Pokémon is the reason I am deeply enamoured with video games. I even went to the inaugural opening of Changi’s Pokémon Centre in Singapore. My father, bless him — bought me my first console — a purple GameBoy Advance when I was but a grade-schooler. Along with it came a copy of Pokémon Crystal, then the latest offering in the Pokemon main series. I picked Chikorita as my starter and headily ventured into the unknown.
What came out of that exploration was a newfound love for the Pocket Monsters that inhabit the colourful and greatly expanding world of Johto and Kanto. I don’t quite recall how it ended, but I do recall catching Entei in a Master Ball just right outside New Bark Town.
After finding out I could catch Lugia with the said ball but didn’t, I felt a sense of dissatisfaction — so I restarted the game with Cyndaquil. Sadly, before I could beat Silver one last time in the post-game — the internal battery gave its last sputter and died.
What followed was me playing at least one game per generation, resulting in me playing: Red, Emerald, Platinum, White 2, X, Moon, Ultra Moon, and finally Sword — the latest offering to date and the subject of this article.
The hype surrounding the Sword and Shield release was polarising — either you loved or hated it. When it came out, I rushed to pick up my preordered copy and within 75+ in-game hours, completed the main game, post-game, and the Galar Dex.
Yes — all 400 of ’em.
What I find most appealing about Pokémon Sword and the Galar region (based off the UK) in general, is the rich storyline that it provides. If you’ve been playing Pokemon for a while — you would know that as the protagonist, you are to collect ’em all whilst you single-handedly thwart the schemes of an evil organisation.
With Galar, it is no different. This time, however, adults understand that as a child, your task is to complete the Gym Challenge, not to save the region from impending doom. It is only when the situation is completely out of hand that the game allows you to be the hero.
Alongside you is your childhood friend Hop, who happens to be the youngest sibling of the then-undefeated Champion Leon. Hop is an excitable, gung-ho kid who rushes headfirst into everything. When you meet Leon at the Wedgehurst station, Hop is already there and Leon — ever the showman — strikes a pose with his signature Pokemon Charizard.
To participate in the Gym Challenge, Leon endorses you and Hop. Along the way, you meet Bede — a smug Challenger endorsed by the Chairman of the Pokemon League himself — Rose, and Marnie, who is a quiet, young girl with a team of supporters behind her aptly named Team Yell.
When I reached the climax of the story — I soon understood what the adults in the game were talking about. Reaching it wasn’t easy, but the growth that Hop, Bede, and Marnie went through the story was worth the effort. Seeing these characters as three-dimensional people with their own backstories really sealed it for me. The way it was written made them believable and human in their own right.
As for the Pokemon themselves, I went through Pokémon Sword with an entirely Galar region team, as I like to experience it like a Galar local. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? The designs and new methods of battling were stunning. Not to mention the Wild Area: single-handedly the best feature of the game.
In the Wild Area, you are able to catch Pokemon in their fully-evolved forms. Not to mention the introduction of Dens — spots where one can catch Dynamaxed and Gigantamax Pokemon, who are more powerful than the average Pokemon.
These two abilities — Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing — are core to both the main story as well as how competitive battling is carried out. Dynamaxing allows your Pokemon to grow in size and power — think Pikachu with the height of a 5-storey building and power to match. Gigantamaxing takes it a step further by imbuing certain Pokemon with new looks and devastating signature moves. Like Pikachu — whose signature move is G-Max Volt Crash.
The bottom-line is that your Pikachu has the buffed stats of a Mega-Evolved Pokemon and the ability to crush your enemies under its heel. What more can you ask for?
To make it even better — both Pokémon Sword and Shield are receiving DLCs — Isle of Armor & The Crown Tundra. Each DLC has many new Pokemon to capture, and DLC-specific characters that play out according to the main version. Isle of Armor will be released June 2020 and The Crown Tundra, out in North America this Fall 2020.
So if you’ll excuse me — I’ll be excitedly waiting for the DLCs and anything else Pokemon has to offer.
This game series is the reason I got into video games — and I am thankful for that.