I’m a Pokémon purist, and by that I mean I’ve never really spent much time out of Gen 1. There’s been the occasional dabble into Gen 2 (Pokémon Gold 4ever) but as far as my brain comprehends there are only 151 Pokémon. Any more and it’s as if we all learned the Pokemon rap for NOTHING!
However, I’ve been keeping up with the hype train for Sword and Shield ever since it was announced and I’ve genuinely been very excited since the start. Predominantly because the game was going to be set in a UK-type setting (a rarity in the grand scheme, though seems to be becoming more trendy) so the potential of being able to have a world where Greggs has replaced the Pokémon centre was something I was very excited about. I guess the other element of excitement came from the game also coming out on a console I actually owned - looking back it seems I never had the right tools for the job when it came to the other Pokémon generations, so was never able to stay on past the Gameboy Colour. Owning a Switch has opened up a world of opportunity for me in terms of gaming, whether it be new games or legacy franchises, so I wasn’t going to let this one slip away despite the huge gaps in my knowledge.
Naturally I chose a trusty fire starter once I started up the game. My mantra is very much ‘the more destruction that can be caused, the better,’ and it’s especially helpful when you know that the first gym is going to be grass type. Helps keep the motivation up if you can blast through, you know? Apart from its type I instantly fell in love with the sporty little Scorbunny (supposedly a representative for British football and sports) and have already evolved it into its second evolution Raboot (not as cute but certainly cooler.) Having avoided any leaks to the evolutions of the starters I am very excited to see what the third and final stage is going to be - fingers crossed for some flaming, rabid hare that can take down its type-advantages in a single shot. The other starters (Grookey and Sobble) were also lovely however, and I’m looking forward to testing both of them out in other save files in the future. All three are incredibly well designed and fit into the region well - they’re certainly up there as one of my favourite trios.
Beside these three, it's hard not to fall in love with the vast range of other new Pokémon that the Galar region has to offer. Wooloo (a fluffy, spherical sheep) and Yamper (ELECTRIC CORGI!) are some of the many early highlights that the long grass has to offer. There are also many familiar faces that crop up along the way too (or so I’m told) but for me it’s just a chance to discover even MORE new friends and I have no idea who half of them are! My current personal favourite is a Trubbish I named Binjamin.
Speaking of the long grass, the Galar environment itself is really quite something! Having vast areas to run freely in, paired with the changing weather that brings out new and different Pokémon, is a totally foreign concept to me that I am currently loving. The little British accents along the way (traffic cones, red letter boxes etc.) are like homely easter eggs, though it feels weird seeing them in a Pokémon game. The towns are simple but pretty, and having the different depths and dimensions to explore really make you ACTUALLY want to explore. Not every house looks the same, hooray! I’m excited to check out all the different towns as I go along - even the names are so British it hurts. Turffield, Hulbury; makes me feel like I can tap in my Oyster and go and visit them in real life. My favourite area so far is definitely the Wild Area filled with Pokémon dens and the changing weather I mentioned. Being able to speed around between each place is also an added bonus, be it via train, bike or flying taxi, so nothing has to feel like a slog. (Although I haven't encountered any train delays yet, so is it REALLY British?) It’s also difficult to get lost, meaning more time can be spent on catching new team mates!
I’m also really enjoying the gyms themselves. The added element of the pre-fight ‘gym challenge’ makes heading to one feel more of a momentous occasion, rather than just turning up to mash a few buttons and get a badge. I adore the theme and decorations on the inside, particularly the water gym thus far, and I’m excited to see how interesting the gyms get the more interesting the type.
I'm really enjoying the gyms... except for the presence of this guy...
My only current issue with this game is that I worry it’s slightly too easy. Not really a problem to have, I know, especially for a blog that prides itself on playing things ‘easily’ but I feel I haven’t faced a gigantic challenge yet and I’m already 3 gyms down. There seems to be a lot of people really ready to give you useful items, the right Pokémon always turn up at the right time, hell even the idea of ‘Dynamaxing’ your Pokémon seems to allow you to breeze through den or gym battles. I’m unsure. I’m unsure if the game actually is easy, or these thoughts are coming from someone that only tackled a (retrospectively) much less accessible version when they were a lot younger. I’ve not grown up with the different games, meaning I haven’t been able to take advantage of the subtle changes between each title that make the game easier and more enjoyable to play. I’ve jumped from 1 to 100 and becoming overwhelmed with the differences; by the look and feel they are completely different games.
Having said that, I do adore the convenience in this game, something I’m getting to experience for the first time. Being able to have specific buttons for specific things at your finger-tips is just wonderful and doesn’t lose the novelty in any way. This game makes me want to carry on with it right until the very end, not get to a certain point and give up because it’s too hard to play or control. In total honesty I’ve never actually FINISHED a Pokémon game before (even the remake Let’s Go! Pikachu which seems to have put my gripes to rest) so fingers crossed this is the title I get to do it on.
Even as I write this now my only thought is to get home and play it. Pokémon is back in a big way and we’re all so happy to see it return in glory! They say first impressions are everything and this game couldn’t have done a better job.