The Pokémon world as we know it contains numerous regions, even when ignoring the many spinoff titles that occupy the franchise. These regions may be based on various parts of the real world, from Japan to New York to the United Kingdom, yet for the most part there has been clear links between each one beyond the Pokémon themselves. Gym Leaders, members of the Elite Four, and other important characters of note frequently show up in other regions. Organisations have links with each other, connecting these regions together no matter the distance apart.
However, Galar stands out in being separated unlike any other. Aside from the usual no-name NPC or the rare reference to other regions, the Pokémon Sword and Shield game curiously refrains from including characters from elsewhere, even when including the Isle of Armor DLC. Here we compare Galar with other regions, to highlight how isolated it is.
Sinnoh and Johto’s overlap
Sinnoh and Johto are two regions with heavy links to each other (and other regions). While the original generation two titles in Pokémon Gold and Silver only really had Lance and Oak show up in Johto specifically, nigh all previous important characters in Kanto reappeared in generation two. Meanwhile, in the remakes Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver (HGSS), additional characters such as Crasher Wake and Maylene appear.
Even Cynthia showed up, as part of a special event for bringing a unique Arceus in one of the most memorable special events of any Pokémon game. She appears at the Sinjoh Ruins, an obvious mashup of Sinnoh and Johto, linking the two fourth-generation regions together. Cynthia herself is something of a globetrotter, appearing in Sinnoh, Johto, Unova, and Alola, making the Sinnoh Champion one who has visited the most regions (Lance himself has only been in Kanto, Johto, and Unova).
Additionally, the Battle Frontier facility in Pokémon Platinum also appears in HGSS, complete with all the unique characters in that area. Even a few choices for double battles with in-game characters from the story of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, such as Buck, feature.
In Sinnoh meanwhile, we had Jasmine appear to grant you the mandatory Waterfall HM, and she would even partake in some Contests. Professor Oak took up residence in Eterna City in the postgame. And one special police officer debuted in Sinnoh…
Looker’s Grand Adventure
Looker is a character who is not a Gym Leader or other notable character that you can battle. Nonetheless he has featured heavily in the Pokémon Platinum story and postgame quest involving Heatran. He also beats out Cynthia in having appeared in Unova, Kalos, and Alola in post-game story quests, and additionally in the region of Hoenn, albeit solely as part of a throwaway Audino pun joke. If you include Pokémon Generations, he was also in Kanto as part of the chase for Giovanni.
Looker’s introduction gave us the idea that there exists a large group (here the international police) operating across multiple regions, that was separate to the Pokémon League. This in itself served to make the Pokémon world more connected, and bring in a familiar face time and time again for returning players. However, despite appearing in consecutive generations, thus far Galar has eluded the man.
Unova – not so isolated
Unova stands out as a region for being the first in the main series to be based on an area outside of Japan. While the Orre games (Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness) have been said to be based on Arizona, Unova was still quite unique, in being a New York based area, far away from the previous four regions. It also was in many senses a ‘reboot’, where in Pokémon Black and White no previous generation Pokémon were obtainable before the postgame (not even Pikachu!), and those Pokémon in Unova had obvious parallels with generation one Pokémon (e.g. Roggenrola and Geodude, Sawk and Throh with Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan, Trubbish and Grimer, etc.).
But for all that, Unova was not terribly separated. For one, both the aforementioned Looker and Cynthia appeared in the postgame of Pokémon Black and White, with Cynthia’s team able to be fought during summer months. Caitlin, who debuted in the Battle Frontier in generation four, reappeared as a member of the Unova Elite Four. And in the sequels, we saw Sabrina appear in the PokéStar Studios.
The most obvious connection between Unova and the previous four regions, however, came in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. Clay, the Driftveil Gym Leader, sets up the Pokémon World Tournament, effectively bringing every Gym Leader and Elite Four/Champion member into the fray. Now that’s one way to connect Unova with the rest of the Pokémon world!
As for the other way around, Grimsley, another Elite Four member from Unova, as well as Colress, appeared in Alola. The other American representative in terms of regions was not so distant either – your player character (and in-game mum) came from Kanto. Tourists frequented the region with Kantonian versions of Alolan variants of Meowth, Diglett and so forth. Red and Blue appeared in the postgame, and numerous characters such as Wally and Anabel from Hoenn, and Cynthia (again) could be battled in the Battle Tree facility. And let’s not forget this region had one of Looker’s appearances!
Alola also featured a lot of villains from other games in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon in the Rainbow Rocket episode – all the major ones, in fact. While these versions were said to come from an alternate universe, it was still a clear love-letter to other parts of the Pokémon world.
Kalos and Hoenn
After Galar, these two are debatably the least connected to other regions. But they still had some clear instances.
