A few days after the official release of Pokémon Sword and Shield, it’s hard to believe that such a fuss was made over the graphics and animations within the game. Despite the enormous controversy and general insistence that the new games have poor presentation, I’ve actually spent most of my time absolutely delighted by what Sword and Shield look like.
The monsters feel alive. I love watching my Grookey wag his tail. I love watching the way he furrows his brow before attacking a toy. When he evolved into Thwackey, I became mesmerized by his chopsticks. Get this: Thwackey’s hair is held in a bun, until he gets into combat. Then, he’ll pull the sticks out, and the bun falls down to reveal a mohawk. Somehow, this never gets old. I picked Grookey entirely on the strength of his animations at the start of the game. That’s never happened before — usually, I pick whatever monster has the coolest design.
Mostly, though, I’m absolutely taken by all the stellar animation work found in the overworld, and in the camping segments. One of the earliest creatures players notice is Yamper, the beloved corgi dog who appears early in the game. The yellow buddy will bark, wag his tail, and stand on his hind legs like a good pupper. Tell me this doesn’t melt your heart:
AND YALL SAID THIS GAME WOULD BE BAD pic.twitter.com/hlWwdSMAbD— levi (@leviornotlevi) November 15, 2019
Yamper is more than happy to play fetch, of course — he’s a dog!
You can play fetch with the dog in Pokemon Sword and Shield pic.twitter.com/T48Nqn4YFn— Can You Pet the Dog? (@CanYouPetTheDog) November 15, 2019
You can tell that Game Freak put some love into Yamper, because the canine will not only follow you around, he’ll celebrate when you strike a pose:
The best part is that Yamper’s animations are still fantastic even if you decide to evolve him:
I don't know how anyone can say the new Pokemon's graphics are bad when it has the most realistic depiction of a dog watching someone eat ever depicted in a video game pic.twitter.com/7kSnGCUXdy— Tristan Cooper (@TristanACooper) November 16, 2019
This is one example of many. Over the weekend, I’ve watched as dozens of clips of Pokémon Sword and Shield go viral largely on the strength of the game’s animations. The biggest thing people seem hooked in is watching the ways creatures will run after you.
Lucario, for example, has a Naruto run. Given that Lucario is a fighting-type monster, this seems appropriate.
While these running animations are somewhat inconsequential to what you do in the game, they do a lot of work in giving our favorite pals some personality, which in turn help you feel attached to them. I love watching the different ways Pokémon move around the world. Actually, I’m capturing monsters I would never consider in previous games just to see their animations in the camp mode. How will they run around? Where will they hold the ball when the play fetch? I must know.
I even love getting chased by creatures in the overworld now. There’s a sick thrill in watching huge, menacing monsters go after me — or, it’s silly to watch some Pokémon try to get me.
I’m not the only one who feels this way, judging from all the clips floating around on Twitter right now. Here are some of my favorites.
45 second counterclockwise spin + 7pm sunset sky in game = rainbow alcremie pic.twitter.com/eRYOSbCFs1— tay (@Emolga) November 17, 2019
Pokémon has become an enormous franchise despite being largely relegated to handheld games on systems with limited sharing options. Let’s Go was technically on the Nintendo Switch, but those games were remakes, and not nearly as filled the finer details that Sword and Shield have. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pokémon’s inevitable social media takeover has only started to blossom.