When Catching Them All Isn't Enough - My Quest for a Full Shiny Pokédex

By Laura Kate Dale on at

When it comes to the Pokémon game series, it's fair to say I'm a Pokémaniac. As an autistic kid growing up in the 90s, during the height of Pokémon's explosion as a worldwide phenomenon, the games were my first real opportunity to, albeit briefly, be one of the cool kids. I had a brain built for completionism, obsessive stat memorisation, a knack for regurgitating information on demand, and the obsessive interest level to find every secret and debunk every rumour. I completed my Gen 1 Pokédex, but then kept playing by creating my own gen one challenges. I collected a level 100 of every Pokémon, I beat the game using only Pikachu in Yellow, I played through with new team limitations, anything to eke out a little more from the game.

I've had Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu for around two weeks now, and my Switch says I've played the game for around 110 hours. That number probably doesn't include time spent soft resetting the game to get better natures during legendary encounters, but it's a good ballpark figure: in the first sixty hours I'd beaten the Elite Four, completed my Pokédex (with the exception of Melmetal who I still need more candy in Pokémon Go to earn), and started looking forwards towards the end game. There are many options for what to focus on – I could go after Master Trainer titles, or start building a competitively viable team. But I had a different post-game mission in mind.

I didn't want to settle for a completed Pokédex, I wanted something a little... shinier.

In Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu I caught my first-ever wild 'shiny' Pokémon in a mainline Pokémon game. Shiny Pokémon have existed in the Pokémon series since the second generation games, Gold and Silver, where players would encounter a Shiny red Gyrados during the progression of the story. When first introduced shiny Pokémon had a 1/8192 chance of being randomly encountered, reduced down to 1/4096 in more recent games, and are basically an in-game status symbol. They don't do anything special functionally, but have different colour schemes to their normal forms, as well as a sparkly animation when used in battle. They're a sign you're either a very lucky or very determined Pokémon trainer.

I've caught a few shiny Pokémon over the past two years in Pokémon Go, and I've had a couple traded to me in past games, but I've never before stumbled upon one on my travels. In Pokémon Let's Go it happened really early in my adventure. A few hours deep, in Mount Moon, I found a Shiny Zubat who ended up being my out-of-their-ball companion for almost the entirety of the story mode. I never normally care to play using Zubat, it's just not my style, but finding this out-of-the-blue misfit Pokémon made me feel oddly connected to it. I conflated it with the tale of the ugly duckling, imagining this Zubat being shunned for being different, and suddenly I was using him as part of my first Elite Four run team because he was different.

Considering how much this Zubat being shiny had convinced me to give them some proper time and attention, I realised what my challenge had to be.

I decided I was going to try and complete a shiny Pokédex in Pokémon Let's Go. That means a shiny version of every single possible Pokémon in my collection, including each evolutionary form of that Pokémon. Then I want to fight each of the game's master trainers using a shiny. I want to level them all up to 100%. I want to hyper train them to perfect IVs. I want an army of perfect, rare, shiny monsters.

Where does one even start a quest like this? With a spawn rate of 1/4096, how is getting 150 of these things even vaguely possible? There's a few things about Pokémon Let's Go that make this fool's errand more of a possibility than ever before. Firstly, while the 1/4096 base spawn rate in Let's Go is comparable to that in the last few games, the switch to Pokémon appearing on the overworld rather than just when random battles are triggered has made shiny hunting a faster process. Where previously you had to enter a battle with a wild Pokémon to roll that 4096-sided dice, now you can run through a field in second, see 20 different Pokémon spawn around you, and because you can see on the overworld if they're shiny, you can quickly rattle through shiny rolls. You're rolling the dice more often in the same amount of time, but each dice roll has the same small chance of being successful.

Secondly, Pokémon Let's Go has a series of in-game methods for raising your odds of a shiny encounter – certain actions basically allow for a number of re-rolls of that 4096-sided die. Catching 31 or more of the same Pokémon in a row, a 'catch combo', raises your odds of a shiny considerably higher than average. Consumable lures raise your shiny rate while they're active, and completing a standard non-shiny Pokédex grants you an item called a shiny charm, which raises your shiny hunting rates even higher. The game has kind of been built for this.

The experts crunching the numbers believe with all of these in play, you can get your shiny spawn rate to a little under 1/300, though the maths on that is a little contested within the community. Suffice to say you can make your odds a lot better. Additional pro tip: while lures are consumed by walking around, if you stand in place watching for spawns and running from anything that would break your combo chain, you can seemingly reap the benefits of one lure indefinitely.

Lastly, Pokémon Let's Go supports transferring Pokémon over from Pokémon Go, which has its own pros and cons for shiny hunting. Unlike every mainline RPG entry since Gen 2, Pokémon Go doesn't contain shiny variants for every Pokémon in the game, instead adding shiny variants slowly over time. As of today, Pokémon Go has 27 gen 1 shiny Pokémon available to players, with differing degrees of availability. Some can shiny spawn in the wild, some are exclusive to timed raid events, and some are made more common on community days.

