Cerulean Cave Is The Perfect Pokemon Reward

The greats among us have no time to sleep. Every second their head is on the pillow is a second the world is robbed of them, of their ability to create, to challenge, to change. It is a hard life, but a worthy life. I know the pain of greatness all too well. I just became Pokemon Champion in Pokemon Blue, but my work here is not done. Back I go to Cerulean City, into the Unknown Dungeon, and possibly to my death. Or perhaps to my rebirth, returning to the world anew as something greater than greatness – immortality. I set my trophy aside and head on to meet my destiny.

This feels like the end of an era, both inside and outside of the game. I have been replaying Pokemon Blue, hitting a new town each week, for most of the year. The purpose of this journey was to understand why Kanto as a region had such a magnetic hold over me, why its nostalgia overpowered that of all my other games, and why it feels like Pokemon remains in its shadow to this day. After exploring each area as a tourist and avoiding much discussion of the battles, once I arrived at the Elite Four I switched things up to focus on the combat. After beating Blue/Gary/Insert Childish Name, I have conquered the world, and have just one place left to explore. You can catch up on the journey so far here, otherwise follow me into the unknown.

The logistics of being a Pokemon champ don't seem to be very clear. Did Gary (let's go with that) even count as Champion? He held the title briefly, but did hold it. I was told I would not be the champ until I beat him, but what happens now? When I'm deep in the dungeon, if someone else beats Lance, do they have to wait until I emerge to challenge them in order to become champ? At that moment, do I lose my title, or like an Olympic medal, will I always be Champion even as others are victorious after me? Is Gary a gold medalist in that sense, or merely silver? Questions for another time.

In any case, I land in Cerulean and make my way up the Nugget Bridge. It's still one of my favourite parts of the whole game, but thinking of how weak my team was back then makes me smile, especially with some of them still with me after all this time. As if to compound how much things have changed, a level 12 Bellsprout pops out of the grass as I head to the cave, and I recall training in this patch, fleeing from creatures like this once upon a time. I run, and leave it in peace. At the end of the grass, I Surf across the water and reach the cave's entrance.

It's rare in Pokemon that we explore only to explore. Caves in Pokemon are out of fashion, but even when they were the focus of the game, they were always a means to get from one place to another. Even Seafoam, the lair of Articuno, must be passed to reach Cinnabar. But here, I am wandering just to wander. It's the first time the game has lined up with this column's sensibilities – we are looking only for the joy of having seen. There are strong Pokemon here, and rare ones, but I have no interest in completing the Pokedex and I have already conquered the world. I have no need for them, and like the Bellsprout, I can leave them in peace.

But as I continue on, further into the darkness, as a deep sense of foreboding comes over me. I am not alone in this place, and I share the shadows with more than mere Pokemon. There is a sentient beast in here, an unholy thing with thoughts, and fears, and eloquence, and power. I feel it compelling me forward. It feel it creating, changing, challenging. It has a greatness beyond my own. A power I cannot touch. To look upon it is to know the abyss. Check back after Christmas to see if I can trap it as my pet in a tiny plastic ball!

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