Pokemon should make me explore one big city

When my journey through Kanto took me to Celadon City, I mused about the prospect of exploring it at night, when cities really come alive. If you don’t know what trip I’m talking about, you can catch up with it here, cataloging every step of my adventure through Kanto as a tourist so far. Oddly enough, given that the Kanto column is all about roaming in a Pokemon environment that I love, it made me think about how we need a Pokemon game in one place.


Last week, our feature editor Ben Sledge took an in-depth look at which Pokemon city would be the best to live in, but left out the notable consideration for Ryme City, the only place we’ve seen Pokemon and humans living side by side. That’s the kind of city I mean when I say I want Pokemon in just one place. Lumiose and Wyndon’s likes flatter to deceive with their size, but we never quite get a feel for them the way we should.

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I understand that for a lot of people, Pokemon is about exploring the wilderness. It’s one of the reasons I loved Legends: Arceus, despite its glaring flaws, and look forward to seeing Pokemon continue experimenting with its Scarlet & Violet formula. I’m not saying that Pokemon games should only be played in cities, or that all the effort to get Pokemon to broaden its horizons was for naught. I just think there’s something about city life that needs to be explored in the world of Pokemon given how often it floats through cities and barely bothers to look twice. How empty and flat did the cities of Galar feel? More like dioramas with a few buildings here and there, devoid of life and soul. Pokemon always seemed more alive when it was 2D, which is part of why Celadon makes me think this way.

I imagine if this ever happened (which, you know, it won’t), it would come through a spin-off game. After all, they’ve always had the best ideas. The basic idea is that we would stay in one location for the entire game, interact with the people there, explore the different sides of it, and see how Pokemon fits into the urban lifestyle. Galar has rented Pokemon for jobs, but it’s too rare that we see Pokemon interacting in the world beyond just living in it. We see them sitting next to their owners and that’s about it. Legends: Arceus lets the Pokemon interact a little more in the wider world, and some side missions push this a little further, but nothing in a city. We have versions of New York, London and Paris, but nothing that feels like a city we can get lost in.

Catching is clearly an interesting part of Pokemon – despite issues surrounding the Pokedex, ‘must catch them all’ remains the series’ motto – but it shouldn’t be the only part. City life, and the stories we could discover there, has been sacrificed time and again in Pokemon because it has to move us to the next location, the next gym, the next place where they’re all waiting to be caught. If we took that out of the game, as would be possible in a spin-off, we’d be free to roam through the different neighborhoods, the alleys, the shopping streets, the parks, the clubs, the restaurants, the museums. The art, the music, the culture. The people.

I wrote that I wanted to see Celadon at night, but the truth is it’s not really about night, or day, or anything like that. It’s about knowing a place, feeling it come alive. There are so many video game towns I immerse myself in because I’ve learned their stories, I’ve talked to the shopkeepers and the buskers on the corners, the taxi drivers and the bartenders. Pokemon, even if I slowly walk back through Kanto, never let me have that. Pokemon should take me to the big city and let me stay there.

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