Spaceworld ’97 Demo Play Account

Posted By at 9:21 PM on Tuesday March 14, 2017

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Almost twenty years ago, a dedicated fan named Kouichi Hiwasa attended Spaceworld ’97, a trade show at which the latest Nintendo games and hardware were exhibited. He was thoughtful enough to record his observations on the first publicly playable demo of Pokémon Gold & Silver.

Because the Spaceworld ’97 demo predated the games’ Japanese release by exactly two years, Kouichi’s detailed account is a fascinating time capsule that gives fans a peek at how they looked at this point in development.

In addition to translating his writeup, I went ahead and added some commentary with the help of a friend named Sanqui. Without Sanqui’s insight, knowledge, and input, this article wouldn’t be nearly as rich. Kouichi’s account is in green, while my observations are in black. I also interspersed images, video, and formatting throughout the text to make for a more engaging viewing experience.

A Japanese fan’s recreation of the Rival and title screen.

Note: Among the images are several Japanese fan recreations of early Pokémon designs, the source for which I haven’t been able to track down. A number of English fan pages erroneously claim that they’re official art. While the images do not seem to be connected to or originate from Kouichi, the accuracy and level of detail suggests that they may have been created by another Japanese fan who recreated the designs from memory shortly after attending Spaceworld. Because their origin is unknown, I can’t guarantee their authenticity. However, they do largely line up with Kouichi’s descriptions.

Introduction

I visited Nintendo Spaceworld on November 22nd.

Spaceworld ’97 ran from November 21st to 23rd and was held at Tokyo’s Makuhari Messe convention center.

I arrived around 8:20 AM. The doors opened ahead of schedule, at about 8:30, but due to the congestion, I didn’t get in till around 8:50. The wait time was 20 minutes, and you could play the demo for about 10 minutes at a time. There was still some space, so I played Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver once each. Afterwards, I left around noon to get Mew, before coming back and staying till the end of the show. Just before it closed for the day, the kiosks freed up again, so I got to play Silver twice more.

People lined up around the block for the Mew giveaway.

The 1997 trade show featured a 100,000-Mew giveaway sponsored by Nintendo. Pokémon fans who attended Spaceworld queued up for the opportunity to insert their Gen I cartridge into a machine that would upload the legendary Pokémon into an empty slot in their party.

When I wasn’t busy playing, I gathered information by watching others play and viewing the promotional video. The N64 titles were really supposed to be the main attraction for me, but Gold and Silver caught my interest, which meant I had to line up for both, so I spent lots of time doing recon. I didn’t really understand what was different between the two versions.

Specifications

The games are apparently 80% complete, and will be released in March, 1998 for ¥3,500.

Gold & Silver didn’t end up being released in Japan until November 21st, 1999. The American version was even more delayed, hitting U.S. shelves on October 11th, 2000.

Game Intro

The opening movie had a similar feel to the one in the previous games. It went like this:

Game Freak Logo

⬇︎

Lapras Surfing

⬇︎

Jigglypuff Singing & Pikachu Giving Chase on All Fours

⬇︎

Something I Forget & Charizard Using Flamethrower

⬇︎

Title Screen with Ho-Oh

As usual, you could skip the intro by button-mashing.

Seems like the intro movie’s design was already pretty much finalized by this point. The title screen, however, differed from the final:

While very little footage of the Spaceworld ’97 demo has been discovered to date, a short clip of the title screen is available on YouTube in the form of an excerpt from a Polish television program.

Beginning the Game

Like in the previous games, when you chose “New Game”, Professor Oak would appear and explain the game to you. Before this, you could use the settings to change the message speed to “Fast”. This is normally where the name entry screen would appear, but since it was a demo version and not an actual version of the game, my character ended up being named Satoshi.

Satoshi, known to English fans as Ash, is the name of the main character in the Pokémon anime. The default names in the Japanese games are Gold, Hiroki, Tetsuo, and Takashi in Gold, and Silver, Kamon, Tooru, and Masao in Silver. However, Satoshi and Ash are default names in the remakes.

The game started inside the player’s house. At this time, you already had a level 8 Pokémon (which might mean that the event where you receive a Pokémon from Professor Oak was removed for the demo). This could be one of three Pokémon, depending on the ROM:

A Japanese fan’s recreation of Honooguma.

