On Friday, Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield hit the big time on Nintendo Switch after eight months of hype. In light of this notable step for the franchise – seeing a main-series game on a console for the first time – I thought it’d be prudent to look back on some of the best games in the series so far.
#3: Pokémon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum
These games were the first of the series to be set on a Nintendo DS console. The shift from 2D pixel art to a 2.5D overworld was a small change, as it added a level of depth and detail to the game not yet seen before. This, along with the reapplication of the day and night cycle, truly fleshed out the game’s appeal. The device was able to produce a far greater array of pigments and shades than its predecessor, and the results showed. Diamond and Pearl made some small but far-reaching changes to how certain moves worked, making many Pokémon viable for competitive play. As a result, the first Pokémon Video Game World Championship was held in 2009 in San Diego.
#2: Pokémon Black and White
These games were set in the Unova region, based off of New York City. In these games, 649 different sprites were painstakingly given front and back sprites with detailed motion for battle animations. The soundtrack for Black and White is arguably the best in the series, and it offered a sort of intractability with the music, as talking to certain non-player characters would often alter the songs that played in certain places. Director Junichi Masuda felt that the music scene and street performers of New York were an important aspect of the city, and that there should be a real focus on music in the games to reflect this. These also have the best story in a Pokémon game, as many characters are far more fleshed out and relevant than they typically are.
#1: Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver
These games offer all of the same improvements found in Diamond and Pearl, being a part of the same generation of games, but they took a step further with the Pokémon follow mechanic. This small edition allowed the first Pokémon in your party to follow behind you as you walked. For the first time, players could interact with all of their Pokémon in the overworld. It’s easy to see why this detail alone made these games instant fan favorites. Two sets of the soundtrack were produced for this version as well. There was one updated soundtrack for the rereleased titles and one chiptune soundtrack in the style of the original games. Many of these “original” tracks were actually painstakingly rerecorded or were in fact entirely new fabrications, as there are many songs and locations in HeartGold and SoulSilver that simply did not exist in the original titles. The hard work and clear passion put into these games easily wins them the number one spot.
HeartGold and SoulSilver were the last hurrah for the 2.5D pixelated art style of Pokémon, and each title further corrected gameplay and perfected style. Since the series made the switch to true 3D, Pokémon titles have had a sort of awkward relationship with their art style. There was a lot of improvement from Pokémon X and Y to Sun and Moon, but I’m expecting much more from Sword and Shield. I can only hope that these new and future titles learn to make the most of the 3D style and can compete with the three I’ve listed here until the series makes the next leap – the leap to virtual reality.
Myles Gibbs is a UF journalism junior
Nintendo Download: Forge a Path to Greatness in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.