5 Pitch Black Realities Connected To Pokemon Gold And Silver
Recently, Nintendo announced that they were re-releasing the original Pokemon Gold and Silver games on the Nintendo 3DS. Playing Pokemon Gold on my 3DS? It's like I'm actually in Back To The Future Part II! But then I remembered that at the end of Gold, you go back to Kanto, the setting of the original Red and Blue games. And then I got sad.
That's because after Red and Blue, but before Gold and Silver, shit goes down. You might not have noticed when you played them as a kid, but there is a lot of horror and confusion lurking between the two greatest Pokemon generations. So when you dive into Gold and Silver with renewed vigor, be prepared to face how ...
Between Generations I and II, A Lot Of Pokemon Died
In the original Red and Blue games, you (a fourth-grader) are shoved out into the world to fulfill a mad quest given to you by a scientist who doesn't remember the names of his own family members. This world is called Kanto, and it's chock-full of otherworldly critters that want to see you and your pets dead. In the sequels, Gold and Silver, the plot remains mostly the same, except it takes place in Johto, and there you'll find a whole new ecosystem of monsters that you need render unconscious.
The events of Gold and Silver take place three years after Red and Blue, and in a feature that has not been replicated in a Pokemon game since, once you become the champion of Johto, you can head into Kanto and see what's changed. It's kind of like visiting your hometown after you move away, except instead of bumping into the prom king from your graduating class who has somehow managed to divorce the same person twice, you run through your old routes and you see that a bunch of new Pokemon now call Kanto home.
That's nice. I'm not sure how they got there, but hey, it's Pokemon. When the main method of getting rid of creatures you don't want is to hastily shove them into a computer in the game's equivalent of a truck stop, a few of them are bound to spill out in the shuffle. But then you notice that a lot of the old species that you caught just three years ago are nowhere to be found. Not just that, but they also seem to have been replaced by the new Johto beasts.
In the three years between Generations I and II, they were fucking wiped out.
It'd be nice to imagine that, even when dealing with a mass influx of an invasive species, the Pokemon World would organize itself pleasantly. None of the songs on my Pokemon 2.B.A. Master CD ever mentioned that the entire food chain in a region could be upturned when a fucking flock of Hoothoot move in. You'd think that they'd include a line about the rampant starvation that occurs when a population of Goldeen can't compete with Chinchou over limited resources in the "Pokerap," but they didn't. The "Pokerap" probably doesn't even rhyme anymore, because nature is a cruel mistress that will wipe you out the moment something evolves a tad faster than you do.
But hey, at least you, the player, are cool, right? You're equipped to deal with the harsh nature of the Kanto death zone, and you even manage to thrive in it. Well, not really ...
Your Original Pokemon Adventure Ended In Disaster
At the end of Pokemon Red and Blue, after you get all eight gym badges, you get to fight the Elite Four. Lance, the dragon master and the subject of the worst Halloween costume that I've ever attempted, is supposedly the champion. But surprise! When you beat him, he reveals that this is the second time he's gotten his ass kicked today. Your rival has already taken Lance down, and now you have to fight your rival to be Pokemon League Champion.
This establishes a few things. First, Lance might have never been beaten before. Considering that he screams "Well, are you ready TO LOSE?" at a child upon first meeting them, I doubt he'll take it well. Second, when someone beats Lance, they then take Lance's old position as Pokemon League Champion -- a thing that Lance only tells you after you've beaten him. Third, when someone wants to win the Pokemon League Championship, they have to fight the current champion, no matter who it is. If Youngster Ben, the shorts devotee from the second hour of the game, manages to squeak by Lance, then your climactic fight will be with Youngster Ben and the rats that he collected from the weeds around his house.
