Pokémon Sword & Shield Play Report (reboot) 01: Prologue

Sword & Shield

When the newest core series Pokémon game, Pokémon Sword & Shield, came out last November, I started to blog about my playthrough of it in a series of posts. While writing, I began to realize that I was unprepared for how different this game would be from previous ones. Not in major ways — the overall structure of the game is still pretty much the same as in 1995 — but in subtle, important details, especially in the storytelling aspects of the game, how the narrative experience is presented to the player. And story is the main thing that I like to write about. I stopped that project until I could restart it with a revised approach.

So I am starting a new play of the game and writing about it here. While this will be my second time through it, I will take the perspective of looking at each story elements as it comes up as if for the first time. And I will be recycling some of previous comments into this revision as well, in case a reader notices parts that see familiar.

Core series Pokémon games always come in pairs, since the original Pokémon Red & Blue (which was Red & Green in Japan). These two versions have slight differences, mostly in the types of pokémon that can be found in each one. That encourages trading and other interaction between players. The newest pair, Sword & Shield, have more significant differences than any previous set — though the overall play of the game, and progress through its story, is identical. I am playing the Shield version, though at times I’ll be referring to Sword & Shield collectively.

Pikachu Balloon

I also wanted to start some posts with a Pokémon 101 lesson, explaining a little about what all this is, as a game, for folks who might have seen Pikachu in the Macy’s Parade but otherwise aren’t familiar with what it’s all about…

Quick Thought: About Kishōtenketsu

In describing Pokémon GO Fest in an earlier post I framed it terms of the Four Act Kishōtenketsu story structure.

You can find a lot of discussion of this structure on the web, particularly in how it relates to Japanese video game design. But here are a couple posts about the idea that I think are instructive:

The significance of plot without conflict
This was the first detailed discussion of the structure I found on the internet.

The Kishotenketsu struture of Digimon Adventure tri: an insight to traditional Japanese storytelling
This post looks at a specific anime, but goes into the cultural background of the structure, with some references for further study. It also makes me want to rewatch Digimon Adventure tri to better understand some of the puzzling aspects of that series.