Pokémon Sword & Shield – A Step in the Wrong Direction

When Pokémon Sword & Shield were first announced, I was excited – I’ve been a fan of the Pokémon series for years, after all – but as we know, Sword & Shield have been the subject of scrutiny for some time nowI’ve played Pokémon Sword for 800 hours, give or take, and I think it’s finally time for me to write out my complete thoughts on the entirety of the game. And believe me, we are going to be covering all of it.

Most players have already formed an opinion on Sword & Shield, and most of them are understandably negative. If you’re somehow still on the fence regarding these games, my goal is to change that. Buckle up and put on your reading glasses, because today’s review is going to be our longest yet. Let’s get started!

Introduction

We’re all well aware of the controversy that surrounded Pokémon Sword & Shield’s launch. The base games only include 400 Pokémon – new ones included – which means hundreds of classic Pokémon have been entirely removed. It makes sense, then, that Sword & Shield angered long-time fans of the series, especially given the fact that the limited Pokédex was clearly settled on out of laziness. If you search up Sword & Shield reviews, you’re going to find a lot of negative ones, and all of them will mention that Pokédex cut. Here’s the thing, though: I believe this decision was good for the series (in a way).

I think players have been defending the Pokémon series for far too long. The series has – in my opinion – been mediocre since Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire on the Nintendo 3DS. Removing beloved Pokémon from Sword & Shield has finally opened players’ eyes to the lengths the developers are willing to go to make money. I do want to be able to use every existing Pokémon in Sword & Shield, and I am disappointed that Game Freak decided to cut so many of them. But these exclusions created an intense backlash that I hope encourages the company to give its developers more time to work on Pokémon games in the future. Realistically, though, that probably won’t happen.

That being said, Pokémon Sword & Shield aren’t as terrible as outrage posts on Reddit might have you think. There are a lot of things I do like about these games, and we’ll be talking about all of them today! I’m going to try to give Sword & Shield the most objectively fair review I possibly can, so bear with me here. We’re going to begin by covering the story, which – spoiler alert – is almost certainly the most nonsensical plot in any Pokémon game I’ve ever played.

Story

As with all prior Pokémon games, Sword & Shield puts you in the shoes of a protagonist who lives in a small country town. You pick a starter Pokémon, meet your rival Hop, and wind up wandering into the Slumbering Weald, a forest near the village. Once there, you meet the Legendary Pokémon Zacian or Zamazenta (depending on the version you’re playing) and then fall unconscious. You soon decide to challenge the eight gyms of the Galar region, with your ultimate goal being to battle and defeat the ultimate champion Leon (who is Hop’s older brother). Throughout the game, you also learn about the Darkest Day, a catastrophic event that occurred a long time ago but was stopped by heroes wielding a sword and shield. Before we get into all that, though, let’s talk about some of the individual characters you’ll meet along the way.

First up is Hop, the aforementioned rival who accompanies you throughout your journey! At first glance, he might remind you of Hau, the rival from Sun & Moon. And they do have a lot in common; they’re both lighthearted characters who do their best to help and support you. They also do their best to interrupt you while you’re exploring the overworld, so there’s that as well. Surprisingly, though, Hop goes through a good deal of character development. As stated earlier, Hop is Champion Leon’s younger brother, so he feels like he has a lot to live up to. As your rival, Hop challenges you to several Pokémon battles throughout the story and (canonically) loses all of them. Naturally, this upsets him, and he soon loses most of his motivation to become a Pokémon Trainer. But after learning from your battle technique, Hop eventually comes into a style of his own and learns that he doesn’t have to live up to the standard Leon sets. Hop’s character development isn’t anything too crazy, but it’s nice to see a somewhat realistic character in a Pokémon game.

Next is Leon, who has much less character development than his younger brother. Leon is the champion of Galar, owns a Charizard, and is bad with directions. He’s also bad with directions, in case you didn’t catch that. Whenever Leon is present (or mentioned), the game is sure to remind you of one of those three facts. Of course, being the champion, having a Charizard, and being bad with directions doesn’t add up to a very relatable character. Leon could’ve used much more development and I’m kind of disappointed with how Sword & Shield handled that! The Pokémon anime actually gives Leon more backstory — keep this in mind, because there’s another importance of the anime giving additional backstory in just a bit.

