Pokemon sword and shield are awful!
Game Freaks first mainline home console Pokémon games are finally here and they absolutely suck!
Before I get into it, let me just say that I am not just going to slew the game because it is not what I wanted or was expecting. The game is simply bad. I challenge you to try and imagine what you would think of the game if it was not a Pokémon title. Imagine the exact same mechanics, story, characters etc, without it being set in the Pokemon world. If you think of it like this, would you like it?
There is something special about Pokemon games. I am a 29 year old man, who has played games from before I can even remember, and Pokemon has always been one of my most favourite franchises. I will admit that I have not played a mainline Pokemon entry since Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, mainly because I have not had a console that a mainline Pokemon game has been released for. I was absolutely elated when Nintendo officially announced that they were working on a mainline game for the Switch. I played brought Pokemon: Lets go Eevee and liked it; but did not think it was a great game. I loved the improvements to the game play and how streamlined it felt, but felt it was not a big enough upgrade to the formula. This, of course, is a mute point as it was supposed to be more of an entry level remake to branch Pokemon Go players into a mainline Pokemon game. Game Freak managed to create a game that was accessible to newcomers yet familiar to those who had previously played the original game(s). Pokemon Sword and Shield, was supposed to be the 'real' successor to the mainline series and it was the first time that a mainline Pokemon game was on one of Nintendo's home consoles.
When I started up the game (I purchased the Sword version), I was overcome with a sense of happiness and giddiness as I was overcome with nostalgia. I was playing a new mainline Pokemon game again! This was an experience I had not had for over 10 years, simply due to the fact that I had not had a Nintendo handheld console since the Gameboy Advanced. The last time I experienced a new Pokemon game, I started it on the toilet while eating a McDonald's Big Mac (disgusting, I know. Deal with it!) I remember staying on the toilet for an hour or so after I had finished, just playing the game in peace and pungency before my mother ordered me to get out. I had forgotten that the 12-year-old me had done this, but playing Pokemon Sword reignited this memory. Pokemon Sword feels familiar and inviting, you start in a small town with your mum and no Pokemon; an event happens which results in you obtaining one of the three starter Pokemon; you have a rival who also chooses a starter Pokemon and who bumps into you (way too much!) throughout the game; and finally, you have to defeat gym leaders to obtain badges before beating and becoming the Pokemon champion. The formula has not changed much and although some entries have taken liberties and have slightly altered this formula, they are very similar.
So let me start with the things that I liked.
The Wild Area: The biggest (and best in my opinion) new feature to these games is the wild area. This is a big(ish) space in the game that allows players to roam and catch Pokemon. Like the Pokemon: Let's Go games, Pokemon can now be seen wandering around aimlessly on the world map allowing players to collide with them and initiate a battle. Seeing loads of different Pokemon wonder around the wild area was a treat. Additionally, The game has a basic weather system and a day and night cycle, which effects the Pokemon that can spawn in this wild area. Players can explore the majority of the wild area from the start, meaning you can actually run into Pokemon that are too powerful for you, forcing you to flee.
Dynamax Raid Battles: There are new raid type battles, where players join a team of other trainers (either online or offline bots) to battle a giant Pokemon. If the trainers manage to defeat the giant Pokemon, they are then given the opportunity to catch it. Giant Pokemon come in two forms: Gigantamax and Dynamax. Gigantamax Pokemon tend to be rarer and have special moves, as well as a distinctive look. Whether or not a player catches the giant Pokemon or not, they are rewarded with a number of helpful items.
New Pokemon: I think some of the new Pokemon designs are quite cool apart from the starters. I went with Rillaboom, as it was the only Pokemon that I feel looked okay (and no I don't care about stats or who was the best choice etc. just who was the most visually appealing to me). Cinderace is my second choice, but I feel he looks like a champion level Digimon and not a final starter Pokemon, and Inteleon (in my opinion) just looks wrong: like a malnourished Swampert.
Quality of life improvements: There aren't that many but the ones that are present are a welcome addition. You can skip the infamous 'how to catch a Pokémon' tutorial that has been present in most (if not all) of the previous titles and there are other small QOL tweaks that have been implemented.
And that's about it... Seriously.
