What a Blast
I straight up had a good time. Just like with Ultra Sun, I enjoyed the new things, the quality of life improvements, and didn't mind the downsides at all.
It was also neat to see various UK tropes mixed in with a Pokémon game:
- A Corgi via Yamper
- Football stadium atmosphere (more on that below)
- Architecture and naming, such as in Motostoke
- Punk rock themes with Toxtricity and the city of Spikemuth
From a gameplay perspective, what I really enjoyed was:
- Pokémon everywhere! Seeing them in the overworld, having the Wild Area with all sorts. You can walk around the grass and see Pokémon that are trade evolutions, stone evolutions, or unique roamers, it was a joy to see the absolute grab bag of who was around.
- No more HMs. While having them being such an integral part of the formula for so long, I didn't miss them at all here. The bike had inflatable bits to get around on the water too. However I do miss some of the little puzzles (but not the Victory Road Strength ones...).
- Max Raid Battle Dens/Dynamax Adventures. The signature, potentially future throwaway, mechanic of Gen 8. Team battles against one giant strong Pokémon. I enjoyed them for the new fun they brought, but I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see them again.
- In terms of space/volume, just how big the world felt on first playthrough.
- New forms. Big fan of forms and we got them.
- Exp Candy. A nice new take on Rare Candies - I hope they stick around.
- The gym challenges. I enjoyed the Turffield Stadium Wooloo herding game.
- The gym themes, especially when the crowd chants at the same time like at a sports stadium.
Sure the graphics aren't as hot as you'd want at times, but I feel that's just a part of Pokémon since forever. I both wish there was a bit more voice acting (read: any), and the full Dex was available, but oh well.
My personal playthrough itself was nothing too special. Pokemon at its heart is an easy game, we're not here for the challenge - that's for ROM hacks and nuzlocke. Though I did enjoy how often you'd run into the gym leaders throughout the story. Uniquely, two gyms are different between Sword and Shield, and I'm glad I got to experience the Shield gyms too when I grabbed Shield exclusive Pokémon.
I used only Pokémon new to Gen 8 but pretty much got carried by my overpowered Cinderace. Part of me was eager for the project to be finished, meaning part of my story run was a bit rushed. On reflection, that's just an unfortunate side effect of it being the last generation to run. On the other hand, Sword/Shield is second place in terms of time spent in game for this project - mostly post game.
Now that the Sword/Shield memes make sense to me, I present a tasty mashup of Gen 8 and Vines (rip Vine):
Back to the Dex
This being the first mainline Pokémon game with DLC, I opted to buy the with-DLC physical versions. Pokémon games seem to hold on to value and it might always be worth revisiting them. Then with every digital download store inevitably going offline, I'd like to make sure I have my own copy.
No Art Allowed
With the main story finished, I opened Pokémon Home to ready my stalwart Smeargle for the mission ahead. Turns out it was one of the Pokémon cut for Sword/Shield. An absolute tragedy. I hope I'll be able to use him for future Pokémon games.
Next issue. My journey started in Pokémon Sword on 26/06/2021 meaning I had missed out on some Gen 8 mythical distributions:
- Shiny Celebi (From the movie, Secrets of the Jungle)
- Zarude and special Dada Zarude (From the movie, Secrets of the Jungle)
- While not mythical, all the Pikachu in a hat forms
As I'm writing the last of this post, the distribution of the above two Pokémon are open again for the English release of Secrets of the Jungle. Here's hoping I get them! Edit: I missed out (and many others too) but my other half succeeded and graciously let me have Dada Zarude!
If I was in Japan, I could also take part in the Pokémon Scrap 2020 distribution where you could buy Pokémon merchandise to collect "scrap" which you can exchange for Gen 8 codes to redeem Pokémon and items. More explanation on this Reddit post, but mythicals you could obtain were:
There's always next time.
Thankfully though with the DLC Crown Tundra I could nab a Keldeo, a Gen 5 mythical.
Even without Smeargle, finishing off the Gen 8 Dex was fun. There are 108 new Pokémon (89 regular and 19 forms) introduced and most are just in the wild, without having to hatch or evolve. Some highlights include:
- The rare ones, like Sizzlipede which I missed out on at the Gym and hung out for the 1% spawn.
- I was surprised to find that Toxtricity had a different form based on nature, I thought I had a shiny one!
- My Sinistra/Polteageist are phonies
- Cursola I love as a statement on coral reefs dying
- Runerigus' unique evolution steps
- Spinning to whip the cream for Alcremie forms
- Kubfu... I have had enough of that Pokémon. For the living dex I wanted a Kubfu, Urshifu and two more Urshifu for the Gigantamax forms. Having to do the dojo story four times is not fun, even if "cheating" via a new save with overpowered Pokémon.
- The new Galarian Kantonian bird forms are fun, though I hated getting Articuno's puzzle wrong and having to chase it for ages.
The Shield exclusives were nabbed by speedrunning with a super overlevelled starter, thanks to trading said starter to Sword and feeding it Exp Candies.
On a side note, with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl coming out later this year (as of the time of this post), I'm hoping that allows Gen 8 to have a full national dex, in some form or another. If that is the case, I feel Sword/Shield could be such a fun start for a Living Dex project.
The last Pokémon in the National Dex to grab was Regidrago after my Shield speedrun:
And just minutes after it, the last form was Galarian Rapidash. Both on 22/07/2021, 26 days after starting Gen 8.
While my collection in Pokémon Home was complete, a cheeky transfer of everyone eligible into Sword nabbed me the diploma:
And I gotta give love to my Shield game too:
On a side note, the Pokémon anime you might've seen growing up isn't the only animation out. There's now a fair amount of less childish, slice of life web series available to watch on the official Pokémon Youtube accounts. Above is the playlist for Twilight Wings, based on the Sword/Shield games. It's jammed with references lifted straight from the game as we explore the Galar region from less seen points of view. And coming out in the latter part of the anniversary event, Pokémon 25, a new web series covering all the generations is coming out: Pokémon Evolutions - but I'll go through these properly in part 7.
That's a Wrap
With my Galarian Rapidash coming in at 10:55pm on Thursday the 22nd of July 2021, the main project was over. I was left feeling proud and almost bittersweet: all but 16 Pokédex entries were sorted and every regional form collected. I announced it to my friends who had been with me along the way and I sat there on my couch slowly flipping through Pokémon Home boxes.
All in all, it was an utter joy to be caught up in Pokémon again.
Catch me in the next post where I'll wrap up some loose ends.
Parts in this series:
- Making a Living Dex: Part 1 - A Lifelong Dream
- Making a Living Dex: Part 2 - It Begins With Generation Six
- Making a Living Dex: Part 3 - Preservation and Generation Five
- Making a Living Dex: Part 4 - Generation Seven, ”Alola!”
- Making a Living Dex: Part 5 - Generation Eight, Sword and Shield
- Making a Living Dex: Part 6 - Odds and Ends
- Making a Living Dex: Part 7 - Wrapping up the First 898
- Making a Living Dex: Appendix A - The Whole Living Dex Roster
- Making a Living Dex: Appendix B - Achievement Screenshots