A Beginner’s Look At Pokémon Sword/Shield


Since I burned out for a while on Breath Of The Wild, I’ve bought a number of other Switch games, including a steeply-discounted copy of Diablo 3, which made a nice holiday diversion (reached GR89 in season 19 with a one-button monk). Now I’m alternating between that and Pokémon Sword, as illustrated in the most recent cheesecake post.

I am not of a Pokemon generation. I never watched the shows or played the games, and in general, I’m only slightly more acquainted with its memes than I am with Zelda’s. I briefly played Go because some friends were into it, but while I understand it’s more of a game now, at the time there just wasn’t much to it.

(this also means that I was blissfully unaware of the “dexit” “controversy” surrounding this game, until the DLC was announced and people found even more ways to complain that Orange ’Mon Bad; note: don’t try to explain it to me, I don’t care)

Since the primary functional difference between Sword and Shield is a list of semi-exclusive “mons” that I have no prior attachment to, my decision was based on the fact that the exclusive minor human character is a cute karate chick in Sword, and some sort of weird radioactive mutant boy in Shield.

So, what do I think?

  • Fully half of the time it takes to finish the main story is spent waiting for the screen to change. Not “watching animations and cutscenes”, but literally waiting for sleep(1) to finish (sleep(5) before you set the text display to the fastest speed); without the obviously artificial pauses, you could finish the story in about two hours once you knew your way around. I expect most speedruns will use a hack that eliminates these delays.

  • Your remaining play time is divided pretty evenly between shaking berry trees, fighting squirrels, collecting watts, dressing up your avatar, clicking through cutscenes that occasionally offer “choices”, repeatedly clicking to get in and out of menu screens, playing the slots, beating up Chloe for her lunch money, waiting out the start-of-battle animations, clicking through the end-of-battle text boxes and animations, battling the raid/trade matchmaking system, sorting through your inventories, and (finally!) grinding levels battling actual pokemon.

  • The only way to interact with other players is to grief them in raids, cheat them in trades, or put up a tent and silently ruin curry together.

  • Terrified of the potential liability from allowing players to exchange offensive words, the game instead encourages creatively offensive and unchangeable character and pokemon nicknames.

  • Don’t bother clicking on the “players” you see biking around the Wild Area when you’re online; they’re just NPCs that drop curry ingredients, repetitive dialogue, and your frame-rate.

  • Multi-player raids are so broken that the advice on how to get in reads like a cargo-cult airstrip manual, and is about as effective.

  • The official explanation is that you need to open a fulltime firewall hole passing UDP ports 1-65535 to your Switch, which is a spectacularly bad idea; it’s also not true, although it gets a bit less unhappy with you if you disable port remapping (“type B” NAT on Switch network test; A is for wide-open binat, D is for “out of the box with every goddamn router on the planet”).

  • The draw distance on the 3D engine in the Wild Area is really, really poor; not only do things pop in right in front of you (especially if you’re online), empty raid dens appear full of watts until you’re close enough to realize you’ve wasted your time biking over to them again.

  • Speaking of the bicycle, you can spend hours dressing up your dollie, but everyone wears the same pajamas and helmet when they’re on a bike, which is 99% of the time.

  • Speaking of online, it requires a paid Nintendo Online subscription for each user profile, which means buying a family plan even if there’s only one person with one Switch.

  • Despite this, the game does not support cloud backups, so you can’t switch Switches; your save file is tied to one device.

  • To solve this problem, they’re creating another paid subscription for transferring your pokemon between games. On the bright side, I’ll finally be able to do something with that old Pokemon Go save file…

  • If you’re not interested in dressing up your dollie, play the male avatar, which has very little customization compared to the female.

  • Despite the third-person camera view, this game avoids the common problem of “staring at your avatar’s (pre-teen) ass for 200 hours” by giving you a huge honking backpack.

  • That said, if you dress a girl in the water-gym uniform, her raid animations are pure pedo-bait. Dock-owner Ryu’s famous “damn I’d like to see you in eight years” comment definitely applies.

  • Put at least one pokemon into each of the 8 inventory bags and exit the menus to unlock bags 9-16, then repeat until you have 31-32 bags; you’re welcome.

  • Now move all your favorite critters to high-numbered boxes and change their names and backgrounds to help overcome the crude inventory management.

  • Leave box 1 empty, because while newly-caught pokemon go into whatever box was last open, ones returning from jobs always go into the first available empty space, which is annoying as hell.

  • When the berry tree starts shaking fast, you can only shake it one more time without triggering a squirrel attack; you’re welcome.

  • When you reach the Wild Area the first time, run straight through to the next town, go past the Onix, and talk to the black NPC outside the record shop to enable the volume control settings; you’re welcome.

  • You don’t actually use the item he gives you to disable the music adjust the volume; it just adds options on the settings menu.

  • Divide most of your early time between solo raids for loot and farming trashmons for XP, then hit the next gym battle and repeat.

  • The only difference between NPC Martin and a classic online PC troll is that he doesn’t insult your mother before trashing your raid.

  • How bad is the raid NPC AI? So bad that you’re thrilled when Isabella shows up with her Magikarp, because you know it will at least attack rather than sit there and buff itself until it dies.

  • Related, I’d like to see some fan-art of Patricia, whose NPC model and animation don’t seem to show up outside of raids. She’s cute, grown up, and spends the entire raid shaking her ass. [update! just found her on the road to Spikemuth, and hanging out in one of the pokestops; no ass-shakingdancing, though]

  • On the subversive side, this game celebrates capitalism as you work to earn three separate currencies, and enforces heteronormativity with two fixed genders that are required for breeding.

