In-Depth Stories

A tale of three Johtos: the evolution of the Gen II maps

You can’t make a game on your first try, and sometimes not even on your second. While developing Pokémon Gold and Silver, Game Freak went through several designs for Johto, which have now been leaked. Looking at how the world map was refined over the years tells us a lot about the evolution of the game as a whole.

Part 5: ‘Modern’ Kanto

Ah, remember that wonderful moment in which you crossed the river east of New Bark Town and, once you got back on solid ground, a fat man walked to you and said you were now in Kanto, while the epic theme of Route 27 started playing? Well, the story was a bit different originally. Also, Kanto itself underwent some quality-of-life improvements that were bafflingly removed from the final version.

Route 27

Change level: Probably the second-most edited route in the whole game, right there with 42.

Route 27 beta
Please play this while reading this section:

So what about… walking straight into Kanto? There is literally nothing stopping you from just going there right after you start the game. I suppose there might have been some NPC telling you to go back, but… I don’t know how. I guess, when push came to shove, the Badge Check Desk (or some trainer with a Lv. 40 team) would have forced you to go back home and try going west instead. Still, absolutely weird.

Fun fact: that route heading north goes straight into Mt. Silver. Who knows, maybe you could try and challenge Red with your Chikorita! I don’t get any of this.

Route 27 comparison
I guess Tohjo Falls was hiding together with Mt. Mortar.

Compared to the final version, it is essentially a new map, redone entirely from scratch. But I’m putting it as the second-most edited map because, hey, that one house remains, and with the same design, even! And, I suppose, there is a river.

Route 26

Change level: Recognisable.

Again, this route is huge (and even slightly larger still in its original form, it was shrunk down a bit in the final) so I’ll split it in two to look at each part properly.

Route 26 beta
All those pointless gaps between the trees.

Unlike Route 27, this one is a clear example of “right idea, worse execution”. Most elements are there- the side house by the trees, the ledges, the grass. But everything is a bit… less appealing than in the final version.

Route 26 a comparison
The bridge was a nice addition.

As a bonus, the grass in the final version was made mandatory, the empty path at the bottom was replaced by a bridge, matching the changes in the previous route, and the ledges were used a bit more interestingly. The most ‘spicy’ part of the old map, the (almost inaccessible) pond at the top was replaced, tile by tile, by a generic patch of green land, and a new house was added. The ledge at the top, by the way, remained in place, at least part of it.

Route 26 b beta
Suddenly I want a croissant.

The second half is more of the same. But we all can admire the most useless ledge in the history of Pokémon games, on the right side of the Pokémon League gate, so people using a walk-through-walls code to climb those rocks can go back into the map after turning it off, I suppose.

At some point, you really have to wonder if the sheer amount of ledges, most of them in pretty awkward places, had to do with the intended skateaboard mechanic that was advertised in the very earliest announcements, as a companion or even a replacement for the bike that is now a series’ staple. It was never confirmed, but highly speculated due to the promise that the skateboard could help you reach “unexpected places”, that the skateboard could jump over ledges. The item itself was scrapped early in development, before this feature could be added, but all the ledges (and especially the inexplicable ones) in the beta Johto could be evidence that the skateboard was meant to jump over them after all.

Route 26-beta-b comparison
The map removed its high heels for the final.

The most remarkable changes are the small lake, probably replacing the pond from the other half, and the fact that the road narrowed considerably, with a return path and rocks sprinkled around it. All in all, it’s some ways to make this route more interesting while keeping the same spirit.

Route 28

Change level: Deleted and replaced.

Route 28 beta
Hey, some grass to train my Chikorita! 😀 *Lv. 40 Ursaring appears*

This is the path north from Route 27! So, right after starting the game, you could walk right into Mt. Silver, that was just north of New Bark. I guess there must have been some way to stop you, but, who knows. This map was entirely deleted once the whole area was relocated and the entrance was moved to the Pokémon League Building. Funny that almost all the maps with ‘mandatory’ grass in the beta were deleted in some way, considering how much more of it the final game has.

Route 28 final
Interestingly, the concept is similar.

This is what we ended up with. You can see traces of the same idea, except more expanded now that they have a bigger map.

Mt. Silver

Change level: Vastly improved.

Mt Silver beta
Fun fact: This is supposed to be Mt. Fuji.

And this is where they had been keeping all the mandatory grass! This design technically isn’t a maze as much as a huge straight line squeezed into a square map. I guess the base concept is the same again, but… this is extremely grating.

Like some other area maps at the ‘end’ of the game, this one wasn’t touched for the mid-development version. So, from that, we jump straight into…

Mt Silver comparison

Hey guys this actually looks like you’re nearing a big mountain! The maze is just long enough, counting on a slightly meatier Route 28, and there are two bonus paths instead of being a FFXIII-style corridor. I guess a few patches of grass remain in place but that’s more by accident than anything else.