticed that I felt somewhat relieved again as I read the “Bye-bye, PIKACHU!” text – probably because that thing was pretty creepy. I saved my game as soon as it was gone, turned my gameboy off and finally curled up under the covers, closing my eyes. For some reason, it took a long time for me to fall asleep, and when I did, I was plagued by nightmares of running away from a crying Pokemon.
It’s been a long time since then – I’m in college now. I’ve kept up my Pokemon obsession, but that’s probably the one thing that’s remained constant in my life. None of my old friends went to the same school as me once we graduated high school. Jeff was probably the one I stayed friends with the longest, but even he left eventually, too, and not on particularly good terms. He wasn’t too happy when I got my first boyfriend – I guess our friendship wasn’t worth as much as I thought it was. I’ve got new friends at school now – and hey, they play Pokemon, too. It was kind of a relief to find out I wasn’t the only one. The games have definitely changed a lot since I was a little kid, too, but I still love them – I think Gen III and IV got a lot of unfair flack because nothing could ever live up to our exaggerated childhood memories. Got to admit, though, HeartGold and SoulSilver were probably my favorite games out of the newer ones. They were the perfect mix of old and new features – I still play them a lot now, want to see if I can fill up my Pokedex before Black and White come out. I love the fact that your party leader follows you around, too, as an old shout-out to Yellow version.
Only thing is, it reminds me of that fucking Pikachu.
It happened a few days ago. I had some time to kill between classes, and I was rooting in the grass outside of Goldenrod city trying to find Dittos to breed with when I got jumped by a wild Pokemon. What was weird was that the battle music never played – the screen just flashed and transitioned into battle mode without a sound. I felt my stomach drop as, sliding from the left side of the screen as the battle started, a shiny Pikachu appeared in front of me.
By now, I’d caught two or three shiny Pokemon by sheer luck, so the little sparkle animation that occurred wasn’t a huge shock to me. What was was the fact that the Pikachu’s sprite didn’t look anything like it should. It was completely dejected – bags under its eyes, tail on the ground, its normally bright red cheeks dull, almost brown. It didn’t emit a cry, or strike
a battle pose like normal wild Pokemon would, and there was no music playing in the background at all. It just stood there, looking like the weight of the world was on its shoulders.
“ASH’S PIKACHU appeared!”
I didn’t even think. I immediately tapped the “Bag” button with my stylus, selected a basic Poke Ball, and watched as my trainer’s sprite threw it at the poor Pikachu. Somehow, even with its health bar completely full, the Poke Ball tilted once, twice, three times, then turned gray, and I caught the Pikachu on the first try.
There wasn’t any nickname screen. The game went straight back to the overworld screen, but one thing had changed – instead of going to my PC, the Pikachu I had just caught was following me.
The game was eerily silent. Breathing more frantically now, I checked my party screen. My Pokemon party hadn’t changed – it was the same lineup with an Ampharos
in the lead, but when I returned back to the overworld screen, the Pikachu was still right there behind me, staring at me. Hesitating slightly at first, I tapped the “Talk” button with my stylus.
Finally, I heard its cry – the one from Yellow Version, but slowed down, almost as if it was in pain.
“PIKACHU wants to go home…”
Did it mean what I think it meant? I tapped the button again.
“PIKACHU is staring at you with blank eyes…”
I thought I knew what it wanted now, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to move yet. I tapped the button again.
“PIKACHU is looking at the horizon…”
Suddenly, the background music began starting up again, but the song had changed. It was quiet at first, but steadily grew louder and louder until it was at a more recognizable volume and I realized what song it was.
The theme from Pallet Town.
I knew what I had to do. I went to my party screen, tapped on my Pidgeot
and selected Fly, stopping at Indigo Plateau first before heading to Pallet Town.
When we arrived, the music had gone dead once again – I was staring at a silent screen. Pallet Town was completely empty; normally there are two or three NPCs milling about, but no one was there this time. Slowly, I began to walk towards Professor Oak’s lab, the Pikachu following behind me. I didn’t realize it at first, but it was actually much slower than a normal Pokemon should be – it stayed a step behind me the entire time. Before heading into the Lab, I turned around one last time and talked to the Pikachu.
“PIKACHU looks hopeless…”
I gulped despite myself and walked inside. No lab assistants were there, but Professor Oak was, at the back of the lab as usual. My character walked up the screen without my pressing anything, and I realized that the Pikachu was no longer behind me – for some reason, it had stayed outside. A dialog box popped up and Professor Oak began to speak, not his usual spiel about filling up your Pokedex, but a single sentence, “Where is your Pokemon?”
I talked to him again. Same message. Not entirely wanting to know the answer, I walked back outside.
Sitting outside, one pace in front of Oak’s Lab was a Lavender Town gravestone. Without a second thought, I walked up to and tapped my stylus to read the inscription.
“Here lies PIKACHU
Abandoned by ASH twelve years ago
Died of loneliness.”