Map Quest: Pokémon Red and Blue
Pallet Town. Cinnabar Island. When you say these places out loud, memories come rushing back. Confronting your rival for the first time — having second thoughts on your choice for your first Pokémon — losing miserably to Blaine.
All of these events have meaning because of the wonderful world Game Freak created in 1996. Pokémon‘s Kanto region.
Ahh, the Kanto region. It elicits so many memories — some bad, mostly good, all unforgettable. The secret to the first Pokémon game’s success is perfect game world pacing — you never got too much or too little — you always had just enough to push your spirit of exploration to the next level.
As many fans know, Pokémon games are not just about collecting and fighting pocket monsters — at least, not to everyone they’re not. Many people (myself included) loved working their way through the game’s gym leaders and forging ahead to new lands beyond.
Heck, some people even bought a second copy (myself included) just so they could restart their one save and explore Kanto all over again without losing all their collected Pokémon.
Just when you started to get frustrated with giant plants blocking the roadway, you nabbed Cut. When caves were getting too dark to bear, Flash was at your side. Surf? I can’t explain how wide my grin was when I first found Surf.
As for marquee moments, who could forget getting the bicycle for the first time? Suddenly you felt that much more powerful — you felt like a better trainer — and all it did was upgrade your movement speed!
Or how about flight for that matter? Once you opened that box the world was literally yours to command. No stone was left unturned (literally), whether it was in the Safari Zone or Mewtwo’s cave.
Of course, Game Freak didn’t want to give you all of this power at once. Just like Blizzard often restricts you from utilizing flying mounts until you complete their expansions, Game Freak made you explore Kanto before you could simply fly over it.
That’s ok though, because the Kanto region is one of the most memorable RPG worlds to date. From the sinful shiny town of Celadon to the wide streets of Saffron City, odds are you are able to distinguish just about every town in the game from one another.
There are so many stories that all of us can recall, no matter how insignificant they may seem. I remember blowing all of my cash one day on Celadon’s slots, unable to afford precious repel items for my next journey into Kanto’s network of caves.
Or the time where I attempted to strategically avoid fighting as many trainers as possible when heading down Kanto’s roadways (ok, that was every time).
You had routes planned out in your head every time you needed to get back to the Pokémon Center and recoup your party’s health. Suddenly, you stopped using the map and relied solely on your memory banks to get around.
That’s what I like about a map-centric game. The ability for a world to be so memorable that I actually take the time to, you know, memorize it. For that reason and more, Kanto was absolutely perfect, and I’ll never forget it.