Pokémon Sword & Shield – REVIEW (Nintendo Switch)

Pokémon Sword & Shield – REVIEW (Nintendo Switch)

As a young Pokémon fan, it was impossible
to not dream of someday being able to play the series on a console. The Pokémon Stadium
games and Gale of Darkness were a tease, but they’re not the exact adventure I wanted.
A journey to collect all eight Gym Badges and become Champion of a region felt like
it would be so much more epic when not confined to a handheld. And finally, that day has come
thanks to the Switch and the start of the 8th generation of Pokémon, Sword & Shield.
But is it everything we dreamed it would be? Does it have that certain something that’ll
make it feel special? This time around, players take the role of
a new trainer in the Galar region where the Gym League and the Champion Cup are all anyone
can talk about. It’s emphasized so much more than any region before and that could
be due to its Champion, Leon, who has never suffered a single defeat. With a new season
of the Gym League beginning, you and the Champion’s younger brother, Hop, set out on a journey
to compete in the League and maybe, just maybe, be the first one to defeat Leon. It’s a Pokémon story that’s both familiar
yet different as the League itself has never been highlighted quite this much. Rather than
just something some trainers set out to do, the League is a highly publicized sport that
the entire region tunes into as they see how far the new batch of Gym Challengers can make
it. This created a different feeling for me as I played. The Challenge seemed like, well,
an actual challenge. Something that was more difficult than the average person could expect
to complete. And this was emphasized the further I progressed as I heard more about other challengers
just not able to cut it. This new take is something I really appreciate as it made the
things I did as a trainer feel all the more special. I wasn’t just another challenger.
I was the one who could potentially end the Champion’s winning streak. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most
barebone Pokémon tales that I’ve ever encountered. There’s almost nothing beyond the Gym Challenge.
Hop and the other Gym Challengers, Bede and Marnie, have their own character arcs, but
Hop’s the only one with any real amount of time in the spotlight. It’s great having
a more jerkish rival in the form of Bede, but Marnie doesn’t get to do much until
late in the game. And that goes for Team Yell as well. They’re just rowdy fans of Marnie
who occasionally get in people’s way, making them even less of a threat than Team Skull
with none of the understanding that made Sun & Moon’s evil Team so memorable. And by
the time a plot does unfold that doesn’t involve the Gym Challenge and Champion Cup,
it’s too little, too late. It’s a shame too, because the setting, along
with the pomp and circumstance of the Gym Challenge really sets it apart from past games.
There’s a sense of grandeur here that I really enjoyed. Even the lead-up to the Gym
Leaders was fun as the idea of Trials from Sun & Moon carried over. And then, of course,
there’s the new Wild Area, a large swath of land where dozens of different Pokémon
roam, the weather changes often, and the camera can be freely controlled. It’s the most
open Pokémon has ever been and while it’s not huge, it’ll still take at least a few
minutes to walk from one end to the other when not on your bike. The Wild Area is also
a bit dangerous early on though as higher-level Pokémon can be encountered. After all, within
the first two hours of the game, it’s possible to start exploring the entire thing. You will
find Pokémon that provide a challenge. That said, the game goes out of its way to
balance this element as only Pokémon up to a certain level can actually be caught with
that cap expanding as you defeat each Gym. The high-level Pokémon can be defeated so
it’s a possible way of grinding up your team early. Story-wise, it’s only necessary
to travel through the Wild Area twice, but it can easily be returned to at any time to
capture more powerful Pokémon, including some evolutions that require trades like Steelix,
with each new badge earned. Despite the freedom allowed in the Wild Area, it meshes well with
the rest of the game. But for as cool as it is to see such a large area filled with Pokémon,
it ultimately felt a bit empty with little to see or do beyond catching Pokémon and
going on Max Raid Battles, which I’ll detail soon. While the Wild Area could be used as a place
to grind, I never found that necessary thanks to the newly required experience share. No
longer is this an option, but something tied into the experience itself. At first I was
unsure how to feel about this change as previous experience shares seemed to keep me from using
my entire team. And while there’s still an element of that here, it’s been rebalanced
in such a way that it never felt as intrusive. Sword & Shield is completely built around
this mechanic and it’s all the better for it. The Wild Area isn’t just a place to battle
and capture wild Pokémon though. There’s also the the Max Raid Battles, which are accessed
through nodes known as dens spread all around. Raid Battles feature you and three other trainers
teaming up to take down a Dynamaxed Pokémon, which greatly increases its size and power.
These raid Pokémon can also put up shields, dispel buffs, and act more than once per turn
making for a decent challenge. But defeating it will allow the players a chance to capture
it themselves. The dens are a kind of focal point for the
Wild Area as merely inspecting one will earn players Watts that can be spent with NPCs
for special items or to even upgrade your bike. There’s a few other activities, but
the biggest is absolutely the Raid Battles. They can be done either with A.I. allies or
other players, but unfortunately that option wasn’t available before release. The A.I
can get the job done, but most of the work relies on yourself. It’s not a bad option,
but for the more difficult Raid Pokémon, I highly recommend doing this with other humans. Along with capturing the Pokémon, winning
a Max Raid Battle earns players unique items as well including berries, Experience Candies,
and Technical Records, or TRs. These work like TMs except they can only be used once,
pretty much like the old versions of TMs, which means there are 200 different moves
that can be taught through this method alone. It’s a staggering amount that allows players
to truly customize their team however they want, and that’s just the start of it as
I’ll detail soon. First and foremost, I think the new selection
of Pokémon are fantastic. Every starters’ final evolution is a favorite to the point
that I’d be happy picking any of them, the new Galar forms are diverse and spread the
love beyond Gen 1, and each new Pokémon I encountered felt like a treat. I love the
new ideas on display and some of the new type combinations are a lot of fun. There are a
few duds, but on the whole, this is a great new line-up, and I was able to easily make
a team of all newcomers. If you’re able to stay spoiler-free when going into the game,
I believe finding each new Pokémon will be a real thrill upon seeing their design. Seeing them all in battle is a joy as well
as the combat system is fast and full of new moves and abilities to take into account while
still maintaining that classic appeal. There are no new battle types though beyond singles
