By Steve Baltimore / December 16th, 2019
|Release Date||November 15th, 2019|
When Pokémon Sword and Shield were announced I first saw it as the next logical entry in the franchise. The previous release of the two versions of Pokémon Let’s Go on the Switch had left a sour taste in the mouths of core fans and this entry promised to be a more traditional release. However this release would not be without controversy among fans either. It was announced the game would be dropping the National Pokédex in favor of regional one. This leads us to how I ended up reviewing Pokémon Sword. I’ve not played a Pokémon since Gold way back on the Game Boy Color, so I figured I could jump into this with a fresh perspective. Let’s see how my Pokémon adventure went!
Your Pokémon adventure this time begins in the brand new region of Galar. The champion of this region is Leon, the older brother of your friend and soon to be rival, Hop. Upon returning home, the champ gives you and Hop a choice of three different starter Pokémon to begin your journey. The pair would find themselves in a precarious situation soon after as a Wooloo had wandered into the mysterious Slumbering Weald. They quickly encounter two mysterious Pokémon that are likely the Legendary Pokémon who saved Galar from a crisis called the Darkest Day in ancient times. The pair now sets out on their quest to collect the 8 badges from the region’s Pokémon Gym leaders and become the next Pokémon Champion!
The story of Pokémon Sword is very straightforward and goes exactly where you would expect. That’s not a bad thing, and learning about the region and the Dynamax energy there is pretty interesting as well. I felt the characters were the best part of this overall. Hop is a great rival and he learns a lot himself along the way. The gym leaders are all unique and I really loved their personalities. Nessa is a beautiful but stern woman that makes everyone around her work harder, Bea is truly a fighting champion that give her all 100% of time and Piers is a very set in his ways punk rocker! His sister Marnie is great as well and there are some really cute scenes post game for players to enjoy. In the end there is nothing groundbreaking story-wise, but it was fun nonetheless.
Graphically this is the best looking Pokémon I’ve ever seen. The environments look fantastic, and the Wild Area even has a free roaming camera. This allows you to see how richly detailed this area is. This made me want to explore every part of this world and look for anything that might be hidden out of plain sight. Weather effects add a great deal of immersion and even have an effect on what kinds of Pokémon will appear in that area. The Pokémon models themselves look great. You can tell great care was put into porting most of the older models over to this console release. I was less impressed with some animations. They seem really rushed and look out of place with the newer more fluid ones. The character models are all great as well, and I had a blast buying tons of different outfits for my girl to look her best in. I probably spent way more money than I should’ve on clothing and haircuts, but if I can customize my character, I will go all out!
In the sound department Pokémon Sword really shines. Most of the overworld themes are very upbeat and really get you in the mood for exploring. I really loved all of the battle themes. My personal favorites were Marnie’s Battle theme, The Pokémon League Tournament themes and the Gym Leader Final Pokémon theme will likely be stuck in my head for weeks to come. The Pokémon all make their signature sounds when you run across them on the field and the sound effects during battle are well placed and very fitting.
The gameplay here hasn’t changed much in all these years. Catch Pokémon and level them up through battles. Things have certainly become much more streamlined and user friendly since I played Gold all those years ago. Battles flow much better now and item usage plays a much better role in battle as well. The gameplay here seems very simple, though I soon found out there is much more to it than that. to. You can find special Pokémon on the field, they will be glowing when you see them on the field, and that have skills other Pokémon of the same breed do not. You can do EV training to make ultra powerful Pokémon. Of course, making sure to have several different types to exploit enemy weaknesses is important as well.
The new addition to combat in this entry is that your Pokémon can take on huge forms during certain battles. These forms are called Dynamax and Gigantamax. These transformations can only be used in stadium battles and battles fought at dens in The Wild Area. Every Pokémon in the game can Dynamax, but only certain ones can Gigantamax. The difference between the two is when you Gigantamax, your Pokémon will have a different look and new special move. Both of these transformations will only last 3 turns, so use them wisely in your overall team strategy.
Speaking of The Wild Area, it is one of the biggest and most useful areas found in Galar. This a big field where many different types of Pokémon roam. With the random encounters gone you can see exactly which Pokémon you about to begin battle with unless they are hiding in tall grass. There’s also many pillars of light in this area. These come from Pokémon dens you can fight Dynamax battles at. These battles against giant Pokémon are done in teams of four and you can ask your friends online to help you out with these. If friends aren’t around the game will search for random members to join or add CPU players to fill out your team. At first you will not be able to catch some of the bigger ones here. Every badge you gain will allow you to catch and control higher leveled Pokémon. This is fine since you will need to return here often because depending on the weather, you could find completely different Pokémon in the same area on your next visit.
Exploring the Wild Area will also net you lots of treasures if you look around. Plenty of rare and not so rare items are scattered about in Pokéballs throughout the map. These item include potions, stones for evolving your Pokémon, cooking items and much more. If you are connected to the internet you can see other trainers running around the field. Talking to them will give you a random item. Some of these are really useful such as cooking ingredients for camping. Speaking of camping, if you see another player’s campsite you can visit it and hang out with their Pokémon. The one drawback to being online is that it has a negative effect on the game’s framerate. I feel like this is due more to net lag than the Switch’s performance, but it’s there nonetheless.
I thought the selection of Pokémon found in this region was pretty good. Now granted I don’t know what I’ve missed out on since its been many years since I played one of these, but I never felt like the variety was restricted in any way. It was nice see old favorites like Charizard and Pikachu, and I found new new favorites as well. These include Mudsdale, Glalie and Torkoal just to name a few. I kind wish they would’ve included some of the older legendary Pokémon, at least in the post game. Since some of them look really awesome, but like I said, there was plenty of variety as is.
All and all I had a great time with Pokémon Sword. The game runs very well docked or in handheld mode, online features work great aside from the slowdown and the gameplay is quite addictive. I loved all of the characters and some of the theme music is the best I’ve heard in a long time. I felt like the game was easy enough for a casual player to get into, while it still had plenty of depth for veteran players to explore. This is exactly the balance you want in a game like this. I played this for around 55 hours for this review and finished the main story and bit of post game content. I feel like this game is well worth $60 price tag. There is plenty of content and I feel like old and new players will find a lot to love here.
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