Fans Spot Countless Differences in Early Pokémon Diamond Prototype

By Ari Notis on at

Early prototypes of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl have emerged from the Nintendo “Gigaleak.” Like much else involved in this Snorlax-sized trove, it’s a lot to comb through, so Kotaku reached out to Pokémon expert Lewtwo to help sort through the many differences between the prototypes and the Diamond and Pearl we all know.

Users on 4chan and select prototype-focused Discord servers initially uncovered these files and reconstructed the resulting ROMs. There are multiple builds, but the earliest currently available is a build of Diamond dated to March 14, 2006, more than five months before Diamond and Pearl’s Japanese release on September 28, 2006. (Diamond and Pearl didn’t land stateside until April 22, 2007.)

Avid Pokémon players are still poring over the newly released prototypes, and the folks over at The Cutting Room Floor have been assiduously updating their wiki with the latest discoveries. YouTube user FrostedGeulleisia has uploaded an hour-long playthrough of the Diamond prototype. And Lewtwo, who goes by the handle @Lewchube on Twitter, has done the yeoman’s work of compiling many of the discoveries that sprang from that March 14 build into one gigantamaxed Twitter thread:

Where to begin... How about with dads? For Pokémon trainers, legendary Pokémon aren’t the rarest creatures in the land. Fathers are. In the mainline Pokémon entries, only one protagonist’s dad has ever popped up: Norman, the stick-in-the-mud normal-type gym leader in Ruby and Sapphire. Based on findings in the March 14 build, a father figure may have initially been included in Diamond and Pearl, too.

“The protagonist having a dad doesn’t seem to be impactful in the prototype outside of an initial conversation that doesn’t reveal all that much,” Lewtwo told Kotaku over Twitter DM. He pointed out, however, that your rival in Diamond and Pearl, Barry, does have an in-game dad, named Palmer, who serves as the leader of the post-game Battle Tower. So it’s really just our poor player characters who regularly seem to lack fathers.

Lewtwo speculates that this could imply that the Pokémon developers wanted to set a new precedent in the third generation of games (Ruby and Sapphire), where player characters did indeed have father figures, before reversing course and abandoning such a notion during development of the fourth-generation games (Diamond and Pearl). It could also mean squat. Either way, such news would surely make Ash Ketchum burn to ash with envy.

Another notable reveal is that Turtwig, one of three possible starter Pokémon, had a type pairing of grass and poison in the March 14 build. Of course, various type combos have shown up for starter Pokémon across generations, but they’re always mixtures of just three types: water, fire, and grass. Turtwig, who starts as a pure grass-type Pokémon, eventually evolves into the grass-ground-type Torterra. How many people would’ve chosen Turtwig were the little turtle half-poison-type, and thus might not end up half-ground? How many wouldn’t have?

Ultimately, the point may be moot. “It’s pretty up in the air whether Turtwig was intended to have that poison-typing,” said Lewtwo.

In many of the prototype builds, Turtwig shares the same base stats as Bulbasaur, the poison-grass-type starter Pokémon from Red and Blue versions. That could mean the developers just transferred over Bulbasaur’s data and used that as a placeholder, but not necessarily. Lewtwo pointed out precedence for starters sharing base stats. For instance, Charizard, a first-generation fire-flying-type starter, shares the same base stats as Typhlosion, a second-generation fire-type one. (Both also share a degree of maximum raditude.)

And let’s not forget the new plus ultra of prototype discoveries: new and altered graphics. The Diamond and Pearl prototypes have as many as you’d expect, which is to say a lot. You’ve surely seen the memes about Beta Arceus by now.

But that’s not the only Pokémon that was once rendered with a different sprite. Though none look quite as first-draft as Pokémon’s Lord of Light, scroll through social media, and you’re bound to see beta sprites for many of the Pokémon that show up in Diamond and Pearl. (Uxie and the other two lake guardians are rendered with a nightmare-inducing set of antennae. Search at your own risk.) Other Pokémon, including the generation-one starter trio, have a different set of backsprites – sprites that show what a Pokémon looks like from behind, which you see during battles:

And Sinnoh, the game world of Diamond and Pearl, received a serious facelift. Just look at Ravaged Path’s incredible glow-up:

There’s plenty more in Lewtwo’s thread, so be sure to check that out for more environmental differences between the March 14 build of Diamond and the final game’s version of Sinnoh. Some regions, in fact, are straight-up incomplete. Black voids show up instead of patches of tall grass. There’s no snow anywhere in the north. Mt. Coronet, the tallest mountain in the land and basically Sinnoh’s Mount Olympus, isn’t present in this build.

Neither is Eterna Forest, the woody realm that separates Floaroma Town and Eterna City on Route 205, or Oreburgh Mine, a dungeon the player must explore before battling the game’s first gym leader. Snowpoint City is about as prototype as things get, showing up as just a few bare assets and a crosshatch of squares – a far cry from the powdery pine-tree haven it ended up as in the final game.

But to Lewtwo, the starkest differences can be found in Route 209, which has an “entirely different” layout than what showed up in the final game. In the prototype build, for instance, the Hallowed Tower – a monument that you can use to summon and capture Spiritomb, a Pokémon that’s about as rare as a trainer’s father – isn’t even there.

Then there’s the astonishing presence of Red, the player character of Pokémon Red and Blue and the true final boss of GoldSilver, and Crystal versions. “Through a debug code in this particular build, the Pokémon Contests could be accessed,” said Lewtwo. Even though Hearthome City didn’t have a contest hall in the March 14 build, Red shows up as a contest judge. What’s more, he’s done up as a brand-new sprite, looking much like he did in the fourth-generation remakes of Gold and Silver (HeartGold and SoulSilver), which didn’t come out until 2009.

“Red appearing in Diamond and Pearl was honestly just so surreal to me,” said Lewtwo. But this is all surely only the tip of the “Gigaleak” iceberg. It’s anyone’s guess as to what other potentially surreal gems will turn up next.