Honooguma

Type: Fire
Moves: Scratch, Leer

Honooguma, which translates to “Fire Bear”, appears to have been either replaced by or converted into Cyndaquil. Cyndaquil starts out knowing Leer, but can’t learn Scratch.

A Japanese fan’s recreation of Kurusu.

Kurusu

Type: Water
Moves: Tackle, Growl, Water Gun
Notes: This one looked like a seal.

Likewise, Kurusu, whose name can translate to “Cross”, appears to have been either replaced by or converted into Totodile. Totodile can’t learn Tackle or Growl, but it does learn Water Gun at level 13. (It actually starts out knowing Leer and Scratch, making its moveset closer to Honooguma’s than Kurusu’s.)

A Japanese fan’s recreation of Happa.

Happa

Type: Grass
Moves: Tackle, Growth, Leech Seed
Notes: This one looked kind of like a radish…?

Happa, which translates to “Leaf”, seems to be an early name for the grass starter Chikorita. Chikorita starts out knowing Tackle, but it can only learn Leech Seed via breeding, and it never learns Growth.

No official artwork or screenshots of these original starter Pokémon are known to exist, save for one exception: In October 2013, a Japanese user by the name of Katsu_Nagao uploaded the photograph above to Twitter. In answer to a question from a foreign fan regarding the authenticity of the image, Nagao had this to say:

“This is a photo I took of the Pokémon Gold & Silver demo that was being exhibited at the 7th annual Next-Gen World Hobby Fair, which was held at Makuhari Messe beginning in January 1998. The Pokémon you see from behind is Honooguma, and the Pokémon it’s fighting is a Metapod.”

In any case, let’s return to Kouichi’s account.

The Pokémon you got came equipped with a Berry. When its health dipped below 50%, it would automatically use the Berry to heal itself at the end of its turn. (I believe the amount of HP that Berries heal is fixed, but because my max HP was pretty low to begin with, using one always brought my Pokémon back to full health.)

You also started off with 5 Pokéballs, 10 Potions, 10 Full Heals, 1 Stimulus Orb, and 1 Fire-Up Orb. (When equipped by a Pokémon, the Stimulus Orb would occasionally prevent it from falling asleep, and the Fire-Up Orb would occasionally prevent it from fainting.) Pokémon could equip one item at a time.

There’s actually unused Held Item code that corroborates the existence of the Stimulus Orb.

# Effect
14 Holder cannot be poisoned.
15 Holder cannot be burned.
16 Holder cannot be frozen.
17 Holder cannot be put to sleep.
18 Holder cannot be paralyzed.
19 Holder cannot be confused.

It’s possible that there was once a full set of Orbs that corresponded to these unused effects. However, it’s interesting that no “prevent fainting” effect is present.

The Special stat, which was kind of confusing in the last games, has been split into two separate stats: Special Attack and Special Defense. Instead of types being divided into Type 1 and Type 2, there’s only a Type category, with some Pokémon being dual-type. Maybe there are even some tri-types!

Alas, no tri-type Pokémon yet.

The player’s room featured stuff like an Nintendo 64, a radio, a PC, and a doll. The news was playing on the radio. It went something like this:

Professor Oak has disappeared from Kanto. Some say he left in search of new Pokémon, while others suggest that he may have become embroiled in something. Regardless, there is some concern for his well-being.

That might mean that the new games are set in the area where Oak ended up.

There’s no mystery behind Professor Oak’s departure from Kanto in the final games. He’s just visiting his friend Mr. Pokémon at his home on Johto’s Route 30, where the player first encounters him and obtains the Pokédex.

The player’s bedroom doesn’t start with an N64, but Red’s does!

Additionally, at the start of the game, the player’s bedroom is sparsely furnished, holding only a radio and a PC. Other decorations, such as the Nintendo 64 and various dolls, are obtained by using the Mystery Gift function, linking your game to Pokémon Stadium 2, or opting to send half your battle earnings to Mom, who will occasionally buy things for you with your own money. (Isn’t she sweet?)

The PC was open to a webpage that said the following:

A new Pokémon called Yoroidori has been discovered. Its type is Flying/Metal.

Official art of Skarmory.

This Pokémon, whose name translates to “Armor Bird”, was likely an early version of Skarmory. Skarmory’s Japanese name is エアームド (Eāmudo), but it’s classified in the Pokédex as an “Armor Bird Pokémon”. The Metal type is now known as はがね (Hagane), meaning “Steel”.

The protagonist and the rival are different from the previous games.

