Video Game / Pokémon Reborn

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Pokémon Reborn is an episodically released Pokémon fan game set in the newly created Reborn region. Interestingly, Pokémon Reborn is not a ROM Hack, but an RPG Maker game.

The story takes place in a world struggling with the aftermath of an environmental disaster. In Reborn City, Pokémon are scarce, the lake has more poison than water, plant life consumes whole wards quickly and without warning, and the population rarely ventures outside of the city. What's more, the local villainous team already has the region in their clutches. Enter our protagonist, a new trainer hoping to take on the Reborn League who finds themself caught up in much, much more.

The game is notable for having a mature story compared to the main Pokémon series, with a terrorist attack happening right in the intro. It's also mind-bendingly difficult, at least in relation to the canon games. For example, a level cap is enforced by the badge system in a much more strict manner, in that you aren't allowed to Level Grind past every leader or the overlevelled team members begin to disobey you. Moreover, there are some absurdly powerful bosses almost coming out of nowhere. They're far stronger than you'd ever expect at that point in the game, with teams and strategies straight out of the Competitive Multiplayer environment.

The game can be downloaded on its official website. There's also a fairly active forum, which has developed its own internal memes. (Just ask about Terra's couches.)

On June 16, 2015, a Pokémon Reborn forum user named Solarance created a mod for the game called Pokémon Reborn Hardcore (although he later passed control of the project to Commander, another Pokémon Reborn forum user). The mod seeks to make the already Nintendo Hard base game even harder; for example, it gives Gym Leaders from the fourth Gym on (as well as certain other bosses) Mega Evolutions. It also adds a new Bonus Boss: Commander himself, as well as a post-game Boss Rush called the Chamber of Memories. The download link for the most recent version can be found here.

See also Pokemon Rejuvenation, which is another RPG Maker Pokémon fan game that was inspired by this one.

Tropes used in Pokémon Reborn:

  • Anyone Can Die: And do they. Human, Pokemon... no one is safe in this game. Thus far, Corey, Kiki, Tara, Eclipse, Ame and both Eve and Lumina have all perished.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: In the canonical Pokedex, it is said that Chandelure can burn away a person's soul with its flames. Team Meteor Commander Sirius has a Chandelure. Come Eclipse's betrayal, take a wild guess what happens.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Starting with Episode 15, it's possible to re-battle the trainers found at the start of the game (with constantly scaling teams full of mons that give out ample experience) over and over again.
    • After completing a series of events that involves traverses a huge field and a puzzle involving Tauros and Boufflant, eventually you can speak to one of the former and get a time saving instant bypass from one side to the other.
    • Due to all Pokémon disobeying you if they're overleveled, a very cheap item that drops a Pokémon level by 1 is available not long after the start of the game.
  • Arc Symbol: A circle surrounded by 4 rectangles resembling the wheel on Arceus's back appear almost everywhere in the game including a host of doors that cannot be opened. Similarly, The colors Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, and Amethyst also seem to appear everywhere. It is revealed by Solaris that at least one of the doors was build by a civilization where Reborn now resides to enshrine where Arceus fell to earth and is sealed by the four respective stones in the form of jewelry, which later become the main Mac Guffins for the ongoing plot.
  • Alice Allusion: Luna, the Dark-Type Gym Leader, has her Pokémon nicknamed after Alice In Wonderland characters. The first female protagonist's official name is also Alice.
  • After the End
  • Ambiguously Bi: Cain. Dresses like a punk girl and loves throwing out innuendos such as calling himself a princess and you his prince (regardless of your gender). He also likes singing.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Adrienn the fairy gym leader, who does not identify as male or female also, ZEL. You can choose to play as a non-binary protagonist, as well.
  • Anti-Grinding: Similar to the main series games, Pokémon that have their levels too high will not obey you if you do not have enough gym badges. Unlike the main series however, it does not matter if they are trade or not.
  • Author Avatar / Creator Cameo: Ame, who serves as the administrator for the Reborn region. The actual Amethyst (a.k.a. the game's creator) has stated that she will have no major role in the game beyond that.
