The most climactic confrontation in gaming.

By all accounts, this should have felt like a completely inconsequential (yet difficult) battle

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One of the most climactic videogame battles from my youth seems strange and out of place. The fate of the world wasn’t at stake; I wasn’t on a journey for revenge, there was no princess to be saved, no sinister machinations to be halted. In fact not even my (character’s) life was at stake, but still this fight held great significance for me. The battle with Red atop Mt. Silver in Pokemon Gold/Silver.

What really made this battle matter? By all accounts, this should have felt like a completely inconsequential (yet difficult) battle, but I find myself fondly remembering that battle above nearly all others in my long Pokemon battling career.

What holds this above all others in my mind and my heart? When looking at the amount of time I spent playing this series of games, in a way it’s like a battle with myself. I AM Gold (or whatever name you’ve chosen), but I AM also Red. This is a battle with ourselves. I know that I spent upwards of 100 hours playing Pokemon Blue version. Mind you this is from a time when the internet was young and finding all of the secrets was a journey of personal exploration, or by word-of-mouth from fellow trainers at the time. So much time and effort I poured into that game, I had Pokemon at level 100 before I even learned about the item duplication glitch giving me nigh infinite Rare Candies.

I was incredibly excited when I got my hands on Pokemon Silver version. I played it to completion, excited to earn the 8 badges of the new Johto region and just as excited to retrace my steps from my recent adventure through the 8 Gyms of Kanto and feeling like the world was alive and evolving. Koga had passed the torch of Gym leadership to his daughter, Blaine faced the disaster on Cinnabar island, and my old Rival Blue had taken up residence as leader of the Viridian City Gym thanks to MY actions in dismantling Team Rocket.

The final challenge lay ahead of me, with 16 badges under my lapel I entered Mt. Silver, the dividing mountain range between this new exciting land Johto and my old familiar region Kanto. Walking this line that bridged yet separated the two different worlds and different experiences I’ve had. The toughest challenge yet ahead.

And there after all of the twists and puzzles, the hard fights, and use of every trick and resource I had learned up to this point stood Red. A Pokemon battle much like any other takes place. This is the true final boss of this game, and I still remember how this fight went down years later. I barely held on, Red is much higher leveled than even the Elite Four. This is still the only time in my life I’ve resorted to a desperate tactic such as…

Go Electrode, use Explosion!
*revives*
Go Electrode, use Explosion!
*revives*
Go Electrode, use Explosion!
*revives*
Go Electrode, use Explosion!
*revives*
Go Electrode, use Explosion!

After concluding the battle I felt the greatest sense of achievement and accomplishment I’ve felt in a Pokemon game that I think even to date I have not exceeded.

But why? Looking at it analytically, as I said there was really nothing riding on this battle. No lives hang in the balance, no great world-ending catastrophe threatens to sunder space/time itself were I to fail. Yet it was still such a satisfying battle.

It was perhaps a passing of the torch. My sense of self was tied to both Red and to Gold, maybe it is akin to overcoming your own self and improving. This battle was fought with ourselves and we are all of the things at stake. We are the ones at the top, while we are also striving to become stronger than all others before us. Maybe it’s just me, but I still get shivers when I listen to the battle theme for the fight with Red even today (which inspired me to ramble here).

I love the games that have been able to resonate so strongly with their players like that. I would love to see more games that can make themselves so personal to give them meaning. Don’t get me wrong, saving the galaxy from killer AI, thwarting ancient world-ending dragons, and freeing humanity from its enslavement are great plot motivations. It’s a real treasure though when a game can give you a sense of accomplishment of self.