A more manageable and self-contained Pokedex worked out very well for this lifelong fan.
After 44 hours and 54 minutes on my in-game timer, I finally completed the Galar Pokédex. While I completely understand the frustration that many fans feel knowing that there are hundreds of Pokémon that don’t appear in Sword and Shield, there may be an equal number that are happy to have a more manageable number of Pokémon needed to complete the Pokédex of these two games. It’s been a few generations for me since the Pokémon games stopped being about trading between generations, using Pokémon Bank, and having perfect IVs, EVs, and competition-ready teams. Now, I’m just thrilled to have a self-contained experience with a defined end goal that is somewhat time-consuming, but also satisfying and achievable. This is the joy of a complete Pokédex.
My trip through the Galar region began with Sobble, which was basically pre-determined before the starters were even revealed since I almost always go with the water-type option of the three choices. I took my time in each new town to talk to everyone, collect items scattered about, and fill up my stock of Pokéballs. On the way to each town, I would seek out a few new Pokémon to catch, but I wasn’t being overly thorough yet since I wanted to rush to the point where I could purchase Ultra Balls, which would ultimately making “catching ‘em all” much easier. The story has always been a very minor part of my experience with the Pokémon games; it’s just not something I’m looking for in this series. I can fulfill that desire for more sophisticated, interesting, and engaging narratives with different RPGs, like Xenoblade Chronicles, the Witcher 3, or Dark Souls. Upon spending a little time in the new Wild Area, I decided against staying there too long. The appearance of Pokémon that were a higher level than you could catch further pushed me to complete the story so that I could return there and start filling my Pokédex in earnest.
When I had unlocked the ability to catch any Pokémon in the Wild Area and finished the post-game quest to capture Zamazenta, I was eager to work towards completing my personal Pokémon quest. The raids are interesting, the new battle tower is fun, and I have a bunch of friends who want to make competitive teams, but for me it’s all about getting my Pokédex to 400. As I got closer and closer to that number, it would take longer and longer for me to make progress, which is understandable. After I’d reached 300, rarely was I out in the world catching Pokémon that would just pop up in the overworld. Instead, I was searching for specific creatures like Drampa and Goomy, who would only show up during certain weather conditions, and even then only by randomly encountering them in the tall grass. I had to breed many of the baby versions and pre-evolutions for more advanced Pokémon I had already caught, and then I had to have certain ones, like Snorlax, holding a specific item while breeding to produce a Munchlax.
Hold items being used during breeding wasn’t even the most unique way of acquiring new creatures. Evolving my Farfetch'd into a Sirfetch'd required that I win a battle after scoring three critical hits. Another Pokémon required taking a certain amount of damage and then walking under a stone structure in the Wild Area. Creative methods for evolving Pokémon in Sword and Shield help continue the conversation about the games and keep people looking for hidden secrets and easter eggs. If there’s anyone out there who completed their Pokédex without using Serebii.net, my hat goes off to you. At the end of the day, I really appreciate that getting my Pokédex to 400 wasn’t as easy as just throwing Pokéballs til I was blue in the face. Making use of such a wide variety of mechanics made the pursuit and achievement of a full Pokédex all the more memorable.
I’m not trying to prescribe a particular way for people to play Pokémon games. The beauty of every entry in the series is that there are so many different ways to enjoy them. Ironically, they always seem to be missing something, and everyone wants more out of them. I think this is mostly because we have such high hopes for every Pokémon game, and our dreams are always grander than the games could ever be. I’m not blind to the idea that every subsequent entry features minor changes and improvements, sometimes at the expense of other beloved or requested elements. For me, the mainline Pokémon games have never been exactly what I want out of them, but don’t we always demand more from the things we love? There is a potential to games like Pokémon Sword and Shield that continues to build as the franchise as a whole dynamaxes into one of the most recognizable entertainment properties in the world. We as fans want the mainline games to similarly grow, but it seems that this is destined to happen in fits and starts.
With a never-ending onslaught of games to play and review, more and more I’m looking for ways to generate a feeling in me of having done enough, having seen enough, to put one game aside and pick up another. The joy of a complete Pokédex is the sense of accomplishment and freedom that propels me towards the next adventure, and every time a new Pokémon game releases, I’ll catch every pocket monster it holds, enjoy the moment for a little while, and then let the dust settle. It won’t be too long before I’m out there throwing Poké balls, trading with my friends, and seeing the next Pokédex fill up. To catch them is my real test. And that’s good enough for me.