Reaction: Pokemon Sword and Shield's 18 Gyms is a Good Start, But It Needs More

Reaction: Pokemon Sword and Shield's 18 Gyms is a Good Start, But It Needs More

Pokemon's got a lot of work ahead before it proves itself on consoles.

The latest issue of Game Informer is bursting with new information about Pokemon Sword and Shield for the Switch. One particularly intriguing tidbit says we can expect to take on 18 Gyms outside of the usual 8.

The Gyms are divided between Major and Minor leagues, and some differ between versions. For example, Bea's Fighting-type Gym is part of the Major league, and you'll find it in Pokemon Sword. Allister's Ghost-type Gym is also part of the Majors, and you'll find it in Pokemon Shield.

Gyms can seemingly change leagues in the Galar region from year to year. Game Informer broke the news about the change in the digital version of its latest issue, which SiliconEra confirmed. There are tons of other news drops as well, including (maybe) having more control over your Pokemon's personality for competitive battling purposes. Oh, and HM's are still gone. "We'll miss you, HM's," said no one ever.

I like the sound of 18 Gyms, and not just because it's three pleasing syllables that fit in anywhere. (e.g. "Harry Potter and the 18 Gyms.") The more single-player content, the better, because it'll go a long way in helping the adventure feel appropriately fleshed-out. I'm already a little anxious about the mainline Pokemon series' debut on a console; despite the Switch's double nature, Game Freak no longer has the luxury of thinking of Pokemon as a handheld RPG series. Moreover, while Game Freak's been knitting away at Pokemon Sword and Shield, the Switch has built up an excellent library of RPGs. Can the Pokemon series keep up? I hope so.

I'm not expecting 100 hours of single player content. I know a not-small portion of Pokemon's identity is built on battling with other people and balancing the games to suit that purpose takes a great deal of time, effort, and money. But Kat and I have expressed our disappointment in the degradation of Pokemon's single-player experience more than once on Axe of the Blood God. For example, battling another player is a much different experience from battling a high-level NPC like Red in Pokemon Gold and Silver, but Game Freak continuously expects us to seek out challenging Pokemon gameplay from the former, not the latter. If Game Freak is set to give us 18 Gyms in Pokemon Sword and Shield, and if it intends to divide them into "Major" and "Minor" leagues, that might mean Game Freak is finally ready to make single players sweat again. It's also been confirmed some of Galar's Max Raid Battles will be very challenging. I'm okay with all this.

"That's right. Take a biiiig forkful. Make sure you swallow it all. ...What?" | Game Freak/The Pokemon Company

It's possible there's an unspoken "but—" to the news about the 18 Gyms. Like, maybe we're talking about 18 Gyms divided across the two games instead of 18 Gyms each. I hope not since, again, giving us more Gyms is one major way Game Freak can help transform Pokemon from a handheld RPG series to a console RPG series. I want a big world to explore, and I want it packed with things to do.

I gave a pass to Pokemon Let's Go Eevee and Let's Go Pikachu's simplicity because it's engineered for very young kids, and Game Freak likely used its development to help it get a feel for the Switch's hardware. I personally had a lot of fun with Pokemon Let's Go, but I don't think its relatively small size or lack of serious depth cuts it for a mainline entry in the series. Pokemon Sword and Shield is competing directly with Dragon Quest 11 S and the Switch adaptation of The Witcher 3. It needs to think big. It needs to engage the player for hours, even if they don't ever want to go head-to-head with other trainers.

Will Pokemon Sword and Shield deliver as a console RPG? We'll find out soon; it's coming on November 15. Our Pokemon Sword and Shield guides are already packed with information about the Galar region, its new Pokemon, and the best new starter. (Scorbunny.)

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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