Pokemon Sword and Shield - Reviews with GiFriends
TLDR: Takes a small step forward while being held back by the archaic formula that its had since Gen 1 Final Score: 8.3
I'm a gen 1 Pokemon boomer. I've been playing Pokemon since its inception in 1998. From first choosing my first starter (which was Charmander) to going out to route one and hearing that iconic music that begins your journey. I've made my way through Viridian Forest, stared down Brock not knowing anything of type advantages and trudged through Victory Road to face off against the Elite Four and beat the snot out of your cheeky rival better known as Gary Oak. Nothing much has changed for the most part.besides various promotions and distribution events for rare and legendary Pokemon. This marks the first time that a mainline series that we have able to play at home on a console that was developed for it specifically (Pokemon Coliseum, Gale of Darkness & Battle Revolution doesn't count). Does it stack up to the previous entries or does it separate itself as a new direction for the series? Let's talk about it.
The adventure starts as normally as any other Pokemon game where you play a ten year old protagonist at home waiting to get their first Pokemon from a random source, usually a professor. In Sword/Shield you get your starter from none other than the league champion and rival Hop's older brother Leon. You get your usual three choices and then you have your tutorial battle. After that it's business as usual as you begin your journey. Normally you would head to the first town and face the first gym leader and be on your own for the most part. This game has a lot of hand holding as you and your rival are almost attached to each other at the hip, bound by the friendship that is shared by each other to get better. As you progress through the campaign you're introduced to the new mechanic in this game: Dynamaxing. Dynamax energy flows all through the Galar region (which is loosely based off of the UK) and is specifically used in gym battles for the most part which causes you a single Pokemon on either team to grow to enormous size for three turns unless the opposing Pokemon. Dynamax Pokemon can also appear in dens in the wild area that you can attempt to catch after defeating them in battle. Speaking of the Wild Area...
The Wild Area is essentially where you'll spending the majority of your time when not traveling the routes to become the very best like no one ever was. There are various areas in this place kind of acting like there own ecosystem for Pokemon. Pokemon show up depending upon the weather in each section of the map and depending on your level you could either upgrade your team here or the Pokemon will be too strong for you to each. Your experience here is all dependent on how much you have progressed through the story. The Wild Area acts as the place that you can upgrade your team, conduct Max Raid Battles with up to four players to take on a powerful Pokemon and set up camp to interact with your Pokemon and create new dishes for the Curry Dex which has positive effects on your party from granting extra experience and increasing friendship to help certain Pokemon evolve and stave off status effects in battles. Certain Pokemon can be caught in certain times of day and in certain weather conditions. The good thing about this is that you have the opportunity to catch fully evolved mons instead of having to potentially raise up Pokemon and have them locked into your team during your journey. Yes, you can catch specific Pokemon on routes like Falinks, Inkay etc etc but for the most part this is where you'll get your Pokemon that are vital to your success in the game.
The story of this game is almost the same as any Pokemon game but with a little bit of a twist. Yes, your mom (In this case, Mum) lets you go out on a journey but surprisingly, the adults are actually taking control of situations that occur. Essentially, they're letting the protagonist live out their dreams and be a kid. Even towards the end of the game, the adults have a overwhelming sense of urgency to handle the calamity that is occurring throughout your journey. Eventually, you'll still become the hero that you're destined to be...but before that you have to progress and take on the Gym Challenges. The Gym Challenges are various thing like wrangling in Wooloo to solving minor puzzles to even challenging your ability to pay attention to details to battles and other in-game things but nothing too overwhelming.for the average player. When passing the Gym Challenge for a gym, you then get to face the Gym leader inside of the stadium. Gym battles always have a big fight feel to them and this is where the Dynamax ability comes into play. As you go further and further into the challenges you'll face more Pokemon and will have to decide when and how to use this mechanic. For a real challenge, you could just forego using Dynamax and just go a straight victory. After the collecting the eight badges instead of going towards the Elite Four, you're thrown into a mini tournament where you face off against rivals and friends alike.to make it to another tournament where you then battle against other gym leaders who want a shot at becoming champion giving the feeling that it really does mean something to be at the top of the mountain. Eventually, you'll make your way to the end of the tournament but the story has other plans for you. All in all, a fun experience nonetheless.
The end-game content this time is a little sparse to say the least. Essentially after you finish a certain quest and face your rival one more time that's pretty much the end of the game. Sure you can go into the battle tower and go into Max Raid battles searching for those rare Pokemon to help complete you pokedex but that's pretty much it. There are 400 species of Pokemon in this game with no National Dex in sight. You can shiny hunt, EV and IV train and help others out in raids but there's no sizzle with the steak. For the casual fan this may be okay but for the hardcore Pokemon players, this becomes an issue. Something that was a staple in past games is oddly removed. That seems to be the theme of this game. For every good thing that they've done, there are glaring issues. From not programming in certain moves for Pokemon to reusing assets from other former rivals (see Hop for an example). There was so much potential for this to be an amazing home experience. Instead, they decided to rely on what was comfortable/lazy which in some sense may not be a bad thing....but it's also not a good thing either.
Pokemon Sword/Shield tries to do a couple of things to innovate but in the end, what we get is a half-step in the right direction. With more time, a better understanding of the online structure of Nintendo's current product and pushing the envelope a little bit more in the direction that the game has put into play the next entry has the potential to be amazing. This is an opportunity for Game Freak and Nintendo to take fan feedback and make the next game something spectacular. The Wild Area is going to be an addition that I can see become the standard for games in the future and Max Raid Battles with friends is a blast. As a Pokemon fan, I would rather see more variety with the monsters available to create more diverse teams and to have a truly unique experience that is independent of the status quo. Even allowing you to pick from a bigger pool of starting Pokemon would be a drastic change in the core gameplay and depending on your choice it could branch into something else. At the end of the day, it's Pokemon still being Pokemon and not's a bad thing but as fans begin to age more, they desire more than the outdated formula from over decades ago.