Posted: November 24, 2021 | Updated: December 5, 2021

Toys R Us “ALAMOS” Darkrai

Not an if, but a when. Some months into the age of Diamond & Pearl, there existed little doubt in the minds of Pokéfans across the globe that Darkrai was coming to the West sooner rather than later. Japan had had Summer 2007’s Movie Darkrai, after all. Moreover, it was by this point a public secret that Darkrai had been programmed into the games, accessible via a yet unreleased key item, the ‘Member Card”. The only question that remained: when Darkrai did eventually come, would the Member Card be given out, or would a direct distribution of the Pokémon Darkrai take place, like in Japan?

DarkraiPerhaps wise from the promotional debacle of said TRU Manaphy (see here), the triad of TPCi / Nintendo / GameFreak1What body actually presided over worldwide event distributions is unknown to me. presented a (much) better calibrated plan to advertise this second big-ticket Mythical in America that was to answer all of fans’ questions in a timely manner. To be specific, Darkrai would be promoted in a concerted campaign marked by big, unmissable announcements and – importantly – special websites put live when they needed to be. In a further twist, TPCi chose to not spill the beans on the where and when of Darkrai’s US distribution right out of the gate. Rather, the company opted for a suspenseful stepwise reveal of Darkrai to intrigue fans, hook them and keep them coming back for more teaser tidbits. Happily for us, this resulted in some really cool advertising touches along the way.

When the time came, Toys ‘R Us stores across the United States (and Puerto Rico) once again formed the backdrop. This was not was as inevitable as it may seem in retrospect. As you may recall from this earlier articles, Japan’s companion to Eigakan Darkrai had been the early bird “10th” Deoxys, and in the Americas it was GameStop, not Toys ‘R Us (TRU), that acquired the rights to give out “Gamestp” Deoxys in late June 2008. Still, TRU won the tug-of-war for the distribution rights of “ALAMOS” Darkrai as well as subsequent Sinnoh Mythicals Shaymin and Arceus.2Plus a stray under-levelled Dragonite (November 2008). How high was the winning bid, one wonders? Either way, securing Darkrai was arguably a victory for Toys ‘R Us, because if the hotly anticipated Phantom Pokémon proved anything like TRU Manaphy from the Summer before, then it promised to draw loads of peppy visitors to its stores. And with these high spirits, of course, came a welcome eagerness to loosen the purse strings.

So! One last caveat before we get stuck in. It’s worth knowing that certain key primary sources pertaining to Toys ‘R Us Darkrai have permanently gone up in smoke, making it tricky to paint an exhaustive picture of the distribution’s various facets. But there’s good news, too. Thanks to the incredible efforts of many contemporaneous Pokéwatchers and Poké-newssites that diligently reported month-to-month developments during the carefully curated hype leading up to the Western release of Darkrai, enough snippets of information, direct quotes and pictorial crumbs remain retrievable to weave together what is, I think, a satisfying narrative. It’s not perfect, but little of value was *TRUly* lost. (Hope you appreciate the pun.) So, with all that said… Buckle up; I’ll walk you through TRU “ALAMOS” Darkrai.

The Suspense, It’s Killing Me

It all started with a silhouette. In December 2007, some months after the release of Eigakan Darkrai in Japan, pokemon.com foreshadowed the Phantom Pokémon’s international release with an update that saw a suspect-looking ink smudge appear on the bottom half of the official website’s homepage. Unmistakably, it had the contours of a Pokémon: Darkrai. Considering how much Darkrai had dominated the Western Poké-zeitgeist in the latter half of 2007, I much doubt that any true Pokéfan failed to recognise the silhouette for what it represented. And if a few somehow did, they could count on reporting by fansites such as Pokebeach and PM.net to identify it for them, both of which ran news articles to cover this sudden development (here and here).

pokemon.com dec2007

The pokemon.com homepage Darkrai silhouette, December 2007. Via Pokebeach.

Perhaps as part of a preconceived plan, pokemon.com upped the ante when on (or around) January 14, 2008, it replaced the Darkrai ink smudge with a slightly clearer one, and for good measure added another, more fearsome silhouette accompanied by the all-caps question “WHO IS THIS POKEMON?” This mystified nobody, but that likely wasn’t the point anyhow: these actions served to communicate that Darkrai was well and truly on its way, and fansites most certainly interpreted the appearance of silhouette v2.0 as such.3See for example Pokebeach’s January 14, 2008 article entitled “Darkrai Coming Sooooon?”, here.

darkrai silhouette 2

Who could it be? Pokemon.com, mid-January 2008. Via Pokebeach.

