By Colin Salt
It's no secret that works change from start to end. And those changes can hugely effect how that work is perceived, how the fanbase reacts to it and how successful various careers are. In this article, we look at one example on how going with the original plan regarding one very small part of a very large franchise would have had an outsized effect on internet culture. This is changing the type specialization and character of one of the Gym Leaders (the expert Pokémon trainers who you need to defeat to win the game) in the original Pokémon game (Red/Green/Blue), namely Erika.
In the final game, the character of Erika became the grass type specialist of Celadon City. Her personality is that of a cheerful flower lady in traditional Japanese clothing, and one with a tendency to fall asleep. She's a minor character who's only really gained whatever prominence she has by the very success of her generation and its two remakes.
But what if she wasn't? What if, without needing to become an anime figure the way Brock and Misty did, she could have gained even more prominence though of a different type? It could have been very possible if her original concept had gone through. And that concept even made it as far as her finalized sprite drawing. Development and concept art of Erika showed that she was originally to have been a ghost specialist in what would become Lavender Town. Lavender Town ended up not having a gym at all.
What it did have was one of the most memorable aesthetics of the game. With its creepy music and sudden shift in tone from cute adventures to darkness and death (the main story in the town is about the spirits of dead Pokémon haunting a tower that acts as a graveyard), it stuck out from the day of release. Fans naturally built on its foundation as they told stories on the internet that would become known as "creepypastas". Thus came stuff like "Lavender Town Syndrome", where its music supposedly messed with the brains of those listening to it. Anyone who appeared there would have piggybacked on its prominence. But Erika's original design would have been like pouring napalm on a fire.
The ghost trainer who actually appeared in the final Gen I games was Elite Four member Agatha, who in the original plans didn't use Ghosts at all. Agatha was portrayed as a normal person who just happened to use a lot of ghost types. Original Erika would almost certainly not have been. It's impossible to say how far it would have been taken, but her sprite and even artwork illustrated someone... different. The background of her official portrait is purple (lavender) instead of the green of Celadon. Her eyes are closed and the Poke Ball on her sprite is in midair. Finally, her kimono is folded right over left in the style of the deceased. In Yellow and every later version, it was changed to the normal way.
So take a place that became an internet sensation already and add someone who quite possibly would have been some kind of undead. The fanfics, creepypastas and memes would have been massive. Yes, it would probably have no real (obvious) effect outside of certain subcultures. But its effects within those would have been greater than other shuffles of gym leaders between cities and types.