If you’ve played Pokémon Sword & Shield, or seen any of the pre-release trailers, you’ll know that gym battles take place in a huge stadium. If that’s a spoiler to you, then I’m sorry. But also, why are you reading this article without knowing anything about Pokémon Sword & Shield? Go play the game (or watch a playthrough) and come back after the first gym battle. Once the hype fades away, you’ll realize that the gym battles are not worth the ticket price.
The Galar region of Sword & Shield is based on the UK, and the culture surrounding official Pokémon battles is meant to evoke that of soccer. The trainers don official uniforms, the fans get swept up in the excitement of a new season, and the matches take place on a big grassy field. The gym battle music is the greatest in the entire series thanks to the rowdy fan chants.
The whole setup sets the stage perfectly, and it’s not hard to get into it as a player. As the star athlete about to take on the greatest challenge of your young life, how could you not get sucked in by the scale and energy of it all?
Then the gym leader takes the field, and it’s on. You can feel the tension as the challenge is issued and the Trainers take their sides. Poké Balls are thrown, and the battlers come out with enthusiastic cries. A Dynamax happens, and a giant glowing creature crashes to the ground.
…Then a ten-year-old one shots all the Gym Leader’s Pokémon in less than 1o minutes.
Can you imagine paying to see that? What would it be like to buy expensive season tickets in advance, throw on your favorite jersey, paint your face, and get to the stadium early just to watch this extremely quick and anticlimactic battle?
Yes, this is the player character. We are apparently gods of war because we actually remember type advantages. So maybe it’s just our matches that are over so fast. Even then, the notoriously stupid NPCs of Pokémon games can’t be fun to watch either. As a fan of the sport, it would be excruciating to watch someone spam Sandstorm when there’s already sand out on the field. In general, the monotype gym system of the Pokémon world makes for stale battles. It would be like going to a hockey game and seeing a team full of goalies.
It’s possible that, like healthcare, Pokémon battle tickets are free. Except they have to pay for the stadiums and general sports infrastructure somehow. There’s even a corporation that features prominently in the story, suggesting there’s a whole industry around Pokémon in Galar. And it’s a profitable one, despite the fact that it keeps dishing out the same mediocre content day after day. But hey, Twitch streamers make millions, so maybe Sword & Shield got it right.
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