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  1. Welcome to the forty-fifth week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed the last one, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday. You can check out the previous Region Spotlight here. -------------------------------- Region Spotlight #5 Johto It“s the penultimate Region Spotlight! Just one more month to go until I“ve covered all six known regions in Pokémon! There“s just something about these last two that strike a particular chord. Maybe because Kanto and Johto are the only two regions physically linked to each other, and the ones most of us grew up with. Without further ado, let“s discuss the land with hearts of gold/souls of silver, shall we? Traversing the Land I think each particular Pokémon remake carries a message to Trainers experiencing the games for the first time, or coming back again with new eyes. Like we discussed last time, I think ORAS“s point was to make the Hoenn region seem limitless. As Brendan or May, players could traverse land, sea, sky and even space...fully and completely. While there is certainly plenty to do in those games, I think looking at Hoenn from the sky takes away a sense of magnitude that other games and regions have. HeartGold and SoulSilver, though, have two unique elements that emphasize travelling on foot more than anything else. The player is given not one, but two regions to explore--mostly on foot, with Fly only being used when necessary, and...with the Lead Pokémon in his or her party by their side for the entire game. Both this aspect and the Pokéwalker--which took travelling on foot to real life, too--just make everything about the Johto region seem that much bigger, in my opinion. Rather than spend my first spot on this Region Spotlight discussing a particular area of Johto, I“d rather emphasize the entire region“s approach to exploring things on foot. No Pokémon game has done what HG/SS did before or since, outside of Yellow letting Pikachu travel with you. And since the Pokémon Pikachu accessory was also a pedometer, I suppose that (in conjunction with Yellow or even the original Gold & Silver) could be seen as the precursor to what we experienced in the remakes. Ruins of Alph/Sinjoh Ruins The Ruins of Alph always fascinated me, right from the start. I thought they would be where the player inevitably encounters the boxed Legendaries of the games, Lugia and Ho-Oh, but...rather than turn these ancient ruins into a central location for a cataclysm like many other games did since (particularly in the case of Sinnoh with the Spear Pillar), it was just a place you visited from time to time with puzzles to solve and new Unown Pokémon to discover. Neither original nor remake really spend much time describing the ruins“ purpose. It was all up to the player to figure out the purpose of the Unown and the message they wanted to communicate. What really impressed me, though: the Sinjoh Ruins. This is a specific part of the Ruins of Alph that you can“t access without an Event Arceus. If you had it, you were treated to whose melody resembles , as well as works in the mysterious whirs of the Azure Flute I mentioned in the Sinnoh Region Spotlight, plus leitmotif from the Spear Pillar and Giratina's theme as well. Even though the Sinnoh region hasn“t been revisited since Platinum, there“s still...so much more mystery to Arceus than was ever described in the anime or games. Bringing Arceus to the ruins leads to him recreating Dialga or Palkia from an egg--a Lv1 Legendary Pokémon. That“s crazy talk! It certainly hasn“t been done since. I wonder...if we“ll ever see something like that again. Lake of Rage/Mahogany Town No, I“m not just going to bring up the Red Gyarados because of my obsession with Shiny Pokémon. Still: there has only been one other instance of a Shiny Pokémon being automatically found in the wild like that one, and said Haxorus didn“t really have anything to do with the main story in Black & White 2. What strikes me about the nature of that Gyarados“s story itself is that it links that Pokémon“s shiny color to its original Magikarp form, saying it evolved too quickly. That“s clearly not the case with any other discovered Shiny Pokémon“s colors, nor is it ever explained that way again in the games. I wonder why Game Freak chose to give that specific Gyarados the story it has. Teaming up with Lance--a face many Trainers who played the first game knew very well from their challenges of Kanto“s Elite 4--was really cool, though. Game Freak has dabbled in working Gym Leaders and the Elite 4 into their stories since then, but...they never really hit the mark as closely as they have with Lance vs. Team Rocket. I think the recent games are certainly onto something with intertwining Steven Stone and Looker into everything so much. But Lance remains one of the most memorable characters because he was closely worked into not one story, but two. After defeating Team Rocket, you don“t just see Lance again at the end. He“s brought up in Blackthorn City, too! Ecruteak City Suicune is awesome, isn“t it? Here“s a fun fact: the is actually . That was a weird thing I picked up on right away. I wonder why the pinball game“s level theme was used for this city (and Cianwood), which focuses less on arcades and more on...antiquity. I guess the composer must have just liked that music, at the time! Like the Ruins of Alph, Ecruteak“s lore is something revisited once or twice during a regular playthrough--not necessarily a huge focus. In Crystal, a Suicune encounter is forced in the city--while the remakes relegate Suicune