This review of Pokémon Sword & Shield was sponsored by our friends at ATO Online Store. Thank you for the review copy!
I’ve been playing Pokémon for as long as I can remember. I’ve played almost every single main line Pokémon game, so it is definitely interesting to see how the community reacted to every single Pokémon Sword & Shield announcement.
Now that the game is released, is Pokémon Sword & Shield a #ThankYouGameFreak or #GameFreakLied? It’s a little bit of both, and here’s why.
This game is beautiful, just like many Pokémon games that came before it. There is something about the Pokémon world that is charming, and wondrous. Just like seeing Butterfree in the background flying around just tugs at your heartstrings, there’s just a certain magic with the world of Pokémon that makes anyone with a beating heart enjoy exploring.
Just like most previous titles, there are great variety of areas to visit within the world. There’s the sleepy town you start out from, a snowy town, an old town with a rich history, and many more. This keeps the world interesting to explore and never too repetitive as you go through it.
For the graphics, Pokémon has finally made the jump to HD after 23 years, but it feels disappointing for the most part. Despite looking better than previous titles, it feels like they didn’t improve anything on the graphical side of thing besides the jump to HD.
There are games with similar aesthetics that look so much better compared to Pokémon Sword & Shield such as Luigi’s Mansion 3, Super Mario Odyssey, and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The animation of the game leaves you wanting more. While it’s passable for a Pokémon game, it is not up to standard for a 2019 game. In fact, some of the animations were done better in past titles. Such as, the animation when you Fly to another town.
Past titles have always featured a neat little animation of a Pokémon swooping in and flying you off, but there is literally only a black loading screen with a .gif of a Pokémon flying in the corner for when you decide to Fly in this game.
Story & Gameplay
The story is quite mild for the most part. It’s far from the level of Pokémon Black & White, and it’s not as engaging as Pokémon Sun & Moon in its characterisation. However, where they succeeded really well is how gym battling became an integral aspect of the world, even more so than previous titles.
Games of the past made gyms feel more like a pit stop in each town rather than the central aspect of the world. Pokémon Sword & Shield made the entire world revolve around gym battling. Everyone talks about gym battling, they cheer for the player character, and talk about their favourite gym leaders. This is a welcome change in world building.
The fact that the gym is much more integral in the Galar region has made each gym leader more memorable. Consequently, this reinforces your desire as a player to beat each gym outside of progression purposes.
Aside from the great world building for the gym, the ‘end of the world’ plotline that comes with each Pokémon game feels rushed and lacked impact. The buildup is close to non-existent, the climax didn’t feel quite as epic, and the whole thing was resolved too quickly for there to have any lasting impact. It felt as though they sacrificed this plot line in favor of developing other characters, but even then Pokémon Sun & Moon did a better job at both.
The gameplay feels very familiar to fans of the series, perhaps a bit too familiar. Nothing major has changed about the gameplay aside from the Wild Area. While the Wild Area is a good addition to the game, it felt underdeveloped. There is a lack of opportunities to explore in Pokémon SwSh, compared to past titles where you could not explore every nook and cranny until you get more traversal options such as Dive, Waterfall and Strength which aren’t present in Pokémon SwSh.
In Pokémon Sword & Shield, the player is instead actively discouraged to explore the Wild Area until they reach the second half of the game since you aren’t allowed to catch certain Pokémon that appears in the Wild Area until you’ve cleared a certain amount of gyms.
Pokémon Camp is perhaps the only thing that is significantly improved from past titles. It’s definitely fun to see how your Pokémon run around and play with each other. Not to mention, playing catch with your own Pokémon was surprisingly enjoyable.
An aspect of Pokémon Camp, the curry-cooking felt like a gimmick that shouldn’t have been emphasised in past trailers and announcements. The feature is basically Cooking Mama with the same routine every single time.
On the other hand, Pokémon Raid is a breath of fresh air that the series needed but it felt undercooked. It’s almost unplayable for the most part when playing alone, whereas the battle feels too easy if your raid team consists of a few Lv 100 Pokémon. The raid gameplay isn’t that different from regular gameplay, which feels like a missed opportunity.
Music & Sound Design
Music has always been a relatively strong suit of Pokémon. In the past, they’ve produced several iconic tracks such as the Lavender Town music from the eerie ghost town of the first generation. This game is no exception.
A personal favourite of mine is the gym battle music, which is straight up banging and it makes me hyped up every time I start a gym battle. There’s also the eerie music of Slumbering Weald which makes the area feel that much more mysterious.
Our Verdict: Think twice before buying!
Pokémon Sword & Shield is not by any means a bad game, but it just feels like it could have used a little more time to be polished. Fans who have been playing Pokémon might want to buy it second hand or wait for its price to drop. But if you’re new to the franchise or you haven’t played Pokémon in recent years, this would be a great game to get.