Pokemon Sword and Shield show that the series is finally evolving

The Pokemon series made its triumphant debut on Game Boy back in 1996 and has been a huge success for Nintendo and Game Freak ever since. Spawning all forms of media including Hollywood films and popular collectible card games, the series hasn’t missed a beat in over 20 years and is still just as popular as ever. However, last year’s Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee showed that the series hadn’t evolved all that much over the years and that it felt fresher by simply streamlining a few elements. But Pokemon Sword and Shield look to be appropriately evolving in a way the series should be.

Pokemon Sword and Shield had plenty to learn from the Switch remake of the originals and it looks like several have been implemented into the new title. The Nintendo Direct going over the titles revealed plenty of exciting details and showed that the next mainline entry will be the biggest step forward yet for the role-playing game series. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Pokemon Sword and Shield features that are pushing the series forward and reinventing what we expect from the system seller.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Features | Dynamax provides a new twist on battles

Pokemon Sword and Shield Features

Due to sheer size, the Phanpy in the room is the new Dynamax Pokemon. It’s a phenomenon unique to the Galar region where Pokemon can become bigger in both attack strength and size. It’s essentially a spin on the Mega Pokemon of past titles, but it only lasts for three turns and doesn’t feature a form change. This doesn’t just add in a cool visual effect, but it looks to provide an extra layer of depth to the battle system that fans know and love.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Features | No more random battles

pokemon sword and shield features

One of Pokemon Let’s Go‘s best changes was the removal of random battles. Sword and Shield follows suit as there are a combination of 3D models that’ll appear in the overworld and “hiding spots.” The latter will be the classic scenario of creatures hiding in grass, but they’re marked with an exclamation point. The creatures exhibit different personalities as aggressive ones will charge after the player while the player has to use a whistle to lure shy ones out of hiding, making it feel more like an actual living and breathing world than ever before.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Features | Greater exploration

pokemon sword and shield features

The most exciting unveil was the new Wild Area, which is a huge open space that connects to many of Galar’s cities. This is where the widest range of pocket monsters roam and it will change depending on the weather. It’s essentially the Pokemon equivalent to Ocarina of Time‘s Hyrule Field. It’s not just an area that players will traverse, though. An added focus on exploration has been added as players can find a number of items and rare Pokemon there. It’s probably the biggest argument for a console Pokemon game since the newfound power can help realize something this ambitious.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Features | Freedom to move the camera

pokemon sword and shield features

The new camera also makes a good argument for its leap to a console. Rather than using a fixed top-down view like past Pokemon titles, players can now use the right analog stick to pan it around by themselves. It’s a weird thing to be applauding, especially as this type of camera control became standard on PlayStation 2, but it will add a lot to the Wild Area. The series has always been about going down fixed routes, but now players will get a chance to forge their own path and explore a more organic looking environment. It’s an awesome enhancement that makes it feel more like the anime’s world.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Features | Multiplayer raids both online and local

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Another new addition comes in the form of Max Raid Battles. Similar to the raids found in Pokemon Go, players can team up with others to take on a wild Pokemon that is currently in a Dynamax form. This can be done either locally or with your friends online (and solo players will get computer-controlled support trainers to aid them). Defeating the creatures is a challenge in and of itself due to them staying in their Dynamax form for the entire battle. However, the reward is worth it as players can capture the rare pocket monsters afterward.

The teamwork dynamic is also rather unique to Pokemon. Only one of the four trainers can set one of their Pokemon into their Dynamax form. That means that teamwork will be necessary in order to take down the raid bosses. It’s a great addition and Game Freak promises that they will vary based on the weather (which changes every day), so there should be plenty of variety in these special encounters.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Features | Gym battles look as epic as they should be

pokemon sword and shield features

Since the game is taking place in a fictional version of England, it’s only right that football stadiums serve a purpose. However instead of holding Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea FC, the crowds come to watch Pokemon battles. These will serve as the gym locations and it recreates the epic Pokemon League encounters that players see in the anime. It’s a brilliant way to give Gyms a facelift while also celebrating the customs and entertainment of the area that the game is emulating.

Pokemon Sword and Shield Features | A significant visual upgrade

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The biggest change is just how much better Sword and Shield looks compared to the previous mainline entry, Sun and Moon. Obviously, there is a generational gap as it goes from Nintendo 3DS to Switch, but it would have been easy for the company to create a similar looking experience or emulate what Let’s Go did. Instead, Game Freak has gone back to the drawing board and redesigned how a Pokemon title should look. It has completely paid off as the world design looks more wondrous than ever before.

Past titles may have felt like more of the same or just iterating without innovation, but that absolutely can’t be said here. Sword and Shield are changing how Pokemon looks and feels and it’s about time.