Pokémon Sword and Shield Review – Best in Show
The last Pokémon game I played was Black and White. Sure, I reviewed Pokémon Let’s GO, but that doesn’t really count now does it. I never finished Black and White and I never properly played a Pokémon game after that. Why? There’s no real reason. I like the games and always look forward to hearing about them, but I don’t have the time to dedicate to them anymore and they’ve increasingly seemed like the same game with a palette swap.
This long-time between drinks means that playing Pokémon Sword and Shield has been a whole lot of fun. From the improved visuals and leap to the Switch, interesting and unknown new Pokémon, fun UK-inspired new region, Wild Area and more, Sword and Shield are a wonderful re-entry point for lapsed players and fans.
It’s not all smooth sailing and some additions and changes aren’t always welcome. For the most part, this is an excellent addition to the franchise.
Pokémon Sword and Shield Review
First things first; Dexit. In the lead up to Pokémon Sword and Shield’s release, rabid fans were angrily clogging up Twitter and Reddit, lighting digital pitchforks and complaining about the lack of a National Pokédex in the new games.
Honestly, I couldn’t care less. Sure, I’ve been out of the loop for a while and haven’t dedicated as many hours to breeding and training but for me, the best part of any new Pokémon game is the new Pokémon.
If I wanted to catch Ekans, I’d go play Green or Blue. It strikes me as incredibly odd that fans would be so upset about the lack of older Pokémon without realising that they’re getting a whole batch of new ones. Regardless, the recent announcement of the Expansion Pass and inclusion of over 200 returning Pokémon should appease most fans.
With that out of the way, can we talk about how adorable some of these new Pokémon are? Wooloo made all sorts of waves on the internet when it was first revealed and rightly so. It’s so cute and so lovely that I just want to look after it forever and bring it home. The same goes for Yamper, the corgi Pokémon.
Both Wooloo and Yammer are good examples of the Galar regions inspiration, the UK. Yep, we’ve seen Japan, Europe and the United States. Now, the UK is getting its turn to be Pokémonified and it works a treat. Obviously, it’s an incredibly generic and stereotypical view of the region, but Pokémon has always brushed in broad strokes, so it works.
In Galar, you’ll be exploring small villages, green countryside and larger cities, all of which look as though they’ve been ripped straight from the Idiots Guide to the UK. That’s not a slight on Pokémon Sword and Shield, far from it. Galar is so wonderfully British that you can’t help but smile.
Big City Life
While the overall presentation of Galar is great, the different towns and cities vary in quality. It’s sad to see some places are little more than hubs for the Gym while others have lots of other activities to tackle. It’s also a little strange that some places you visit seem to have been given tonnes of attention while others are lacking.
Given the way this game opens up compared to previous ones, it’s a shame that the whole experience isn’t bigger, deeper and better.
One new feature that definitely is though is the Wild Area. Set basically in the centre of the map, the Wild Are is a fully explorable, open section that gives players full control of the camera and feels more like Pokémon meets open-world. You’ll explore multiple biomes and see heaps of different Pokémon depending on the weather and time of day.
Like the rest of Sword and Shield, in the Wild Area, you can see Pokémon in the long grass or wandering the paths and choose which to fight and which to avoid. Another great feature of the Wild Area is the powerful Pokémon you’ll see wandering around. These Pokémon are mostly too difficult to knock out and impossible to catch until you reach a higher level, but give you something to strive for and are a good way to farm XP.
One of the best features of the Wild Area is the Raids. These, like Pokémon GO, see you team up with other players online (or AI) and battle a giant version of a Pokémon. These Pokémon have undergone Dynamaxing, Sword and Shield’s version of Z-Moves and Mega Evolutions. They’re enormous, can use powerful moves and don’t always follow the rules of Pokémon.
Dynamaxing can also occur during Gym Battles and adds another layer of spectacle to already over-the-top affairs. While I enjoyed the Raids and catching these giant pocket monsters, Dynamaxing is a bit of a swing and a miss. It’s a gimmick that I could do without and the additional
Gigantamaxing is even more gimmicky. I understand what the intention is, but it’s more annoying than interesting.
Overall, Pokémon Sword and Shield is stunningly good. It might not make everyone or every fan happy but I enjoyed every minute I spent with it. For a series that’s 23 years deep with very little innovation, Pokémon Sword and Shield feels like a good first step towards finally shaking up what a Pokémon game can be.
Pokémon Sword and Shield was reviewed on Switch using a retail copy provided by Nintendo.
Game title: Pokémon Sword and Shield
If you haven't played Pokémon in a while, Sword and Shield are incredible - 9.5/10
Leap to Switch is good, but a little underwhelming - 6.6/10
New Pokémon are better than a tonne of recent additions - 8.8/10
Lack of lots of National Dex Pokémon hurts - 5.8/10
WIld Areas are pretty fun - 8.3/10
It's still Pokémon and it's still fun - 10/10