Interacting with the NPCs gave the same unsettling “did I stumble onto a movie set?” feeling, outside of the four or so that are written into the main storyline. As with prior Pokémon games, most NPCs are programmed to rattle off a snippet of legend or lore, a helpful tidbit, or just oddball jokes and riddles. Somehow, GameFreak managed to make NPC pre-loaded conversation feel vapider than in games prior — it was disappointing and hysterical how generic and empty the dialogue was, just a couple dozen beige renditions of “Pokémon is good. I like Pokémon. Pokémon is cool.”
But, for what it’s worth, Pokémon NPCs continue to exhibit the same caricature mannerisms that are well-established in anime-style forms of entertainment: exaggerated facial expressions, squealing and jumping, and literal foot-stomping when disappointed. NPC animations have always been a sideshow of their own in Pokémon games, so at least that’s consistent.
This was ubiquitous to all the towns and cities in the games, and I even felt there was a missed opportunity or two to really give us that complex, sprawling, open-world feeling in the undeveloped countryside of Paldea. The landscape is so promising — but also unrefined and underdeveloped. There were no “hidden gems,” so to speak, nothing that felt like a stroke of luck or score to find.
This “I didn’t start my project until the night before it was due” sensation I feel with this game would not be as big a deal to me, I think, had GameFreak stuck to the original development formula. But if you want us to hold Pokémon to the same standard as other beloved open-world games on Switch, you just can’t do such a half-baked job on the open-world elements of your game and expect anything less than disappointment from players when a strong wind blows through and knocks your cardboard city down.