    • Almost all of major characters are members of the site's own Pokémon League.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: A field effect - grounded non-Fire types take Fire type Stealth Rock-esque damage, Fire moves are powered up, and Abilities activated by or related to Fire attacks activate automatically.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Lumina, who had a genetic disease that would kill her, desperately hoped that she wouldn't die and wouldn't be alone. One PULSE fuckup later, she, her sister Evelynn and Team Meteor member Zero are all stuck in the same body, which doesn't have the disease.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When Amaria saves you from a Garchomp.
  • Black Out Basement / Big Boo's Haunt: The abandoned Power Plant is both.
  • Bonus Boss: Several. Many popular or useful Pokémon are gated behind these, including typically easy to obtain Gastly.
  • Cigarette Burns: Charlotte burns Dr. Connal before escaping the Orphanage.
  • Crapsack World
  • Crutch Character: Hardcore adds one in the first Hardcore-exclusive sidequest- a Spinda with the move Hyper Voice. Said move has a base power of 90note , gets a power buff due to being the same type (Normal) as Spinda, and is a spread move, making it a godsend for the Hardcore-exclusive optional double battle against Julia. Unfortunately, Spinda has god-awful base statsnote , so it Can't Catch Up to the other Pokemon you find after only the first gym.
  • Darker and Edgier: The establishing moment for the game is a terrorist attack on the train you were on.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The beginning of the game shows how dangerous the world of Pokemon would be if it were real life- Pokemon are essentially sentient weapons of mass destruction, villains would be a lot smarter and act as terrorists rather than flashy super villains, people would fare horribly if they actually got hit by a Pokemon attack, and so on forth. However, around the halfway point things start to get reconstructed- the heroes have Pokemon too, and they're able to use them to keep the villains in check and secure victories, slowly making the world a better place. Perhaps the best example of this is Team Meteor's attack on Fiore Mansion, which ends in an utter defeat for Team Meteor and Solaris, who previously wiped the floor with you atop Pyrous Mountain.
  • Developers' Foresight: You're given a choice concerning where your sympathies lie regarding a conflict at one point. The game will remember and modify dialogue for a surprisingly long time afterward based on what you picked.
    • Whether or not you've joined up with the Magma or Aqua Gang will be reflected once you meet the famous Gossip Gardevoir.
    • Dialogue is modified based on rather or not you've become an honorary police officer in a few places, as well.
    • Dialogue is also modified depending on whether you change the Grassy Field to a Burning Field in your Gym Battle against the Normal Leader, Noel.
    • During a puzzle involving Tauros, Boufflant, logs, and ledges, you might get stuck without a mount behind a ledge. In every place where this is possible, strange flowers can be stepped on that will warp you back to somewhere you can continue the game.
    • The field effects are surprisingly in-depth - use Cut during a Forest field effect, and Cut increases in power and becomes dual Normal/Grass due to cutting down trees. Use Area of Effect Fire moves during the same, and the forest catches fire, transforming into an effect altogether far more useful for fire types, and likely detrimental to Pokémon (and trainers) more used to the forest. But summon rain during the aforementioned, and the fire will be extinguished, transforming back to its previous forest effect. And that's just one set of chain reactions possible.
    • One of the gym leaders will have a chess-based challenge before you are allowed to challenge him. Don't know how chess works? Don't worry! His butler is in the next room over ready to explain the basics.
    • The foresight applies to scenes exclusive to Pokemon Reborn Hardcore, too. In one Hardcore-exclusive sidequest, you get a message from Corey's ghost, asking you to and "bring the ring" to the spot where you ruined his life. You're supposed to pick up the Silver Ring from Corey's gym and try to give it to his ghost, who tells you that you were supposed to bring Heather's Ruby Ring and attempts to murder you with the remnants of his team. If you bring the Ruby Ring in addition to the Silver Ring, he notices... and tries to kill you anyway, since him getting the Ruby Ring was secondary to him murdering you.
  • Dungeon Bypass: What Team Meteor wanted to do with the PULSE Abra. It didn't work out, and was responsible for causing a massive amount of chaos around Spinel Town and their own base due to Abra's teleporting powers going out of control.
    zeL/Lumi: "Well, um… we need to get into a certain place, but it’s sealed tight, so… We figured maybe if we amplify Abra’s power, and ask it nicely… that maybe it could teleport us into there."
  • Everyone Has Standards: An Punch-Clock Villain orderly at the Orphanage of Fear expresses his thoughts in this way.