If you've done your fair share of walking back and forth in tall grass, harvesting experience points from the wounded screeches of lesser Pocket Monsters, you should beat your rival. However, in Gold and Silver, Lance is back to being champion. This would mean nothing if the two games were separate. Lance is a cool-sounding name if you're a little redneck kid from rural North Carolina, and fighting dragons is a great way to end any game. Using the Theory of Elementary School Awesomeness, it's only logical that Lance would be last.
But Generation II is a sequel, and at the end of Gold and Silver, you end up fighting the dude who supposedly represents your character from Red/Blue. He's moping on top of a mountain. YOU'RE moping on top of a mountain. At some point between generations, your original character was beaten by Lance, and he took the loss so poorly that he abandoned society as a whole, preferring to sit by himself on a peak somewhere, making paintings with his own shit and eating Pidgey. Also, he's 13, meaning he's gone from Prodigious Boy Wonder to Anime Huckleberry Finn.
That's why Lance's team is upgraded from a bizarre blend of scales in Generation I to the purest "I GOT THREE FUCKING DRAGONITES, SO EAT. THIS. DICK." overkill in Generation II. He had to muster a ridiculous team if he wanted to beat you. And rather than take your loss gracefully, you fled into the hills. The original Pokemon games are just a prologue to failure. The hours that you spent training your monsters and trading with friends and enjoying the start of one of the most memorable franchises in video game history all meant nothing.
But that's cool. You're the champion of Johto, and while Kanto might be a goddamn graveyard, you can still check out the sights, right?
Kanto Has Been Hit By A Mass Geographical Disaster
It's not enough that some Pokemon from Johto crammed Darwinism into Kanto and upset a natural order that's been in place for the first half of eternity. The Kanto you visit might seem stripped down because putting two regions into a single Game Boy Color cartridge could be deemed literal robot torture, but all of the areas that have been changed follow a very specific pattern: There's been some kind of catastrophe which hasn't just ruined most of Kanto's land and tourist attractions, but completely changed the course of the region's economy.
Entire forests and routes have disappeared. Cerulean Cave has collapsed, and portions of Mt. Moon have crumbled. Cinnabar Island has been totally destroyed by a volcanic eruption. That sounds like nothing because it's just one island, but there are only ten towns in all of Kanto. Ten percent of that world is gone, including the lab where you could resurrect Pokemon from their fossils. And the Science Museum in Pewter City, a town located right next to Mt. Moon, is closed for renovations, probably necessary after half a mountain fell on it. So whatever caused Kanto's upper mantle to shit itself has dissolved its spot in the Pokemon science world.
To cope with this, Kanto dived into other industries. For example, the Power Plant, which you might remember from Red and Blue as being a decrepit warehouse with a giant monster bird in it, has been restored. And the Pokemon Tower, which was a mass grave site for dead Pokemon, has been converted into a radio tower. Where did the graves go? Well, they were apparently all taken to a smaller spot across town. So apart from the fact that people spent months relocating little monster pet corpses, it's obvious that there used to be way more graves in the tower than could ever fit in the "House of Memories." So where did all of the bodies that didn't fit in the one-room building that someone didn't plan all the way through go? Where are they buried? They were all some people had.
And that's not even mentioning the fact that the Pokemon Tower used to be filled with various ghost Pokemon and Cubone. A plot point in Red/Blue was finding the ghost of a Cubone's murdered mother and finally giving her peace. That was a really nice thing to do. Thankfully, a developer came in after you and forcibly removed every Cubone from the only home they've ever known.
Raising New Trainers Has Become Impossible
The learning curve in Generation I Kanto is pretty steady. You start in Pallet Town, and the levels of the gym leaders match where your own Pokemon's levels should be. If you find that your team is getting its collective face dunked in a big Pikachu-shaped toilet, you need to go out and train some more. Johto is the same way. But then, when you head back to Kanto, all of the gym leaders have levels that match yours. All of the wild Pokemon and trainers do as well. Fields that were once awash in hopeful young trainers are now swimming with veritable masters, itching to exert their dominance over anyone who happens to walk directly in front of them.