Marnie and Bede are two more rivals that appear during the story, and their character development is better than Leon’s but not quite as fleshed-out as Hop’s. Marnie uses Morpeko as her ace Pokémon, and is also trying to beat Galar’s Gym Leaders. She’s got a fan club, though, as the game’s “evil team”, Team Yell, is always following her around and cheering her on. “Evil team” is in quotation marks because Team Yell isn’t actually evil — they’re just annoying. Bede, on the other hand, is a young man whose Gym Challenge was sponsored by Chairman Rose of the Pokémon League. These two are fine, but it seems that at least 90% of Sword & Shield’s character development budget went to Hop.

Time to get into the bad stuff.  I believe Chairman Rose is the worst character in Sword & Shield. He’s the chairman of the Pokémon League, and is usually seen with his assistant Oleana. Rose is also the head of Macro Cosmos, an organization that does who knows what because we aren’t given much info about its operations. When you first meet him, Rose seems suspicious, as he’s always ominously blabbering on about the future of Galar. He winds up taking responsibility for the worst plot climax in any Pokémon game, which is why I dislike this character so much!

After the player beats all eight Gym Leaders, they schedule a championship match against Leon. The night before the battle, Leon invites the protagonist and Hop to dinner, but doesn’t show up. Naturally, Hop talks to Marnie and concludes that the best course of action is to send Team Yell (Marnie’s fan club) into the streets to start causing chaos. Long story short, Hop and the player find out that Leon didn’t show up for dinner because he had been talking to Chairman Rose. The two trainers storm Macro Cosmos’ headquarters and defeat a ton of employees in Pokémon battles. Strangely enough, the employees act like you’re about to discover a dark secret even though you were never given a real reason to be suspicious of Macro Cosmos’ operations.

Eventually, Hop and the player reach the top floor and confront Leon and Rose. They’re first forced to battle Oleana, who doesn’t want the two to disrupt Rose’s meeting. So she supersizes her Pokémon and loses after a chaotic battle. She leaves, and when Leon notices the player and Hop have arrived, he cuts his meeting with Rose short and tells the two not to worry. If you’re having trouble following my explanation, don’t worry — the story is just as confusing as I’m making it out to be, and it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

The next day, the player participates in the Champion Cup and is ready to start their battle with Leon. Before the match can begin, though, Rose appears on the loudspeaker and announces that he is going to re-activate the Darkest Day “for the future of Galar”. As it turns out, Rose has somehow obtained the Legendary Pokémon Eternatus and is using its power as an infinite energy source. This power has the unfortunate side effect of causing Pokémon all over Galar to quadruple in size and start rampaging. Rose never explains why he has Eternatus, how he got Eternatus, or why he chose to activate the Darkest Day during the Champion Cup. All he says is that he’s trying to prevent an energy crisis that will supposedly occur thousands of years in the future.

Remember how I said the Pokémon anime gives Leon an additional backstory? It explains Rose’s motives, too, and in a much clearer manner than the games did. When Rose was a child, his father worked in the Galar mine to collect coal to create energy for trains and industries. One day, a terrible accident occurred in the mine and killed Rose’s father. This loss motivated Rose to try and find a way to gather infinite energy without hurting anybody, but the desire to make Galar last forever drove him mad with power. Years later, after founding Macro Cosmos, Rose was able to capture Eternatus and begin siphoning its power; however, it was not enough. He knew he had to fully awaken Eternatus, which would cause the Darkest Day to happen once again. With this knowledge, Rose trained Leon as a strong Pokémon trainer who would be able to stop Eternatus once it had awakened and dispelled its energy. And the games don’t mention any of this.

The sad thing here is that there is some semblance of a story here, it’s just executed absolutely terribly. Before I watched the corresponding Pokémon anime episode, I had no idea what Rose’s motives were, and that shows you just how poorly they’re explained in-game. What makes matters worse is that much of the story happens off-screen; near the middle of the game, giant Pokémon begin rampaging, but you’re told to “let the adults take care of it” and “focus on your Gym Challenge”. I want to help! We could’ve had cool animated cutscenes and exciting battles, but instead Game Freak introduces these situations only to let them fizzle out before they become interesting. That being said, a Pokémon protagonist has never been told to “let the adults take care of things”. It’s nice to finally see some Pokémon characters with common sense, right? Well, the player winds up defeating and catching Eternatus anyway (with the help of the Legendary Pokémon Zacian and Zamazenta), which kind of defeats the point of that message.

