Review: Pokemon Sword and Shield

Pokémon has been destined to leave your pockets and jump on your television screen for a long time and it's finally happened but at a cost thanks to some very stupid decisions.

If you've followed the Pokémon franchise since it's conception, you'd have it instilled into your brain that with Pokémon it's not only about rock-paper-scissor turn-based combat, collecting gems and being the very best Pokémon trainer across the land. A major component of the series has been about searching far and wide for every Pokémon to collect 'em all. They've even milked this marketing idea by splitting each of the generations into two games and forcing you to either find a friend who has the opposite game of that generation or by making you buy it. Otherwise, you're going to have a less than full Pokédex. I'd recommend watching South Park's Pokémon episode if you're unfamiliar with the rise of Pokémon's beginnings.

A core element of the series has been the ability to transfer Pokémon from one generation to another but this idea was stripped heavily in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Shortly after the game released with a pretty empty Pokédex, Game Freaks announced an expansion that would allow you to catch some of the Pokémon missing from the previous games which felt wrong to a lot of players. Thankfully though this was a patch that also just added those Pokémon into the game anyway so you could just transfer those Pokémon from your previous games back into the game.

This is a pretty big issue for me as well as a lot of others if you like collecting these little monsters and showing them off to your friends or just completing the Pokédex. And what's bad about this is it feels like you're never playing the full potential of what Pokémon could have been.

Pokémon is a very simple game. You always start off as a child leaving his mother to train Pokémon, just like how her husband left the family for cigarettes. You meet a professor who gives you one of three Pokémon that have elements of water, grass and fire. After you ignore the grass Pokémon and choose one of the useful monsters, you travel across the land looking for trainers to battle, gyms to defeat, and looking for the story that connects your character and his friends to the mysterious ultra rare legendary Pokémon of that generation and game. The loop hasn't changed.

Thankfully, that loop hasn't changed. If you like Pokémon, you're in for that similar gameplay and story. The additions they added to the new Pokémon game outside of new looking Pokémon aren't that amazing. There's a big area to explore and catch Pokémon and battle, but those are similar to the safari areas of the old games. The best improvement in the gameplay department is if you're a collector, you don't have to wonder if the random encounter is a Pokémon you'd care not to fight. Instead now you can clearly see which Pokémon you're going to battle. No longer will you sit in caves fighting Zubats over and over if you're looking for a rarer species. It's easily my favorite new addition to the gameplay.

One of the biggest changes to the gameplay is the introduction of the Dynamax and Gigantamax. Enabling these causes your Pokémon to tower over your foes and cause massive damage and use special moves. It's not entirely different but creates a crack in the boredom of the same old repeating strategy of pressing fight until the battles are over. These are really useful in raids, which are co-op battles where you fight a giant Pokémon with a team of AI or actual players. But these features aren't even revolutionary to the core gameplay in any way. It's just the biggest change to the combat.

There's no doubt Pokémon is a kid's game. If you're a grown up playing Pokémon it's either because of nostalgia or because you have a mental disorder. They're not particularly challenging games and none of them really have been. They're so easy that people have custom rules they play by to make the game more difficult by releasing Pokémon that faint (permadeath) and removing the XP share so you always have to cycle out Pokémon.

In the first several generations, you had to at least have a good team because the final boss battles had a range of Pokémon of different elements that could rock your scissor if you didn't have the paper to cover yourself. That should still be true since the concepts are the same but since the introduction of the first 3DS games, the games went from medium-easy to simple. I don't even remember changing out a Pokémon in Pokémon X/Y. Sword and Shield mostly continues down this path until the very end of the game. It was a minor let down they didn't try to implement something close to the original games difficulty or at least remove the XP share.

They did introduce a challenge mode which was the only reason this game isn't getting a minimum score for difficulty. You can fight through waves of enemies in a Tower to fully test out the abilities of your team and it's a good way to extend the game if you're not into mutli-player battles or boss runs to grind levels.

Look. It's Pokémon. This is a kid's game. Don't expect a lot of intense mature themes, political themes (thankfully), or a story that has a twist you won't see coming. It won't make you think after. It's almost the exact same as the other stories with some variables.

And that's fine.

