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February 1996 marked the world’s very first introduction to the world of Pokémon, and as beautifully flawed as Red and Green (and eventually, Blue) were, complete with their questionable game balancing and glitches galore, they were undeniably groundbreaking - it’s hard to think of any game that achieved the worldwide cultural impact that these Game Boy classics had.
With that in mind, it’s very little wonder that so many millions of fans look back at the first generation’s region of Kanto with a certain fondness. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, after all - when you have so many good childhood memories rooted in a game, it can be difficult to look back at it in a remotely critical sense. Which, y’know, isn’t usually a problem - as long as you’re having fun with something, what does it really matter if something isn’t a masterpiece? The issue comes when this begins to affect the rest of the fanbase, relentlessly.
We most recently revisited the Kanto region in Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee - take a look below.
Maybe this is because I came into the series a little later than a lot of long-term fans (Sinnoh baby here), but in my experience, Kanto is terrible. No matter how you want to look at it, it’s bland, repetitive, and poorly designed, and literally every other region created since puts it to shame.
Take a look at the map of Kanto and tell me - what do you see? Green, reader. So much green. Okay, there’s a couple of water routes, but aside from Viridian Forest, the Seafoam Islands and Mt. Moon, is there really anything of interest here that stands out? Because as big of a Pokémon fan I am, and despite all the extra room I give this series (which it doesn’t always deserve) I really don’t think so.
The thing about Kanto is that it all looks the same. All the routes are simple, grassy, tree-lined strolls, and the caves are… caves. There’s not really anything else to say about them. Even the towns and cities feel barely distinguishable a lot of the time - can you honestly tell me any discernible difference between Viridian City and Pewter City, other than the fact that they house different gym leaders?
On the other hand, we have the third gen games’ beautiful Hoenn region. Not only does practically every corner of the map introduce a new biome (from the sprawling sea to the volcanic mountains), but so do the individual routes and towns - Route 111 brings in a desert, and Route 114 is showered in raining ash from the nearby volcano, leading into the dusty Fallarbor Town. It’s all so well connected and transitions so smoothly that none of it feels out of place, and that diversity makes for a far more interesting adventure.
It’s not just Hoenn, either, but we’d be here all day if I did a deep-dive into every region’s geography. Rest assured though, that from Sinnoh’s snowy peaks to Unova’s sprawling cities, every game since Red, Green and Blue has done so much better when it comes to crafting the world for us to explore. Am I being too harsh? Maybe. But even Gold and Silver’s Johto region, which was released only a few years after the original games, added so much more variety with its locations, with Mt. Silver, the Ice Path, and Ruins of Alph all being notable mentions.
‘What does this even matter, though?’ I hear you ask. ‘They’re 26 year old games, you don’t have to keep playing them.’ But we have, and do, don’t we? Because good lord, Game Freak do not want to let Kanto go.
Not only did we return to the region in the aforementioned Gold, Silver and Crystal (which was an incredible inclusion, by the way, don’t get me wrong), we got full remakes of the games in 2004 with FireRed and LeafGreen. And then we went back again in HeartGold and SoulSilver. And then the games got re-released on the 3DS eShop. And then we got new remakes on the Switch with Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee in 2018. Please, we’ve had more than enough Kanto.
GameFreak knows nostalgia sells, after all, and no era of Pokémon is more nostalgic for most players than the very first generation. As long as they keep putting it out, people are going to keep taking it, and take it they do. Perhaps I’m being cynical (although I’d argue my lack of nostalgia for the first generation games helps me see this with more clarity) but after trudging through the same already dull region so many times over, I frankly never want to set foot in Route 1’s Rattata-infested grass again.
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