Like a lot of people born in the early 90s, I bought in hard to the Pokémon craze when it first hit its pop culture peak. Pokémon was one of the first topics I developed an obsessive interest in and, as a young kid with autism, it was ultimately a big part of my earliest successful socialising experiences.
I knew everything there was to know about the original anime series and games, from the evolution levels, move levels, stats, capture routes and gym leader teams, to which episodes of the show involved which plots, or bent which rules from the games. I lacked some social skills, but could use my knowledge of Pokemon as a safety net topic in conversations at school, and my knowledge was valuable.
I have a personal investment in the Kanto Pokédex, the original 151 Pokémon found in Red, Blue, and Yellow, which has never lessened in the decades since. Completing that particular collection is intrinsically linked to memories of making friends, feeling less isolated, and finding out that set completion helped soothe my at times busy and cluttered mind.
There’s an inherent link between completing a Pokédex, and feeling like you’ve seen everything an area of the world has to show you. When you’ve caught all 151 Pokémon in Kanto, you move on to Johto in Gold and Silver and try to capture an entirely new set. Completing an area’s Pokédex is a kind of closure, a sign it’s time for you to move on and start afresh. Nothing is undone. You can bring that progress to new regions by trading Pokemon forwards, but there’s no need to go back.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this sense of completion and closure, because I’ve just this weekend completed my Kanto Pokédex in Pokémon Go. Coincidentally, I am also right in the middle of moving away from my hometown, the first major story beat of those early Pokémon games.
Pokémon Go came out around two years ago, and I’ve been playing it pretty much daily ever since. The game was pretty barebones at release, but these days is improved beyond recognition. Even so, from those earliest days the sheer joy of seeing Pokémon pop up in the real world created a sense of childlike joy. Having to journey across the world hunting for Pokémon was magical, and felt like I really was on an adventure.
Most of the original 151 Pokémon I’ve caught simply by playing regularly. Others were more tricky. I had to capture three region exclusives while travelling for work, most memorably bagging a Farfetch’d during a 90-minute layover in Hong Kong with around two minutes left before boarding my flight.
Every capture feels special and rare the first time you make it. Stumbling across a Snorlax last week was a real joy, because it was the only non-legendary I had yet to see, and it was pure luck one turned up while I was out completing raids.
It was when I captured Snorlax that was when I realised how close my Kanto collection was to completion. Now I was only missing Mewtwo, which was available via invite-only raids, and Mew, which had just been made available as part of a difficult chain of quests. Despite playing daily for two years I had never received a Mewtwo raid invite, and had somewhat resigned myself to it never happening.
Concurrently to all of this, I was making plans to move away from my hometown for the very first time. I’m 26 years old, and I’ve lived my whole life basically at different houses on a single long road. I’ve moved many times, but never all that far away from home.
I’m currently in the process of moving to a new area, to live with someone important to me and to have an easier commute. It’s a little scary. I’ve never had to adjust to somewhere new being home. I don’t handle changes in structure or routine well, and the thought of having to adapt to a new life routine, a new set of surroundings, and a new world to call home is a scary thought.
The timing of my Kanto Pokédex completion may have been coincidence, but it couldn’t have been more perfect. The same day I viewed my new digs, I finally got that invite to a Mewtwo raid - I could almost taste the complete Pokédex. It felt like fate, and I fixated on the idea of completing the Kanto dex before moving away.
Completing the Mew quest was an inevitability, a question of when rather than if. All of the stages of the quest could be done through sheer force of will and time spent playing, with the exception of the stage requiring me to capture a ditto. Ditto works a little differently in Pokémon Go: rather than appearing as a Ditto and then transforming, you encounter Ditto already transformed, with no visible indicators that it’s secretly a cute pink blob. I spent around six days keeping a watchful eye on Pokémon Go raid groups for ditto sightings, sprinting off towards them as soon as they were noted, but ultimately arrived too late every time.