In the demo version, it wasn’t possible to enter Oak’s Lab in the starting town. You also couldn’t rest at the Pokémon Center, which was staffed by a character who looked like Nurse Joy from the anime.

Early Final

An earlier version of New Bark Town still exists among Gold & Silver’s unused maps. As you can see, it actually did once contain a Pokémon Center. In the final games, the lab in New Bark Town belongs to Professor Elm, not Professor Oak. Unfortunately, all that remains of the early New Bark Town is graphical data, so it’s unclear what the sign in front of the lab read at this point in time.

Heading Out of Town

When you left town via the western exit, you found some tall grass.

The route west of New Bark Town is Route 29, but the list of wild Pokémon our narrator provides doesn’t match up particularly well with the present-day encounter list for this area, nor the encounter list for any other location in the final games.

I ran into a number of wild Pokémon, including Pidgey, Rattata, and Pikachu. Below are the new ones I found:

A Japanese fan’s recreation of an early Marill.

Marill

Number: 179
Notes: A water mouse.

Marrill is, indeed, classified as an “Aqua Mouse” in the Pokédex. However, its regional Pokédex number is #130, and its national Pokédex number is #183.

A Japanese fan’s recreation of an early Girafarig.

Girafarig

Type: Dark/Normal
Moves: Double Kick
Notes: Like the name suggests, its body resembled a double giraffe, with a head at each end and no tail.

Girafarig’s type is Normal/Psychic, not Normal/Dark. It can’t learn Double Kick.

Official art of Sunflora.

Sunny

Notes: A flower.

Sunny may have been an early name for Sunflora, whose Japanese name is Kimawari.

Official art of Hoppip.

Haneko

Number: 214
Type: Grass/Flying
Notes: This one looked like a small mouse, with ears like radish leaves.

Haneko seems to have been an early name for Hoppip, whose Japanese name is Hanekko. Hoppip’s regional Pokédex number is #067, and its national Pokédex number is #187.

A Japanese fan’s recreation of an early Ledyba.

Ledyba

Number: 202
Notes: A ladybug.

Ledyba’s regional Pokédex number is #030, and its national Pokédex number is #165.

When I caught a Pokémon, it was registered in my Pokédex, but it seemed like this feature wasn’t finished yet. Pokédex entries for Pokémon that appeared in the previous games used descriptions taken from Blue, while entries for new Pokémon read “This Pokémon has just been discovered. It’s currently under investigation.”

The early screenshot above depicts this generic description being used in the Pokédex entry for Slowking.

When you encountered an opponent, a big Pokéball would appear on the screen, which would be covered by a series of patterns, turn black, and change over to the battle screen.

There are actually quite a few variations on this Pokéball effect, as exemplified in the video above.

The character and move graphics were totally new. In the last games, the backsprite for your Pokémon was zoomed-in. In contrast, this time, the backsprite had the same resolution as the sprite of the Pokémon you’re battling. There was a gauge below your Pokémon’s HP bar that seemed like a progress bar indicating how much EXP it needed to reach the next level. Earning EXP caused the gauge to increase. When you threw a Pokéball, the ball would split into two, and an animation would play that made it look like the wild Pokémon was getting wrapped up. This part lasted a bit longer than in the previous games. Some wild Pokémon held Berries, which made trying to catch them annoying. Also, wild Pokémon would sometimes flee after performing an action. (At the end of their turn?)

In the retail version, if a wild Pokémon is set to flee, that’s the only action it can perform. None of the Pokémon that the player encounters in the demo flee of their own accord. The moves Roar and Whirlwind can also be used to escape from a battle, but the Pokémon mentioned aren’t capable of learning them.

To the west of this area was a plateau, and in the middle was a dungeon that resembled Viridian Forest from the previous games, containing tall grass and trainers. The wild Pokémon I encountered here were Caterpie and Metapod. The trainers had Paras, Venonat, Clefairy, Meowth, and Slowking. It seems like trainers’ Pokémon now have PP, which gets depleted. (Maybe wild ones, too?) The trainers in this area had names like Bug Catcher Junichi, Lass Hidzuki, and Beauty Megumi.

Ilex Forest

The only “forest dungeon” that exists in Johto is Ilex Forest, which has a grand total of one trainer: A Bug Catcher named Kenichi (Wayne). All three trainer names appear in the final games, but their classes and locations differ from the demo:

JP Name EN Name Class Location
Junichi Vincent Guitarist Vermillion Gym
Hiduki Gwen Cooltrainer Union Cave B2F
Megumi Beverly Pokéfan National Park

At the end of the forest dungeon was a gate, where your rival was waiting for you. However, in the demo version, talking to him would cause the game to end.

