The highly anticipated mainline Pokémon games have been announced for Nintendo Switch. Dubbed Sword and Shield, these games will take players through the UK-inspired Galar region…and that’s about all we know so far. Will the game have gyms? An Elite Four? We don’t know for sure.
The Pokémon formula is tried and true: young kid sets off on a journey to be the best there ever was, collecting eight gym badges and defeating an evil team, culminating in a battle with the Elite Four. While this formula has clearly worked for decades, Game Freak has hardly ever strayed. They experimented with a slightly different formula in Pokémon Sun and Moon that paid off nicely. After two decades even the rock-solid Pokémon formula needs some switching up. Here are 5 ways Game Freak could put a fresh spin on the Pokémon blueprint and make Pokémon Sword and Shield the definitive next-gen Pokémon experience.
5 most-wanted features of Pokémon Sword and Shield
5. Difficulty Selection
As a series designed primarily for children, the difficulty level of Pokémon games has always been low. While this is fine as it allows young children to complete the game, older longtime players would appreciate being able to choose a harder game. Adding extra Pokémon at higher levels and more gimmicky movesets that relied more on strategy and less on brute force would make the game much more interesting for more hardcore players.
Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 actually both had difficulty options included, though Game Freak made the baffling decision to lock those difficulties until after the player beats the game, forcing them to start a new save file. Allowing access to harder difficulties at the start would be a nice change of pace for returning players while still allowing younger or newer players to easily beat the game.
4. Movable Camera
Pokémon Sword and Shield are the first HD mainline Pokémon games, and the series has never looked better. The game appears to run on the same engine as Sun and Moon, however, so the graphical upgrades are unfortunately incremental compared to the 3DS games. Still, the trailer shows many hills and buildings that give the Galar region a fresh sense of verticality. Allowing players to use the right stick to adjust the camera would allow this new region to fully come to life, as well as showing off the graphical fidelity of the Switch.
Other Switch titles like Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild would feel much less like “lived-in” worlds without a free camera, and as such, Pokémon Sword and Shield needs a movable camera to allow players to truly explore. No 3D mainline Pokémon game has ever had a movable camera, not even console spinoffs like Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, so allowing players to rotate the camera around them would give the series a welcome sense of immersion.
3. For the love of God, pick up the pace
Pokémon Sun and Moon had some of the best characters and story in the series, with fleshed out characters and an intriguing story full of twists. While this is all fine and good, the beginning of the game was a complete slog as the player would get interrupted by long cutscenes every few minutes. Even the best stories become tiring this way, and the problem became especially bad at the beginning of the game, as the player has neither invested in the characters enough or played enough of the game to truly invest in the cutscenes.
This slow beginning was compounded by the usual onslaught of tutorials, showing the player how to catch a Pokémon or how battling works. A lighter paced story that doesn’t frontload the player with cutscenes combined with an option to skip basic tutorials we’ve seen a million times would do wonders to keep the game from feeling like a chore.
2. Bring back jerk rivals
In the first few games, Pokémon rivals like Blue and Silver were notorious for being absolute jerks to the player character. They would insult you at every turn and pop up at the absolute worst moments to force you into a tough battle.
As the series has gone on, these jerk rivals have been phased out in favor of friendly rivalries. These friendly rivalries lack the tension or satisfaction of finally taking down the smug jerks of the earlier games. Bullies have been missing from the series for a long time, and many players desperately miss them. Also, give us the option to name our rivals again! The little kid in me would greatly appreciate being able to name the rival “POOPFACE” or “BUTTHEAD”.
1. Bring back the Battle Frontier (and other postgame battle arenas)
The absence of the Battle Frontier from Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire was one of the most disappointing moments of the entire series. The massive postgame battle facility brought hours of varied challenges that tested trainers to their limits. While the Battle Tree and Battle Tower of recent games are fine postgame battle facilities, they don’t come close to the wide variety of challenges available at the Battle Frontier. On the Battle Frontier’s absence, longtime Pokémon director Junichi Masuda (who is serving as producer of Sword and Shield) said:
“Put simply, the Battle Frontier wasn’t included because only a tiny number of players would have appreciated and used this game feature. Players get fed up more easily than they did in the past and aren’t attracted by these ‘demanding’ challenges.”
The Pokémon fanbase at large has harshly criticized Masuda for this belief as being entirely incorrect. A large and varied postgame battle facility, whether it be the return of the Battle Frontier or something completely new, would be an incredible addition to Sword and Shield.
Any features you’d like to see? Let us know!