The Apricorn Balls

These balls are balls

Written by ritabuuk and dubiousdisc
Posted on November 11th 2022
Screenshot of the inside of Kurt's house in Pokémon Crystal
Kris walks into Kurt's house.

In the Pokémon Generation 2 games - Gold, Silver, and Crystal - there is man named Kurt who is an artisan of the traditional craft of making PokéBalls out of a particular type of treenut known as Apricorns. In the past, all Balls were made out of Apricorns, but nowadays everyone uses the newfangled Silph Co. Balls that are driving the traditional artisans out of business.

You can bring Apricorns to Kurt and he will make them into special Balls for you. Kurt needs a day by the in-game real-time clock to carve the Apricorn into a Ball. Depending on the particular type of Apricorn (denoted by its color), the resulting Ball will have a different special characteristic that you can't get from one of them machine-made PokéBalls.

The problem is, his balls suck!

The Heavy Ball

Heavy Ball

The Heavy Ball is advertised as being for catching "heavy Pokémon". The heavier the Pokémon is, the better the Heavy Ball is. Conversely, the lighter the Pokémon is, the less useful the Heavy Ball is.

Back before we could look this sort of thing up, we had assumed that there would be some sort of linear equation using each Pokémon's weight. So if a Pokémon weighs, say 50 kg, the Heavy Ball would give a certain bonus, and if another Pokémon weighs 51 kg, that bonus would be a little bit more, and so on.

However, that's not how it works. Instead, all Pokémon belong to one of five weight categories. If a Pokémon belongs to Category 1, the Heavy Ball will apply the Category 1 modifier to the catch rate. If a Pokémon belongs to Category 2, it will apply the Category 2 modifier, and so on. These weight categories are discrete groups, not a linear progression.

Category Number Meaning From Weight To Weight Pokémon in this Category in Generation 2, ordered by increasing weight Heavy Ball Modifier
Category 1 Too light 0.0 kg 102.3 kg All the other 222 Pokémon in Gold, Silver, and Crystal -20
Category 2 Still too light 102.4 kg 204.7 kg Graveler, Rhyhorn, Scizor, Dewgong, Exeggutor, Rhydon, Donphan, Mewtwo, Forretress, Ursaring, Machamp, Cloyster, Kingdra, Pupitar, Arcanine, Raikou, Suicune, Entei, Ho-oh, Tyranitar 0
Category 3 Slightly heavy 204.8 kg 307.1 kg Onix, Dragonite, Lugia, Lapras, Mantine, Gyarados, Golem +20
Category 4 Heavy 307.2 kg 409.5 kg Steelix +30
Category 5 Very heavy 409.6 kg and above Snorlax +40
The greyed-out Pokémon are not available in the wild in Generation 2, so you can't use a Heavy Ball on them.

So, the first group, Category 1, for Pokémon up to 102 kg, actually applies a negative modifier. That means that it will be worse than just using a regular-ass Pokéball. In a way, it makes sense: the Heavy Ball shouldn't work very well against Hoppip or Caterpie. It is a little strange that the Heavy Ball could possibly be worse than a PokéBall - all the other Apricorn Balls default to behaving like normal PokéBalls if their conditions aren't met, and the Heavy Ball is the only one that ever specifically applies a penalty. But, okay.

Miltank jumping down
Look out below!

However, the threshold for Category 1 of "too light for the Heavy Ball" is massive. Something weighing 102 kilograms is not light! This category covers the vast majority of the Pokédex actually. Not just Hoppip, but also Magmar (44.5 kg), Miltank (75.5 kg), and Rapidash (95 kg). So, if in the Generation 2 games you saw a wild Miltank, and had a Heavy Ball, you might think that a cow called a tank would be a good choice to use your Heavy Ball on. Wrong. Miltank gets a -20 modifier, because it is apparently way too light in Heavy Ball logic.

Then, Category 2 gets no bonus. When used to catch the Pokémon in this group, the Heavy Ball works exactly the same as a regular PokéBall. A waste. The no-bonus category is for Pokémon between 102 and 204 kg. So, Entei (198 kg) gets no bonus. If it sat on you, its weight would quite certainly crush you, but apparently it's not heavy enough for the Heavy Ball. The Heavy Ball is much more discerning than that.

The Pokémon in Category 3 get a +20 bonus. These are what the Heavy Ball considers "slightly heavy". In the Generation 2 catchable pool, it comprises of: Onix, Lugia, Lapras, Mantine, Gyarados. Exactly 5 Pokémon.

Category 4 gets a +30 bonus. The only Pokémon in this category is Steelix, but, since it cannot be caught in the wild, there's actually no way to use the Heavy Ball to get a +30 bonus. Why did they bother making this category at all?

