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Pokémon Sword & Pokémon Shield

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 29 - 2019

Catching ’em all is so much easier on the eyes now.

Since the beginning of time, well since 1996 when Game Freak released the first Pokémon games, players have been yearning for the pocket monster collecting RPG to come to the big screen. With each new generation of Nintendo home console, fans have waited and hoped, but instead have been greeted with spin off game after spin off game. I am not suggesting that these spin offs were no fun in their own right, but they were not the fully realised Pokémon experience that the players wanted. So, some 23 years later, players are finally treated to the game that they have waited for all these years, on the Nintendo console that is as happy in handheld mode as it is on the big screen. Pokémon Sword and Shield has finally arrived on Nintendo Switch, offering a proper Pokémon experience where the player will set off on an epic journey, finding, fighting and capturing a massive number of Pokémon along the way, in their quest to become a champion.


All of the previous Pokémon titles have been on the Nintendo handhelds, and so coming to a home console, albeit a hybrid that can also be carried around like a handheld, is a big deal and would surely give the developers the opportunity expand on the core game mechanics in marvellous ways. Well, that is what players would have hoped for, but the reality is something far more familiar. Pokémon Sword and Shield are very similar games to all of the previous titles in the series. There are some changes, but the things that have remained the same are far more numerous.

Once again, the player will create a character from a small town with the dream of travelling the world, in this case the Galar region, finding and fighting Pokémon with a view to competing at gyms and eventually becoming a champion. This will involve moving along mostly linear routes from one town to the next, meeting quirky characters along the way who want to do battle, and wandering slowly through large tufts of grass to try and capture wild Pokémon that can join the players team. Reaching a town will mean entering a gym and fighting what is essentially a boss, in order to get a badge that proves the players skill and allows them to continue on their journey.

Whether fighting wild Pokémon or trainers and their own captured Pokémon, the battles will play out in a turn-based manner with the player and opponent choosing their move one after the other until one feints. For the wild Pokémon, getting the health low will give the player a chance to throw a Pokéball and try to capture it, adding it to their own roster. Players will have a team of six Pokémon and any others they catch will be sent to a box where they are stored for when the player needs them. Using Pokémon in battles will give them experience that allows them to level up and learn new moves, and some Pokémon will even evolve into new forms at a certain level or under certain circumstances. Players will get money from battling that can be used to buy new and even more powerful Pokéballs, along with potions that can heal Pokémon and other medicinal items that can cure various conditions.


Of course, the biggest appeal to any of the mainstream Pokémon games have been the wonderful roster of Pokémon to capture, and this is perhaps the biggest point of contention with Pokémon Sword and Shield. Each new Pokémon game comes with new Pokémon and while I must admit that the new Pokémon from the last few generations have not seemed as magical as those from years ago, they are generally fun and well received. Indeed, the Pokémon in Sword and Shield are imaginative and maybe even more quirky than those in recent years. However, the problem comes with the Pokémon that the developers have cut from the game, which happens to be rather a lot. Most players will not notice or even care about the hundreds of Pokémon that are not in the game, as there are still hundreds to catch and train. But the die hards, those who made it their mission to catch every Pokémon in each title in the series, are not happy.

The big roster shake up aside, much of the rest of the game will be familiar to anyone who has played a Pokémon title in the past. However, there are a few big notable differences, along with plenty of little changes. The biggest addition to the game comes in the form of the biggest Pokémon ever. Part of the historical background to the Galar region, which is loosely based on the UK, involves Pokémon that are able to take massive form, known as Dynamaxing. During certain battles, the player is able to Dynamax their own Pokémon for a few turns, giving them improved health, new moves and an imposing presence on the battlefield. While using this form in battle can be helpful, it is really all about the spectacle and looks so cool on the screen.

While the majority of the game still has the fixed camera linear routes for the player to wander along, there is the new wild area for players to enjoy. This large area is free to roam and the player is able to move the camera around as they wish. What makes this large area special is the fact that it contains all sorts of different biomes, which gives the player a chance to find and capture so many different types of Pokémon. In fact, there are even Pokémon just wandering around, minding their own business, which makes it much easier to target specific Pokémon rather than being disappointed at finding the same Pokémon over and over. However, the area includes all different levels of Pokémon and it is quite easy to get into battle with a Pokémon of a much higher level. Given that the player is limited to what level of Pokémon they can capture, which is dictated by the number of gym badges they own, finding a high level Pokémon doesn’t mean the player will be able to capture it and add it to their team.


Within the wild area players will find another new addition in the form of raids. These are battles against a permanently enlarged wild Pokémon that players will have to take on as part of a team. The team can be made up of other players or AI trainers and the player will have to work together to overcome these massive Pokémon. Defeating these opponents will give the player a chance to capture a regular sized version of the Pokémon along with loads of other goodies. The wild area, complete with the raids, are really great and it is easy to just spend time wandering and battling in the area. This area and all of the distractions it contains are where Pokémon Sword and Shield feel the most modern and possibly the closest to what the fans would have wanted from a Pokémon reboot.

But the rest of the game is so much like it always has been. There are quality of life improvements that actually make the game more accessible to newcomers, such as everyone in the team gaining experience after battles, or the ability to access the box and swap out Pokémon anywhere in the game. While these are great for the newcomers and certainly make sense, the changes do feel as though they have taken a little of the character from the game. Players will still have to manage their team of Pokémon carefully if they are to overcome all of the gyms, but it does still feel much easier than it ever has before.

Coming to the larger, more powerful console would suggest some massive jumps in the visual department. It is true that the game looks absolutely great, both on the big screen and in handheld mode, especially in comparison to how the last game looked on 3DS. But the visuals don’t leap forward as much as expected. The Galar region is wonderfully varied and exciting to explore, and the various weather effects add a new twist to what is seen on the screen, but it still feels like it could have looked better. As an argument to that though, Pokémon Sword and Shield is still recognisable as a Pokémon game.


Despite the new additions, the removals and the stuff that has stayed the same, fans of the Pokémon games will still have an absolutely stellar time in Pokémon Sword and Shield. The game is an immense joy to play and the desire to catch ’em all is still strong. It is not the leap forward in the series that players were hoping for, but it is a great starting point. If you want to capture weird and wonderful creatures inside small balls and force them to fight each other, Pokémon Sword and Shield will have more than enough to keep you entertained.




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