Pokemon Scarlet & Violet Needs To Have A Good Cave

Pokemon owes me a good cave. I put up with years of terrible Pokemon caves, and the minute they have the opportunity to make a good one, they somehow make them worse. Caves are probably the best indicator of the way Pokemon has gotten too afraid to let go of our hands even for a second, and if Scarlet & Violet is going to combine the best elements of Sword & Shield and Legends: Arceus, then it better bring with it a good cave. The only issue with that is both SwSh and Legends have terrible caves, but here's hoping two wrongs somehow make a right.

Everyone hated the caves in Pokemon Red & Blue. You needed to give a Pokemon the otherwise useless Flash HM, they were swarming with wild Zubat, and you were endlessly going up and down ladders. However, they were a crucial part of the game. In Pokemon Yellow you first encounter Jessie & James in a cave, while Mewtwo, Articuno, and Moltres are all found in different caves. You grab your fossil Pokemon in a cave. Some of the most interesting and challenging Pokemon are found in caves, and the late-game caves required you to visualise not just your current floor, but those beneath you as well, so you could drop boulders to complete puzzles.

Related: New Eeveelution Has Already Been Practically Confirmed By The AnimeThey were hard going at times, especially as healing required you to plan ahead with Potions, getting out of one when you were lost was impossible without an Escape Rope or a Pokemon with Dig, and they could feel like roadblocks along your adventure rather than part of it. What fools we were as children. How I long for these stupid caves back. Probably because too many of us whined about the caves making these incredibly easy JRPGs feel vaguely like a struggle (if only for about ten minutes), the edges have been sanded off the caves over and over until they're just straight lines. There's a 'cave' in Sword & Shield that's about 30 footsteps long. You fight Bede and Team Yell in it, so it's supposed to be an important location, but all that's different is the ground is brown instead of green.

I understand that Pokemon games are for children. As much as I want them to grow up with me and offer mature storylines and some variation on what they've been doing for the past 25 years, I know that's only ever likely in the spin-offs, and even then, most of them are designed for an audience of children. But I'm not even asking for caves to get harder, or more mechanically complex, or to look like something from As Above, So Below. I just want them to actually be caves, instead of very open, very short tunnels.

With 3D graphics, the caves could be some of the most atmospheric locations in the game. I wrote about my dissatisfaction with caves in Pokemon last year when New Pokemon Snap came out and proved Pokemon could do environmental storytelling, but Legends: Arceus took us a few steps back. The open-world gameplay worked like a charm and finally made Poke Balls matter, but the caves still got a raw deal. There's a hidden cave in Arceus that I stumbled across by chance, and decided to explore. After a short, single curved path, I found three Machop and then an exit which took me to the top of an easily accessible hill. Just… why? Why hide a cave and then have it last for about 45 seconds, put nothing in it, and have it lead to nowhere?

I'm owed a good cave, and Pokemon Scarlet & Violet has the tools to give me one. The problem is I don't think it will, because a very loud section of Pokemon players seem to have convinced Game Freak that anything that challenges us, even just a little, needs to be expunged from the Pokemon experience. These loudmouths have already ruined Snowpoint Gym, which was stripped of its cave-like goodness in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl. I'm sorry I ever complained about you, Rock Tunnel. I just want you back.

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