Finally, Category 5 gives a +40 bonus, which is the maximum bonus that can be granted by the Heavy Ball. The only Pokémon in this category is Snorlax.

So, in total, only 6 catchable Pokémon in Generation 2 get any bonus at all from the Heavy Ball.

But even with these 6 Pokémon, is messing with the Heavy Ball bonus better than just using a regular Ultra Ball, which straight out doubles the catch rate? If we're understanding the catch rate formula, the answer is... not necessarily. For the Heavy Ball to be better than an Ultra Ball, the catch rate of the Pokémon has to be less than the bonus provided by the Heavy Ball. (show our math...)

Snorlax eating from an entire pile of pink donuts
Snorlax enjoying a light snack
(from pokescans)

This means that the Heavy Ball is more effective than an Ultra Ball on only two Pokémon: Lugia and Snorlax. And we imagine that the Heavy Ball was made with Snorlax in mind, and it's probably just a quirk of the Legendary catch rate math that it works well on Lugia too. So, it seems Game Freak made this whole special Pokéball just for catching Snorlax. Which, in Generation 2, appears only once, in a mandatory encounter, in the post-game, and it won't flee. There's no reason to have an entire special type of ball just for catching Snorlax.

So we were doing all that effort collecting Black Apricorns and turning them into Heavy Balls when they're only useful during literally two encounters in the whole game. And that's only if you somehow knew all of this. In most other cases, the Heavy Ball actually gives a penalty and might be even worse than using a PokéBall. Nice.

In Pokémon Crystal specifically, a bug was introduced to the code that causes the Heavy Ball to treat Kadabra, Tauros, and Sunflora as if they are infinitely heavy. Sunflora is not available in the wild, but you could potentially exploit this glitch and use a Heavy Ball to catch Kadabra and Tauros in Crystal with the +40 bonus (rather than the intended -20 malus). However, Tauros has a catch rate of 45, and Kadabra has a catch rate of 100, so the Ultra Ball's x2 bonus would still be better. The Heavy Ball is so bad, not even a bug exploit can save it.

The Moon Ball

Moon Ball

The Moon Ball is advertised as being good for catching Pokémon that evolve with the Moon Stone.

This is already kind of a pointless concept because, in Generation 2, there were only four Pokémon that would meet this criterion: Nidorino, Nidorina, Jigglypuff, and Clefairy , and none of them particularly call for a special PokéBall.

Maybe Game Freak was thinking about how hard it was to catch Clefairy and Jigglypuff in Generation 1, so they created the Moon Ball in Generation 2. In the first games, Clefairy and Jigglypuff were designed to be early challenges that not everyone would be able to catch. Both of them appear in an area that, once you move on, you won't be able to return to for quite some time, so if you miss them, too bad. Both have a low appearance rate (especially Clefairy), and may know the move Sing (especially Jigglypuff), so it takes some luck to encounter them, and your Pokémon will have a hard time staying awake to be able to whittle down their health, making it harder to catch them effectively. If you meet them early in the game, you won't have an overabundance of PokéBalls and healing items that you can waste. In the time before Bulbapedia, this part of the game was designed so that maybe you could manage to catch one of them during your first pass through Mount Moon, but probably not both of them, and maybe even neither of them. Then you could be intrigued and envious of your friends who do have a Jigglypuff or a Clefairy on their teams, and maybe you would want to try to convince them to trade.

Jigglypuff singing
(from pokescans)

While a special Moon Ball might have been a little bit useful back in Generation 1, we'd say the primary challenge of catching Clefairy and Jigglypuff came from needing to happen to find them and having the patience to endure lots of sleeping during the battle. Sure, any boost to the catch rate would be welcome, but that was not really the cause of the challenge.

But none of this applies to Generation 2. Clefairy and Jigglypuff no longer present any challenge in finding or catching. And since the Generation 2 games are sequels, people who played Generation 1 would expect to find Clefairy and Jigglypuff around Mount Moon, and prepare for the trip accordingly. As for what concerns the Nidoran lines, those never were hard to catch, and they aren't hard to catch in Generation 2 either. Ultimately, in Generation 2, there's no need for a special Moon Ball.

Clefairy with a Burn Heal
Used the Burn Heal on Clefairy. What? Clefairy is evolving!

