One Man’s Five-Year Quest To Find A Shiny Pokémon

One Man’s Five-Year Quest To Find A Shiny Pokémon

Under normal circumstances, there is only a one in 4096 chance you’ll find a shiny Pokémon out in the wild. Some people have played Pokémon all their lives and have never actually encountered a shiny, one of those fabled Pokémon that comes in a special, rare colour.

[This post was originally published on July 2014.]

Joe O’Connell knows this woe intimately. He spent five years trying trying to find a shiny Mewtwo — a legendary that, in its shiny variety, appears as a green Pokémon. During his search, O’Connell did only one thing within Pokémon Leaf Green and Heart Gold: repeatedly going into battle against the same Mewtwo located at Cerulean Cave, over and over again, until it appeared as a shiny Pokémon. This process is known as soft-resetting, and it’s a painstakingly dull task.

“What soft resetting entails is reaching the static Pokémon (usually people use this method for stater Pokémon and Legendaries) and keep encountering it until it appears shiny,” O’Connell explained to me over email. “If it was vanilla Mewtwo, I’d simply hit Start+Select+A+B to reset back to the title and hammer A until I was battling Mewtwo again. Over the years I timed this process, and it averages to one encounter every eighteen seconds. Three a minute.”

O’Connell went through this process whenever he could, be it while he was watching TV or surfing the internet. He estimates that he reset the game more than 100,000 times, with over five hundred hours dedicated to this single all-consuming task. For reference, a typical Pokémon playthrough is about 15-30 hours.

One Man’s Five-Year Quest To Find A Shiny Pokémon

Those of you reading that are familiar with shinies in Pokémon might be scratching your head right now — aren’t there techniques that people can exploit to assure that you encounter a shiny without fail? Yes, there are. We’ve detailed them before. But O’Connell stubbornly didn’t want to take that route.

“For a long time it hadn’t even been about grabbing that green Mewtwo, I was just trying to validate the dedication I’d sunk into it,” O’Connell explained. “For years I’d loathed people across the internet who were complaining that their own hunt had taken all of four hours (!), and hated the wretched souls who had it pop up within their first few tries.

“There were moments when I was so tired I thought the regular purple Mewtwo was the one I was after all along, or genuinely forgot what the colour green looked like. I was sure I was cursed, or that my cartridge was hacked.”

…but it’s not like the thought of using a special method to encounter a shiny didn’t cross his mind. How could it not?

“In my most downtrodden moments I did look into RNG manipulation — a way to essentially increase your odds to the point where you can ‘predict’ at what exact moment you should encounter a Pokémon to get a shiny variant,” O’Connell explained.

“It felt like cheating, and if I was going to cheat I might as well just hack myself a perfect shiny with an Action Replay.

“I wanted to get [the Mewtwo] ‘legit’, and any kind of manipulation seemed uncool. Also, [RNG manipulation] seemed like a lot of work, and I was sure that it would just be quicker to do it the real way rather than learn the method just for one Poke. Turns out I was wrong.”

One Man’s Five-Year Quest To Find A Shiny Pokémon

O’Connell even linked me a story he wrote in 2011, where he pretended he finally found his white whale, along with status updates that expressed his frustration with his impossible task. This shit was serious to him.

And in July 2014, he finally found it. The shiny Mewtwo. After thousands of tries, there it was: the green Mewtwo he’d been seeking for five entire years. It was like a modern-day retelling of the now infamous shiny Ponyta video:

You hear how this guy is screaming with all his might when he finds the shiny Ponyta? The guy in the video only had to try twenty five thousand times for his shiny. That’s a quarter of what O’Connell had to go through.

“I always thought that if it ever happened — which I was sure was impossible — I’d simply breathe a sigh of relief, catch him in my prepared Masterball and put the game away forever,” O’Connell said. “Instead, I blinked a couple of times, and then just… kind of started screaming and whooping for a good five minutes like all those embarrassing kids on YouTube.”

He could barely contain his excitement.

“After I caught him and managed to stop my hands from shaking enough to dial her number, I phoned my girlfriend — who was on holiday at the time — to let her know. Whilst she was disappointed she hadn’t been there to see me pee my pants, I think she was hugely relieved it was all over,” O’Connell said.

He shared some pictures of the shiny Mewtwo with me, which O’Connell transferred into Pokémon X&Y so that he could use Pokemon Amie — a feature that lets users pet and feed their Pokemon.

One Man’s Five-Year Quest To Find A Shiny Pokémon
One Man’s Five-Year Quest To Find A Shiny Pokémon

“I’ve already EV trained it…[the Mewtwo] has a 30 in special attack and decent stats all round, except for its attack stat. I’ll just use it as a special sweeper, it’s pretty nuts that it turned out great.

“I know I earned that sucker, and that means a lot when you’ve been working at it as long as I have,” O’Connell said.

“I’ve seen four pairs of Pokémon games release, changed careers numerous times and had relationships come and go,” O’Connell said, when reflecting on how much has happened during his search for shiny Mewtwo.

So, was it worth it?

