Thoughts on the Reveal Trailer for Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield
On February 27th 2019, Nintendo and The Pokemon Company officially announced the next two games in the franchise: Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield. While fans knew a core Pokemon game was coming out on the Nintendo Switch ever since it was first hinted at during Nintendo's E3 presentation in 2017 and had been speculating about every possible detail, we not only got an announcement, we got footage.
This of course is in stark contrast to when Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon were announced, where we had a few screenshots and images of the designers making models. Nintendo gave us more information than we hoped for, and yet somehow, still left us salivating at the mouth.
Let's take a second to look at the things we learned, the good and bad from the direct, as well as visit some speculation. Parts of this are going to be based on my own personal opinion so feel free to disagree. And of course, because we are going to be looking at what was revealed and possible speculating, a standard spoiler warning applies.
First, the Trailer
So rumors and leaks of a possible United Kingdom inspired setting have been around for about a year, and while there's been no specific confirmation about where the region of Galar is based on - usually done in interviews with the developers - it has a very British feel to it on appearance. From character designs to hill figures, to even a Scottish clock tower (not to be confused with the infamous Big Ben). Even the map of the region and location of cities and towns seems to resemble an upside down United Kingdom, though this may just be fan theories with confirmation bias. It's pretty safe to say that yes, the region is indeed inspired by the United Kingdom.
And what a beautiful region it is! Graphically, the game is not impressive. Most of the character models really do look like an upscale of the models used in Sun and Moon. But the world looks much more detailed and vibrant, especially in towns and cities. We've only had a look at a few cities - including one that I'm convinced is inspired by Edinburgh - and a few samples of the character walking outside of towns, so we still don't know just how big the region is. Kalos felt like a huge region in Pokemon X and Pokemon Y. Here's hoping that this region expands on that, without feeling "empty."
On top of all that, we also saw the return of random battles, a feature that was missing in the Pokemon Let's Go series. While the fanbase seems to be split on random battles, the return is really a good thing. Seeing your opponents and being able to avoid them is handy and makes sense in the Let's Go series, which were designed for novice players and newcomers just joining from Pokemon GO. There was not as heavy a need to grind for experience, and wild encounters didn't involve traditional battles. The return of random battles to the franchise is welcoming, if for no other reason that it's familiar to veteran players. Not every game needs to be a grind - and honestly the past few generations could be completed without any grinding for experience in most cases - but for veterans grinding can be useful, especially when preparing for multiplayer. In expansive open-world adventures, random battles are of course a chore that can take away from the game, but in the Pokemon franchise, they are quite at home.
We still haven't seen much about the battle system itself though. It's presumed that the battle system has not changed much, but we saw very little of the battles themselves. We saw attacks, though we saw no menu or heads-up display. We also do not know anything about mega evolutions or Z-moves, features introduced in recent generations, or if new features will be introduced. There also is a possibility of a complete overhaul of the battle system, so we still have some questions to be answered.
The Starter Pokemon
As always, the game will require you to pick your first Pokemon from a choice of three: Scorbunny, the fire type; Sobble, the water type; and Grookey, the grass type. Scorbunny seems designed based on either a football (soccer) player or a rugby player. Sobble seems like a combination tadpole-chameleon. Grookey looks like a primate of some sort - possibly a squirrel monkey.
That's all pretty neat, but for trainers who are already trying to pick their starter Pokemon - and there are a lot of us - it's all in the design. Scorbunny has a design that looks cool, cocky, and aggressive, yet also cheerful and fun. Sobble has a very cute, timid, and shy or frightened look. He will definitely appeal to the trainer who wants an adorable partner. Grookey... well his design isn't bad per se, it doesn't stand out either. You see these three Pokemon and one of them is going to be your partner for a good part of the game and Grookey doesn't really stand out. His design is good, but he doesn't have the cute factor or cool factor.
Now of course, other factors may play later on. We haven't seen their evolved versions yet, nor do we know their base stats - though stats may only appeal to the most hardcore of trainers. In Pokemon Sun and Moon many players weren't sold on the water type Popplio, but after seeing Popplio's final evolution the choice of starter became much more difficult.
