Nobody asked Zetamasterx to devote a year and a half of their life to capturing Legendary Pokémon with slightly different colour variants to their regular counterparts, but once they started, it became an obsession. For the vast majority of trainers, capturing a Legendary at all is triumph enough – but there are a select few who strive for a prize much, much rarer than that.
In the Pokémon community, these toiling prospectors are known as shiny hunters – a narrow demographic of players who regularly invest hundreds, if not thousands of hours into honing their trade long after the rest of the fanbase have moved onto the inevitable next generation. What this entails is simple: In Gen 8, the most recent generation of mainline Pokémon games, every ‘mon has a 1/4,096 chance to be a different colour to the rest of its species. These odds can be increased to almost 1/100, but even those chances make it a slow process.
If you haven’t already guessed, the objective of shiny hunting is to locate and catch these extremely rare Pokémon. That’s not taking into account that Legendary Pokémon are far rarer than almost any other, meaning shiny versions are very hard to come by.
Zetamasterx collected every single shiny Legendary available in Gen 8.
It’s important to establish the sheer level of busywork here. For Zetamasterx to catch shiny Regirock, they had to soft-reset the game – meaning they saved before the battle, instigated the fight, and then reset their Switch when they realised the Pokémon they were hunting wasn’t shiny – a whopping 18,000 times. And that was after failing their first shiny chance when Regirock struggled to death after 4,000 encounters. Imagine the frustration…
For shiny Palkia, meanwhile, the player embarked on 612 unique Dynamax Adventures, the roguelike minigame introduced in Pokémon Sword & Shield’s’s Crown Tundra expansion. Both the Regirock and Palkia hunts took an entire month to complete, but at time of writing, Zetamasterx is chasing shiny Cresselia in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and is starting to worry that they’ll break that record once more – which certainly isn’t helped by the fact they failed to catch their first one of those, too.
These are the most extreme examples of Zetamasterx’s hard work, but there was much more to do than just those – catching every shiny Legendary in Sword & Shield required roughly 18 months of regular play.
What is it that motivates players like Zetamasterx to commit to a time investment of that magnitude?
Every IGN Pokemon Review Ever
Danners99, a relatively green practitioner, recently completed their second shiny hunt. Prior to Sun & Moon, their interest in Pokémon was next to non-existent – but after stumbling across some well-known hunters on YouTube, that interest was instantly piqued.
“One [hunt] only took a few hours, but the second spun over two days,” Danners99 says. “As for if I have been enjoying it, I’d say yes – however, I have taken long breaks between hunts because I’m not accustomed to long grinds just yet.”
For some, however, shiny hunting is even more interesting than the base games themselves:
“I got into Pokémon because of shiny hunting,” Late_Experience_1990 says. “I would see YouTubers hunt for them and thought, ‘I want to give this a try!’
“I’ve only been shiny hunting for about a year. As of now, I’m more casual about it – I have school and other games I’m interested in. But it’s pretty rewarding, because most of the time you have to work quite hard for them. It’s like a trophy after a long hunt.”
YouTube is also responsible for FR00DA87’s gravitation to hunting, although their entry point was slightly different. Instead of watching streamers chasing shinies, they got into hardcore Nuzlocke runs, which revolve around a highly specific, self-imposed ruleset: You can only catch the first Pokémon you encounter on each route; if a Pokémon faints, it’s dead; and if you white out, it’s game over. This served as a gateway to shiny hunting, which FR00DA87 soon developed a passion for.
“I think people do it for the satisfaction of the final product,” FR00DA87 says. “That moment when you see the different colour ‘mon with the sparkles after hunting for ages – it feels like pure ecstasy.” FR00DA87 is quick to lambast people who pay hackers to artificially generate their shinies, which they see as missing the point.
It’s easy to see where they’re coming from. FR00DA87 once spent six hours a day, for a week straight, chasing a single, elusive shiny Giratina, which made their reward a whole lot more special than if they’d just bought it off a cloning site for $5.
FR00DA87 is very aware that this isn’t something everyone would be into: “It’s an excessive and boring process for barely anything of worth. If you enjoy feeling great satisfaction after a long deal of non-enjoyable activity, then it’s for you. But if you don’t have much spare time or much patience, absolutely not. I just shut my brain off and do a monotonous task for hours on end, so the adrenaline at the end is worth it for me.”
It’s no surprise, then, that the single sentiment echoed by all of our interviewees is that the drive to chase shinies boils down to one specific feeling: it’s less the thrill of the hunt itself than the rush of having finished it, with a reward so few other players will have.
All New Pokemon in Legends: Arceus
This is perhaps best articulated by our most enthusiastic interviewee – a Redditor who goes by the handle Warcraft101.
“I’ve been into Pokemon for as long as I can remember,” Warcraft101 says. “The hype was unlike anything I’ll ever experience again. The cards exploded in popularity – everyone was trading them at school. If you had a holo Charizard, you were Arceus [the name of a Pokémon God].” Just like those shiny cards, the game’s own shinies offer a similar mixture of personal pride and envy from others:
“I believe shiny hunting is popular because of the reward that comes from it. As with most things in life, it’s the journey you remember. Anyone can go out, catch a Pokémon in a minute, and forget all about that moment. When you’ve spent 20 hours hunting, you feel all types of emotions – and when that sparkle finally appears, it’s absolutely exhilarating.
“We do it because we’re dedicated masochists.”