  • Unless you identify as a Ditto, in which case you can fuck anything.

  • There are only three random NPC spawns in the Wild Area; pay Fisherlady and Digbro 100 watts every time you see them, and beat up Chloe’s starter collection until you’re crazy strong and flush with cash (find the Amulet Coin in the Motostoke Outskirts or buy the Luck Incense in Hulbury to double her cash drop).

  • The other two Digbro slot machines are more expensive and tedious, but can eventually drop all four fossils needed to finish off your pokedex, along with some other useful stuff.

  • Most of the other fixed-spawn NPCs who look exactly like Digbro are curry-related; the most important item to buy from them is the Food Tin, which you’ll need 12 of for your currydex (6 to trade with people who bought the other game).

  • Spend the rest of your watts on Quick and Repeat balls when they’re available, at least until you reach Wyndon and find the one store that sells them for cash. Those and a bunch of Nest balls will speed up the catch-em-all portion of the game.

  • Don’t waste watts on Wishing Pieces; between world drops and the Digbros, you’ll get plenty.

  • Sell most treasure drops to any vendor, but save one of each for the guy in Stow-on-Side who pays more than double for one item per day.

  • Forget about all those distinctive-looking NPC models from the crowd scenes, and get used to seeing the same dozen over and over and over again; if you’re lucky, they sometimes have a different name.

  • Once you unlock fast travel, the only reason to take the roads is to check for hidden unique items you may have missed the first time, complete your pokedex, and shake berry trees.

  • By the way, berry trees can drop Leftovers, one of the most useful held items for a beginner; you’re welcome.

  • Items that claim to reduce trashmon encounters don’t do jack shit; fortunately you can almost always just run away and avoid the extra sleep(1) delays.

  • After finishing the story, use the speed rental team to quickly get through level 4 of the solo battle tower; this unlocks “IV” quality display in the inventory.

  • Always catch the flaming pokemon; free watts, and when you unlock IV display, you’ll finally find out how much better they are than the others.

  • Using an item on a pokemon applies its effect immediately, while having one hold an item does nothing unless there’s an associated trigger event; that’s an hour of trying to evolve an Applin that I want back.

  • I have no idea what a shiny is, or what pokerus refers to, and don’t really want to find out.

Final report: 8/10, would catch again. First half of DLC comes out in June, second in November. By then I’m sure to have stopped playing for long enough to be willing to come back and try out the new areas.

(list of well-known link-trade codes after the jump; you’re welcome)


For some reason, these are commonly distributed as images formatted in a way that won’t print or display well. There are also multiple versions that clickbait websites grabbed from reddit and mangled. For my own use, I’ve tried to assemble a comprehensive, correct list. I think I, um, “caught ’em all”.

Yes, the trade system is clunky and prone to abuse. Always check the items being held (on both sides), and make sure there isn’t a last-second bait-and-switch before you click to accept. And never trade irreplaceable pokemon with someone who isn’t in the same room; they’re not going to give it back.

(must be traded to evolve)
7101  Haunter
7102  Machoke
7103  Gurdurr
7104  Phantump
7105  Pumpkaboo
7106  Boldore

(must be traded with specific item to evolve)
7107* Onyx                      w/Metal Coat
7108* Rhydon                    w/Protector
7109* Feebas                    w/Prism Scale
7110* Dusclops                  w/Reaper Cloth
7111* Swirlix                   w/Whipped Dream
7112* Spritzee                  w/Satchet

7113  Shelmet                   Karrablast

7114  apriball'd pokemon        ("mostly breed rejects")
7115* trash pokemon             w/Fossil Bird or Drake
7116* trash pokemon             w/Fossil Dino or Fish
7117* trash pokemon             w/Sweet or Tart Apple
7118* trash pokemon             w/Bob's Food Tin or Bach's Food Tin

(version exclusives)
7201  Deino                     Larvitar
7202  Jangmo-o                  Goomy
7203  Galarian Farfetch'd       Galarian Ponyta
7204  Turtonator                Drampa
7205  Mawile                    Sableye
7206  Gothita                   Solosis
7207  Rufflet                   Vullaby
7208  Sawk                      Throh (see NPC trade below)
7209  Seedot                    Lotad
7210  Swirlix                   Spritzee
7211  Scraggy                   Croagunk
7212  Solrock                   Lunatone
7213  Passimian                 Oranguru
7214  Basculin (red stripe)     Basculin (blue stripe)
7215  Galarian Darumaka         Galarian Corsola
7216  Flapple                   Appletun
7217  Stonjourner               Eiscue
7218  Zacian                    Zamazenta (don't do this!)
7219  Indeedee Male             Female (horns up: male, down: female)

(starters)
7301  Grookey                   Scorbunny
7302  Grookey                   Sobble
7303  Scorbunny                 Sobble

(upcoming DLC starters)
7304  Bulbasaur                 Squirtle
7305  Bulbasaur                 Charmander
7306  Squirtle                  Charmander

(misc)
3665  random egg trades
4448  different-language ditto for breeding

(trade with NPCs)
      Bunnelby                  Skwovet, in Motostoke pokemon center
      Frosmouth                 Duraludon, at Wyndon in house before crosswalk
      Galarian Meowth           Meowth, in Turrfield gym
      Galarian Yamask           Yamask, in Ballonlea gym
      Maractus                  Hatenna/Impidimp, at Stow-on-Side up a ladder
      Minccino                  Cottonee, at Hulbury picnic table
      Obstagoon                 Kantonian Mr. Mime, in Spikemouth gym
      Toxel                     Togepi, at Hammerlocke battle court near vault
      Vanillish                 Throh/Sawk, at Circhester courtyard food cart

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