Throughout the course of Pokémon history many features have come to make the world a better place only to abruptly disappeared in subsequent releases. It’s as if to say either the Pokémon Professors or lord Arceus himself sat atop the Hall of Origin and proclaimed “Pokémon should not become Tamagotchi” and lay waste to every Pokéwalker he could get his hands on. While the ability to keep you favourite monster by your side or rip open a tree to call your home may have evaporated into the air Gamefreak breath, there’s always been a more pressing issue at hand – when will we be able to visit a second region again?
One of the biggest features to ever grace the franchise came in the form of a second landscape – a surprise to those who thought the sequels to Pokémon Red & Blue would be the same old ‘Collect 8 badges, become the champion and go home’ ordeal. 8 badges turned into 16 and suddenly, after the thought that 40 hours meant you going from start to finish, the game turned into a good 70 hour mission as you got to embrace the region you called home years before as if it were the present day.
The ability to travel back over to the Kanto region made players think that would become the normal formula for each generation of Pokémon games. If Pokémon Gold & Silver included their older brother’s world, why wouldn’t Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire send us back to Johto? Safe to say it didn’t happen despite the valiant efforts of every player search high and low for the hidden secret lying in wait ready and willing to answer our prayers.
It never happened again; Generation III didn’t send us back – Nor did Gen IV with Pokémon Pearl & Diamond. Black & White we didn’t even question until a couple of text strings inside the game’s dialogue began to raise eyebrows pertaining to the possibility – and the release of Black 2 and White 2 was just about enough to reignite our trust in Nintendo in the hopes that they were about to give us what we’d yearned for.
The ending of Pokémon Black & White saw the game’s anti-hero take a legendary Pokémon and fly off to a distant region – with ‘region’ being the term used when referring to the worlds we travel around in each Pokémon game.
Geographically, we don’t have a clear picture of the planet the Pokémon world is quickly becoming. While it’s a viable assumption that each ‘region’ is exactly that – a region – all linked up to form a single country is completely reasonable when we understand how each has been based around areas of Japan like Kanto, Kyushu and Hokkaido – but recently, those ideas have had their theories thrown off course slightly. The Generation V region of Unova took inspiration from the state of New York in North America. Second to that is how the region of Kalos in the upcoming games is pulling most of its geographic designs from Paris, France. It’s as if to say the reasons we haven’t been taking quick boat trips or brisk walks across the borders of Johto or Hoenn is primarily due to the fact that we’re not in the same country any more.
We’ve never been given a map depicting where exactly each region has been situated. And there’s a lot of them. Despite the fact each major generation leap in the handheld series takes us to a new land, so did the Pokémon Ranger and Colosseum spin-off series. Orre and Fiore were so drastically different in terms of regional layout and focus that it’s enough to say these most certainly took place on continents with far different ideals of Pokémon culture.
Judging from how we’ve already crossed over between Johto and Kanto, it suffices to say those two are geographically connected. Our time with Pokémon Emerald saw Scott create the ‘Battle Frontier’ just off the shores of Kanto and provided a ferry that frequently took trainers from Hoenn to the specialist theme park – enough reason to cement the first 4 regions as at least separate landmass much like Japan itself. Sinnoh was confirmed as the Pokémon universe’s answer to the Hokkaido region of the game’s motherland.
But Sinnoh and Unova are where things start to get a little different. It’s a known fact the land of Unova takes its shape, bustling city landscapes and long-spanning bridges from New York City and its surround areas, but Sinnoh’s vastly dissimilar design of mountain ranges, forests and snowy segments and reaffirm the area as another of the connected regions of the land featured in the past games – not to mention the in-game event atop Spear Pillar shooting us back to ruins just above Johto’s civilisation.
There’s enough evidence to suggest Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh are all connected as a single country – but Unova has continually contracts its ability to be a part of the group while also hinting that it really is after all.
The original release of Black and White contained minimal references to the franchise’s other areas of focus, but the slightly expanded section sprouting from the south western portion of Unova during the transition to Black 2 & White 2 saw a cave appear on the map with the tagline “It’s said the deepest part of the cave leads to the Sinnoh region.” - A tease that more than likely caused a number of avid theorists to poke at every wall, tile and rock in the place. Naturally, with the notion of the game’s anti-hero leaving for another region, fans all over were relishing at the thought that perhaps the game’s sequel would continue the story and send us in pursuit of the orphaned ‘King’. The notion of a cave connecting the two regions we thought couldn’t be further apart only set us adrift even more. The rumor spreading map info wasn’t about to have 10 year olds confirming the geographic discovery of a lifetime. We couldn’t travel between the two after-all.
It seems that with each major release, we have our hopes of visiting a second region — a-la Pokémon Gold, Silver & Crystal — dashed yet again. Each region had their own cruise lines more than capable to fulfilling our wishes while Unova itself had a runway and airplane easily up to the job. The sheer fact we watched a guy ride a Pokémon from Unova to a ‘distant land’ confirms a somewhat close tie between the theorised separate country and our old home.
Pokémon X & Y are ambitious titles. As the Pokémon games have grown in scope, they’ve literally grown in size. They began to move away from full sprite titles to 3D spaces with sprites overlaying on top – a graphical leap that runs a fairly big file size increase to write to a small cartridge – and Pokémon X & Y are pushing that to a much greater degree.
We’ve gone from 151 Pokémon sprites with little to no animation to over 700 3D rendered monsters with full animation and a 3D world. The feasibility of building a second set of towns, mountains and oceans around that enormous feat is already becoming a fleeting dream.
What’s left to be said other than don’t get your hopes up of finally seeing Hoenn rendered in more than just pixel graphics. It’s the only one not to see the update, but it doesn’t seem at all likely that Pokémon X & Y will be the sequel sets to give the us, the fans, what we’ve yearned for years. And if it were, we’d know by now. It would be silly for Nintendo to keep such a major selling point a secret from the world. You have my permission to knock on Nintendo’s door if the Kanto Battle Frontier doesn’t make a full return, though. I’ll join you.