E3 2019: Hands-on with Pokémon Sword and Shield
New mainline Pokémon don’t happen often, so getting new entries, is always a welcome thing. We got Pokémon Let’s Go last year, which was an entree, should we be getting excited for this – the main meal?
The demo that was playable at E3 was that of the Water Gym, complete with required puzzle and battles, before culminating with a battle against the gym leader Nessa. I wish I could have explored the world, maybe even a wild area, but sadly it was not to be, now if you know any of the main Pokémon games, then the options and how it all plays, is going to feel right at home for you though and if you played the Let’s Go games from last year, the screen layout should feel familiar as well.
Entering into battle is rather smooth now when you cross the path of a character, the camera will zoom in a bit, before showing them the type of trainer they are, in the gym, it was two lasses and one kid, which is kinda odd, but oh well. After a nice little speech about how they love their Pokémon, it was time to battle and while the battles that were not against Nessa were short, they did provide context for moves that these new guys had. The battle screen gives you your base options, fight, bag and Pokémon and when you select one of them, things change up, such as Fight.
Here the moves are listed on the right of the screen, but if you wanted to know more about them, you can turn on the detailed view, which gives you more information about the attacks and their effects. For example, Wooloo did a tackle attack but took damage as well, it was not until I read the description of the attack that I learnt that by using it, the fluffy sheep Pokémon will always take damage from it. With that knowledge I tried to use other attacks or changing out Pokémon, which again required me to read up on the attacks, the good news is that if you press the button to see the details, they are always on screen from that point onwards, unless you turn them off again.
As far as the puzzle goes, it was the basic, press buttons to change the flow of things, in this instance, it was more about clearing a path to the leader, by rerouting the water that was flowing through the gym. It was not a hard puzzle, but as I had walked past a switch and not realised, it took me a moment to get my bearings before I solved it. With the path now opening, it was a quick chat to the man inside to heal up my team and then it was time to battle the leader and this is where things got interesting.
Rather than just walking up to the leader, my trainer turned at the door and waved to the camera, but the action cut away and then I got an opening of something like soccer, where my trainer was walking out onto the pitch or in this case, stadium. Nessa was also treated to the same into, complete with character flourishes, with shots of the crowd and closes up of both trainers, it was easy to see that a lot of attention was paid to the presentation and helps sell the story beat that in the Galar region, battles are a major event.
Once in battle though, things were back to the same type of presentation as in a regular battle, just with a more dynamic arena to battle in and there was nothing wrong with that. After taking down one each, the fight evolved to new levels when Nessa used the new Dynamax ability to fight, there was no warning that it was going to happen, so with my Wooloo out, I was left flat-footed, and my fluffy ball of wool was defeated in a single attack. When I swap to a new Pokémon I chose Yamper and with his adorable self, I went for the Dynamax attack, which turned him from small and adorable to large and still charming.
As I had swapped out, Nessa was basically given a free attack, which did something I had not expected, it left water on the ground, which also gave her a slight advantage. When it was my turn to attack, Yamper used an electric attack, which left the electricity on the ground as well, which was a welcome effect, as it made my attacks stronger, which helped me turn the tide and claim a victory.
While I would have loved to explore the world more, the battle systems at least are more variable, thanks to area effects and dynamaxing. How the full game shapes up, is still up in the air, but at least battles will be something to enjoy, so bring on November I say.
Pokémon Sword and Shield is out November 15th.