All About GS Ball Celebi

This guide covers the history of the GS Ball Celebi event, as well as how to obtain the GS Ball and play the event for yourself in modern times on both original hardware and Virtual Console releases of Pokémon Crystal.

Celebi's Origins

Celebi's official art from the Gold/Silver era.

Celebi's very existence can be traced back to the first "mythical" Pokémon, Mew, a last minute addition thrown into the Pokémon Red and Blue's data by Game Freak staff member Shigeki Morimoto right before release.1 Mew's supposed existence under the truck in Pokémon Red and Blue's Vermilion Harbor is one of the most famous Pokémon rumors of all time, far before the modern access to the wealth of information on the internet that could stop such rumors from spreading. Not only the truck, either; kids spread rumors about how to get the secret Pokémon #151 for years across neighborhoods and school playgrounds, regardless of legitimacy. Despite being a last minute addition to the games, Mew ended up having a massive impact on Pokémon's popularity in both its home country of Japan and its expansion into the international, due to its lack of availability anywhere in the wild drawing intrigue from all players, and the distribution events that followed to legitimately obtain it. As such, while planning the second generation of Pokémon, Red and Blue's sequel games, Game Freak thought it important to include another secret Pokémon - Celebi, Pokédex number #251.

Celebi was designed with both nature and time travel themes in mind. Literally called the Time Travel Pokémon in the Pokédex, its Pokédex entry in Gold version reads, "This Pokémon wanders across time. Grass and trees flourish in the forests in which it has appeared." Similar to Mew, Celebi could not be found in the wild anywhere upon Gold and Silver's eventual release in Japan in November 1999, and instead had to be obtained through Nintendo themselves, often at distribution events at real-life locations. While a few of these were held in various regions, they often were not accessible for the common player, especially not people in rural areas. As such, rumors once again began to spread on how to obtain the elusive Celebi, across both school playgrounds and the ever-growing internet... and one location kept coming up in their rumors.

Click/tap the images to enlarge in a new tab.
A forum post from the year 2000 that reads 'It's Celebi. To get it, catch all 26 Unown, solve all 4 puzzles, and walk around the shrine in the Ilex Forest counter-clockwise at midnight on any day of the week. It will only appear at 12:00 AM Game Boy time. One minute too soon, one minute too late, you're screwed...'
A forum post from the year 2001 that reads 'OMG... someone just sent me this e-mail concerning Celebi... I can't test it, but I get the feeling it's a rumor. [Start of Email] To: Subject: No subject. From: Name withheld. Date: Saturday, July 7th 2001, 4:10:02 PM EDT. I liked your FAQ on Pokemon GS. Maybe I should get to the point, eh? I know how to catch Celebi in Gold and Silver. (Yes, without a GameShark.) Alright. First, you have to get all 250 Pokemon. You also need to have six shiny Pokemon. You go to either Professor Oak or Elm's, I don't remember which. He will say some junk about you being the best Pokemon collector in the world. Then he will say that you are missing only one Pokemon. He will then give a GS ball. Go to the Ilex Forest shrine and put the ball in it. A Celebi will appear! I hope this helps you! [End of Email] Comments?'
The sorts of rumors spreading on an early-internet Pokémon forum, Azure Heights. Many rumors like this spread elsewhere on the internet, distributed across message boards and personal fansites.

The mysterious shrine in the middle of Ilex Forest was a hotspot for Celebi acquisition rumors. It only made sense, after all! The shrine had a unique sprite and was strikingly placed in an unavoidable clearing in the forest... Ilex Forest itself was nature themed just like Celebi... but it was never used for anything plot-related! In fact, interacting with it did nothing at all no matter what. It seemed intentional, like Game Freak had some master plan revolving around the Ilex shrine with some obscure method to procure Celebi from it that no one had discovered yet. However, none of the rumors ended up being true. When asked in an interview about why the Ilex shrine even existed, it was revealed that no one at Game Freak knew or remembered why the Ilex shrine was included in Gold and Silver in the first place.2

The Release of the GS Ball

The Ilex Shrine
The Ilex shrine in Pokémon Crystal.

Regardless of their original plans or lack thereof, Game Freak noticed the many Ilex Forest rumors and found them interesting, so when planning Pokémon Crystal, Gold and Silver's definitive third version, they decided to make the rumors a reality. An event where a mysterious ball called the GS Ball could be taken to the Ilex shrine to summon and capture Celebi was programmed into the game, with the intention of releasing the GS Ball as an event item later to players.

The Mobile System GB
An illustration of the Mobile System GB in action.

