Museum of the Slightly Curious

Pokémon Sword & Shield Play Report Part 11: Life’s Challenges

Continuing my playthrough of Pokémon Sword & Shield. My focus is on the narrative experience of the game, more than the mechanics of play, though I will include some introduction to what the world of Pokémon is all about.


Pokémon 101

Each individual pokémon has up to 4 “moves” that it uses in a battle. These are most often different kinds of attacks, but there are also moves used for defense, or for other support actions. Some of these moves can be learned by any pokémon, others by a few, and still more that are “signature” moves that only one particular type of pokémon can ever know. Just as pokémon come in 18 different “types,” moves also use the same type system, i.e., Fire, Grass, Fairy, Dragon, etc. The moves any given pokémon can use might come in a variety of types — a Ghost type pokémon might be able to use, say, a Poison move. When a pokémon does use a move of the same type as itself, for instance Electric type Pikachu uses an Electric type attack, the move gets stronger. This is known as a “Same Type Attack Bonus” — or a STAB.


I have one more step in the Challenge, facing the Dragon Gym back in Hammerlocke. There’s trouble in the way though: More explosions, strange red light, and pokémon Dynamaxing out of control! Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about it! We see that in the Galar region, the Pokémon Champion isn’t just a sports celebrity. They have responsibilities and are expected to deal with just these sorts of emergencies. Which is a good thing, given how powerful some pokémon are. In the Pokémon World people aren’t just living with cute, friendly animals, but also with immensely powerful monsters that can command nature and the elements.

Leon, for all his colorful eccentricities and advertiser endorsed flare, is up to the job and gets the rampaging pokémon under control. It’s a very disturbing mystery about how this incident could happen. Is it an omen that the Darkest Day might come again? Chairman Rose seems too wrapped up in concerns about Galar’s energy supply to give it much attention. Leon assures Hop and I that he’ll handle any problems. We need to get on and face Dragon Leader Raihan.

As in every Gym, before facing the Leader, these’s a preliminary test. Here though there is no maze, puzzle, or quiz. I just have to battle three Gym Trainers who stand waiting in the Archive room. Given how elaborate things have been in early Gyms, the starkness suggests… well, that the game developers may just have run out of time to come up with anything more. As someone who worked in the video game industry for almost 25 years, I can believe that’s the case here. Games have pretty inflexible release schedules and sometimes you just have to do what you can and get it out the door.

I’ve met Raihan several times in the story. He’s got a lot of personality. He knows he’s strong, looks good, and it constantly snapping selfies to prove it. He gives me a difficult battle, since Dragon types are one of the strongest kind of pokémon. As proud and confident a battler as he is, like the other Gym Leaders, he’s a good sport and celebrates my victory over him.

The Gym Challenge is complete and so it on to the Champion Cup itself, where everyone who made it this far will battle each other for the right to go up against Champion Leon himself. Hop has gotten his head together and is back in the game, managing to defeat Raihan too. Sonia has gotten a promotion as well, earning her own lab coat and becoming Professor Sonia. Her job now is to keep investigating what is going on with the Darkest Day and wild pokémon inexplicably Dynamaxing.

It’s a train ride and a trip through snow covered countryside to reach the capital city of Galar: Wyndon — not the most original of the names the English Language version of this game has come up with. It’s a huge city with quite a lot of things to investigate, but for these posts, I’ll head right to the Wyndon Stadium for the Semifinal matches. Out of all the trainers who started out in the Gym Challenge, only four of use have made it this far. There’s Hop, Marnie, myself, and… someone else who is never seen or named.

I’m up against Marnie first. I’d say my first battle against her way back in the Challenge was the hardest, since I had no idea of the pokémon she’d use. By this time I know her style pretty well. Hop easily defeats his unnamed opponent and is comes down to the two of us, as we always hoped it would. But my old rival does get defeated. In a very powerful shot, once he realizes he’s lost, Hop turns away, trembling with anger and disappointment — just for a moment, before turning back with his usual grin and thanking me. These moments that don’t just present events at the surface, but give us glimpses of the inner emotional life of the characters, have been what makes this game’s story stand out.

The game, my challenge, and the narrative are far from over. Tomorrow are the Champion Cup Finals to see who will challenge Leon. Hop’s brother invites out to a fancy dinner, at the famous Rose of the Rondelands hotel. But Leon is late… later than is normal even for him. Gym Leader Piers wanders in with a clue. Things are about to get complicated.

Quick Thought: Young Justice, Season Three

I’m watching the third season of Young Justice and while I’m not going to blog through the episodes individually, I do have some thoughts.

The show continues to make interesting use of the vast lore of the DC Universe. The show has always had its own continuity, separate from the comics (it’s “Earth-16”) so it’s been free to rewrite and alter anything it likes about the characters and their histories. That leads to a mixture of the familiar and the unexpected. But some characters inevitably bring with them stories from the “canon” of comics

Season Two, “Invasion,” introduced Tim Drake as the new Robin. But Tim is the third Robin, so there’s the implication that Jason Todd, the second Robin, existed during the break between seasons — and likely died (or is assumed dead). Batgirl also showed up, with the assumption that we’d recognize her as Barbara Gordon. In Season Three, “Outsiders,” Barbara is now the disabled hero Oracle, again with no explanation. We are left with guessing that the events of “The Killing Joke” took place between seasons, though it’s always possible that something other than being shot by the Joker happened to her.

When Season Three introduced Brion Markov and mentioned his missing sister Tara, comic readers such as myself thought “Oh, yeah Terra. Which would mean… oh dear…” Terra, as a character, brings with her a whole implied narrative arc. We’ve seen it unfold in comics, in the Teen Titans animated series, and now here. The details are different, but the core of what makes a “Terra Story” are there.

It’s kind of like if, in any version of the King Arthur story, you have Arthur and Guinevere married, and then Lancelot shows up. You have an idea of what’s going to happen, regardless of whether this is a book, movie, animation, etc. The lore of this character is bigger than whatever continuity they happens to be in.

It is an aspect of the strength and depth of the DC Universe as a story realm that you can do this. Young Justice continues to draw on those strengths to tell its unique story.