Pokemon Sword & Shield Are Making It Easier To Battle Like A Pro

The Gen 8 games aim to reduce the barriers to entry with competitive battling.

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Pokemon Sword and Shield are the first totally new Pokemon games on Nintendo Switch, and appropriately, they're making some changes. While some of the previously announced changes haven't been popular, developer Game Freak has recently revealed tweaks that are more than welcome: Sword and Shield will make it easier to get your Pokemon ready for competitive battles.

Speaking with Game Informer, planning director Kazumasa Iwao hinted at the mechanical tweaks that will be coming in Gen 8. Typically, Pokemon used in competitive battles are of a much higher caliber than the Pokemon you catch during the course of your journey; players often spend dozens (or more) hours breeding and training Pokemon with perfect stats, moves, and more to use in the competitive scene after they've finished the main story. It is incredibly time-consuming and is a high barrier to entry for competitive play.

"This time around, we really wanted to introduce some systems that help the player be able to take those Pokemon they caught in the beginning, and the first one they chose, and actually take them straight into competitive battle," Iwao said. "There's a lot of hidden parameters to Pokemon 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 Pokemon they want to use in competitive battles are viable."

He continued, "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 Pokemon 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."

Iwao did not give specifics, but it sounds in line with tweaks made in previous entries that made Pokemon's hidden stats visible--for example, Sun and Moon introduced an option in the Pokemon Box to view a Pokemon's base stats, which is a main factor players look for in a competitive Pokemon. (Before that, you had to talk to an NPC, who would say something vague indicating the Pokemon's stats, and you'd have to either write it down or go back to a Pokemon Center to mark the Pokemon. It was a dark time.) Sun and Moon also introduced Bottle Caps, rare items that allow you to max out a Pokemon's base stat artificially. From Iwao's description, it sounds like you may be able to similarly "edit" a Pokemon's nature to make it viable, rather than breeding a new one from scratch.

Iwao also said that players will still be able to breed Pokemon if they so choose. "We do think there's value in that effort that players put into it," he said. "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 Pokemon over from a previous game into these games, being able to use that specific Pokemon that has sentimental value to you in the battle system competitively is something we wanted to try this time."

Being able to tweak a Pokemon in-game to fit your ideal competitive team could make competitive battles fully accessible for anyone with the desire, but perhaps not the time, to play. This is especially useful for legendary Pokemon, like the ever-popular Rayquaza, which can only be caught once in a game; currently, the only "legal" way to get the perfect Rayquaza is by soft-resetting for a long time. And, like Iwao mentioned, editing the Pokemon you transfer into Sword and Shield from Pokemon Home is a boon as well. Pokemon caught in Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee, for example, don't have certain stats included in modern mainline Pokemon games, and they'd likely be randomized in the transfer process (as is the case with the 3DS ports of Red, Blue, and Yellow when transferring to Pokemon Bank).

While there aren't many details about the new systems, the prospect of easier access to competitive battling is incredibly exciting. We'll learn even more about Sword and Shield later this week; there is a 24-hour animal cam-style stream starting this Friday, October 4, which will showcase "live" footage from an in-game location. For more on the games, be sure to check out our Pokemon Sword and Shield pre-order guide.

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