In the Pokémon games, players need 8 badges to reach the championship, but the anime revealed a secret badge that lets some skip straight to the top.
To beat a Pokémon game, players generally need to collect eight badges in order to challenge the League, but one episode of the Pokémon anime revealed that it’s possible to skip straight to the tournament with only one badge. Unfortunately for speedrunners, though, this badge is anime-only.
Collecting badges has been a core aspect of Pokémon since the first day of Red and Blue, and the anime has handled this fact in a number of ways. Sometimes, it’s suggested that there are many possible Pokémon badges, and that the eight from the games are just a small sampling of what’s available. At one point, Gary even shows off 10 badges, several of which don’t line up with the games. In one classic series episode, Ash finds out how he can obtain one of these unique badges–and that if he has this one, he doesn’t need any others.
In the episode “The Ultimate Test,” Ash and friends find out from their new (and short-lived) companion Todd that it’s possible to take a Pokémon League Admissions Exam, which tests trainers on both their knowledge of Pokémon and their ability to battle. Those who take and pass the exam receive a special badge, allowing instant admission to the Pokémon League championships. The test consists of a true/false round, where test takers must recognize whether a fact about Pokémon is true or not, a “Pokémon Recognition” round, which is the birth of the infamous “Jigglypuff as seen from above” meme, and finally a battle using rental Pokémon, to prove a trainer’s prowess even under unfamiliar conditions. Ash fared poorly on the knowledge portion, unfortunately, and his battles were interrupted by Team Rocket, causing the entire exam to be rendered null and forcing it to be administered again another day. Ash decides he’d rather keep traveling and collecting badges the normal way, so the group move on towards Cinnabar Island.
Where’d This Special Badge Come From?
The episode’s premise actually takes inspiration from the Cinnabar Island gym. In the games, Cinnabar Island’s gym leader, Blaine, has trivia questions set up as part of the challenge to reach him. Get the question right, and you don’t have to battle his gym trainers, putting you in a better position for the final fight against him. Blaine behaves a bit like a game show host, but the idea of challenging trainers on their Pokémon knowledge by restructuring it into a formal exam is a great idea for the anime. It’s also no surprise that this method wasn’t to Ash’s liking, as he’s never been particularly studious and struggled quite a bit as a result. While the exam administrator said he believed Ash could pass if he took it again, that’s just not who he is, and he did already have six badges at that point.
If the Pokémon League Admissions Exam badge did exist in the games, most speedrunners would have an easy time with the questions even without looking up answers, potentially shrinking the time needed for veterans to beat the game by a huge amount. Alas, those players will just have to beat Pokémon the old-fashioned way.