Welcome to the very first steps on my journey back to my childhood as I go exploring through Kanto, my favourite place in the gaming world. Not the real Kanto, ew. That’s outside and it has people there. Pokemon’s Kanto. Last week, I wrote about why Kanto was such a special place to me, and so many of us. It’s not just the nostalgia – plenty of games from my childhood have not held up so well – but is instead the simplicity and craft that goes into every step along the journey. Today, I take those first steps once more, and you take them with me, and I go back to where it all started. Back to Pallet Town.
Pallet Town is a quiet, unassuming town with just two houses and a laboratory. There’s what appears to be a lake at the bottom, but if you follow the flow of the water (which you can’t do until much later in the game) you’ll find it leads out into a vast ocean. From humble beginnings come great things. As I explore through Kanto, I’ll find much more exciting locales, but I doubt many will hit as hard as Pallet Town. While it’s not just nostalgia that makes Kanto so special, there is a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in Pallet Town’s appeal. This, after all, is the one part of the journey we all share.
Pokemon is not a choice-based game, but it is very much what we make of it. It’s in Pallet Town that we choose our starter, and from there start to shape our playthrough. After that, we catch the rest of our team. They’re the same at first, scooping up Route 1 fodder, but as we develop bonds with our favourites, have stories written on the battlefield, and tailor our line-up, our playthroughs diverge. In this journey I’ll speak as little as possible about my own Pokemon, as I’m not trying to journal my quest to become the very best, like no one ever was, but to soak up Kanto itself. Who I pick is inconsequential to what makes this setting so special, but there is unique charm to Pallet Town in that we’re all equals.
If you head out of Pallet Town, the game will immediately stop you from wandering too far, so let’s instead look at the town itself. Our own home is fairly simple, but even in a few short exchanges, it feels like a place of love. We joke about the fact we’re thrown out of our homes at ten-years-old to survive in the wilderness as we tame vicious animals, but once you accept that catching Pokemon is normal in Pokemon world, it’s easy to see your home as one of love and compassion.
Next door, you won’t speak to your rival himself, but you do see his family. Again, this seems like a loving home, and as the only other residents of the town, there is an affection in the house for you as well. Future Pokemon games made the rivals too friendly, sanding off the edges to make Pokemon too cozy and cute. With Blue (or whatever hilarious fart-based nickname you use for him), there is a rivalry, but one grounded in reality. You live next door to each other, grow up together, and he views you as his closest competition. He wants to beat you, so much so that he waits for you in Silph Co. with that his only goal even as Saffron City is taken over (more on that in a few weeks when I get there), but this is not a family feud. Visiting Blue’s house reminds you of that, and underscores how perfectly pitched Blue is as a rival.
Finally, the lab itself. Even though we barely interact with it – we just walk in, choose a Pokemon, and walk out – this is one of the most detailed buildings in all of Kanto, and with technical limitations meaning most buildings are just blank spaces with a table or chair, the effort into creating the lab reminds us how important Pallet Town is to our journey, even if all we want to do on a replay is leave it as soon as possible to get on with the game.
Next week, we’ll venture out of Pallet Town and make the first steps on our Pokemon quest. Viridian City, here we come!
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