I'm not playing these games to learn morals and to write a philosophical paper about the dangers of animal abuse. It's just a kid's game with a simple story about a kid following his dreams to become a masterful trainer and some turbulence along the way. Instead of Team Rocket, you run into a group of British punks who want to bust your face in and exclaim "Oy!" over and over. Team Rocket was a terrorizing group of individuals but the punks seem like they're just outcasts in this game. They don't even feel like bad guys this time around. The bad guy is a twist which won't be spoiled here but you can see it coming a mile away if you understand basic story writing and know there has to be a villain in these games.

There's some controversy over the models of the game and the animations. A lot of the Pokémon were imported from the 3DS versions of the game (or so it seems) and there were some rumors that the game was lacking a lot of animations. I saw some of the animations and was a bit alarmed that this game was just a rushed out product and nothing was going to be new.

To my surprise playing this game, the animations were not as bland as the internet lead me to believe. They're mostly well animated and gives you that comfy nostalgia feeling while looking similar to the anime. Character models look perfectly fine and while some are more than likely imported, it still manages to look fine.

Character models aside, the towns look really good and have a nice European look to them. It's the best at bringing a variety to each of the towns you visit and helped me distinguish which town was which since each stood out from each other. The open areas are bland and that was a bit disappointing. But almost everything about the open areas was a let down.

But there's some downfall to the newest Pokémon game and that's some of the worst model pop-ins I've seen in the 21st century. If you're over about 100 feet from a character, they won't even appear on the screen until you inch closer. It's not really appealing and doesn't make a lot of sense why they did it this way since game isn't a graphical marvel. Super Mario Odyssey looks a lot better and doesn't suffer from any of this. On top of the pop-ins, some of the open world areas of Pokémon have frame rate drops that confused me since I've played plenty of better looking Switch games that run perfectly fine.

Pokémon music has always been catchy and energizing. Even the anime has a catchy theme song that teaches you exactly what each game and episode is going to be about. But outside of the music, Pokémon has some forgettable sounds. There was hope that the new game would have more ability to add more sounds and voice acting to the series but they decided to not go that route.

If you mute the music, you're treated to almost no sounds whatsoever outside of a couple of bleeps and out dated Game Boy roars from the Pokémon. None of this has been changed or updated and that's a huge bummer. With the graphics increased for the Switch, I at least expected the sound department to do a better job here but I guess they were on vacation while the game was being made. 

The multi-player is pretty bland. After a move to a TV console system, I expected to have more to do with my friends even if it was just some goofy mini-games. Instead the only new thing worth mentioning is running into random players in some of the big open-world areas of the game and that even feels lacking. You can battle a tough Pokémon in a co-op battle with strangers but it doesn't feel like you're even playing with anyone else. The battles are just you waiting for someone else to pick their move and battle it out. Other than that, you just see a bunch of players running around a map doing their own thing. They succeeded in making live players feel boring and dead.

Other than the new features, the old battle modes have returned and trading systems from previous games. Without voice chat, those battles feel like a lateral move instead of something bigger. But I guess you don't want to be called names by the kids playing Pokémon if you're some 30 something child like myself.

As much as I can find fault in a lot of things with this entry, I can't deny that I didn't have fun. The core game was a blast to play through and they added a few quality of life elements to the game that helped me power through when I felt like I didn't want to. I ended up clocking around 65 hours into it before retiring it. I even plan on buying the expansion pack for Sword eventually just to play around with the game again. It's a simple gameplay loop that has been done for near 30 years but it's fun enough for a relaxing trip through a simple story.

Because it's very relaxing and familiar, I had a lot of fun with it. It was still fun to collect the new Pokémon and check out their new abilities. It was fun going through the motions of gym hoping to collect badges.

Pokémon Sword and Shield is a appreciable entry to the series and I had more fun with this one than I have since Pokémon Black/White. It's a good step up and a great Pokémon game but has a lot of major disheartening choices like the lack of voice acting and the Pokédex being a shell of its former self. But overall the gameplay is still a lot of fun and at it's core, it's a fun Pokémon game with a lot of life in it.

Share on Google Plus

About DryvBy

The best thing about running your own website is that no one can tell you what to do. Also, video games are awesome.
    Blogger Comment


Post a Comment