    Orderly: "I tried. Truth be told, I don’t feel all that inclined to stop you guys. Some of the things that go on here… they’re not right."
  • Evil Counterpart: PULSE machines seem to be this to Mega Evolution - mechanically they're the same thing, but PULSE is almost exclusively a bad thing for the Pokémon involved. That it was developed by local evil team Team Meteor doesn't help things.
  • Fetch Quest: An exhausting one: After helping the kids from the Orphanage escape, you have to go get a door open by turning the power on. Once you've beaten Shade, he turns the power on... and then shows you that your friends have been captured because Team Meteor was waiting for them behind the door you just got opened. In order to get to them, you need the HM for Strength, so you just need to go get it and beat the next leader, right? Haha, wrong. First, you have to go help Amaria track down the source of the poison polluting the lake. Once that's done, she gives you a boat so you can cross the lake. Second, you get to the next Gym Leader, Kiki, who you beat... but she doesn't give you the badge. Instead.... third, you have to go rescue Cain, who managed to get himself kidnapped by Team Meteor, and once you've beaten them, you find out that they're going to destroy Kiki's Academy. So fourth, you have to go back there and help fight off Team Meteor before they destroy the place. Then, while you get the HM, because Kiki was killed in the attack, you can't get the badge. Instead, fifth, you have to go find the next Gym Leader and beat her. Then you can finally go rescue your friends.
  • Field Power Effect: Tying in with the below Geo Effects, particular fields somehow amplify or weaken moves of particular types. Sometimes this is logical (an icy field makes Ice moves stronger) other times it's bizarre (a chess-themed field enhances Psychic moves, and makes them super effective against "dumb" Pokémon, or those with stereo-typically unintelligent abilities like Klutz, Simple, or Unaware.)
  • Four Is Death: Shade is the 4th gym leader to give you a badge, and to battle him, you must access 4 monitors that foreshadow, or call back to, important events in the game.
  • Final Boss Preview: Not the final boss, but at one point at the game you team up with Amaria, a late-game gym leader. The enemy levels at this point in the game are in their mid-30's. Her Pokémon are in the mid-70's to 80s.
  • Foreshadowing: Three of the four screens in Shade's Gym show events that have yet to happen in the game (and two of which have taken place afterwards...), as well as Corey's suicide, which already took place.
    • Also, near the end of Episode 15, he shows up in the Water Treatment Center and gives you a cryptic poem. What it means is not yet clear.
    Shade: Forget not: Four screens foretold four souls fortune forsaken, for forsooth, from foreshadowed, only two will be taken.
  • Frictionless Ice: Now weaponized! With the Icy field effect active, increased priority physical attacks gain extra power due to it.
  • Funny Background Event: Certain cutscenes will have amusing happenings in the background, such as Julia spinning circles around Florina as you scale the waterfall back from the Water Treatment Plant.
  • Gaia's Lament: The titular city of Reborn. Team Meteor is the cause of it.
    • By the time you return to Reborn City from Agate Circus, the city is in middle of renovation.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Attacks by plants have destroyed several wards. Team Meteor invoked this.
  • Geo Effects: Moreso than usual in Pokémon as of Episode 13. Rollout and other rolling moves increase in power on icy fields, Cut will become a dual type Grass/Normal move in heavily wooded areas, and dozens more.
  • Ghibli Hills: Route 1 and the areas directly to its south are so Ghibli, their Grassy field effect actually restores health to all grounded Pokémon every turn. You can, however, corrupt it with Poisonous attacks until the end of any given battle if you so wish. They're something of a Breather Level compared to the dreary environments you've seen prior as well, up until you reach the two gym leaders waiting along the way, anyway....
  • Grande Dame: Mrs.Craudberry
  • Grey and Gray Morality: More specifically, Grey Vs. Grey and Black Morality. A good chunk of the heroes (most blatantly, Saphira and Titania) are Anti-Heroes, and most of the grunts (as well as some of the Admins, like Taka and ZEL's Eve and Lumi personalities) of Team Meteor are actually really nice people. It even turns out that Solaris, Team Meteor's Dragon, is a Knight Templar who seeks to remake the Reborn region. Despite this, many of the higher-ups in Team Meteor (ZEL's Zero personality, Sirius, and most of all Lin) are rotten to the core, so the heroes are A Lighter Shade of Grey.