You first encounter your rival acting shady by peering into the windows of Professor Elm’s laboratory. He soon steals one of Elm’s remaining starter Pokémon, and you subsequently encounter him in the wild standing before the gate to Cherrygrove City. That being said, there’s some unused loss and win text that could be construed as evidence that the rival would have originally chosen a Pokémon from the starters at the laboratory, rather than resorting to theft:

Offset (J) Japanese Offset (U) English
0x03b5b8 [Rival]『あれー?
おまえのポケモンに
すりゃあ よかったのかなあ?
0x101417 [Rival]: Huh? I
should’ve chosen
your POKéMON!
0x03b5f1 [Rival]『やった!
いいポケモン えらんだかも!
0x10145b [Rival]: Yes!
I guess I chose a
good POKéMON!

On the topic of attributes, Gust is now a Flying-type move. Also, it seems like Normal is strong against Dark. The move Stun Spore had no effect on Honooguma or Caterpie. (I don’t know if this was due to an attribute, or something else.)

Gust did indeed become a Flying-type move, but the hallmark of the Normal type is that it isn’t super effective against anything. It’s unclear why Stun Spore wouldn’t have been effective against these two Pokémon.

I also got to experience something akin to a clock function. The overworld began to get dark around 4 PM, and in the plateau dungeon, I started encountering Pokémon I hadn’t seen before, despite my previous careful observations:

Night doesn’t fall until 6 PM, and the transition from day to night is instant.

Official art of Hoothoot.

Hoothoot

Type: Flying
Notes: An owl.

Hoothoot’s type is Normal/Flying.

Official art of Sentret.

Pukuu

Notes: A flying squirrel?

The description of this Pokémon suggests it refers to Sentret. However, Sentret’s Japanese name is Otachi, and it doesn’t appear at night.

There might have been others, too. Maybe Schoolboy trainers would also start to appear there around this time.

Schoolboys are known as ジュクガエリ (Jukugaeri) in Japanese, which translates to “coming home from cram school”. This is the reason that our narrator speculates that these trainers might begin to appear around 4 PM, on their way home from school.

The Promo Video

Official art of Smeargle.

In the promo video, I saw Yoroidori, Painter, Buruu (a fairy Pokémon, but maybe a Dark one), and a Poliwhirl using a new move called Rain Dance. It sounds like the new version of the Pokédex will allow you to search Pokémon by type. The Pokédex in the video confirmed the existence of the following Pokémon, albeit in name only: Aqua, Aquaria, Animon, Unown, and Ikari.

As mentioned above, Yoroidori was likely an early name for Skarmory. Painter may have been an early name for Smeargle, whose final Japanese name is Dooburu. Buruu is the Japanese name for Snubbull, which was a Normal-type Pokémon until it became Fairy-type in Gen IV.

Official art of Unown.

Unown has an important role in the games, but there have never been Pokémon named Aqua, Aquaria, Animon, or Ikari. The last name is somewhat curious, however: First off, Ikari is the Japanese name for the move known as Rage, which was introduced back in Gen I. Secondly, the word also appears in the Japanese name for the Lake of Rage – いかりのみずうみ (Ikari no Mizuumi).

Also, Professor Oak mentioned the existence of eggs in the video. As for gender, you could view whether a Pokémon was ♂ or ♀ by checking its status after you caught it, but I didn’t really understand what it was about.

While gender is displayed next to Pokémon names in the final games, it’s not visible on the battle screen in early screenshots.

Conclusion

That’s all for now! My apologies once again for the sporadic updates. These articles always take a ridiculously long time to do!

If you’d like to read more about Pokémon Gold & Silver, I recommend the links below:

Prerelease Info

• TCRF’s Prerelease Article (In-Progress)
My Translations & Articles

Unused & Debug Content

TCRF’s Page on the Games

Code Disassembly

pret’s Crystal Disassembly (On-Going)
PikalaxALT’s Gold Disassembly (On-Going)

As usual, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or RSS for updates! If you’re interested in supporting my work, I can also be found on Patreon.

If you’d like to commission or hire me, check out my work profile. I’m currently seeking employment!

Till next time!

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