'Pokémon Sword and Shield' gyms may borrow a controversial 'BotW' feature

One of the least popular changes to the Zelda series could be coming to Pokémon


Pokémon Sword and Shield is only a month-and-a-half away, and a huge info dump (courtesy of Game Informer) just revealed a ton of new features and changes to the upcoming Nintendo Switch game. The biggest reveal, however, may be the news that while Pokémon Sword and Shield doesn’t feature a traditional Elite Four at the end of the adventure, it raises the number of Pokémon Gyms in the game to an astonishing 18.

Much of Game Informer’s reporting is behind a paywall, but online Pokémon resource Serebii has been rounding up all the important details about Sword and Shield. Here’s the key information about gyms:

There are to be 18 gyms in the game with different gyms being in the Major League and different in the Minor League between game version, for example Bea’s Fighting-type Gym is in the Major League in Sword while Allister’s Ghost-type Gym is in the Major League in Shield. The idea is that the gyms can be in different leagues each year in the Galar Region. It’s currently unclear if all 18 will be battleable.

Clearly, there are still a few things we don’t know about how gyms will work in Pokémon Sword and Shield, but the existence of 18 of them is a huge change from the usual eight that’s been the standard since Red and Blue (except for Sun and Moon, which ditched gyms entirely). In fact, this change to the Pokémon format reminds us of another major shakeup to a classic Nintendo franchise: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

A simple gym in 'Pokémon Red and Blue.'

The Pokémon Company

The open-world Zelda game ditched traditional dungeons for a series of single-puzzle shrines (plus four Divine Beast mini-dungeons). While the shrines were a fun challenge, they were a poor replacement for the expansive dungeons that Zelda fans had come to expect, and it sounds like Nintendo’s upcoming Breath of the Wild sequel will reverse course in that respect, which is why it’s a little worrying that Pokémon Sword and Shield could be following a similar trajectory.

To be fair, 18 gyms might sound like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the 120 shrines in Breath of the Wild. Still, we can’t help but wonder if more than doubling the number of gyms means each experience will be a little less meaty. In previous Pokémon games, each gym offered the opportunity to battle a handful of trainers and solve some sort of puzzle before reaching the final showdown. Sword and Shield could simplify the experience in unwanted ways.

A giant Pikachu in 'Pokémon Sword and Shield'

The Pokémon Company

Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what happens when the game finally arrives next month. In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of some of the other biggest Pokémon news we learned this week:

  • Pokémon Sword and Shield will have autosave!
  • The older Pokémon that aren’t included in Sword and Shield will return in future games
  • No more HMs (the items you use to teach your Pokémon special moves)
  • All the Pokémon on your team will share the experience you earn in any Pokémon battles

Pokémon Sword and Shield arrives on November 15 for Nintendo Switch.

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