However, this discussion doesn't matter a whole lot, because, actually, the Moon Ball doesn't function at all. When you use the Moon Ball, the game starts a check on the Pokémon being caught, to see if that Pokémon needs the object at index number 0x0A to evolve. In the Generation 1 games, the object at index number 0x0A is the Moon Stone. However, at some point during the notoriously chaotic development of the Generation 2 games, the objects got rearranged, and the Moon Stone wound up at index 0x08. Instead, the object at index 0x0A is... Burn Heal... and, of course, no Pokémon evolves by using a Burn Heal. So the Moon Ball never gets to apply its bonus. At least it defaults to working like a regular Pokéball.

But yeah, the Moon Ball wouldn't have been particularly useful even if it worked as intended, but it doesn't even do that.

The Lure Ball

Lure Ball

The Lure Ball is for catching Pokémon "hooked by a rod", so, while fishing.

This one works! It applies a 3x catch modifier bonus to Pokémon during a fishing encounter, making it always superior to an Ultra Ball.

...It's still not that useful, because you probably won't be fishing a lot, especially not in Generation 2. Most water Pokémon can be found just by surfing, which you will be doing a lot of whether you like it or not (as you are going to get Amphy's medicine and such).

The only Pokémon in Generation 2 that can be obtained by fishing and not by surfing and not through evolution are these five. And are their catch rates so bad that a x3 is even needed?

Out of these, the only one that might present a challenge is Qwilfish, but Qwilfish is one of the Pokémon that appears in a swarm, and with the Super Rod you'll find nothing but Qwilfish during the swarm, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to catch it with any ball you want.

So, if you like to fish in the Pokémon games, the Lure Ball is indeed helpful, and you can use it, if you want. But you could just as easily not. The Lure Ball works and has a use, but we don't think it's that big of a game changer.

The Friend Ball

Friend Ball

Pokémon caught in the Friend Ball become more friendly. Maybe it's really comfy on the inside. Maybe it contains brainwashing beams.

The Friend Ball works like a normal PokéBall, with no bonus catch rate modifier, but it sets the happiness of the Pokémon inside to 200 (out of a total of 255), rather than what would have been the species-specific base happiness rate.

Probably the most important reason to boost a Pokémon's happiness would be for those that evolve by happiness. There are a handful of Pokémon that evolve by happiness in Generation 2, since it was a newly-introduced mechanic in these games, but the only ones that are found in the wild that then evolve by happiness are Zubat and Chansey.

Smiling Zubat from Pokémon Smile

First, Zubat. Zubat has a base happiness of 70, so it will take a while to get it to reach 255 for its eventual evolution to Crobat. Catching it with a Friend Ball so that its happiness would instead start at 200 would be a good boost. Also, Zubat's catch rate is 255 out of 255, so you don't need any catch rate multipliers, and it's okay that the Friend Ball works the same as a regular Pokéball.

But, while a Friend Ball would be a worthwhile investment for Zubat, chances are that, if you want to catch Zubat, you'll catch it very early, before you even reach Kurt's house. And the Green Apricorns necessary to create a Friend Ball are only available in one spot in front of Mt. Mortar, towards the end of the Johto portion of the game. So, the Friend Ball will only be useful if you do not catch and keep a Zubat early. It's for those who do not like Zubat. Kind of ironic.

Chansey labeled with the word 'happy'
Here is Chansey illustrating the word "happy"
(from pokescans)

Chansey, on the other hand, has a base happiness of 140 - the highest value wild Pokémon can have. It's already pretty happy as it is, so the Friend Ball's boost to 200 is proportionally not much. But its catch rate is only 30, and it tends to flee, and, in all patches of grass where it can be found, it has only a 1% chance to appear! So, actually, you probably don't want to be mucking around with Friend Balls with Chansey when it is so hard to encounter, hard to catch, and easy to flee.

So, the Friend Ball works, but doesn't have a whole lot of use. And it's introduced too late anyway. And, besides, isn't it more exciting to get a Pokémon to like you from treating it well and giving it haircuts and seeing how it starts trusting you?

The Love Ball

Love Ball

For when you want to be more than just friends. It's advertised as "for catching the opposite gender", but it works the other way around. In Generation 2, the Love Ball is the Gay Love Ball. It gives a x8 modifier to a Pokémon that matches the same species and gender as the Pokémon that you currently have sent out. It sounds like they meant to check for same species and different gender, but they accidentally checked for same and same.

If the Love Ball worked as intended, it may have been useful for Pokémon breeding. You have a Pokémon of one gender, and you go find a matching wild Pokémon of the opposite gender, and you toss the Love Ball, and get the x8 bonus, and there you go. But then again, if you are getting serious about Pokémon breeding, it would be easier to match the Pokémon with a Ditto, which is conveniently available right in front of the Pokémon Daycare. And otherwise, you would be breeding to get a Pokémon with a cool move, so you will be specifically cross-breeding with a different species from the relevant egg groups. So, the Love Ball would have only had a limited usefulness.