  • Guide Dang It!: While far from the only example, the process to obtain the game's first available pseudo-legendary (at level 1 during a time when your Pokémon are likely pushing their 50s) requires such a long series of counter intuitive actions that border on Metroid-esque Sequence Breaking levels of lateral thinking that the game itself literally calls bullshit on it once you're successful. Specifically... 
    • The second available psuedo-legendary, Goomy and its line, are less complicated, but the questline only becomes available after you've defeated Adrienn, the Fairy gym leader, when your Pokemon are likely nearing the 80s. To start, you need to choose to repair the Obsidia Slums in the Grand Hall of Reborn City, which requires you to make a payment of roughly 60000 Poke. Next, you need to talk to a certain person in the renovated Slums to obtain the GUM key for the Water Treatment Center. This will allow you to enter a room that was previously locked up, where you will see Goomy. Then, you have to solve a very complex pipe puzzle (and be at a certain place when it's done), before pressing a button, to finally obtain a level 30 Goomy, which joins your team for freeing it from the pipes.
    • Zig-zagged with the storyline branch in which you reveal Corey as a member of Team Meteor in front of his daughter. To do this, you have to find and rescue all the Policemen before completing the double battle against Taka and ZEL. This is pretty obscure because it's entirely possible to never even start the sidequest, but most players who know about it will do it anyway since it rewards you with two very good Pokémon. Then again, you won't know that you'll get these Pokémon from this sidequest unless you look it up on the forums, so...
    • Getting Herecross and Pinsir's Mega Stones requires you to talk to Nyu with only Blue Moon Ice Cream available as a consumable treat. Nothing remotely indicates this to be the case.
  • Informed Attribute: Reborn's Pokémon population is supposedly in great decline. The most this means to the player is that nearly every Pokémon worth using in the early game requires a special event to obtain, rather than simply appearing randomly. Dozens upon dozens of trainers still use the things, and it's not hard to amass hundreds yourself.
  • Jerk Ass: While he may not seem that way when you first meet him, after you get your first badge, Fern quickly establishes himself as one of these when you next meet him.
  • Just Between You and Me: Subverted - The (apparent) head of Team Meteor is only explaining his plan to distract you while his Garchomp kills you.
  • Kick the Dog: A Team Meteor Ace shoves Shelly down a staircase at Mount Ametrine at one point.
  • Lampshade Hanging: After Amaria throws herself off a waterfall, Titania follows her down, telling the player to follow them with an escape strategy. However, actually getting that strategy takes a long time, given that you have a lot of things to do in the meantime. Once you finally make it down there, the first thing Titania says to you is "Do you know how fucking long I've been down here?" She also lampshades and invokes the player's Kleptomaniac Hero status regarding the key she needs, saying that she's heard they have "a habit of picking up random objects that don't belong to you".
  • Level Drain: Common Candies are introduced in Reborn. The polar opposite of series mainstay Rare Candy, these inexpensive sweets will drop a Pokémon's level by one in case you've been level grinding too much and none of your team listens to you any more.
  • Light-Flicker Teleportation: Shade does this randomly if you wait in the center of his gym.
  • Mama Bear: Saphira is this for her younger sisters Charlotte and Laura. Threaten them, or anyone she cares about? You die.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Zigzagged with the creations of PULSE-empowered pokemon. While some of them disappear immediately (such as the Avalugg-generated iceberg), the forests created by the three PULSE Tangrowth stay where they are and have to be removed normally, and the poisoned water in the lake created by the PULSE Muk takes a very long time to remove, and it's stated in Episode 16 that the lake still hasn't recovered fully even with the PULSE Swalot removed from the Water Treatment Center.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The Lapis Ward Orphanage.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: You can meet Eclipse’s father in Calcenon City after her attempted betrayal of Team Meteor. He doesn’t take the news of what happened to her well, accusing you of lying. Later on, it’s possible for Aster to come and confirm to him what occurred.
  • Peninsula of Power Leveling: Invoked. You can easily level up any Pokémon you need by returning to the center near the start of the game and fighting the trainers there ad nauseam, who provide decent sources of both money and experience, as well as the Rainbow Challenge clown Indra at the Agate Circus.
  • Permanently Missable Content: A lot moreso than the early generations of Pokémon, where only a handful of Pokémon were once off. Here nearly every noteworthy early game monster is, if they're available at all, and if you faint them during their special event, say goodbye to your chance at one. However, in some cases, you can later catch its evolved form. Emphasis on some.