While I never managed to get a huge number of Shiny Pokémon in Go, and missed out on raid shiny encounters like the legendary birds, I did on a few community days luck out and get ludicrous numbers of shiny forms of a few set creatures. When Let's Go launched, I had a head start on my Shiny hunting quest by transferring some of my duplicate shiny collection over from Go, as well as transferring many of my excessive numbers of Shiny Eevee and Shiny Squirtle over to the Switch. I didn't really need five or six extras for my quest, but they've been really valuable early trading resources to gather Pokémon my collection is lacking.

Additionally, and very importantly, shiny Legendary Birds in Pokémon Go, as well as the existence of wild legendary birds in Let's Go's overworld, have raised the odds of there being a trainer out there with duplicates of such a rare creature, which gives me far more hope for completing my collection.

These design features all combine into something of a perfect storm. Shiny Pokémon are still very rare, but now there are methods to raise your odds considerably, and there are ways to speed up the process. On top of this, not only does it make catching your own shiny creatures viable, but it also increases the odds of a stranger being able to find a shiny, and means more are available for trade.

All of this means that my quest has been going even better than I expected. I'm currently 42 species into my collection, which is roughly 28% of the way to my end goal.

I transferred Eevee, Vaporeon, Flareon, and Jolteon over from Pokémon Go, all caught during the Eevee community day a few months back. Shiny Squirtle, Wartortle, Blastoise and Charizard were also transferred over from Go, more community day finds that made the leap over to the Switch due to duplicate status. My first lucky find of a shiny Zubat happened without any attempts to raise my shiny odds, and was evolved early into a shiny Golbat during the main story mode. A trade with a fellow player brought a second Zubat to my team to replace the one I evolved.

Shiny Pinsir was a gift from my girlfriend, who doesn't really play Pokémon Go but accidentally found one in the run up to Let's Go and knew I'd appreciate such a special gift. I caught Shiny Ponyta and Rapidash in Let's Go via chain combo, because after catching 300 Ponyta in Go, not a single one had been the shiny I was searching for, and those blue flames for a mane are just beautiful. These were my first deliberate shiny finds.

Shiny Tentacool and Tentacruel were caught in-game using the shiny chain method too, with a perfect IV stat Tentacool caught along the way becoming my first perfect IV creature. Shiny Chancey was found completely by accident, I was hunting for Shiny Ponyta and Chansey just popped up out of nowhere causing me to break my chain, but it was totally worth it. Shiny Gyrados was transferred over from Pokémon Go, caught back in the day when shiny Magikarp was temporarily made more common for a short period of time.

Shiny Golem was found as a shiny Graveller, I was trying to chain combo Ditto's in Cerulean Cave, and managed to stumble upon my child of golden rock unintentionally. Magmar was actually hatched in Pokémon Go as a shiny Magby, my first shiny egg hatch. I really should have saved my candy up for Magmar's evolution in Go, but I couldn't resist adding it to my team in Let's Go.

My shiny Caterpie and Weedle were caught with chain combos in Veridian Forest, an area so full of Pokémon it's almost hard not to find Shiny creatures in there. Shiny Butterfree came courtesy of another player trade, from a long time personal friend.

At this point in my adventure, people on Twitter were starting to take note of my growing shiny collection, and offers to trade became more common. Often I would offer a spare shiny Eevee or Squirtle, but other times trainers just wanted to see me progress on my ambitious quest. The number of trainers who wanted to see me progress and wanted to be a part of the adventure vicariously shows the positive and supportive side of the Pokémon community. Often I ended up thanking players for their offers of shiny creatures by sending them rare creatures they were missing from their Pokédex, either version exclusives or just hard-to-find spawns. I ended up making rare exclusive hunting part of my shiny hunting routine, because they were a good way to thank people in trades.

You can follow my shiny quest in this Twitter thread, where I'm chronicling progress as it happens:

These unexpected trades added a beautiful blue Psyduck, Spearow, Rattatta, Paras, and Bellsprout to my team. It helped me add a Pidgey, Pidgeotto, and Ratticate to my party. Just last night alone I traded with players to add Dragonaire, dodrio, Charmander, Charmelion, Jigglypuff and Vulpix. While writing this article, I traded to recieve Magikarp, Grimer, Marowak, Hypno, and Onix.

While a lot of my quest has involved grinding combos of Pokémon and hoping I luck out, another big side has been the help and support of strangers, people who were willing to part with the rarest of creatures to help someone else hit a goal. The ongoing adventure is filling me with the sort of childlike excitement I've not felt since the series began. I remember when completing the Pokédex seemed like this giant challenge and, after doing it, feeling like I had achieved something beautiful. It made my lonely younger self understand that an obsessive need to collect was cool and interesting, rather than feeling like the repetitive weirdo who didn't really know how to be normal.

This quest hunting Shiny creatures has revitalised the beauty of Pokédex completion for me, as well as feeling good about myself. It's a task that in past Pokémon games has felt impossible but, thanks to the limited list of creatures, faster spawn hunting cycle, and increased transparency about how to increase shiny odds, Let's Go is the first game where aiming for this lofty goal feels actually attainable.

The support of players around the world helping out has only helped strengthen my desire to not only catch them all, but to catch them all with glitter sprinkled on top. I feel I'm experiencing Pokémon in a new way, with creatures that are hard to find and other trainers integral to helping me achieve my goal. My business is catching shiny Pokémon. And business is good.