The way it ended up working is hilarious for us gays, but otherwise completely useless.

Squirtle under a rainbow says 'Wow, I am so glad I came out!'
Love wins.

The Level Ball

The Level Ball is advertised as "for lower level Pokémon". More precisely, it's more effective on Pokémon of lower level than your current Pokémon in battle.

Like the Heavy Ball, this is not linear, but discrete and in categories:

Your Pokémon's Level Level Ball Modifier
Less than or equal to the opponent's level No bonus
Greater than the opponent's level, but less than x2 the opponent's level x2
More than x2 the opponent's level, but less than x4 the opponent's level x4
More than x4 the opponent's level x8
Level Ball

For the Level Ball to do better than a regular Ultra Ball, you need your Pokémon's level to be at least more than double that of the Pokémon you are trying to catch. If you have a Pokémon at level 100, that would be anything under level 50, which would be almost any wild Pokémon in the game. So, the Level Ball does have the potential of being better than an Ultra Ball, if you've played the game for long enough to have very high-level Pokémon. It could be especially useful for filling your Pokédex in the post-game.

The Level Ball mostly functions, but it has a quirk that was probably yet another coding mistake: it does not take into account the remaining HP of the Pokémon you're trying to catch as part of the calculation. In cases in which it would have been equivalent to a Pokéball or an Ultra Ball, this means that it will actually be a little bit worse than either. So, if you are intending to use a Level Ball, don't bother whittling the Pokémon's health down, just chuck the Level Ball, it's all the same anyway.

So yeah, the Level Ball can work, depending on how you're playing the game.

The Fast Ball

Fast Ball

The Fast Ball is described as "a Ball for catching fast Pokémon".

We thought this meant that the Fast Ball would be more effective at catching Pokémon that have a high Speed stat. Since the featured Legendaries of the Generation 2 games are Raikou, Entei, and Suicune, which are so fast and run across the land, we thought the Fast Ball must be the best ball to catch them, and it could be useful for catching other fast Pokémon like Rapidash and Persian.

But the in-game description is actually a lie! The way the Fast Ball was intended to work was to be more effective at catching Pokémon that can flee. So it's actually no good against Rapidash or Persian, because they don't flee. But it would still be good against the Legendary Beasts, right? Those do flee as soon they possibly can.

But not even that works. When you throw a Fast Ball, the game checks if the Pokémon you are trying to catch is one of the Pokémon that can flee. In the code, the Pokémon that flee are stored in three separate lists, organized by Pokémon that have a 10%, 50%, and 100% chance of fleeing. Due to a coding mistake, the game only checks that first list of the Pokémon with the 10% chance of fleeing, but not the other two lists. So, theoretically, the Fast Ball would have been the ultimate choice for catching the Legendary Beasts, but since they are not in the 10% fleeing list, the Fast Ball's check fails, and it behaves like any old PokéBall. That's why catching the Beasts was so difficult in Generation 2.

Tangela running
Bye!

So, the Fast Ball only works on the Pokémon in the 10% flee list. That would be Magnemite, Grimer, and Tangela. So, if you want to catch one of these three Pokémon, that's the time to bust out the Fast Balls and get a 4x bonus. We didn't know that Magnemite, Grimer, or Tangela had a chance of fleeing (after all, it's a pretty low chance), and we don't think of them as Pokémon that are particularly fast, so we never would have thought by ourselves to even try using a Fast Ball on them.

Out of all these busted nuts, the Fast Ball is the one that angers us the most because first it lied to us, and then it's broken on top of that. And we who believed the description were there harvesting White Apricorns and waiting to receive Fast Balls and then throwing Fast Balls at Raikou and not understanding why we kept failing to catch it.

In conclusion

Harvestable Trees in Generation II
Gold wasting his time harvesting Apricorns

No, really, the Apricorn balls suck balls. Five out of seven of them are impacted by coding mistakes, and the remaining two are not that great either. Even if they all worked as intended, they wouldn't be that useful. And they're a chore to acquire, because the Apricorns take one day to grow and Kurt needs one day to work on the Balls, and then for all of your effort you get these balls that don't work. Maybe the art of carving Apricorns is dying for a reason. It's not because youngsters have no respect for tradition, it's because Kurt sucks at his job!

We love the Generation 2 games (as you may have realized from our other articles), but damn! They really fucked these balls.

References

Notes

  1. Nidoran male and female don't need a Moon Stone to evolve themselves - their later stages do. It sounds like the Moon Ball might have been stricter about this in Generation 2, compared to how the Moon Ball was designed to work in later games.