So the Pokemon Direct in February did what it was supposed to do. It made us interested and curious. There are still questions to be answered, and some will be answered in future Nintendo Directs and Pokemon Directs. Some might not be answered until the game is released. Here are some questions still lingering about the game:
Will there be a new battle feature? In Generation 6 (X and Y), we had mega evolutions, which returned in Generation 7 (Sun and Moon), though no new evolutions were introduced and usage was limited to the postgame. Meanwhile, Generation 7 introduced Z-moves, a feature similar to mega evolution though more balanced competitively. We currently don't know if either of these features will return in any capacity in Sword and Shield, if they'll be expanded upon in any way, or if a new battle feature will added in this generation of games. This is purely speculation, but there are rumors of new "Armored Pokemon," and while fans have speculated about new mega evolutions, I do not anticipate any of our pocket monsters getting new mega versions.
What about Galar types? Sun and Moon also introduced the "Alolan Form," a species variant unique to the region of Alola where some species of Pokemon previously introduced had a new appearance and typing, changing the metagame. This has led to speculation about whether or not future regions will have similar variants. I suspect this will not be the case. Sun and Moon was based primarily on Hawaii, however the creators also took inspiration from the Galápagos islands, which were famous for Darwin recognizing that species of animals - most famously finches - were different on the Islands than the species back home in England. While we know now that species traits can differ all over the globe, Galápagos played a very special role in that and is still studied to this day. While it would be interesting to see how a "Galar Variant" of various Pokemon would look, it's something that will most likely be limited to Alola.
This isn't to say there isn't room for variants to appear. There is a snowy section of Galar on the map shown from the Pokemon Direct, and we see the trainer character walking through a snowy path. There is a possibility of seeing a return of the ice type Vulpix from Alola there. There is room for "Alolan" types to return if the geography demands it. Or it may be limited to the postgame or even the Safari Zone should that feature make a return, though I do not anticipate new variants specifically for the Galar region.
What will be left after beating the main story? This is a problem Nintendo has had to deal with ever since they dug themselves a hole with Pokemon Gold and Silver. That game had the most expansive postgame content of any Pokemon game and fans have been demanding more postgame content and feeling disappointed with the amount of content - or lack thereof - in recent games. Now personally, I've never had a problem since I can spend my time raising competitive Pokemon, but not everyone is a competitive player. Both Pokemon X and Y and Pokemon Sun and Moon had lacklustre postgame content. Just a brief additional story mostly, and an extra area to explore. Everyone has high hopes because the Switch is more powerful. That said, a lot of this is going to depend on the size of Game Card that developers Game Freak are willing to use. The Switch has game cards in six different sizes, the larger games of course or more costly to manufacture.
For reference, the smallest Switch Game Card is 1 GB. That would not be large enough to hold Pokemon X and Y (1.8 GB). The next largest card is 2 GB which would not be able to store Sun and Moon (3.7 GB). With the graphical upgrade and the possibility of a more expansive region, it might be a stretch to fit the main game on an 8 GB card. If they use a 16 GB card, there could be a possibility of a large postgame. The larger the Game Card, the more likely there will be more to do after the main story, but then the more expensive manufacturing costs become, and this is a cost likely to be passed onto the consumer. As a banana for scale, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was 13.7 GB not including additional content or day 1 patches, and there was a lot packed into that game.
What about Pokemon Bank? Pokemon Bank, a feature available shortly after the Generation 6 series of games was released, was hailed as the only way to bring Pokemon into future generations. Most players who have a subscription to the service have used it extensively. So the question of Pokemon Bank on Switch is less a question of if, but when and what it will look like. My Pokemon Bank is already almost full as I tend to breed and store Pokemon like mad and like to keep the progress on my living Pokedex stored there. Will the Switch version offer more storage? Will Nintendo Online be required to use an already paid online service? Will the price change? Will it be free to Online subscribers or are we going to have to pay an additional fee still?
Personally, I'm open to the idea of a free version for online subscribers with an additional subscription fee for additional storage and other features. I also believe Nintendo online should not be mandatory to use Pokemon Bank, but then people who don't subscribe to Nintendo Online would have to pay the Pokemon Bank's subscription fee. That would unfortunately mean figuring out how to continue to reap the benefits of a subscription for people who have Nintendo Online and Sword and Shield but are still utilizing the service for the 3DS generation of games where there is still a subscription fee. That does not sound easy.
Not everyone will agree, but I honestly would throw so much money at Nintendo if they let me purchase additional storage space for Pokemon Bank.
Comment Below and Tell Me What Your Thoughts Are!
Anyways, those are my thoughts and analysis on the reveal event for the next generation of Pokemon games. What did you think of it? Hate random battles? Disappointed with the sprites? Do you have a starter picked out already? Let me know in the comments below!