Now that TPCi had the fandom’s attention, it rolled out the promotional plan’s next phase. A week or two after the appearance of the second silhouette, in late January 2008, TPCi “unveiled” Darkrai in earnest through a dedicated special website on the URL darkrai.com. I’m told the website had all manner of cool content. Are you eager to see it? Yeah, I was too. The site ran on Flash. If you’re a regular reader here, then by now you’ll know what that means: darkrai.com was unarchiveable. Practically all official Pokésites incorporated Flash elements into their webdesign between 2007-2010, meaning that such gems of websites like manaphy.eu and darkrai.com are largely lost to posterity.4Fun fact: even at the time, darkrai.com’s flash elements caused problems. Wrote PM.net: “The site isn’t without its problems. Like Pokemon.com, the site is completely done in Flash. … Continue reading

We have a splendid description of darkrai.com though, courtesy of first-class Poké-documentation website pocketmonsters.net. In a January 27, 2008 news article entitled “Darkrai.com Launches”, webmaster Sunain wrote:

Darkrai.com launched Saturday evening unveiling news about Darkrai for the TCG, the anime and the video game. As a subsidiary of Pokemon.com, Darkrai.com is an all flash website designed to focus only on this newly revealed Pokemon.

Awesome. So what kind of content did it have? The news continued:

Screenshots, a teaser trailer and the logo ‘The Rise of Darkrai’ are all available to view on the site. Move information and a few Diamond and Pearl in-game screenshots of Darkrai were also posted. The TCG card for Darkrai was posted earlier in the week on Go-Pokemon.com but information on it is also available on Darkrai.com now.

Thanks, Sunain! We’re doubly grateful for this amazingly detailed description, because it is, to my knowledge, only one of three surviving descriptions of the website that was darkrai.com. The other being Pokéxperto’s here, in Spanish, and a brief summary by Pokebeach, which added how the site’s video game section described Darkrai’s signature moves: “The “Video Game” section briefly describes Darkrai’s attacks, Dark Void and Dark Pulse, as well as its ability, Bad Dreams (which zaps HP between turns when your opponent is asleep).”

At one point in time, Pokebeach also hosted what looks to have been an incredible array of screenshots of darkrai.com. Nothing less, in fact, than full-site, full-sized captures of the site’s home, video game, anime and TCG sections… But, if those were ever viewable as detailed high resolution images, today only thumbnails remain. I’ll reproduce them here for posterity; they give a decent impression of the erstwhile website’s visual style even if they’re largely illegible.

Darkrai.com collage

Darkrai.com screenshots, via Pokebeach.

Ironically, the best preserved bit of site concerns “content” that shouldn’t have wound up on the live website in the first place. Described PM.net:

In the Video Game section of the site, a sentence which looks like it was from a private email to the webmaster was posted and it even has a typo. It reads, “Whne its done, go ahead and make it live.” Obviously the sites launch was rushed.

darkrai

No problem, boss. Via Pokebeach.

That’s funny. //Remember to comment out your personal notes, kids! Anyhow, as Pokebeach had observed, on darkrai.com’s main page, the website said to “check back often to find out how you can get it [Darkrai],” meaning Darkrai should truly be available for download soon. Skeptics had been thoroughly silenced. But — how much longer was the wait?

The Announcement(s)

February went by. Then March. An eerie quiet lay over the Poké-fandom like a thick winter blanket. Surely anytime now, all would be joyously informed of Darkrai’s imminence? Salvation finally arrived two months later, in mid-April 2008, and it came – somewhat surprisingly – through a concise, borderline terse pokemon.com news section update rather than the flashy darkrai.com overhaul that the fandom logically expected. Of course, the erstwhile URL was unsuccessfully captured (because Flash)5https://web.archive.org/web/20080429040518/http://www.pokemon.com/#news_/XML/news_251.xml but in a stroke of luck, its pertinent portions have been handed down to us through most circuitous channels like it were an excerpt of Livy. Posted user “sleepingdragon9” to GameFAQs, sometime in April 2008:

“Stay tuned for information about the free distribution of the mysterious Darkrai-star of the new DVD [P]okemon: The [R]ise of Darkrai-exclusively at Toys”R”Us on May 31st and June 1st, from noon to 4 pm-, for your Pokemon Diamond or Pokemon Pearl game! (and if you don’t already own one of those games, that’s even MORE reason to stop by!)

