On a Pokemon journey, after putting in the hard work to collect all eight Gym Badges and defeating the evil team's plot, only one obstacle stands between the player and the Pokemon League: Victory Road. Filled with the toughest trainers and coolest wild Pokemon, this usually winding road gives players a chance to get their team up to scratch before the final battle with the Elite Four.
It has been a consistent feature of Pokemon games from the very beginning, which means players have gone through a whole host of different designs over the years. When the road is visually very similar each time around, the designers have to develop exciting ways to make each new game's Victory Road feel unique.
Generations 1 and 2
Despite the main body of their games taking place in different regions, Kanto and Johto's Victory Road are, in fact, the same place. As the two regions connect, the Pokemon League, and thus, Victory Road act as the border between the two. This means both Kanto's Pokemon Red and Blue protagonist and Johto's Gold and Silver protagonist go through the same area on their way to battle the Elite Four.
The designs aren't entirely identical, but the average player would be forgiven for thinking they were. Pokemon Gold and Silver saw fit to remove a few of the Strength boulders around the caves and, most interestingly, there are no trainers in the Johto region's version. The rival, who battles the player at the end of the road, comments on this, hyping it up as a dangerous place that most trainers fear to tread.
Ultimately, this version of Victory Road is pretty straightforward. There haven't been many attempts made to make it a puzzling road like later Generations would do. There are only one or two chances to detour for an item at all. This is fine in Pokemon Red and Blue since there are trainers along the way, but it makes Gold and Silver's version rather dull to navigate.
Despite Hoenn being renown for being waterlogged to ridiculous proportions, Victory Road is relatively dry. The bottom floor sees a lake with a couple of waterfalls, but there isn't much to see beyond that. Instead, there are many different elevation levels in this cave that make it a little trickier to navigate.
This was the first iteration of the road to become more winding and interconnected. Entering on 1F, players will go down through B1F and B2F only to find the way up and out again on 1F. It makes the progression of the route very clear, and is helped by the wide selection of Pokemon trainer battles along the way, which have a variety of Pokemon as well.
However, despite being far more winding than previous generations, the path forward is still always pretty clear. The players don't get a chance to detour until the very end, which means they're never going to be challenged as to finding the right way to go. This is probably intensional, but it makes for a duller experience, especially when other caves in Hoenn are more complex.
Sinnoh's Victory Road is one of the most interesting because players can explore it more than once, accessing different areas the second time around. The first trip through will be enjoyable, but rather than going all the way down and then back up again, like in Hoenn, players will be continuously returning to the middle floor.
Starting in 1F, players will find a path down in B1F, which eventually takes them back up into a different section of 1F. From there, a path to 2F will be found that eventually loops back around into yet another section of 1F. This is slightly more complex but gives players a much fuller understanding of the floor's layout, as they can quickly identify when they have reached an area they previously found inaccessible.
The trainers along the way make it interesting too, as there are even more than in Hoenn and just as strong. There are detours aplenty as well, and although many of them are short jogs to pick up some strong held items, it's still better than what had been done up until this point.
The second trip is great, too. Having Marley as a companion Pokemon trainer, there are a few new areas to explore, which are far more straightforward than the originals. It's a nice little treat once players have earned their spot in the Hall of Fame.
Unova is the only generation to date to feature direct sequels within a single generation. This means there are two versions of Victory Road. Starting in the original Black and White, this version of the cave system is king when it comes to a complex path that is challenging to navigate correctly.
In an extremely clever move, rather than having a cave that's entirely contained within one continuous interior, this Victory Road has both an inside and outside area that connect up in unexpected ways. Starting at the bottom of a massive sloped hill, players must climb higher up the hill and then use their position to slide down the hill and reach an entrance they previously couldn't. There's a wonderful combination of entrances and winding interior paths that players will need to think about and get a good mental map of the area to navigate successfully.
Black and White 2 uses a similar concept to the original, but doesn't quite take it to the extreme. In the story, a landslide has destroyed the original Victory Road, so the remaining caves have a slightly disjointed feeling. It's still somewhat challenging to navigate — utilizing a smaller outside area — but the path forward is often more evident than in the originals. Instead, the intrigue of this comes from seeing some of the features from the original road that are now buried and in pieces underground. Perhaps most interestingly, this road has a slightly different path depending on which version of the game is being played.
Kalos is often derided by fans for being much easier than other Pokemon generations. Whether this is true for the game as a whole is up for debate, but the Victory Road in Pokemon X and Y are certainly no pushover. They may not reach the winding heights that Black and White did, but a lot of the design lessons that have been learned over the years are implemented fantastically.
Once again, this version mixes interior and exterior areas for a total of four of each. Unfortunately, the exterior areas let the experience down a bit, as they are almost all straightforward paths for players to follow. The interior areas, however, are a different story. They have well-planned layouts with numerous opportunities to detour and potentially get lost in. They make good use of all the game's HMs, having players Surf around various areas and complete a Strength HM puzzle and a ledge puzzle along the way.
Alola's story is all about Professor Kukui setting up the very first Alola Pokemon League, so it makes sense that this generation's Victory Road isn't called that, instead being the existing Mount Lanakila. This mountain utilizes all of the techniques seen in designs up until this point, but tones these aspects down a bit and makes them easier to navigate.
With a total of eight areas, once again, players will be continually shifting their way between interior caves and exterior ledges. However, the path between each one is entirely linear, and once a player exits an area, the path forward never requires them to come back unlike in previous designs. Detours for items are short and leave players an easy path back to the correct route once they've got their goodies.
The one area where this road stands out is the trainers. Generation 7 turned up the challenge again (especially in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon), and the trainers up the side of this mountain are sure to test players' teams before their final challenge. Additionally, in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, players will get a new story beat, as this is where they get a chance to capture Necrozma, allowing them to take an insanely powerful Pokemon into the Pokemon League.
Galar is where all the design progress and finesse that went into the previous seven generations goes to waste, as there is no Victory Road in the region. After leaving the train station from Hammerlocke, players will be dumped onto Route 10, an incredibly straightforward path connecting to Wyndon, where the Pokemon League is.
Given the layout and atmosphere of Galar, having a long and winding cave wouldn't really make sense right in front of Galar's biggest city, but it's a shame that players were robbed of one last challenge before getting the climax of the story.
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