Pokemon Sword version: first impressions

pokemon sword zacian.jpg

I’ve started playing Pokemon Sword, and I’m a few badges in. Here are a few first impressions:

NOTE: If you care about spoilers, there are some mild ones ahead. But because you’re using the internet, you’ll likely have come across some, anyway.

  • The rabbit, Scorbunny, is my favorite starter. By the looks of it, it’s the right choice, as it seems to have a clear edge against many early-game opponents.
  • The wild area is big, and you gain access to it early on. Don’t expect something immense like in BotW, however. Still, open wilderness areas are something I’ve wanted to see in Pokemon for a long time, and they’ve finally done it.
  • Even though there’s a large area that connects some locations, there are still routes that are connected to towns, and the gyms must be taken on in a certain order. So there is still linearity in this game.
  • Trainers have to be endorsed to take on the gym challenge, which does come up as a story element.
  • Hop is your main rival in this game. He’s a friendly guy who seems very enthusiastic, but gets in your face often and can get kinda annoying. But at some point, someone says something that gets under his skin, and it has an effect on him. At that point, how he develops becomes kinda interesting.
  • The use of UK slang is an intermittent reminder of the game’s setting. It also makes for somewhat difficult reading at times. Other English speakers let the British brag about the way they do English, but when we have to read it, it becomes apparent how generous we’re being.
  • The Wild Area is a dangerous place. Shortly after the game’s outset, you can battle wild pokemon 20 to 30 levels higher than yours! It’s easy to get into a difficult situation in which your team can get quickly wiped out.
  • You might have the idea to catch a high-level pokemon and quickly breeze through the game. In Sword and Shield, the level of pokemon you’re allowed to catch depends on how many gym badges you’ve obtained.
  • As far as power-leveling goes, unless someone discovers a way to cheese a super-strong wild pokemon, battling trainers close to your own level seems to be the most consistent way to go about it.
  • Dynamax may be impressive, but it’s not game-breaking. I’ve had an ordinary pokemon hold it’s own against a gym leader’s Gigantamax pokemon until it reverted.
  • PSA: If a Dynamaxed pokemon switches out, it reverts back immediately. Also, a Dynamaxed Golisopod’s ability still activates while Dynamaxed. Therefore, General Grievous Golisopod isn’t a great choice for Dynamaxing.
  • When booting up the game with a save file, a skipable animation plays. Skip it, and the save file loads up from where you last saved, immediately. No menus, no title screen, you get right into playing. Just as I would have it.
  • There are NPCs that dress up as Eevee. They are cuter than any pokemon I’ve found in this game, so far.
  • The bad guy team in this game is actually another trainer’s cheering team. The trainer that they’re cheering on seems indifferent and perhaps kinda annoyed at what they’re doing. This is both hilarious and sad.
  • It seems like every pokemon can Dynamax, but only specific ones can Gigantamax. What’s more, they can only Gigantamax if they were obtained under certain conditions. I’m kinda disappointed that the first Alcremie that I obtained isn’t eligible.
  • Those leaked pokemon turned out to not be as bad as I thought. There’s a difference between seeing a still image of a character and seeing that character in action in the game.
  • There is a Thunderstone located in a wild area near the start of the game, and Pikachu can be obtained early on. You know what that means…

dynamax raichu.jpg

To address the National Dex controversy, I don’t see it as a big deal. There have gotten to be so many pokemon that it was likely to happen at some point that not all of them would be coded into a game. When it comes to that point, it’s more expedient to prioritize pokemon that are more relevant to the setting, among other considerations such as game balance and popularity of certain characters. Sword and Shield aren’t the first games to have done this, that distinction would go to last year’s Let’s Go games, which didn’t receive nearly the backlash in spite of there being a far more limited selection of pokemon.

The availability of every pokemon that’s ever existed wouldn’t matter to very many players except a few fans who might actually have some kind of disorder. I suspect that much of the noise we’ve been hearing about this can be attributed to this remote and vocal minority. To normal players, omitting certain pokemon isn’t likely to make much difference. When it comes to playing a game, the experience is more important than some collection chores that mainly appeal to the overly-obsessive.

So far, I’m really liking Pokemon Sword and Shield. GameFreak did pretty well based on what I’ve seen so far.

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