Is there someone in your life who is really annoying and you can't stand to be in their presence, yet they somehow manage to always end in the same places that you go to? You desperately try to avoid eye contact in order to stop them from coming over and talking at you, but they just never get the hint that you'd rather dunk your head in acid than spend another second in their company. This is the perfect description for Hop in Pokémon Sword & Shield, who insists on keeping you tied to a leash for the first few hours of the game.
The rivals of the modern Pokémon games suck. There hasn't been a good rival since the days of Pokémon Gold & Silver, as they started to become more friendly and less antagonistic over time, which made them less memorable. Gary Oak from the Pokémon anime was a result of genius decision making, as his jerkish behavior towards Ash Ketchum made you want to beat him up in the Pokémon video games. None of the other rivals have come close to Gary/Blue's greatness, which is why he keeps making appearances in the series.
Pokémon Sword & Shield are not complicated games, even by the low standards of the Pokémon series. The towns and routes are similar to the dungeons from Final Fantasy XIII in terms of their design, yet Hop feels the need to drag you by the collar throughout the first few hours of the game in order to make sure that you cannot miss anything. The player is never given the opportunity to explore and learn things on their own because Hop is always waiting to answer questions before they are asked.
The Pokémon series is the biggest media franchise in the world and Game Freak has to know that there is a massive adult contingent of the fanbase who have been with the series for twenty years. This isn't to say that the games should include adult content, but they should have options in place for more experienced players. The Pokémon series badly needs an option that lets you skip the mandatory tutorials in order to get to the good stuff quicker, rather than having to endure numerous lessons on things that players have been doing since the days of Pokémon Red & Blue.
Every time I saw Hop waiting outside of a building I let out an audible groan because I knew that I had to endure another boring cutscene where Hop repeats his rhetoric about wanting to become the Champion, followed by another tutorial on how to buy something from a shop. Blue from Pokémon Red & Blue worked because he insulted you and left, while Silver barely spoke throughout Pokémon Gold & Silver. These are the kinds of rivals that the Pokémon series needs to bring back, as the friendly rivals are just not as exciting as someone that you want to beat.
To be fair, I badly wanted to beat Hop in battle, but only so I could get away from him quicker.
Pokémon Sword & Shield are available now for Nintendo Switch.