Warcraft101 isn’t being hyperbolic when they mention masochism. They’re currently 140 runs into their hunt for shiny Ho-oh – whom they affectionately refer to as their “sparkly silver birb” – and it took them an astronomical 1,822 eggs to hatch shiny Pichu, whose very existence they questioned on multiple occasions.
“I started shiny hunting thinking, ‘I just want Ho-Oh & Eevee’,” they explain. “Boy was I wrong. I still have yet to get my own shiny Ho-Oh, and after I got that first hatched Eevee in 441 eggs, I thought, ‘Okay, well maybe I’ll just do the Eeveelutions’. Nope. I keep finding random reasons from childhood that inspire me to hunt more.
“Hunts can be very time consuming depending on your method of choice, but [they’re] more rewarding than anything I’ve ever experienced in a game.”
Interestingly, despite some fans’ love for the grind, more recent Pokémon games have taken it upon themselves to streamline the process of shiny hunting. Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee & Pikachu introduced shiny chains, which increase your shiny odds for every Pokémon of the same species you consecutively catch. Pokémon Legends: Arceus, meanwhile, implemented a revised mass outbreak mechanic (a spruced-up version of the similarly named phenomenon from Pokémon Diamond & Pearl) that also heightens your chances. In both of these cases, shinies are visible in the overworld, meaning you don’t have to waste time instigating battles to check your luck.
But the real king – or curse, depending on your preference – of shiny hunting is mobile game Pokémon Go, where your odds and encounter rates can skew higher than any traditional Pokémon game. Alongside Let’s Go and Legends: Arceus, Go is something a lot of shiny hunters feel pretty ambivalent towards.
“I’ve noticed there are mixed opinions throughout the games,” says Warcraft101. “I personally love most shinies the same, regardless of acquisition. The only ones I’m slightly less fond of are from Go. A lot of people tend to dislike the Pokémon Go shinies because they are easy to get at 1/500 without any extra effort. I’ve seen some say full odds shinies are the only way.”
Danners99 reckons Arceus’ odds specifically are a little too high. Another interviewee, Whiskey_Rain_, agrees – they believe shiny hunting was too difficult in early games, but was made too easy in Legends: Arceus. In their eyes, Sword & Shield marked the point where Game Freak struck a good balance between the two.
The rest of our shiny hunter interviewees are less worried about the modern trend towards making shiny hunting less approachable.
“I don’t think making shiny hunts easier is a bad thing, because to be honest the 1/4,000 odds are just tedious and monotonous,” says FR00DA87. “Nobody does it for the experience of hunting, so easier odds are never bad. But not stupidly easy like Arceus seems to be, or the Max Lair, which can seem excessive at times when you get two in a row.”
“I think it depends on the game,” another hunter, shiniki, counters. “For example, Dynamax raids feel pretty appropriate for Sword & Shield since that’s the mechanic for this gen. I’m not as familiar with Pokémon Go, but I do really enjoy shiny hunting in [Legends: Arceus] – if you complete all the tasks in a Pokémon’s ‘Dex entry, you have a higher chance of encountering a shiny. You have to work for it, but the reward is worth it, and you can choose which Pokémon you would prefer to hunt first.
“I know Dynamax wasn’t as popular as it could have been due to the NPC AI not being very intelligent, but I would love to see more co-op modes with shiny hunting.”
So what about the future of the series – where do these hunters want their niche pursuit to go in the upcoming Pokémon Scarlet and Violet?
Whiskey_Rain_ is hoping for an additional, ultra-rare shiny variant – particularly for ‘mons like Gengar, whose shiny sprite is barely distinguishable from its ordinary one. Some might point to the even rarer “square shinies” introduced in Gen 8, which are only differentiated by a slightly altered sparkle animation – but fans tend to prefer the idea of all-new colour schemes. For Late_Experience_1990, meanwhile, the current odds in the mainline games are fine. Their main concern about the practice becoming more streamlined is that easier shiny hunting will lead to less valuable shinies.
“I’d like there to be similar odds, because the 1/100ish with the Shiny Charm isn’t awful, but also for each Pokémon to have equal methods of hunting,” FR00DA87 says, referring to how some Pokémon types aren’t affected by the Shiny Charm. “I’ve seen some hunts go into stupid numbers just because of luck, so a hard cap would be nice.”
“I look forward to seeing the new shinies for Gen 9 for sure,” says a more enthusiastic Warcraft101. “I could wish for a ‘complete game’, but I know with the current market in gaming we’ll probably be getting a DLC-type deal. I’d love for a returning mechanic such as Mega Evolutions over a new gimmick like Dynamaxing. I’ve always flirted with the idea of half-shiny distorted-type Pokémon as well.
With all of the above accounts, it’s safe to say that the future of shiny hunting is unclear even for those who devote hundreds of hours to it. After all, with shiny hunting important to such a small sub-set of players, it’s unlikely to be a headline announcement for any new Generation – but that only increases the anticipation for fans when they first get to try out the new games.
One thing is for sure though – shiny hunters will remain as obsessed with the practice as ever. While Zetamasterx has their fingers and toes crossed for a return to Dynamax Adventures, they’re still reeling from the 18-month odyssey they embarked on to complete their collection of shiny Legendaries.
“I’m not sure if I’ll hunt them all again in future games,” they say. But the obsession is seemingly never far away. “Maybe I’ll give it a try.”
Cian Maher is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter.