Pokemon Red and Blue dropped when I was at the ideal age for me, I was 11 when they came out and I was absolutely consumed by PokeMania.
I was that kid in the playground with the Shiny Charizard card, who you’d go to get help navigating the Rock Tunnel between Cerulean City and Vermillion City and had used a Gameboy Printer to print out the certificate the GameFreak developers gave you on collecting all 151 original Pokemon.
As I grew up I still tried to play the Pokemon Games but I think it was around the move to the DS that I stopped having enough time to invest in them and I gave up with the newer generations.
It wasn’t until 2016 when Pokemon Go was released that my passion for Pokemon was reignited but Pokemon Go’s gameplay is nothing like the mainline games so it’s been hard to gauge if I would actually enjoy a new entry on the Switch.
The Let’s Go games that were released in 2018 were a good indicator for if I had the interest to wander around an environment and spend time grinding to evolve Pokemon in order to catch ‘em all but they also made this easier and the integration with Pokemon Go meant I could just transfer things I didn’t have.
When Pokemon Sword and Shield were announced I had some feelings about the game:
- This is great they’re making a Pokemon game based on the UK (where I live)
- It’s great that they’re bringing in aspects from Pokemon Go (raids) and Let’s Go (wild Pokemon running about)
- Wait, does this mean we won’t get a Let’s Go expansion to Johto?
- Will I have enough time to actually play this game or will I end up falling off after 20 hours like all the others I played
On paper Sword and Shield had a lot of content I was interested in, raids are something I enjoy massively in Pokemon Go and I hated the random JRPG encounter aspect of hunting Pokemon in previous games.
However, I was also sceptical of these additions as my experience of the mainline Pokemon fan base is they love to crunch numbers and these new features don’t lend themselves to this type of thinking.
Regardless of my feelings however I put my pre-order in as both myself and the girlfriend have Switches and it’d be the first Pokemon game we could enjoy playing together at the same time.
Welcome to Galar
On picking up the game I immediately knew I’d enjoy my time in the Galar region.
The player lives in the small country village of Postwick, surrounded by rolling hills & WooLoo (sheep Pokemon), with the only exit from the village being the train station one town over and this makes the atmosphere feel a lot more homely than any of the other games.
The rest of the Galar map has some great British-like areas, such as:
- Circhester — A roman bath town, similar to Bath
- Hulberry — Supposedly Liverpool but the name suggests Hull (that’s right, we’re going to Hull!)
- Wyndon — It’s London but really just Chelsea & Westminster
Outside of the towns that invoke a strong sense of ‘Wait, I’ve been here!’ there is also one great part of the map and that is, The Wild Area.
One of the my favourite parts of the Let’s Go games, which also made it into Sword & Shield was the fact that you could see the Pokemon running around and thus decide which ones to initiate battles with, The Wild Area is this concept but even more extreme.
Imagine as a fresh faced trainer, you manage to evolve your Grookey into a Thwackey and you decide to do some training to raise your team’s level so you can defeat the next trainer, sounds like classic Pokemon right?
Now, imagine while you’re hunting down those similar levelled Pokemon an Onix, 15 levels higher than your Thwackey chases you down and your only means of escape is to defeat it.
While it might not be the type of situation that’s fun for some people, I loved this aspect as it rewarded me with a lot of XP once I defeated it and made levelling up a lot easier.
The Wild Area is also where there’s a rotating cast of Pokemon that spawn in particular areas and during particular weather patterns — Something that Pokemon Go does so this, combined with the raids available in The Wild Area make it similar to playing Pokemon Go inside of a mainline Pokemon game.
My only critique of The Wild Area would be that until you have a set of gym badges you’re unable to catch the high level Pokemon which means you can’t just build a team of over-powered Pokemon from the start, but it’s understandable why they force the story progression to catch these Pokemon.
Gotta Catch ’em All
One of the biggest controversies around Sword and Shield was the fact that not all Pokemon were obtainable in the games, there are still 400 Pokemon available in the games’ Pokedex and during my playthrough I managed to nab about 120 of these so there’s still plenty I can go back for.
Some of the new Pokemon designs are really inventive and the Galarian versions of some of the existing Pokemon are awesome, although an original list that listed some early rumours would have seen a Ghost type Spinarak and the fact that didn’t happen has soured things for me a little.
Here’s a list of the new Pokemon and Galarian versions to check out:
- Galarian Meowth/Perrserker — It’s got some serious Cheshire Cat vibes and in Galar evolves into the Viking Pokemon Perrserker instead of Persian
- Corvisquire/Corviknight — These are both part of the same evolution line and look really good, the level to get a Corviknight is a bit too high for my liking though
- Nickit — Really I just like it for the name cos it’s a Fox and they steal things
- Dreadnaw — It’s a badass looking Pokemon but it’s pre-evolution looks really stupid
- Coalossal — This basically just looks like a rock version of Space Godzilla so it get’s my vote
- Galarian Corsola — It’s Corsola, but instead of being happy it’s dead Coral and thus it’s a ghost type, love the concept behind it
- Galarian Weezing — It’s Weezing but made to look like an Industrial Revolution / Victorian gent, need I say more
- Polteageist — Of course there has to a tea based Pokemon for a region inspired by the UK
- Clobbopus/Grapploct — I first saw this Pokemon when I was chased down by one on the way to Spikemuth. It’s a boxing / wrestling octopus evolution line!
- Eternatus — This was a bit of a curveball for me in the story and on catching it, it became a staple in my team
As a Pokemon Go player we’ve started to see the Galarian variants turn up in the game so I’m hoping we’ll start to see more so I can get my own Galarian Corsola in Pokemon Go.
While both games have only just been released, I do wonder how the initial content will be built upon.
Pokemon Home is due for release next year which had stated it would act as a bridge between Pokemon Bank, Pokemon Go and the Let’s Go games but if Sword and Shield don’t support half the Pokemon available that makes Home a little pointless.
I’m hoping there will be DLC to add the additional Pokemon, maybe a few more areas and I’m still holding out that there will be DLC to add Johto to the Let’s Go games!
There’s plenty of ways they can expand the game, mostly thanks to The Wild Area, by simply changing up the spawns for raids and in the various regions they can follow the Pokemon Go approach and allow players boosted spawn rates, shiny rates and more.
Sword and Shield are fun games and even if Pokemon isn’t your thing I feel there’s enough in them from an RPG standpoint to make them worthwhile getting, just don’t expect too much from the story.
For a Pokemon fan they’re a definite must have, being able to play both on my living room TV and on the go meant I could play the game however I wanted and the online functionality, especially in The Wild Area meant that I was able to play co-operatively to fill out my Pokedex.