[It's time for another Monthly Musing -- the monthly community blog theme that provides readers with a chance to get their articles and discussions printed on the frontpage. -- CTZ]
What made this world so interesting to explore? In the original games, the graphics were crude, the memory restrictive (making for lots of interesting glitches later on), and the plot virtually nonexistent. The anime, of course, fleshed that out quite a bit, but as I stated before, I didn’t watch the show that often. Most of the detail came from little things in the games.
Take for instance, the Pokedex entries. They read like a bird watching guide, giving the exact size and appearance of the animal you just caught as well as their natural behavior in the world. This allowed me to imagine not just square-shaped patches of different-looking grass, but an overgrown thicket where Rattata looked for food while hiding from prowling Spearow. The routes came alive and the animals that I was fighting with were not just collections of bits of programming, but actual creatures that could live, grow, feel pain, and die.
Having just lost a pet of my own before I started playing the game, the reality of death and the afterlife really resonated with me walking around that sacred building. Even now as I type this I can hear that haunting melody from Lavender Town playing around my head. In art, images and objects are defined by contrast -- not thick black outlines but shadows and colors. Some people found this area scary. I found it sad really, but it was such a jarring difference from the bright, happy-go-lucky tone of the rest of the game that it further deepened my view of the world of Kanto as a real place.
Then comes along a group that is that exact opposite. They take all the unwritten rules of combat and run roughshod over them, using Pokemon as tools for their own selfish gain. To my little brain back in the 90’s, that was an unforgivable outrage, and I took it upon myself to stand up and defeat these petty thieves. I didn’t question why the police weren’t involved, I didn’t question how easy it was to beat them and infiltrate their lair and foil all their plans myself, I simply saw it as good triumphing over evil. Since I treated my Pokemon as partners and friends, and not as simple blunt weapons, they would always be more powerful than anything Team Rocket could throw my way.
Even though Pokemon may have a barebones plot at first glance, the little details like that made me feel like each and every person and creature was real, had a soul, and was worth saving on top of that cold, gusty mountain peak.