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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Pokémon Sword/Shield June Direct: Galar Legends, Dynamax, the Wild Area

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - A lot of the February criticisms got invalidated.

True story: I woke up early just to get to my day job early enough that I could watch today's Pokémon Direct presented by GAME FREAK... live! And live-react to it. Unfortunately, the live-reaction log doesn't pass basic KoopaTV quality standards, so I'm going to spend much more time and effort doing a full write-up for you. Aren't you lucky?

Here's the video-on-demand of the “roughly 15 minutes of information” that's approaching 17 minutes. That means there's plenty of footage in this that is strictly uninformative. Fortunately, the additional information found on the official website makes up for this.


There's surprisingly a lot to talk about here, and I just want to remind everyone of when we first saw Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield back in February, and of the comments people made back then.

I recommend you skip ahead to exactly three minutes in to skip some bad lyrics.

New Galar Pokémon and Characters

We learned of the new professor (Professor Magnolia, old woman with a cane), her assistant (Sonia, and she gives me significantly better vibes than Lillie, who was also first described as the professor's assistant), the champion (Leon), and the rival. The rival is named Hop.

Hop sounds dangerously close to Hau. I'm not immediately repulsed by Hop like I was with Hau, but... I'm definitely suspicious of him.

I think overall the characters are a net positive versus Alola... at least by first impression. But what about Pokémon?

We were introduced to Gossifleur (pollen flower), Eldegoss (a Roselia with a giant cotton ball, the evolution of Gossifleur), Wooloo (a fluffy better-than-Mareep sheep), Corviknight (a Steel/Flying crow), and Drednaw (Water/Rock bite-happy turtle).

Let's discuss those last two. Corviknight are described as willing workers for the Galar Taxi company. That begs the question about their compensation plans and who they're displacing.

Drednaw is pretty clearly the newest member of the shelled Pokémon family, so one day I need to update the family photo made when Turtonator appeared

Pokémon Sword Shield Drednaw bite snapping turtle
Drednaw is obviously my favourite new Pokémon here. I just need to remember to spell its name right.

Oh, there are two more Pokémon, but their names are extremely incomprehensible. There is Zacian, the Pokémon Sword legendary (it's basically a Keldeo-coloured Amaterasu from Ōkami equipped with a Glaive); and Zamazenta, the Pokémon Shield legendary (who is also a four-legged canine-like mammal, but with a lot of armour).

I'm still naturally inclined to pick Pokémon Shield, but Zacian is obviously designed to be more interesting for people than Zamazenta. To the majority of action-oriented people, an active canine with a sword jumping around is cooler than a passive shielded canine. It's not fair, but I'll just have to promote the pro-shield message as we go along in the year, because it's an inherently pro-Koopa message.

New Galar Gameplay Mechanics

There were three notable new gameplay mechanics revealed today.

The first is the Rotom Phone. You may remember we were excited about the Rotom Pokédex three years ago. Well... that's all ruined, because Rotom is now sucked into a smartphone that has magical HM-replacing powers... and it also combines into a bike. Great. It's combining the suckiness of smartphones with the awfulness of bicycles. Rotom is dead to me and I regret dedicating E3 2016 to it.

Pokémon Shield Sword Rotom Phone smartphone bike bicycle smartbike
We're done with each other, Rotom.
Oh no, Ash Ketchum is going to have a smartphone in the next season of the anime, isn't he?

The second mechanic is Dynamax, which involves Pokémon more-or-less discovering the Mega Mushroom power-up we have and turning enormous. Any Pokémon from the Galar region is capable of Dynamaxing, though only in certain circumstances like Pokémon Gyms (and probably person-vs-person online battles), and only if the trainer has the Dynamax Band. One Dynamax per battle, similar to limits on Mega Evolution. Once a Pokémon has Dynamaxed, all of their moves (referred to as Max Moves) become special versions based on their typing/category, similar to Z-moves. A Pokémon will only be giant for three turns. That might be enough to decimate the opponent, though. It's unknown if becoming gargantuan grants any material stat boosts or how that works, but I'm sure we'll collectively figure that out as soon as the game releases.

The last notable mechanic is the Wild Area, which is a fancy way of saying that the Pokémon now has an overworld with a customisable camera view that connects towns and cities. Based on what we saw three months ago, towns, cities, and some adjacent pathways/routes (and probably caves) are still the traditional fixed view. In other words, Pokémon is now doing what, say, Final Fantasy IX did twenty years ago. (That's my example because I'm playing it now.) 

It's unclear if there are any benefits to this vast open space with a customisable camera, or GAME FREAK is just doing it because fans keep demanding it (especially after the February Direct) but they don't know how to actually use the new mechanic effectively. Maybe it'll be a giant empty space.

Hippopotas Pokémon Sword Shield Wild Area of Galar tall grass plains
There's a wild Hippopotas, but no Sand Stream in the environment. Bad gameplay-setting integration.

Wild Pokémon will appear based on your location in the Wild Area (duh, that's been the case forever and something you control) and the weather (which seems to be random or maybe it's in patterns? I bet there'll be a weather station in the game). Sometimes, there will be a “Max Raid Battle”, a massively-multiplayer online concept (with up to four humans or you and three NPCs) where there will be a giant wild Dynamax'd Pokémon and you need to team up with the other trainers to defeat/catch it.

That's about it. The games will release on November 15, 2019. Worldwide! We may or may not have the entire game spoiled by then by The Pokémon Company International, though. 

