The mythical Pokemon Mew was inspired by the F4 Phantom Fighter Jet hidden in the arcade game Xevious. Like Galaga, Xevious is a 1982 arcade shooter that was originally supposed to take place during the Vietnam War. Halfway through development, the game was modified to give it a sci-fi aesthetic. However, a small fighter sprite remained in the game code, which later inspired the creator of Pokémon.
After the sprite was discovered, rumors about how to make the plane appear in Xevious spread across Japanese playgrounds and through gaming magazines. Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri was a fan of Xevious and was intrigued by these rumors. When he eventually created Pokémon Red and Blue (originally Red and Green in Japan), he introduced the idea of a secret, unreachable Pokemon to his fellow developers.
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According to an interview translated by DidYouKnowGaming on YouTube, dozens of Pokemon developed, including the secret idea of Pokemon Tajiri, were cut or modified compared to the beta version of Pokémon Red and Blue due to the limited space of the Gameboy cartridge. Red and Blue were notorious bugs, and they used the most expensive debugging process in Nintendo’s history. After the debugging tools were removed, there was barely enough space to add one Pokemon.
The inclusion of Mew helped boost Pokémon Red & Blue sales
Programmer Shigeki Morimoto was tasked with adding Mew to the game at the last minute. Due to lack of time, he was also forced to create a Mew design, a sprite, a Pokédex entry and game statistics. Later, Mew’s design was refined by Pokémon art director Ken Sugimori for English translations of “Red and Green”, who softened the germ-like elements and created a modern Mew design. In the end, Mew remained unavailable in the game.
Despite the lengthy debugging process, numerous crashes, such as the famous MissingNo in Pokémon, remained in red and blue. A glitch related to the use of teleport or flight right at the beginning of the battle allowed players to face this. As soon as the existence of Mew was confirmed, rumors about how to get it quickly spread across the playgrounds. One of the popular rumors was related to a strange truck that could be seen while surfing with SS Anne. This is the only truck in the game, it can only be reached through trade, but it is useless.
Rumors about Mew led to a rapid increase in Red and Blue sales, which helped the Pokémon series become the media juggernaut it is today. Eventually, Mew will receive official releases through distribution events and a prominent role in the first Pokemon movie. Later Pokemon, such as Selebi, Girachi, and Viktini, continued the tradition of rare mythical and legendary Pokemon that could only be obtained through events.