Pokemon Sword and Shield are easily one of the most anticipated Switch games ever. Given it’s the first mainline game for Switch and that opened so many doors, it’s easy to see how players could be hyped. However, despite having untold potential, it faced a number of challenges related to its development. With an unimpressive number of returning Pokemon, lackluster new additions and more, is it worth getting or is it just a disappointment for fans and newcomers alike? Here’s our Pokemon Sword and Shield Review.
A new Pokemon game means a new region. In Pokemon Sword and Shield, players will be able to explore an all-new region called Galar. It depicts similarities to Great Britain, with the region having a heavy emphasis on its Pokemon Gym Battles. To them, it’s like a national sport and as soon as you start the game, you will be greeted in a soccer arena-like stage where the Champion introduces you to the Pokemon world.
Fans looking forward to a new and unique story will be disappointed. Pokemon Sword and Shield manage to focus on the same plot the series has been tackling for over a decade. You start off as your character with a goal in mind to become a Pokemon champion. However, there are twists and turns in the game that makes it somewhat interesting to see it through until the end. With a likable cast like your rival Hop, the current-champion Leon who happens to be the brother of Hop, the mysteries of the Wishing Star that turns Pokemon into Dynamax and a plot that reveals about the ancient founders of the region – these are some of the side plots you can expect in the game. While it may sound redundant that every Pokemon game has the goal of becoming a Pokemon Champion, it manages to add a few plot twists that make it rather interesting for fans.
One of the new features of Pokemon Sword and Shield is the addition of the new generation of Pokemon. As always, most of the new Pokemon that are introduced in the game are hybrid of animals or insects that turned out to be unique, while others are weird to look at. Several of the Pokemon from the old generations have received their own new Galar form as well which makes them look a lot better while some are weird. Several old Pokemon to look forward to with the Galar form are Rapidash, Weezing, Meowth, and Zigzagoon. There are around 80 new Pokemon introduced in Sword and Shield that draw inspiration from English fauna, mythology, and folklore. This is in addition to the two Legendary Pokemon; Zacian and Zamazenta that are wolf-like creatures. Some don’t like the new Pokemon being introduced but personally, they look lovely.
As for its gameplay, it’s more of the same thing with you being tasked to pick one of the three Pokemon, go around the region and fight Gym Leaders, and be the Pokemon Champion. The same-old Pokemon formula is still there, but of course, with very small few changes added to it like-new items are being introduced, HMs are no longer available, you get to fly early on in the game, and the inclusion of Pokemon being able to be seen in overworld like in Let’s Go! games. In addition, you can now have access to your Pokemon Box without the need of going to the Pokemon Center. Pretty much there are a lot of quality-of-life changes that are added that make the experience a lot better than in previous games.
One of the changes that really compels me is the narrative portion of the game. This time in Sword and Shield, some of the events in the game will give you a cinematic-like experience. Sadly, there are no voice-overs but the overall quality of storytelling is superb.
The biggest addition in Pokemon Sword and Shield is the ability to Dynamaxing your Pokemon. If previous games have Z-Attacks like in Pokemon Sun and Moon, this game has what you call Dynamxing that allows your Pokemon and turn it into its gigantic form with inflated stats and HP. When this happens to your Pokemon, all of the moves become super moves. Some of the Pokemon that you Dynamax also changes in appearance and each Pokemon that goes into Dynamaxing will only last for three turns. It’s a great addition and it looks phenomenal when you see your favorite Pokemon is at its best.
With the ability to make your Pokemon go into its Dynamax form, there are now Raid Battles that you can use them into. At some point in the game, you will be able to join a four-player raid group that battles huge Pokemon. Of course, beat these gigantic Pokemon to earn special rewards or have a chance to catch their smaller form. Sadly, there is only a specific area where you can do raids and it’s in the Wild Areas where there is a lot of gigantic form Pokemon that you can battle. Think of it as a Safari Zone, which is dedicated to this kind of Pokemon.
As far as the online component goes, players will still be able to trade, and do Pokemon Battle via the Nintendo Switch Online. They are freely available anywhere in Galar as long as you are connected to the internet. You will be able to find people to trade Pokemon with at any time as you can randomly trade, or do it with specific people by trading Friend Codes.
Another small change that is worth mentioning is that Sword and Shield now has auto-saving. This means, the game will auto-save at specific places, but you can still manually save if you wish to. If there is one thing I am really disappointed in Sword and Shield is that there is no cloud saving, especially if you are subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online. The omission is looked down upon as you cannot cross-play between two systems that you may probably have at home.
Visually, Pokemon Sword and Shield looks fantastic regardless if you are playing in both handheld or docked mode. The cartoon style fits perfectly well but there are performance issues like slowdowns or frame rate drops, and texture pop-ins. It doesn’t really detract from the overall experience because the cuteness of its new graphics will make up for it, but it’s noticeable as you go along the way. Though when it comes to Pokemon attacks, they look bland and hopefully in their next game, they would be able to animate more of its attacks well.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Review – Verdict
Pokemon Sword and Shield is a decent mainline entry and a good attempt for their first home console Pokemon game. The new pokemon are lovely, the cinematic experience is phenomenal and it does most things quite well. Newcomers will have plenty to enjoy, while veteran fans will likely be disappointed. Add in the lack of a national dex and it’s a shame but not enough to say it kills the experience.
[Editor’s Note:] Pokemon Sword and Shield was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch Lite platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]