In Kalos’ case, Looker had his own entire chapter-based sidestory in the post-game. The character of Blue was also mentioned by another NPC in name, who states he visited the region and said his catch phrase. However, that’s when the connections end, and references afterward are reduced to throwaway lines in other titles. That said, the doomsday weapon in Kalos is directly referenced in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (ORAS) in the Delta Episode, linking the two regions together.
In Hoenn’s case, besides the above it is also slim pickings. You could point at least to the copy-paste inclusion of the Battle Maison, again from Kalos, and the small limited appearance of Looker. Besides that, it’s just the link between Kalos and Hoenn in Mega Evolution, and Contests in a debatable case. The claim is that Jasmine (fifth from left) and Pryce (2nd from right) show up in the audience for Contests. It could be Jasmine just considering the fact she participates in contests in Sinnoh… but there’s no other confirmation of this fact. Pryce is more unlikely.
On that note, at least the concept of Contests, a significant identity of Hoenn, extended to Sinnoh – many other features of games such as the Pokéathlon or the Pokémon World Tournament did not. That at least helps connect Hoenn to the outer world in another way.
After all that, then, where does that leave Galar?
Tourism down in Galar
A whopping zero characters who debuted in other titles have made their way to the Galar region in view of the player character. That sticks out. Sure, we have a character who brought 151 Alolan Diglett with him to the Isle of Armor which is a vague reference to Alola and Kanto (151 Pokémon), but the character himself has no name, and nor does he talk about Alola.
There are a couple references, at least, that have been recently spotted. Tellingly, these all come as part of the Expansion Pass DLC! Let’s go through them.
The Apricorn master himself is the sole character outside of Galar referenced by anyone in Pokémon Sword and Shield. The child of Honey and Mustard, Hyde, designed the Cram-o-matic machine that can on rare occasion create a unique ball from Apricorns. When this happens (at the absurdly low rate of 1%), Hyde will talk about Kurt visiting the Isle of Armor.
Notice that even here, Kurt, who is a minor (but named) NPC in Johto, does not get mentioned by name. But it’s the only case of someone of any importance from outside Galar visiting. In retrospect this seems to make sense – Kurt lives in Azalea Town which is filled with Slowpoke. Mustard meanwhile has specially trained Galarian Slowpoke as part of his dojo, so there’s a link between these two characters beyond just being friends. This is a subtle but nice piece of world building that integrates, finally, one part of Galar with the bigger world.
As part of the Crown Tundra DLC, more clothing is to be added. Two of those pieces of clothing are references to iconic pieces worn by villain characters Ghetsis and Lysandre.
However, these are not yet available, and furthermore don’t really add to world-building. It’s unlikely any NPC’s dialogue will change to reference these characters when you wear them – after all, they don’t for existing clothing. Maybe this won’t be the case, but it seems rather hopeful to think these clothing items will add anything else.
So… why does nobody visit Galar?
We can probably rule out one option, of the decision to refrain from linking Galar to the rest of the world, being purposeful in design choice. For one, the addition of Kurt to the Isle of Armor goes against this separation of Galar. Plans can change during game development, of course, but it doesn’t make sense. Kurt wasn’t necessary to reference, and the Apricorn Balls appeared in the main game without that.
Furthermore, there has been opportunity for this to happen before. Unova was very much set to feel separate – again, its first titles in Pokémon Black and White had no returning Pokémon until the postgame, instead opting for only “all-new” Pokémon. However, as shown above, Unova had a strong connection to other regions.
Lastly, this does only expand to people and organisations – not the Pokémon themselves. The Champion Leon tellingly does have a Gigantamax Charizard as his main partner, with this emphasised strongly during the story, rather than him featuring a generation eight Pokémon. You also cannot obtain Charmander in the wild. This itself is a connection from Galar to Kanto, yet the other Kanto Starters do not appear until the Isle of Armor as a gift. There’s only a vague integration here.
In the end, it may have simply been a lack of time to properly flesh out the world of Galar. Leon just has the one Kanto Starter, while the other two only received their Gigantamax Forms as part of the Isle of Armor DLC, over half a year after the initial release of the game. There’s been other pieces of evidence to the game being rushed out, between lacking animations and battle backgrounds, to a hurried story where several times other characters deal with events rather than you engaging and helping out. The insistence to have a game put out every year of late has a telling effect, and this extends to the worldbuilding side of the game, to its detriment.
Hopefully, the Crown Tundra will give us more connection to the rest of the Pokémon world. The Isle of Armor gave us a mention to Kurt and included some no-name visiting NPCs to scatter Diglett around the island, but there is more that could be done.
Edited by Aldo, Sheep and Zach.
Thanks to Firefox for the Hyde screenshots.