That’s some questionable use of punctuation right there. Livy would most certainly disapprove. In any case, keen readers will observe that this newspost was equal parts notable for what it did and did not say. Yes. A time and place had been set for Darkrai: May 31-June 1, 2008! Woohoo! But, as Pokebeach and Pokéxperto were quick to underline, the newspost left ambiguous whether the keys to catchable Darkrai would be distributed, ie. the Member Card, or Darkrai itself would be given out.6Full quote from Pokebeach: “The method by which it will be given out is unknown; it could be directly downloaded to a player’s game though Mystery Gift, or the Canalave Inn event could be … Continue reading

Alright. Now, remember Nintendo Power? That’s right. The Big N’s official English-language infomag that, owing to a spectacularly bungled promotional campaign surrounding the arrival of Sinnoh’s first Mythical – Manaphy – on American soil, unintentionally found itself with the “scoop” yet failed to print much in the way of relevant details and moreover directed readers to two nonexistent external websites for more information, causing deep concern, confusion and even division among Pokéfans that lasted the distance up until release day? That Nintendo Power. You’ll be happy to know that NP marched perfectly in lockstep with the broader promotional machine for TRU “ALAMOS” Darkrai, printing precisely what they needed to, when they needed to, and not a letter extra. Or did they?

Per Nintendo Power’s usual release schedule, the June 2008 issue could be picked up from magazine racks in early May of that year. Readers who thumbed over to the mag’s “Community” section discovered a column or two of talking about the May 27, 2008 DVD release of Pokémon: the Rise of Darkrai (there hadn’t been a Western theatrical run) as well as some lines about a special event distribution to take place at Toys ‘R Us. Hmm. Now, I sadly don’t possess a full page scan to share with you; however, two sources independently confirm the full text of the announcement. Both take the guise of forum-dwelling internetters who typed up it all up manually, to wit “Kuronii” on GameFAQs and user “Quatra” on pokegym.net, May 3, 2008. The news read:

To help celebrate the May 27th DVD release of Pokemon: The Rise of Darkrai, Toys R’ Us is Hosting a special event for Pokemon fans. On Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1, between noon and 4PM, All Toys R’ Us stores in the United States will distribute the Pokemon Darkrai, the Mysterious new Dark type Pokemon appearing in the movie, to anyone who brings in his or her DS along with a Pokemon Diamond or Pokemon Pearl Game Card. (In order to add Darkrai to your copy of Pokemon Diamond or Pokemon Pearl, make sure you’ve obtained the Pokedex in your game.) On top of that, all DS games will be $5 off and the following GBA Pokemon titles will be 40% off: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team, Pokemon Sapphire, and Pokemon Emerald.

There are a few minor discrepancies between the records of Kuronii and Quatra, but we shan’t worry about those. As stated, this Nintendo Power notification came in a timely manner, ie. a week or two after pokemon.com had broke the news and readers were thus able to go online to verify NP’s message with relative ease by taking a peek at official websites. In fact, most interesting element of NP’s fairly businesslike statement is easily how, perhaps inadvertently, it hinted at more distro specifics than pokemon.com had done. I’m talking, of course, about the question of the Member Card. Perceptively reading between the lines of NP’s communiqué, Quatra inferred: “Now they say they will “Distribute” Darkrai, which sounds to me that you will [n]ot get the in Game Event item. But rather you will most likely get Darkrai [t]ransfered in much like the Manaphy Event at Toys R Us last y[ea]r. Is that what it sounds like to everyone else?” Hmm!

There matters rested for a time. Slowly the weeks crept by, and when only a handful of days remained to be struck off the calender until the Darkrai distribution stood to begin, one final round of official newsblasts followed. Fashionably late as ever in its Pokémon-related communications, TRU posted a Darkrai announcement of its own to the company’s website on or shortly before May 27. For whatever reason, Wayback struggled to archive the page; blank alt-text slates suggest that it presented a jigsaw-like composite image of Darkrai spread across some 12 tiles. Sadly none of these got saved to Wayback, but no matter! Fansite Pokefarm saved what can only have been the full image, and Wayback saved Pokefarm (here).