Ludwig is actually more interested in purchasing Pokémon Shield than he was 24 hours ago, so the Direct was overall a success. Did you feel the same way? Is there something Ludwig is overlooking in terms of things to talk about? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Drednaw gets a new form... no, not an evolution, but a Gigantamax! ...No, not a Dynamax...
The August news release brings more Rotom-in-device forms, and new rivals.
The Direct being a success doesn't mean much when Ludwig decided not to buy Pokémon Shield. Or the other version.
...Though he did buy a Drednaw plush.


  1. When I read or hear "Hop" as a name I think of Iggy's cartoon counterpart first.

    Imagine a Girafarig under the influence of Dynamax. Would finally be the same size of a real giraffe.

    Hippopotas could have Sand Force instead which explains the lack of sandstorm.

    1. I haven't thought of Iggy Koopa at all today!

      The implication is that a Pokémon has to be born in Galar to be Dynamaxed, instead of being an immigrant. So who knows if that's actually true... Or maybe Girafarig can indeed be found natively.

      Sand Force is a Hidden Ability of Hippopotas, and those aren't supposed to just casually occur in the wild.

  2. "Wooloo (a fluffy better-than-Mareep sheep) Y̮̣͉͜o̻̺̫͚̺̳̺͕͕͢Ự̱̠̮̳̹̺̯͜ ̡̧̛̣̪̣̹͙̩͍t̟̘͔̟͙́͡Á̴̶̟̬̫͇͚̺͇͖̦K̵̞̠̺ͅe̗̞̪̰͝ͅ ̱͍̱̜̩̫̀ͅṭ͚͡h̨͈̭͉̼͇̥͙ạ̴̵̝̫̲͓͙T̢̖̪̥͚̰͘ ̵̲̰̘͖͉͈̙͉́ͅB̫͈A͙̹C̷̼͙̟͇̜̪̼̰͘Ḱ͎͉̬̪̟̲͖!̸̞̲ ̝̲͈̗̪̼̕͢Ạ̡̗̩̤Ṃ̺̟̞̜̖̼͝P҉̭̥̺̯͡H̡̖̳̘̜̀Á̹̠̕͜R̬̝͎̣̤͈͉̪͘͢O̴̮͝S̨̻̮̹͖͇ ͏̛͖̭̺͔͝I̛̫͇̟̻͕̖̞͡ͅS̷̷̢͕͕ ̠͇̳͔͔͍̪͟B̨̢̲͇E̫̫̫̼̺͘Ş̙̯̰͙̦̀T̜ ҉̧̻̦̗Ṕ̶̻͈̭̯̗̙Ơ̷̯͇̱K̭̥͚̯͇̯̙̠̣̕͞͝E̡̫̤-̤̜̖͉̣̫̖͈͢B͏̹̭O̼̠͞I̷̧̳!͜҉̝̭̩̥̝͈̣̗͍

  3. I'm excited and looking forward to it! I just hope Rotom won't be as annoying as in Sun/Moon. The Wild Area also looks like it should mean the game won't feel quite as linear.

    (I'd object to you comparing it to an overworld/world map like in FFIX, though. Seems more like the sort of connected areas we get now that big developers have decided world maps are "outdated.")

    1. My issue with Rotom was never being annoying, it's that it failed to meet its potential.

      Regarding your OBJECTION! What do you call areas like 1:22 in the February Direct? Or 1:26? It's not The Wild Area but it's not a city or a town.

      I don't view the Wild Area as it being more non-linear. Final Fantasy IX is linear but it has a world map that's distinct from the defined area maps. The Wild Area could just be a fancy way to say "We made a bunch of open space between areas you can walk around in that has a different control style than normal." Could be that you need to traverse that open space all the same way as previous games. Just now it'll take more time.

    2. I heard Rotom was even more annoying in the Ultra games.

      1:22 and 1:26 look like normal paths like every Pokemon game has always had to me. I might be confused over what you meant with your FFIX comparison.

      The last couple of generations felt much more linear than previous ones to me, like I was at Point A and had to go to Point B with only a tiny amount of exploration possible along the way. Final Fantasy IX is what I consider to be a semi-linear game, one where you have a clear Point B you're heading to, but have other options along the way that you can check out first.

    3. Well, I wouldn't know about the Ultra games, but I didn't know they were downgrading the experience.

      Alright, so in FFIX, in towns and cities and dungeons, you're in a very static screen going from place to place at the edges of the screen. Sometimes there's random encounters.

      Those locations are separated by an overworld that also has random encounters, but full camera control. The main goal of the overworld is still to get you from Point A to Point B, and a lot of the time (at least so far, though I just got the boat), there's no actual point in going off the story path because there's nothing to see or do. It's just an empty, grandiose way to get from A to B.

      That's analogous to how I think Sword and Shield are set up.

    4. I've played FFIX. I still see that sort of world map as being completely different from the sort of thing Sword/Shield is doing, although this might also be partly because with a world map, you eventually can travel from any point to any point, over the world map.

      Also I just really, really like world maps and am sad that they've largely gone away.

    5. Well with flying taxis you'll be able to fast-travel in Sword and Shield...!

    6. I didn't mean fast travel. (Besides, you can do that in the entire series anyway.)

    7. Well I dunno wot you mean, but maybe I should keep playing FFIX?

    8. Yeah, that's probably better than me rambling about world maps. XD

    9. Guess I'll have to wait for E3 to end to get back and put much more progress into it.


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