• Developer: Game Freak
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch
  • Price: $59.99 USD
  • Release Date: November 15th, 2019
  • Date Reviewed: December 4th, 2019
  • Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
  • Review code provided: No

The Pokémon world expands with the Galar Region! Pokémon Sword and Shield are the latest games to grace the long running franchise. With this latest addition, we strive to complete the classic challenge of beating all 8 gyms to take on the Champions League. It’s a big game and this is going to be a big review. There may be some issues, but it’s packed with new creatures to capture, characters to challenge, and gimmicks to master in introduction to Generation 8!

Gameplay

It’s hard to change turn based combat gameplay into something foreign to the genre, and Game Freak demonstrates its mastery of the genre just as good as ever. It’s the good old classic formula of fighting against a single or a pair of creatures while commanding your own. As you progress through the story, your team will grow with experience as well your bond to your Pokémon.

Some gimmicks from past games are absent in this latest addition however. Z-Moves and Mega Evolutions notably are not present. They are instead replaces with Dynamax, and Gigantamax Forms. Both grow your Pokémon to incredible size while also increasing your health and gaining access to powerful moves. The later also changes the appearance to a few exclusive Pokémon. However, both of these can only be used a max of 3 turns before reverting to normal size, so make them count!

Camping is a new social feature! It allows you to play, interact, and cook with your Pokémon. It is a very cute feature than no doubt will be a fan favorite as it is a joy to watch all my Pokémon run around.

Raids are the biggest(no pun intended) and are they ever a joy! You team up with 3 other players or NPC’s to take on an extremely strong Dynamax/Gigantamax Pokémon. Teamwork is a must to take these foes down! When you defeat your foe, you will have a chance to capture them for your team. They are all high level and will be a battle ready! All of these raids can be found in a large free roam area called the Wild Area.

Graphics

The visuals of Pokémon Sword/Shield are somewhat of a mixed bag. There’s definitely good, yet plenty of bad. In the overworld, it is so charming to see all the Pokémon in the overworld ready to challenge me. It’s always so fun to see all the different ways they move that fit each Pokémon’s personality.

However, cutscenes are where the troubles start. Nearly every cutscene in the game has a fault somewhere in it visually. Some characters have all the life in the world to them. While others repeat the exact same animations we saw in the last 2 or 3 cutscenes over and over again. It gets very repetitive. Another very obvious issue that is present VERY heavily throughout the game is that character movement is locked to a grid. Whenever a character wants to move, they have to run straight, rotate 90 degrees, and run straight again. It is almost like they are incapable of naturally moving. These types of movements are present in all Pokémon games from the 3DS to the Nintendo Switch.

The Battle System is where the bulk of the game takes place. And while mostly strikingly appealing, it has its share of visual faults.

Most moves feel as impactful as they look. From as powerful as Gyarados using Waterfall, to how fluid Cinderace looks while performing Pyro Ball. Some of the animation is the best in the series in these games.

While other, while may be simple, do not convey the move they are trying to. Double kick is the biggest offender to this. Nothing about the animation says kick whatsoever. It’s puzzling as to how Double Kick can still look unfinished 6 years later from X/Y while other moves look so stunning. I understand a large amount assets have been reused, but I still wish they could of gone back to update moves like these to keep the battle system looking as good as it possible can be.

Many of the environments look truly wonderful. The lighting is truly remarkable. The use of dynamic lightning showcases each build, crystal, water and grass beautifully. Each route and zone has its own color palette and very unique from one another.

Audio

The music of these games are just pleasing as always. They demonstrate the classic Pokémon retro feel. The theme of wild battles will always stick in my head after all these years and these games are no different. Nothing beats the crowd cheering me on as I take on the gym leader. Truly hypes me up!

Story

I might be on the other side of the fence when it comes to the story. As it was so close to being one of the best in the entire series. From the moment I chose my starter, my goal was clear, I need to compete in the league and beat the champion. The way the game conveys that goal was nearly perfect. Every leader, played their role in my story as well as my rivals. From the grand matches in the stadiums, to all the support characters cheering me on, it truly felt like my own story of going from rookie to champion.

That is, for the most part. Many times throughout the game, there would be problems where usually, as the hero, I would be forced to deal with. But in these games, its always displayed as a threat, yet, I have nothing to do with it. But at the end, they throw a curve ball and I an suddenly the only one who can deal with the issue? Where was I during the rest of the game? It felt almost like the actually bad guys to the story was an afterthought and I would of enjoyed it much more if it was left out.

The Technical Faults

Now, I have already mentioned some of them with the characters moving on the grid and repetitive animations. Some more would be the online and the Wild Area. Trying to connect to a raid, a battle, or trade, can be a drag some of the time. Failing to connect as often as it happens. should really be fixed at this point. It doesn’t happen every time, but it happens enough to be a bother.

The Wild Area, as fun as it can be, struggles to run smoothly when connected to the internet. The game constantly drops frames when the weather kicks in, or when running into other players. I imagine the task would be enormous for Game Freak, who has never attempted to connected players in this way before. But, it’s very distracting and a shame it wasn’t smoother.

The last huge fault I have with the game are the route designs. They are a lot more linear this time around I found. I felt I couldn’t really explore the world a great deal outside of the Wild Area. Most of the paths were a single lane, with pockets of grass for Pokémon to lurk in. There was no way I could get loss or things to solve. It directed me where to go 100% of the way.

Competitive Side

The competitive gameplay of Pokémon shines like a star in Sword and Shield. Game Freak has made it insanely easy for anyone to raise up a team and compete. The shortcuts they made are very healthy for the VGC scene. You could go the usual route of breeding and hatching eggs over and over again to get the perfect Pokémon with max IV’s and the correct nature. But Game Freak gave an alternative route by putting items in the game to make ANY Pokémon competitively ready to your liking.

The way to get these items though, can be tedious. The Battle Tower is where you get the currency for most of these items and the amount of points awarded for a win in this generation has been reduced. So it will take a few battles to get the items you need. It’s still great that Game Freak gave the choice the players need to raise a team. Either breed, or battle. The choice is ours.

Verdict

Pokémon Sword and Shield has caused quite a stir in the community, but at the end of the day, I think most fans of the series would find a lot of fun within the game. I understand that the lack of the National Pokedex is a deal breaker for some, and that’s perfectly ok. The game won’t be for everyone. A lot of the flaws I found within the games were on the technical side, and while bothersome, personally I am able to look past them as they didn’t take anything away from core game for myself. The end game may be more geared towards competitive play, and those players, myself included, might hold the game much higher than the casual players. But there is a lot for EVERYONE to enjoy! Game Freak made a fantastic adventure for their first trip into HD and I sure hope they learned a lot to deliver an even better experience for their next games.

9/10

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