Ready to challenge gym number 5 (that was fast); that seems like a good moment to pause and take stock of everything…
- Bede’s mission for Rose – the reason he’s gathering Wishing Stars, and apparently the reason he’s competing in the gym challenge (how are those related?) – supposedly concerns “the future of the whole Galar region.” Well, that’s not at all ominous.
- Part of Galar’s professional sports aesthetic is that prominent trainers have trading cards that display their picture and some facts about them. According to Bede’s card, he is an orphan who was given his first Pokémon by Chairman Rose himself, and regards this as a huge turning point in his life. His loyalty to Rose is presumably absolute.
- The Hammerlocke Gym and its leader, the Dragon master Raihan, are apparently the final challenge, accessible only once we have seven badges. Now… at the opening ceremony, Rose only introduced us to seven leaders, including Raihan. He also indicated that one was missing from the ceremony, but didn’t elaborate. Kinda having flashbacks to when Professor Kukui told me to go beat four Kahunas in Alola, but neglected to mention that there were only three of them at the time.
- I can, however, guess the type of this mysterious final gym. You win different type-themed uniforms by defeating gym leaders, or by buying them from shops. The ones that correspond to the types of the leaders I’ve seen – Grass, Water, Fire, Ghost, Ice, Fairy, Dragon – are missing from the shops… but so is Dark. That’s gotta be the last one; after all these years, we’re finally getting a Dark-type gym leader (Nanu doesn’t count, partly because the corresponding rank in Alola is Captain, and he’s a Kahuna, but mostly because he’s a piece of $#!t).
- …it couldn’t somehow be Marnie, could it? Is there any way that could make sense? I just got her trading card, and it mentions that she wants to “breathe life back into” her hometown of Spikemuth. Looking at the in-game map, Spikemuth is right where we’d expect gym number 7 to be. Maybe the position is vacant, just like the position of Kahuna on Poni Island, and Marnie will be the one to fill it.
- “The Vault” of Hammerlocke contains tapestries relating to the myth that Sonia recounted earlier about the Darkest Day. Unlike the version she told us before, the tapestries show two heroes, who each received a Wishing Star and fought back against whatever caused the Darkest Day – one with the legendary sword, the other with the shield. They later became the rulers of a Galarian kingdom, so this whole myth is an origin story for the ancient monarchy of Galar that legitimises its power. Hammerlocke is apparently the ancient capital of Galar, so it makes sense that we’d find this kind of propagandistic commemoration here.
- Sonia wonders what happened to the legendary sword and shield; I, with my privileged out-of-game knowledge, still suspect that they’re not a literal sword and shield at all, but allegorical references to Zacian and Zamazenta. But two heroes… if it took two heroes to save the region during the Darkest Day, will we need two again if myth-history repeats itself, just like in Unova? If the player is one, then who is the other? Hop? Bede?
- So Hop and Bede battled, and Bede won, which… well, y’know, fair enough; he’s good at this. But then he basically told Hop to give up and go home because he’s so pathetic that he’s ruining Leon’s reputation. And… that’s really screwed up poor Hop.
- In my latest battle with him in the town of Stow-on-Side, as part of his efforts to improve and stop letting down his brother, Hop appears to have ditched his Wooloo, who was his partner Pokémon even before he had Sobble. Cold, Hop. Cold.
- Fossils in this game apparently work according to some kind of mix-and-match system? You get a top half and a bottom half, shove ’em together and zap ’em back to life (does that mean there are at least four combinations?). I have created a fish-headed dinosaur with “mighty legs capable of running at speeds exceeding 40 mph” that “can’t breathe unless it’s underwater.”
- I have birthed a monstrosity that cannot endure its own existence, and I am so, so sorry.
- Stow-on-Side seems… anomalous. I think we might have left Britain briefly and wandered into the American Southwest. There are a lot of ancient ruins in this area, so of course the locals make money through flagrantly illegal participation in the antiquities trade; I will of course be reporting the entire town to UNESCO and getting their whole operation shut down.
- Stow-on-Side’s claim to fame is an ancient mural on the cliff face above the town… only it’s not ancient, it’s actually a pretty crappy modern restoration. Whatever, the tourists seem to like it.
- Bede came here with an elephant Pokémon called Copperajah, borrowed from Chairman Rose, intending to use it to destroy the mural and extract more Wishing Stars from within the cliffs. After another battle, Rose and Oleana showed up, chastised Bede for his attempt to destroy a piece of Galar’s ancient heritage, and disqualified him from the gym challenge.
- Bede, naturally, lost his $#!t. He doesn’t see why antiquities matter when “the next thousand years” of Galar’s future are at stake, and seems to feel betrayed by Rose (who made him the person he is).
