Sometimes it seems like there are more rumours about lost Pokemon games than there are Pokemon games themselves. From the conspicuously absent Pokemon Z, to the long-reported Pokemon Stars for the Nintendo Switch and many more, fans have often wondered exactly which Pokemon games Nintendo has locked away in its cupboards.
I often wonder what a world with Pokemon Pink (mascot: probably Jigglypuff) would be like, let alone if we’d had Western releases for the myriad Japan-only games like Mystery Dungeon Wii, Great Detective Pikachu, or Pokemon Card GB2. While fans have provided translations for many of these games, it’s far more difficult to play games that were never released at all. And yet, somehow, fans still manage to get them into our hands.
I’d never even heard of Pokemon 2000 Adventure before DidYouKnowGaming’s recent video. I discovered the channel years ago while searching for obscure Pokemon lore, finding a treasure trove of tidbits on my favourite series, and stayed for informative investigations on Zelda, Half-Life, and much more besides. Every video presents new information or interview translations about classic games, and this was no exception. DYKG trawls through every cancelled Pokemon game in its latest video, spending a lot of time finding more information on Pokemon Stars in particular, but the big reveal is about Pokemon 2000 Adventure.
It was intended as a tie-in for the movie Pokemon 2000, obviously, and as such, US distributor Warner Bros. was licensed to make promos for the film. Instead of just cutting a trailer and doing some billboards, Warner Bros. spent $2 million building an entire adventure game with Pokemon at its centre.
The result exceeded anyone’s expectations. Warner Bros. hired a studio called CyberWorld, which created a game that worked a bit like Doom, with 3D environments populated by 2D Pokemon sprites. Eddie Ruminski, one of the developers on the project, told DYKG that the game was an instant success.
“We had about a million downloads in the span of a month, which was our most popular game to date,” he says in the video. “And that’s when Nintendo freaked, and they immediately hit us with a cease and desist.
“[Nintendo] thought Warner Bros. breached the contract, [it] exceeded the contract’s allowable scope, basically. Nintendo didn’t expect that promotion to include something that was legitimately a video game.”
The first-person adventure was unlike anything Pokemon had ever produced in-house, combining the Snap-esque perspective with unique puzzles. Things start up pretty normally, with Professor Oak on hand to tell you what’s at stake, and give you the options to pick a starting Pokemon team and difficulty setting.
The game has three islands to explore, which you can tackle in any order. Once on them, you have to solve environmental puzzles using the tools (read: Pokemon) at your disposal. DYKG shows the player using Lapras to freeze a lake and walk across and Poliwhirl to quench flames blocking their path. Doing so can cause your Pokemon to evolve.
At the end of each island sits a Legendary bird that poses a riddle to you. Answer correctly, and you get an orb. Collect all three, and you receive the most coveted item in Pokemon games: a certificate. All in all, it takes around ten minutes to complete, but it’s a mightily impressive achievement for a turn of the millennium browser game.
Kuminski reached out to DYKG after seeing the channel’s video on Pokemon Garden – also worth a watch if you like time travel or weird online multiplayer spaces – and sent all the files for the game. The video explains exactly how you can play the game for yourself, a process that involves installing archives and browsers to make things work on the modern internet. The channel credits a Pokemon Garden archivist, Rufus10, and his friend DoomTay for getting the game to work at all, but we wouldn’t be able to play this without everyone involved.
Also archived are the raw files, the soundtrack, storyboards, and all concept art for Pokemon 2000 Adventure. In an era when companies are apparently happy to abandon their past – and doubly so when that past had been sent a cease-and-desist – archivists are more important than ever for restoring the games of the past. Pokemon 2000 Adventure was considered lost media for over two decades. Thanks to the work of an investigative YouTube channel, an original dev, and some hard working fans, that’s not the case any more.