Nintendo, as they often do, held one of their little focused directs this week – last time we learned about Mario’s side business constructing deaths labyrinths and, much less occasionally, good levels, and today they showed off 15 minutes of the upcoming British-based Pokemon games; Pokemon Moaning and Pokemon Rain – I mean Sword and Shield. We saw a bunch of new Pokemon (very British ones), a bunch of new gameplay mechanics and features – more features than a Pokemon legendary has gratuitous fins and spikes – and some new characters who need to have the privilege of dressing themselves taken away. So without further ado, here’s Wooloo:
Wooloo, the travel pillow Pokemon.
Nintendo nailed it straight away with this one, Wooloo is just like British sheep: everywhere, and a bit rubbish. Not rubbish design-wise of course, it’s cuter than a cute thing on top of another cute thing, but just that it’s the Rattata of this game and so probably fights as well as a paper bag fights the inside of a washing machine. Fluffy is a nice defensive ability though, and I think it’s evolution has potential; imagine those cute braids becoming Viking-esque horns on a tough-looking mountain goat. Normal / Rock is a unique type combination, and with Rock Head as an ability it could use both Double-Edge and Head Smash without recoil, which would be quite exciting. Normal / Ground is unique too, and would be immune to both Ghost and Electric (though the only Ghost / Electric Pokemon, Rotom, is itself immune to Normal and Ground, making for the longest stalemate since Parliament had to vote for what take-out they wanted).
Gossifluer, the how does it move?! Pokemon, and Eldegoss, the 80’s never died Pokemon.
Gossifluer is the latest in a noble tradition of grass-type Pokemon, whose predecessors include Petilil, Budew and Bounsweet – it’s a plant, with a face. It’s quite a pleasing design despite that however, eschewing the other grass-type birthright of “it’s green” and instead opting for bold teals and reds – contrasting nicely with the yellow dandelion flower on it’s back. I thought at first the “Goss” in Gossifleur’s name came from gossip, but more likely it’s derived from gossamer, alluding to how even a slight breeze can send it flying like a badger in a trebuchet.
Eldegoss is much more my speed, however. That seed afro is no accident – they literally made a hippie out of dirt. An important part of British cultural history for sure. Its also got a look on its face like it couldn’t care less about pretty much anything – which is guess is a necessity when you lose all your material possessions every time it’s a bit windy, in Britain.
Corviknight, the uber Pokemon.
Get all your jokes about “haha it’s like if Skarmory listened to Slipknot once” out of your system now, there’ll be no low-hanging fruit here. A raven Pokemon is something I was expecting, what with the Tower of London ravens and all that, but it not being a complete meanie and Dark / Flying I did not see coming. “Corvi” comes from Corvid, the genus that crows and ravens belong to, and Knight comes from “Knight,” because don’t be stupid. It very much looks like these feathery fellows will be the Pokeride / Fly HM replacement in Galar, because everyone knows that most people in Britain get around by hopping on the local macabre warbird.
Drednaw, the vengeance Pokemon.
At first glance, it’s not immediately obvious what a bright blue-and-yellow dinosaur-slash-tortoise with a head like a bear trap is doing wandering around the British countryside. My working theory is that this Pokemon is the manifestation of hundreds of grudges born of the tortoises Darwin ate on his travels to and from the Galapagos Islands. It would explain the spiky chompers, and the malice in its eyes; it hungers only for human flesh and bone, and it’s rancorous bloodlust cannot be sated. Which is probably why, as the actual Pokedex states, 10-year-olds struggle to teach it tricks.
So here we have the new battle-gimmick: in X and Y it was mega-evolution, in Sun and Moon it was Z-moves, and now we have “making your Pokemon really bloody big.” It’s unclear how this works just yet – I thought at first they were projections, YuGiOh style, because of how they featured in the new stadiums, but wild Pokemon can do it as well, so clearly there’s some mysterious shenanigans in play. Aside from looking awesome and facilitating the new raid battles, it seems fairly vanilla as Pokemon battle tweaks go: makes your ‘mons stronger, once per battle, not a permanent effect – but given that it seems like any Pokemon can do it, it opens up a lot of possibilities.
Finally, now Pokemon Trainers can receive a million notifications off their friends in the group chat sending each other depression memes too – truly the levels of immersion on display here know no bounds. Jokes aside, the Rotom Phone seems like a convenient way to tie together all the ‘dex features from previous games: the Pokedex itself, of course, but also the phone functions of the Pokegear (Gold and Silver), the apps of the Pokewatch (Diamond and Pearl), the Pokeride features (Sun and Moon) and the irritating quipping of the Rotomdex that made me want to throw it down a flight of stairs (transcripts from my therapist).
Leon, Hop, Magnolia and Sonia:
Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’ve had my heart broken by important Pokemon NPCs one too many times, but Leon is totally giving me villainous vibes (which also happens to be the name of my upcoming EP). Any time Pokemon feels the need to go “oooh, look how nice he is,” instead of just making it apparent through his actions, plus the fact he’s never ever lost a battle? Sketchyyyy.
Hop, on the other hand, is probably going to be fairly good-tempered: he’d have to be, to survive the merciless bullying he must receive in the British public school system for having a name like “Hop.” He’s yet another friendly rival, though I personally don’t have a problem with that, but he’s clearly got some competitive spirit from his big bro, so hopefully the battles with him will actually have some stakes to them.
Magnolia makes me happy: it’s nice to see that at least in a parallel version of Britain, the Queen got to retire early and spend her days gardening and making children make their dogs fight. Sonia, however, I bet is really bitter towards dear old Queeny, namely because she’ll never be able to take on the professor mantle, because she isn’t named after a tree. Yes, I know her surname is probably Magnolia too, but we know her first name now, it’s already too late.
Pokemon Sword and Shield are shaping to be gorgeous little gems of games, and the fact we can laugh about all the Britishness makes it all the sweeter. Nintendo have just confirmed that these games are also going to be playable on the show-floor at E3 next week, so maybe we’ll get even more information coming out of Nintendo Treehouse to look forward to / thoroughly over-analyse. Can’t wait.