Pokemon Sword and Shield's Dynamax Adds Dramatic Flair to Gym Battles

Pokemon are living large on the Nintendo Switch.

Pokemon Sword and Shield brings Pokemon back to the big screen, and the battles are scaling up to match. We got some hands-on time with the game today at E3 2019, where we battled our way through a puzzle before fighting the newly announced Water-type gym leader Nessa. From Dynamaxing our Pokemon to fiddling with water pipes, Pokemon Sword and Shield looks to take the game up to monstrous sizes.

My demo started in a large room filled with Mario-style pipes and gushing geysers of water impeding the way between myself and the exit. Each gym still has a little challenge, what Sword and Shield refers to as a "gym mission," to fight through on your way to the leader. Here, the walkways were blocked by walls of water that I manipulated using nearby switches.

It was a basic puzzle, solving how to turn the right switches on and off in series until I got to the end. Each Trainer I fought along the way had a basic Pokemon, while I carried six of varying types, so I could try out all the different Pokemon. The three starters — Sobble, Grookey, and Scorbunny — were the typical Water, Grass, and Fire Pokemon you'd expect.

Also in my team was Corviknight, the stoic and beautiful bird, and Wooloo, the precious sheep, shown in last week's Pokemon Direct, as well as one new Pokemon: Yamper, an Electric type Pokemon who looks like a corgi and must be protected at all costs. I also fought Impidimp, a new Dark / Fairy type who used the move Play Rough over and over.

After besting the Trainers and puzzles, I made my way to the gym leader battle, which took place in the center of a clear homage to a UK football stadium. Clad in my Poke-kit, I stepped out onto the field to greet my opponent, Nessa. After a short exchange, we stepped back and powered up our Dynamax bands.

Dynamaxing is a special technique that Nintendo tells me will only be available either in the wilds or against gym leaders, and for good reason: it makes your Pokemon huge. With that boost in size comes a few perks; your moves also increase in power, allowing them to do some real damage.

The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny | Game Freak/The Pokemon Company

While Nessa only had two Pokemon in my demo, a Goldeen and a Drednaw, the potential for Dynamax adds an interesting twist. It's an added game of poker to play in the middle of a match. Do you Dynamax first, and risk burning it on a less powerful Pokemon? Do you Dynamax in response, essentially negating both benefits but losing any you could have gleaned?

When Nessa Dynamaxed her Drednaw, I opted to sacrifice a few Pokemon for the greater good, tanking the massive attacks. The moves might be devastating, but a Dynamax isn't forever; Pokemon will return to their normal size and strength in three turns, so sometimes the best option is to wait things out. My Wooloo and Scorbunny ate a few hits, and now I was the one trainer remaining with a Dynamax. Out came Corviknight, and I boosted him up into a titanic crow of destruction.

During these gym battles, the game goes to extra lengths to emphasize the scale of what's happening. The battle camera will cut to a faux broadcast feed to show you what the televised broadcast of this battle might look like, and the crowd roars when the Dynamaxing starts. It's a mix of big stadium football and gladiatorial combat, but it's Nintendo, so it's still adorable.

Big boys need a big space to run around in. I mean the Pokemon, not you. | Game Freak/The Pokemon Company

At the end, Nessa lost and ceded a Gym badge to me. Nintendo wouldn't comment on how many gyms there are in the Galar region, but if they stay at this scale, they're gonna be a blast to take down one by one. We'll see when Pokmeon Sword and Shield hits the Nintendo Switch on November 15, 2019.

Want to keep up with our coverage of E3? Visit our E3 2019 guide for all our news, opinions, and hands-on previews.

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