Ultimately, people don’t play Pokémon for the story, and Sword & Shield is the best example of that statement. If you like catching Pokémon, grinding for Shiny Pokémon, and completing the Pokédex, good news: Sword & Shield has you covered in those categories. But if you’re looking for a decent or even coherent plot, you won’t find it here. I would’ve liked additional explanations regarding Rose’s motives, but instead the game throws a half-hearted plot at you and expects you to somehow understand.

Presentation

Pokémon Sword & Shield’s visuals have been the subject of heavy criticism since its release. Fortunately, it’s not all bad; I actually quite like Sword & Shield’s presentation — at times. Its overall art style is rather impressive, and I particularly like its use of bright, intense colors. If you squint at the screen, Sword & Shield look really nice. But when you start taking a closer look, its presentation begins to fall apart, and this is because there are a lot of unfortunate small details that begin adding up over time.

We’ve all seen Sword & Shield’s famous Wild Area tree. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a poorly-textured tree in the Wild Area that looks like it came right out of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64. There are quite a few similar examples throughout the game, and it’s clear that textures were kind of an afterthought here. You do have to go out of your way to find the worst examples of poor texturing, but they’re still there. I think Sword & Shield would have benefitted from higher quality texture images and less repeating patterns.

The overworld doesn’t have a free camera unless you’re in the Wild Area, which is a shame. If you’ve heard about the leaked beta version of Pokémon Sword & Shield, it actually did have a controllable camera in each area! That would make the game feel much less restricted, though on the other hand, a locked camera makes it easier for the developers to frame visually interesting landscapes. Indeed, there are several of these throughout the game; I actually really like a lot of towns’ and locations’ aesthetics! Ballonlea is a dark, wooded area with colorful lights and a Fairy-type gym, and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen in Pokémon up until now. Circhester is a snowy, holiday-themed town with calming music and a good amount of sights to see. Galar Mine #2 was also a standout to me. As mentioned earlier, I am particularly fond of the game’s use of color (by matching complementary colors or just using visually pleasing shades of reds, blues, and the like) and these areas perhaps used these colors most impressively. The only area I really didn’t like was Spikemuth; at first glance it looks like a dark and gothic town but it turns out it’s just a straight path with no buildings together. That was a big disappointment.

That covers the overworld, so let’s move on to battles. Pokémon movement still isn’t fully animated somehow, which is a definite disappointment in my book. I understand that it would take lots of work to fully animate every move in the game, especially ones players don’t use often (is anybody really using Snore?). Fortunately, though, some of the game’s new moves – including Pyro Ball, Behemoth Blade, and No Retreat, among others – look really clean. So the developers are capable of making high-quality animations, they just chose not to for a majority of the game’s moves. Remember, Pokémon is the biggest media franchise in the world. I think they can afford to step up their animation game.

I don’t think Pokémon battles have ever been all that interesting in three dimensions, but Sword & Shield does a good job making them feel cinematic. The camera angle changes very frequently during move selection – especially in gym and wireless battles – which does help make battles feel more dynamic. Unfortunately, the camera is masking the fact that each side’s Pokémon is just standing there. Idle animations in this game aren’t very interesting, and they could certainly be vastly improved in future titles. Pokémon like Boltund could run around in a small circle and wag its tail as if it’s eager to start fighting. Instead, it just stands there and looks at the opponent. You’d think with the Pokédex cut they’d have put more work into animations, but nope — many of the new Pokémon are stiff and sanitized of personality and actually look better in their official art.

As we’ll later discuss, Sword & Shield’s gym battles revolve around the Dynamax phenomenon in which trainers supersize their Pokémon and send them into battle. When a Pokémon Dynamaxes in a gym battle, the crowd begins cheering and vocals are added to the music that plays. The entire gym battle experience makes it feel like the Galar region has culture. Never before has Pokémon given a region this much of a unique flair; it truly feels like Pokémon battles in Galar are as important to its inhabitants as sports are to us in real life. Side note: when a Pokémon Dynamaxes, they let out a really loud cry that plays at a higher volume than other sound effects. Make sure your Switch’s sound is turned down!

