In late 2019, Nintendo released the latest of their mainline Pokémon titles, Sword and Shield. This entry contained several game-changing elements such as the new wilderness area and the ability to let your Pokémon transform into a powerful kaiju to destroy your enemies. Today, we will be discussing one aspect to the wilderness area that allows trainers to work together for a common cause: Pokémon Dens.
In short, Pokémon dens allow four trainers to work together to take down a large boss Pokémon. Unlike normal Pokémon in the wild, these Pokémon are generally much stronger with much larger health pools and more powerful attacks. These boss fights can be quite worth it, though, allowing players to farm experience to give any Pokémon (even Pokémon that weren’t in the battle or haven’t hatched yet), rare items and moves for Pokémon to use, or even the Pokémon they’re fighting themselves!
While this is interesting overall, there are a few points of improvement that Nintendo could make if they want to perfect this feature. Today, we will be discussing five aspects of Pokémon Raids that can drag gameplay down for Nintendo to focus on in the future.
While it’s true that the biggest appeal (literally) of these dens is the opportunity to fight a special boss Pokémon, what makes these fights stand out compared to other Pokémon games is the ability to face these boss fights with your friends or with strangers across the globe. This is a unique concept for these games. While the ability to play with friends has always been an option for players, unless you’re playing one of the side games, your only options were to play against your friends. While that on its own is not necessarily a bad thing, not every player was interested in competition. Pokémon raids gave players the option to play alongside their friends rather than against their friends.
For players that are unable to play with friends, there are still alternatives: play these raids with randomized NPCs or play these raids with strangers from around the globe. As it stands right now, both have their issues.
When I say that players can play with randomized NPCs, I do mean randomized NPCs. When loading up a raid, players can see a silhouette of the Pokémon they will be facing and the types of the Pokémon. This gives players the opportunity to plan for the fight ahead before beginning the battle and make sure the Pokémon they bring will be effective against the boss. However, the NPCs don’t adhere to these rules. While you can get an NPC that has a decent Pokémon with decent moves, you can also get an NPC that does not have a decent Pokémon, such as the trainer that only uses Magikarp in every nightmare of mine. A simple fix to this could be giving each raid a set list of NPCs that can be randomly determined so players are not forced to play alongside trainers that literally make the fight harder to complete successfully, such as only including trainers with water-type Pokémon during a fire-type raid. For anyone that thinks this makes the raid too easy, they could instead set these raids to ignore NPCs that are not very effective so players will never have to face this fire-type raid with a trainer weak to fire moves.
For players that can play in raids with strangers, however, there is no guarantee that their partners will be able to compete in the fight efficiently. Currently, there is no way to kick people out of the raid. Your only option is to set a Link Code, which means that only people that you trusted with your code will be able to join the raid (which limits you to friends only). While you could quit out of the raid and reload it, effectively kicking everyone out of the raid, this isn’t possible if you, the raid host, have already locked in your Pokémon. Your only option is to hope that everyone present will take the fight seriously.
Most players will play these raids seriously. Unfortunately, though, while this is not as prevalent now, there was a period in Sword and Shield history where users would go out of their way to join raids and use a level one Magikarp just to ensure that the team is not able to win the battle. Even if most of the community will take these fights seriously and players that sabotage these raids are rare right now, this does not mean playing alongside players like these is impossible. A simple feature would be giving the player hosting the raid the option to kick trainers if they desire rather than making them deal with it or giving players (preferably just the host) the opportunity to unlock-in their Pokémon and quit the raid. While this solution isn’t perfect, you still have a chance of an NPC being assigned that player’s spot if no one rejoins, it’s still a better solution than what Nintendo currently provides.
The Pokémon raid fights are, without a doubt, a completely different fight compared to normal wild battles or trainer battles. Even though competitive fights and gym battles give players the option to summon kaijus to the field in order to fight, these matches are not similar at all to the type of fights found during raid battles.
Currently, raid battles consist of the following:
This applies to every single raid battle. The only difference between raids is the number of shields that appear, depending on the Pokémon. Even event bosses, which I will be discussing later, don’t have anything special compared to normal fights.
