Shiny Hunting in Pokemon Is Tedious, But I Enjoy It Anyway

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Edited By generic_username
This game has voice samples of Pikachu saying its own name. Yes, it does sound really fucked up played through a Game Boy Color speaker.
This game has voice samples of Pikachu saying its own name. Yes, it does sound really fucked up played through a Game Boy Color speaker.

I love Pokemon. Pokemon Yellow was one of the first games I owned as a kid. I still remember the Christmas morning I was given it, along with the special Pikachu-themed Game Boy Color to play it on, and that now-hazy memory is one I hold very dear to me. Partially because getting stuff is nice, sure, but it's mostly because Pokemon would go on to have a tremendous impact on me. I became obsessed with Pokemon, as did a lot of kids my age, and my affinity for the franchise never completely faded after that. I’ve been playing Pokemon games for around twenty years, though how I spend my time playing them has shifted dramatically over the course of those two decades.

I was never actually incredibly interested in the collection and trading aspect of the games growing up. I know that sounds crazy, since that seems like such an integral part of the series, but I just didn’t have a link cable back then. My first experience with Pokemon was without a way to trade them, so that became the way I tended to play them. Nowadays, collecting rare Pokemon is the main way I spend my time playing Pokemon games. And when I say “rare Pokemon”, I’m not talking about Legendary Pokemon like Mewtwo or Lugia. Those Pokemon can usually be caught once per playthrough of any given game, and while that certainly makes them rarer than the average wild Pokemon, it’s not all that difficult to have at least one of each of them. There are Pokemon that are much harder to find than Legendary Pokemon, though. Series veterans probably already know what I’m referring to: the rare Pokemon variants known as “shiny” Pokemon.

Mega-Gardevoir and it's shiny counterpart.
Mega-Gardevoir and it's shiny counterpart.

For those unfamiliar, a shiny Pokemon is a Pokemon with an alternate color scheme from the norm. The color alterations vary wildly from severe to almost imperceptible. Some Pokemon have major changes that give them completely different style, like Gardevoir (particularly “Mega” Gardevoir.) Others are also given extreme changes, but actually end up suffering from the new look; there are a depressing number of shiny Pokemon saddled with a color palette themed around this awful, gross-looking shade of green. Between those two sides of spectrum, there are a number of Pokemon who don’t look better or worse shiny, just different, and these probably make up the vast majority of them. In addition to those, there are also an unfortunate number of Pokemon who barely look different at all in their shiny variants. Pikachu’s shiny form is a pretty infamous example of this: Pikachu is the most famous Pokemon there is, but it only gets a more orange tint with its supposedly-special shiny variant.

Most people who play Pokemon won’t ever encounter a shiny one, though. The odds of encountering a shiny Pokemon in the wild are extremely low. For many generations of Pokemon, the odds of one showing up were 1/8192. The odds improved to 1/4096 in X/Y, though, where they remain to this day. There are ways to improve those bad odds, however, and those methods are the reason I started shiny hunting in the first place. Unfortunately, different sources give different numbers so it’s difficult to verify exactly what the odds change to sometimes, but there’s no doubt that you get a significant boost to your chances if you know what you’re doing. Even so, some of these methods are extremely tedious to perform or difficult to pull off. Shiny Pokemon are pretty damn rare, for the most part, and that’s what makes them so fun to collect.

Aside from a few cases (and I mean very few cases) there are no shiny Pokemon waiting around to be captured in specific places the way legendaries are. There aren’t scripted encounters with shiny Pokemon, so it’s completely up to chance whether or not you find one. I knew about the existence and rarity of shiny Pokemon long before I was dedicating most of my play time to hunting them, and as a longtime fan of the series, not having one was starting to depress me. I wanted one just for the novelty of it; I just wanted to be able to say I had one. When I realized there were ways to increase your chances of finding them, I attempted to get my hands on one right away.