What (re-)emerges is an elegant, sizeable poster that communicated all the Darkrai essentials. Word has it that a variant of this poster also went up in TRU storefront windows across the country, while a more elaborate one with additional Mystery Gift instructions featured on in-store Darkrai information signboards. Broadly speaking, a couple of things are noteworthy about this TRU poster. For one thing, it constituted the final blow against the Member Card theory that some Pokéfans had increasingly desperately clung to in the hopes that Darkrai would be(come) shiny huntable. However, not only did the poster make zero mention of the Member Card,7Which would undoubtedly have featured centrally on the poster with accompanying instructions how and where in the game to utilise it, had it in fact been part of the distro. the flavour text also explicitly used the words “receive Darkrai“, thus putting the Card notion to bed. Second, it’s equal parts fascinating and puzzling that the advert spoke of “download stations“, because your average customer never laid eyes on the pocket-sized distribution hardware tucked away under store counters that facilitated Sinnoh’s wireless events. And although I appreciate the nostalgic huddled-together mental imagery that the term “station” evokes – think the Mew, Celebi and PCNY machines that demanded the player insert a gamecart – there was definitely no such thing for Darkrai. This TRU Phantom Pokémon was available wirelessly and wirelessly alone, with a signal that could be picked up from out in parking lots in some cases (see below). As far as I’m aware, no “manual” slot-2 backup distribution carts (historically used in case the distro hardware failed or was inadequate) were fabricated for Darkrai, either. Finally, note also the familiar reminder to keep a free slot in wondercard storage or fail to download the Pokémon.

TRU Darkrai poster

Toys R Us digital Darkrai poster. Via Pokefarm.

As their final promotional act, TPCi sent out an official Darkrai availablity press release on May 28, 2008,8It’s an open question whether such a press release also happened for TRU Manaphy; I haven’t been able to find evidence of it. informing quite possibly the collective gaming press that (via The Tanooki):

May 28, 2008 – It’s a Pokémon player’s dream come true! Pokémon USA, Inc. is offering an opportunity to receive the Legendary Pokémon Darkrai, during a two-day event at Toys”R”Us stores nationwide from 12 noon – 4 pm. During this time, all Pokémon aficionados who bring their Pokémon Diamond or Pokémon Pearl Game Card, along with their Nintendo DS, to any Toys”R”Us store in the United States have a chance to add one of the most sought-after characters in the Pokémon Universe, Darkrai, to their game. Darkrai, best-known for lulling people to sleep and causing nightmares, is the star of the latest movie, Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai, now available on DVD, and is featured in the new Pokémon Trading Card Game Diamond & Pearl-Majestic Dawn.

Who: All Pokémon fans
What: Darkrai distribution for your Pokémon Diamond or Pokémon Pearl Game Card
When: May 31 and June 1, 12 noon – 4 pm
Where: Toys”R”Us stores nationwide

The existence of darkrai.com and the well-thought out campaign around it make it apparent that TPCi had thrown its full weight behind Darkrai’s Western launch to make a true promotional spectacle out of it. These efforts thus capped off, what remained was for players to come collect their Darkrai(s).9Surprisingly, no news of Darkrai appeared at all on pokemon-games.com, which had reported repeatedly and enthusiastically about the various iterations of Manaphy in the United States (TRU, NWS, … Continue reading

The Big Day(s)

And inside Toys ‘R Us stores, players found… What did they find? It’s interesting how, when it comes to ALAMOS Darkrai, for perhaps the first time, we can spot a clear contrast between (extreme) excitement online and reports of relative distribution tranquility inside of American Toys ‘R Us stores – no lines, no fuss, no drama. To illustrate the first point: the most popular online mesageboard of the late 2000s, GameFAQs, played host to dozens upon dozens of TRU Darkrai topics in its D&P forum section (here), all of them posted on or around June 1 to discuss the various dimensions to getting to ALAMOS Darkrai, downloading ALAMOS Darkrai, and evaluating ALAMOS Darkrai. Tangentially, I can’t overstate how exponentially more frenetic was this discussion than for TRU Manaphy, which is not a dig at the presumed virtues or vices of the Seafaring Pokémon but rather reflective of the strength of Darkrai’s promotional campaign and perhaps the raw, edgy coolness of its unique design. But, like I said, indications are that out in the real world there was comparatively little overt buzz – less so than for TRU Manaphy.