The Mobile System GB was a paid, region-locked Japanese service that gave access to special features in Pokémon Crystal and Pokémon Stadium 2. A device called the Mobile Game Boy Adapter could be used to connect the Game Boy Color, Advance, and Advance SP to early mobile phones for wireless functionality. Despite children in 2001 not commonly having mobile phones and the steep ¥5800 launch price of the device, plus necessary carrier service fees, it was decided to release the GS Ball over the Mobile System GB. Japanese players with the adapter and a mobile phone could redeem the GS Ball from the Pokémon Communication Center attendant after obtaining all 16 badges and completing an unfortunately undocumented quiz and minigame. The rest of the event could then be executed, and Celebi could be captured.

There was just one problem... The GS Ball was never released outside Japan. Despite making an anime appearance in the west, the GS Ball anime plotline was scrapped in favor of Celebi appearing in its own movie3, Pokémon 4Ever, leaving anime and game fans alike hanging on what the GS Ball could have even been, and event distributors no motivation to distribute an item that did not properly tie in with the anime. Rumors spread about the enigmatic ball's anime appearance, but they never amounted to anything, and it was slowly forgotten to time by the majority of players.

The GS Ball
The GS Ball as seen in the anime.

The Celebi GS Ball event was programmed and translated for international copies of Pokémon Crystal, but said event was never accessible without cheating. For nearly two decades, that is how the legend of the GS Ball remained internationally: left in the dust, only accessible through glitches and hacking devices. However, after 17 years, the Virtual Console release of Pokémon Crystal in 2018 on the 3DS eShop finally granted players everywhere access to the GS Ball event legitimately for the first time. Every copy of VC Pokémon Crystal would grant the player a GS Ball in Goldenrod City's Pokémon Center after they successfully beat the game and entered the Hall of Fame for the first time. Players flocked to VC Crystal to capture the mythical Pokémon. Not only was it the first time the GS Ball event could be experienced by international players legitimately, not only is it the only way to catch Celebi instead of receiving it as a gift, but it is also the only game to this day where Celebi is able to be shiny hunted and then transferred to modern Pokémon games.

How to Obtain the GS Ball Now

As time passes, the once simple process of purchasing Virtual Console Pokémon Crystal and playing it to the end to obtain the GS Ball becomes more complicated. The VC release of Crystal also doesn't help players who want to obtain the GS Ball in their original Crystal cartridge either. If you want to obtain the GS Ball, here's how.

Please keep in mind that any method other than playing up to the GS Ball on a normal VC Crystal save, on a legally bought copy of VC Crystal, would probably be considered illegitimate/cheated by many Pokémon players. BMF assumes that you're doing this for your own fun, not lying to other players about how you obtained Celebi.

Information on actually playing through the event after obtaining the ball can be found below this section.

Option 1: Just Play VC

If you're a Virtual Console player and have no interest in obtaining Celebi on original hardware, you can simply play the Virtual Console release of Crystal until game completion and pick up your GS Ball from the Pokémon Center in Goldenrod City... If you bought VC Crystal before the eShop shut down. Unfortunately, the 3DS eShop closed on March 27th 2023, rendering all games previously available on the service unpurchaseable. If you bought the game, you can still redownload it for the foreseeable future, but if you missed the purchase window, it's impossible. If you still want to get VC Crystal past this point, assuming you are not purchasing a 3DS with Crystal preinstalled secondhand, you will need to hack your 3DS (or 2DS) system and inject the game into the console.

Tutorials on how to hack Nintendo hardware or on how to obtain and inject games are outside of the scope of BMF, but hacking your 3DS/2DS system is legal, and instructions on how to do so can be found off-site here. It is extremely difficult to harm or brick your 3DS if all instructions are followed carefully. Never use video tutorials to hack a 3DS console! They are probably outdated by the time you watch them, and the creator can make mistakes.

After beating the game and entering the Hall of Fame, simply fly to Goldenrod City, enter the Pokémon Center, then attempt to leave. An attendant will walk downstairs and hand you the GS Ball.

Option 2: Convert Your Cartridge Save to VC

If you're a cartridge player, you have a couple options for unlocking the GS Ball, one of which includes converting your cartridge save file into a VC save file so that you can unlock the event in VC as intended. This requires any cart dumping device to backup and restore your Crystal saves. I can personally recommend the GBxCart and the Joey Jr from personal experience, although very old devices such as Monster Brains can also be used. It also requires that the 3DS/2DS console you are playing VC Crystal on is hacked and has a save backup/restoring program installed on it such as Checkpoint. Refer to Option 1 for instructions on 3DS hacking if you haven't done that already.

