REVIEW: ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield’ May be the Best Pokemon Yet (Switch)

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Pokemon Sword and Shield

Pokemon Sword and Shield, developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo and The Pokemon Company has ushered in Generation 8 of the popular franchise, taking us to the United Kingdom inspired region of Galar. This is the first main Pokemon game for the Nintendo Switch, taking some aspects from the Pokemon: Let’s Go games released in 2018.

In Sword and Shield, you get to create a character that represents you better than any Pokemon game yet. Even your mother shares your skin tone after selecting your own. Your goal in Sword and Shield is to go through the Galar Gym Challenge and ultimately defeat the undefeated champion Leon. Just like previous games, you travel from town to town collecting monsters until you reach a team of six and battle different gym leaders who have a party of Pokemon varying different types. For the past 20 years, combat in Pokemon games has been the same turn-based action. However, it’s never looked so beautiful and crisp as it does now.

Sword and Shield has to be one of the best games in the series graphics and gameplay-wise. Not to mention, if someone wants to get into the world of Pokemon, this is the game to do so. For someone who has been playing this franchise for a little over two decades, this game is at its most accessible. You can use the ZL and ZR buttons to move conversations along and select menus. You are also able to access your stored partners out in the wild without having to be in a Pokemon Center.

Despite the controversy over the fact that not all 890 previously available Pokemon are available in Sword and Shield, there are 80 new Pokemon, never before seen and native to the Galar Region. They bring the total to over 400 Pokemon that fill out the Galar Pokedex. It’s amazing to see old and familiar Pokemon as you journey to become the next Champion of Galar. It fills you with nostalgia and seeing new Pokemon amplifies your excitement. Each and every Pokemon looks beautiful on screen, making catching them all more addicting than ever.

Pokemon Sword and Shield

What stands out in making Pokemon catching more addicting than ever is that the majority of random encounters are gone. On each route, cave, and the Wild Area you can see the Pokemon meandering around. This allows you to see what battles you’re getting into and potentially what Pokemon you want to add to your team. There are still some Pokemon that will surprise you and run up on you. Sometimes you will see them and you can dodge, but if you’re deep in the grass, an exclamation mark will go up. In the beginning of the game, an NPC lets you know that these Pokemon are random but they may be stronger. Sometimes it may be a Pokemon you have yet to encounter. 

Once you reach the Wild Area, you’ll want to spend all your time there catching Pokemon. However, if you don’t have enough badges, Pokemon will be too powerful to catch and run away from. This acts as a reminder to continue the story and come back. The Wild Area is an area in the game that is right in the middle of the Galar Region. It houses many pokemon and weather conditions. This will be the area you catch rare pokemon and participate in new Max Raid Battles, a four-player battle against Dynamax Pokemon that you can either play with friends online or with NPCs. They are fights against giant, rare pokemon that, if captured, have a chance of possessing a special ability or the ability to Gigantimax. I love this area because something is always going on, even if you expend the amount of Raid Battles you can participate per day.

These Pokemon are in their Gigantamax form. There are also real-time events in the Wild Area that make some Gigantamax Pokemon temporarily more common, which will keep it always worth coming back to. For example, currently happening is increased spawns of Butterfrees until early January 2020. Giganitmax forms have different features than their standard counterparts. For example, Gigantamax Butterfree has shiny wings. Pokemon like these Butterfree also have access to Max moves and a G-Max move, flashy, powerful moves that inflict damage and cause status effects.

Including all my time spent wandering the Wild Area, I finished the main story in under 40 hours. I particularly enjoyed the sport-themed Gym Challenges you completed on your way to champion, as well as each character and their myriad of personalities. By games-end, I was rooting for your childhood rival, Hop. As I grew with my Pokemon and competed against Hop, I felt like I actually grew with him too. With other rivals from previous titles, it felt like a chore to battle them, something to move the story along. Here it felt like I had real competiton. I had no problem besting him in battle, but a few times across the story, Hop gave me a run for my money.

I enjoyed Sword and Shield‘s story. It stuck with the franchise’s overall theme of becoming the very best with very few side quests. I liked that my suspicions on who the villain of the story was proved wrong and the motive for their actions deals with a problem our society is battling today.

Pokemon Sword and Shield hits you with nostalgia and fills you with joy upon seeing old and new Pokemon. The graphics of the Pokemon are beautiful despite the controversy of reusing previous models. Battles and Gym Battles keep you excited with slightly smarter AI and awesome music that gets you pumped. The endgame is the same as previous games, consisting of catching them all and breeding powerful Pokemon to compete with online, should you choose. There is also the addition of the ever-changing Wild Area and Raid Battles to catch Pokemon, fill out your Pokedex, and collect items to aid you in your training. Pokemon Sword and Shield will definitely keep you busy trying to become the very best like no one ever was.

Pokemon Sword and Shield are available now for the Nintendo Switch.

Pokemon Sword and Shield
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Pokemon Sword and Shield hits you with nostalgia and fills you with joy upon seeing old and new Pokemon. The graphics of the Pokemon are beautiful despite the controversy of reusing previous models. Battles and Gym Battles keep you excited with slightly smarter AI and awesome music that gets you pumped… Pokemon Sword and Shield will definitely keep you busy trying to become the very best like no one ever was.