Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield might just be the most controversial releases into the mainline Pokémon series from Game Freak. The storied franchise had its huge fan base excited for the announcement that it’ll be making its long-awaited debut on a home console, but many of these fans were also disappointed when it was announced that the new entries wouldn’t be compatible with the entirety of the National Dex, as shown by Kotaku.
Available for £45 ($60), Pokémon Sword and Shield return fans to the traditional game model for its eighth generation, following the releases of Pokémon Sun and Moon in 2016 and Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu in 2018. Regardless of the uproar, there’s no doubt that the mainline Pokémon series coming to the Nintendo Switch will be met with great fanfare.
This Pokémon Sword and Shield review is completely spoiler-free, and despite delving into the pros, cons, and appearance of microtransactions within the game, it only takes up to five minutes to read!
Pokémon Sword and Shield review in five minutes
It was a bold move for Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield to make the leap from handheld consoles to a home console, but as soon as you enter the game, you can see that Game Freak has embraced their newfound freedom and the power of the Nintendo Switch. The graphics are stunning, the soundtrack sets a grand ambience, and everything about the game simply feels epic: and yet, it still feels like a Pokémon game, with the set up of routes, trainer encounters, and Pokémon-infested search areas but now in 3D with the monsters visibly roaming the area.
The game, which looks and plays great on the television and in handheld mode, has fully embraced its theme of Great Britain. It’s actually very impressive how far the developers have gone to give the Galar region a British feel. Aside from the industrial age cities, ever-changing weather, and sprawling fields, it’s the people in the game that really sell it as a little Britain. In the speech, you can see accents, the colloquialisms, slang, turns of phrase, and sentence structure are quintessentially English – and not in an over-the-top way often seen.
On top of this, places boast very British-like names, such as Stow-on-Side, Circhester, and Hammerlocke, there are red post boxes dotted around, the champion has sponsors on his cape, and the battlefield is called a “pitch.” The only aspect that kicks out from this is when you’re asked to enter your birthday for a reading, which requests it as month-day rather than day-month.
Pokémon Sword and Shield are clearly meant to be epic in scale, from its Dynamax battles in stadiums and Pokémon Dens to the grandeur of the Wild Area, and so many aspects of the game delivers on this – especially when played on the television. Battles are enhanced by upbeat music, changing camera angles, and loads of move animations. The fact that the gym battles and national competition are so talked about and hyped-up by the NPCs, who in turn pack the stadiums, also adds to the feeling of it being a massive series of events.
The world-building is superb and incredibly immersive, with the game as a whole being nothing short of very charming. From the friendship between the protagonists to their relationship with the champion, it really is a joy to play through the game and meet all of the characters. One of the early niceties is that you get to see what happens to the third, often just discarded starter Pokémon.
There are a couple of knocks against the game, with the lack of complete National Dex access being the most prominent one for returning gamers. Taking the game as it is, however, while seeing the Pokémon in the open, as well as the random encounters still being present, do keep players busy, it would have been nice to see and face more trainers on the routes between the settlements. That said, there are plenty of new features to enjoy to earn money and experience outside of trainer battles.
As for new features, there is a ton of things to do in the vast world of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. The ability to sneak and run as well as whistle when in the wild make catching Pokémon more skilful, while local and online multiplayer aspects, a few side quests, camping, cooking, playtime, Pokémon jobs, player customisation, the use of watts, extensive individual Pokémon details and functions, and Poké Ball Plus compatibility expand the gameplay even more so.
While adding exciting features, Game Freak has also been sure to refine many of the beloved features of the Pokémon mainline series. Everyone loves the grind in Pokémon, it’s a part of being a trainer, but they’ve made the process a little more player-friendly with aspects like having a Poké Ball shortcut in the battle screen, having a team experience share as a standard, being able to access one’s box from anywhere, and cutting the “bing bong” noise when a Pokémon is low on health to just a few blips when it first occurs instead of constantly.
In doing so, and by using other useful prompts like showing mission goals in the menu and on the map, the game becomes much more accessible to new players while also still being a superb game for returning players. An element that sets a welcome challenge and element of caution is that Pokémon in the Wild Area are of varying levels. In almost Witcher III-esque style, you can encounter Pokémon who are too strong for you, making you think twice about jumping into battling the most coveted monsters roaming around.
Do Pokémon Sword and Shield have microtransactions or loot boxes?
In traditional Nintendo exclusive fashion, Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield do not feature microtransactions.
It is possible to get pre-order bonuses, such as Dynamax Crystals for Larvitar and Jangmo-o, golden attire, and a Gigantamax Meowth, but the only additional purchase linked to the game is the Nintendo Switch Online subscription, which is needed for some multiplayer features that aren’t compatible in local multiplayer play.
Pokémon Sword and Shield are epic games
Game Freak took a bold leap onto home consoles and embraced the challenge mightily well. Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield are simply epic, boasting a superb line of new and returning Pokémon as well as lots of gameplay features all wrapped up in a quintessentially Great British setting.
The vast open-world blends the new look of seeing Pokémon roam around with the classic random encounters method, and while it would have been nice for there to be more trainer battles, the immersion felt while in the game more than makes up for this.
Despite the slightly bad press, this game will be very pleasing to most Pokémon fans – especially those who have craved an open-world console edition of a mainline series title – as well as newcomers to the franchise.
Pokémon Sword and Shield review recap
- The game is stunning in aesthetics and its range of gameplay features.
- A great range of new and old Pokémon with enhanced interactions and battle animations.
- Game Freak got the British-ness bang on.
- Doesn’t have complete access to the National Dex.
- Routes feel a bit devoid of trainers and trainer battles.
Pokémon Sword and Shield do not feature in-game microtransactions or loot boxes
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