Pokémon Sword & Shield – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Pokémon Sword & Shield – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Wild Zone, Dynamax, Pokémon are visible in the wild
Bad: Graphics, No voice acting, Catch rate seems to make no sense
User Score
8.8
(5 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.8/10 (5 votes cast)

Ever since Pokémon Red and Blue (and Green in Japan) came out, we’ve been getting new Pokémon games at regular intervals. While the games originally all donned a different color in their titles, this trend changed with the remake of Pokémon Yellow on the Switch, that mixed elements from Pokémon GO into the gameplay. These titles, aptly called Let’s Go, were the first full-fledged Pokémon games to even come out on a console, if we don’t count the Stadium games. The two versions of Pokémon Let’s Go were somewhat directed towards a more casual audience than the other games, but they proved that Pokémon games could also look quite nice on the big screen. These versions didn’t use the full potential of a real Pokémon title, but they were impressive nonetheless. Now the successor of (Ultra) Moon and Sun has finally released under the subtitle Sword and Shield. We were lucky enough to have the chance to try out this new Pokémon adventure.

Story

The story of Pokémon Shield & Sword is not that different from other Pokémon games in the series. Once again you’re a young boy or girl, who decides to become the best Pokémon trainer the world has ever seen. This time, you’re thrown in the Galar region, where Leon is the reigning champion. Leon just happens to be the big brother of your childhood friend, Hop. Leon visits Hop and brings back a starter Pokémon for you and Hop, allowing you to embark on your adventure. Even though he did not expect that much from your clumsy beginnings, you find yourself getting endorsed by the champion himself to take on the gym challenges and eventually beat Leon.

Other than that, there’s an intertwining story about the ‘wishing stars’ that allow Pokémon to Dynamax, allowing them to become huge and powerful. This is also linked to the heroes of a nearly forgotten age, who represent the sword and the shield of this world.

As usual, the game progresses steadily and you’ll go on about your business as you clear one gym after another. You’ll be sidetracked regularly to explore a deeper plot, but overall things are kept simple and enjoyable for both a young and a more experienced audience.

Graphics

Graphically Pokémon Sword and Shield are a mixed bag. The games all look great, the world is impressive to explore, the Pokémon models look impressive, the different characters in the overworld are cute and it’s quite fun to explore these games. Nonetheless, for a console game, things are a bit lacking. Some animations are dodgy, you still lack a certain sense of finishing touches, as when characters give each other an item, they still stand half a room apart, which ruins the immersion on the big screen. That being said, even with the Pokédex cuts the games went through, it’s fun to see many of the Pokémon come to life on the big screen, looking crisper than ever before.

Sound

The sound design left us with the same feeling as the graphical prowess of the game. The music is all good, the sounds are authentic and the Pokémon still sound like they did when they appeared in the 2D games. Nonetheless, for a Pokémon game to truly reach the next generation, its quality could be heavily elevated by having proper voice acting. Of course, this means that each Pokémon will have to be voiced as well, like they were in the original cartoons. Once again, the game sounds quite good, even with the updated themes, but it could have been a lot more with the (limited) power of the Switch.

Gameplay

As always, these new iterations of the Pokémon games are still fairly traditional adventure RPG games. You’ll roam around in a big world, where parts will unlock after you complete gym challenges, all while you’re able to catch Pokémon, bond with them, find items and buy a lot of clothing options for your character.

It’s clear that certain mechanics from the previous games have been omitted, but they made room for new additions, so it’s pretty clear Game Freak wanted to try new mechanics for their console release. The game does include multiplayer modes outside of the regular trading and battling, as you can take part in 4 vs. 1 raids. These raids revolve around the new Dynamax gimmick, which allows you to temporarily increase your active Pokémon to the size of a giant monster. Only one participant (the host) can maximize their Pokémon during the battle, to battle the other Dynamax Pokémon, while the three other players provide support. (The other players can also use the Dynamax mechanic if the host does not use his/her power the first turn.)

Another big addition to this game is the Wild Zone. This is basically a very large open space with tall grass, in which many different Pokémon run free, ranging from level 10 critters to bigger and bulkier level 60 Pokémon. Of course, you can’t start the game and catch yourself a level 60 Snorlax, you’ll have to beat the different gyms in order to be able to control higher-level Pokémon, but also to catch higher-level Pokémon. This is a fun mechanic, that makes it so that the Wild Zone is worth it to come back to. You will also find power points for the aforementioned Dynamax raids here.

Like the Let’s Go series, in Sword and Shield, you’ll see the Pokémon roaming around freely, which makes it easier to avoid them if you want to, or precisely pick those you want to catch. This mechanic is a giant improvement over the random encounters of the older games. Like always, each version of the game has its own set of exclusive Pokémon, which is an incentive to start trading with players that have a different version than yourself.

There seem to be a few bugs in the catching system of this game. It feels like weakening Pokémon has no effect on your actual catch rate. More than often we could catch high-level Pokémon with our first thrown Pokéball, while seeing a weakened and paralyzed Pokémon break free more than a dozen of times. We also noticed there is no clear difference in the catch rate of normal Pokéballs and Ultra Balls, which is bollocks. That being said, you’ll have a lot of fun catching Pokémon, but you better aim at doing it the Pokémon GO way, thus throwing balls right from the get-go.

As this game also focuses on online play, it’s fun that you’re able to connect to the internet whenever you like, to start trading or battling other players. You can also have random players join your raids, making them easier, even though the main game and all its challenges are relatively easy. An actual cool feature of online play is that you’ll see other players roam around the world as well. While these come and go as they please, talking to them gives you small trinkets, which you can often use when cooking at your personal campsite. This game motivates players to place their campsite in the wild, as it allows you to heal and bond with your Pokémon.

Conclusion

While we feel that the design, be it graphical and sound, could have been slightly better for this first real Switch adventure, we can wholeheartedly recommend these two new Pokémon games to every Pokémon fan out there. We reckon some things have been simplified to attract Pokémon Go players to the fray as well, but the multiplayer raids and the Wild Zone make up for the omitted mechanics. We loved the game from start to finish, and we are looking forward to see what the next games have in store for us.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.8/10 (5 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Pokémon Sword & Shield - Review, 8.8 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
Ibuki
Ibuki


Aspiring ninja.

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