Tuesday, January 4

Pokémon Sword/Shield Review

I played on: Switch
I paid: £35
Available on: Switch
Notes: N/A

Pokémon Sword and Shield mark the 8th generation of the Pokémon games. This is also the first time the series has appeared on a home console. This is of course because the Nintendo Switch is a home/portable console hybrid. Does the power of the Switch mean we get a game as impressive as Nintendo’s Switch?

The mainline Pokémon games are notoriously slow to change so it came as a shock to me just how modern Sword and Shield felt. I’m not saying that these games are revolutionary new concepts. Sword and Shield are still very much traditional Pokémon games. You still begin in a small town of the local region picking 1 of 3 starter monsters before collecting 8 Gym badges to take on the regional champion. Like past games, you control a team of up to 6 Pokémon taking part in turn-based combat. If you’ve played any other mainline game in the series then you will be able to understand the basics here. Collect monsters to fill out your Pokédex, train up your favourites so you can defeat Gym leaders and take on the local misbehaving team. It’s the finer details that help Sword and Shield stand out from its predecessors.

Galar, where Sword and Sheild are set, is home to what’s known as the wild area. This is a big open field that connects two major cities and a train station. Pokémon roam free here allowing both you and them to hunt each other. You can also explore the wild area for rare items, berries and Pokémon making returning there always worth it. Don’t misunderstand this feature for an open world because most places are still connected via traditional linear routes. The Galar region is heavily based on England and the UK. As someone who lives in England, I loved seeing my little corner of the world translated into the world of Pokémon. The Pokémon Company did some good research into what life in the UK feels like because Galar feels wonderfully familiar. This also goes into how being a Pokémon trainer has evolved in this world.

In the older games, the Gym challenge was a small scale personal affair between you, your rival and the Gym leaders. Here, in Sword and Shield, it’s a massive regional event similar to a real-world sporting event like a world cup or the Olympics. Cities have massive stadiums dedicated to these Gym battles and during your adventure, you go from small-town nobody to celebrity. I love this change as it feels like a natural evolution of the sport since the legend of Red becoming the Kanto champion became a worldwide phenomenon. The music and graphics also reinforce this idea of you becoming a superstar. Then you have the regional gang of baddies that this time goes by the name Team Yell. Instead of a gang of criminals or extremists, these guys are overly enthusiastic fans of a fellow Gym Challenge contestant. Team Yell feel very much like the British football hooligans that become an issue across the country during every Fifa or World cup. I loved how they weren’t outright villains, just fans going too far. It helped them feel much more real and human.

The other edition to the gameplay is dynamaxing. What this means in simplistic terms is that you make your Pokémon massive. While they’re in this Dynamax form they gain access to improved health and unique moves that pack much more of a punch than their standard attacks. To balance this power boost you can only Dynamax in certain locations, even then you can only do it once per battle and it only lasts 3 moves. This is mostly saved for the Gym leaders and champion battles making it a big exciting spectacle when it happens. Despite how much of an event it is Dynamaxing doesn’t add more strategy to the matches. As long as you can out heal the devastating attacks you will be okay.

Pokémon Sword and Shield aren’t going to reinvent the Pokéwheel but it does move the series forward. For those wanting an entirely open-world Pokémon adventure free from the tried and true formula, this will be a disappointment. This is a game for those that want a Pokémon adventure that feels both faithful and modern at the same time. I loved my time with Sword and Shield and think it may be the best Pokémon game since Black and White!

Recommendation Rating: 8 out of 10

No comments:

Post a Comment