Pokémon Sword and Shield is finally available exclusively for Nintendo Switch, introducing players to the new Galar region outside of the UK. Ever since I was introduced to the world of Pokémon on my old grey brick Game Boy with Pokémon Blue, I’ve been dreaming about what the game would look like on my TV if I played it outside of my home console. The N64 had Pokémon Stadium and its sequel, which allowed me to plug in my Game Boy game pack so I could see what my favorite monsters looked like on the big screen, but aside from the battles, it didn’t offer much else. There was also Pokémon Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness on the GameCube, which gave fans a taste of what a real Pokémon RPG might look like on a home console.

In 2019, we live in a world where Nintendo’s home console and portable systems have merged, meaning that the transition to the digital age will finally see the release of a true Pokémon RPG for the home console. But did all the fans want it?

Short answer: Some kind of?

Pokémon Sword and Shield has been the subject of intense criticism since this year’s E3, when the game’s producer, Junichi Masuda, said in an interview that these games will be the first to not include a National Dex or Pokémon from previous games. The absence of National Dex caused an outcry from Game Freak fans, who demanded that all Sword and Shield monsters be included in the game. This isn’t the only criticism many fans have leveled at Game Freak: The animations and graphics are not up to the Switch, he said. With all the criticism of one of my favorite franchises, I couldn’t help but feel my enthusiasm for these games fade. Still, it’s a Pokémon game, and it’s still fun, though with a lot of good points.

With my almost 40 hours with the Pokémon sword, I had a lot of fun. The story revolves around you and your childhood friend Hop as you travel through the Galar region collecting gym badges to defeat champion Leon, Hop’s older brother. It’s pretty much the same story as the last 20 years. The story is pretty short compared to previous games. If I hadn’t spent time on other aspects of the game, I could have finished it in half the time. Don’t expect much trouble here either, as the EXP Share element is now permanently activated – meaning your team will be one step ahead of any coach or leader unlucky enough to challenge you in a fight.

Like Pokémon Sun and Moon, your game will often be overrun by other characters. It seemed that every time I went in a new direction, a character would stop me to explain something or give me an object, when really I just wanted to explore a new area. Leon, champion, is one of the worst offenders for me. Every time there was a catastrophic event, he would storm onto the stage and say something like This is Championship Time. I wonder which part of this game is my story or his.

All the scenes might not have been so badly done if voices had been heard to accompany them. It’s weird to think that a big-budget JRPG on a home console wouldn’t have a voice, especially considering that you can simply use voice-activated anime in games. It really struck me when Pierce, one of the leaders of the school, had an entire scene where he sang a rock song, horribly muffled.

The story also doesn’t hold up well to previous entries in the series. Team Scream is the new team of bad guys, although I wouldn’t go so far as to consider them a threat. You’re basically a fan of your other rival, Marnie. There wasn’t even a real team leader to shoot, like Giovanni from Team Rocket.

In terms of gameplay, it’s the same games we’ve had for the past 20 years, with some improvements in quality of life. The wild Pokémon that first appeared in Let’s Go games last year can now be seen all over the world, and there are no more random encounters. Hallelujah! Another step in the right direction is the addition of the wilderness area. Here Pokémon roam freely and the player can control the camera. It’s a little strange to think that a feature as simple as camera control could be innovative in 2019, but this is Pokémon we’re talking about, which is known for its lack of change.

Two hours into the story, players enter the Wild Zone. It’s a step in the right direction for the show, but it’s far from perfect. It’s the closest thing to an open world for Pokémon fans, but it lacks the elements that make an open world or even a great JRPG interesting – things that could have been done. Other than catching Pokémon and participating in raids, there’s not much to do here. It’s a huge open landscape full of Pokémon, but there are no dungeons, no side missions, no missions in the wild, and not even interesting things to look at. I went there a few more times because I like to collect as many samples as possible. I also liked being able to catch fully evolved Pokémon, like Steelix or Gengar, that have to be traded to reach their final evolution. So if you’re looking to complete your Pokédex, this is a great addition.

