Pokémon is a franchise that I’ve had a very unique relationship with over the years. My first exposure to it was TV ads for the anime that my six-year-old brain found both utterly fascinating, and completely incomprehensible. For the next few years the series remained something of a mystery to me, even as I increasing came into contact with it in the form of trading cards and other Pokémon merchandise my peers brought to school. While I found some of the iconography intriguing, I never had much of a concrete reason to care about the franchise, and I largely dismissed as a cheap fad along with the likes of Yu-Gi-Oh and Baye Blade.

That all changed, however, when I received a copy of Pokémon Leaf Green for my birthday. I had never played anything else like it, and I was immediately captivated. I quickly found it to be a deeper, more engrossing experience than any other Game Boy I had ever played, and over the course of the next year I poured at least 100 hours into my adventure through the Kanto region. I may not have had the best grasp on things like experience points or type advantage. I may have been dumb enough to waste my Master Ball on a Gyarados, but I finally had reason to care about these creatures and this series, which had previously only existed as cultural background radiation.

As I moved into my teenage years and my taste in gaming became broader and more refined, I lost most of my interest in Pokémon, but not before a friend introduced me to Pokémon Colosseum. I couldn’t believe how cool Pokémon battles looked with the full power of the GameCube’s ATI graphics behind them, and like many people, I immediately wished Game Freak would release a console Pokémon title that combined the depth of the handheld games, with the spectacle offered by a console. After having intermittent interest in the series for the past 15 years, and not really caring for any of the newer Pokémon titles, I was genuinely excited for the announcement of Sword and Shield. The dual nature of Nintendo’s Switch held the promise of these games finally becoming the living room Pokémon experience I dreamed of over a decade ago.

In this video below I detail my full opinions on the latest Pokémon titles form the perspective of a casual fan who hasn’t kept up with the series.

The one bit of critique I didn’t manage to work into the video is in regards to the setting. Sword and Shield take place in a fictionalized version of the UK. I have no problem with that in theory, I usually like when Japanese game developers use more western settings or ascetics, but here it’s just weird. The game has the same overtly anime art-style it’s always had, and it doesn’t really do much to make the setting feel any more western than previous Pokémon titles. As a result the odd, but of architecture or word choice meant to reflect the game’s setting feel weirdly out of place. Maybe it’s because I’m an American, but there’s something very strange about a anime-style character named Mum handing out “pocket money” that’s valued like Yen.

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