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The newest generation of Pokémon games has finally been revealed as Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield for the Nintendo Switch and with it has come both excitement and hesitation. While some fans are ecstatic to see the beloved franchise come to home consoles in its traditional format, some are a bit timid that the game won’t shake up the formula enough and will feel like just another typical Pokémon game, nothing too interesting. Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on, you’ve probably been speculating and have some features you’d like to see either newly implemented or brought back to make this the definitive Pokémon experience as we explore the brand new Galar region. So what exactly will Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield bring to the table as the eighth generation of Pokémon? Well, here’s ten things we’d like to see…
Note: For those who don’t know here’s the series generation breakdown:
Generation 1 (Red, Blue, Yellow)
Generation 2 (Gold, Silver, Crystal)
Generation 3 (Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald)
Generation 4 (Diamond, Pearl, Platinum)
Generation 5 (Black, White, Black 2, White 2)
Generation 6 (X, Y)
Generation 7 (Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, Ultra Moon)
- An expansive region to explore
With the power of the Nintendo Switch and being the first traditional Pokémon game on a home console, it’s not an unlikely expectation for Galar to be the most expansive region so far, with a huge array of sights to see.
Pokémon is a series built around the journeys players experience in the Pokémon world so the land itself that’s being explored is just as important as the creatures inhabiting it. Cities, landmarks, caves, towns, mountain paths, these are all staple locations in the series and the reveal trailer has shown we’ll be getting all of the above along with mine shafts, misty forests, snowy peaks and hopefully even more not seen in the trailer all with a British flavour to them.
With the United Kingdom being the inspiration for Galar, we can expect to see landmarks and small details reminiscent of England, Wales, Scotland and possibly Northern Ireland which should make for a standout land within the series. Hopefully it has a size to accommodate all that and won’t have the player simply going in a straight line like the map would suggest.
- A large roster of New Pokémon
The past 2 generations added less than 100 new Pokémon each, and given that were looking for an expansive game that keeps fresh new things coming, we need a large amount of new monsters to pocket. A minimum of 100 new Pokémon doesn’t seem too unreasonable given the series past. And while they’re not all going to be winners, seeing brand new creatures around every turn keeps things much more exciting and investing than going to a new route with one new Pokémon and about six you’ve seen in previous games.
Some newer type combinations will also help keep things fresh. Unfortunately, the starters will still be grass, water and fire types but hopefully they’ll get unique secondary types as they evolve like Grass-Fighting, Fire-Ground and Water-Ghost for example.
- A compelling story
Pokémon stories can get a little too far-fetched (pun intended) to hold some players interest. Generation 6 had story elements of a 3000 year old man hunting for his lost Pokémon after using a doomsday machine to create multiple universes and…eh…look…this is a bit too much. A simplistic story can be elevated by strong characters. So while I would love to see a new kind of story beyond the villainous organisation stealing the game’s main legendary Pokémon to accomplish their goals, don’t go that ridiculous with it like the 3000 year old dude. Just add some twists and turns and focus on character and dialogue. This worked really well in generations 2, 4 and 5.
To bounce off of generation 4 being a good story pillar, one of that generations strongest story elements was the lore for its region, Sinnoh. Townsfolk spoke of legends and how their region was created and had interesting landmarks and locations based around Sinnoh’s history. It felt like one of the more developed and lived in world’s in Pokémon.
Galar being based on the UK can invite lots of possible lore to be implemented or influenced from. A Pokémon area based on Stonehenge for example would be interesting. And we’ve already seen the likes of the Cerne Abbas Giant, which gives hope to further lore being built into this world. The more investment a player can put into the game’s world and characters, the more likely they are to not only enjoy their time playing it, but grow attached to the characters and locations in the game even if the story isn’t exactly the strongest.
- Some unexpected shake ups
To go along with the story, don’t just follow the traditional beats that have been done to death in Pokémon. Don’t have it be just going through gyms while an evil organisation does their evil plan and you stop them eventually by fighting a legendary they want to use for evil and by doing this, show their melodramatic leader the error of his ways and they all go away. Just in time for you to finish up the last of the gyms and become champion. And at some point a company you help gives you the master ball.
A lot of times in Pokémon it feels like you’re only there for the gyms and only fighting the evil team because they’re in the way and also there. They can all almost blend together. Have some fresh goals for them and a new way of tackling them beyond being fodder to gain XP in-between gyms.
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Some new gameplay mechanics for outside of battle would be nice to see. While Mega Evolutions and Z Moves have been implemented in recent titles to freshen up the battle system, there’s not much for outside of the battling. Which is just as important to liven up the game.
- A variety of new activities
While the series staples of gyms and contests are fun and some one shot mini-games have found their way into the series, it’s safe to assume we’ll see all new ones added here. But not just fun little five minute micro games, completely new additions to the Pokémon world that players could invest themselves in like with contests from Generation 3. Given the proper prominence and replayability that make completing them across Galar as fun as beating the gym leaders.
The stadium in the trailer could be Galar’s versions of gyms but hopefully they could be host to some sports themed side attractions.
The mine shafts could just be a route from one town to another, or it could be similar to the underground in generation 4 where you can hunt for fossils and rare items, which would be a welcome return. The return of the bug catching tournaments from generation 2 would be nice to see but expanded to include more, if not all, Pokémon types.
