Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Roller Coaster of Pokémon Sword and Shield News

The next generation of Pokémon games, Pokémon Sword and Shield, drop in November and I have been riding a roller coaster of emotion since the first trailer dropped showing off the starters: Grookey, Scorbunny, and Sobble.

I am about to discuss A LOT! It's TL;DR prone, so I will make a quick summary at the bottom if you want to just scroll through all of this to get my overall opinions.

Despite the news drops we've gotten this year, anyone who follows me knows I haven't been as vocal in my excitement, or disappointment, as I usually am. To be fair, I am rarely THAT disappointed in any pokémon game. At this point, I know what I can expect from pokémon games, although I'm certainly all for the game developers to surprise me with something. Although I have posted some on Twitter about the new games, I didn't write anything substantial related to my feelings of the games until now.

Obviously, like most, I was excited by the final reveal of a new set of games that are more in line with the traditional main series games. The "Let's Go" games were ok, but even if they had been more in line with traditional games they would have still have been "remakes with a twist." As mush as I like replaying through regions with better visuals, I'm never as excited for them as I am brand new games. The first trailer for Pokémon Sword and Shield is exactly what you would expect from a first news drop. Just a random montage of the new region made from footage that, although it shows the general asthetic, may not 100% be what we get when the game drops. However, I really enjoyed the UK inspired atmosphere. Then I saw the starters at the end of the trailer and was left a little underwhelmed, but I was ok with it that. There's a strong chance the final evolutions would excite me more than the basic pokémon anyway.


The next big news drop, disregarding leaks as I don't really put a lot of thought into anything but facts, gave us some new pokémon. I loved the new pokémon shown off, specifically Drednaw and Corviknight. The wild area also took me by surprise as well as Dynamax. To be honest, though, Dynamax didn't excite me. It just seemed like it was the new battle gimmick in the same vein as Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves. Out of all three, Mega Evolutions were the only recent additions I really approved of. Both Z-Moves, and at outward appears Dynamax, both were just OK. I didn't need them, but they exist so I may use them from time to time. The legendaries were revealed too, but neither made a lasting impression on me. I do prefer the Sword legendary Zacian, but I could take or leave either. That's also fine, I felt the same way about Zekrom initially, but he's grown on me. However, I typically really like the third, or hidden, legendary more so that is fine too.


The gut punch I wasn't expecting, really no one was, was E3. The pokémon portion started off strong, and multiplayer co-op showing in the form of Max Raids and interactions in the Wild Area were particularly stand out. I was also happy to see overworld pokémon come back from the "Let's Go" games, which was one of the things those games introduced that should be a staple. However, when it was announced that only pokémon in the regional dex of Galar could be transferred, I was disappointed. I wasn't alone though, given the pokémon community has been in turmoil since the announcement. Over the weeks since the announcement I have mellowed, others have dug in. However, my faith in the games was shaken, as transferring my older pokémon post-game to take on battle facilities or friends has become tradition. It was weird knowing that something I have been doing since 2006 and come to expect as normal has suddenly changed. The reveal later that Megas and Z-moves were being completely dropped also hurt, more so because of the Megas. This means even less pokémon are available. Plus, as I previously mentioned, I'm a big fan of Megas as a concept.


Despite these big changes, I still planned on getting the games. I did the same with Pokémon Ruby, despite Gen 3 also making me leave every pokémon I had in my Gen 1 and 2 games behind. A cloud has definitely been cast over Sword and Shield, and I wasn't sure I would enjoy them as much as I had before. One of the biggest issues I found myself returning to was the scrapping of Megas and the idea that Dynamax was somehow better, according to the developers, in terms of a replacement. I couldn't bring myself to believe that as Dynamax doesn't result in any difference in appearance except size, which I found uninspired. I liked the idea of Megas, first and foremost, because they changed the appearance of a pokémon, power and versatility came second. Dynamax was stated to allow all pokémon to shine, which is an improvement over Megas, but I still was unconvinced. However, then we got the Gigantamax announcement. To me, Gigantamax is basically "Giant Megas," so I like it. The G Max Moves are basically species specific Z-Moves, so those mechanics seem less removed so much as absorbed into Gigantamax. That relieved some of my concern, but did leave me confused as Gigantamax seems like a superior Dynamax... which undermines the idea that Dynamax allows all pokémon to have time in the spotlight. If I get a pokémon capable of Gigantamaxing, I'll probably do that more than Dynamax some other pokémon on my team.


The most recent trailer highlights regional variants, which is a welcomed returning mechanic. Honestly, I appreciate Gen 7 more for introducing the concept of regional variants over Z-moves. They could have just done more regional variants and no Z-moves and I would have been happy. Regional variants and Gigantamax (along with the co-op aspects I mentioned) have me fully back on board for Gen 8. Not being to transfer older pokémon is still a pretty big let down, but if they jam pack enough new stuff into the games, I doubt I will notice that much. Also, these trailers have shown a lot of older pokémon that are in the regional dex, so if the regional dex is large enough I think I can be ok with it all overall. Developers representing Game Freak have already said other games will have other mixes of pokémon, so eventually I can transfer every pokémon I have currently to a new game if I want, so that's good. This trailer also shows off Team Yell, which I don't like primarily based on their name and the idea this might be a red herring team like Team Skull. Too soon, in my opinion, to have another red herring.

The lost of a full national dex compatible game is a growing pain we'll have to overcome. It's going to hurt for a while, but if the developers make up for it elsewhere then I think it will be ok. I am also interested in what this will mean for the pokémon competitive scene when each pair of games has it's own unique pool of pokémon to choose from. That would mean there could be a couple different metas within a single generation totally dependent on which game you are playing. We have sort of seen this with Gen 6 and Gen 7 where the pool of usable pokémon/Megas are different per paired game. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire players can't use certain Megas vs X and Y players as those Megas aren't programmed within X and Y. The same goes for the new Ultra Beasts and Z-moves in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon not being usable vs someone playing Sun and Moon. I'm interested to see this further develop.



Summary:

What I liked:
-Wild Area
-Max Raid Battles
-New pokémon, specifically more rugged ones like Drenaw
-Regional Variants
-Gigantamax

What I don't like:
-Inability to transfer up any pokémon I want
-Dynamax
-Team Yell name and possible red herring concept

Remaining Questions:
-How many pokémon are in the Galardex
-Is Team Yell actually a threat?
-Can we expect any more non-Kanto Galar forms? I hope so
-How will compatibility work between Gen 8 games without a National dex?