- After they left, the cliff face collapsed due to the damage caused by Copperajah, revealing some kind of shrine hidden behind the mural. There are statues of two humans wearing crowns… and of the two legendary Pokémon, Zacian and Zamazenta. Sonia notes that this matches the account from the Vault tapestries, with its two heroes, but also now realises that the “sword” and “shield” were actually Pokémon. The statues are evidence that this was well-known at one time… so maybe someone tried to hide it.
- Rose and Oleana’s intervention makes sense if they’re angry about Bede’s destruction of cultural heritage, as they say… but what if they stopped him because they knew what he would find? I still can’t pin anything on them, but my suspicions have not been settled.
- Glimwood Tangle and the associated town of Ballonlea are just stunning, visually. All these places are, to be honest; I liked the scenery of generations VI and VII, but some of these new locations are on a whole new level. All the towns have a distinctive feel and style, while all (…except maybe Stow-on-Side) being clearly facets of Galar’s British inspiration.
- Also, I delivered a love letter from a young girl in Hammerlocke to an old man in Ballonlea, and I… think the girl may have been dead for decades. So I guess I deliver letters for ghosts now.
- So apparently you can’t trade online in Sword and Shield without a Nintendo Switch Online membership, which costs money. Not a lot of money, but still… after how easy online trading has been for years now, this strikes me as dramatically more $#!tty than the National ‘Dex thing.
- Maybe this is just me; if you play a bunch of other Nintendo games, maybe you want a Switch Online membership anyway, so it doesn’t matter.
- Also, and this part is definitely just me, I can’t actually buy a Switch Online membership, because my account says “New Zealand” but all my money is in the United States, and apparently that’s just a completely insurmountable obstacle to making any kind of online purchase. I can change my region, but then I won’t be able to make transfers from my older Pokémon games, because the Nintendo Network ID that all my DS games are associated with says “New Zealand,” and I can’t possibly be the same person if I lived in New Zealand before and in the US now.
- Because, y’know, no one ever lives in one country at one time and a different country at another time; that’s crazy talk. What are countries even for, if not staying in them until you die?
- Of course, at the moment I can’t transfer Pokémon anyway, because the new regime also makes it impossible for me to pay the fee to use Pokémon Bank, so… fµ¢£ it.
- This is all good news for my #content; I was worried I was enjoying the game too much to be psychologically capable of ripping Game Freak a new one. A bit of misplaced annoyance over decisions made by their Nintendo overlords is exactly what I needed!
- More new Pokémon!
- An UNDEAD CORSOLA, which looks a little like bleached, dead coral.
- This evolves into a disturbing tree-shaped ghost coral called Cursola.
- Impidimp, whom we saw during the pre-release hype, and its evolved form, Morgrem, which is a sort of… demon goth clown? These appear wild in Glimwood Tangle, and there’s a blank space between Morgrem and Hatenna in the Pokédex, so I kind of suspect a third form.
- Hattrem, Hatenna’s evolved form, which has a much more magnificent hat capable of supporting the entire rest of its body. Again there’s a blank space after this, and Hattrem somehow doesn’t look finished to me, so I’m guessing we’re not done here either.
- I haven’t actually seen Cramorant wild or caught one yet, but Hop is now using one. It seems like it comes up with a fish in its mouth whenever it uses Dive, and can then launch the fish as an automatic counterattack when an opponent hits it.
- Rillaboom, the final form of Grookey. It wields a huge wooden drum that it bangs to summon roots to attack the target, and definitely has drummer hair. Not my usual style, but… I think I like it.
- Silicobra, a very depressed-looking Ground-type snake Pokémon.
- Galarian Yamask, which is Ground/Ghost and, instead of a mask, carries a carved chunk of stone reminiscent of some Norse carvings.
- Sinistea, a ghost that lives in a teacup and evolves into Polteageist by being poured into a teapot looted from the ruins at Stow-on-Side.
- Indeedee, the Pokémon that works in Galarian Pokémon Centres. The Pokédex says it’s Psychic/Normal, doesn’t evolve and lives in Glimwood Tangle, but I haven’t been able to find one yet. Wondering if there’s some trick to it, or it’s just rare.
- Dracovish. Again… I am so, so, SO sorry.
- An UNDEAD CORSOLA, which looks a little like bleached, dead coral.
Current state of the team:
Donkey the Rillaboom
Level 36, male, Quirky
Double Hit, Screech, Drum Beating, Knock Off
Oddment the Vileplume
Level 36, male, Careful
Giga Drain, Moonblast, Acid, Sleep Powder
Samba the Ludicolo
Level 36, male, Bashful
Nature Power, Zen Headbutt, Giga Drain, Surf
Hallow the Pumpkaboo
Level 36, female, Naïve
Shadow Ball, Trick-or-Treat, Seed Bomb, Leech Seed
Leona the Eldegoss
Level 35, female, Timid
Leaf Tornado, Cotton Spore, Synthesis, Hyper Voice
Lancaster the Roselia
Level 36, female, Docile
Giga Drain, Toxic Spikes, Leech Seed, Pin Missile