Now, when you hop on board with a new Pokémon game, you tend to know what you’re getting yourself into. Even those who were brand new to the series when picking up Pokémon Sword and Shield probably knew that it was hardly going to be a gargantuan challenge. We’re not talking about casuals trying to complete Dark Souls here.
At the same time, though, it would be very wrong to dismiss Sword and Shield as kids’ games. They cater well to adult fans as well as children. How? Well, we’re glad you asked.
10 KIDS: Very Tutorial-Heavy
Many dedicated gamers complain that a lot of titles these days hold our hands every step of the way. It’s a far cry from the games of the NES era, which tended to throw us in at the deep end without being overly concerned whether we popped our heads back up or not.
The latest Pokémon entry may not be quite as guilty of this as some have been (Pokémon Sun and Moon just would not leave us alone to play for quite some time), but old hands have still found the level of hand-holding obnoxious.
9 ADULTS: Reams Of New Competitive Possibilities
Those who have been playing these games since the heady heights of 90s Pokémania aren’t really here for the story alone (as a general rule). Adult Pokémon players are often those who want to dive into the surprisingly complex world of competitive Pokémon battling.
If you’re one of those players, you’ve probably already noticed that there are a lot of complex new options to experiment with. New Pokémon with a diverse range of new Abilities and type combinations, brand-new held items with interesting effects… it’s a lot to get to grips with, even for veterans.
8 KIDS: Very Straightforward Navigation
Another thing players have surely noticed is that the game seems to race along in the latter portion of the League Challenge. You’ll travel from gym to straightforward route to the next city/gym, and those who aren’t taking the time to explore (which children often won’t) will find the main story over before they know it.
Some areas are a little puzzling, granted (the route you’re presented with the first time you’re given the ability to cycle on the water can be a pain to find your way through), but children shouldn’t have much trouble finding their way around for the most part.
7 ADULTS: Punk And Soccer References
As we know, the regions of the Pokémon world tend to be loosely based around regions in the real world. Galar was heavily inspired by the United Kingdom, and a lot of the towns you’ll visit, people you’ll meet and Pokémon you’ll encounter will reflect that.
Some of these references are subtle, while some are distinctly less so. The dastardly Team Yell, for instance, allude to the punk culture and aggressive soccer fans that some associate with Britain, but a lot of players will be too young to understand that. Particularly so in the case of punk culture, which has its roots in the 70s and 80s.
6 KIDS: So. Many. Heals.
Yes, Hop. We see you there, healing our Pokémon every time we move more than four feet down this route. We appreciate your help, we really do. It’s just… you’re crowding us.
It’s not just Hop, either. We totally understand that younger players might neglect their healing items and/or PP and don’t want to be caught on the… hop, but the amount of healing the player is given by NPCs is almost oppressive. Nuzlockes (special rules whereby the player can only catch the first Pokémon they encounter on a route and fainted Pokemon are ‘dead’) wouldn’t be too much of a challenge this time around as a result.
5 ADULTS: Gen I, Represent!
In the last generation of Pokémon, we were introduced to the concept of Alolan forms: familiar Pokémon that took on different looks, typings and abilities in Alola. Predictably, they were all from the original 151 introduced in Pokémon Red and Blue.
Nostalgic franchise fans who are now in their twenties and thirties are well catered for in Sword and Shield. There are many nods to the original games (yes, the isn’t technology great? guy is here again) and new Galarian forms of certain Pokémon, which heavily favor the original 151.
4 KIDS: It’s (Not Exactly) A Jungle Out There
Technically, it isn’t strictly true to say that the Wild Area is a particularly kid-friendly location. If you’re not paying attention, you could easily wander into a section that’s out of your league and encounter Pokémon you don’t have a hope of defeating. Very early in the game, too.
Even so, the game ensures you’re amply prepared for that sort of eventuality. The first time you set out into the Wild Area, you can see your destination in the distance and are given a stock of Poké Dolls to guarantee immediate escape from any overly-strong wild creature you do happen to stumble into. You’re even told when to use them before the battle even begins, as a warning message about “A very strong such-and-such a Pokémon” will flash up on screen.
3 ADULTS: An Open-World Experience In The Making
There are a lot of comparisons to be drawn between Pokémon Sword and Shield and The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. As far as open-world experiences go in general, neither do anything particularly revolutionary. In the context of their own franchises, though, both of these Switch hits represent significant steps forward.
Granted, the Wild Area is only one area of the game (and the only one of its kind in Galar), but it’s a place to gather resources, camp, cook meals and so on. In that respect, the mechanics of the series have come along in subtle yet significant ways, which may be tough for younger fans to grasp.
2 KIDS: A Comfortable Ride To The Finish Line
In a lot of RPGs, grinding and/or min-maxing is key. There are certain opponents (often optional ones) that you wouldn’t really dream of taking on without putting some work into your party members. For the most part, Sword and Shield won’t subject younger players to that.
There are endgame Trainers that have a lot of luck and shenanigans on their side, but the main difficulty curve is quite a comfortable one. As long as you know type match-ups and ensure your levels are around those of the other trainers’ Pokémon, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue.
1 ADULTS: The Best Items Are Hidden Off The Beaten Path
So, yes. As we noted earlier, the Wild Area represents a new stage in the advancement of Pokémon’s core mechanics, but it’s not exactly Skyrim in terms of freedom and scope. Nevertheless, there are all kinds of valuable goodies out there that younger gamers wouldn’t think to stop and pursue. They’re not signposted in any kind of way, after all.
In this series, it’s always worthwhile to seek out every NPC in a new town or route, on the off-chance they’ll give you a new TM or other valuable item. Sword and Shield’s Wild Area expands on this, with exclusive vendors and items just laying around that are ripe for the taking. Older gamers are accustomed to seeking out loot this way, but children may find that they miss out on a whole lot.