Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V. Welcome to another edition of my weekly Kanto column. After taking a week off to explore Germany in real life as TheGamer went on tour to Gamescom, I’m back in Pokemon Blue’s Kanto. For those regular readers among you, please excuse another intro. For newcomers, this is my weekly adventure going back through Kanto as a tourist rather than a trainer, trying to figure out what makes it such a magical place and why Pokemon’s first setting still holds so much power. You can read the story so far here. This week, I’m doubling back from Fuchsia City to reach the Cycling Road.
Cycling Road might be the most bonkers part of Kanto. It feels weirdly like the cousin of the Silence Bridge, performing the same role in wildly different ways. Silence Bridge is a quiet path of solitude, connecting Lavender Town and Fuchsia City. It’s the happening hangout spot for all the Fishers in Kanto, and there’s a sense of bliss and peace to it. The sound and the fury of the game is stripped away, and the rest is silence. It’s one of the most under-appreciated areas of Kanto, far less remembered and beloved than Cycling Road, but experiencing the bike path again only makes me appreciate the Bridge even more.
For starters, there is no reason for the path to even exist. Despite taking a new approach to the game in terms of my perspective, I have approached the gameplay from largely the same angle. This has meant choosing the same starter, catching my same favourites, and taking the same route. Therefore, I’m in Fuchsia City with six badges in my pocket, standing on the beach at the south of town, inhaling the sweet and salty sea air into my lungs. My feet twitch with impatient anticipation on the soft sands. I hum How Far I’ll Go to myself. My fingers grip the Poke Ball of my Gyarados, ready to toss it into the shallow waters and ride upon its resplendent back across unknown oceans. Adventure is waiting for me out there. Unfortunately, I need to double back away from where I’m supposed to go to take an alternate path to a place I’ve already been.
That the Cycling Road is such an unnecessary part of the game and so far out of my way is enough to make me resent it, but in other ways I have to respect it. The bicycle in Pokemon Blue is essentially just a sprint button. It exists so that you can go faster, especially as the cities and the gaps between them get longer. The Cycling Road is an attempt to ground the bike as a real piece of your world, and it deserves a slice of credit for that. The only problem is how often it feels obnoxious.
On the Silence Bridge, while trainers do still challenge you to battle, there’s an air of tranquillity. You’re taking a gentle stroll, stopping occasionally to fish, and then encountering like-minded souls looking to while away the hours with a good old-fashioned Pokemon bout. The Cycling Road districts you just as much, but it’s far more chaotic and irritating.
Part of this is my own fault. I started the road in Fuchsia, meaning it was a slow and turgid uphill cycle. Why not merely Fly to Celadon? Well, the HM for Fly is at the top of the Cycling Road, so I have no choice but to make the arduous journey up there myself. I could, of course, have gone there much earlier, but the hand compels you to go west to Lavender Town rather than East, so I always sweep it up later. The Bikers, at least, are easier to avoid than the Fishers, but it still feels draining when they stop you in the middle of a gruelling uphill climb just so they can get wrecked by your Jolteon.
One thing that is very cool about the Cycling Road is the wild Pokemon. I have no idea why it was decided that bikes and colossally huge birds would be a good mix, but they were right. For some reason, Fearow and Doduo just hanging about with Bikers rip wheelies and twirl metal chains above their heads or whatever else Bikers do makes perfect sense. Dodrio is one of the only bird Pokemon I like, so against my usual rules of engagement, I will admit that for probably the last time in this playthrough I make one last reshuffle to my team to add in the three-headed beast.
At the top of the Road, there are yet more Bikers just hanging around waiting to be challenged, as well as the second sleeping Snorlax of the game and, finally, the Fly HM. No sooner do I grab it am I back to Fuchsia City, ready to take to the oceans next week.