A lot of information about Sword and Shield has been revealed, we were therefore allowed to put our cap backwards and dive into the Galar region for the first time.

Two new features of the game are central to the demonstration. The first is the concept of gyms in Sword and Shield, which actually consist of gigantic stadiums. Before you can enter the field, however, you must complete a so-called Gym Mission, a nice word for puzzles in which you will encounter different trainers. In this case it’s a large room with waterfalls, entirely in the theme of the water gym.

The puzzle consists of persuading switches of the right color to gradually open paths to the gym leader. To be honest, the gameplay is neither innovative nor challenging enough to distinguish this part of gyms from previous parts. Sun & Moon somewhat threw up the concept of gyms with Trials, but it didn’t really make the run up to the big fight any more fascinating. Now that Sword and Shield are returning to more traditional gyms, we had hoped that Game Freak would turn out with cool puzzles or other gamplay, but at first glance that is not the case.

The fight with gym leader Nessa is a true spectacle. Game Freak finally makes gyms look like the events they are in the anime, with cheering audiences in the background and clearly football-inspired kits. The stadiums are not all that big to allow as many spectators as possible, but also for Dynamaxing.

That new feature, perhaps overemphasized in the recent Pokémon Direct, means that Pokémon will become the size of an apartment building for a short time. I initially had my reservations, but in practice it makes end fights more spectacular. Moreover, the strategy that comes with Dynamaxing is more radical than, for example, Mega Evolutions, thanks to the fact that they only remain active for three turns. So if you use your Dynamax at the wrong time, you run the risk of losing the fight.

Once transformed into a giant pokémon, the attacks of the monster have been changed to Dynamax variants. For example, still cheerful Grookey can handle the bombastic grass attack Mega Overgrowth, which makes Nessa’s Drednaw short. Dynamax attacks sometimes cause a change in the terrain, such as a sandstorm that causes damage.

Furthermore, the short demo confirms many of the expectations of a “hardcore” Pokémon-rpg, such as the fact that screen texts return and voice-acting is missing, and that battles are still in turn and offer more depth than you might think. You also catch pokémon again by weakening them and throwing a ball with the push of a button. A fine adjustment to the menu for pokémon during battles is the display of moves, which you previously found under “Summary”. Unfortunately, the menu was not yet available outside of combat, so we could not notice any changes there.

Also two new pokémon were shown, Yamper and Impidimp. Yamper is a funny electric corgi pokémon that fits perfectly between the other announced animals. And then tehre was the purple Impidimp. Who actually looks like the evil twin brother of Mankey.

As mentioned, the game play demo was rather limited and only a fraction of Sword and Shield was shown. For example, it was not possible to discover the largest new addition to the game, the Wild Area. Different pokémon walk around in this region depending on the weather and you can control the camera yourself for the first time. The bike also returns and you can even meet other players to participate in raids. It is an intriguing way to discover the Galar region as well as a gathering of promising features.

All in all, Sword and Shield seems to be a safe, but fun, Pokémon game. The Gym Missions are a bit disappointing, but main fights are atmospheric and spectacular.

Pokémon Sword and Shield releases for the Nintendo Switch on November 15 .