As a lifelong Pokemon fan who hails from the UK, it dawned on me that the upcoming Pokemon Sword and shield entries may very well be the most British video games ever made. You may be thinking that i’m out of my mind but hear me out on this one.
For months, Nintendo has provided us with drips and drabs of information be it in the form of new pokemon, game modes, locations etc. Each new reveal added more layers to the Britannic Galar region and showed how Pokemon Sword and Shield will be embracing British culture in quite a substantial way.
Pokemon games have a recent history of emulating the culture and landscapes of real-world locations. For example, Pokemon X and Y had a heavy French influence best showcased by the Parisian Lumiose City; it contained a version of the Eiffel Towel as well as cafes every square metre. The french language was also very present in the game, particularly in conversations with Professor Sycamore, amongst bystanders and, a personal favourite moment, when Wikstrom of the Elite Four says “En Garde!” before your battle commences.
This trend was continued in Pokemon Sun and Moon which had an even stronger connection to it’s real-world inspiration of Hawaii. There were numerous sections in Alola that replicated locations or landmarks of the US state, even more local language/slang used in dialogue than in Pokemon X/Y and there was a Hawaiian influence on a number of other aspects of the game:
- Hau’oli Cemetery (Sun and Moon) = Honolulu cemetery (Hawaii)
- Paniola Ranch (Sun and Moon) = Maui’s Cattle Country (Hawaii)
- Hokulani Observatory (Sun and Moon) = Telescopes of Mauna Kea
- Z-Moves borrowing from Hawaii’s hula
- The use of the phrases “auwe” and “yeah.” the latter of which is used at the end of sentences often by Hawaiians
- Kahuna means master of a profession in the Hawaiian language
- The use of fire dancing during Kiawe’s trial
Bringing it back to Sword and Shield, from we’ve seen so far it seems like Gamefreak will be upping the anti even further in terms of the cultural embracement in the Galar region and golly gosh is it British…
Ghost Tea Cuppa Anyone?
Starting with some of the new Pokemon that have been revealed, the most exciting/hilarious announcement was undoubtedly Polteageist. For those not in the know, Polteageist is a ghost type teapot, my new favourite pokemon and will have a very high chance of taking a place in my core team of six mons on my first play through of the game.
We’ve also seen Galarian forms of Weezing who is now armed with old fashioned industrial chimneys on each of it’s heads. Zigzagoon, Linoone and new evolution Obstagoon are more badger-like in appearance and I haven’t seen a fictional badger since CBBC’s Bodger and Badger so this is a much needed breath of fresh air in badger popular culture.
Curries and Camping
What is more quintessentially British than tea you ask…how about curries and camping? Yes, you can go camping with your beloved Pokemon in Sword and Shield. Camps are seemingly customisable and you will be able to visit other players camps as well.
Not only that, whilst camping you and your Pokemon will be able to cook a variety of curries together. Spicy Sausage Curry, Dry Fried-Food Curry and Seasoned Curry are just some of the options that have been revealed. Sausages and fried food. I think Gamefreak have firmly nailed the British cuisine and I wouldn’t be surprised if fish & chips, cottage pies and pasties are revealed later down the line.
Punk Rock Rocketeers
The team of bad guys players will be facing in this generation are called Team Yell and have been met some criticism from the gaming world. Many state that they are annoying and a missed opportunity but I actually think they are rather fun and most essentially for this article…very British.
Team Yell seem to be a hybrid of football fans and punk rockers/metal fans. Due to the latter, their team theme music has some very heavy riffs and solos which is very apt for Galar. The UK is the home of punk rock and heavy metal so to see this in the new Pokemon game in some form is, pardon the pun, music to my ears.
Finally, some good and proper English in Pokemon games. “Mom” is now referred to as “Mum,” your rival describes someone as being “pants with directions”and another character refers to a Pokemon as a “little chap.”
Contemporarily speaking, English is slowly morphing more and more into Patwah but if Gamefreak is going for more 20th Century British dialect, then I think it is a case of so far so good.
Locational British Inspirations
The Galar Map is simply littered with famous British monuments from different cities especially towards the top of the map which is very London-heavy. The north region of the map features iconic landmarks of the capital city including: The London Eye, Wembley Stadium, Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square.
As the map is traversed southwards we see cities that look very similar to York, Sheffield and Birmingham. Finally, towards the very bottom of the map, and what I’m assuming to be the starting point of the game, there are smaller villages which we’ve seen in recent gameplay reveals. These villages are filled with quaint houses and cottages that look very similar to what you’d find in rural Shropshire or a number of other rural British towns.
Speaking of rural Shropshire, that brings us nicely onto what games rival Pokemon Sword and Shield in terms of it’s British-ness. The first game that comes to mind is “Everybody’s gone to the rapture.”
Not only did it capture the landscape perfectly with red telephone boxes, familiar looking vehicles and homes and pubs having near perfect likeness, the regional twang of each character was pitch perfect as well. This was all the more important because the game’s story was told pretty much exclusively via audio and the voice actors portraying the various tales of the locals should be praised highly for their performances.
Most of the games on this competition section are very London centric so to see a game that brought a completely different British perspective was all the more refreshing.
The next game that comes to mind is the GTA inspired PS2 release of ‘The Getaway.’ Despite the dated look, if you have a gander at any gameplay footage, you’ll see that the game is very authentic. It genuinely feels like you’re driving around the streets of London and if you told me that the map of London was completely replicated in-game, i would believe you.
At the time, driving on the left side of the road was something in itself but seeing zebra crossings, double yellow lines, bus lanes and even well known shops from the time such as Dixons, Boots, Pret a Manger and The Link (if anyone remembers that phone shop of yester year) were familiar sights for British gamers to see.
The final game in the competition section is Zombi U. Yes, that good old Wii U classic where you could beat the un-living daylight out of zombified British citizens with a cricket bat. This is still one fo the worst games I have ever played to date but I do remember getting a kick out of battling with zombie versions of the queen’s royal guard.
So, Everybody’s gone to the rapture depicts rural British life well and The Getaway depicts the streets of London equally well. However, from a holistic standpoint, is there a game that has depicted Britain and Britishness as well as Pokemon Sword and Shield will do? I really don’t think so.
Obviously, we’ll know more when the game is released in a few days time but until then it’s looking highly likely that the latest entry to the Pokemon franchise will be ones British gamers will remember fondly for years to come.