  • Polluted Wasteland: The Byxbysion Wasteland is an unusual example: It was not created by humans and is continuously growing despite few people dumping their trash there. An attempted cleanup for the expansion of the city was met with failure when all the trash that was there reappeared overnight when they attempted to clean it up. it is heavily hinted that this is the result of a talking Garbodor, Mr. Bigglesworth, finding and empowering itself with a discarded PULSE.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Dr. Sigmund runs an Orphanage of Fear and puts his charges through literal shock therapy.
  • Reality Ensues: Hoo boy, where to start...
    • The game doesn't shy away from the fact that Pokemon are essentially sentient weapons of mass destruction. For example, one Tangrowth (albeit one that was powered up by the PULSE System) was able to destroy an entire city ward. One.
    • The game also doesn't shy away from showing how badly a human would fare from a high-level Pokemon attacking them. Best-case scenario (in Amaria's case), you get some busted ribs. Worst-case scenario (in Kiki's case), it's fatal.
    • Amaria is very depressed, and Titania only dated her because she was afraid that Amaria would kill herself if she didn't. When Amaria finds out that Titania never loved her, she jumps off a waterfall. Worse, while Amaria survives, she wakes up with amnesia, having forgotten the last few months of her life, to just around the time you arrived. Titania doesn't take it well.
    • Corey's story shows what happens if you take away someone's reason to live: either he's exposed as a Meteor Admin and his daughter runs away because she's horrified by his actions, or he's not exposed and his daughter runs away because she's sick of his controlling nature. Either way, having lost the only thing keeping him alive, he throws himself off a bridge. The result is not pretty.
      • Worse, one of the people in the crowd who found the body is Shelly, another Gym Leader... who's 12. The poor girl has a breakdown from the sight.
    • During Team Meteor's attempt to use a PULSE Camerupt to make Pyrous Mountain erupt, Cal pulls a Heel–Face Turn and saves the day by destroying the PULSE before it fires up. Unfortunately for him, he does this after it's revealed that he was working for Team Meteor and he was forced to throw Kiki's Medicham into a pit of lava, so he's remembered not as a hero but as a coward who betrayed both his friends and Team Meteor. By the time you meet him again, he's been forced to work as a third party, unable to reveal that he sabotaged the PULSE when he installed it. Solaris even lampshades this:
    Solaris: Do you think such a reckless act redeems you? On the contrary, it condemns you.
    • When you storm Yureyu HQ to free your friends, two Grunts threaten to cut Shelly's throat if you get closer. As later pointed out by Charlotte, you can easily make someone lose control simply by making them believe that they don't have any: after telling the Grunts that she didn't care if they killed Shelly and just walking up to the panel and unlocking the gate, the Grunts were left with no idea of what to do, giving Charlotte an opening to rescue Shelly.
    • Team Meteor hooks an Abra up to a PULSE machine to see if they can amplify its teleportation powers enough to get them where they want to go. But as it turns out, the Abra doesn't want to play along, leading to it randomly teleporting things that it wasn't meant to teleport. Worse, they can't turn it off because as soon as they try, it just teleports them away from the machine.
    • Team Meteor's attacks are designed to drive people out of the places they attack. Given that they don't care about killing innocents, they kill and hurt a lot of people. But while some of the Grunts are OK with that, others aren't, especially when it comes to the people they care about. Unfortunately for Eclipse, Sirius does not take desertion well.
    • Blake extorts the Ruby Ring away from the player and flees up the peak of Ametrine Mountain. At the top, once the player beats him, Shelly suggests that since Blake lost, he has to give the player the ring... only for Blake to refuse and mock her. Not only is he an enemy, but he's an enemy with no respect for the rules - why the hell would he play along?
  • Shout-Out: After the Grand Stairway is destroyed in Northern Obsidia Ward, you can find a civilian who will say "On this day, humanity received a grim reminder..."
    • One of the fishermen on Apophyll Beach, when commenting on all the Grimer in the water, mutters "One grime to rule them all, and in the murkness, bind them".
    • In Lapis Ward, there is a lady named Lenore who uses a Luvdisc and a Murkrow.
    • The highest rank you (or a combatant Pokémon) can reach on High Striker? Over 9000, of course.
