Pokemon Sword and Shield (Nintendo Switch) - Review

From the infamous "Armoured Evolution" to #BringBackTheNationalDex to Gigantamaxing, it sure has been a wild ride since February when Pokemon Sword and Shield were first revealed. This time around, their marketing tactic was scarce when compared to the previous generation, and a lot was kept hidden until the games finally released. But does the first mainline RPG on the Nintendo Switch live up to the hype? Let's find out!

The games start off like any other Pokemon game. You start your game, you meet someone, you get your starter Pokemon, and then you being your journey. There is a little something at the start of the game that adds to the mystery and story (more on that later), but the small taste they give to you doesn't seem sweet enough. You then play the game like you would any other Pokemon game, until you reach the fabled Wild Area.

The Wild Area has been covered to death by this point, and is an expansive area where wild Pokemon roam free, but it's one of the main selling points for these games. It probably took us roughly an hour to get to the Wild Area, and we were not disappointed. With how Pokemon games have been recently, we feared we'd have to wait a while longer before we could participate in Max Raid Battles, but the moment you enter the Wild Area, the flood gates are open to do as you please.

Once we gained access to the Wild Area, we spent hours exploring and doing many, many, many Max Raid Battles. From doing Raid Battles you earn Watts and rewards, such as candy and TR's. TR's (Technical Records) are essentially a second lot of TM's, though they revert back to the old way of being single-use. Some may see it as a downgrade having single-use items, but there is an entire set of 100 TM's which can be used over and over, and the attacks for TR's haven't been all that difficult to obtain. Candies can be used to grant your Pokemon an EXP boost, stats, and even change your Pokemon's nature! They're a simple and effective way to level up your Pokemon to their full potential.

There really isn't much hindering your exploration of the Wild Area once it becomes available, and you can essentially explore the entire thing once you gain access to it. We were looking around seeing what we could find, and ended up finding a level 60 Kommo-o in the wild! Of course, the games wouldn't be that difficult if you could catch yourself a level 50+ Pokemon right out the gate, so to rectify this there is a catching level restriction based on how many badges you have. For example, earning your second badge will let you catch Pokemon up to level 30, and the level increases for every badge you obtain. It's a neat addition that helps the world feel more immersive without making the gameplay too easy. If you find yourself stuck in a battle with a strong Pokemon you can't escape from or catch, this is where the Poke Doll item comes in very handy!

Though just because you can't catch a level 60 Pokemon right away doesn't mean the games are scaled perfectly. We found Max Raid Battles to be a way to get yourself over powered very easily. After doing a few, we already had access to TR's for Dragon Claw, Drill Run, Seed Bomb, Aura Sphere and Leech Life, all 80 base power moves, which are a little strong for Pokemon that are still levelled in their teens... We also had enough candies that we could severely over level our Pokemon if we wanted to. Of course, as you progress and the power level creeps up on you, this is less of an issue, but it's still worthwhile pointing out how overpowered you can be in the early game if you chose.

Outside of the Wild Area, you've got the regular routes and towns. The towns seem like they grabbed all the love, filled with lively inhabitants and extravagant buildings, whilst the routes grabbed the short end of the stick. They're not poor by any means, but they are usually very linear and short, and not all that memorable. Gone are the days of getting lost in deep caves and lush forests, now it's a simple game of going from point A to B. You know that Dugtrio Temple that was shown off in a few trailers? It's nothing more than an extravagant background decoration on a plain and simple route, instead of being something like the Relic Castle that could be explored in Unova.

We found this ironic

The gyms have seen a nifty little update, too. Before you can challenge the Gym Leader, you need to complete their gym challenge. The "challenge" is similar to the puzzles to reach the Gym Leader pre Gen VII, but they're a lot more intuitive this time around. As someone who always loves Gyms in the previous games, we were disappointed when the Island Trials replaced them in Gen VII, but we were a fan of the challenging Totem Pokemon. With the Gym Challenges, and Dynamaxing, the Gyms in Pokemon Sword and Shield are a perfect blend between the Gen VII Trials, and the traditional Gym style, which is something we were really hoping for.

Regional forms are back, and this time they've been revamped and thankfully aren't exclusive to Gen I Pokemon, and there's also some regional evolutions this time around. It seems they took the criticisms of Sun and Moon pandering too much to Gen I on board and fixed it. Of course, there aren't nearly enough regional variants as we'd like, but the ones we got this time around are far superior than their predecessors.

But it's not all sunshine and rainbows At times, the game does feel like an upscaled 3DS game at times. Of course, some features wouldn't be possible, such as the Wild Area, but there are definitely some graphical issues here and there. We've mentioned in previous reviews we've always preferred gameplay over graphics, but it really doesn't look like that much of an upgrade from the 3DS - or maybe that's just the countless other reviews that have said the same thing getting to us. When playing online in the Wild Area, the game really does chug along and is very noticeable, but offline there doesn't seem to be many issues, if any.

As for the story, well we've just completed the final gym and it's yet to come to a climax. It does seem a little slow because we've only had a few pieces shared here and there. Hopefully it all comes together in a timely, non forced way, but with little context given thus far, we are worried it will feel a little rushed.

That just about wraps up our review on Pokemon Sword and Shield. For those interested, the game we played through was Pokemon Sword, and from what we understand, the story between the two is essentially the same. With all the criticism this game has received, we really hope this game gets it's time in the limelight and isn't overshadowed by negativity. Early sales numbers of the games thankfully point towards this not being the case.

As always, be sure to follow BidoofCrossing on Twitter and Tumblr to stay up to date with the latest Nintendo news. Be sure to tune in next time, where we'll discuss and share out thoughts on every new Pokemon introduced in this generation!


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