Pokemon Sword and Shield – Switch Review

Pokemon Sword and Shield – Switch Review

Genre: Adventure, Role-Playing
Developer: GAME FREAK Inc.
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Nov 15, 2019
Edited by Thorstag

Pokemon Sword and Shield is the next installment of the widely popular Pokemon series that continues to be loved by older gamers and newer gamers for over twenty years now. Each Pokemon game in the series takes the player on an adventure in a new region, and this time it takes place in a region called Galar. The region of Galar has inspired by real-world Great Britain in terms of geography, culture, and style of Pokemon. This is the first mainline Pokemon game in the series since Sun and Moon on the Nintendo 3DS and on the Nintendo Switch. Last year’s Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee were remakes of the first Pokemon games with a unique spin on the series. The difference between the Sword and Shield versions of the game are the same as the Pokemon games before it. Each version allows you to capture the legendary Pokemon on the cover of the game and have some Pokemon that do not appear in the other version, but everyone else is the exact same.  

As all Pokemon games have started, you play a teenager as you adventure out from your hometown to capture, train, and strive to become the top Pokemon trainer of your homeland. At the start of the game, you meet with your best friend and rival Hop as you are given your first Pokemon to start your adventure. Both you and Hop receive the Pokemon by the current Pokemon champion, which also happens to be Hop’s older brother Leon. He also is your sponsor to allow you to visit all the Pokemon gyms in the land to compete for badges to one day become the champion yourself. You then journey from town to town with Hop exploring, battling, and capturing Pokemon to strengthen your team before each facing each gym leader. More happens, but it would be hard to go into much detail without spoiling the story or any of the characters that you meet.

Gameplay as a whole has not changed greatly since Pokemon was first created. If you played any Pokemon game ever, you would not feel much has changed. Changes that have been made are mostly additions except for the removal of the national Pokedex. In previous titles as an endgame function, the player was allowed to capture Pokemon not found in-game, or the player could import them from previous games. The removal of this didn’t affect my experience in this game as the game still has 400 Pokemon in-game. New Pokemon making their debut fit perfectly with the older Pokemon kept in. As in the Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, Pokemon will be seen running about in real-time around tall grass so one can see most of the Pokemon before the encounter.

Areas between the towns are divided up in routes and in the newly added “wild area”. While routes are linear paths and roads with static weather conditions with some having caves, the wild area is a free-roaming zone that can change from place to place. This open-world area syncs with your time of day on your Nintendo Switch and randomly changes the weather from place to place. Both control what type of Pokemon can spawn as prove the weather effect in battles for better or worst. Part of me really wishes the open world was the entire world than just a large one field thing. I feel this was a missed potential as they stuck with making the open area just a part of the exploring. It is by no means a small part, and you will be revisiting and exploring more parts of it throughout the game.

The open-world area full of growing locations that give a new currency called watts and co-op style battles to verse a harder pokemon using the new combat system called Dynamax. You can team up with up to the three other players or use computer allies to fight a powerful Pokemon using Dynamax. Transforming using Dynamax is in these battles or gyms for the most part. Your Pokemon will grow to a large size and have moves that are made only for this form in the three turns you are given. In the co-op battles against Dynamax’ed Pokemon, they are in that form at all times. These battles are mostly straight forward and don’t provide much of a challenge until you start facing Pokemon at the max level. Till then, the computer NPCs that help are more than enough, and you earn lots of good rewards.

Some Pokemon only appear in these special battles to further entice players to actively fight them. On the routes and open-world, the player can set up a camp and cook for their Pokemon. This gives a small minigame to create a curry that heals your Pokemon and gives bonus experience to level and makes your Pokemon liking you more. The more your Pokemon like you, the more likely you get bonuses in combat involving avoiding attacks, curing status effects instantly, or getting critical hits. The online play shines most in the wild area as you can get random items for interacting with players. Pokemon sends out messages to your friends, and you receive messages as those around you do anything in the game to add a nice touch in seeing what your friends are doing in-game. Multiplayer doesn’t have much to actively travel or play together as Pokemon is mostly a single-player game. Besides trading, battling, or the co-op Dynamax battles, you won’t be doing too much in online play. If anything, it just helps make the world feel full, but you don’t see other players in the towns. Connecting online in the open-world area can make the game feel laggy as players render in and out. I feel with most of the game; they played it too safe compared to other games to the point you don’t feel a community of online players unless you know others that play the game.

Artstyle hasn’t changed much as Pokemon has its own style, but there is a bit of an improvement in graphics being on the switch. Playing on handheld and TV, I found no visual change in rendering or performance, making it seem to be more optimized for more handheld play or on the Switch Lite. With Pokemon being on handhelds for over twenty-five years, I wasn’t expecting to really play it a lot on the TV. Music in the game is done amazingly. Top of many places having different tracks, you have different tracks for the rivals you meet. Gym battles also having more dynamic music that changes as you progress through the battle. Style of the gym battles are modeled on soccer-like stadiums with filled seats of spectators to add more energy on you and others travels on their league tour. Story and characters have been more fleshed out than past games. Even gym leaders being more than a one-time thing with recurrences of their involvement in the world and the story. Animations in battles can be silly at times as some moves are amazingly animated, while others seem lacking.

I would say this has been my favorite Pokemon game to date, but they play it very safe to not fully use the new ideas or mechanics being introduced. Most of the time, it made me wanting more of the online play, making the open-world area throughout the world, or expand the complexity of it. If I had to sum up this version of the Pokemon series, it would be called the “quality of life” update: 

  • All Pokemon that have not fainted gain experience. 
  • Pokemon centers contain all shopping but cloths. 
  • You can access your storage from almost everywhere in the world so you can swap pokemon in your party at all times. 
  • You gain vital travel help early in the game with the bike and fast-travel to past locations. 

Those are only the biggest ones, but it made the game easier to level and use any pokemon you want as the game progresses then just using your “strongest team”. Difficulty of Pokemon in the open-world scaling at post-game to not feel the battles are boring as you continue to play. Most annoyances come from the new exciting parts of the game being played too safe to make it seem lacking, but the older mechanics are polished and made better for all for anyone to be able to play and enjoy a Pokemon game. I fully recommend this title to anyone curious about getting into Pokemon or has been a fan for years. I hope in future titles; they expand the new ideas to make it cover the full game. The open-world is an amazing idea and done well, but it really does need to be in the full game rather than just part of it.

Pros

  • Great Story and Music
  • Great Pokemon Game
  • Full Gameplay Experience Throughout the Game
  • Quality of Life Changes Welcome Veterans and Newcomers to Series

Cons

  • New Mechanics Play it Safe
  • Online play seems Lacking

FoxieEXE gives Pokemon Sword and Shield a Drastik Measure of 8.6 (86)

You can find Pokemon Sword and Shield Double Pack for the Nintendo Switch on the Nintendo Store priced at $119. 99 at the time of this review.