and doubles. The big new mechanic–literally– is the introduction of Dynamaxing, which allows
Pokémon to become much larger versions of themselves that increases their stats and
changes their moves to become more devastating. It’s a mix of Mega Evolution from X & Y
and Z-Moves from Sun & Moon. They’re not as pervasive in the main game
however as they’re only available during Gym Battles or Max Raid Battles. It helps
make them not feel as overpowered, and the limit of only being active for three turns
makes knowing when to activate them be more strategic. In most cases, I felt like Dynamaxing
was a way to add some more challenge to the Gym Battles as early on, I would often have
at least one or two Pokémon faint. While it’s exciting to see, it feels more like
Dynamax was designed with competitive players in mind. And that seems to be the case in
a lot of instances. There are so many options in the game, specifically
the post-game, that allow players to change their Pokémon’s nature, ability, and so
much more. It is shockingly easy to create your ideal team and even before the post-game,
every Pokémon Center has a kiosk where you can remember a Pokémon’s forgotten moves
so if you caught one late, there’s no fear of missing out on the ideal moveset. And it’s
here that I believe Pokémon Sword & Shield shine the most. There are so many systems
in place to make competitive battling easier to get into, which is great considering that
Ranked Online Battles will be available at launch. I haven’t been able to experience
it, but everything surrounding this idea seems ready-made to create a fantastic competitive
scene. Unfortunately, that’s not why I play Pokémon. I play the series for the main story, to see
what new Pokémon I can capture, what kind of new team will take me through the adventure,
what crazy characters I might meet, visiting the new places I can explore, and discovering
how the stakes are raised as I progress. Some might scoff at that, but I rarely bother with
any Pokémon’s post-game unless there’s some kind of story tied to it. Even something
as beloved as the Battle Frontier in past gens was just not my thing. And for players
like me, there’s just not a lot to recommend about Sword & Shield. For one, while the story started off with
lots of promise thanks to its grander Gym Challenge and even the return of a jerk rival
in the form of Bede, it never really did anything with this promise. By the story’s midpoint,
there were just no surprises to keep me invested. And unfortunately, that’s endemic of the
entire game. When I first began Sword & Shield, I was sucked into this new world. It was familiar,
but it felt like it had a different story to tell and I was so sure it was going to
be something special for Pokémon fans. What I didn’t realize was that as I went on,
there wasn’t much else to see. There are some really great ideas here, but the ones
I really cared about were rarely used. One of the best examples of this involves
the Escape Rope. In every previous Pokémon game, these had to be bought in order to escape
a dungeon or cave. They could be slogs to get through, and if you have the wrong encounter,
that Escape Rope is necessary. In Sword & Shield, it no longer needs to be purchased. It’s
a Key Item that can be used at any time. That is a great Quality of Life improvement. The
problem is, there’s barely any dungeons and the ones that are there are too short
to really necessitate an Escape Rope. It’s a good change that’d be more effective in
past games. And this ties into exploration as well. It’s
not just the caves that are too short; everything outside of the Wild Area feels small. The
cities look impressive, but none have as much to see as Castelia City in Black & White or
Lumiose City in X & Y. It feels like a front with everything that you can see and do easily
fitting into a city like Saffron or Celadon from Gen 1. The town containing the 5th Gym
has as much to see as Pallet Town. It looks grand as I could see more buildings in the
distance, but I couldn’t reach them. The same goes for Routes with many of them only
having short diversions and nothing else to really see. It all feels like a streamlined
experience dictated by the complaints that there were too many cutscenes in Sun & Moon.
But with so much of the game dedicated to the Gym Challenge, my early excitement eventually
waned, and I felt like I had seen everything the game had to offer. There are less trainers to battle on each
route and the extra content really isn’t all that interesting over the course of the
main story. Poké Jobs mainly serve as a way to send off your boxed Pokémon for a bit
of experience and the Pokémon Camp allows you to play with Pokémon using two different
toys and by making curry. There’s a ton of different curries to make in the game to
the point that there’s an actual CurryDex, though I couldn’t exactly tell the difference
between their effectiveness outside of how much extra experience my team earned. And
these are incredibly potent as the curry can fully heal your team, get rid of their side
effects, and even revive them. I rarely bothered to use the Camp or Poké Jobs at all in my
playthrough as they often didn’t feel necessary. That said, the game looks fantastic with some
wonderfully imaginative locales and a great sense of scale when it came to the Gym Battles.
There’s still some stiffness when it comes to the characters expressing themselves, but
the faces actually react, especially those of the player character, and it’s easily
the best-looking Pokémon game to date. The new moves are animated well though some of
the classic moves are starting to look a bit dated. There are occasional hints of slowdown
when exploring the overworld but it’s rarely too distracting, and battles ran smoothly.
The soundtrack is solid with plenty of new battle themes that incorporate the chants
and cheers of a crowd into them. It helps simulate the grandeur of the Gym Battles while
the new character and town themes really popped at times as well. Sonia’s theme in particular
is a new favorite of mine. The sound effects are the same as they’ve ever been, but overall
I’m happy with the game’s sound design. I went into Pokémon Sword & Shield with a
positive outlook. I could see tons of potential and the new Pokémon and character designs
really struck a chord with me. The idea to make Gyms so much more grand was a good one,
but it needed something more. Having such a big place to explore in the form of the
Wild Area was a novel one, but the fact that there’s so little to do there beyond Raid
Battles makes the novelty wear off quick. Galar looks beautiful, but there’s hardly
ever a chance to explore beyond the Wild Area. There’s a nominal effort here, but I ended
up feeling like the game was too streamlined for its own good.The quality of life upgrades,
some of which I haven’t mentioned, are fantastic across the board. This is one of the most
competitive-friendly games in the series, but the general adventure just felt lesser
in the end. I like the game, and it’s a good first step for Pokémon on consoles,
but as a casual Pokémon player, there just wasn’t enough for me to sink my teeth into.
Hopefully, with this experience under their belts, Game Freak can make something even
better next time. Thanks for watching and be sure to subscribe to GameXplain for more
on Pokémon and other things gaming.

