All right, guv’nor? As you are almost certainly aware, the Galar region in Pokémon Sword and Shield is based on the United Kingdom. While the first four regions we encountered in the games – Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, and Sinnoh – were all based on locations in Japan, Unova from Pokémon Black and White took inspiration from New York, Kalos from Pokémon X and Y was based on France, and Pokémon Sun and Moon‘s Alola was developer Game Freak’s take on Hawaii.
Residents of any of those places naturally get an extra kick from exploring their respective regions and seeing little familiar things along the way. We’ve certainly enjoyed noting all the little nods and winks to British culture, architecture, cuisine and more as we’ve journeyed through Galar on our quest to become the very best.
But what towns and cities provided the inspiration behind the locations in Pokémon Sword and Shield? Well, much of the Galar region’s texture seems to have been inspired by a trip to the Lake District taken by the game’s director Shigeru Ohmori shortly before the launch of Pokémon Sun and Moon, but there are plenty of other influences to be found, too.
We at Nintendo Life Towers had a chat about the real-life places that the Galar region towns remind us of and came up with the following list of locations we think Game Freak might have drawn inspiration. Obviously, there’s a real blend of influences here and British readers will no doubt see glimpses of places we don’t mention below, but here are the locales we were reminded of as we journeyed through Pokémon Sword and Shield…
Real-world inspiration: Hmm… Narnia?
Ah yes, towering neon mushrooms! These world-famous British natural wonde– hang on.
Kicking things off in alphabetical order we have Ballonlea, a dark little hamlet located in a forest of gigantic trees and glowing mushrooms. Frankly, it’s the most otherworldly town in the game and doesn’t share much at all with any real-life British locale. Its Gym Leader Opal is a Fairy-type specialist, and Ballonlea seems to fuse some Lewis Carroll-style fantasy into the Galar region’s map.
So no, we don’t really have giant neon mushroom forests. Sorry!
Real-world inspiration: Bath, Somerset
An easy one, this. Bath is a spa town in the South West of England. As you might expect, it’s got natural hot springs that the Romans took advantage of to build baths, hence the unimaginative name.
Characterised by its water and lovely architecture (John Wood the Younger’s Royal Crescent being a famous example), it doesn’t get the snowfall Circhester receives but it’s a popular stop-off for tourists venturing outside the Bog Smoke of London’s without going too far into the sticks.
Culture, history, hot springs – you can’t go wrong with Bath. It’s a lovely place, only spoiled by all the insufferably slow, oblivious tourists taking selfies every three metres when you go for a stroll. At least selfie sticks fell out of fashion.
Real-world inspiration: A forest (pick one – The Forest of Dean’s a winner)
Glimwood Tangle is a forest you must go through on your way to Ballonlea. It was this area where the 24-hour livestream took place before Pokémon Sword and Shield launched.
There are numerous forests you could argue that Glimwood Tangle draws inspiration from – this list from Country File highlights some of the very finest in Britain, including Grizedale in Cumbria (the Lake District area where Shigeru Ohmori visited), the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and Padley Gorge in Derbyshire. You’re unlikely to find giant glowing fungi in any woodland area, but given the right weather conditions and time of day, all of the above could stand in well for Glimwood Tangle.
Real-world inspiration: York / Edinburgh
Blending in a healthy dollop of Hyrule and Hogwarts, Hammerlocke’s battlements give the city a high-fantasy edge, but it made us think of both the walled city of York located in the North East of England, and Edinburgh, the Scottish capital.
The ‘original’ York is massively popular with tourists and natives alike – it was voted the best place to live in Britain by the Sunday Times. Home to such cultural gems as York Minster (a big ol’ Gothic cathedral), York Castle (a… castle) and the National Railway Museum (which boasts the Flying Scotsman, the Mallard and an operational replica of Stevenson’s Rocket), York is overflowing with the sort of history and beauty that visitors imagine fills every corner of Britain. It also does a good pint.
Edinburgh, of course, needs little introduction. A historical and cultural hotspot which is home to all manner of arts festivals and annual events, the Scottish capital gets millions of visitors every year going for the festivals alone and indulging in far too much whisky, haggis, neeps, tatties and tartan – the sole diet of the Scottish in the same way the English live off nothing but fish, chips and cups of tea. Cholesterol doesn’t exist in Britain.
Both cities are exceedingly lovely. Of course, there are some pretty dingy corners to be found all around the UK (skip ahead to Spikemuth for more information on those), but if it makes you happy to believe we all live in places as glorious as Hammerlocke, carry right on.
Real-world inspiration: Hull / Grimsby / Dartmouth
Hulbury’s docks and market could be a substitute for any number of British seaport towns and cities. Hull and Grimsby spring to mind, perhaps with a splash of the picturesque Dartmouth for good measure, but there are plenty more harbour towns and seaside resorts it resembles.
As seen in Hulbury with its seafood restaurant, most of them have proud traditions when it comes to maritime practices and the fishing industry and are therefore excellent places to get some authentic newspaper-wrapped fish ‘n’ chips. And we’re talking proper fish and proper chips; not fries, not wedges or curlies – chunky, soft, salt-and-vinegar soaked chip shop chips! Every English citizen is required to consume at least a kilo of these per week, as mandated by Prime Minister, Hugh Grant.
Real-world inspiration: Manchester / Liverpool
Steam-powered and industrial, Motostoke blends the mighty cities of Liverpool and Manchester. Both famous port cities that grew prominent during the Industrial Revolution, they’ll be best-known to international readers for their football (soccer) teams and as the birthplace of many of the country’s best musicians and bands. Among many others, Manchester boasts The Smiths and Oasis while Liverpool gave us arguably the most famous Britons the world has ever known: John, Paul, George and Ringo, better known as the Rolling Stones*.
*This is a joke. John, Paul, George and Ringo were, of course, the Beach Boys.