Early on in Pokemon Sword & Shield, you’ll encounter “strong-looking” Pokemon. These creatures will be several levels above your team and are some of the toughest battles you’ll face in the beginning of your adventure. In my game, for instance, I ran into a strong-looking Onix and spent the next 15 minutes trying to whittle it down enough to catch. Its combination of the stat-boosting move Screech and the powerful attack Rock Slide took out most of my team, but I finally knocked its HP into the red. I went to throw a Pokeball, and… I couldn’t catch it.
Yep! If you try to catch strong-looking Pokemon, you’ll be met with the message that you couldn’t throw a Pokeball because they wouldn’t let their guard down. How do you get them to lower their guard and add them to your collection? The wording of the message makes it seem like there’s some kind of battle tactic you need to employ, but the real answer has nothing to do with that.
See, in Pokemon Sword and Shield, you can only catch Pokemon up to a certain level. To increase that level cap, you need to first collect Gym Badges. And when you start out, you can only catch monsters up to level 20. That puts a whole slew of Pokemon in the wild area out of reach. I was disappointed to find that, in addition to the Onix, I couldn’t capture wild Gastly, Delibird, or Drifloon. These and other Pokemon are seemingly only available as strong-looking encounters early on, so you won’t be able to get them at all your first time through the wild area.
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Collecting your first Gym Badge will bring the level of Pokemon you can catch up, but not by much. It only goes to level 25. Subsequent badges further increase that cap. So it’s worth heading back to the wild area after you’ve gotten a few badges to see what new Pokemon you can get. It’s kind of a weird departure for the series — in previous games, badges only functioned as a kind of soft cap on power leveling, since higher level Pokemon wouldn’t listen to your commands. That holds true in Pokemon Sword & Shield too, but with this added restriction. You can check your level caps by looking at your Trainer Card.
All that said, the strong-looking Pokemon wandering through the wild area do yield a ton of XP, if you’re able to knock them out. Type advantages will help a great deal here, as will status moves. Is it worth it to spend time grinding them out? Probably not, since Pokemon Sword & Shield isn’t very difficult anyway. But it’s an option!
Thankfully, your Pokedex has a recommendations feature that tracks Pokemon you’ve encountered but not captured. This makes it easy to return to a previous area to catch monsters that were once too powerful for you to snare. Personally, I’m itching to go back and get that Onix, Gastly, and yes, even Delibird. I know, it has terrible typing. But it’s so cute! And besides, it’s nearly the holiday season.