Pokemon Sword and Shield Review – The Best Pokemon Ever?
It’s time to conjure up the whip again and lock up the sweetest monsters in the world in balls that are way too small. The new Pokemon games first appeared on a console, namely the Nintendo Switch. You can read how the big change works in our Pokemon Sword and Shield review.
Where everyone gets a year older every year, a new Pokemon game also appears every year. This year it is Sword & Shield that appear on the Nintendo Switch and introduce a completely new region. It concerns the UK-based Galar region which is full of new monsters to catch, train and then have them fight against others.
Who is the best trainer?
The latter is especially important in the Galar region, because challenging the champion of Galar is the goal every young trainer should strive for. As soon as your adventure begins, you are quickly told that your goal is to challenge Leon, the Galar champion. To do this, you must first defeat eight Gym Leaders with a team put together throughout your 40-hour journey.
Along the way you will encounter a variety of cool and memorable characters, such as your best friend Hop. He sees himself as your greatest rival, but in his actions he is more of a friend with whom you will experience this adventure. Then of course you also have researcher Sonia who constantly tells you more about Galar and a number of other rivals, such as Bede. He’ll get the blood under your nails, something fans have been begging for for years, giving you yet another rival you can hate with passion PrizeField.
Yet it is not all so black and white, because more than ever before, some depth is given to the supporting characters and there are even some overarching themes. Compared to previous games, the draft can now be compared to a swimming pool instead of the pool of water that can be found on the corner of the street after a rain shower. This is not to say that you should expect an in-depth plot with plot twists that will stay with you for years to come, but it’s great to see Game Freak want to give more depth instead of being presented with a paper-thin story again.
2 steps forward, 1 step back
A big part of the story this time around is the brand new mechanic for the Pokemon battles, Dynamaxing. Dynamaxing allows you to turn a Pokemon from your team into a giant once per battle to deal much more damage to the opponent. The Pokemon in question remains a giant for three turns, after which he or she returns to its normal shape.
This new mechanic is already the third attempt to give combat more depth and strategic value, but is actually a different packaging of the same mechanic. In X & Y, you had Mega Evolutions that lasted throughout the battle, and in Sun & Moon, you had Z-Moves that could run certain Pokemon twice per battle. Fortunately, this says nothing about the power of Dynamaxing, because the way the mechanic is incorporated in the game is excellent.
Constantly again you are wondering if you should tie and Dynamax or if you have to wait until your opponent plays his trump card. This creates a great game of chess during battles, but it doesn’t stop there. Dynamaxing is also central to perhaps the best addition to the entire game, namely the Wild Area.
The best addition in years
In the Wild Area you can find wells from which here and there is an incredibly strong Pokemon in its Dynamax or Gigantamax form. Where the Dynamax form only provides a giant version of a Pokemon, the Pokemon takes on a completely new form in its Gigantimax form. You want to find the latter variant as much as possible, although they are a lot harder to beat.
Fortunately, you can engage in these battles, the so-called (Max) Raid Battles, together with up to three others via a local or online connection. This adds a brand new dimension to combat and only gives more reason to play Pokemon with friends. Both young and old can enjoy these new fights where you sit together on the edge of your seat.
Besides the fighting, the Wild Area is also fantastic because of the vast plains that are full of Pokemon to catch and secrets to discover. When you first enter the giant area, you want to get lost in the world and discover every nook and cranny. That only gets better when you’ve seen the credits roll by and return. Then there are again a number of possibilities that will double your playing time without mercy.
Unfortunately, it is abundantly clear that some work could have been done on the Wild Area outside of the Raids. For example, the area looks significantly worse than the game’s linear areas and is a frame rate drama once you’re in the Wild Area and connected to the internet. For example, the game slows down at different times in the Wild Area when you are connected online and it is sometimes not possible to play together due to Nintendo Switch Online problems.
Creative in every way
Fortunately, you will not be bothered by the online problems locally and you will notice the cool new designs of the different Pokemon. With 80 new Pokemon, there are not many new monsters to find, but it soon becomes clear that the focus is on creativity. Every new Pokemon is unique in its own way and you shouldn’t expect dredging as Garbodor (a literal garbage Pokemon).
The music is also better than ever, which may have to do with Toby Fox (creator of Undertale) who has had his hand in the music. Some songs remind you of beautiful fairytale adventures, while other songs make your blood pump faster. In addition, the animations are more beautiful than ever before. For that you just have to look at Corgi-Pokemon Yamper who as a faithful four-legged friend constantly wags his tail and wants to play with you.
On the one hand, it is understandable that Game Freak has decided to have less Pokemon in the game, so that the quality of the animation is peak. Still, it remains a loss that it is not possible to collect all Pokemon in Sword & Shield and so there is no National Dex. There are simply players who have been transferring their favorite monsters to every new generation for 20 years and that will no longer be possible for many people. Of the now 890 Pokemon, only 400 can be found in Sword & Shield and that just doesn’t feel good.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Review – The new standard
Still, the lack of the National Dex shouldn’t spoil the fun of a new generation of Pokemon. Especially not because the games can now be played on a Nintendo console. Of course, handheld is still possible and both ways work like a train, but then we don’t recommend not connecting to the internet. That continues to cause problems for many Nintendo games and that is no different in the Wild Area at Sword & Shield.
However, the Wild Area is by far the best addition to a Pokemon game ever thanks to the unprecedented freedom and the countless hours you can spend there. Add to this the cool Raids that you can play with friends and you have a wonderful multiplayer fun. For those who prefer to play the game alone, there is a great story that takes (a small) step forward regarding depth. Combine that with cool new Pokemon and the best music the series has ever known and you can easily find over 100 hours of entertainment in Pokemon Sword & Shield.