I had gotten to the point where I was capturing anything and everything I saw, whether I needed it or not, just on the off-chance it was a Ditto, wasting my stockpile of Pokéballs to no avail.
I eventually caught the Ditto through sheer blind luck. Shortly after work finished for the day, I got a message that a Ditto had been spotted at my local train station, disguised as a Pidgey. I threw on some shoes, and within 10 minutes had sprinted to the station, but alas – the Ditto was already gone.
Dejected, I walked home, almost ready to give up on ever finding one. I threw balls at a couple of Pokémon walking back, just for the stardust, and lo and behold a Rattata on the high street transformed post-capture into the Ditto I had been waiting on.
Beyond that, it was just a matter of farming Magikarp for a Gyarados, which was easy enough living near a beach where plenty spawn, and with that done, Mew was mine. Mew can only be encountered once, currently, but is a guaranteed capture once you complete the quest, so adding it to my collection was no problem. A solid 10 days of playing Pokémon Go paid off, and got me my Mew.
When it came to capturing Mewtwo, I was considerably more nervous. Raids only supply you with a specific number of balls to use when trying to catch a Pokémon, which varies depending on if your team holds the Gym, and if your team does most of the damage in battle. I camped out the morning of the raid at the location it was planned to occur at, took control of the gym, and spent all my available resources powering up Pokémon at the gym to ensure my team got a few extra balls when the raid arrived.
I play Pokémon Go on team Instinct, which is by far the least-populated team in my area, so I wasn’t able to get any bonus balls for team damage output, but with the gym held bonus I had ten balls with which to try the capture.
Mewtwo has a higher rate of capture success than most other legendaries, but it’s by no means a guaranteed capture. Its capture rate can be anywhere from 5% to 40% depending on how skilled of a throw you pull off, and what upgrades you use.
I missed with my first four balls. Mewtwo was further away than he appeared, and I was trying to use curved throws to catch him to raise my chance of success.
The next two throws he knocked away with attacks.
The next three all hit, they were great curve throws with a golden razzberry, about as good as I was going to manage. Shake, shake, escape.
My final ball, I gave up on the curve balls, just a straight up golden razz great throw…
Caught, on the final ball.
I felt such a relief in that moment. I’ve been playing this game for two years near enough, and only just had my very first EX raid invite. The chances of me getting another invite any time soon, let alone before the move, were worse than slim. This was my last chance to complete the Pokédex before moving away, and if I moved I would have to start accumulating points at gyms towards invites right from scratch all over again. Who knows how long it would have been if I had to start over working towards a Mewtwo somewhere new.
There were maybe 15 of us at the raid, and sure most people caught it, most people had even caught one before, but that didn’t take away my excitement. I had finished the Kanto Pokédex, and once again I was the very best.
Now, a day or so later, I catch myself just looking at my phone and smiling, any trepidation about the move lifting away. Completing the Kanto Pokédex has always been important, and the idea of doing it just before I leave my home town feels right in some minor cosmic fashion. It feels a bit like closure. Moving on to a new Pokémon generation is always exciting and scary: you start anew, without being able to rely on what you know, but then that’s the fun. You get to start over, make new choices, explore somewhere else.
I’ve already joined a Pokémon Go Raids Facebook Chat group in my new town, and started to make some friends in this unknown region. Pokémon Go’s Gym and Pokéstop markers label areas, so when exploring my new town I’ll have an idea of where some local landmarks are. Quests telling me to find Pokéstops I’ve never been to before will encourage me to explore off the beaten path. I’ll have reason to capture new Pokémon, in new ways, with new friends in tow.
Completing my Kanto Pokédex just felt like a sign from the gods of gaming. You’ve seen everything you have to see here, you’ve found everything you needed to find, and it’s now time to start over somewhere new. Sure it’ll be scary, but it’ll also be an adventure. And if you want to be the very best then, at some point, you’ve got to travel across the land, searching far and wide.