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Nintendo Gigaleak turns beta Arceus into a Pokémon phenomenon

A strange creature appears

An early version of Arceus, the Pokemon god. Image: Game Freak/Nintendo via Twitter/Kaitlyn Molinas

Arceus, as veteran pocket monster fans know, is the Pokémon god who is believed to have created the entire in-game universe. The mythical beast looks the part, too, with a sleek and menacing design that elevates it above mere mortals. But Arceus didn’t always look this way, according to details unearthed from the recent Nintendo “Gigaleak.”

The Gigaleak, as fans are calling it, is a security breach that has given fans access to development repositories of older games, including 2006’s Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Similarly to other Pokémon leaks from 2020, the Gigaleak files house early versions of known and beloved monsters. One of these happens to be Arceus, who in his beta form, looks way different.

The gap between Game Freak’s first crack at Arceus and the final product are remarkable. “Beta Arceus,” as fans have dubbed the design, looks like a ghost or perhaps a cryptid, except imagined by a child. I mean this in the best way possible, though — there’s something endearing and humbling about beta Arceus. Maybe it’s the softer, rounder lines.

Speedrunner Kaitlyn Molinas liked beta Arceus so much that she actually found a way to make the Pokémon playable on her Twitch stream, resulting in the amazing screenshot at the top of this post. The scene depicts beta Arceus entering a contest, for which it dresses up in a top hat. Molinas tells Polygon that while Arceus couldn’t enter the full contest — this is a debug version of the game, where things can be tested — the audience was indeed fond of our godly friend.

This helped catapult Arceus into meme territory, as folks riffed off of Molina’s antics, if not the general idea of sprucing Arceus up.

Since then, beta Arceus has only blown up more within the Pokémon fandom — resulting in an avalanche of fan art. Some of it depicts beta Arceus in a nearly supernatural light, while others defang the design completely, making it no more dangerous than a teddy bear. But regardless of how people look at the unused sprite, one thing seems certain: Fans love beta Arceus.

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