Once you have the necessary prerequisites, backup your Crystal save and pop it into BMF's GSC Save Converter to convert it into a VC save, or convert it yourself. Move this converted save file onto your 3DS/2DS SD card and restore the save file to your VC Crystal, beat the Pokémon League again if you need to, and the GS Ball event will unlock. Make sure to go pick it up from the Goldenrod Pokémon Center. You can then choose to play out the event on either cartridge or VC. The save file can be moved back to cartridge at any time by backing up the VC save, converting it back to a cartridge save, and restoring it with your device of choice.

Option 3: Cheating Devices/Methods

Cheating in the event is always an option and has been done since the early 2000s. By using the cheat code 01C089DA with a GameShark, Kurt in Azalea Town will check the GS Ball even if you don't have it and then give it to you so you can go perform the event. This cheat can also be performed on an emulator with cheat code capabilities.

If you have access to backing up/restoring your save files (more information in Option 2), it is also possible to use the save editor program PKHeX to enable the GS Ball event flags there. Simply open your save file and navigate to the SAV tab, then click "Event Flags". Make sure to export your file afterwards! You can see the options to enable the event in the image below.

A list of Event Flags in PKHeX. 'Kurt can check GS Ball', 'Kurt ready to return GS ball', and 'GS Ball can be inserted into Ilex Forest shrine' are the three of note.

Option 4: Glitches

While there are a few glitches that are useful for obtaining the GS Ball in both cartridge and VC Crystal, one of the most accessible is the fan-named Celebi Egg Glitch. This glitch allows you to hatch any Pokémon with any held item, including the GS Ball. Instructions on how to perform this glitch are complicated, but are well documented over on Bulbapedia, which you can find here. If you have a copy of Gold and Silver to trade with Crystal, the GS Ball Mail Glitch can be performed instead. Similarly, instructions can be found on Bulbapedia here. Please make sure to read the "Other Effects" section on the page for whichever glitch you are trying to perform! These glitches can have negative side effects and you should know what you're getting into before doing them.

How to Play Through the GS Ball Event

Now that you have the GS Ball, simply perform the following steps to summon Celebi at Ilex shrine:

  1. Fly or otherwise make your way to Azalea Town. Enter Kurt's house in the top left and give him the GS Ball.
  2. It will take a day for him to finish checking the ball. You can either wait or use the instructions over on BMF's Time Changing Passcode Generator to set your date forward a day and skip the wait.
  3. After a day, talking to Kurt will make him run outside. When talked to outside his home, he will exclaim, "ILEX FOREST is restless! What is going on? YOUR NAME, here's your GS BALL back! Could you go see why ILEX FOREST is so restless?" You will then receive the GS Ball again.
    Kris talking to Kurt in Crystal. The text box reads 'why ILEX FOREST is so restless?'
  4. Prepare the necessary balls and Pokémon you need to capture Celebi. It is level 30 and knows Ancientpower and Future Sight as attacking moves. It can also block/heal attempts to status it with Safeguard and Heal Bell respectively. You will also need a Pokémon with Cut in your party to access the shrine.
  5. Head west into Ilex Forest. Cut down the tree blocking the way to the shrine. Save your game right in front of the shrine! If you fail the capture, you can reset and try again. This is also where you can save to reset over and over if you'd like to shiny hunt Celebi.
    Kris interacting with the Ilex Shrine in Crystal. The text box reads 'Want to put the GS Ball here?' and there is a Yes/No prompt.
  6. Press A to interact with the shrine, and you will be prompted to put the GS Ball inside. Do so, and Celebi will appear! Capture it like any other Pokémon. Congrats!
    An encounter with Celebi in Crystal. The text box reads 'Wild Celebi appeared!'

Transferring Celebi into Generation 7

While BMF doesn't usually comment on later generations, it is a common desire to transfer your Celebi out of Crystal and into generation 7 and above if you are a Virtual Console player, so a brief overview of how to do so is here. You'll need to use the Poké Transporter app from the 3DS eShop. Due to the eShop shutting down, if you don't already have the app, you will need to hack your 3DS and inject the app to use it. More information about this can be found in "Option 1: Just Play VC" above, in the GS Ball section of this guide.

Information on how Virtual Console handles determining modern Pokémon values such as nature can be found here, under the "From Generation I and II" section, if that matters to you. Some of these values are controllable.


Last updated 1/31/23. Page created. The wording in this article is futureproofed for complete 3DS eShop shutdown in March.