There should be no surprise that Pokémon has left an impact on the videogaming community. Whether you’re a dedicated fan or a person who’s only played the series through the application Pokémon GO, Pokémon has made an impact on the general public. Even those who have never played a Pokémon game know the franchise from the iconic, yellow mascot, Pikachu. For many players, Pokémon was the first RPG (Role Playing Game) that they ever played. Every few years, Gamefreak releases the newest installment in the mainstream series of Pokémon. Each region has its own individualism making themselves different from the previous installments. Pokémon X and Y introduced the mechanic of Wondertrading while Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver introduced the mechanic of every Pokémon having the ability to follow you. I understand that Pokémon Yellow was the first one to implement that mechanic, however, Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver improved on this so that every Pokémon could follow you around. On February 26, 2019, Gamefreak as well as Nintendo dropped a sudden announcement of a Pokémon Direct.
For those who are unaware, a direct is a press conference that is created by Nintendo. These conferences are used to announce games as well as revealing news about upcoming games that are happening within the company. Generally, these directs range in time depending on how much information that the company wants to announce. Fans of the series went insane because the franchise was getting its own direct. This only happens when companies need to focus on one specific franchise. Fans including myself woke up early on February 27th to watch the seven-minute Pokémon Direct. On February 27, 2019, Gamefreak announced the newest installment of the Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. The trailer shows what is generally expected within a Pokémon game. The audience is shown parts of the region, the main protagonist, and the region’s starter Pokémon. Everything announced was exactly what we needed to know but keeping the audience to want to know more. In this review, we’re going to examine the information provided in this Pokémon Direct as well as exploring what this game could add to the Pokémon franchise.
The first part that was shown in the direct was the region of the new game. Pokémon Sword and Shield is set in a brand-new region called the Galar Region. From the screen shots as well as the videos that were shown in the direct, this region looks like a United Kingdom inspired region. The audience is shown several parts of the Galar region including a plain and one of the cities in the region. One of the first routes that is introduced in Galar is a plain. The layout of this route has some inspiration from the franchises previous game, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon. In Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, the routes were designed with patches of grass similar to the design that was shown in the plain route. These patches of grass are a way for the player to explore around to find random Pokémon to capture or fight for experience to make the Pokémon in your party stronger. In the previous games, the camera on the character sometimes felt too close to the main character. In some ways, this is fine for the capability of the Nintendo 3DS system. One of the exciting effects that is noticed in this route is the fact that you can see the background of the town. This new ability may have something to do with the rendering power of the Nintendo Switch as compared to the Nintendo 3DS. With Gamefreak having more rendering power with the Nintendo Switch, there is much more that can be seen to make the region seem grander.
The other part of the region that was shown in the trailer was a large city. The name of that city is currently unknown but there’s a lot of characteristics suggesting a Pokémon version of United Kingdom. There are several scenes in the trailer that suggest that this city is a representation of jolly, old London. One of the major similarities is the reveal of the signature, large clock tower within the new location. This clock tower is more than likely a representation of the UK’s symbolic landmark of Big Ben. It’s true that it’s common for larger towns to have a clock tower. However, the overview that was shown about this unknown city had an extremely large inspiration of London. Within the gameplay, the main protagonist is shown walking through the city. The location has harsher tones of colors with browns, reds, and grays. The feel of this city has an industrial feel to it with machines working and steam rising from some of the buildings. Seeing this for the first time as well as seeing the clock tower would make the environment feel like a representation of London. This isn’t the first time that Gamefreak has created cities in Pokémon games that are based on real places. In the Unova Region which was the region in the games Pokémon Black, White, Black 2, and White 2, there was a city called Castelia City. The Unova Region was a representation of the west more specifically North America. Castelia City was Gamefreak’s representation of New York City. When the player walks into the city, they’re greeted with large skyscrapers and countless number of characters walking around. When the player is walking in the main part of the city, the player sees speech bubbles of characters on the street talking. This is a fine representation of what the busy streets of downtown New York City is like. If this city is a representation of London, there can be a ton of opportunity to express the similarities. There could be some Pokémon running around like the mouse Pokémon Rattata or Galar’s own version of the beginning game normal stage Pokémon. Another idea, have Pokémon versions of the Queen’s guards. The player can go up to them, but the character isn’t able to interact with the guards. Gamefreak has the perfect opportunity to add some flare with diving deeper into the United Kingdom’s history and putting that into the game. The developers have already started this with the introduction of the main protagonist.
