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Canceled Pokémon game may have been revealed by a Nintendo hack

Pokémon Pink could have graced our Game Boys

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Dynamax Pikachu appears in a screenshot from Pokémon Sword/Shield Game Freak/The Pokémon Company

Back in 2018, a hacker reportedly breached Nintendo’s internal network, allowing him to gain access to sensitive information belonging to the Japanese company. The breach led to big discoveries regarding early Pokémon designs — but more crucially, the folks who helped disseminate that information admitted that they were still sitting on assets that hadn’t been revealed yet. Until now, it seems.

Midway through April 2020, posts on image board 4chan appeared claiming to once again contain files related to early Pokémon games on the Game Boy. According to these assets, Game Freak was, at one point, considering developing Pokémon Pink, perhaps as a companion game to Pokémon Yellow, the spin-off focusing on Pikachu. Mostly, the files reference a game called Pokémon Pink, but there aren’t any actual sprites, maps, or monster designs to go along with it. The leading theory, however, is that the games would have put Clefairy front and center — because the pink monster was possibly going to be the series mascot before Pikachu took the reins.

The leak also contains assets that purport to show early prototype designs for the original games, as well as early English name ideas for iconic monsters.

Curiously, the leak also contains audio files which suggest that Game Freak wanted to make the games sound like the anime — something that the studio experimented with in Pokémon Yellow, a game that sought to approximate Ash Ketchum’s experience in the show. But even getting Pikachu’s sound effects in Yellow reportedly caused Game Freak some headaches, which is why it’s believable that they may have had to scrap more ambitious ideas related to monster cries.

The Pokémon community lends credence to this latest leak because the origin is hard to fake.

“It’s [a] whole heck of a lotta source code,” says a Pokémon historian known as Dr. Lava in the community, who chronicles content cut from the games. In a Twitter DM with Polygon, Dr. Lava claims to have spoken to folks who helped leak the first batch of content, and those hackers apparently insisted that they were still hoarding information that hadn’t seen the light of day in 2018. “I don’t think there’s ever been something on this scale that’s come out and has been faked,” Dr. Lava continues. “Lots of prototypes have leaked over the years, but a convincing fake of this scale has never been produced.”

Dr. Lava tells Polygon that they believe there’s still information relating to the Nintendo hack that hasn’t been released.

“More than half of it still hasn’t leaked,” Dr. Lava says. “Although we’ve likely seen the more interesting half by now.”

Correction (April 15): A previous version of this article misattributed the Nintendo breach that led to a Pokémon leak to a different hacker. We’ve edited the article to reflect the appropriate source.

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