I hadn’t done a lot of research, but I knew of a method called “chaining” that could raise your odds to as high as 1/200. I won’t go into detail about the process (that link will tell you if, you're curious, though) but it’s a method that is pretty difficult to actually pull off, requiring one to notice minute differences between certain animations in order to be successful at it. I could not get the hang of it, and in my frustration, turned to another method of shiny hunting involving hatching eggs. If you breed two Pokemon that originated in copies of the game from different countries, the chances of the Pokemon hatched from their eggs being shiny increase dramatically. Unfortunately, hatching the eggs requires a large time investment, and since my motivation to find a shiny was relatively thin, I gave up pretty quick.

Aptly named, I guess.
Aptly named, I guess.

Shorty after that, however, I realized there were actually quite a few other ways to increase your chances. I stumbled onto what was perhaps the easiest and fastest method at the time (if you weren’t looking for a specific species of Pokemon) which was called “chain fishing”. Again, I won’t get into the minutia of how it’s done, but after I prepared a few special Pokemon for the task, it wasn’t that long before I had my first-ever non-scripted encounter with a shiny Pokemon. And to my delight, it was a first generation Pokemon I had some fondness for: Horsea. The, um… the seahorse Pokemon. I then went on to catch a few more shiny Pokemon with this method, getting a small taste of the shiny hunting experience.

My initial want was just to catch a single shiny Pokemon, but instead of feeling satisfied by the experience, I found myself wanting more. By this point, I was aware of most of the methods available to me, as well as the fact that my odds of finding them would improve dramatically if I had an item called the Shiny Charm. The only way to get this item is by completing the Pokedex (which is done by literally catching them all), and at that point it consisted of over 700 different kinds of Pokemon. It was a daunting task; one I never attempted even back when there were only 150 to catch. It had always seemed out of reach before, but I wanted it pretty damn bad at this point. I decided that would be my next goal: I would catch or trade for every single Pokemon there was and finally obtain the Shiny Charm.

I was filling out the Pokedex in my copy of Omega Ruby, and it was a pretty arduous process. There was an “easy” way to accomplish it, I suppose. I could’ve found someone online with a complete Dex willing to simply trade everything I needed to me; this was a process where we’d trade, then I’d trade back the Pokemon they just traded me in exchange for a new, one over and over, since having a Pokemon even for a second counts towards Pokedex completion. Even doing that would have taken hours though, given the sheer number of Pokemon I needed. I wasn’t going to ask a stranger to spend hours with me, nor was I going to spend hours connected to said stranger online, either. It just wasn’t going to happen. And I kinda wanted to do it for real, anyway.

Instead of cheesing it, I found every single Pokemon there was to find in in Omega Ruby, then hunted for others in my other Pokemon games, then transferred them over. I posted trades online for Pokemon that I didn’t have access to or would otherwise be a huge pain to obtain. I trained low-level Pokemon to evolve them and fill out those Dex pages, and bred fully-evolved Pokemon in order to obtain their un-evolved counterparts. So that I wouldn’t give up halfway through, I only tried to find a few new Pokemon every day and didn’t try to fill it out as fast as I possibly could; I didn’t want to burn out on it, after all. Because of that, this process took me several months to finally complete, but eventually I prevailed, and became the proud new owner of my own Shiny Charm.

Now that I had the Shiny Charm, my standard odds of encountering a shiny tripled, spiking up to about 1/1300, a huge increase over the 1/4096 odds I had before. The real treat, though, is that the charm had the same effect when using special shiny hunting methods, too, tripling my already-increased odds to numbers that weren’t nearly as out-of-reach as they had been before. I started getting more serious about shiny hunting, using a method called Dexnaving in my search. This method was far superior to chain fishing because not only is the pool of potential Pokemon much larger, I could specifically seek out the one I wanted instead of taking whatever happened to show up. Even with my dramatically increased odds, shiny Pokemon were still rare. From what I could find online, my odds while Dexnaving with the charm were somewhere between 1/200 and 1/600. (As I said, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there.) There was still a lot to do.