to Cerulean City. Eusine is an interesting character to note as well. He“s after Suicune, but he doesn“t aggressively try to take over the world to obtain it like most Pokémon villains do. I hesitate to even refer to Eusine as a villain at all, so much as a fanatical trainer obsessed with a certain Pokémon. I love the way the remakes treat this city. The DS brings new life to the surroundings, making the area seem much more antiquated than the original games. The music picks up . The dancing girls are more intertwined in your journey to eventually awaken Ho-Oh. More emphasis is placed on Ecruteak being the epicenter of the game“s “heart” and “soul” symbolism. Ecruteak City is a place where humanity screwed up, but...in the modern era, where hope springs eternal. I like how the games don“t attempt to ruin that hopefulness by making Team Rocket meddle there, or something. It“s left as-is, a place where you visit from time to time...but never to dispose of evildoers. Mt. Silver Gold & Silver aren“t the only sequels Pokémon has done. Maybe one day, if I have an axe to grind, I“ll go into why I felt Black & White 2 were disappointing beyond what I“m about to discuss. But can you believe you go through that entire game without once seeing your past self? BAH! Mt. Silver isn“t just great all by itself--it“s great because of who“s waiting for you on top of it! No words are ever exchanged between the player and Red. They just fight, and that“s the end of it. I don“t understand why The Pokémon Company have never once taken advantage of the pure adrenaline that comes with...fighting yourself, you know? There“s no better marker of how far you“ve come as a Pokémon Trainer than facing what they feel is an ideal representation of your former self, then winning! It“s interesting. Now that this Region Spotlight is over, I realize I“ve spent just as much time discussing Johto“s influential people as I have its places. I hope the next game and region creates just as many memorable characters as it does memorable spots.
  2. Welcome to the fourth week of my Pokémon feature here on Game Podunk! In case you missed last week's, check it out! Stay tuned for future entries coming every Friday morning. ---------------------------- Region Locked A question one of our members asked over Twitter got me thinking: ORAS players: When did the game grab you? I've never played the original, and I'm finding Hoenn a bit... boring. Just as we can contemplate the best and worst Pokémon designs (and why we feel that way about them), so too can we contemplate the best regions. What makes the environment of any given Pokémon game work for you, personally? Is what makes a particular region great determined by the variety of Pokémon you“re able to see and capture, by the major characters/antagonists you meet, or by the symbiotic relationship between the game“s music and visuals that bring the place (like Hoenn) to life? Does an audio/visual overhaul like the one presented in Pokémon ORAS change your opinion of Hoenn as a region? There are so many questions. I“d love to hear your thoughts! For the longest time, my answer to the region question would have been Johto, especially as it“s presented in the remakes HeartGold & SoulSilver. As many may know, Gold, Silver, and Crystal are direct sequels to the first Pokémon game. So Johto itself was kind of made from Kanto“s flesh, so to speak. New elements of the world (like the Ruins of Alph, the story of Ho-Oh and the Legendary Beasts and more) sought to bring new or further explained mythology to the Pokémon universe that was targeted towards those who played the first game. But the new stuff was separated enough so that brand new players could enjoy the story/environment just as much as returning ones. Johto featured many brand new Pokémon (as well as the revolutionary [for its time] day and night cycle), but many returning species as well. Everything about the Johto region, even prior to the remakes, focused on simple expansion on what most players already knew, versus exploring this brand new place. It let returners explore a new spot while still embracing original comforts. And it let newcomers know what they missed from the previous game, too—especially since Gold, Silver and Crystal eventually let you explore the first game“s Kanto region as well. The remakes only made the experience better, with lead Pokémon being able to follow behind you, and further story regarding Ho-Oh, Luigi, and even Celebi/Giovanni for those fortunate enough to grab the Event Pokémon when Gamestop distributed it. No region has done what Johto did (tell a new story and build a new world based completely on elements of the old one) since. But... the Kalos region (from Pokémon X & Y) has knocked Johto from its throne, in my eyes. Thanks to the Nintendo 3DS allowing for the best visual and audio experience the franchise had to offer, I truly felt this particular world come to life like no other. Everything was so colorful! Its citizens were all customizable, and were in love with fashion and style as a result of that. The soundtrack, whether we“re talking battle themes or the fanfare for the infamous Professor Sycamore, did everything it possibly could to compliment the world. And, of course (even right down to the return of Mewtwo), the Kalos region features a vast assortment of Pokémon both brand new and from all five previous regions. So, there are my answers. For the longest time, Johto...and currently, Kalos! What are some of yours? Why do you feel the way you do? Be sure to let me know!
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