Pokémon Gold & Silver 1997 Space World Demo (found early demo build of game; 1997)
Title screen for the 1997 Spaceworld demo for Pokémon Gold.
Date found: 31 May '18
Found by: Anonymous
Pokémon Gold and Silver (known as Pocket Monsters in Japan) are a pair of video games for the Game Boy Color developed by Game Freak. Being the second entry in the widely-popular Pokémon franchise and thus the first installments of what is colloquially known as Generation II (Generation I referring to Pocket Monsters Red & Green, Pocket Monsters Blue, Pokémon Red & Blue, and Pokémon Yellow), these titles introduced a number of series staples, including a real-time clock that affected encounter rates for the titular catchable monsters, the ability to import Pokémon from the previous generation, and the ability to find extremely rare alternate-color variations of Pokémon known as "Shiny Pokémon".
The game had a lengthy development cycle. In 1997, one year after the release of Red & Green, Game Freak revealed the first details about Gold & Silver, then known as Pocket Monsters 2: Gold & Silver, and stated that the games were set to release at the end of the year for the Game Boy. Like the Generation I games, Gold & Silver would be compatible with the Super Game Boy, which would provide the same minor enhancements that the preceding games supported (such as the ability to play the game in color, albeit limited to full-screen tints outside of battle). However, a year later Game Freak announced that the games would be delayed for an unknown period of time; at this point, the "2" was dropped from the games' titles and they were re-announced as Pocket Monsters Gold & Silver, though the games' status as sequels to the Generation I games was still intact. That same year, the Generation I games would see a release in the west, where they would become a smash international success.
Nearly a year later, Game Freak announced that Gold and Silver would be re-tooled for compatibility with the then-recently released Game Boy Color while still remaining playable on the original Game Boy. Artwork of several new Pokémon was released along with a few screenshots. Eventually, after a rocky two-year development cycle (which included, among other events, the compressing of the game by Satoru Iwata in order to prevent another delay), the games were finally released on November 21, 1999, in Japan and October 25, 2000, in the United States.
Differences Between the Demo and Final Game
During 1997, before the delay was announced, Nintendo's yearly Space World trade show was held in Japan, during which a playable demo of Pokémon Gold & Silver was showcased to the audience. What makes this demo so interesting is the big amount of differences and aspects that weren't included in the final game. Some of the more notable differences are as follows:
- The title screen features a modified version of Ho-Oh's in-battle sprite (similarly to the Generation I games, which featured the protagonist alongside a randomly-changing Pokémon sprite) instead of the final game's animation of Ho-Oh (in Gold) or Lugia (in Silver) flying through the air.
- The game's overworld is radically different, being designed after the entirety of Japan rather than just the Kansai region. As a byproduct of this, the Kanto region appears simply as a small, compressed town-like area located analogously to its real-life counterpart, as opposed to the mostly full version seen in the final games.
- Many of the original 151 Pokémon reuse their in-battle sprites from Pocket Monsters Blue and Pokémon Red and Blue.
- Most of the 100 new Pokémon seen in-game are vastly different in design and/or type to their final counterparts, with some of them being replaced or outright removed by the final release. Notably, the battle sprites of these beta Pokémon use a similar art style to that seen in Red, Green, and Blue.
- In the case of newly-added Pokémon retained in the final release that are evolved forms of Generation I Pokémon, the evolutionary requirements for them differ significantly, with some involving the use of a "Poison Stone" that was ultimately never implemented.
- Wild Slowking can be encountered in tall grass; in the final game, Slowking can only be obtained by trading a Slowpoke holding a King's Rock.
- The Fire-type and Water-type Starter Pokémon are a bear-like creature named Honoguma and a Plesiosaurus-like creature named Kurusu, respectively, as opposed to the final game's Cyndaquil and Totodile. Bayleaf, Chikorita's first evolution, is also much different, being an anthropomorphic flower bud named rather than the final game's intermediary between Chikorita and its third evolution, Meganium.
The demo in itself lasted 10 minutes at first but was later shortened to 5 minutes due to waiting lines growing larger than anticipated. Players were allowed to walk around a limited portion of the game's overworld, starting off at the game's starting town, Silent Hills (renamed New Bark Town in the final game, likely to avoid trademark issues with Konami's Silent Hill series of games). The player was given a random Level 8 Starter Pokémon, you could fight some wild Pokémon, and even fight a couple of Trainers in the forest adjacent to Silent Hills. Following this, the player would encounter and speak to the rival character, at which point the demo would end.
Some images and a 15-second silent video of this demo were released online, but for 21 years, the rest of the demo remained lost, including in-game sprites of the original starters and wild Pokémon original designs. Although some concept art of the Starter Pokémon were readily available online, their in-game sprites remained a mystery. The game's overworld was also mostly a mystery, as only a small number of images of in-game areas were made available in gaming publications.
On May 26th, 2018, an anonymous user posted a link containing four ROMs in the Discord server of Pret, a reverse-engineering team dedicated to disassembling games in the Pokémon series; two of these ROMs were identical to the ones available at Space World 1997, while the other two had extra debugging capabilities. The link posted was limited to 20 downloads before expiring. Until a disassembly and English translation were finished, the team vowed to stay quiet about the leak until a full release of both the original ROMs and its translations could be done.
On May 31st, 2018, the four ROMs were leaked early on a 4chan imageboard before the translation or the disassembly was finished. These ROMs then came into the possession of The Cutting Room Floor, a wiki site devoted to documenting unused content in video games, version differences between different releases of video games, video game prototypes and their differences from the final versions (if one exists), and information about various games' pre-release periods. The wiki would then host the four ROMs, publicize their existence, and extensively document the differences between them and the final games. Though the ROMs were released much earlier than initially planned, the disassembly has been finished; the English translation, meanwhile, is still in the works.
Shortly after the leak, a rumor surfaced that the original demo cartridge had been purchased by a late collector who, upon passing away, had his collection sold off by his family. According to this story, the cartridge then ended up in the hands of a shop owner who dumped its ROM on the internet after realizing what exactly they possessed. This story, however, has been proven to be a fabrication by another 4chan user falsely claiming to be the owner of the ROMs.
How the original leaker came into possession of the cartridge in the first place is uncertain, but comments from the owner of Pokémon fansite Serebii implied that the demo was either stolen or marked to be destroyed and saved against Nintendo's wishes.