5 Reasons To Be Excited For Sword & Shield
So, it’s finally happening. Pokemon Sword and Shield are releasing for the Nintendo Switch this week. That’s a big deal. We’ve never had a mainline game in this series on a home console. The fact that the Switch is a hybrid console is potentially why Game Freak got on board with the idea, as you can still pocket your Pocket Monsters (kinda), but nonetheless you’ll be able to experience an entirely new gen (the 8th to be exact) on your big screen at home for the first time in the series 20 something year history.
This is going to be extra special for me, as it will be the first Pokemon game I’ll be buying on day one. In fact, it wasn’t until this year that I even owned a Pokemon game at all (I bought a 3DS and now own X, Omega Ruby and Ultra Moon), but even those older games I have only just dipped my toe into. With generation 8 I will get to experience the whole thing as it unfolds with other people. I have friends who are buying the game on launch too, and we’re even trying to work out who gets which version (I’m getting Shield… gotta love Galarian Ponyta) so that we can get some trades going.
So, what are the top five reasons that a Pokemon noob like me is excited for these games? Well, let me tell you!
- It’s on the Switch, and that feels like a Big Deal™. Historically I’ve never had a lot of love for handheld systems. That has changed in recent years, but I bought a GameBoy Advance, a DS, a PSP, and all were sold fairly quickly without being played all that much. I just prefer playing my games on a TV, usually in the lounge while on my sofa. That’s my zone for gaming, and I have found it difficult to get as pumped about handheld gaming. Since the Vita and the Switch though, I’ve dropped a little of my snobbery and gone back to previous handhelds and enjoyed what they had to offer immensely. The PSP and 3DS especially have games you just can’t find on home consoles, and I’m enjoying the discovery of it all. However, as I mentioned in my intro, it means I’ve missed out on the buzz and the hype of these games at their time of release. Games like Pokemon have a large social element with trading and battling, so coming to them late on can mean missing out on all of that, especially if your group of friends has long since moved on.
The latest Pokemon gaming being on the Switch is also a big deal because it means it’s suddenly more accessible to people like me, who primarily game on home systems. It’s reach is suddenly larger, and its appeal potentially broader. That’s exciting!
- Being on a more powerful console means it looks better (though I’ve heard some arguments to the contrary) and can accomodate more ambitious features. Dynamax and raid battles are the biggest examples of these, where the power of the Switch is literally leading to bigger things, however on a smaller level there’s also a huge amount more character customisation in Sword and Shield than there has been before. You’ve always been able to name your character, and as the games advanced you’ve even been able to choose gender, and eventually even pre-determined avatars. Now though, you can be unique and craft a character that fits you. For a game that is essentially about YOUR journey as a trainer, I think that’s pretty neat.
- This could have been part of point two, but I think it deserved more attention. Wild areas. Game Freak have finally yielded to something that fans have been craving for some time – an open world. Now, sure, overall the world is still pretty linear. I mean, you look at the map of the Galar region and you literally go from south to north and the towns and cities get bigger as you go, inevitably leading towards a climax. However, where in previous games you would be funnelled through predetermined ‘routes’ in which various pokemon could be caught, we have now been given the wild area to explore. Sure, routes still exist, and okay one area – albeit one the size of two regions from Breath of the Wild – does not an open world make, but it feels like progress, and it feels exciting. Pokemon will roam the wild, weather conditions will affect which ones are about. For a game in which you spend a large amount of time capturing pokemon, this feels like the way it should be done. Plus, you can set up camp to make curry and play with your pokemon, which is super cute.
- The new Galar region is based around the UK, which is pretty damn awesome. This is a romanticised version of the British Isles, where industrial architecture meets more modern technology, with railway bridges and bagpipe music. Sometimes having the setting for a game be inspired by the country you’re from can mean your suspension of disbelief is somewhat lowered, however the way they have done it here gives a real magical feeling. There’s a reverence almost, and that’s pretty nice. They did something similar with the Kalos region in the X and Y games which were inspired by France, and from what I’ve played so far that also worked nicely.
- Finally, I’m excited about the role that the Poke Bank and upcoming Pokemon Home have to play in Sword and Shield. Having just begun the 3DS adventures, I already know there are going to be Pokemon I’d want to bring across to other games, and if I feel that way then I know others will too. So having the option to do just that is nifty indeed.
There is a tinge of disappointment around this though, regarding the national Pokedex for the Galar region, and the developers decision to lock it at 400 rather than allow all 850 Pokemon from across the series. While I understand the decision from a technical standpoint (thats a LOT of Pokemon, afterall) this does mean that not only can you no longer ‘catch em all’ in this game, but you can’t even bring across missing creatures from previous entries. That means that some players will not get to play as their faves in Sword and Shield, and that’s a shame.
So there we have it. I cannot wait until Friday 15th November to sink my teeth into this game, and I hope to battle and trade with some of the awesome Switch Island community!
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