“Somehow, hell yes,” O’Connell said. “I plan to be using this Mewtwo ’til the day I die!”


      • Can I ask what your strategy is for shiny pokemon? Especially for shiny legends. Is it just patience??

        • Not me! I’m one of the guys who has *never* seen one. @beavwa is the man! And for legendaries, I think the technique is lots and lots and lots and lots of resets while watching TV.

          • OH! I have seen 1 green zubat. Bound to happen eventually because I probably met more than 8000 in that game anyway.

        • It’s worth setting up a strategy before the big pile of resets – I’ve missed a shiny Ho-oh before when it ran out if moves and struggled to death.
          Gen 6 has a few endless battle techniques involving leppa berries to make sure this doesn’t happen.
          Go back to Gen 3 and 4 and things get a bit harder – 1/8192 (gen 6 is 4096), no shiny charm, no endless battles. My own mewtwo hunt probably involved 30 hours to train the team for the hunt, and another 94 hours of resetting before the green shone through.

          Once you’re set for the grind, do something else. I’ve caught up on a lot of shows on Netflix while resetting 2 3DS systems on the table in front of me. Also podcasts on the train go well with a bit of resetting as well. Doing just resetting as a focus is far too tedious and a good way to give up fast.

          ORAS is a great place to start because there’s so many shiny legendaries to take your pick and try it out for yourself.

          • Thanks so much! I’ll give it a try with Groudon. Good enough place to start and he looks like a total bad-ass in black.

          • Next tip – Gen 5 and 6 introduced shiny locks – some legendaries can’t be shiny.
            Make sure you research before you start resetting.
            For Gen 6, it’s everything in XY and the story ones in ORAS – Groudon, Kyogre, Rayquaza and Deoxys. (You can reset the ‘gift’ story lati but I don’t see the value in it due to all the cutscenes)

            I had to go back to gen 4 (Soul Silver) to catch mewtwo, groudon and the bird trio.

  • That’s awesome! Having both used nefarious and legitimate ways to obtain rare pokemon like this over the years, i have only the barest glimps of the frustrations he must have had. I actually applaud him for sticking it out that long, doing it legit really does carry a certain “weight” that feels like a real achievement.

  • I only heard about shinies a few years ago, and thought it was a cruel joke for a good while after that.

    I have either never encountered one, or never noticed that I had.

    I’ve been playing these games since launch day of the original (though obviously not continuously).

    Now I feel ripped off.

    Dammit kotaku!

    • I barely play and I have a shiny Pikachu….. Its actually just a more yellow Pikachu which sparkles when brought out.

    • I’m pretty sure I encountered one, thought “huh, that looks weird” and then left the battle without catching it because it was a “common” Pokemon. Shinies seem kinda cool but I don’t really care and haven’t played since the GBA versions

  • Some people have played Pokémon all their lives and have never actually encountered a shiny, one of those fabled Pokémon that comes in a special, rare colour.
    What this guy said. *sigh*

    • Same, the only shiny I ever encountered was Shiny Gyarados in Gold/Silver/Crystal.

      Not to mention I have played all of the pokemon game to date.

  • First time I played pokemon..which was it…gold/silver? There were Poochyena in the starting area. The second one I encountered after getting pokeballs was gold. I went “oh, that’s weird, guess they have different colours now” then I caught it and went on. Wondered for a while why all the rest were grey and discovered much later that I’d caught a shiny.

      • Yeah…when I found out what shinies were I went oh, cool so that’s what my Poochyena is. Then immediately after… why the hell of all the shinies did the game have to give me a damn Poochyena!!?

  • Played since Yellow. Never encountered a wild shiny. At this point I no longer care as I’ve dived too deep into EV & IV’s to care about a shiny with subpar stats.

  • How annoyed would he be if he didn’t have it plugged in and the battery ran out at the moment he saw it.

  • Add me to that list.. played all my life and never had a shiny spawn on me. Only thing i can say is i have every single pokemon legitimately caught by me and pokerus.

    Still would love a shiny 🙁

  • While there are indeed much more efficient ways of farming shinies I have never done it myself,

    Just played the damn games for sooo many hours it was bound to happen:

    Fire Red: Shiny Growlith
    Leaf Green: Shiny Sandshrew
    Diamond: Shiny Kricketune

    They are the only “randomly” found ones – the Shiny Garchomp you received in X i think it was – so lame haha.

    Mate of mine cought Shiny Nidorina in the Safari Zone was quite impressed with that effort – I would be screaming on the inside at shiny encounters there.

    Also a little disheartening going to so much effort finding shinies then going to wondertrade later on and someone sends you cloned shinies with perfect stats / natures / japanese name…

  • Shiny’s aren’t that rare, i’ve encountered a few without even trying. I used to have a shiny unown but they are nothing special

  • The only shiny I ever got in Pokémon was I think last year, quite possibly the year before. There was a shiny Gengar distribution through JB/EB/etc

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen one randomly in the midst of normal gameplay though, but then my Poke history with the games is like Yellow –> Y –> Alpha Sapphire.

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