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 6: Assorted ‘Old’ Kanto

A few basic differences are that the maps still use the Gen I signpost design and the house tiles haven’t been touched at all, leaving the harsh shading from the original that makes all Kanto houses seem angry.  But overall, there are three major groups here: the maps that were kept the same (and I won’t bother showing, assume everything not included here looks exactly the same as it does in the version you can play at home); the ones that were given some QoL improvements that were then undone in the final version; and the maps that are yet intact and then were heavily edited for the final. Weird, I know.

So let’s do a rapid shootout of these two categories.

Maps that were improved for the beta but kept the same in the final

Route 3 & 4

Route 3-beta
Optional Mt. Moon!

Mt. Moon is fine and all, but, seriously, even its reduced version is a bit of a hassle at that point of the game. So that shortcut would have been useful and should have improved the commerce and communications between Pewter and Cerulean! And they could have put the Silver battle somewhere unavoidable along those narrow paths anyway.

route 3-4 final
The Zubat Lobbying Group spent a lot of money to block these changes.

Route 10

Route 10 beta
It makes more sense to orchestrate a robbery with TWO escape paths.

No Rock Tunnel! A clear path to the Power Plant and to Lavender! I mean, from a practical point of view, this fits the idea of “the plant was up and running again” than the final/original one, landlocked in the middle of nowhere. I guess they eventually found the space to resurrect Rock Tunnel and the rest is history.

Route 10 final
Loooooooooooooooooong plant.

Maps that were the same in the beta but edited for the final

Viridian City

Viridian beta
Did you know: Coffee guy is drunk in the original Japanese.

The Trainer’s School was still there in the beta, replaced by the Trainers’ House in the final. Also, the entrance to Blue’s Gym has only one house, as opposed to two in the final.

Viridian City final
I remember not understanding why I could fight a friend I had just traded with.

Pewter City

Pewter City
If the Apollo mission to the Moon is canon in the Pokémon Universe… how many other ‘real world’ events are there?

The Science Museum is famously closed in the final. Not so much in the beta.

Someone ate my doors.

Cerulean City

I remember getting Dig and treating it like a Holy Grail item.

Strictly speaking, there is a change: the cuttable tree at the bottom was removed already. But the final makes some minor adjustments to make the city not feel like a maze.

Cerulean Final
Those two houses on the top left- what a gigantic private garden they have!

Lavender Town

Lavender Beta
The “omg what a creepy place there is SATANIC MUSIC” meme is very old and stale by now.

Lavender is entirely intact. No hint of a Kanto Radio Tower or the Cemetery yet.

Lavender final
I love the G/S/C rendition of this theme.

Route 16

Route 16 beta
Maybe you could SKATEBOARD into the Cycling Road instead!

I think this is a case of “There’s a lot of pointlessly empty space and we are running out of space in the ROM, cut something!”

Also, there is no gate to check whether you were riding a bike. I don’t get why.

Route 16 final

Fuchsia City

Beta Fuchsia
Was there still a Safari Zone?!

Not much to say – the map is literally intact compared to the original. The final, on the other hand, changes a lot, especially on the northern side. It baffles me that the cuttable trees remained to the end, though.

Fuschsia final
Meeting Janine was a nice surprise.

Seafoam Islands

Seafoam beta
I like the bait-and-switch of making you enter through the furthest island. But which maniac built that fence around it?

Still up and running. Not so much later. Also, one of the caves mysteriously moved up a couple of tiles… I blame the volcano eruption.

Seafoam final
See, they could have removed it much earlier.

Cinnabar Island

Cinnabar beta
Lots of maps to be culled here.

Speaking of which, Cinnabar was intact. I assume at some point they realised how many Johto dungeons they could make by deleting maps from he I mean, having a volcano accidentally erupt.

Fun fact: the lab maps survived (albeit unused) until the end, and were found in the final cartridge.

Cinnabar Final
How exactly did the lab not survive, it was west of the Pokémon Centre…?

Route 22

Route 22 beta
Why did they need such a large building to check *one* badge, anyway?

The League Reception Gate was shrunk, possibly to match the Johto side, and certainly to make the trip slightly less aggravating.

Route 22 final
So much pointless space.

Saffron & Vermilion

And finally, there are two maps that were edited for the beta and then had some of the changes undone and new different ones made instead. A mix of the two, essentially.

Saffron City

Saffron beta
With no gates, no accidental whole-city lockdowns! Genius.

What do we have here? A redesign of all buildings, plus two of them boarded out, and a whole block removed from the middle row to make it look symmetrical. Hope its inhabitants were given alternative emergency housing. Also, there are no gates in any of the exits. No idea why. Saving maps?

Saffron RBY
It’s cute how impressive this city used to look.

And yet, there are a few things missing. Where is the Magnet Train? No, really, we know it departs from Johto. Was it just a decoration? Where would it drop you off?

Also, in the final map, they got enough room to reopen one of the houses from the second row they had boarded up… but not the same one. I guess they forgot which one they had removed at first when they had the chance to re-add it.

Saffron Final
I liked the Magnet Train so much.

Vermilion City

Vermillion beta
You can walk through the pier and directly into the sea!

I don’t even know how to categorise this one. How in the hell were you supposed to get into Kanto, if there was no SS. Aqua port on either side and the Magnet Train didn’t have a station in Kanto? Had they thought this through? Other than that, it’s identical to the original, but man, that’s a huge change.

The final reinstated the port, but also changed the path to Digglet’s Cave, to allow for a Snorlax to block the path. Whatever they had planned for Kanto originally, it was extremely different to what we eventually got.

Vermilion Final
Ah, yes, Pokéflute Radio, perfect for people who have long driving shifts and don’t want to fall asleep on the road.

And that was our trip through the beta maps! That was a lot of work, but wow, there was a lot of meat to chew here. So many fascinating changes and early drafts that were dramatically improved. Gen II is one of my favourites, along with Gen V, and I’m so glad they took all that extra time to make these games so much better. Gen I made Pokémon a fad but Gen II solidified it into the highest-grossing entertainment franchise of all time, and I’m sure that all the care they put in the final version of the games was a huge factor on that.