How can Nintendo fix this? Allow some fights to be different. These don’t have to be every raid. A lot of the raids can continue to follow this simplistic nature but allow some vanilla Pokémon raids to change in some way. Allow the fights to be dynamic and memorable beyond “Remember that time Gengar beat us?”
When I think of how Pokémon raids function, I like to think of how boss fights in the Persona games work. They boil down to the same principles. You and three NPCs face off against a giant boss or two with the intent of using your creatures to take them down. Bosses would often have large health pools and offer a challenge to players not prepared for the fight.
However, what these games succeed in doing these sorts of fights is making every boss fight different. Not every fight was memorable, not remembering every fight is unavoidable, but they’re still different to some extent. One of my favorite examples is a fight where you spin a wheel similar to Wheel of Fortune every round that does something different depending on what you land on. These effects can vary greatly, such as healing the party, placing a status effect on the party, damaging the enemy, etc.
Pokémon raids don’t have their wheel, though. Each Pokémon raid is almost the exact same, give or take the exact amount of damage needed to defeat it and their typing. While raids don’t need to reinvent the wheel, there’s nothing separating these boss fights from any other. One could argue that the trainer fights experienced throughout the game were more unique than these raids. This could be done in a number of ways, such as having a Pokémon change forms after a certain part of the fight has completed or change the attack patterns of a Pokémon once they reach a certain point.
If Nintendo wants to improve the Pokémon raids in the future, they will need to focus on making some of the raid fights different and memorable in some way.
Yes. Pokémon games have had game exclusives since Pokémon Red and Green released in Japan in 1996. That doesn’t negate the fact that this is an issue.
I will give Nintendo credit for one thing: It is a lot easier to get into a raid for a different game than it is to get a Pokémon from another game. All you need to do is join a raid hosted by a player playing the other game. This still requires that someone in the group own that version of the game else no one will be able to play these raids. This isn’t particularly an issue when you’re playing with strangers on the Internet but it is an issue when you’re playing with people you know and everyone ended up buying the same version of the game.
This problem can be solved the same way the underlying problem can be solved: Only sell one version of the game and don’t include version exclusive Pokémon in your games. Realistically, Nintendo is never going to do this. This is their money maker. Still a problem, though.
Periodically, Nintendo will release a new event to take place in the wild area. These events will introduce some sort of special raid that changes the game in some way. This can be something as small as increased chances of a certain rare Pokémon to spawn to something as big as brand-new Pokémon appearing in these dens. That sounds great on paper but that’s all these events provide.
Let’s discuss the biggest event Sword and Shield has hosted over the past few months: The Mewtwo Event.
To celebrate the release of the remake of an old Pokémon movie, Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back, for a limited time, a few new Pokémon were added to the raid pools: Mewtwo, the Bulbasaur evolution chain, the Squirtle evolution chain, and the Charmander evolution chain. That’s all the event added.
This was a really big event at the time, I remember spending hours farming for the starters to spawn and farming Mewtwo fights. Mewtwo was also ridiculously hard compared to your normal raid boss and the first boss to possibly require strategy (the Internet recommended special team comps and planning ahead but I don’t remember any strangers on the Internet using any of these strategies with me). But that’s it. You were not able to catch Mewtwo, the mascot of this event, no matter what. You didn’t even have the option to try to catch it; Mewtwo disappeared before the option could present itself.
As for the starters, you could attempt to catch them but they were weaker than the bosses normally farmed and only two of them were brand new to the game. Charmander was already available in the base game and is a part of the Galarian Pokédex. These two new starters were nice to have but they didn’t provide anything.
Events are the perfect opportunity to add something interesting to the game. We don’t particularly need a convoluted event like you’ll often find in gacha games with event currencies and free Pokémon we can farm items to upgrade. All we need is a meaningful incentive to play these games and some sort of special fight that’s more than just breaking bars like an old Magic: the Gathering spin-off.
(Why was Pokémon Masters able to get a copy of Mewtwo but Sword and Shield couldn’t? PM got a copy of Mewtwo before Sword and Shield had an event and launched a rerun of the same event during Sword and Shield’s.)
