The new Crown Tundra expansion for Sword and Shield must be doing something right, because I can’t stop playing it. But it could be a whole lot better.
If improved and iterated upon, I’d argue that the new Dynamax Adventures — multiplayer “raids” with legendary Pokémon waiting at the end — are a glimpse of what this series is destined to become.
Looking back, games like Pokémon Red, or Silver Version, were essentially single-player RPGs. They had fairly large, explorable worlds; deceptively simple turn-based combat; and a story about a lone youth venturing out into the world.
But the Pokémon IP has always been a social one. The first time I saw a Pokémon trading card — an original Jynx or Mr. Mime — it was traded to me on my front porch by one of my schoolmates. I first heard of the Game Boy titles because a friend showed me an article in the latest issue of Nintendo Power.
I had to have Red Version because I wanted to be able to trade and battle with my friends. Pokémon was the thing that made the Game Link Cable a must-have Nintendo accessory.
It wasn’t just about catchin’ ’em all — though that made for a catchy theme song, and probably worked on parents who didn’t have a clue what “booster pack” might mean. It was also something for 10-year-old kids to talk to each other about.
And now, with Dynamax Adventures, I can go into a dungeon and play Pokémon with my friends the same way I would with Destiny or The Elder Scrolls Online. On paper, it’s a Pokémon fan’s dream come true. But the problems with this otherwise phenomenal concept are pretty significant.
It’s not easy, first of all, to party up with your friends if there aren’t exactly four of you.
To link up with your buddies, you generally have to establish a passcode, making it hard for strangers to join up and help you out if, say, there are only two of you. This part of the process can be maddening — and that’s no way to start an adventure.
The second, arguably larger issue with these new raids is that the Pokémon you find at the end of each one is almost always something that would’ve felt like a big achievement in earlier entries in the series.
Over the past week, I’ve caught Rayquaza, Ho-Oh, Entei, Mewtwo, Charizard, and tons of other Pokémon that, at one time, would have entitled you to some serious bragging rights among friends. Last night alone, I hopped on and caught both Lugia and Zapdos with pretty minimal effort.
The slot-machine rush of pulling a foil Charizard from a booster pack was a rare and beautiful thing back in 1999; I remember it well. Today, my Pokémon Sword party feels a little too good to be true.