The latest entries in the Pokémon series are making several tweaks to the franchise's long-running conventions. From introducing autosave to getting rid of the Exp. Share item in favor of an automatic solution, Sword and Shield change several things about the standard play of a Pokémon game. While Game Freak was open about a lot of the behind-the-scenes information surrounding the development of Pokémon Sword and Shield, the team was a bit cagier about a new battle mechanic it could only tease.
“Traditionally in the series, you start with your starter Pokémon and then you catch a lot of Pokémon in the beginning, and those are with you throughout your whole adventure, and the player gets attached to them. But a lot of times, they get into the competitive battles and they find they can’t actually use those Pokémon or they’re not competitive, so they have to go out and find the exact right Pokémon or breed them in a certain way to make sure they’re viable in competitive battle,” planning director Kazumasa Iwao says. “This time around, we really wanted to introduce some systems that help the player be able to take those Pokémon they caught in the beginning, and the first one they chose, and actually take them straight into competitive battle. There’s a lot of hidden parameters to Pokémon that aren’t surfaced to the player. We're doing a lot of stuff in the back end introducing systems that allow players to make sure that Pokémon they want to use in competitive battles are viable.”
When I ask Iwao for more details, he says he can't explain the system further, but he does go on to tease it a bit more. “I’ve got to be very vague about it, but one example – it will be visible to the player and they’ll know when they see it, I think – say you have a Pokémon where it’s got all the right stats and everything, but there’s a personality parameter as well that comes into play in battles, and it might not be the right personality, so you’ll breed until you get the right one, is what people do currently. But you’ll see that there’s a system in the game that will fix that for people.”
While it's no longer necessary to do so, Iwao says players can still put effort into breeding to come up with the perfect specimen for competitive play. “We do think there’s value in that effort that players put into it,” he says. “But at the same time, I think with Sword and Shield we wanted to also have a system that makes it a little bit more accessible. For example, if you’re bringing a Pokémon over from a previous game into these games, being able to use that specific Pokémon that has sentimental value to you in the battle system competitively is something we wanted to try this time.”
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