Pokémon games have never been known for their great graphics, but I thought that would change when the series finally came to the home console. I assumed I was wrong. The graphics aren’t bad, but I can’t help but think that these games weren’t designed with the Switch in mind. Take the Wild District, for example. This should be a big seller for games, but when combined with in-game online communication, it’s a waste of bugs at best. Cars appear out of nowhere and there are constantly visuals that are not appropriate for a modern console-based RPG. Playing offline eliminates this problem, but the player will miss out on invitationals and other features. It goes without saying that the player should not stop using the feature provided, as this will cause the game to stutter.

Fortunately, the other areas of the game look very good. Each place has its charms, and I especially loved the forest village of Ballonea. Unfortunately, many towns are quite small, and they have nothing to do there except fight in the local gym and move on. I felt the same way about the routes. There are no dungeons in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Most courses are pretty easy and there are fewer coaches on the way to the fight, which is another reason why this game is much shorter than the previous ones.

Like Mega Evolution and Z-Moves of the last two generations, Dynamax and Gigantamax are new combat tricks introduced in Sword and Shield. Dynamaxing a Pokémon is a hybrid of Mega Evolution and Z-Moves, increasing its size and the power of all its moves by three turns. Gigantamaxing does all this and changes the appearance of some Pokémon. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would, but I was a little disappointed to learn that I could only use it for sports games and not for most of the story.  Since Mega Evolution and Z-Moves are designed for these new combat features, I wonder if I’ll care, since they’ll probably be removed in favor of a new gadget in the future.

Along with Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing come the Max Raid Battles, which can be found in the Wilderness. Players can fight one of these powerful Pokémon with up to three friends (without friends) for a chance to win. Some Pokémon can only be caught this way. Honestly, it was a lot of fun, which is the main reason I always went back to the wilderness after every badge. Unfortunately, if you don’t have friends, these fights can be quite difficult because the NPCs the game gives you are often quite bad. I would love to be able to participate in Max Raid battles with randomly selected people online, but they are limited to your Switch friends list. That’s another strange decision to make in 2019.

The part that follows the sword and shield game is also rather sinister. There is a battle tower, but all you can really do is fight, unlike Battle Frontier in previous games. The question is whether these games should really be divided into two options that cost $60 each. Other games like Fire Emblem: The three houses offer multiple scenarios with fundamentally different exits, with all paths on the same game cart. Asking players to spend $120 for the entire experience is completely ridiculous, considering that the only major differences are a few different Pokémon and a few different gym managers. These games can easily be on the same game cart and offer players better replayability. It was never that big of a deal when the games only cost $40 each or $80 for both games on 3DS.

Most of the music in Sword and Shield is fantastic. The leader’s fight themes include fan songs in the stands, which is a nice touch. My favorite song would have to be In Wild Zone, which sounds like a Scottish bagpipe in the background. It reminded me of my Scottish grandmother listening to the bagpipes on her old tape recorder and made me feel like these games were played in Britain. The writing also had a few cheeky nods that I can only assume, born and bred in the US, British slang that would have been much better for a full voice cast.

It’s gotten pretty long, and I always feel like I have a lot to say about these games. If you’re undecided, I’d say it’s normal to love them and acknowledge that they have a lot of unresolved issues. Pokémon is my favorite franchise, so I’ll always play and enjoy the latest game in the series, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s perfect. The absence of National Dex depresses me, because I paid the Pokémon Bank and transferred Pokémon from all games of Ruby. For every step forward, Sword and Shield takes at least half a step back, while still being fun to play. If you’re a Pokémon fan, you’ll probably enjoy these games, but eventually, like me, the bubble will probably burst and you’ll realize all the opportunities you missed.

Pokémon Sword Review
  • Charts – 7/10
  • Sound – 8/10
  • Gameplay – 8/10
  • Late Call – 6/10

7/10

Final thoughts : GOOD PAGE

I had a lot of fun with Pokémon Sword, exploring the wilderness and catching fully trained Pokémon running around. There are many problems, and it is far from perfect. Still, it’s nice to dive back into the fantasy world of Pokémon with Arcanin by my side.

Tony has been playing since he could walk. Pokémon Blue Version helped him learn to read. His greatest achievement is not just playing the entire Kingdom Hearts series, but understanding it.

Dim:

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