If you, like me, have been playing Pokemon for two decades and aren’t from Japan, France, the US, or the UK, you’ve probably entertained the idea of what a Pokemon game based on your country could look like. Perhaps it’s a game set in China that includes floating mountains inspired by Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, or a story that takes place in the Rajastani forts of India. Maybe you’re from Egypt and would love to see Game Freak take on the Valley of the Kings, or you grew up in Iceland and are keen for some volcanic glaciers like the ones you’d see on the Ring of Fire.
I’m from Ireland and I’ve always been fascinated by the prospect of a more Celtic Pokemon game. Dullahans and dolmens, cat-sith and crannógs, the possibilities for unique species designs and sublime mythological architecture are endless. If you ever want a good story and are sick of the Greek pantheon or the Norse gods, check out Ireland’s Ulster Cycle – you won’t be disappointed. Cu Chulainn is an absolute beast in the best way possible.
I already wrote about how the worst Pokemon city in history is named after me, so I’ve always clung to this vague hope of an Irish Pokemon game as a means of rectifying that one day. I know it’s unlikely – especially after Galar was based on the UK, yet another thing they stole from us – but it’s alright to hope, right? Even if deep down I know it’s impossible, a man can dream.
What annoys me is that I was fine with dreaming until my musings slowly crept over the horizon in Pokemon Sword & Shield. For the first time in the series’ history, there was a glimpse of Ireland in front of me, and I don’t just mean in terms of the relatively similar weather conditions of the UK-derived locations. Also Ireland is not in the UK, in case you thought it was. Loads of people do and it’s not true. Never tell an Irish person they’re British or they’ll probably punch you in the face.
Anyway, the Isle of Armor is based on the Isle of Man, a British-owned island in between Ireland and the UK. If you’re familiar with the Isle of Man – maybe you’re a TT fan – you’ll probably recognize its landscape already and be able to match Sword & Shield’s Isle of Armor to it pretty easily. There’s a much finer detail here though, and it’s one that truly upsets me – the Isle of Armor’s Challenge Beach is based on Douglas.
Douglas is the capital of the Isle of Man. As the largest town on the island, it’s also the only place that has ferries going to both the UK and Ireland. So, when you make your way to the Isle of Armor in Sword & Shield, you’re actually sailing partway to the Emerald Isle. Head over to Challenge Beach once you arrive and you can get a boat over to me in Dublin – or at least you would be able to if you were on the Douglas-inspired Challenge Beach in real life. In Pokemon Sword & Shield, no such ferry exists – we’re so close and yet so far. You could probably give swimming a good go if not for the thousands of Sharpedo darting around the water, Crunching everything with a pulse.
I can’t quite believe it. Standing there in Pokemon, looking out over the dazzling ocean, thinking to myself, “I live on the other side of this water.” I mean, some of you are lucky enough to have experienced this first-hand – if you live in New York City, you probably had a lot of fun with Unova. Londoners likely love Wyndon, whereas folks from Manchester can have a great time hanging out by Motostoke Stadium, AKA Old Trafford. I’m just sat here looking vacantly at the horizon, hoping that a cloud will move in a certain way and reveal the faint curvature of a coastline. “There’s the Giant’s Causeway!” I shout to myself, lost in a dreamworld. “Better keep my eyes peeled for Fionn mac Cumhaill and Angus Benandonner!”
I mean, come on. If you’re unfamiliar with this story, it’s about two giants who decide they want to hurl rocks at each other. Before they can do so, though, one of them dresses up as a baby in order to make the other lad believe the child’s father must be enormous – they’ve never seen each other before, so it works. The giant proceeds to run back to Scotland, ripping up the causeway behind him so that Fionn can’t follow – what a story! Much better than Sword & Shield’s rip-off Jedward – who are also Irish, by the way. I can’t believe Game Freak put two Irish presenters in Pokemon Sword & Shield but wouldn’t even give us a ferry to Dublin. What an absolute joke.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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