Of course, there were reasons for this. It’s testimony to how quickly players had adapted to the world of PokéWiFi that practically zero pre-event forum questions arose about Darkrai’s distro mechanics. More so, collective memory of manual Toys ‘R Us distributions like the 2004 Trade & Battle Day “JEREMYS” and 2006 Mystery Mew had begun to fade, and few worried about arriving at store opening hours to watch staff raise the shutters, hoping to be first through the gate once the distribution device was switched on at noon – for multi-hour queues to snag this Mythical or another were well and truly a thing of the past. At best, some milled about the store half an hour in advance browsing the DS section, deciding how to best spend their (Darkrai-themed) complementary $5 off coupon. Long story short: with people trickling in over the course of double-day, 4-hour time windows to perform a download action that typically took a few minutes at most and required minimal to no human interaction (unless one desired goodies), the atmosphere was never going to be electric.

Furthermore, Darkrai marks the moment where players began to discover the more… discreet possibilities afforded by remote distribution. Such as to pull up in the parking lot outside their local TRU, connecting a DS to the wireless signal beaming from the store from the comfort of one’s vehicle, and thereby acquiring Darkrai without ever setting foot in the store or interacting with the offline community. It was a brave new world, and ironically, some who made the most noise online chose invisibility IRL. Naturally, social embarassment to be a (young) adult Pokémon aficionado played its part in an age where the franchise was still widely considered a children’s pastime and strangers might or might not raise an eyebrow at a grown (wo)man mingling in the Pokémon section. Remote distribution fully facilitated giving in to these underbelly concerns about potentially uncomfortable social situations. As such, the practical result was that many of the older demographic chose discretion and downloaded Darkrai alone and as circumspectly as possible.10GameFAQs is full of stories like these; I’ll highlight a few quotes. One “tgiaquinto” here: “I pulled my car right up front, downloaded it and drove away. Wasnt embarassed or … Continue reading

The 2008 Toys ‘R Us ALAMOS Darkrai, then, heralded a “new normal” for US event distributions characterised by no-fluff, straight-to-the-point practices and the codification of impersonal transactions between an invisible machine and players’ games, without a human in the middle.11Certainly for ALAMOS Darkrai and its impressive promotional campaign, one can argue that all the fluff had moved into the digital realm. The experiences of one “timrehix”, who chronicled his first-ever participation in a Pokémon distribution event on blogging website Livejournal, exemplified this:

I had never been to one of these before. I expected it to be more of an event. I was expecting a booth or some one dressed in a costume or something beyond the normal… But it wasn’t. I walked in[,] went to the video game area where they had put on a sign walking you through the steps, turn[ed] on game boy, go to mystery gift option on start screen, talk to man in pokemart with 5 or less team, poof you now have Darkrai. It was over in 5 minutes. It’s such a non thing that I wonder why they don’t do this way more often.

Darkrai signboard

TRU Darkrai instructional signboard. Via PokeBip.

I’m of course mindful to be painting with a broad brush here; there certainly existed pockets of communal Pokémon activity at TRU on Darkrai weekend, and there indubitably are many Pokéfans out there today to whom ALAMOS Darkrai was the greatest Pokémon experience of their lives because they visited TRU with so and so, met so and so, or did X and Y. The point, however, is the broader trend, and that trend was readily apparent: if there was such a thing as a unique communal feeling to Kanto, Johto and Hoenn Pokémon distribution events borne of a togetherness, with all in same place side-by-side at same time to shoot for the same thing, that special something had eroded rapidly from Mystery Mew to ALAMOS Darkrai. But, as they say, there’s no halting progress.

Perhaps as a consequence of TRU Darkrai distribution being more about the qualities of the digital Pokémon on offer and less about the in-life group process, we can see a sharp drop-off in glowing personal tales of the (non-)event. Even author Fourhman, who had described his experiences of Mystery Mew and TRU Manaphy in exquisite detail, did not put pen to paper for Darkrai. Still, we can find an interesting account or two. Wrote “poke_journaler” on Livejournal, for instance:

I was very excited for this event, as one might imagine, and I knew I simply HAD to attend. I’d never been to a pokemon event before, and what better time to go to my first? […] I had a great time. I went in, downloaded a Darkrai to both my Diamond and Pearl cartridges, and checked them out right away.”

