Alright, so, as is virtue with one’s first times, I have no clue how to start this review off, so I’ll simply do so with a vague “these games aren’t going to be for everyone”.
First off I want to say that I don’t think I’m going to have to introduce Pokémon Sword and Shield to anyone reading this, even as this is a review, which are generally meant for the undecided and uninitiated. My audience are core communities, and I don’t think more than 5% of those reading are uninitiated about the controversy surrounding these games and the run-up to their launch, so while I will address some of these points in more or less detail, I will only do so as I see relevant to how the game is experienced.
Overall, I feel like Pokémon Sword and Shield make a pretty large, if very clumsy step forward for the franchise. It’s the first 3D title in the series that really feels like it is a title designed with being fully 3D in mind, whereas the previous outings on the 3DS felt more like a Diamond and Pearl or a Black and White popped into a world where not only the viewport has a Y-axis. It allows the world to finally have the grandeur that you would always envision when visiting a place in a Pokémon game prior, and while the cities of Sword and Shield aren’t my favorite of the series by far, they do feel good to be around in. In turn, just as many of them, main offenders being Turffield and Stow-on-Side, sadly also fail at portraying themselves as living places, with the latter being an especially tragic case of being a really well built place that just lacks personality, and the mid-game hub city Hammerlocke being huge with very little to actually do there.
This lack of variety in gameplay sadly does bleed into other aspects of the game in the sense that, beyond Pokémon battles, and cooking curry in the camp, there really aren’t any.
The new Wild Area, as much as I dearly love the openness of this place, only really plays into these two factors, with its exploration being almost exclusively focused on finding either new Pokémon,
items for them to use, the new Max Raid Battles, treasures to feed your riches or berries and ingredients to cook curry with.
This is of course not to say that the Wild Area is poorly designed or even ill conceived. It’s not gigantic, but it’s large enough to be a lot of fun to explore and find some trinkets in, without having any performance issues, as the entire game runs smoothly, utilizing dynamic resolution, both docked and undocked. Since all of the Wild Area’s Pokémon scale you can not only run into hilariously overleveled, unevolved level 60 Pokémon in the post-game, but there are also some static encounters that are always leveled a lot higher than your party, that give you one hell of a challenge should you choose to engage them, with an equally huge EXP payout should you triumph.
There are a few design decisions that have split the community like no other, such as a limit on the level of Pokémon you can catch, but they all serve to make the Wild Area an important and fun part of the game, while keeping game balance intact.
Additionally, just to clear things up: There have been reports of performance issues in the Wild Area, however these usually coincide with being online. When you go online, using the aptly named Y-Comm (bound to the Y-Button), you can actually meet other players and join their camps and Max Raid Battles in the Wild Area. This does sometimes leads to stutters, though these are syncing and lag compensation courtesy of the Switch’s poor online services, rather than frame drops.
The very strong focus on battling in these games however, brings me to my biggest positive I can say about them, in that this focus gives them an identity like no other.
The story is rather lackluster in the sense that whenever something goes sideways, you’re told to just standby and continue your gym challenge,
but it does emphasize really well just how important the Pokémon League is to Galarian culture, and having a story that’s just about being a trainer trying to climb the ranks, instead of saving the world is a surprisingly refreshing,
if ever so infamously handholding, take on the Pokémon formula.
Pokémon Sword and Shield also excel at their presentation, being, as previously suggested, the first 3D titles in the franchise to really utilize the freedom of the Y-axis, to make the world look absolutely beautiful. N64-tier tree bark and other snarky remarks about graphical fidelity aside, the visual quality and style of these games are uncontested among 3D Pokémon titles and even with some very immersion breaking pop-in issues (which the static camera in routes and cities at least somewhat tries to hide), they never fail to make the world feel believable and lived in, to at least some degree.
This all culminates in the new “stadium-style” gym battles. The new Dynamax feature, that supersizes your Pokémon for three turns, is exclusive to these and the new Max Raid Battles, and it finally makes the staple gyms of every Pokémon game (save for Sun and Moon) feel like the huge events they are meant to be. Only you, the gym leader, your Pokémon, and a huge crowd of rabid fans; it feels phenomenal to grind your way through a gym battle, cheered on by the audience, just for both of you to crack out the Dynamax for the grand finale and light the stadium up with gargantuan masses of elemental power that shake even your controller to its core, carried by the banger OST which lines your entire adventure.
It's simply awesome.
Additionally, with the inspiration for the new gym challenge coming from the UK’s fascination for football, its finale isn’t as stiff and mundane feeling as previous titles and instead actually throws the player into a tournament against other trainers that cleared the gym challenge, as well as rematches with a few of the gym leaders. While the match-ups here are scripted, making the tournament effectively equivalent to the Elite 4 of previous games (granted, here you have a gauntlet of 5 battles before facing the Champion), the presentation gives it a much grander and genuine feel, that conveys it as an actual event with a huge cultural impact for the entire region.
It’s hard to dislike any of the new Pokémon designs. Even though some of them look very derpy, and a small handful are a bit of a pain to look at, they all have a very well earned place in the Galar Dex, along with the returning Pokémon, that fit the region, its locations and themes very well, and make a great complementary lineup along the region’s originals, with a variety that makes you almost forget that almost half the complete lineup of Pokémon was axed for this game.
Apart from all the more or less literally big stuff to talk about, Pokémon Sword and Shield also house some equally big Quality of Life improvements, such as the continued reallocation of HMs into other items and services, making the Escape Rope a key item instead of a consumable you need to keep restocking, as well as making the notoriously impenetrable competitive scene of the game, which previous generations already lowered the entry bar a lot for, even more accessible, by effectively removing the need to breed for natures and adding many new consumables acquired from Max Raid Battles that make raising your dream team a lot easier.
All in all, Pokémon Sword and Shield make an amazing step forward for the franchise. While their sole focus on the battle aspect of the Pokémon games make it so that they’re definitely not for everyone in the core community, they nail that focus so well that if you do like yourself some glorified cockfights, these games are an absolute treat that you will not want to put down anytime soon. They even managed to make me absolutely adore those cockfights, which no Pokémon game prior has achieved, and on top of that they had me more engrossed and invested than any Pokémon game since Diamond, which is a *Gigantamax* claim coming from someone who was basically shaped by it. I can confidently, without a doubt in my mind, say that these are right up on top as one of the best mainline Pokémon games out there. Anyways, after that travesty of a joke, I can’t afford being around for more than two sentences.
Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield score an 8/10
Welcome to The Field! We are currently a group of two content creators who simply want to entertain by bringing you international content focused in different categories of pop-culture. Anything from the sectors of music, motion picture and gaming is good to go and will be provided for you free of charge on YouTube.
This is simply meant as a short introductory post to tell you what The Field is. We will soon post our own short introductions in our target languages to let you know who we are and what kind of content you can expect from us.
The website you are currently on is still in heavy development and in an unfinished state. While what's present should work, we can't promise perfect functionality just yet.
The next addition will be separate pages for each member of The Field to allow you to view the entirety of a member's library of content. Soon after we will try to offer our own video-host independent from YouTube, however this is heavily resource dependent and might be a while off.
Have fun looking around! - Bisa