How Pokemon Sword and Shield Can Improve Competitive Play

By Cody Perez

May 27, 2019

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Pokemon competitive

Pokemon Sword and Shield has the best opportunity to give the decades-long and beloved series a much-needed fresh start. Even the most hardcore fan, including myself, knows that the games have been stagnant for quite some time now.

The franchise will introduce brand-new mechanics into new games only to strip them away in the next and try something new. But at the same time, it continues to encourage the same traditional mechanics that have been roughly unchanged since the series began more than 20 years ago.

That doesn’t mean it can’t change, though. Now is the time for it to finally happen, and in this post, I’m going to give you why the changes need to happen specifically for the competitive aspect, what changes would help it out the most, and why this is the absolute best time for it to finally happen.

Why the Pokemon Series Needs Competitive Improvements

As I mentioned already, the Pokemon series has been going for more than 20 years now. For most other series that have been around that long and had as many games, they have reiterated and changed up drastically over the years.

For instance, take a look at the Final Fantasy series. It made the switch to 3D long before Pokemon ever did, and each new game is absolutely, radically different than the last one. While this certainly has led to less than stellar results, I think it’s worth the risk.

Pokemon Sword and Shield runs the risk of becoming the most standard video game franchise around. You jump into a new game, and sure, it’s a region with some new Pokemon, but it’s the same old thing as ever before.

While the series isn’t dying by any means, it certainly will die off if it continues down this path. Even the most dedicated fans like myself from the beginning will stick around for so long. But more importantly than anything, there’s simply no better time to change than now.

This reveal trailer was promising, but unfortunately didn’t touch much on the ways in which this game seeks to improve over past titles.

It’s the Best Time for Change

Now is the best time to change the Pokemon competitive play and everything else with Pokemon Sword and Shield. This is simply because of the place the series is in. Like I said, it’s still doing wonderfully, but it could be reaching a peak point if it doesn’t begin to change things up.

It makes the most sense to make those changes now, considering how monumental Pokemon Sword and Shield will be for the series. They are the first games built from the ground up and not remakes on the Nintendo Switch, and they are the first mainline games in the series to be primarily for a home console.

That is already a huge move from Nintendo and The Pokemon Company since we have always known the series to be strictly for handheld consoles, at least in terms of the main games. But now that is changing, so it makes perfect sense to change other stuff now, too.

The Pokemon Company and developer Game Freak have the opportunity to make the most of this change and reinvent what we know about Pokemon competitive play. After all, the competitive aspect of the games has become just as, if not more, stagnant over the years as the core gameplay. But what can it do to change things?

New Crazy, Daring Abilities

One of the first big changes that could happen for Pokemon Sword and Shield is to introduce some crazy new abilities into the game. Abilities are at the core of what makes the esports aspect of the series interesting.

The various moves that a player has are predictable and nothing truly special. It’s when they’re paired with an interesting ability that it can make or break a match. The problem is, over the years, a select few abilities have been dominating the competitive scene.

This unbalances the competition since players are either forced to stick to the status quo or more than likely lose in the process. Seeing a player with a certain Pokemon and already knowing exactly what they’re going to do with it makes the game less interesting to play and watch.

The best thing that Game Freak could do is experiment and introduce a whole bunch of new abilities. While there are only so many new Pokemon they can release with Pokemon Sword and Shield, they can absolutely put in abilities that do cool, crazy stuff like an ability that renders protect and moves like that useless.

Major Additions Similar to Mega Evolutions

Beyond new abilities, new features need to be added to the game as well. This is absolutely expected with Pokemon Sword and Shield since almost every previous game has something new added to it.

There were Z Moves, Mega Evolutions, Beauty Contests, and so on in the past. This time around, though, it would be nice to see something core added to the game that will remain for the next games, too, be it Armored Evolutions as rumored or fusions or what have you.

Pokemon Sun and Moon Z Change Attack Gif

The z-change attack system was an excellent edition to help keep gameplay varied.

The reason why this is so important is so that players don’t get used to the idea of whatever new feature it is, enjoy it, and then watch it be taken away once again in the next games. This really hurts the endgame and Pokemon competitive play overall, so it’s worth keeping around.

And why they should add new features in the first place is so that it shakes up the core competitive scene. Having something new to look forward to and implement into their strategies will give esports players an exciting new venture. This will lead to new and exciting matches that aren’t like it was before.