Within every Pokémon game, there’s the main protagonist. The player can select the gender as well as the name of their character. This customization is in the heart of any Role-Playing Game. Allowing the player to create themselves to explore this new land creates a sense of individualism. In the most recent games of Pokémon, the player has been given different color skins to make the character has realistic as possible. Within the Pokémon Direct, both protagonists are shown with designed inspirations for the region that they are created in. This is a common trope within the Pokémon series. In Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, the Alolan Region was heavily inspired by Hawaii. As the region Alola has a lot of beaches and a tropical feel, the protagonists design is fit more to that region. From what was revealed in the trailer, the protagonists are created to fit within the Galar region. The clothing that both protagonists wear is very inspired by the United Kingdom. One piece of clothing that was interesting was the hat that both protagonist wear. The male protagonist is wearing a beanie while the female protagonist’s hat looks like a beret. This can be a representation of some pieces of clothing from Scotland since Galar is a representation of the United Kingdom. Gamefreak has another opportunity here for customization. Within the most recent games of Pokémon, there has been an increase in protagonist customization including clothes, shoes, hair, and even eye color. If character customization were to make another appearance, using different clothing styles from the different parts of the United Kingdom would be a wonderful way to explore the Galar region. This would also be an exploration into the United Kingdom’s history as to the different styles that make up the country.
Just as the protagonists are created to fit within the new region, so are the starter Pokémon for every new region. When a new Pokémon game is created, the player must first face the most difficult decision. Within every new region, there’s always a new Pokémon Professor and three new starter Pokémon. A starter Pokémon is the first Pokémon that a player selects to begin their journey. The starter Pokémon are created to face several foes within the region such as gym leaders, rivals, and the evil team organization for the region. Each one of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. As with a new region, the starter Pokémon are Fire, Water, and Grass. In the Galar Region, there are three different starters to assist the player in their journey. The first one shown in the trailer is the fire starter, Scorbunny. The audience is shown Scorbunny as it runs on a machine gear and onto the grass only to run off again. Scorbunny is also the first new Pokémon revealed of this new region. As the fire bunny runs off, water is shown to put out the fire. The next starter Pokémon to be revealed is a tadpole looking Pokémon named Sobble. It’s revealed to be the water starter as Sobble reveals itself slowly out of a fountain it was in. Sobble is then scared away by a noise which reveals the third starter, Grookey who is the grass starter. During the direct, Gamefreak only reveals a little information about what each of the starters are. When starters get released in a new region, fans start to speculate as to what the final evolutions are going to be. I would be interested to see some new combinations of elements for the starters as many fans are. The idea of Sobble evolving into a Ghost/Water type would be an interesting combination since the Pokémon emerged from the water in camouflage. For the evolution of Scorbunny, I would love to see Gamefreak go past the obvious typing of Fire and Fighting. Since this region has an industrial setting to it, I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing a Fire and Steel typing. There can be an opportunity for Steel Pokémon to make more of an appearance in this game. For the grass starter Grookey, I could see the starter as being Grass and Fighting. I know that this typing has been used before with the starter Pokémon Chespin in generation seven. Within the trailer, we see Grookey banging a stick on a rock to make the grass grow. I wouldn’t mind if Grookey was made into a different typing. Gamefreak has many different options for these starter Pokémon as they shape the Galar region.
Within this review, we’ve dove deeper into the Galar Region, the main protagonist, and the starter Pokémon of this new game. At the end of the direct, Gamefreak did announce that this game would be released later in 2019. When a Pokémon game is released, the release date tends to be in November or December depending on Gamefreak. Within the next few months, Gamefreak is sure to announce more information as the growing anticipation for Pokemon Sword and Shield continues to grow. As more information is released, more speculation will go into how this game will change the standard of Pokémon. With what Gamefreak has been able to present, there are plenty of different routes that this game could go. Especially with the power of the Nintendo Switch, this Pokémon adventure maybe one of the grandest ones created in years.