    • A woman recites a modified version of Avatar: The Last Airbender's opening narration in Coral Ward before the Gym Leader, Adrienn, returns. This is actually a subtle hint as to why and how they disappeared, as well.
    • You can join the Magma Gang or Aqua Gang, lead by Maxwell and Archer respectively. It's lampshaded to hell and back by both leaders.
    This rehash of the Magma and Aqua conflict ends here!!
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: When you are captured in Episode 16 and Lin goes Hannibal Lecture mode on you, Victoria, and later, DJ Arclight, both of them have something to say about her attempts. Sadly, Lin wasn't there in person, and she didn't seem to hear them.
    Lin: You thought you were strong together. And here you are now. Let this be a lesson. Numbers do not help. Friends do not help. Spirit does not help.
    Victoria: What does someone like her know about spirit?

    Later...
    Lin: Do you understand yet?
    Arclight: Tch, here we go.
    Lin: You have no control. You never did, even if your glass-spun egos depend on convincing yourselves otherwise. You are pigs to be herded. You are pigs to be hurt. Sputter, shiver, and squeal. It changes nothing. You know what to do.
    Arclight: She's gonna eat those words when one of us "little piggies" catches up to her.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Despite the myriad of terrible things Team Meteor does, the game goes out of its way to make it clear they're not completely evil villains. Even the mooks have names for one, a fact that is actually used at one point to humanize a pair of confused Meteor Grunts, and you wind up in an enemy mine situation with them regarding an out of control Abra. Lumi, the "nice" personality of ZEL's even thanks you for it, and is reprimanded by one of the meaner ones.
  • Sweet Dreams Fuel: In-universe, the Rainbow field effect is apparently this - sleeping Pokémon recover health due to sleeping peacefully, and Nightmare and the ability Bad Dreams are ineffective.
  • Totally Radical: A lot of the street punks and gang members.
  • The Battle Didn't Count: If you defeat the boss battle against Solaris, on top of Pyrous Mountain, which is meant to be lost, as the boss has a Garchomp at least 30 levels higher than your Pokémon, he shrugs it off and acts as if he ended the fight because he was bored.
  • Villainous Harlequin: The clowns found in the circus try to be creepy (for no apparent reason), but mostly come off as silly.
  • Violation of Common Sense: While trapped in a cage, your obnoxious rival offers to help you out if you kneel and beg for it. Opting not to leads to him leaving, and what is assumed to be Taka's Chatot freeing you roughly 3 real time minutes later anyway, but there's no way for you to know beforehand that that would happen.
  • Wham Line: At the showdown on Pyrous Mountain:
    Solaris: Cal! Stop her!
    • Also, during Team Meteor's attack on the Fiore Mansion:
    • During the meeting in the Grand Hall after returning to Reborn City:
    Ame: Besides, as the champion, I can't just do nothing, right?
  • A World Half Full: The Reborn Region is a Crapsack World, make no doubt about it; however, as the game goes on and Team Meteor's plans start to get foiled, things slowly get better. Even the titular city gets fixed up by Episode 15.
  • Would Hurt a Child: One of the Meteor grunts threatens to cut Shelly's throat if you don't back off. He can't really go through with it, though, when Charlotte calls his bluff.
  • Wretched Hive: The overwhelming majority of Reborn City, though the cake goes to 7th Street, filled with junkies, caged black market Pokémon, and stolen goods. By the time of Episode 16, it's getting better, though.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The entirety of the Magikarp sidequest. Buy it from a salesman right after getting your first Pokémon? It gets stolen immediately afterwards. Chase the thug who stole it down and bribe him to give it back to you? Surprise! The whole ordeal was a ponzi scheme that the thug and the original salesman thought up to rip off innocent trainers. Beat them up and make them give it to you? Turns out it got stolen from them for real. Chase down the Youngster who stole it and fight him? Well, that's good and all, but he already sold it to a gang. Join the rival gang and run the first gang out of the city? They already sold it to a guy in Seventh Street. Buy it from the black market Pokémon dealer? It gets stolen... again. Catch up to the thief and beat him in a battle? Turns out you just caught a decoy, and the real thief has already escaped the city. The worst part is, as of Episode 16, the sidequest isn't finished, so you never do get your Magikarp.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/PokemonReborn