And finally, we’ve got the game’s performance. Sword & Shield tries its best to run at a consistent 30 frames per second, which I think is acceptable for a Pokémon game as there is generally not too much action happening on-screen at once (and thus a high frame rate might not be needed). The game’s Wild Area noticeably reduces the frame rate, though, and its performance is laughable if you’re connected to the internet while you explore. These frame drops are only noticeable in the Wild Area, for the most part, but they’re still disappointing. I didn’t think the game was that visually intensive!

Region Design

The Galar region appears to be inspired by Europe and the United Kingdom. It’s generally quite cold in Galar, and there’s a clear emphasis on farms and industrial areas. It doesn’t have quite as unique an atmosphere as the Alola region, but still manages to have its own feel in comparison to regions in past Pokémon games. In the previous section, I mentioned some of my favorite towns. In terms of routes, they’re pretty linear. Some of them are even straight paths. There’s not much room for exploration outside of a few hidden items and some straightforward water areas. In fact, I can’t clearly remember any of Galar’s routes despite my 800-hour game time. That’s kind of sad.

Sword & Shield’s town and city names no longer have “town” and “city” in them! This isn’t true in the Japanese release, though; for example, Hammerlocke is called Knuckle City and Circhester is called Circus Town. This means the translators changed these names themselves, and I’m glad they did that — it makes these areas feel more believable. Seriously, who names a town “Knuckle City” anyway?

In past Pokémon titles, once you’ve beaten a town’s Gym Leader, you generally don’t have to go back there. This isn’t true in Sword & Shield, as you’ll find yourself revisiting towns several times. Hammerlocke, a city you visit early on in the game, is actually home to the final Gym Leader, so you can’t challenge the gym as soon as you arrive. I’m actually fine with this kind of backtracking; it makes the areas feel more connected to each other.

Galar’s claim to fame isn’t its towns and routes, though, it’s the gigantic Wild Area, which is pretty much a heavily expanded Safari Zone from previous Pokémon games! It’s a cool concept, and there’s a wide open area to explore, but in my experience there actually isn’t too much to find other than different kinds of Pokémon and some hidden items. I would’ve appreciated more hidden areas. Maybe behind waterfalls, tucked underneath a cliff, or something like that! The Wild Area feels large, but it also feels empty. Sword & Shield’s DLC campaigns have much better Wild Areas, so perhaps I’ve been spoiled rotten by those locations.

The Wild Area is divided into sub-areas, and each sub-area has its own weather forecast at any given time. This means you can cross over from one area to the next, and the weather changes from sunny to a snowstorm in a matter of seconds. I get that Pokémon is a fantasy world, but to be frank, this doesn’t make any sense and just ends up feeling jarring. Snowstorms and sandstorms can also obscure your vision, which feels more annoying than it does “realistic”.

Toward the beginning of the game, you’re able to run into high-leveled Pokémon in the Wild Area. You can battle them, but you can’t catch them. It’s a neat concept, but I think this could have been pulled off a little better. If you’ve ever played Xenoblade Chronicles, you might remember seeing super-strong unique enemies in the overworld that you try to avoid. The difference is that in Xenoblade, you’re able to see the monster’s level, and you know full well that you’re going to have to come back and challenge that exact character at some point. This isn’t the case in Sword & Shield, though, as it spawns strong Pokémon that you can’t even attempt to capture. Cool idea, for sure, but I think the presence of “surprise high-leveled Pokémon” discourages exploration, as you’re essentially punished for encountering static spawns.

The Wild Area also includes a few helpful resources. It’s got respawning evolution stones, so if you’re short on Fire Stones (for example) you can come back the next day and grab another one. This is extremely helpful for filling out the Pokédex and breeding competitive Pokémon. There’s also a second day-care center in the Wild Area, which consolidates Max Raid Battles (which we’ll discuss later) and egg hatching all at once.

Overall, I think Galar is a decent region. It’s got some cool (and not-so-cool) aesthetics going on. It’s certainly not in my top three favorite regions, but it’s not my least favorite either — it’s just kind of average, in a sense. I’ve said this before, but I really think Sword & Shield could’ve used an additional year of development time. Not that there’s a timeline where that was the case, but I think the overall concept of the Galar region deserves a bit more polish than what we ended up getting.