100 thoughts on “Pokémon Sword & Shield – REVIEW (Nintendo Switch)

  1. Honestly this game feels incomplete and kinda like a joke if you compare it to dragonquest mosters:joker. That game was on the nintendo ds! :c check it and see for yourself…

  2. I wish game companies took ideas from their actual fan base into account for their games and implemented some of the ideas proposed by us fans considering we’re the ones that are going to buy and play the game I feel like having the consumers’ input is key to making a great game

  3. This is the mainstream of games. Next year is a gen 4 remake and I have a strong feeling they’re doing let’s go johto after that. Then we get gen 9. The problem is that they need more workers to fix these minors and major problems. I don’t have a problem with being cut because I’m playing a gen 8 game and only want gen 8 Pokémon. This is a game that has major pluses and major minuses. I’ll say for gamefeak to add more better animation and graphics.

  4. So they restart development on Metroid because it was not ambitious enough (so glad they did) but somehow this falls through the cracks? C’mon!

  5. The graphics , the lack of animation, the fps , the pop ins …ect the list is endless . Its half assed with half the pokemon . This game should be reviewed appropriately

  6. Just got the game and not enjoying it so far sadly. Very laggy and a lot of glitches plus characters just vanishing … it’s like they didn’t try with the game. Also the over use of Hau’s excited animation bothers me..

  7. I’ve played all the Pokemon games and limitations of the handhelds like Game Boy and 3DS always made me lenient with Game Freak. But now on the Switch this kinda of graphics and mechanics is outrageous specially when I can play Witcher 3 and Doom on my Switch. Fuck Game Freak, they are lazy fucktards and this game looks pathetic all around. That is not the Pokemon we wanted for the Switch.

