Pokémon Sword and Shield Surprised Me…

... In a very bad way.

I grew up loving Pokémon and have been hyped for almost every release. That is, until I started noticing a pattern. When Game Freak, the people who actually make the games, released the 3DS games, many noticed that the games were lazily done. Animations would get reduced, features would be cut out, and the games just felt worse over time. They did the fan base good with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, which I consider as two of the best Pokémon games out there. After that, we were baragged with more mediocrity. When the Nintendo Switch was released, many were hyped about the future of Pokémon. The first Pokémon game on the Switch was Let’s go Pikachu/Eevee. These games were for casual fans, but they were still pretty fun and brought in new features and a new art style that was reminiscent of the 90’s anime. When the next “traditional” Pokémon game was announced, I was hyped. Then I got my hands on it and, well…

First off, the story. Pokémon isn’t known for having the most in depth stories, but they can be really enthralling at times. The games that specifically come to mind are Black & White 2, Gold & Silver, and Ruby & Sapphire (I also include Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire since they are remastered games). This game doesn’t even make the top 10 story wise. The main villain is obvious at the beginning of the game. I’m not kidding when I say I turned on my game and saw this guy and thought, “This dude’s the villain.” The game just repeats the same story beats as previous entries and it brings nothing new to the Pokémon series. Most of the character types are the same save for 2 or 3 out of 40. 

Next up, is the gameplay. Pokémon is known for having pretty simplistic gameplay, with your pokémon having 4 attacks, and being able to learn more at the expense of getting rid of old moves. Certain pokémon have evolutions when they level up, and each pokémon has an element attached to them (such as fire, electric, fighting, ghost, normal, etc). You battle wild pokémon, and when you get them to low enough health you can catch them. You gain exp and money from other trainers who will challenge you to battles. Like most games, this game has a gimmick. It’s called Gigamax, also known as Dynamax. Gigamax is where you make your pokémon giant and fight other Gigamax pokémon. Dynamax is the same as Gigamax, except it changes the appearance and stats of the pokémon as well. The issue with the gameplay is that it’s simpler than the previous games. In most turn-based RPGs, the player will need to do a thing called grinding. Grinding is when you have to go out and do repeated fights to gain experience. In this Pokémon title, there is absolutely no need for that. As a matter of fact, I found myself overleveled by the time I reached trainer battles. And even if I wasn’t overleveled, this game is just ridiculously easy. I was up against an enemy who was 5 levels above me, which is a lot in any other Pokémon game. I creamed him with ease. 

In terms of design, I actually like a lot of the choices made by the design team. This game takes place in a region that is very reminiscent of England (much like the game I previously reviewed, DMC 5). The new pokémon are pretty cool for the most part. Others, though, just come off as creepy or lazy. Even the music is a step up from previous entries (except the Black & White entries). The music is faced paced, energizing, and some tracks were even written by Toby Fox. 

There is one thing that stands out to me like a tumorous growth. The laziness. This game was made with the least amount of effort that I’ve ever seen from a Nintendo affiliated company. Game Freak figured it’d be a good idea to reuse sprites and animations from the 3DS games, which is the laziest you can get. They also cut out a fair amount of pokémon from the game. Now I can understand this somewhat, but with the recent announcement of the season pass and Pokémon Home, it looks like Game Freak and Nintendo are just trying to “nickel n’ dime” players. 

Pokémon Sword and Shield are not what I expected. I expected something of higher quality for a 60 dollar game, but instead it feels like one of the 3DS games (which were 45 dollars). I was very disappointed with this entry and probably won’t return to it. Out of 10, I would rate it a 5.5 or a 6. This is the perfect Pokémon for beginners, but if you’re a veteran you should pass on this one.