Since I was a young child, one thing I have always wanted to see from the Pokemon franchise is a massive, main series game on a home console. Now, in 2019, I am 23 years old and finally my wish has been granted, with Pokemon Sword & Shield on Nintendo Switch. And I am happy to say that, despite a lot of valid controversy, this game does not disappoint, and is a welcome addition to the Pokemon franchise and a big step for it as well.
Pokemon Sword & Shield take place in the Galar region, which is based on the UK. Every single aspect of this game resembles the UK, from the graphics, the sprawling landscapes, and the incredible music, Game Freak has done a phenomenal job at converting the UK into a Pokemon region. It is easily the most authentic feeling Pokemon region to date.
What is most appreciated in these games are the tweaks that have been done to improve the overall gameplay experience. Inconveniences found in previous games are no more. For example, you can now access your boxes anywhere without needing to go to a Pokemon Centre. And say what you will about the new EXP Share feature being automatically implemented, but I never liked grinding in Pokemon games. Now, the grind does has been significantly cut down. Random encounters are also a thing of the past, as the developers took a page from Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu & Let’s Go Eevee‘s book and made almost all the Pokemon appear right in front of your eyes, to scale even. Not to mention the fun customization features for your character. There are also many more minor tweaks that all amount to an overall more enjoyable experience.
There is also a new battle mechanic called Dynamax, where a seemingly regular Pokemon battle takes a huge turn and becomes an epic Pokemon Kaiju battle, as your Pokemon can now grow significantly bigger, making the battles a lot cooler and far more interesting. Every single Pokemon can Dynamax. There have been other mechanics involving Pokemon changing their forms, such as Mega Evolutions in Pokemon X & Y. Dynamax is easily the best new form-changing mechanic, and Gigantamax, which is similar but an entirely different form, rather than a sized up Pokemon, it even cooler. Although only a selection of Pokemon has a Gigantamax form. As a fan of the Kaiju genre, Dynamax and Gigantamax are two mechanics I find especially awesome.
Graphically, Sword & Shield are a massive upgrade from previous Pokemon games. Being on a powerful home console, the developers had a lot more power to work with, giving us eye-popping landscapes and the world feels lived in and vast. Towns are by far the biggest they’ve ever been and feel almost continuous. The map is also quite large, and is very likely the largest region to date. While some of the textures are definitely a bit questionable, such as the infamous trees in the Wild Area, character designs are great, including Pokemon designs and human designs. The human characters are the most expressive they’ve ever been. Overall, the graphics are by no means terrible, but some textures definitely could have used some work.
Speaking of the Wild Area, that is the biggest new feature in the game, and easily my favourite. It is a vast, expansive and completely open chunk of the region where the game sort of turns into an MMORPG in the sense that if you turn on the Internet, you will be able to see a bunch of other people who are exploring the Wild Area as well. You can also participate in Dynamax and Giantamax raid battles with strangers or with friends. If you’re not near an internet connection, you can still explore the Wild Area in single player in the same way you would when connected to the Internet, so no features are getting lost, except online multiplayer.
Pokemon Sword and Shield run at a smooth 30 fps and, unlike the 3DS games, I have experienced no frame rate drops, except for when there are a lot of people in the Wild Area via online multiplayer. Other than that, it is pretty much locked. Nintendo and Game Freak should definitely fix their servers though, because it’s not okay to have such a slow, glitchy online experience in 2019.
There are some other cool features that have been introduced in Sword & Shield. Pokemon Camp, for example, where you can pitch a tent and play with your Pokemon team. You can also make curry on rice with this feature, with a bunch of different options and even a “Curry Dex.” It’s definitely a weird feature to spend so much development time on, but it’s fun.
So, Pokemon Sword & Shield are great. But, there are quite a few problems with the game as well. It has been causing a lot of controversy over many aspects, the biggest one being the fact that the developers cut over half of the Pokemon from the game. This was extremely disappointing to me when it was first reported. But what really poured salt in the wound was their reasoning behind the cuts. They said it was because they had to remake all of the models from scratch (which would have been doable if they simply brought in a bigger team), but as some dataminers have realized, this was a flat-out lie, as the Pokemon designs appear to have been ripped right out of Pokemon Sun & Moon. This kind of laziness on behalf of the developers is what impacts an otherwise fantastic gameplay experience.
Overall, Pokemon Sword & Shield are excellent additions to the Pokemon series. Despite some clear laziness during development and a, for the time being, glitchy online experience, they are otherwise ridiculously fun, addictive, and lived up to my expectations. I will likely be pouring hours into this game, partaking in Dynamax battles with my brother and my friends, catching, trading and battling Pokemon, shiny hunting, and all the other fun and expansive features the game puts on display.
Score: 9 out of 10