I was 8 years old when I first flew through Pokémon Blue and 13 when I gave up on Pokémon Ruby. I’m now 20 years old. In the past 12 years, I have done some serious growing up. My voice got deeper, my thoughts got heavier, and my life got a bit more complicated. In short, I’ve grown older.
But Pokémon hadn’t grown older. It didn’t follow me into adulthood at all. It seemed to have stayed behind, saying good-bye to me as soon as I had reached a certain height. “You must be this young to ride,” it seemed to say.
I got older, but who cared? Not those who made Pokémon. They seemed only to care for the new breed, the new kids who would carry on the legacy of those who made the series a hit. The rest of us, now in our twenties, would have to move on to something else. We would have to grow up.
So I was ready to give up on Pokémon White. Why bother trying to continue with the inevitable disappointments that were sure to follow? The game felt old, it felt trite, and it felt like it wasn't made for me at all.
Until I reached Skyarrow Bridge.
When you first see the bridge, the in-game camera suddenly cuts in very close, closer than it has ever been. You are treated to a stupendous view of the Skyarrow Bridge in all its grandeur.
As you trek across it, the camera then pulls way out to show you just how big this thing is. Its length stretches far beyond your field of view, and you become excited by the mere possibility of that length. Never before has a Pokémon game ever called so much attention to anything as this game calls to this bridge.
On the other side, things start to get much better. The gym leaders begin to get harder, the quest seem to get bigger, and the story really starts to shine.
And, for the first time ever in a Pokémon game, that story has weight, actual weight. It is the story of a boy traveling with his Pokémon companions; of a group of friends going out into the big world for the first time; of exploration, discovery, and adventure.
The story of a child growing into a man.
It felt as though that bridge — while connecting me to a new city and a vast new world to explore in-game — was also closing a gap that had been growing for years since I had given up on Pokémon. I had never felt such an uncanny connection to a Pokémon game before. This was my story. This was the story of all those who grew out of Pokémon and got jobs, got girlfriends and boyfriends, got educated. This was the story of the boys and girls who got older and moved on, and how they did that.
And then it hit me. Pokémon had finally grown up.
After years of simple games with simple goals, here was a Pokémon title that wanted to show me that it hadn’t forgotten about the kids who made it a success to begin with. It hadn’t forgotten about me.
And that made me all the happier to cross that gap and come back home.