Pokémon would make an amazing open game. Galar would be an amazing region to explore: So many mountains and an open sea! You could put so many Pokémon in these locations to fill it up as well as trainers. And there’s no reason why they couldn’t make an open world game. Pokémon is the world’s biggest media franchise so I don’t think money is an issue. The issue is that GF thinks that children would quit the game if they weren’t given direct construction, hence why games are so linear; and why there’s no open world even though it would be a good idea conceptually.Okay, time for my long-winded "First impressions" post, mostly concerning the region as that's the info we have. I'm going to start with the not-so-good, mostly so I can end the post with the positive stuff. Thanks to Yveltal for the trailer screencaps I will use to illustrate.
First of all, it has to be acknowledged that no game exists in a vacuum (okay, my brother's copy of Pearl briefly did, but my mother got it out again after scolding him about leaving his games lying on the floor). My reaction to the announcement is influenced by some experience and expectations, based on other recent games released on a comparable scale. With that in mind, there's no way around the elephant in the room: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW for short). This masterpiece of a game was developed for the WiiU, a weaker console than the Switch, and released some two and a half years before Sword & Shield-
Okay, sidenote, we need an abbreviation for these games. "SS" is already taken by SoulSilver, so we need something new. After asking the OI Discord channel, I like Altissimo's suggestion "Swish" the best. So Swish it is.
...and BotW is another flagship release for Nintendo with massive amounts of work behind it. The two also have a pretty overlapping target market, it's a pretty fair assumption that many of the Swish players will have played BotW. This includes myself, so there will be comparisons.
Breath of the Wild proved that the hardware is capable of rendering a very big region. In that game, Hyrule clocks in at almost 70 square kilometers. It's a vast continuous expanse, a square more than eight kilometers on each edge. The overworld is completely seamless, you can walk from one end to the other (it'll take an hour or so) without any loading screens. The game also brilliantly incorporates sight lines. The location of the final boss - Hyrule Castle - is one of the first thing you see when you begin the game, and the map is vaguely bowl-shaped with it in the middle, meaning it is visible from almost every elevated point on the map. If you climb a mountain, you can look down on Hyrule Castle, you can walk there at any time you want (mostly to receive one heck of a beating unless you're very well prepared), and you can see mountains behind it that you can also travel to at any time without any loading (not in a way you will notice during play, at least). The point being, the Switch can render very large and detailed environments, and transport you across them seamlessly.
Compared to this, the trailer for Swish had me a little wary. Let's start with the Galar region map:
Immediately, we notice that roads and towns are very clearly marked. There are areas you are meant to go, and areas that will remain inaccessible. For instance, there are no areas interacting with the coasts apart from that little bit in the east. The mountains in the very north, or the woods in the south, all show no indication of being areas you can visit. Fair enough, though, Pokémon games have some restriction, with Routes clearly defining your path, but there was always a little spark of hope in me that the region would be fairly open to roam given the right tools to master difficult terrain. Alas, it seems like we are limited to routes and towns again - not that that is a problem if done correctly.
Another point to note is that the opening area exists in relative isolation. As seen in the first few seconds of the opening trailer, and pictures such as the one below, the map is very 1-to-1 in this particular area. It displays a town of six buildings, and those same six buildings are seen in the gameplay cutscene.
The town. All of the town.
Note how close the town is to the main character's house.
House by the lake, seen in its entirety.
But the background irks me a little. Those are naked, rolling hills, isolating the starting town from the rest of the region. You can't see anything beyond them. Neither the map nor the screenshots indicate that you can reach those hills in any way, they're just there to serve as background. It already makes the first little area seem limited and isolated, not so much a part of the region as a world in its own right. There was some potential here to make the central landmark of the city visible in the distance. However, I don't think it's that important for the starting area in particular, you're meant to hail from a far-away small town after all, it's a staple of Pokémon games apart from BW2. The games tend to let you start out in the most isolated backwater the region has to offer.
However, the trailer seems to indicate that other locations are "boxed in" as well. Let's have a look at the town with the hill painting, northwest of the southernmost big city. As we can see here, this place looks strangely isolated too:
I use the word "strangely", because the overworld map seems to indicate something does exist in the background here. Namely, a mountain range with a pretty distinctive cliff city:
By all indications, there should have been something more in the background than those samey, naked, rolling hills. It makes it feel like this town too exists in its own little "box" like the starting town, and that worries me since it's supposed to be right in the middle of the region. They could at least provide a view of the next area, even if only low-poly and inaccessible. Super Mario Sunshine did that admirably, on the GameCube, in 2002.
The other overworld shots we've seen don't fill me with confidence either. Here are two pictures from other locations, one in the southern city where you can't see beyond its limits, and one from the snowy town, where the player is confined to a town square with no view of the outside world:
In general, there seems to be hills, mountains, or city walls blocking the view wherever it seems like you should have been able to see outside the area you're in. The cities have high walls, or are surrounded by cliffs or forests. The routes appear to follow valleys. The designers appear to have purposefully avoided panoramas, places where you can stand and say "I went over there, and through there, but I haven't seen that place up close yet, wonder what that is like?".
