Hello there, welcome to "Moments in Gaming," (working title) a (hopefully) series of blogs dedicated to some of the best moments in gaming. Why? Because we play so many games, but we only covet so few of them. Think back: People mention games like Final Fantasy 7, Shadow of the Colossus, Metal Gear Solid, and Super Mario Brothers, but how many people mention all the other games like Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters, Area-51, Mario Party, and more?
Sure, they aren't the triple A titles that we will remember forever, but I believe that many of the video games we overlook have a few great moments in them, and I want to take this time to appreciate them. So join me as we go back into the 90's to recall one of the truly most rememorable moments in gaming: Defeating the Pokemon League.
I want it all.
Remember back then when Pokemon first hit the shores of the US? People were selling toys, action figures or collectibles, bedroom decorations from blankets to sheet covers, Pokemon plastered party hats and cups, and more. It was so crazy that everytime you went to a Wal-Mart or a Toys R Us, it was like an adventure! But despite all that was going on, we knew where the real adventure lies: In the cartridge labelled Pokemon: Red/ Blue version lying inside our Game Boys.
Now, before I go any further, I feel like we need to know our past: Back then, when Pokemon was first released for Japan, it wasn't Pokemon Red and Blue, but rather, Pokemon Red and Green. Yeah, back then, as kids, we probably didn't know anything about this game (like it was originally going to be called Capsule Monsters), so when Red and Blue got released, we took it as just that. But it's true, Red and Green were the first duo to be released (which was also the duo for the remakes FireRed and LeafGreen) with Blue being a better enhanced version released after the duo, something that's been done over the years (Gold/Silver/Crystal, Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, Diamond/Pearl/Platinum).
But enough about that history lesson, let's talk about the first time we turned on our Game Boys and saw the world that Game Freak created for us. After we created a persona for ourselves, we were tossed in a world where a race of monsters named Pokemon roamed the world, and that Trainers, people who "teamed" up with these monsters after taming them, were people embarking on an adventure of a lifetime. But before we could become a Trainer ourselves, we needed one of these magnificant creatures, and who better to get a Pokemon from than the professor who taught us about them himself, Professor Oak?
When the three Pokeballs lied in front of me, I don't know about you, but I recall some great debates about which Pokemon to take: Should I hold the plant looking dinosaur Bulbasaur, the cute turtle Squirtle, or the badass salamander Charmander? Of course, no matter which you choose, the rival would always choose the one strong against you (prick), but I choose my Squirtle with pride, eagerly awaiting to see just what these guys could do. And wouldn't you know it, I get to test them out right here, right now! I also recall losing my first time, picking Tail Whip repeatedly, but back then, I thought that Tail Whip meant smacking him with his Tail... Oh well, can't beat them all, just gotta dust yourself off and move on. So let's do just that and save myself the embarassment.
We all know how Pokemon work: You use a Pokemon to catch other Pokemon before training them to beat other people's Pokemon by first beating other Pokemon. And that was the appeal of the series: you trained your Pokemon to become stronger so that you could beat other Trainers to advance in your journey until you were strong enough to tackle Gym Leader, a group of Trainer with powerful Pokemon. And once you beat one, you went on to defeat the next, then the one after, then et cetera, until you've beaten them all.
The game could've taught us some important things had we paid attention to them: First off, we work as a team. Sure, you could super train one guy to do all the work, but then again, that's not the way the game's intended to be played. No, there is much pride in training a team of fighters who can watch each others back. Pitting a Grass against a Fire? Sub out for a Water Type. Need for a guy to take a breather? Cover him with someone else. And with type specific Gym Leaders, as well as varied regular Trainers, one Pokemon with an average level can't do much.
All for one and one for all!
But once you trained a team of vicious baddies, defeated the Gym Leaders across the land, crushed Team Rocket into dust, and stormed through Victory Road, you knew that, once you stood outside the door of the Elite Four, that you had hit the Big Time. Whatever gloves the game had on were coming off, as the game expects you to run through 5 of the hardest Trainers in the game (thankfully not one after another) without leaving, resting your Pokemon (aside from items), or switching out. Oh, and if you lose just once, you get booted back to the beginning to do it all over again, no ifs, ands, or butts about it (unless you saved and reloaded).
But that's ok. You were ready for it: You've beaten the toughest Trainer in the game, you used the money you've acquired in the game to buy some of the most important items in the game, and most importanty, you've trained some of the best Pokemon in the game, where your Squirtle, Pikachu, Weedle and Catterpie are now Blastoise, Raichu, Beedrill and Butterfree. And so you proudly walk through the doors, not even looking back as they close it behind you. You fought against the first guy with everything you had. You won, you healed up, you saved the game, and then you walked through the next door, repeating the process.
With each victory, you feel like you've grown stronger not only in experience, but in heart: With each Trainer defeated, you're one step closer to taking on Lance for the title of Champion, a title well coveted by every Trainer out there. And you probably deserve it too, seeing as how you've come this far, so as soon as you beat the fourth guy, you eagerly healed and saved before walking through that door to the Champion, where you beat him after a harsh duel, probably after pitting your last Pokemon against him. Once his HP hits zero, you let out a cheer of victory, knowing that you were the second person to beat him today!... Wait, what?
The original rival.
That's right: Your rival, whom you've fought so many times before, had already defeated the Champion, and now, for the true bout for the title Champion, you're instantly pitted (without healing or saving if I recall correctly) against him in the final battle of the game. You probably deemed this unfair (considering how hard Lance was, how many Pokemon were knocked out, and how many items were wasted), screaming out of your lungs, probably learning a few new words along the way, but nevertheless, you fought against your rival (after scrambling to heal up your main fighters) tooth and nail, now not only giving everything you've got, but perhaps even more so.
You didn't stop: You relentlessly fought and struck down his Pokemon one by one, maybe sacrificing one in the process, until he was down to his last one. And despite his constant use of Full Restores and Max Potions, he was only delaying his defeat until finally, you knocked down his last Pokemon's last pixels of HP, and you win the battle, racking in big money along the way. And here to celebrate your victory was Professor Oak, who will input your team of Pokemon into the Hall of Fame, where they will stand not only in the game, but in your memory: You trained these guys (hopefully) yourself for this moment, and as a kid, it was a pretty astounding achievement to be able to invest enough time to raise a group of 6 Pokemon to be strong enough to be the strongest of the land.
And that's something that'll stay with me forever. Sure, defeating N after the Pokemon League in the new Black and White games was pretty epic, especially pitting Reshiram against his Zekhom, but nothing said to me like a job well done than being inducted into the Hall of Fame in the very first game. I mean, 6 straight fights without going to the Store or Pokemon Center (because you can't buy Eithers and Elixiers) was brutal, especially if you didn't have a guide to tell you what Pokemon to bring or what types they had. No, when I defeated the Pokemon League, I did it with MY Pokemon that I'D trained whom I'VE invested the time into without ANY help. And what a glorious feeling that was.
Every journey starts with a single step. Now if only your rival would just let you friggin' leave.