Is there anything better than waking up to Pokémon trending all over Twitter?
Especially when the series is trending because of some brand new Sword and Shield information dropped in this morning’s Pokémon Direct!
There’s a bunch to talk about, good and possibly not-as-good, so let’s jump right into what stands out the most.
The Galar Region and the Wild Area
Over the years, I’ve learned that my favorite thing about Pokémon is the world each region helps to create. A world that’s similar to ours but flourishing with fantastical elements on account of the creatures roaming through it.
Unova, Kalos and Alola made this especially apparent as Game Freak experimented with landmarks and traditions from places outside of Japan to great effect.
For all its faults, I have to commend Alola for its Hawaii/pacific island setting. Gen 7’s theme song was a perfect tone setter.
The theme song for the UK-based Galar Region heard in this and the last Direct is a bit more generic, but aesthetically the world looks like series of a watercolor paintings on the graphically superior Nintendo Switch.
The trainer models also look far better than the flat-faced happy trainers in Alola, and fist bumping Scorbunny helped me settle on my starter.
Hands down the best thing we learned about the Galar Region today is the existence of the “Wild Area.”
The Wild Area is ostensively a Breath of the Wild-esque open world that connects towns with free-roaming movement and camera controls. It also has overworld wild Pokémon like Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee who change via environment and time of day.
Also it has local multiplayer roaming elements. Need I say more?
Luckily Galar’s human inhabitants don’t seem too bad either.
Images courtesy of Serebii.net
Professor Magnolia is an obvious Queen Elizabeth reference and the first female Professor since Juniper, while her Granddaughter Sonia…
Already has a lot of smut drawn of her.
Because she’s really cute and that’s how the internet does.
Images courtesy of Serebii.net
Meanwhile Hop is our generic rival/friend-type who has a name eerily similar to both Hau and Hugh… Because Game Freak loves rivals with ‘H’ names apparently.
His older brother is Leon, the region champion and person Hop wants to defeat.
Personally I think the gameplay themes of Pokémon could have been utilized better if Leon was your character’s brother that you aspire to beat. But early revealing a beloved, undefeated champion with links to other major characters possibly sets up a fun secret villain twist.
Or maybe he’ll be Henry VII like I said earlier:
That’s enough about boring people. In today’s Direct we got to meet new Pokémon.
Glossifleur and Eldegoss
Images courtesy of serebii.net
The signature line of Galar’s gym leader Milo, Glossifleur and Eldegoss are cute in their own right.
I’m not enamored with them necessarily, but the fact that they have Regenerator as an ability means we can probably expect to see a little meta action out of them if their stats are decent.
He’s a fluffy sheep and he rolls around like Sonic.
Not sure I need to say anything else about this beloved Normal-type.
Corviknight is easily the big winner of today’s Direct.
This super rad armored raven is a killer Steel/Flying-type that puts Skarmory to shame and has the hilarious role of being intertown fast travel.
I’d let this boy caw in my face and fly me to a new place in a heartbeat.
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of Drednaw.
It’s typing and abilities are decent, but something about the design is a little too… Rough around the edges for me.
Four out of five ain’t bad.
All of the new and returning Pokémon will interact with the world, either free in the Wild Area or playing hopscotch with NPCs like we see a Wynaut in the trailer.
I can’t emphasize how much I love that aspect of these games.
However, there are two Pokémon that astute viewers will notice I’ve missed. Unfortunately they comprise the first negative thing I have to say.
Images courtesy of serebii.net
Meet Zacian and Zamazenta, the Legendary Pokémon of Galar.
Zacian is a good boy who runs around with a sword in his mouth and I love him.
Zamazenta is literally the exact same Pokémon but carrying a different weapon.
Whose decision was it to make the Legendary Pokémon so similar? I could see there being lore about the same Pokémon with different held items, but Cosmog kind of just did that idea. And Solgaleo/Lunala at least weren’t a bland duo.
Maybe they would have worked in a Rome-themed Region playing off of Romulus and Remus. But as it stands I’m ambivalent at best.
Pokémon changes mechanics frequently to keep things fresh.
Up to Gen 4’s physical/special move split, most of those changes were integral to underlying battle mechanisms that evolved the games.
Mega Evolution in Gen 6 was arguably the first “spectacle” battle mechanic — if you don’t count Chatot in Gen 4 or the sometimes still relevant Triple Battles.
Megas were a selling point by all accounts, something unique to Kalos. But it was a tastefully handled gimmick that gave old favorites new potential and meshed well with series’ themes of bonding with Pokémon. It remains popular.
Much less tastefully handled was Gen 7’s Z-Moves that provided a once-per-battle super attack which was only interesting when tied to a handful of unique Pokémon.
They were situational and not nearly as well conceived.
Now we have Dynamaxing: A similar limited-per-battle gimmick that turns Pokémon giant and essentially gives them a full set of Z-Moves for three turns.
I like some aspects of the Dynamax system, but overall I believe it could do more harm than good.
In the Wild Area, local co-op allows trainers to take on Dynamax Pokémon together.
This is cool, but I hope co-op isn’t limited to it. The main selling point of Dynamax Raids is encountering Pokémon you can’t find otherwise, but you’ll need a little more to impress a 22-year-old Pokémon scholar who already owns every creature.
They also appear to be giving every gym leader the ability to Dynamax, and I love the idea of making tougher challenges with unique mechanics. Like how Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire used Mega Evolution in its Pokémon League.
But Kaiju Pokémon are more restrictive than Megas design-wise.
Every gym in Galar will be a soccer stadium with an open ceiling for these Dynamax transformations. The developers use this to emphasize an idea of battling as spectator sport in Galar, but uniform gyms remove the uniqueness of a palace designed by its inhabitants from earlier games.
Part of why I love Black and White 2 is because every gym was unique down to the remix of the same theme for each building. That was awesome, and we might lose that uniqueness because of Dynamaxing.
And that, ladies and mentlegen, is today’s Sword and Shield info dump.
I might not be super impressed with Dynamax or the game’s Legendaries, but I’m still incredible stoked for new Pokémon games.
And I’m stoked to talk about about the build-up to them!
This post didn’t even touch on enhancements to Sun and Moon’s RotomDex, or my fan theory that the train system in Galar looks incredible similar to the unused train station of Couriway Town in Kalos.
Let me know all your thoughts about Pokémon Sword and Shield somewhere on the Internet, because lord knows I’ll be thinking of nothing else for the next week!