Photo Credit: GameFreak

There’s a lot to like about the newest core entry in Pokemon franchise Sword and Shield. Despite what some of the naysayers may have you believe in relation to half the Pokemon being Thanos snapped away, the game is flourishing. According to Nintendo of America the game sold over 6 million copies in its opening weekend and 2 million of them were in the United States. This makes it the fastest selling Pokemon game to date.

Since the developers didn’t have to spend time creating models or animations for an additional 500+ Pokemon they were able to do a lot of new things in the game that previously generations lacked due to hardware. One of these features is the Wild Zone and it’s something that Pokemon has been trying to emulate since its inception.

The Wild Zone is most easily compared to the Safari Zone in concept. It’s a large open-world section of the game that you can freely explore and run into hundreds of Pokemon. There are wide swaths of tall grass, serene lakes and ponds, trees to shake for berries and much more. There are also Pokemon roaming around that depending on the temperament of the species may attempt to chase you down if they catch sight of you. My girlfriend spent her first 10 hours of gameplay in the Wild Zone, which you encounter before your first gym, and has stacked her Pokedex with nearly 100 different species. You can find all types, which change based on the sector of the Wild Zone or the current weather of the Wild Zone. You can find evolved forms of Pokemons in the Wild Zone, you can find high level versions as well. The strongest I found was some Ghastlys and Drifloons that were nearly level 30. The Wild Zone does it best to capture the idea of a truly open, natural setting in the world of Pokemon. It almost does that.

The concept is there and I love exploring around but the execution falls just short. The first problem lies in how many Pokemon appear at any given time in a sector. It boils down to two roaming Pokemon and one or two ‘hidden’ Pokemon in the grass. There’s usually one evolved form of either of those roaming in the area as well. So, when I enter the Wild Zone I see some Growlithes and Bunnelbys running around in the tall grass and a Diggersby off in the distance. If I run through the grass I might run into a Roggenrola. Just like that at first glance and maybe one encounter I know exactly what it’s in this area, so you move onto the next. The problem is after one pass through, that’s pretty much it. The biggest, craziest, openest part of the game when it comes down to it is still just operating on the same rules as a Route 1 or 2. Sure, the weather may change and bring in some new Pokemon. A quick jaunt through and now you know what type of weather brings in which Pokemon and even that loses any sense of surprise or exploration after one visit.

Perhaps it gets better the deeper you travel into the Wild Zone, but for now I love the concept but the execution still has me wanting more. The real question is whether or not GameFreak will attempt to improve on the design in the mid generation game, or even in generation 9 or if like Mega Evolutions or Z-Moves, it gets dropped for something else entirely. Looking at your Dynamaxing.

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