Arcade Spotlight: Pokémon Sword and Shield

*Warning: This may contain some story spoilers*

With the release of Crown Tundra and as Pokémon Sword and Shield is approaching a year since release, now seems like a good time to talk about the game as a whole and ponder a bit on where the series could go after Pokémon Sword and Shield. Now most of this will be from my time with Pokémon Shield but other than a few character and Pokémon difference it really won’t make much of a difference. So, with that let’s talk about the main game.

Pokémon Sword and Shield takes us to the beautiful Galar region based on the UK and once again you take the role of a young trainer making their way through the ranks to became the league’s champion, Leon, with a bit of mystery on the side. In this game, most of the focus is on your character taking part Pokémon League and the looming danger really isn’t brought to the front until the end game. This is kind of a nice change of events as you are no longer playing the role of trying to became the region’s new champion and savior and there a few story beats that enforce the feeling. Now as nice of a change of pace this was, I do feel that it does hinder the big conflict tours the end of the main story and with the human villain twist it felt kind of half hearted and forced. I don’t think that this game needed human villain and could have gone with a more ‘history is repeating itself’ angel and making Ethernatus the first “natural” Pokémon enemy in the series and increase the world building/exploring of the Galar region. Overall, the story of Sword and Shield was okay not super strong and kind of checked all the boxes, but what new mechanics did Sword and Shield bring to the series?

A few new things Sword and Shield added to series but the main two are Dynamaxing and the Wild Area. Dynamaxing took the place of Mega-evolutions and Z-Moves, where based on the energy found in this region can cause Pokémon to grow to massive heights and increase their powers and a handful can achieve the next level of Dynamaxing called Gigantamaxing where the Pokémon will grow in size and alter appearance.  Now this form does only last a few turns so need to a bit thoughtful when you are going to use it. The other major thing they added was the Wild Area, a part of the region where you had full control of the camera and where a good portion of Pokémon would appear. The Wild Area also brought Dynamax Raids, spots in the Wilder Area where you and three other trainers would battle against a Dynamx or Gigantamax Pokémon to capture or just defeat for some prizes like rare items and TMs. This is where you would spend more your time as the weather and time of day would change which Pokémon would appear in this area. On top of these two new mechanics the game also changes up the gym challenge a bit. Now one thing I do like about the game is how the Pokémon League feels like a spectator sport and so all Gym Leaders battles take part packed stadiums and as you go around the region you make start getting recognized by the public. Also, rather than the gym being designed to be a puzzle, to qualify to battle the Gym Leader there is a dedicate challenge section of the challenge. The other part I like is how once you get all gym badges you have to go through a mini-tournament containing your rivals and the Gym Leaders as the last challenge before facing the champion. I really like this even though it was small but I have grown to want a more tournament style finale to the gym challenge similar to the anime and have the Elite Four be post game.

Overall, Pokémon Sword and Shield is a good game but it is just another Pokémon game. For me the most disappointing thing about the last 3 generations of Pokémon is it feels like they are wanting to try something and not really pushing it past the generation it was introduced in. I personally don’t think Z-Moves or Mega-evolutions will make a return and have a feeling that Dynamaxing will be only a Gen 8 deal. Now somethings like roaming Pokémon I hope will continue to grow. It was a nice to see a more Pokémon filled world in Let’s Pikachu and Eevee and glad to see it expanded to the Wild Area in Sword and Shield. One thing I cautious about being carried forward is DLC and speaking of which let’s talk about Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra.

In Isle of Armor you head to the former training grounds of Leon and train under his old master Mustard, as well create a bond with a new Pokémon Kubfu. Story part of this expansion is better bare bones: be the first to complete Mustard’s three challenges to earn the right to the dojo’s great treasure, Kubfu. With Kubfu by your side, the focus is now to train Kubfu to evolve it to one of two versions of Urshifu then work on unlocking it’s Gigantamax form then have one more battle with Mustard. That is a very simple breakdown of events but this story didn’t take a long to go through but a lot of Pokémon did return to the series and now there was a way to obtain Gigantamax Pokémon without having to try to catching them through a raid. The island is fun to explore but once you complete the story part it is just a new raiding spot. Now, The Crown Tundra DLC is a different story.

In The Crown Tundra, you explore the far southern part of the Galar region and explore and solve the legends of the region. There are 3 legends to explore and each will have you encounter several legends. Now this does require a bit more time as each legend you are exploring have multiply parts to it. Out of the new legendary Pokémon introduced in this DLC, I will have to say Calyrex is definitely the most interesting as you get to explore of the back story of this Pokémon. The Regi based puzzles are ok but nothing really like back in Gen 3 when first introduced. The legend regarding 3 Legendary birds is interesting for Zapdos, Moltres and Articuno get region variants but after going around and chasing them down, there wasn’t much follow up on why they were there and or why that tree was a key figure other then it having special fruit, I think. The other big thing this DLC brought was Dynamax Adventures. In Dynamax adventure has a team of 4, explore a short dungeon and try to make it to the end but only using Rental Pokémon and the Pokémon found in the dungeon with only 4 “lives”. I kind of wish this was part of the game from the start. I like the challenge of making it work with a make shift team and does given you the opportunity to catch various starters and possibly a Legendary Pokémon if you make it to the end and catch it. What I enjoyed about this DLC is it gave me a bit more world building that I think the series often quickly summarize and doesn’t dive into. I enjoyed learning about Calyrex and wish there were more adventures like that.

With the end of The Crown Tundra, the Pokémon Sword and Shield game is “complete”. Now I know I didn’t go over everything in the game and DLC but these are the things that stuck out to me. This now begs the question, what is next for Pokémon? I mean they could release 2 more DLC packs for the game as there is still room off the west coast and the far north of the region to explore and add the last remaining Pokémon to the game. Next year, we could be getting either Generation 9 or a remake. I believe Gen 4 would be the next in line. However, this does bring up a major question, is there a need for a 9th generation of Pokémon? Can Gen 9 just add a new region and either no or few Pokémon? As per the office PokeDex on the official Pokémon website, the last entry is Zarude at 893 and that doesn’t include the 5 new Legendary Pokémon introduced in The Crown Tundra which bumps it up to 898. This means Pokémon could be 1 generation from 1000 Pokémon and I have a feeling that not even 100 of these Pokémon have or going to see regular competitive play. I think the series is going to need to shift to either focus only on the competitive side or the adventure side. My solution, in a world with no limits, they would develop a battle series and an adventure series. So, in the Battle Series there would a limit of 100 Pokémon, base on passed tournaments, but they are all available to you from the start and they give you all the tools to train the Pokémon how you want and from season to season they can add new Pokémon, add new battle mechanics or trial mechanics and not have to make an adventure for people to slug through to get to that point. This would leave the Adventures to either continue the formula or do more explore in lore of the Pokémon world. I don’t see them make major changes to the series since it seems to have work for this long but I do think it is starting to lose its staying power as their audience gets older but I guess I’m no longer in the target demo. Either way I will be interested to see where the Pokémon Company next the main series games moving forward. If you made it this far, thank you for taking time to read this and until next time; Stay Safe, Be Nice and Game On!

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