Not all Pokémon are created equal. Some legendary Pokémon, like Groudon and Kyogre, feature more prominently in the games' stories. Other Pokémon, like Garchomp, have superior stats. And some, like Lucario, are fan favourites. None of those, however, are as coveted as the fabled Shiny Pokémon.
Shiny Pokémon are special monsters that come in sparkly unique colours. There's a good reason they're considered exceptional: under normal circumstances, there's a 1 in 4,096 chance you'll encounter a shiny Pokémon in the wild in X and Y. Some people spend years trying to track down a single shiny. Hell, some people play Pokémon all their lives without encountering any shinies at all, while others resort to building machines to capture the rare Pokemon for them.
Cathal McCartan, however, has practically made a career out of shiny Pokémon. Hunting shinies is what he does, and people can watch him do it -- he has a YouTube channel full of videos with his reactions to finding shiny Pokémon. Often, he'll hunt multiple shiny Pokémon at a time, with counters tracking how many times he's encountered a normal version of the Pokémon. He even occasionally races other trainers to see who can find a shiny version of a Pokémon faster.
McCartan has two preferred methods of shiny-hunting: random encountering, and soft-resetting. Random encountering involves running into the same Pokémon over and over until the shiny variety appears. Soft-resetting, meanwhile, requires turning the game on and off over and over again, just so you can encounter a specific Pokémon again.
His process isn't the most exciting thing in the world, since it relies so heavily on routine and repetition. Sometimes, McCartan has to encounter the same Pokémon thousands of times before actually finding a shiny version of it. And the entire time he hunts for shinies, he's often doing something else, too, like watching YouTube or anime, which helps keep his mind occupied. And yet, despite this monotony, he has a YouTube channel full of excited videos where he gasps and rejoices in disbelief every time he finds a shiny Pokémon. It's heartening and unexpected, especially for someone that does this all the time.
"I have been officially hunting shiny Pokémon since around summer of 2009," McCartan told me. "Some find [shiny Pokémon] to be just a different colour Pokémon, and at the end of the day, that's what they really are. But, to me and a lot of other people, they are more than that. They are special, rare Pokémon that you have put work into obtaining. When you truly want a specific shiny Pokémon you will put in the effort to find it and when that shiny finally appears you get a huge adrenaline rush and you can see that all your work paid off and your dreams have become reality."
Currently, McCartan has found more than fifty shinies -- some found through chance, some found through special methods which were devised specifically to increase the game's chance of generating a shiny Pokémon for the player. He loves all of these Pokémon, but there are some he treasures a bit more than others.
"My very first shiny was a shiny Graveller in Pokémon Diamond shortly after the game came out," McCartain said. "I was levelling up my team in the wild before facing the Elite Four and Champion and then that golden beauty scrolled across the screen. I was bewildered. I quickly caught it not realising what it was or how rare it was. It is pretty much what got me hooked on finding shiny Pokémon.
"I'm proud of all my shiny Pokémon, as you can imagine, but there are a few that I really love for various reasons," McCartan said. "My first being my shiny Lapras. It's my most iconic shiny and one of the main ones that people relate with me. I have a hugs love for Lapras in general. In most of my videos you can see me hunting with a Lapras at the front of my team. My shiny Lapras quickly became my most popular Pokémon and is now kind of my channel mascot."
Lapras took nearly four thousand tries to find. That's not nearly as gruelling as McCartan's quest to find a shiny Mewtwo, however -- that one took fifty seven thousand resets, done over the course of six months.
"That thing drove me crazy while I was hunting it," McCartan recalled. "Not to mention, I accidentally soft reset over a second shiny Mewtwo during the hunt. It was devastating. But, I continued on and re-claimed the magnificent beauty."
I can't even imagine the sort of rage I'd experience if I ever spent six months chasing a single Pokémon, only to accidentally turn the game off and lose it. But for McCartan, stuff like that doesn't waver his dedication. If anything, he has somewhat lofty goals set for himself.
Right now, McCartan is trying to catch the shiny variety of the original 151 Pokémon. At the moment, he has 35 out of an available 121 Pokémon (not every Pokemon can be captured in a shiny variety), meaning that he's already 25% of the way there.
"I can understand how people may look at what I do and think that it's very monotonous and 'it's the same thing over and over again', but to me, each and every hunt is different," McCartan explained. "You are hunting for a completely different Pokémon and going through a struggle to get it, not knowing how long or how much work you have to do to get it.
"My mindset is that you can only complete a hunt if you convince yourself that you REALLY want said shiny. When I'm hunting for a particular shiny, I look up any videos I can find of it and watch them all at least 3 times. I keep saying to myself that I am going to be the proud owner of one of those and because the chances are so rare you are/should always be excited when you find a shiny."
And boy, does he get excited in his videos once he finds a shiny -- you see him start to shake sometimes. Other times, he apologizes for getting so excited. He just can't help himself. He loves shiny Pokémon, even if they're not necessarily the best Pokémon for battle.
"I haven't really ever checked the [stats] on any of my shiny Pokémon mostly because I don't really care as I know that I won't be competitive battling with them," McCartan explained. "I would just use them in game. It's kind of cool when you find a shiny with a good corresponding nature to its stats, it just means that you are that extra bit luckier.
"But like I said, it makes no difference to me," he said. "At the end of the day, just the fact that the Pokémon IS shiny is enough for me. I definitely just take my shinies as they come. I'm not a picky person."
In case you're interested in taking up this hobby, McCartan does have some tips for you:
1) Well, I recommend choosing a target to hunt for. It could be your favourite Pokémon, your favourite colour, it may even just look cool as heck... but make sure that you really want it and that you are willing to spend hours upon hours looking for it.
2) Once, you are sure of what you want to hunt you need to do a little research on it and find out which games and what areas it appears in. You're best to chose the area/game that it appears most frequently in (That makes your chance better that you will get what you want and not something else).
3) Prepare your team to catch a shiny Pokémon. This is a very important step. If you forget something crucial it can mean the difference between you catching it and it getting away. Make sure you ALWAYS have an adequate number of Pokéballs at all times. Shinies can pop up at any time, usually when you least expect it. I recommend having Pokémon with specific moves like false swipe and sleep powder (or something similar). This will increase your chances of catching it.
Also, certain Pokémon have moves or abilities that can end a battle and make you lose your shiny. For example, Pokémon that know Explode may kill themselves, to prevent this, bring a Pokémon that has the ability Damp. All battle ending moves and abilities can all be negated by something, make sure to do your research or you may be sorry.
4) Remember, shiny hunting is a long process and just a hobby. Don't expect running into a shiny after only a few hours or so. They are rare for a reason. Keep yourself entertained and occupied during your hunt. Never lose hope or give up on your hunt, the shiny could be the very next Pokémon that you encounter!
Optional: Count how many Pokémon you have encountered during the hunt. You can compare these results and see how lucky you got with other people who got the same shiny.
Image credit: Sam Woolley.