The Return of Old Features

While it’s important that we get new features, it’s key that old features return, too. This is for similar reasons as the last point. It really sucks that what was so important before doesn’t matter anymore, so players have to scrap their old ideas.

A once-useful Pokemon that a player cares about might suddenly not be viable in competition anymore due to the lack of an old feature. So, it’s important that Game Freak finds a way to balance the old with the new and let the tried and true features like Mega Evolutions remain.

It would be great to see some Galaran Pokemon, too, like with Alolan forms. We could see new versions of generation two Pokemon that we’ve never seen before with typings that will shake up the core gameplay.

Alolan Dugtrio

The Alolan reworks of popular Pokemon helped breath fresh life into the game.

In addition, it would be nice to see brand-new Mega Evolutions for old and new Galar Pokemon as well. It would be awesome to see some of the old and new Pokemon get Sword and Shield variants of Mega Evolutions so that they have two options to choose from.

One of these options could be for offense and the other for defense. This would add some awesome depth, much like with the X and Y variants of Mega Evolutions for Charizard and Mewtwo.

Unusual New Pokemon

This next point is pretty much a given. We already know that we are getting to have brand new monsters to collect, both cute and ferocious. It would be nice to get a hefty set of new Pokemon that is much more than the meager offerings in generation six and the slightly better generation seven.

The Galaran forms could help with this, breathing new life into old Pokemon. But more importantly, there needs to be a balance of new monsters across all of the different typings. We don’t need 100 new water types and then have other typings be left in the dust.

Pokemon Sun and Moon Starters

While they all look great, the new starters more or less fit the mold we’ve come to expect.

There isn’t much more to say about the new Pokemon that isn’t already known. New monsters to collect means new ways to make a team for competitive play. The only important thing to note is that, hopefully, a good portion of them are designed with esports in mind, rather than having throwaway stats.

Make Lesser-Used Types More Viable

This point goes together with the last one pretty well. There is a major issue with the fact that some types are much better than others, no questions asked. Put a bug type against a dragon type, and there really is no comparison at all.

This is a huge problem with the series as a whole since it causes players in the competitive scene to fill out their teams with a bunch of fairy types and whatnot. It neglects the other typings that could be awesome. But that isn’t even the worst problem.

Game Freak continues to make the better typings better and the worst typings worse. This is by giving less-than-stellar new moves and Pokemon to the worst typings and the really epic Pokemon to the better typings. This needs to change with Pokemon Sword and Shield.

It’s time for bug types, poison types, normal types, and so on to start getting Pokemon that will balance out the game more. If a person wants an awesome poison type Pokemon on their team, they should be able to do it without sacrificing their competitive potential.

This means that Game Freak should create each new Pokemon with the potential for competitive in some way, be it with abilities, moves, or stats. It’s okay if a certain Pokemon isn’t great at first as long as its evolution(s) make up for what it lacks otherwise.

That’s not all, though. It would be super awesome to see a brand-new typing make an appearance. We got the fairy type a couple of generations ago now, so the time seems decent for a new one. Though Game Freak could still wait a bit, another new type would help balance and shake things up.

Be it space or gravity typing, radiation, or what have you, there are still options for a new type to exist in the series. This could help balance out the fairy type and others that are a little too overpowered. At the same time, it could be used to empower lesser typings like bug or normal.

Robust Online Multiplayer

Finally, it’s time to discuss possibly the most important point of them all, and that’s the online multiplayer. Quite frankly, the online multiplayer system has always been lacking compared to other online games in the world.

For starters, there needs to be a better online lobby of sorts where you can meet up with trainers you know and those you don’t. It’d be cool if there was an instanced hub area where online players can meet up. It could hold 32 or however many players at one time.

If someone leaves the area, it quickly fills their place with someone new. You could use this to meet new players, battle against them, trade, and more in a simple and clean way. It can also be used to meet up with your friends and create your own makeshift tournaments.

Speaking of tournaments, there need to be better modes for online play. There need to be dedicated ranked, unranked, solo, double, tournaments, and other modes available for players to choose from. Perhaps you can even enter these queues through the online lobby, too.

It would also be cool if you could invite one to three players to join you at any time in the real game world. You could go around catching together and then battling in the middle of the Galar region.

Having a more robust online multiplayer will allow both newcomers and veterans alike to enjoy the multiplayer together. This, in turn, could lead to a better Pokemon competitive scene overall.

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