Ralts. But mine was blue and orange.
Ralts. But mine was blue and orange.

I found my first Dexnav shiny after about 700 encounters, which I did over the course of a few days. It was a Ralts, the Pokemon that eventually evolves into the previously mentioned Gardevoir, a Pokemon that’s powerful, well-designed, and treated pretty well by the new color scheme, too. Following that, I searched for an Eevee, which dragged on for quite a while, not appearing until around the 900th encounter, which was pretty bad luck. This one took me several weeks to find.

Since then, I’ve found quite a few shiny Pokemon, using several different methods and searching across multiple different entries in the series. I have around 50 shiny Pokemon right now, including a couple shiny Legendary Pokemon (or legend-adjacent, at least) that I spent quite a lot of time searching for. I plan to expand my collection further from here, too. The release of the Gen 2 games on 3DS virtual console (and the ability to transfer Pokemon from them into the new games) opens up some new possibilities for shiny hunting, which I’ve been exploring for the last few weeks.

It's a little strange that one of my favorite things to do in Pokemon games is something a lot of people don't even know is a thing at all. But that's okay. I actually think that the weird obfuscation of mechanics in these games end up making them better overall. Pokemon is as mainstream as video games come, with an awareness of and appreciation for the series found in people from from all walks of life, including some who barely (or even never) play video games at all. Even though the franchise has such wide appeal, it still has a very dedicated core audience who plays the main series games religiously. I think this is because in spite of having such mainstream appeal, the games have never actually sacrificed their depth in order to cater to their less-experienced fans. Sure, they bury that depth, making it hard to find without outside help, but… in the end, that’s what allows them their success. Anyone can pick up and understand Pokemon without being overwhelmed hiding the depth from novice players keeps those players from feeling pressured to engage with systems they may not understand or even enjoy. At the same time, veterans know where to look for what they want, and it’s always in there somewhere. Pokemon is made for everybody, no matter how old you are or how experienced you are with video games. You can play Pokemon however you want to play it.

In case you were wondering what I evolved that shiny Eevee into.
In case you were wondering what I evolved that shiny Eevee into.

For me, that means spending my time hunting down shiny Pokemon. I enjoy figuring out the odds of me finding one through any given method, and I like the long hours it takes to locate them. I’m willing to put up with a lot of tedium to do so because that tedium makes it feel like a special moment when they finally appear. Shiny hunting gives the games a longevity for me that few games have. Most of my save files for the more recent Pokemon games have play times recorded at over 300 hours, which is not even counting the hours and hours spent resetting the games during my searches. I've spent so many hours doing something many people who play Pokemon games don't even know about; something that most people would find incredibly boring. For me, though, shiny hunting gave the series a new life, and it's a much longer life, too.

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What are some of your favorite shiny Pokémon? My only attempt at getting a shiny was a Charmander with the egg hatching method you mentioned. However, seeing that Umbreon piqued my interest.

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Shiny hunting is the one part of Pokemon that I can't bring myself to do. I've spent many tedious hours over many games breeding, EV training, even IV hunting at times but after 1 real attempt at getting a shiny I swore off the process. I don't really understand why I can't be bothered with it either, because in theory I like how a lot of shiny pokes look but something about the entire process just broke me, even with SOS chaining (which is the mechanic that convinced me to try it for once). I have gotten a shiny by chance in the process of IV hunting, which was a nice treat, but I'm basically done with them.

It's cool that you enjoy them though! Out of curiousity, how many do you have now? Who's your favourite?

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I'd also be curious to know what your favorite Shiny is. And thanks for the post, it was an interesting read!

My girlfriend, despite being a Pokemon nut, is always is a little irritated when I start a new Pokemon game because I seem to just bumble my way into Shinies. I don't actively look for them (too much hassle for me in an already long game), but I seem to inevitably run into a few whenever I play. It hit its peak when I played and beat Pearl and the 3rd Zubat I ran into was a Shiny ? always fun to see her reaction

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Good read! I still remember back in Pokemon X when I hatched a shiny Honedge. I love the look of that thing.