Nice. The pull of Darkrai was strong. Or told “comfy-slippers”, on the same platform:

I went to the Darkrai event today at Toys ‘R Us, and they did have the download, so I was happy. 🙂 There were a bunch of other boys doing the download too when I got there. But it was weird since the store had a sign set up with the directions listed, but I didn’t actually see a device that was sending out the signal, unlike how it was a few years ago when I went there to get some Animal Crossing: Wild World furniture. But it still worked, so whatever. Anyways, one of the guys walked up to the group of 3 guys and was all, “Does anybody have a Liechi Berry?” And I overheard them talking about Action Replay cheats and I think they were setting up a battle because they were deciding who should be the leader. So my brain was LOLing at the PokéNerdiness that was going on.

Cute! There’s an exception to every rule, and one early-YouTube group of lads armed with a video camera ready to document ALAMOS Darkrai certainly let no social protocols temper their excitement. And I say that in the most positive of ways. The resulting contemporary homevideo that PKMNBlogger2 put out here about Darkrai is, well. I get Cloverfield vibes from it. It’s not all that illuminating regarding the practical and technical elements of the distribution, but it definitely offered a unique take on the event and, in retrospect, shows the power of Pokémon to fuel the imagination and inspire fans to enjoy the heck out of the franchise in their own way, even when a distribution is optimised to the point of mundanity. Also, *18* total Darkrai. Eighteen.

D&P card

D&P-themed typechart and iridescent portraits. Via PokeBip.

Alright, so let’s take a quick look at the complementary goodies that TRU handed out. We’ve already mentioned the Darkrai-themed “$5 off any DS game” coupon that was expected to boost stores’ weekend turnover. In addition, fans were given a “card with a type chart on the back and a picture that alternated between Dialga and Palkia on the front” when held up to the light at certain angles.12Source is: https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/boards/925601-pokemon-diamond-version/43410998 Neat. The Darkrai event was also a prime opportunity for TPCi to peddle its free Pokémon Fan Magazine to, well, Pokéfans, but interestingly, I can find no indication no that the Q3 2008 issue was handed out (if there even was one). History surrounding this infomag is a little murky, so if anyone has information on this, let me know!

Then for the Pokémon itself. Much like TRU Manaphy had been a localised replica of Japan’s PalCity Manaphy, so ALAMOS Darkrai mirrored Japan’s Eigakan Darkrai. This meant that it faithfully inherited the Japanese Darkrai’s moveset that included Dialga’s and Palkia’s signature attacks Roar of Time and Special Rend, respectively. Nightmare and Hypnosis rounded out ALAMOS Darkrai’s moveset, making one wonder why darkrai.com had dedicated space to discussing “signature moves” Dark Void and Dark Pulse. But whatever. “Bad Dreams” was the Pokémon’s ability and its TID 05318, for May 31, 2008. On the subject of “ALAMOS”: that choice of Trainer Name – in reference to the fictional Pokéverse town where Movie 10 – came as a surprise to fans, who had universally expected another OT of “TRU”. That was probably for the better, however, because miscreants who put together hacked Darkrai ahead of the event universally gave their fakes the OT “TRU”, causing them to stand out like a sore thumb once the genuine article was available. Finally, ALAMAOS Darkrai had random natures, random IVs, and therefore random characteristics, and fans enjoyed resetting the in-game PokeMart acquisition process over and over until desirable nature and IVs had been obtained. Or, well. “Enjoyed”.13See again GameFAQs.

Alamos Darkrai

Alamos Darkrai. Note also its held item, a difficult to obtain Enigma Berry.

Now, the back of any wondercard rarely offers anything but flavour text and therefore usually doesn’t command much attention from fans. But in this instance those with sufficient presence of mind to attentively hit the “A-button” an additional time found that it contained some words accompanied by the web address pokemon.com/drkgift and a password, “Orasion”. Players who then took to their desktops, punched in the hyperlink and inputted the password – in all lowercase, apparently, for it to work – were presented with two Movie 10-themed wallpapers “both of which featured Ash, Darkrai, Dialga and Palkia” (per Pokebeach). Sweet. The official occasion was that week’s American DVD release of Rise of Darkrai, after all. In a broad sense, this “rear of the WC” secret again took a leaf from Eigakan’s book which had similarly directed players to a Yahoo Kids webpage with a pop quiz that gated access to some bonus material. The wallpapers appear to have vanished unarchived from the pokemon.com website sometime in 2009, but thankfully survive elsewhere on the internet (e.g. here).

wallpaper

“Orasion” Rise of Darkrai Wallpaper, formerly available at: pokemon.com/drkgift.

