While the Pokémon franchise has never really featured stories in which the protagonists’ dads are around (with Norman of Petalburg City being the one big exception), the games have never been short on father figures who, depending on the generation you’re playing, act as either guiding mentors like Professor Oak or as not-so-secret adversaris like Sword and Shield’s Chairman Rose.
Pokémon Sword and Shield’s newly released DLC, The Crown Tundra, doesn’t suddenly bring the protagonist’s father back into the picture, but early into this leg of your adventure, the expansion does bring you face to face with a new character who one could easily describe as the franchise’s most try-hard, enthusiastic dad to date.
Soon after you arrive in the frigid Crown Tundra—the Galar Region’s answer to Scotland—the player ends up stumbling upon a girl and her father having a disagreement in the snow over whether and how they should spend time together. Though both the man and his daughter have a love for Pokémon, the girl, Nia, explains that she journeyed to the Crown Tundra specifically because she wanted to explore the area’s famed Max Lair—an underground cavern system teeming with powerful, legendary Pokémon—by herself. Nia’s father, a former gym leader named Peony, insists that he tag along with his daughter because of the Max Lair’s danger and temptation for a Pokémon trainer, but also because he wants to spend some quality time with his daughter.
After you defeat Peony in an impromptu battle—it’s Pokémon, after al—Nia’s long since made her exit for the Max Lair and The Crown Tundra begins to pull you into the first of its major stories, in which you end up the trainer fated to interact with and hopefully catch the new legendary Pokémon introduced in the expansion.
As much of a fuss as Peony makes about wanting to hang out with Nia at the start of The Crown Tundra, the Steel-type specialist quickly makes clear that he’s more or less content spending time with you, as he offers up a few useful tools to help you trek around the area and provides you the first bit of information about a mysterious Pokémon known as the King of Bountiful Harvests. Unlike The Isle of Armor DLC that came before it, The Crown Tundra actually introduces quite a bit of lore that helps make this new part of the Galar Region actually feel lived in and steeped in history.
Despite the wintery state you discover the Crown Tundra to be in, the townsfolk of the local town Freezington all the tell tale of the mythical king, whose powers once helped usher in harvests in springtime. Through your interactions with Freezington’s mayor and Peony, you get swept up into a search for Nia as her father urges you to follow him deep into the Max Lair to battle wild Pokémon and collect valuable ore.
When you do end up catching up with Nia, she fully cops to ditching her father despite the fact that she understands why he’d rather be exploring the lair with her. Sympathetic to her father though she may be, Nia has no qualms with continuing to run off by herself, as she figures that Peony’s clearly having fun hanging out with you, and there’s still more in the Crown Tundra she wants to look into alone. As Nia runs off deeper into the Max Lair, The Crown Tundra leaves you to return to the entrance where you find Peony quite incapacitated after tripping over a rock and hitting his head, before he comes to his senses and accepts that you’re best suited to be his companion in this specific instance.
It’s only toward the last bit of this first adventure when you get caught up in an odd series of events—involving Peony being possessed by an otherworldly force—that the man finally decides to chill out for a bit and act as a properly supportive NPC from the safety of his cabin located in Freezington. Any more gameplay interruptions from Peony might have ended up making The Crown Tundra feel like something of a slog, but he steps into the background at just the right time, to give you the sort of freedom Nia wanted to make her time there feel like her own. It feels like it’s only a matter of time before Peony and Nia make their way into the world of the Pokémon anime, and one can only hope that when they arrive, they’re every bit as weirdly likeable as their counterparts in the games are.
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