Pokémon Design

Pokémon Sword & Shield introduce 80 new Pokémon to the series. And these new monsters are perfectly suited to the Galar region, which again — is seemingly inspired by the UK. You’ve got Pokémon like Galarian Weezing, which can purify the air (since it is polluted by all the factories and industries nearby); Galarian Corsola, which “died” and became a Ghost-type due to the pollution in the oceans; and Skwovet and Greedent, chipmunk Pokémon that could realistically make their home in a place like Galar.

Sword & Shield takes a page from Let’s Go, Pikachu! & Let’s Go, Eevee! in that Pokémon now appear in the overworld. Some Pokémon interact really convincingly with the overworld. The new Pokémon Falinks marches in and out of its dens in the wall, Carkol appears on rails in the Galar mines and rides them to their end, and the like. It’s nice to see that these Pokémon were created as mostly-believable creatures! Unfortunately, Pokémon don’t appear shiny in the overworld, so you have to encounter them to check. That’s a little bit annoying, especially considering Let’s Go, Pikachu! & Let’s Go, Eevee! featured shiny Pokémon in the overworld.

Generally speaking, I like Sword & Shield’s Pokémon designs for the most part. There are some subpar Pokémon, which in my opinion includes monsters like Perrserker and Chewtle. But some of my new favorites were introduced, including Dragapult and Falinks! I’ve actually created an entire tier list featuring my opinion on every single Pokémon introduced in Sword & Shield’s base game. Have a look! You can open it in a new window by following this link, if you’d prefer.

Of course, we can’t go over every new Pokémon, but we can touch on some of the most important ones, including the starter Pokémon and the Legendary Pokémon. In terms of starters, I think the Scorbunny line is the winner. Scorbunny has the most personality out of all the first-stage generation eight starters; even its idle animation is energetic and certainly a cut above the rest. Raboot is alright, but I think Cinderace is the strongest design of the final evolution starters. I’m not a fan of humanoid Pokémon that stand on two legs, but Cinderace is the exception; I like that its gimmick is that it kicks up pebbles and ignites them to mimic a soccer player (or football, if you live in the UK)!

Grookey is kind of middling to me. I don’t like its orange beak-looking mouth; I’m not sure that fits a monkey very well. I do like the drums it obtains as Rillaboom, but good grief is Thwackey an ugly Pokémon. It’s got a rectangular body shape and is characterized by its sickly yellow coloring. Overall, this line isn’t bad, but we’ve already seen the concept of “grass monkey” explored by Simisage — who I think actually looks better.

Sobble, unfortunately, is the worst starter Pokémon here (in my opinion). I chose Sobble for my initial playthrough. It’s the cutest first-form starter for sure, but when it evolves, it just loses all of that charm. Drizzile is a mess; while I’m okay with its body shape I am not okay with its coloring. Aquamarine, light green, white, dark blue, and purple? That’s way too much going on at once! Inteleon’s coloring is much nicer, but I don’t like how human it looks (moreso than Cinderace, I think), and I particularly dislike its big hands. That doesn’t suit a reptile all that well.

Zacian and Zamazenta, the Legendary Pokémon, are neat additions. I personally feel like it would’ve made more sense to include one Legendary Pokémon that just changes its form depending on whether it’s holding the Rusted Sword or the Rusted Shield. Regardless, I like all of Zacian and Zamazenta’s subtle details. Zacian’s colors are really nice in its crowned form; I like how the yellow and blue match. Zamazenta’s crowned form is slightly more awkward, but I think its regular form is superior to Zacian’s in terms of colors and overall design. Eternatus, the “evil” Legendary Pokémon, looks like an Ultra Beast! I do wish it had a bit more development and backstory. Perhaps the developers could’ve included references to Ultra Space and Necrozma; nothing too concrete, though, because it’s fun to speculate.

Sword & Shield has a few version exclusive Pokémon, such as Stonjourner to Sword and Eiscue to Shield. This is absolutely an outdated practice and the trend needs to settle down in future titles. In Sword & Shield’s DLC packs, you’re able to choose which Legendary Pokémon you get (between Regieleki and Regidrago, in this case), so you don’t have to buy two games — you can just start a new file. That isn’t the case in the base game though, as a lot of Pokémon are needlessly locked behind an exclusivity barrier. How frustrating!

