Thank you all once more for joining me on my journey across Kanto. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then welcome to your first step on a journey that is already in motion. Over the past few months, I have been exploring Pokemon Blue’s Kanto with fresh eyes, trying to examine it as a tourist might, trying to understand why this region holds such strong memories for me. You can catch up on the rest of the adventure here. And if you’ve been with me from the start and are sick of having to read a version of this intro every week, just think of how tired I must be of writing it. Last time I shopped in the department store, tossed a penny in the fountain, shared a drink with an out of luck gambler, and pushed a strange switch in the casino. I wonder, to what fantastic world the door that mysteriously opened might lead… I mean, it’s the Rocket Hideout. I’ve played this game so many times I’ve lost count. But as I try to think of it with fresh eyes, I… still feel absolutely no intrigue as to where a door guarded by a Team Rocket man might lead. Still, I’ve enjoyed my time up against Team Rocket so far, so onwards and upwards! Or, more accurately, onwards and downwards.
I have repeatedly been struck on my journey back through Kanto by how grand everything feels. mt. Moon and Rock Tunnel both satiated my desire for a classic Pokemon cave. Celadon City felt like a sprawling metropolis compared to Pallet Town. Even Vermillion City, the port town bursting with storytelling, had a sense of scale to it. So too did the Rocket Hideout, and the reason for why is as brilliant as it is stupid: the screen is smaller.
In modern Pokemon games, you can see way off into the distance, into the hazy fog of nothingness as you realize how small the world is, how much detail it lacks. Back in Pokemon Blue, you can see three or four steps in front of your face, so everywhere feels massive. The Rocket Hideout though is not supposed to confuse you – for the most part. It’s hidden away and is just for them, and I love the fact they’re just normal dudes. There are cafeteria tables for their evil little packed lunches, succulents for their evil little watering cans, and vending machines for their evil little sodas. Just dudes being dudes while plotting to take over the world.
One place where it does try to confuse you though is the maze. That goddamn maze. It, along with Seafoam Islands, remains my most frustrating memory of Pokemon. There’s a nostalgia to the frustration though, a sense of off-kilter charm. Yaya Toure and Steven Gerrard both used to love scoring against Newcastle, and every time we played City or Liverpool, I’d check the score with a wry smile and see that Yaya had done it again. It had become a Pavlovian pain, I was so accustomed to it. The maze is similar, but finally, eventually, I made it through the rain baby.
After a while, I escaped from this Lynchian nightmare of stepping and moving and stopping and moving and turning and moving. What joy of joys, what reward for my suffering, shall await me on the third floor? God dang it, another maze. Brillo. spiffing. top drawer. Excellentomundo. Despite all my times playing Pokemon Blue, I had forgotten that there were in fact two of these mazes – they had both blurred into one as an almighty patch of thorns in my head. Here be dragons, and also tile bullshit. Nevertheless, genius that I am, I keep walking in random directions and finally, eventually, truly, the curse is over. All that’s left to do is go face to face with Giovanni.
I have avoided talking about battles too much in this journey, as it runs counter to the point. I have played Pokemon before with a focus on battling, on building different teams. I feel like I can’t escape it this time though – Giovanni’s kind of a little bitch, right? Having Ivysaur to sweep his first two ‘mons helped, but Squirtle would have done that too, and Charizard lovers deserve everything they get. I’m not sure if it’s because of Pokemon Go’s Giovanni taking on all comers, or the spectre of Giovanni in the anime, or if maybe he gets a lot tougher later on, but I’m let down by how easy he is, even if he’s a bit harder than the full grown adults in Team Rocket garb running around expecting to rule the world with a Rattata and Zubat by their side.
Next week we’ll be heading back to Lavender Town, this time armed with the ability to see gggg-ghosts! Busting will be optional.
Next: Niantic Knows Exactly What It’s Doing With Starly Community Day