Pokémon Sword and Shield
So, at this point, the gaming community is getting brilliantly excited about the latest instalments in the Japanese Role Playing Game (hereinafter referred to as “JRPG”) series, Pokémon. The new games are based in the UK, more specifically the north of England and Scotland, which, in my less-than-humble opinion is some of the most picturesque portion off this damp rock off the coast of Europe.
To all those who are familiar, I apologise for the next 100 words, but my brief is to explain the Pokemon series to adults who may have no idea what this is, as well as giving my impressions.
So, what is Pokémon? Pokemon is a Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) set around the idea of catching and training animals in order to get them to fight each other for Experience Points, or EXP for short.
What started as a game designed to test the limits of the Nintendo Gameboy Colour handheld consoles, became a multi-billion pound franchise expanding to manga (Japanese comic books), a trading card game (for which Power Up Coffee Gaming is starting run competitions), a successful TV and Movie franchise (which serves as a giant advertisement) and most recently, a live-action Pokémon movie called Detective Pikachu.
Explanation out of the way, the world went bananas after seeing the first trailers for the new games in December 2018, and the new games have pretty much dominated the discussions about what Nintendo have in store for their customers, to the point where Nintendo’s insiders have leaked information and stuck it on messaging boards such as Reddit and 4Chan.
Personally, as someone who has grown up with this franchise, I’m super excited, but I’d like to use my remaining word count to explain to you what I think about all of the features contained, in point by point order.
Firstly, let’s get the negatives out of the way. There is no National Dex in the new games, due to software limitations, and an executive decision made. Junichi Masuda, head of the gaming franchise, spoke about this in length, and Nintendo have designed software to work around the limitations in something called Pokémon Home.
This appears to be some sort of holding software to keep people’s Pokémon safe, and to be used in future instalments in the gaming series. A lot of long-term fans got extremely angry at this, with the franchise having a tag-line of “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!”.
In my opinion, I can understand why this is a thing, as video games tend to be taking up more and more memory space. However, Nintendo Switch cartridge sizes can vary between 16 gigabytes and 128 gigabytes, so this idea doesn’t really hold much water in my opinion.
Personally, I think the reason why they’ve cut a lot of the older Pokémon out of the game is to avoid repetition and to maximise storytelling techniques.
That being said, does anyone actually play Pokémon games for the stories? They’re good when you’re 8 or 9 years of age, but for long-term fans, storytelling isn’t a key aspect. It’s an aspect that is considered to be of lower value, as they roughly all follow the same plot (well, until Pokémon Sun and Moon).
You’re given a Pokémon, told to complete a quest, fight an evil organisation and catch an all-powerful Pokémon to tame and use as your friend. It’s not exactly thrilling material.
Now for the positives. There are a lot of positives, so I’m going to through them piece by piece and discuss the importance of each.
Firstly, the return of Gym battles. This is by far the thing I’m the most happy about, as the franchise’s previous instalments, Pokémon Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon just didn’t feel right to play without the Gym focus. Game Freak, the production house and developers explained that the games were very clearly based in Hawaii, and they wanted to have a more relaxed focus in the game, but fans and critics alike didn’t like this at all.
Myself, I was okay with it, apart from the Godzilla sized Alolan Raticate that took forever to beat at the first Trial. Game Freak and Nintendo clearly listened, as in this new region, the gyms have returned, albeit with a bit of the Trial system thrown in for good measure.
Instead of Totem Pokémon, which were the bane of most people’s gaming experiences in the franchise’s equivalent of Hawaii, we now have Dynamax and Gigantamax Pokémon. A lot of Eastern fans and older fans are already somewhat laughing at this, playfully nicknaming them “Kaiju” (A genre of Japanese films featuring giant creatures) or “Giant” Pokémon.
Personally, I think this might be the best step forwards, not only for the franchise, but the players. Why? Because the new games then don’t invalidate the experiences in Alola (Hawaii) whilst adding something new to the franchise, however uninspired that change might be.
Also, it allows Nintendo to sell more and more games from their Pokémon back catalogue, and allow players to realise that the older games in the series matter too.
