With the releases of Super Mario Maker 2, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and many other titles, it’s safe to say Nintendo has had a great year. It was also recently announced that Nintendo Switch has sold over 40 Million Units since it’s release in 2017.
Pokemon Sword and Shield releases in just a few short days and is Nintendo’s big title to end the year. The game has received some fan backlash due to certain gameplay decisions, but it seems as though that those decisions aren’t enough to sway the game from enjoyable to disappointing. Pokemon Sword and Shield has received mostly positive reviews with a few mixed opinions here and there.
Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield are closer to my dream Pokemon RPGs than anything that’s come before. I’d still like better cutscenes, companion Pokemon, the complete Pokedex, and a more visually interesting Wild Area, but nitpicks are just not very effective when everything else was such a complete joy to play. The way they respect my time is wonderful, and the removal of monotony from random encounters and other odds and ends distills it down to only the pure and charming fun of capturing, training, and battling wonderful creatures. And hey, if I’m missing any tedious repetition, I can always get back into breeding.
Pokémon Sword & Shield are strong first attempts for the series’ full transition to consoles. While some frustrations hold it back from true legendary status, this new generation proves the Pokémon franchise is still great more than two decades after its debut.
In collecting, battling, and exploring, Sword and Shield cut out the bloat and focus on what makes these pillars of the Pokemon games so captivating in the first place. You’re not held back by overly complicated back-end systems or hoops to jump through; from the outset, you can start wandering the Galar region, seeing its new Pokemon, and trying out its new battle strategies with very little in your way. This leaves you free to enjoy what Pokemon is all about, and that makes for an incredibly strong showing for the series’ proper debut on Switch.
There are legitimate critiques to make about Pokémon Sword and Shield. The game is challenging, sure, but it never kept me up at night. The plot is pretty lackluster; for example, nothing reaches the narrative heights of Black and White. The environments outside of cities and towns not exactly awe-inspiring, and anyone hoping for a very specific Pokémon in this game from previous entries will more likely than not be disappointed. There are times that the game holds your hand that will feel irritating if you’re an adult, especially in its earliest hours. Yet after the credits rolled, I couldn’t stop myself from reopening my save file. I wanted more adventure.
The magic of Pokémon is that it lets you tap into a sense of wonder that becomes more and more difficult to access as an adult. Sword and Shield do that more successfully than any Pokémon release has in years. It won’t be everything to everyone, and it will not make everyone happy. I’m not sure it needs to. It’s a portal to a new world. And it definitely has something for Pokémon’s core audience: everyone in the entire world.
Thankfully though, this is a seriously memorable Pokemon adventure. The story delivers enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, steeped in the kinds of myths and legends that you forget the British Isles are chock-full of. It might lack the puzzling areas of previous series’ entries like Silph Co, but there’s plenty to love about Pokemon Sword and Shield, especially the loveable cast of characters, and the impeccable attention to detail in the Galar region both visually and in terms of the regional dialogue. It’s a great way to start the next core generation of Pokemon games.
Thus is the conundrum, the paradox. Pokemon Sword & Shield is all too often a bit disappointing, and in some places actually feels a little unfinished, but it also fully provides that warm, fuzzy feeling that one expects from the series. Crucially, even through frustration, never once did I think about putting it down, which is to its credit. It comes recommended almost for the Galar setting and new Pokemon alone, but with a long list of caveats indeed. With the level of fan hyperbole surrounding this release, that recommendation is worth repeating and underscoring – but this is not the revolution that was promised or hoped for, and some may prefer to wait for a sale or wait and see if an improved, definitive release is on the cards.
Pokémon Sword and Shield are not bad games. But fun character arcs and inventive, creative designs of new ‘mon are often offset by poor pacing and restrictive world design.
The world of Galar is charming, and is a Pokémon interpretation of Britain I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, but between gating what Pokémon you can catch behind Gym Badges, some half-baked route/City designs and a modest amount of post-game content, Sword and Shield can only be called ‘good’ Pokémon games… not ‘great’ ones.
It’ll be interesting to see how the general public perceives Pokemon Sword and Shield.