Hypothetical event: Trainer Red and Blue are visiting Galar like they visited Alola. As the champion in another region, Leon goes down to meet with him and give him the device needed to D-Max a Pokémon. Leon sees that Red also has a Charizard and the two talk for a bit. Something convoluted happens to convince Red and Blue to play in a raid alongside you and Leon (or you and Hop because Hop deserved a lot more attention than he received during the main game). You fight alongside two legendary trainers, save the day, probably catch whatever Pokémon this is because Nintendo’s paid by the ‘dex entry, the end. Now a special version of a Pokémon is added to the raid pool for a limited time (perhaps a Charizard with Red’s hat on it like Sun and Moon had a Pikachu with Ash’s hat? For balancing purposes, this Charizard is just like a normal Charizard, just with a different sprite. If it were to breed with a Ditto, a normal Charmander would appear.). If players don’t want to play this event and don’t care about a special Pokémon, they can simply not play the event. That way, they do not have to deal with the special Pokémon appearing in their dens and they can continue to play on their own.
What does the above hypothetical provide to the player?
As long as the event stands out compared to the rest of the game, the event will succeed.
These raids are a great farming tool for anyone interested in farming experience for Pokémon they’re not currently using, farming TRs that they can give their Pokémon without spending any watts, or catching Pokémon with special forms, moves, and IVs. Except for catching Pokémon with new forms, though, this doesn’t lead to much in terms of prizes. Each of these rewards are something you can grind and get outside of raids if you wanted.
TRs cost a few thousand watts each but it’s really easy to farm watts without even using the many exploits already available to farm them. Yes, watt traders randomly sell different TRs to the player depending on the day but it’s just as easy to either wait for these numerous traders to change what TRs they sell or use an exploit to change their inventory.
Experience is tedious to farm but it’s nothing players aren’t prepared for when purchasing this game. Since the very beginning, players have been used to grinding low leveled Pokémon they just acquired in order to bring them to the same point as the rest of the team. This has gotten easier over the past few games with the changes to XP share items to allow the entire team to earn experience from battles. You could easily level a newly hatched Pokémon to level fifty over the course of… two hours, maybe? With how long raids can take sometimes, it might sometimes be faster to level up your Pokémon on your own.
Even IV training Pokémon is easily doable without catching raid Pokémon. While catching Raid Pokémon can easily cut the time needed in half, giving anyone who completes these fights a three, four, or five IV Pokémon, it’s still entirely possible to continue to breed these Pokémon yourself until you get the perfect Pokémon. You don’t even really need to IV train anymore with this game’s changes to egg moves and how easy it is to grind bottle caps to hyper train Pokémon.
The current event Sword and Shield is playing addresses this problem, albeit by admitting that another issue is just as relevant. Our current event allows us to face a few Pokémon that are normally game exclusives for the other game in our own version (a total of three new Pokémon for our Pokédex, five with evolution chains). Along with this, the even allows us to earn fossils that are normally only available in the opposite game, giving players an incentive to play the event and farm the fossils along with other farmable items.
These special events would be the perfect time to give us access to new items to change things up. These new items don’t need to break the game, competitively speaking. That would make a new problem instead of solving an old one. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing that events could give us that would cool. I can’t think of any items that Nintendo hasn’t already added off-hand but there’s no reason an entire company can’t think of something that only affects players outside of competition and doesn’t completely break the game.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Pokémon Sword and Shield. I love this region. I love the opportunity to play with friends in these raids and pretend I’m in a G-rated Persona title. I’ve spent way too many hours farming raids for special forms or starters. These raids are fun.
Loving something doesn’t mean it’s perfect, though. I could write about all of the faults in Sword and Shield or the entire Pokémon franchise. I could write about all the faults in the Persona franchise. If you can’t talk about how something you love can improve then you have no right to freely talk about it. Everything deserves to be talked about, both for their faults and merits.
Just like everything else in life, while there are good things that Pokémon raids provide, there is still plenty of room for improvement Nintendo can focus on in the future.
What improvements do you wish Nintendo would make to Pokémon raids and dens in the future? Do you think the upcoming Sword and Shield DLCs that let us explore Pokémon dens up close will give us an opportunity for something new?