Side quests that ask you to explore the region for items or even photo spots would be a nice excuse to explore nooks and crannies while returning to older areas with new methods of traversing them.
- An Asshole Rival
A simple change but one that makes all the difference when investing the player. Pokémon games always have a rival character who sets out on their journey the same time as you. They pop up as a recurring mini-boss of sorts to test the players skills against someone who has the same amount of in-game experience as the player character does. They make for a great challenge and have some of the series most memorable battles and characters.
However, recently Pokémon has leaned towards making the rival friendly. You’re not facing some jerk who thinks he’s hot stuff. No, you’re facing a good ol’ buddy ol’ pal of yours who’s just so gosh darn proud to see you succeed. This is lame. While generations 3 and 4 of Pokémon had friendly rivals in the way of May/Brendan and Barry that worked as they were likable characters with a bit of a personality to them. May/Brendan gave encouragement and considered you a friend but didn’t hold back in battles and Barry was kind of a lovable doofus.
Generation 6 and 7 are notorious for their bland and forgettable rivals having no personality beyond being an established friend of the player. Their banter comes across as filler text you just want to skip, they’re easy to defeat and when they pop up they’re more of a nuisance than anything else. And the rival from the Let’s Go games is such a kiss ass who’s so friendly towards you, it’s not beyond reason to think he’s drawn fan art of you.
Contrast this with Generation 1 and 2’s Blue (better known as Gary) and Silver. Gary is well known far and wide as a colossal prick so defeating him is all the more satisfying. He’s not nice to you, he berates and talks down to you at every turn giving him a really punchable face you can’t wait to beat. While Silver is just an abusive jerk who learns from his defeats to you that if he gets along with his Pokémon he’ll grow stronger with them. It’s subtle but it’s very effective. You love to beat him and by the end you get a sense of “Hey, you’re not such a bad guy after all” which is way more compelling than someone who starts and ends their journey as a swell guy. Being based on the UK, Galar can have you face some posh English school boy or an aggressive Scotsman easily.
- Impressive graphics
So far the graphics are a bit of a mixed bag from what we’ve seen, but mostly look very nice. The environments are gorgeous and the art style shows tonnes of promise for newer areas that’ll really shine in their smaller details. Such as the vines growing on buildings and gems in the mine shaft.
The problem comes from the character models. The male trainer particularly looks blank in the face and dead inside. Thankfully the female trainer looks a tad more alive but some dynamic facial expressions for them both could go a long, long way. But ultimately, they look like up-scaled 3DS models, which is noticeable in the close up of the trainer’s pixelated shoes. Environments have some pixelation too but that was only really noticeable in trailer shots that probably won’t be seen in game, but hopefully they improve regardless.
The models for the Pokémon themselves are clearly up-scaled from the 3DS models as they were for the Let’s Go games. And while it may be easier since there would be a lot to remodel, it doesn’t change the fact that it feels cheap. Pokémon is one of, if not the, most profitable and successful media franchises. They can afford to hire or bring in people to make newer models instead of just adding a bloom effect to the old ones. And this may help the newer Pokémon in some way, as they’ll be given newer models that’ll clearly be of a higher standard and make older Pokémon look worse by comparison. Or they’ll be made to blend in with older models and look less than what they could be.
- Not feeling like an up-scaled 3DS game
Take everything stated above into account. If Sword and Shield feel like up-scaled 3DS games, that’ll be a huge disappointment.
Not just visually. In terms of content, features and length of the adventure, the game will need to stand alongside major console releases. The last thing I want to feel when playing the first traditional Pokémon game on a console is the feeling it could’ve been more but the developers decided not to go the extra mile and make it feel like a console experience over the handheld one they’ve grown accustomed too. They don’t have the excuse of hardware limitations for this outing. A lengthy 30 hour adventure with a good amount of post game content should do the trick. Perhaps an irrational fear, but one that could be just scary enough to happen.
- Customisation options
To help bring some life into the trainer’s look (and his soul) it’d be a great addition to see an expanded customsation system for the trainer’s appearance and outfit.
While this is confirmed to return, hopefully some extra options will be introduced. Such as customising the players bike, being able to change the colours of the clothes, add new bags and see the return of dressing up the starter Pokémon from the Let’s Go games.
- Casuals need love too
Taking newcomers out of the equation here and Pokémon is generally beginner friendly. Not all fans are into competitive battling. But it seems like the majority of newer additions cater to the competitive scene by focusing almost exclusively on the battles.
The Let’s Go games were made for more casual players yes, but with its shakeups being implementing Pokémon Go mechanics it didn’t interest a large part of the core Pokémon audience.
So add new features and mechanics that do more for the idle player and not just the competitive ones who’ll spend 100s of hours getting the perfect team together for tournaments and online play. I’m not saying to make the games overly casual. Just to throw some things in for those who don’t partake in the competitive scene. The game can still be played seriously with the player expecting a decent challenge without wanting to craft a tournament level team and just wanting to reach the end of the story and do some fun post game activities.
Oh and 11. Let us skip the tutorial
We’re eight iterations in now, it’s safe to assume the majority of players know how to catch Pokémon and just want to get a move on past the hand holding.