Title: Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield
Developer: GAME FREAK, Inc.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Role-Playing, Adventure
Release Date: November 15, 2019
How we got the game: We pre-ordered both games
We were wicked excited for Sword and Shield to finally come out on the Switch! To have another core Pokemon series game, one in a new region, was fantastic. Despite some of the backlash that was seen on the Internet, we always had faith that we would enjoy the games.
Like most Pokemon core games, Sword and Shield have the typical gameplay formula. As the avatar character, you explore the region while catching and battling with the Pokemon you encounter. The routes and towns are usually diverse with different Pokemon and people for the avatar to interact with, with opponents getting stronger the further in the game you go. Moving is intuitive with the analog stick — and you can make your character spin around and strike a pose! — and speaking with people and most general interactions are simply with the A button.
The major point of Pokemon is to explore the world and “catch ‘em all.” Sword and Shield don’t disappoint in that regard. I honestly felt as though the Galar Region is more of an “open-world” in some cases. For example, the Wild Area is a new feature added in this game. The Wild Area stretches for most of the Galar map and it’s where just about every Pokemon imaginable lives. The Wild Area has different areas from snow to desert to grasslands and more. It’s easy to stay there for long periods of time and not progressing with the actual gameplay.
The Wild Area is also where it’s easiest to connect with fellow players. While there may be lag depending on the servers and the strength of your Internet, it’s awesome to see so many other trainers zipping about the world. Talking to one another usually nets you free items, mostly for curry in the Pokemon Camp, which we’ll get to in a minute. You can also trade and battle one another, as well as battle with each other in what’s called Max Raid battles against special wild Pokemon.
Pokemon have the ability to Dynamax in Sword and Shield. It’s the new Mega Evolution and Z-Move. Dynamaxing enlarges the Pokemon to about ten-times its size and gives them all-powerful moves depending on what they’ve already learned. However, you can only Dynamax in certain areas – like gym battles and max raids, for example.
Admittedly, we weren’t sure about this game mechanic when it was first introduced. It sounded a little gimmicky, like the mentioned Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves from the sixth and seventh generations, respectively. Keeping the Dynamax technique to certain areas, though, made it a bit more special and exciting to use, especially in the gym battles. It works out pretty well and even makes you use a bit of strategy in that Pokemon can only Dynamax for three turns in gym battles.
I really enjoy the graphics on the Switch consoles themselves, and Sword and Shield were no exception. Our avatars actually get expressions this time around, and the animations of the Pokemon and other characters were great. The open world-like Wild Area and several towns of the Galar region were just absolutely beautiful!
I love how our characters actually have expressions. Knowing the sort of graphics that can be on the Nintendo Switch, I feel like Pokemon could improve a bit. However, I love it just the way it is because it’s how Pokemon is. The characters always moved in a certain way that screams “Pokemon”. As for the new Pokemon in this region? I absolutely love all the new designs. I think the Pokemon are really unique and outside the box. (Even though Galarian Meowth and Perrserker look like they belong in Where The Wild Things Are.)
Anyone who’s played these games and said they did not enjoy the gym battle themes are liars. The battle themes were definitely my favorite tunes, but hearing all the background music as you traveled through the region was also wonderful. They were familiar and new at once, familiar in the sense that you knew the music was from a Pokemon game, but new for the Galar region itself.
Any music from Pokemon – songs, sound effects, Pokemon cries – is fantastic. Sword and Shield were no exception and I agree with Kris. The gym battle themes were the best. Coupled with the cheering crowd in the background, it made it all the better. It really hyped me up.
The typical storyline of most core Pokemon games is that your avatar journeys throughout their home region on a quest to “catch ‘em all” and “be the very best.” Sword and Shield are similar, in which there is a Gym Challenge for trainers to partake in. With their teams of Pokemon, trainers challenge all eight gyms in an attempt to participate in the Pokemon League or, in this duo of games, the Champion’s Cup.
On the flip side, while you journey around the world, you typically have to stop an evil group of Pokemon trainers with a fancy (or not-so-fancy) name who wants to dominate the world or steal Pokemon or what have you. Surprisingly enough, this isn’t the case in Sword and Shield. There is a bad guy team called Team Yell, yes, but they’re not bad in the way you’d assume them to be.
Sword and Shield do have a bit of lore behind them, with part of the story involving the region’s professor’s assistant (well, granddaughter) looking into the history of the Galar region itself. Involving two ancient heroes, one with a sword and one with a shield, and what was called the Darkest Day, you try to help unravel the mystery of why the lives of the heroes are not known more.
The story of the game doesn’t come together full-force until the very end of the main gameplay. The game itself is quick because of this and then it all comes together at the end. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say too much else other than I enjoyed how they did it this time around.
While Sword and Shield have a fairly linear plot to follow, the replayability value lies in all the Pokemon you can tame and battle with. Considering there’s hundreds of Pokemon to find in the game, and a huge community to trade with, replaying the game with a new team every time helps to keep the plot fresh.
This is certainly a game I’ll go back to quite often, like all the other Pokemon games. I will be sure to reach level 100 with my Pokemon, catch them all, and hunt for shinies. I’m in this for the long haul.
Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield gets…
4 out of 5 lives.