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A save file (Japanese: レポート save file) is an important feature in the Pokémon games which allows the player to resume their adventure from where they left off the last time the game was booted.
In the core series games, players create or overwrite the save file by accessing the Save option in the menu.
The save file is stored in battery-powered SRAM in Generations I and II, and in flash memory from Generation III onward. It is required when using certain in-game features (see List of activities for more information).
If there is already a save file stored on the game's cartridge, the player must first overwrite the existing file with a new file. A new save file can be started if one is already present. However, the new file cannot be saved unless it overwrites the existing file. From Generation IV onwards, as a precaution against unintentional loss of data, any existing save file must be manually deleted by pressing the ↑ + SELECT + B button combination on the title screen before new data can be written. The combination was changed to ↑ + X + B in Generation VI.
In the event that the saving process is interrupted, the save file risks corruption, effectively causing its data to be lost, thus forcing the player to start a new game. The game will notify the player when this happens the next time they access the title screen menu. Starting in Generation III, save file backups are stored, meaning that if the saving process is interrupted and the save file becomes corrupted, then the previous file will be loaded from the backup. Interrupting the saving process in the Generation I and II games may result in permanent loss or corruption of data.
Save files of paired versions are compatible with either version. In Generations I and II, save files of English and European versions are also compatible with each other. Starting in Generation III, save files are compatible with all languages.
In the core series games
The saving process in the Generation I games is performed in a single step.
During the saving process, the message "Now saving..."RB or "Saving..."Y is shown. In the Japanese versions, the message of progress only appears in Pokémon Yellow, and it reads ポケモンレポートに かきこんでいます (translation: The Pokémon save file is being written...). In the Japanese Pokémon Red, Green, and Blue, the process is instantaneous.
If the player attempts to save after starting a new game with a save file already present, a prompt with the text "The older file will be erased to save. Okay?" (Japanese: まえに かかれた レポートが きえて しまいますが うえから かいても いいですか？) will be displayed. Awkwardly, this message also appears in the Japanese Red and Green even if no save file is available.
Junichi Masuda once stated that the sound effect played after saving is successful differs between versions of the Generation I games.
In the Generation II games, the saving process is always executed in two steps, with the exception of the player's very first save.
The first step is to confirm the save and the second step is to confirm the overwriting of the current save file, if one is already present. Additionally, during the process, the game warns the player to not turn off the power.
In the Generation III games, the saving process is similar to that of Generation II but attempts to better secure the process were performed with the addition of backups, which are loaded if the primary save file becomes corrupted.
In the Generation IV games, the saving process is similar to that of Generation III.
In Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, the usual "Saving..." message is replaced with "Saving a lot of data..." if the player has used the Pokémon Storage System at all during their session. This includes capturing a Pokémon and sending it automatically to a Box and using the Pokémon Storage System directly. It also occurs when saving and there is no save file already present. When this happens, the process will take significantly longer. In Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, the message only appears after a Global Trade Station trade, if the save file is corrupted and the player is saving with a backup save file, or major changes are made to the Pokémon Storage System.
Starting in this generation, the player is prevented from saving the game if there is already a save file present. If the player starts a new game in this scenario, they will be notified to delete the old save file first before a new game and while attempting to save one.
In Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, the Pokéwalker data associated to the game is also stored in the save file, therefore deleting the save file will also delete the Pokéwalker data.
In the Generation V games, the saving process is similar to that of Generation IV, but with two differences. First, there is now only one step again, like in Generation I. Second, while saving, there is a progress bar at the bottom of the screen.
The long saving periods of Generation IV have been rectified by giving the player only eight Boxes in the Pokémon Storage System until each one of the eight has at least one Pokémon in it, avoiding the need to encrypt empty Box data. If major changes are made to the Pokémon Storage System after all the Boxes are available, the "Saving a lot of data..." message appears, and saving will take longer than normal like in Generation IV when this message is shown.
In the Generation VI games, the saving process is similar to that of Generation V but the progress bar is removed. Saving takes a significantly shorter amount of time (especially when saving via the save option) compared to earlier generations.
The title screen menu no longer provides the player with the option of starting a new game when a save file is present. If the player wishes to start a new game, they must first delete their save file.
In version 1.0 of Pokémon X and Y, there is a glitch in areas of Lumiose City that will cause the game to not respond to user input when the save is loaded. Nintendo acknowledged the existence of this glitch and subsequently released a patch to fix it.
In spin-off games
In Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness
Pokémon Colosseum requires the player to use the PC for saving, as opposed to the handheld core series games, which allow the player to save anywhere. The "save anywhere" feature was restored in Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness.
In the Pokémon Ranger series
In Pokémon Ranger, Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia, and Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs, the save file may be written using terminals known as save machines. Save machines are typically located in Ranger Bases and Ranger Depots, although there are many located in areas all over the Fiore, Almia and Oblivia regions, both indoors and outdoors.
When no save machine is available, players may use a "quick save" feature, which temporarily saves their progress if they are unable to reach a save machine. However, quick save data is deleted when loaded, whereas progress saved via save machines will be stored permanently.
In many Ranger Net missions, attempts to using a save machine will yield the notice that it is out of service.
In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series
Saving typically happens in the player's bed or at Kangaskhan Rocks. If the player wishes to save (and immediately return to the main menu), they may use a "quick save" option found in the in-dungeon menu's Options section, and then selecting Quicksave or Give Up.
In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time, Darkness and Sky, the menu is expanded, and the button is relocated to a new section known as the Rest section.
In Pokémon Conquest
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To delete the save file in Pokémon Conquest, press and hold the A, B, X, and Y buttons simultaneously on the company logo screen (before the title screen).
List of activities
This is a list of activities which require saving before they can be used in the core series games. Some of these may not require saving based on the options set by the player, like Player Search System battles. Activities that trigger saving automatically will not prompt the player to overwrite the old save file.
A save file can become corrupted due to various factors:
Physical damage to the game cartridge, such as from dropping it, may result in corruption of the save file in games of the first three generations. Improperly set cartridges (and memory cards in the case of games for the Nintendo GameCube) may cause data to be read as corrupt. In such instances, turning the system off and reinserting the cartridge properly will cause the data to be read correctly.
In the Generation I and II games as well as in Pokémon Emerald, there are cloning glitches which exploit the use of saving.