Closing Thoughts

So! What of the Member Card? Ah. It would come, eventually, through a *global* WiFi distribution rather than a local one, first in Japan in December 2008, then the Americas and Europe in August 2009. This made Darkrai available a second time, in a shiny huntable form at that, for unlike the Alamos distribution, Newmoon Island Darkrai was not “locked”, as they say. …Which as a matter of natural course brings us to the similar pairing of Movie 11 Shaymin and “Oak’s Letter” Flower Paradise Shaymin, plus a certain Arceus…

Indeed, per early Summer 2008, two Sinnoh Mythicals were known to still be in the pipeline: Shaymin, already announced for Japan as another “Eigakan” distribution for Pokéfilm Giratina and the Sky Warrior, and Arceus, whose presence in the game had been determined from the datamining of the Azure Flute that famously unlocks Diamond & Pearl’s (unused!) Hall of Origin in-game event. America would get its very own version of both Shaymin and Arceus, again at Toys ‘R Us, in February 2009 and November 2009 respectively. We’ll be investigating these closely in another article, but before those halcyon days dawned — Wait. What’s that? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s a… Surprise TRU Dragonite?!

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 What body actually presided over worldwide event distributions is unknown to me.
2 Plus a stray under-levelled Dragonite (November 2008).
3 See for example Pokebeach’s January 14, 2008 article entitled “Darkrai Coming Sooooon?”, here.
4 Fun fact: even at the time, darkrai.com’s flash elements caused problems. Wrote PM.net: “The site isn’t without its problems. Like Pokemon.com, the site is completely done in Flash. The site takes a minute or so to download, requires people to have Flash installed on their computer, and it renders slow on many older machines.”
5 https://web.archive.org/web/20080429040518/http://www.pokemon.com/#news_/XML/news_251.xml
6 Full quote from Pokebeach: “The method by which it will be given out is unknown; it could be directly downloaded to a player’s game though Mystery Gift, or the Canalave Inn event could be unlocked (where players are transported to Newmoon Island and have to face Darkrai within their game).” At: https://www.pokebeach.com/2008/04/darkrai-toys-r-us-distribution-may-31-june-1
7 Which would undoubtedly have featured centrally on the poster with accompanying instructions how and where in the game to utilise it, had it in fact been part of the distro.
8 It’s an open question whether such a press release also happened for TRU Manaphy; I haven’t been able to find evidence of it.
9 Surprisingly, no news of Darkrai appeared at all on pokemon-games.com, which had reported repeatedly and enthusiastically about the various iterations of Manaphy in the United States (TRU, NWS, Ranger). We may assume that darkrai.com was favourited over it. In general, pokemon-games.com looks to have stopped receiving updates sometime in 2008, and it outright redirected to pokemon.com by February 2009. Which is ashame because I liked the site; it was elegant in its to-the-point simplicity, sporting a pleasing azure colour scheme unburdened by Flash nonsense. All in all it was a handy short bulletin-style newsfeed that cut through the clutter of Pokémon’s tangle of official websites and offered somewhat greater permanence than pokemon.com’s ephemeral news section.
10 GameFAQs is full of stories like these; I’ll highlight a few quotes. One “tgiaquinto” here: “I pulled my car right up front, downloaded it and drove away. Wasnt embarassed or anything, it was just conv[enie]nt.” User “Megaguts” voiced his intent: “[U]gh, I dont want to be the only 16 year old kid at toy r us trying to dl a Darkrai, hopefully I can stand outside hope its mystery gift”, while “Eeveelution741” stated “if I CAN avoid going in, I’d like to.”
11 Certainly for ALAMOS Darkrai and its impressive promotional campaign, one can argue that all the fluff had moved into the digital realm.
12 Source is: https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/boards/925601-pokemon-diamond-version/43410998
13 See again GameFAQs.