But this feeling of being boxed in extends beyond the backgrounds too. Not to exhaust Yveltal's picture database, but have a look at these last few pictures:
Note all the fences limiting where you can go and where you can only look. Not only are you moving within environments that seem to exist as their own little bubbles, you're moving within bordered spaces in those environments. In other words, there seems to be a lot of Galar that just exists as "only background" while you're effectively moving through tunnels. After the ultimate freedom of Breath of the Wild, it feels like a step back.
Note that all these criticisms are valid for all Pokémon games up until now - heck, before Gen V there weren't even backgrounds. Graphically, Swish is a pretty big step up from what we've seen before, obviously a huge improvement. But this is the Switch, the console succeeding the one BotW was designed for, it's 2019 and eight years since Skyrim. I believe it is fair to expect a little more from the world design in this day and age.
Okay, that was the bad stuff. Onto the good! Because I think there are good things here too.
Take for instance the shadows. See the tree's shadows on the roof of the protagonist's house. The player character, buildings, other objects, Pokémon... it looks nice! Or the textures, they're really making the world come to life. Personally, I'm the most happy to see the brief clip of the female player character running through the mine, because you can clearly see the orange glow of its lamps on her skin. It proves that model textures are dynamically affected by light changes, so we won't have situations like this any more, where a Pokémon cast into utter darkness glows like it's standing in sunshine:
(picture from Bulbapedia)
And the region, well, it looks pretty great if seen on its own! While it's no Breath of the Wild, it's very definitely Pokémon. Rolling hills in the background isn't exactly new to the series. Have a look at this, for instance:
I actually think the games are starting to look better than the TV series has done for most of its run. That's no small feat.
I'm thinking that they're slowing down as reaching 1000 mons would be a massive hassle, even if that's quite an achivement too. The side effect of introducing Mega Pokemon and Region forms are that they can ease themselves on designing and not go overboard with it, reducing the need to go with new species. Yeah, I for one would love to see more regional formes, particularly from those generations Alola didn't give love to.Eh given XY and SUMO I'd expect more around 60-100 mons, but more than that would definitely be cool
What do you mean with no competitive move tutors? We got move tutors since Crystal.I've seen many people disappointed over the graphics of these games, and while I do understand where the frustration is coming from (trust me, I would love to get games with tons of work put in their graphics), I'm honestly less worried about that and more about the actual features and/or lack thereof. So far, the only things confirmed to be gone seem to be:
No wild pokémon in the overworld + following partners: I saw this one coming a mile away the moment the CEO mentioned last year these games would see no influence from Let's Go. Expected, yet still a bummer for me since it kinda ruins the inmersion aspect.
No island trials and totem pokémon: The presence of traditional gyms kinda makes the former already redundant as far in-game bosses go, so I don't see these ones coming back. They stat boosts might show up if they fell like making catching legendaries even more of a challenge though.
No competitive move tutors: Unless Game Freak is feeling generous, the absence of these is pretty much granted, and while I would love Sword/Shield go for the Gen 2/Let's Go route of making some of these moves TMs, the whole "Gen 8 won't be influenced by Let's Go" argument is a huge hope-killer for me.
Despite all this, there's still some stuff unaccounted for I can't really say with confidence it won't show up:
Poképelago: It relies a ton on gen 7's settings to make sense, and Gamefreak's habit of dropping useful features doesn't really inspire me confindence. On the other hand, the feature fits perfectly with Masuda's "kids ain't got time to play games anymore" talk, since it's pretty useful for grinding for items/EV training when you don't feel like doing it yourself.
Triple/Rotation/Inverse Battles: Since these were missing in gen 7 because of framerate they might come back? Maybe?? The Switch is far stronger than the 3DS so only a deliberate design choice can render these deader than dead.
Festival Plaza: No idea if they will keep it the same like it was in Sun/Moon, fuse them with XY's online interface or just flat out replace it with something else. At this point anything can happen honestly.
Yeah but the move tutors which don't involve starters, legendaries or Draco Meteor always happen to end up skipped in the first games of a generation, so if patterns are any indication we shouldn't be getting those until the Diamond/Pearl remakes or the enhanced Sword/Shield versions.What do you mean with no competitive move tutors? We got move tutors since Crystal.
Good eye! That actually hyped me up a bit for Grookey.Grookey has some music design elements as seen in its all different names and the instrument it has. You could even say the english name combination of words can be groove monkey
That small wooden bar it is seen using in the reveal and later put on its head is a clave, a wooden instrument used to mark tempo and make other noises. So far i think Grookey has the most clear theme going on for it's design.
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