Now lets have a look at the things I didn't like:
The Wild area: I know I just said that I liked this but let me explain why it is both a like and a dislike. Although the concept of the wild area is cool and I realised after exploring it that there were certain areas that I could not explore, I initially assumed these would lead onto much grander areas, further expanding the wild area into something more substantial. After you learn how to traverse water, I then realised just how shallow and under developed this area actually was. Game freak seemed to understand that players want a large open space to explore and catch Pokemon, but the wild area is shallow and, quite frankly, pathetic. It simply is not big enough. It confuses me as to why Game Freak did not make the entire game a 'wild area' and have the cities instanced. Instead the game gives you a small 3-dimensional roam-able space, which is linked to some other instanced cities, which are linked to routes. The routes are the same as the previous games, allowing you to travel from city to city while fighting trainers and catching Pokemon. They are designed in the exact same way as all the previous games entries. Game Freak have stated that doing a Pokemon like Breath of the Wild is not really feasible at the moment, but I do not understand why. I would have preferred if they designed the game to be completely open world with the Pokemon roaming on the world map and if this was not possible, then simply have a huge open world with random battles and no Pokemon roaming. They should take whatever compromise(s) they should have to, to make this possible, as I feel this is what would elevate and modernise the core experience. Remember the feeling of mystery you felt when you found the dragon on the mountain in Breath of the Wild (if you found it naturally without knowledge of its existence)? imagine if that Dragon was a Pokemon. An open-world approach would make for a number of these types of moments, where the player could simply stumble across different types of Pokemon as they explore the world. To further extrapolate the idea of a massive open-world area are the removal of HM's. I have never liked the fact that Pokemon had to sacrifice a move-slot in order for them to learn HM's and am glad that Game Freak have taken this out, but what I do not get, is why they do not just make it so Pokemon can innately do the moves which were previously HM's? (if the Pokemon itself can realistically do it, and the player has said badge(s) allowing their Pokemon to do it) Can you imagine if the player could ride around on an Arcanine or fly on a Corviknight in a proper expansive open world environment? The game introduces the ability to see other players when they go online, but the wild area is so tiny that you will often get a decent amount of players in any one place at the same time, which makes the wild area feel more like a social hub than an expansive space. I also feel like the idea of different Pokemon being available at different areas, times or during different weather conditions is let down by how shallow the current wild area is.
Legendaries: Catching the Legendary Pokemon is now part of the story. Before, players had to find the legendary Pokemon themselves by going to a specific point in the game but these were optional encounters. This meant players would have to explore the world to find said Pokemon, which added an extra sense of mystery to the world.
The Endgame (or lack thereof): Once the game is completed players can: catch all of the Pokemon present in the game (including all the Gigantamax and Dynamax Pokemon); ascend the battle tower; catch one of the two legendary dogs (depending on which version you have); train and breed their Pokemon to achieve the best stats; and... thats it. No really, that is it. This involves lots of hours of gameplay, as you will need to explore the wild area in order to catch the majority of Pokemon but these are the goals players will most probably set themselves once they have completed the main story. Yes there is PVP and competitive battle, which players can enjoy for hours but this is something that is completely subjective.
The Battle System: This is purely my opinion, but I feel the fights in Pokemon need updating. they have not evolved since Pokemon Red & Blue's inception. The idea of building a bond with your Pokemon is something that is always touched on and put front and centre in the Anime, but this has never really transferred well into the game and I believe this is due to the limitations of the Pokemon battles. I have always thought that the battles should be 'real time' meaning the Pokemon themselves run around a 3D un-instanced space and the player should not be in direct control of their Pokemon but instead, should be able to shout commands for their Pokemon to follow. This would make the aspect of 'bonding' with your Pokemon worthwhile, as they would perform better in combat by listening to your commands if you have a strong bond with them, making the activities you do with them outside of combat worthwhile and meaningful. when you have a strong bond with your Pokemon in Sword and Shield, they can sometimes avoid attacks, survive being K.O'ed or land critical attacks but this feels superficial and tacked on.
The cut Pokedex: Now don't get me wrong, It is not a major dislike of mine that the Pokédex was cut. This is probably due to me not having transferred Pokemon from some of the previous entries and coming into this game 'Nationaldexless'. I will say however, that due to how shallow the game ended up being and how Game Freak clearly lied about the reasons why they cut over half of the Pokemon from the game, this is unacceptable. If Game Freak had made some drastic changes to the game formula or systems that were present, I'm sure the fans would not feel as strongly as they do regarding the cut National Pokédex.
The Difficulty: This was supposed to be the mainline game in the series but it is as easy as the Let's Go titles. I found myself always using the same Pokémon and the same moves to one-shot entire opposing teams.
The Graphics: Simply awful. I do not usually care about graphics that much in games. Gameplay is always going to be king, but when the rest of the game is lacklustre in so many other aspects, if it looked good, it would not hurt as much.
The Character Customisation: Not going to dwell on this one too long, it simply is not good enough and, like the wild area, is too shallow. You can't create your character at all and the clothes options are limited, to say the least.
The Story: As above, I wont talk about this too much, but the story is awful. The characters are also awful, some of their designs are cool but they have little to no character and this is probably because of the...
Lack of voice acting: There is none whatsoever, which made sense for the handheld games but is inexcusable for a main home console.
Hop: F^%k off!
Overall, I am severely disappointed in Pokemon Sword and Shield. As a 29-year-old man, I feel stupid saying this but It is clear that Game Freak are making these games for a younger audience. Let me justify that statement by saying that Nintendo have always seemed to create games which are basic seeming on a surface level but at the same time, offer their older audience a deeper experience. Pokemon Sword and Shield do not. I know that there are some limitations that Game Freak would no doubt have which limit them in creating a Breath of the Wild type Pokémon game, but they could have definitely done a lot better than this. The entire game exudes laziness and leniency on their part (as the games have still sold very well), but I as a fan, am deeply disappointed. When this game was first announced, Game Freak promised a mainline entry that would be created to take advantage of the Switch's hardware, instead we got the same experience with a small 3-dimensional open world space and raid battles. This article will no doubt be severely unpopular with a number of Pokémon fans, but this is how I feel and I, in complete honesty, enjoyed the Let's Go titles more. Please Game Freak and/or Nintendo, give us the Pokémon experience we have been yearning for, because this most definitely is not it.