Pokémon Sword and Shield Review
Finally, the first traditional Pokémon game has arrived on the Switch! While Pokémon Let’s Go was a huge hit, lacking the bread-and-butter mechanics that we have all come to know and love really left me counting down the days until Sword and Shield were released. Even though there was a lot of mixed feelings and the hype train felt a lot more like a rollercoaster as fans dissected each new piece of information as it became available – we now have the entire game to chew through and decide if this is truly the next step forward in the Pokémon franchise or if it will continue to leave the purist fans wanting. Let’s dive right in!
First of all, let me begin by saying the Nintendo Switch is the absolute perfect console for a Pokémon title. As all Pokémon fans know, the franchise made it big through handheld consoles, and have often been the biggest or best-selling games of those handhelds.
Now, with all of the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch in front of us, blending that handheld console experience with big-screen friendly graphics offers the penultimate Pokémon game. Sword and Shield deliver big in this arena, with smooth and mood-appropriate graphics that are both childlike and enjoyable.
In addition to the graphical makeover, Pokémon Sword and Shield are chock full of new and exciting features! One of the biggest additions is that of Dynamaxing (and Gigantamaxing) Pokémon. Dynamaxing is a transformation available to all Pokémon when their trainer is in a Gym Battle or Max Raid Battle, altering their appearance, boosting their stats and enabling them to use Max Moves.
Gigantamax is a rare for of Dynamaxing that more drastically changes the look of Pokémon and provides greater bonuses and even more powerful moves. In addition, Gigantamax versions of Pokémon cannot evolve. Items can be given to your Pokémon to increase their Dynamax/Gigantamax level, increasing their bonuses even further.
Much of the storyline of Pokémon Sword and Shield revolves around the phenomenon of Dynamaxing and specifically why it only occurs in the Galar region.
The Wild Area is another feature making its debut in Pokémon Sword and Shield. The Wild Area is a great open expanse with many different tall-grass areas, as well as larger, tougher Pokémon and Max Raid Battles.
Players who enable internet communication will also be able to interact with other players in the Wild Area other than the traditional trading and battling. Trainers can invite their friends to the Wild Area’s Max Raid Battles (and use their Dynamaxed Pokémon to defeat the opposition).
While Pokémon Sword and Shield are certainly not MMO’s, the expansion of the online features, including surprise trades and the ability to continue playing the game while the online feature loads in the background are certainly welcome.
Another new mechanic offered in the Wild Area is setting up camp! This option allows you to interact with your Pokémon or simply watch them play, which can increase their happiness towards you.
While camping you can choose to cook meals for yourself and your Pokémon, which can provide benefits such as health regen, stat boosts, experience boosts and happiness. The trainer’s cooking mini-game performance and the selected ingredients play a factor in which bonuses your Pokémon receive.
Pokécenters, which have evolved over the generations, now include the option to send your Pokémon on Poké Jobs, each of which requires the trainer to select a number of the same specific Pokémon type and choose how long to let them stay away (up to 24 hours real-time).
When they return, they will have gained a great amount of experience points and often will have an item in tow – a great way to passively level Pokémon that are not in your active team!
A few other important quality of life changes have also been made! These include: the PC Box Link, which allows you to access your Pokémon storage boxes in most areas; the Water Bike and Flying Taxis, which replace the use of Surf and Fly, and the latter of which is available to any city you have previously visited; and the EXP gain upon catching a wild Pokémon, which was borrowed from Pokémon Let’s Go.
All these additions have one crucial component in common: they do not distract from the core Pokémon gameplay. I would say that the greatest success of Pokémon Sword and Shield is that through all of the changes and additional features added, it has stayed uncompromisingly true to its roots.
You and your rival will banter and compete, you will travel far and wide to collect Gym badges, you will be accosted by a notorious group of antagonists who aim to foil your every move (in this case, it is the grunts of Team Yell which will cause the most trouble, obnoxious fans of another trainer partaking in the Gym Challenge) and you will have countless adventures along the way.
This core gameplay, elevated by the long list of new features and QOL improvements, creates a truly enjoyable and memorable Pokémon experience that will delight old and new fans alike! If you are even the least bit vested in the franchise, Sword and Shield are must-haves!
Learn more about Pokémon Sword and Shield here.