When Nintendo announced the Switch, most die-hard fans of the company’s first question was, “so when do we get Pokemon?” A staple franchise of Nintendo handheld consoles since Yellow, Blue, and Red released on the original Gameboy in 1996. Long time fans of the series were ecstatic to finally be able to play a main series Pokemon game on our televisions, (not counting the Gamecube’s Game Boy Player.) And much to the confusion of fans everywhere, the world got Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee. While they weren’t awful, the replacement of wild Pokemon battles with a Pokemon Go style wild encounter system wasn’t what the fans were hoping for, for the next generation. It felt like Nintendo was alienating the core Pokemon fanbase in favor of a younger, more casual one. Finally though, on November 15th, 2019, we got Sword and Shield, a true main series entry in this beloved franchise.
When it was originally announced, Sword and Shield was polarizing to say the least. The lack of a National Dex and the removal of the Mega Evolutions that were introduced in generation six with X and Y rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way. They felt like Nintendo was being lazy and were taking the easy way out. Instead of Mega Evolutions there would be a new form for Pokemon called Dynamax which would make your beloved pocket monsters grow to gargantuan sizes and deal massive damage. Instead of changing into an awesome new evolution they would just…get bigger. And to be fair, these are all valid complaints. These are features that came to be staples of the franchise and were just suddenly removed. However, the game should be judged for what it is, and not what it isn’t. And what it is, is a return to form after Sun and Moon completely changed the structure of a Pokemon game, albeit with a few new twists.
In the new Galar region, (modeled after the United Kingdom,) Pokemon Battles are a super popular spectator sport, and the gyms are stadiums with thousands of fans in the stands. When you challenge a gym leader, you will do so in front of roaring crowds. It adds a sense of grandeur to these battles that the series has never seen before and it’s a nice touch. Though, the biggest change to the gyms doesn’t come when you challenge the leader. Every gym now has a puzzle that you have to solve in order to progress through it. And while they could have been nice brain teasers to break up the trainer battles, most of the time they fall flat. They feel like padding for time and more often than not are laughably easy. The rock-type gym’s puzzle was particularly aggravating. While they don’t ruin the experience of challenging gyms, if Gamefreak chooses to implement the puzzles in future titles, they should definitely put more TLC into them.
Sword’s biggest strength comes from the art design. After some massive missteps in recent years, the new Pokemon are awesome. Corviknight, Boltund, and Grapploct to name a few, are especially cool. In general, the game is gorgeous. The extra memory that was freed up when they nixed the National Dex and Mega Evolutions was most definitely put to good use. Dynamic lighting has been improved, and textures are sharp. Clouds roll by that cast shadows over the landscape, and from the beginning of the game, you’re shown beautiful vistas that make the Galar region feel epic. You can tell that Gamefreak put extra love into making this the prettiest game in the series. And of course, the music is top-notch as well.
One nice touch that was included in Sword that can’t go unmentioned, is the elimination of the EXP share. Now from the very beginning of the game, Pokemon in your party will all receive XP from battles, even when they didn’t participate at all. It reduces the amount of grinding you’ll have to do to keep your party evenly leveled. It’s little things like this that make an already fun game just that much better.
Though many people will hate on Sword because they can’t look past the fact that there’s no National Dex and no Mega Evolutions, they’re missing out on a great entry in the Pokemon franchise. No series will make you feel like you did when you were a kid like this one, and Sword captures that magic perfectly. It rectifies the missteps that were taken with Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee. Sword offers plenty of content to keep you satisfied, and tons of cool and interesting new Pokemon to catch. Pokemon die-hards should rest easy, and enjoy this excellent new entry in the series.
Awesome New Pokemon: The eighth generation of Pokemon are interesting and capture the magic that was lost in recent years.
No National Dex or Mega Evolutions: While it doesn’t ruin the game like some fans make it seem, Mega Evolutions were an extra layer of fun and hopefully they come back.
Final Thoughts: Give Sword and Shield a chance. Nothing makes you feel like a kid like Pokemon does and the new games don’t disappoint.