  8. The old animations and the way they make things look while fighting annoys the heck out of me. I played this since the start and I am done with the old visuals while fighting.
    Look @12:16
    Sirfetch'd uses peck and hits the enemy
    The enemie hp goes to 0, but it stays just standing as if nothing happened!
    Then the game said it's super effective (and critical hit) and after that it said the opposing Hitmontop faints
    and THEN the Pokemon visually faints.
    Why does that still have to be so weird? Why can't the Pokemon just faint immediately after the hit?

    It's 2019, can we please do this more 'realistic' and make the game more smooth feeling instead of an old 1999 turn based rpg?

  9. 10 min in and the cutscenes already make this game feel like sun and moon . I hated sun and moon. Hop reminds me of hau. Gamefreak was lazy with this game.

  10. Looks at Pokemon USUM, XY, Monster Hunter Stories and Digimon Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition Catridges

    Yup, I'll stick with these still.

  11. Can you have multiple save files for a physical cartridge? Like let's say I beat the game on my own switch, and my friend wanted to play it, could he have a separate save file for his own switch using my copy of the game?

  12. Why are people so butt blasted about this game? It's not even bad. People complain about dexit; there's too many pokemon running around. People complain about cut moves/pokemon in the competitive scene; most of the jank is gone. It feels more like they trimmed the fat more than anything.

  13. So they got rid of most of my favorite pokemon, kill megas (my favorite feature) this game could have been released for nintendo wii and that seriously bothers me pokemon company makes a ton of money every time they make some new pokemon crap and yet they can't make a decent open world game and have better graphics than n3ds or even pokemon showdown!

  14. You're saying I should buy used, got it.
    Btw, although I disagree with the score, this was a good review, put IGN and gamespot to shame. Gj

  15. 6.40 "if you're able to go into this game unspoiled youll love finding the new Pokémon"

    While showing a number of new Pokémon…

  16. They just keep dumbing it down every generation saying "oh, it's for the casual young gamers". Nintendo thinks people are dumb as shit. I played the OG Pokemon Red IN JAPANESE when I was in 3rd grade ffs.

  17. I really wanted to grab this today but I'm just not feeling it. I'm not sure that there's enough there to justify 60 dollars, or even the 50 that it costs at Wal Mart. I've yet to play Pokemon White, Y, Ultra Sun or finish Omega Ruby and Let's go Evee. This game should've been a super smash hit for the Switch.

  18. Graphical bugs, lack of national dex, CEO lies, bad game mechanics…naw… Sword and Shield is bad. No thank you…I'm good, really…I'm good… I'll pass.

  19. Graphical bugs, lack of national dex, CEO lies, bad game mechanics…naw… Sword and Shield is bad. No thank you…I'm good, really…I'm good… I'll pass.

  20. I think I'm finally done with Pokemon. This was Game Freak/TPC's chance to show us what they were truly capable of, but talk about a completely lazy effort, even for them. The games pull in millions but they spend a paltry amount of it actually developing their games and rush them out for yearly releases. Pathetic.

  21. Why the fuck is the trainers standing still? Should't Game Freak have turned a new leaf? Like why aren't the trainers coming to seek you out as you progress more in either story or other things, like you caught the biggest magikarp in (insert town name), or you caught the legendary pokémon roaming a mountain. So I just have to battle you!!

    Make it more immersive, not just a slimmed down version of other titles.

  22. How the hell is this game so small? Its a handheld game shifted over to a console. Wtf mannnn. I spent my money on Dragon Quest XI instead cause of so many people suggesting to buy that instead of pokemon SS. Its really fun so far.

  23. 3:48 That double kick animation, though.

    Not buying this piece of garbage. Gamefreak does not know what the hell they are doing with a franchise with such a great potential.

  24. Experience share still in game i am definitely not interested this game series used to be good it’s way too easy like no effort type easy now 👎🏽

  25. So they can animate all these badass dynamax fights but they can't properly animate double kick? Wtf how hard is it to make the pokemon run up and kick?

  26. Honestly for me i hated almost 1/3 of all the new pokemon. Some of them are super nice looking but some didnt even look like pokemon

  27. You know what the next Pokemon should be? A completely open air game with all 8 regions (and the 9th region) all intertwined as part of one massive map

  28. i was ready to buy a switch just for this game before watching this review

    now i dont think this is worth that much money

  29. I guess it was silly to expect a Mario Odyssey/Breath of the Wild/Three Houses level of "shaking the formula" for Pokemon.
    Derrick himself said it at one point "if you want innovation play Dragon Quest, not Pokemon". He seems perfectly fine with no innovation for Pokemon though.

  30. A competitive friendly game, except the best part about playing competitively or even casually is putting together your perfect team or your favourite team, and I would be incredibly surprised if there's a single long time fan of the series who actually had all 6 of their favourite pokemon make it into SwSh.

  31. I feel as though the graphics and design are fine and that saying that the game looka awful is a bit much. It seems like a solid pokemon game from the eye test

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