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#6  Edited By MezZa

Shiny pokemon have always been interesting to me. In ny 20 years of playing, I've only ever encountered 3 randomly. A Hoot-Hoot in Gold (before I was given balls sadly), an Alolan Diglett in Sun, and a Wooper in Soul Silver. Then of course the red gyarados everyone finds in Johto.

I've never really farmed for them though because I find I usually like the normal look of them better. For my favorite Pokemon at least.

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#8  Edited By Strangestories

My favorite Pokémon is Ampharos and when playing Pokémon X I went to the area where you can fight 5 Flaffy to catch a female one, no intention of looking for a shiny. First encounter had a shiny Flaffy.

Only other shiny I’ve run across was a random shiny Rattata in Pokémon Fire Red.

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@captaincharisma:Of the ones I actually have, my Gallade and Gardevoir set is pretty high up there. Actually, I'm pretty fond of a lot of the ones I've caught, since in many cases I went out of my way to search for them because I wanted them really bad. My Porygon-Z is pretty cool looking, as are my Gastly, my Geodude, and my Pheromosa. And of course the aforementioned Umbreon.

If you mean in general, including ones I don't have, I have a hard time answering that for sure. Since there are ~800 different Pokemon at the moment, I don't know what a good 80% of them actually look like shiny. I tend to look them up if they meet a few other criteria and then go for them if they look cool. Off the top of my head, Ponyta is the first thing that comes to mind. It looks genuinely rad. Though I really, really like the way shiny Mega-Gardevoir looks, maybe more than any other shiny I've seen, including ones I don't have. I think it's probably my favorite shiny overall.

@imhungry: It's really very tedious. I've never gotten one through breeding yet, which is the method I've anecdotally seen the most people use to find their firsts. I find it more tedious than soft resetting, and I am pretty averse to soft resetting. Soft resetting requires zero mental input. Hatching eggs requires a little bit of juggling in order to be as efficient as possible. Though not in Gen 2. Those eggs show up so infrequently that I've almost never had a situation where my party is full of eggs when there's another one available.

Across all of my games, I have a total of 55 shinies, though 2 of them are the red Gyarados from Gen 2 and about 20 of those were obtained through a hunting method so easy it's almost trivial. If you go really far through the wormhole you unlock at the end of Ultra Sun/Moon, there is a really decent chance the Pokemon you find there is shiny. The odds can be as good as 1/10 in some cases. It's a method I used to just do a few times before going to bed; it probably takes under an hour on average to obtain shiny Pokemon doing this. The pool of available Pokemon is really limited, and limited mostly to Pokemon I don't care for, and additionally you have very little input on what actually shows up, but if you just want to find a shiny for the sake of it, it's the absolute easiest way aside from Event Pokemon.

My favorite is probably the shiny Gardevoir. Gardevoir is a very cool Pokemon with good stats and a strong moveset that looks cool shiny and even cooler mega AND shiny. I have a pretty strong affinity for Psychic-type Pokemon in general, too, and the Ralts that evolved into Gardevoir was also the first shiny I ever found using the Dexnav, so there's some sentimental attachment there, too.

@nicksmi56: My younger sister's first shiny was a totally random encounter, and she's had some very good luck with the Masuda method since then, too. And fairly recently, a friend of mine ran into a shiny in the first ten minutes of booting up Ultra Moon, full non-shiny-charm odds and everything. I had never seen a totally random shiny in one of my own games before, so I was extremely jealous. Literally the very next day I randomly encountered my shiny Geodude in Omega Ruby while just walking to the place I was planning on hunting. That was pretty cool. Also, I found my second Ralts (which happened to be male, too, meaning it's a Gallade now) while just walking between two areas and deciding to Dexnav a handful of times on a whim before moving on, and it showed up after less then 10 encounters. I found my Growlithe after burning out looking for something else, deciding to search for a Charmeleon in the Friend Safari. Growlithe showed up shiny after only 7 encounters.