What happened? At some point, presumably around the time rocks fell on everything, Kanto began to shift. The newly introduced Pokemon from Johto, competing with the original Pokemon, raised the levels of all surviving Pokemon in general. The trainers, now with stronger Pokemon to fight everywhere, grew stronger themselves. To accommodate the trainers in the land, the gym leaders adjusted too. Every other Pokemon region had an established order of things: New trainers start at weaker gyms and slowly progress until they're ready to kick the teeth out of the Elite Four. Kanto, on the other hand, had become a playhouse of the gods.
It certainly doesn't help new trainers in Kanto that most of their options for travel and entertainment and raising Pokemon are gone. The Safari Zone, a giant nature preserve where one could catch more exotic Pokemon, is closed, with the owner leaving for an indefinite amount of time. Viridian Forest, a prime training spot for new trainers, is transformed into a tiny, depressing patch of trees. The aforementioned Cinnabar Island fiasco removes even more opportunities. And now that many paths are replaced by treacherous rocky terrain, only trainers with copious experience and bulging calf muscles can even traverse Kanto.
The land of new beginnings that you encountered when you first booted up your copy of Red or Blue has morphed into an unforgiving wasteland where the world's top trainers and strongest Pokemon beat each other to a pulp. Compare this to Johto, a place where you can apparently afford to build a giant house and raise multiple Pokemon in a huge field just by selling "MooMoo Milk." Johto is the place you dream about when you can hear your neighbors banging through the walls of your studio apartment in Kanto.
You Are Responsible For Destroying Your Own Childhood Dreams
In Johto, you encounter a bunch of Legendary Pokemon. Legendary Pokemon, for those of you who had supportive relationships with their fathers, are very, very rare. Usually, there's only one of them, and you either encounter them at random or they're plopped down in the asshole of a cave somewhere waiting to kill you. Either that or some evil team wants to use them to alter and/or destroy the world. So you're inevitably forced to fight these super beasts to calm them down. As with all things in the Pokemon World, not many goals get accomplished until you can persuade your squadron of mutants to shoot lasers at them.
Kanto had the three majestic Legendary Birds and Mewtwo, a genetic abomination. As a kid, running into them was cause for bittersweet celebration, because 1) Yay! I finally ran into this amazing Pokemon of lore, and 2) FUCK. I have one Pokeball, an ether, and a nugget, and because I can't knock this flaming eagle over the face with the nugget and then drag it to the Pokemon Center, I'm going to have to go about this delicately. But "delicately" is not a word in eight-year-old Daniel's vocabulary. "CHARIZARD, USE 'UTTERLY RUIN ITS LIFE' attack. Dang, it's gone."
But by the time you go back to Kanto from Johto, a place where you can't ask someone for directions without them masturbating violently into the air over some supernatural fire lion, the disappointment sets in pretty quickly. Not only is Kanto an awful place to live now, but there are also no Legendary Pokemon in sight. The DS remakes of Gold and Silver would change this, because Nintendo understands the value of pity. But in Regular Gold and I Know You Wanted Silver, Honey, But All They Had Was Gold Silver, there is no magic. No sense of fantasy or lust for exploration into the darkest, strangest portions of the continent. There's just you, your very powerful Pokemon, and other trainers that you need to best.
And it's all your fault.
You know that right now, your character from Red/Blue is in exile on Mt. Silver, wiping his ass with Pineco. But before you shamefully departed from Kanto, you were the same character who already challenged these Legendary Birds, and either caught them or drove them away. You traded away Kanto's Santa Claus. You threw Kanto's tooth fairy in your PC. And when people asked you about Kanto's Bigfoot, you said nothing, because you knew that you had tossed Ultra Balls at it until it passed out from exhaustion.
The fun of playing Pokemon didn't expire because you grew out of it. It expired because, in the span of two games, Nintendo told the story of your incredible rise and your hideous downfall. And when you fell, you took the whole world with you.
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