It’s insane to think that Pokémon is still thriving better than ever. Despite the critics who may have labelled Pokémon as simply a fad in the late 90’s during its debut, (and while it did suffer a brief decline in sales and popularity during the Gameboy Advance era) Pokémon Sword and Shield are the latest forthcoming entries in the monster-catching franchise in 2019, and it does not show any signs of stopping at any rate. Generation 8 is almost here, and I was lucky to have played a quick demo of Sword and Shield at PAX AUS 2019.
The entirety of the demo I played was based in a Pokémon Gym, a welcome return that was absent in the previous entries, Sun/Moon and Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon. Inside the gym I had to get to the other side of the room but as like previous gyms in older entries, I had to solve a puzzle in order to do so. Torrents of water were blocking my multiple pathways to get to the end and to solve this, several switches were located around the gym which colour-corresponded to the tile floor the water was gushing through in order to open and close. Depending on what colour switches you click on would either activate or deactivate the water vales, all corresponding to their colour floor tiles.
While Sun and Moon may have had puzzles in their versions of a gym (which were simply called Island Challenges) this puzzle in particular felt like old-school Pokémon games and their gym puzzles. For me, this is a warm welcome back to the familiar feeling of the gyms we know and love, and I cannot wait to see what else the Galar region has to offer.
Towards the end of the gym, I went head to head against Gym Leader Nessa, who specialises in water Pokémon (which makes sense given the water-themed puzzle to solve). Unlike every other gym featured in previous games, the final battle against the leaders are featured in a stadium with a cheering crowd surrounding you. I absolutely love this and the atmosphere in the game makes me really feel like the upcoming match really matters. A true sense of giving it your all with people watching you in excitement.
While Nessa’s team consisted of two Pokemon, Goldeen and Drednaw, a new water/rock-type Pokemon, my team consisted of a full party of six all whom were automatically chosen in my party as I was not given any time to find and catch wild Pokémon, nor could I even access the main menu in this demo.
My team featured the three Galar starters; Sobble a water lizard type, Scorbunny the fire rabbit and Grookey the grass chimp type. The remaining three were Wooloo, an adorable normal-type sheep-like Pokemon, (who gives me Mareep vibes from Generation 2) Corviknight, a somewhat terrifying raven-looking Pokemon (typed as flying/steel) and lastly but not least (and probably one of my favourite Sword and Shield Pokémon reveal) was Yamper, an electric puppy-type critter that resembles a corgi (and who is instantly going to be one of my all-time favourites to use, I can already tell).
What separates Sword and Shield unique from other Pokémon games is a new feature I was able to try out in the demo, called ‘Dynamax’. This is a temporary transformation during battle that allows one of your chosen Pokémon in your team to grow to a substantially huge size and attack your opponent. Not only does your Pokémon grow in size, but its stats also grow, giving a huge advantage in winning. I decided to use Grookey to grow huge to attack Nessa’s water-type Pokémon and the results ended up me winning the match and earning the Gym Badge.
As mentioned earlier, the Dynamax feature is temporary and from what I gathered on my playthrough it only works on three turns before your Pokémon returns to its normal size and only one chosen can be used for Dynamax. I admit, I wasn’t too fond of this feature when it was revealed months ago in trailers online but actually using it in battle felt fun and very satisfying growing into a gigantic version of yourself.
Overall, I’m even more hyped and keen for Sword and Shield. While I couldn’t do other things in the demo such as explore towns or catch wild Pokémon, I believe Game Freak are keeping the best of the game hidden from the public until release. I can’t wait.
Pokémon Sword and Shield will be released worldwide for Nintendo Switch on November 15, 2019.