That said, I've also had some crazy bad luck with them, too. It took me months to finally find my shiny Pheromosa, doing at least a handful of soft resets every day, and usually way more than a handful. That Eevee was a real nightmare, too. And I've been trying on and off to find a Ponyta for a loooong time, with no success.

@bleshoo: Honedge is definitely one of the cooler shinies out there. If I had more patience for Masuda method-ing, it would be a pretty high priority for me, but that method is just one I struggle with.

@mezza: I have only ever encountered one shiny Pokemon completely randomly, and even that was in a game where I had the Shiny Charm, so the odds were three times as high as they would have otherwise. I have witnessed a total of three random shiny appearances, in person, happening to be with my sister when she found hers and with my friend when his showed up, but as for ones actually appearing in my games, there's only my Geodude. His name is John Rocket. My brother said I should name him that, giving no explanation, and I did, and as it turns out, there was no explanation to give; it was a meaningless combination of a name and a word that popped into his head randomly. That's honestly better, though.

@strangestories: That's rad; Ampharos is probably one of my ten favorite Pokemon, and my Pokemon Gold save is actually in the middle of trying to hatch a shiny Flaffy right now.

Man, what I'm gathering from this is that it sounds like people have had a lot more luck seeing random shiny Pokemon then I ever have. I played these games obsessively growing up, and now play them obsessively as an adult, and in my cumulative thousands and thousands of hours playing Pokemon games since shinies became a thing in Gen 2, I have still only personally encountered one random shiny, and even that one had increased chances since it was on a save with a Shiny Charm.

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#10  Edited By CommodoreGroovy

That was a cool read! Shiny Pokemon has always seem like a cool thing that was not for me, but was interesting to observe from a distance and hear stories about how people caught their shinies (whether accidentally or purposefully). It's always a cool thing to see hidden mechanics like these in games that lengthens the experience for them. Too bad the shines weren't more flashy, maybe even to the point of a special skin, like LoL and Overwatch.

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In some ways there's something a little depressing by how easily you can get Shiny Pokemon with enough time, effort, and weird esoteric uses of mechanics that are still definitely intentional. It speaks to the larger magic of being a kid in the last gasps of the pre-internet era and not knowing shit, but the Red Gyarados blew my damn mind in the days of Gold version.

Pokemon X was really the last one of these games that really hooked me, and unsurprisingly that also included a bit of shiny hunting on top of me finally getting invested in EV training and nature optimization. I've never really caught that bug again (tl;dr for whatever reason X came out at the right time and place for me.) but for that brief period in 2013 I did spend a couple of hours looking for different colored variations of a handful of my favorite pokemon. Thanks to the wonders of chain fishing, I have a shiny purple Sharpedo hanging out in my 3DS pokemon box, waiting for a transfer to Moon version that never actually happened. I also have a green Beedril in Soul Silver that I got totally organically, but I'm pretty sure transferring anything out of those original DS-gen games would be way more of a headache.

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@arbitrarywater: The biggest hurdle in transferring Pokemon from those older games up is that you need a game from each gen as an intermediary to get there. I wound up having to drop 40$ on a copy of Black 2 in order to fill that link in the chain, since I skipped Gen 5 when it came out. And unfortunately, old Pokemon games, even used ones with no original box, tend to sell for equal to or more than their original retail price since they're never not in demand. Also, I then had to go and beat the entire main quest of Black 2 in order to unlock the transfer feature, because Pokemon games like to be backwards sometimes.

@commodoregroovy:I dunno, Pokemon people are kinda purists. Myself included... probably. It's maybe one of the reasons the games rarely change that dramatically from entry to entry.

I do have a Pikachu in what looks like some sort of wrestling outfit, though. That is a thing.

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