I really don't want to make Pokemon upset.
Almost every Pokemon game has given you a choice of one of three starter Pokemon with whom you'd set out on your adventure, and almost every Pokemon game gives one of the two Pokemon you didn't choose to your predesignated rival. Choosing a starter Pokemon is always a big deal, but Pokemon Sword and Shield bring a lot more spectacle to it than previous games--so much so that the process of picking a starter, something I've always done based on a mix of aesthetic and mechanical preferences, actually made me kind of emotional (in a good way).
I recently played 90 minutes of Sword and Shield at a demo event. From the start, the newest Pokemon games have more flair than the previous ones; the opening sequence, which was once just the professor briefly talking about what Pokemon are, is now closer to a cinematic cutscene, befitting the mainline games' transition to Switch. That same upgraded cutscene treatment extends to choosing your starter, and it gives Grookey, Scorbunny, and Sobble the chance to really show off their personalities before you make a decision.
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Like in previous Sword and Shield trailers, the pick-your-starter cutscene shows a curious Grookey hitting things with its stick, an energetic Scorbunny hopping about, and a clearly anxious Sobble being adorably pathetic. I had already narrowed down my choice to either Grookey or Sobble (sorry, Scorbunny fans), and seeing them being cute didn't really help me make a decision. The three Pokemon then stand around waiting to be chosen, and I felt like I had to pick Sobble, because the poor baby just needs a friend. When my rival, Hop, picked Scorbunny, I was surprised--older Pokemon games taught me that the rival always picks the Pokemon with the type advantage over yours, and while that hasn't been true for a while, I still wasn't expecting Hop to take the high road.
So that was all fine, but it left Grookey standing alone, absolutely devastated, because it didn't get picked. I was very upset. Older Pokemon games also taught me that the third starter just sits in its ball for all eternity, which, again, is no longer true--Professor Kukui in Sun and Moon will take the third starter, for example--but I was, again, not expecting anyone to actually take the third Pokemon. When the Galar Champion, who brought us the starters in the first place, took Grookey, I was incredibly relieved. It was an absolute emotional rollercoaster.
After all this, I remain undecided about my starter Pokemon in Sword and Shield. If I'm honest, I'll need to see their final forms before I can really make the call. But I could barely stand to see Grookey briefly upset, and I'm afraid to see how Sobble reacts if it doesn't get chosen--so maybe I'll have to go with Sobble after all.
Pokemon Sword and Shield release for Nintendo Switch on November 15. During this demo session, we also learned that the characters have British "accents" and that you can skip a key part of the tutorial for the first time in almost 20 years. Be sure to check out our Sword and Shield pre-order guide if you're looking to get the games at launch.
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