Pokémon: 5 Ways Sword & Shield Moves The Franchise Forward (& 5 Why It's Stuck In The Past)

Pokémon Sword & Shield seems to have divided fans of the franchise, and, while it innovated in some areas, it remained stagnant in others.

Pokémon Sword & Shield happened to be the first mainline entries to release on the Nintendo Switch and fans couldn't wait to get their hands on them. The boost in power the Switch provides allows GameFreak a lot more room to experiment and fans are hoping they move the franchise forward.

The Generation VIII games have managed to introduce some new things while also leaving other features as is. Let's look at 5 ways Pokémon Sword & Shield moved the franchise forward and 5 ways they're still stuck in the past.

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10 Stuck: Difficulty

Pokémon is a franchise that is marketed at and intended to capture the imagination of children worldwide. On top of that, it also happens to have a large demographic of its player base at an older average age as most of them have grown up alongside their favorite franchise.

Most of these older players understand the game needs to be easy for kids, but have simply asked GameFreak to provide difficulty options to accommodate older trainers. They still haven't managed to do so through the 8th generation of mainline games.

9 Evolves: Gym Challenges

Here's the thing, the gym challenges in the Galar region are pretty lackluster. There are a couple that are fun and/or engaging, but overall they tend to be lame. Their inclusion in the game is interesting though because it's making the predictable and stale gym leader battles a bit more involved and unique to each city and gym.

This is the type of experiment GameFreak should tweak and mold and try again on the next generation of games because they might have something really special in the making.

8 Stuck: Structure

Fans of the franchise have dreamed and wished for an open-world game for one simple reason. The overall structure of the mainline titles has become super predictable and GameFreak has steered away from changing it in a major way because they fear the backlash that type of change would bring.

Now, it doesn't necessarily need to be an open-world game, but in order for fans and critics alike to find a renewed passion for the series, it needs to be more willing to take some risks with its structure.

7 Evolves: Champion Cup

In Pokémon Sun & Moon trainers went on a quest to complete trials instead of gym battles, and though they weren't perfect they changed up the formula a bit. In the same way, the Champion Cup in Sword & Shield managed to spice up the pretty stagnant Elite 4 matches that were always the last challenge before becoming the Pokémon Champion of the given region. The tournament-style bracket added to the immersion, and though it was scripted, it made the whole process feel somewhat organic in nature.

6 Stuck: Same Starter Types

Over the years the franchise has been willing to flirt with the idea of starter pokémon who have final evolutions that are dual-typed. This is great, but fans have still clamored for a day in which the 3 starters aren't a grass, water, and fire-type. This stagnation is part of a larger problem with GameFreak where they're paralyzed by change. They fear that if they change traditions fans will be upset, but at the same time, fans are upset that the franchise has progressed at a seemingly glacial pace.

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5 Evolves: Time To First Gym

One of the neater things that happens as you begin your adventure in the Galar region is that you don't immediately head out to the first town and fight the initial gym leader. Before you set foot in Turffield to face off with its grass-type gym leader named Milo, trainers hit several narrative beats while getting a glimpse at the legendary creatures of the region. The writing is lackluster and makes this section drag on, but the idea of holding off on the first gym really helps the world breath and feel expansive.

4 Stuck: Rival Sucks

Ever since the 2nd generation of games, it seems like the rivals in the games have become progressively worse and worse. The newest rival, Hop, happens to be a glaring beacon to what is wrong with rivals. They evolved from frustrating and/or healthy competitors into these weird pseudo-friends who happen to be terrible trainers and/or competitors.

The next generation of games needs to create a more interesting and difficult rival. Maybe have them beat the trainer at the beginning of the game?

3 Evolves: Box Access

The new games have added a number of features that many trainers consider to be quality of life changes in the right direction. One of the major ones happens to be the access trainers now have to their storage boxes which contain the numerous pokémon they caught that don't fit in their team of six.

Trainers can now access those boxes from almost anywhere and withdraw or deposit pokémon as they see fit. This really comes in handy when you're looking to complete the entire PokéDex in the post-game.

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2 Stuck: Gym Teams

A problem as old as the franchise has existed is that gym leaders most often sport uninspired teams. Most of the time a gym leader will have 1-to-4 pokémon of a given type with a majority of them being within the same evolutionary line. This leads the fights to feel predictable and makes them way easier than they already are.

The developers should try adding a bit more diversity and quantity to their teams in order to provide an interesting and more immersive experience for trainers.

1 Evolves: Wild Area

When trainers first set their eyes on the Wild Area in the Galar region minds starting racing. Some felt that this was finally going to be the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild evolution everyone wanted, while others settled their expectations.

Though the Wild Area isn't perfect it provides a blueprint and proof that GameFreak is willing to move the franchise forward. The big question now is if the Wild Area will be upgraded and/or reiterated on, or if this only felt right for the Galar region to the developers.

NEXT: Pokémon: The 10 Best Galarian Forms, Ranked

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