Secondly, let’s talk more about Dynamax and Gigantamax Pokémon. Not all Pokémon can do it, from the press releases and leaks, but the ones that can look absolutely astonishing.
At first, my opinion was that this was just a lazy way to replace the Mega Evolution mechanics from previous games, but with the rise of co-operative gameplay in other areas, as well as Pokémon Go, this looks like something I can really sink my teeth into and enjoy.
It’s probably the most logical direction to go with the game, and whilst it is completely lazy and uninspired in my opinion, it’s something people have been going bananas on social media about.
Thirdly, the new Pokémon. I’m Team Scorbunny, but there are so many cute looking Pokémon in this game. We have some absolute corkers, but my personal favourite is Morpeko, a Pokémon that looks cute and cuddly until the point where it gets hungry and angry simultaneously.
At this point, I’m curious as to whether the people at Game Freak know what I’m like in person, as this cute little bugger might as well be my spirit animal. There’s Yamper, which is an Electric type Pokémon, and it basically looks like Game Freak love Corgis, as these adorable doggos are my mum’s favourites.
There’s also Corviknight, and now my spellchecker has finally given up the ghost. Corviknight is a transport Pokémon, and is probably the one I want to catch and tame the most, only so I can call it Edgar, and make lots of jokes about Edgar Allan Poe.
Speaking of new Pokémon, Game Freak have also brought some new Pokémon based on older designs, effectively giving them a reskin, and allowing some really cool designs. For example, Zigzagoon has a new black and white theme, reminiscent of Gene Simmons’ make up as the frontman of KISS.
Thus, I will be catching 4 of them, and calling them Starchild, Catman, Spaceman and Demon for giggles. There’s also a new variant on Koffing and Weezing which harks back to Scotland and the north of England’s industrial history, by making them resemble boiler faces of steam locomotives, which is why I’m catching one and calling it Thomas. I’m not remotely sorry for that bad pun.
Speaking of regions, let’s take a closer look at the region in the new game, and the format for which this takes. Pokémon Sword and Shield is based in Galar, a new region based on the UK, with a focus on the north of England and Scotland.
It’s visually stunning, with a lovely Steampunk version of Edinburgh involved, which we saw from the very first trailer. This version of Edinburgh even has what I suspect to be a version of the Royal Mile, which gets me very excited. There’s also an area which replaces the routes used in the previous games called the “wild area” which looks extremely exciting.
It’s awash with all sorts of different land features such as rolling hills, lakes and fields galore. I can definitely find myself using this feature of the game more, as I’m the sort of guy that likes to explore every nook and cranny of a videogame. To be honest, Game Freak and Nintendo have ripped this sort of aspect from Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, but who cares? The game looks visually stunning, and I’m very very excited about it.
One final thing I’m really looking forwards to is the range of customisations available to us in the game. Dear sweet Flying Spaghetti Monster, this game has really moved on from dresses, jeans and the range of 7 different haircuts.
In this game, you can customise just about anything on your avatar. From motifs and badges on your clothes, to changing your avatar’s make-up, putting contact lenses in of a variety of different colours and all sorts of customisations never seen before.
This looks really visually arresting, with so much available to change about yourself in the game that it might actually be possible to play as a character somewhat resembling yourself! Thus, when we show gameplay of this game on the 16th of November, expect my avatar to look like a short haired goth with a giant raven Pokémon.
So this has been my first impressions of Pokémon Sword and Shield, and what I think of the different changes made to the usual formats of the game. If you haven’t pre-ordered the games yet, I highly recommend getting them, as there’s apparently a pre-order bonus which will be revealed when the games finally debut on November 15th 2019.
The game comes out on the Nintendo Switch, and has been published by Game Freak. To be honest with you all, this is the game that I’ve been looking forwards to the most this year, and from what we’ve seen through the different Nintendo Directs, I look to be proved right when I say that these games will probably get Game Of The Year awards.
Do you agree with me, or do you just think I’m a fanboy finally getting wish fulfilment? Either way, come and have a blether with me at Power Up Coffee Gaming in Paisley, Scotland, and play some awesome video games and enjoy some truly brilliant coffee.
There you go!