The year 2019 is an exciting time to be a Pokémon fan. Mobile adventures and theatrical adaptations aside, the main video game series is about to evolve with the arrival of Pokémon Sword and Shield for the Nintendo Switch. These games mark not only the arrival of the eighth generation of Pokémon, but also the first original Pokémon adventure on a Nintendo home console — portable-hybrid nature of the Switch aside — since Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness on the GameCube.
With E3 around the corner, an information blowout on the new games is to be expected. But I couldn’t help but think about certain old features and new elements I would love to see implemented once Sword and Shield launch later this year.
1. Easy Mode and Challenge Mode
As an old fogey who grew up with the series since I first held a Sapphire cartridge, I hate to use the phrase “going through the motions,” but I never remembered the mainline Pokémon games for their difficulty. I usually come out by the end of my campaigns enjoying the journey overall, but also feeling unfulfilled when it comes to challenge, especially with more recent titles like Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. The only real challenges following the Pokémon League are all found in the post-game, with features like Battle Facilities and extra Legendary Pokémon. I’m sure I’m speaking for longtime Pokémon veterans when I say I wish for something more challenging throughout the main game.
There was one time Game Freak touched upon the idea back with Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 on the DS, but its roundabout execution was needlessly convoluted and left much to be desired. The games came with an Easy Mode — lowering the barrier of entry for younger players — and a Challenge Mode, which amped up enemy AI and standard Pokémon levels, as well as gave Gym Leaders and the Elite Four an extra Pokémon in their teams. Unfortunately, you could only unlock one of the modes depending on your game by defeating the Champion, or having a local friend exchange their in-game key for either mode with you.
If Pokémon Sword and Shield are to follow Black 2 and White 2‘s example, I only ask that such a feature is available right out of the gate!
2. Pokémon GO Park
Pokémon GO Park in Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! had one fatal flaw (GO-inspired control scheme aside). That flaw was its understandable limitation to Kanto Pokémon, a given as Let’s Go is a first generation remake. With every Pokémon up to the seventh generation presumably being fair game now, Pokémon GO players might feel more incentive to pick up Sword and Shield to transfer their insanely massive collection. Be it getting the edge on the meta with easy to deduce high IV Pokémon, or fighting with their proudest Shiny or Legendary capture, it’s enticing. The extra breathing room for our own Pokémon GO boxes will also be a nice perk.
Given Pokémon GO‘s worldwide appeal, GO Park might become a mainstay from here on, such as replacing Pal Park in the widely hypothesized Diamond and Pearl remakes. Now we need only wait for the Pokémon Bank’s inevitable arrival to Switch, so Let’s Go players can transfer their own favorites out!
3. Jerk rivals
I remember a time when my rival Pokémon trainer was a complete and utter jerk. “Smell ya later” Blue was a nigh-irredeemable cretin whose pompous reliance on “strong Pokémon” made his defeat in the Pokémon League all the more satisfying, and sadly, there hasn’t been a rival quite like him since. I didn’t mind the best friend rival much and enjoyed the change of pace. However, I’ve grown weary of the overly doe-eyed, good-natured “rivals” we’ve been getting in recent years.
Yes, you don’t need much for the tried and true Pokémon plot formula beyond the coming-of-age journey, villainous organizations, high stakes involving the mascot Legendary, and becoming the Champion. That said, it has been years since we had a good rival, with the closest contemporary being Gladion — and he was just a bit player compared to Sun and Moon‘s actual “rival” character, Hau. The overly friendly Trace, who debuted last year in the Let’s Go games, is only there to fill the part of “rival” with little compelling motivation of his own.
Will Sword and Shield finally break that trend, and give me a real rival so I’d love to Skull Bash their Grookey’s heads in (I swea’ on me mum)? Only time will tell.
4. Voice acting
The Switch sparked an evolution of sorts for some of Nintendo’s household names, and none more so than with The Legend of Zelda. Breath of the Wild marked a number of series firsts: The massive open world breathed new life into the aged linear progression the series had relied on; weapon fragility forced players to think and adapt through combat; fully spoken dialogue gave voice to otherwise silent major characters.
That latter point is one I feel is long overdue for the mainline Pokémon games. That’s not to say I expect every instance of dialogue with my avatar to be fully voiced, but I would be delighted if Pokémon Sword and Shield adopted Breath of the Wild‘s approach with voice acting during major plot beats. Be it exposition from the games’ Professor when you first start playing to your encounters with the crime syndicate’s boss, from your first Pokémon Gym victory to claiming the title of Champion and entering the Hall of Fame, these significant moments could deliver greater impact if the game’s silent cast isn’t so silent.
5. Real “event” Pokémon
Man, remember when that prefix meant something and not just afterthought Mystery Gift distributions?
As a 10-year-old Canadian back in the third generation, I felt nothing but contempt when I went on Serebii.net and discovered all these exclusive Mystery Gift Pokémon I would never catch. Deoxys on Birth Island? Lugia and Ho-Oh on Navel Rock? Latios on Southern Island? Mew on Faraway Island? I was missing out on all of that because of US-exclusive events, and I hated it.
Come the fourth generation and a little friend that rhymes with “Faction Field Day,” I finally got to play what I’d been missing out on! Being able to explore Newmoon Island to capture the Pitch-Black Darkrai, bike all the way up Route 224 to Shaymin’s Flower Paradise, tread the forbidden Hall of Origin to capture Arceus? These were all memorable experiences — no, events — I would never have been able to play otherwise. That all came to an end in the fifth generation, with Zoroark and Victini being the last to receive such treatment. Every Mythical Pokémon from Keldeo onward? “Event” Pokémon no more, meaning no more in-game lore expansions paired with impossible captures.
With Pokémon Sword and Shield on the horizon, I just hope “event” Pokémon return to their roots.
6. Miror B.
Bring him back. It’s been 14 cold, long, disco-less years. Just bring him back.
These are just my thoughts and opinions at the end of the day, but now I want to hear from you lovely folks! What features would you like to see introduced — or reintroduced — in Pokémon Sword and Shield? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Rare import from Ottawa, lover of all things video game music and remixes, desk jockey by day, and Nintendo Enthusiast by night. I grew up on Nintendo consoles since the Game Boy Advance and GameCube, with standouts like Sonic, Mario, and Zelda defining my childhood.