Overall, I was fine with this generation’s Pokémon designs. I personally liked X & Y’s better, but I do like Sword & Shield’s new Pokémon better than Sun & Moon’s, so there’s that. Most players should have no time identifying their new favorites. I know I’ll be looking forward to seeing Dragapult and Falinks in (hopefully) many Pokémon titles in the future!

Gameplay

We touched on this earlier, but nobody plays Pokémon for the story. People play the games to catch Pokémon, nickname them, and (hopefully) become “attached” to a team. The structure of Sword & Shield is exactly the same as in past games, so if you’ve played a Pokémon title before you know what to expect. You’ll explore the overworld, battle lots of trainers, and utilize unique Pokémon, moves, and type matchups. If you don’t like the Pokémon formula, you probably won’t like Sword & Shield, as they don’t do anything to innovate battles (besides Dynamax, which not all players are fans of). It’s important to note that these games aren’t even good for nuzlockes and challenge runs; they’re mind-numbingly easy, and the experience share is now a feature that is always switched on.

We’ve mentioned Dynamax quite a few times so far, so it’s time to expand on that. Basically, your Pokémon grows to a gigantic size for three turns! During this transformation, its maximum HP is increased by 100% and the Pokémon gains access to powerful Max moves. These Max moves deal damage and have a special effect that activates afterwards such as special weather or stat boosts. I’m really glad that Dynamax only lasts three turns (and can only be activated once per battle), as a Pokémon can cause lots of chaos during that time. Select Pokémon are capable of Gigantamaxing, which is exactly the same as Dynamax except their appearance changes beyond a size increase. For example, Charizard’s wings become fiery and Pikachu reverts to its original chubby form! Gigantamax Pokémon also gain a unique G-Max move; Charizard’s is G-Max Wildfire which traps the opponent in Fire Spin, while Pikachu’s is G-Max Volt Crash which paralyzes its victims.

We have already discussed the game’s presentation, but there are a few more notes regarding the overworld I’d like to include here. Following in the footsteps of Sun & Moon, Sword & Shield don’t include any HMs! This means you don’t have to waste your Pokémon’s valuable move slots on attacks like Cut and Strength. Instead of surfing, your bike is actually capable of riding over bodies of water, which conveniently consolidates the two functions without having to press any additional buttons! Speaking of the bike, it’s now activated with the + button, and it doesn’t change the background music to a cycling theme, so the “immersion” is no longer broken. Another nice option is the ability to switch to casual controls in the settings — you’re able to play the whole game with one Joy-Con. When I hatch for shiny Pokémon, I always hatch eggs using the right Joy-Con. There’s a lot of quality-of-life changes in Sword & Shield; easier breeding, increased access to competitive items and moves, the ability to access the PC from anywhere, and much more. In terms of quality of life, Sword & Shield is absolutely the best in the series. I can’t quite say that for other aspects of the game, though.

We do have to talk about the elephant in the room, so to speak, and that’s the Pokédex cut. Sword & Shield’s base campaign only includes 400 Pokémon, and every Pokémon you can’t find in Galar cannot be obtained or used in this game in any form (even if you transfer them from previous titles). The developers have given many excuses, but none of them line up; one was that they wanted more time to focus on “high quality animations”. Sword & Shield’s overall animation quality is pretty mediocre; I don’t know why they cut 300 Pokémon to make Pyro Ball’s animation look cool, but if I could trade back I would. The models used for Pokémon in Sword & Shield are visually identical to their appearances in X & Y and Sun & Moon, so the exclusion of beloved Pokémon is tough to justify. These exclusions were almost certainly due to a time crunch; I think Sword & Shield would be much different (and better) games if it were given just a bit more development time. It does feel like there’s something missing as you play the game, because many players’ favorite Pokémon are cut. Unfortunately, the dex cut isn’t the worst of Sword & Shield’s issues.

The aforementioned Wild Area is home to Max Raid Battles, a cooperative feature new to Sword & Shield. You can access Max Raid Battles via small Raid Dens scattered about the Wild Area. When a Max Raid Battle is available, the den will shine brightly with a pink beacon. You can team up with three other players – via CPUs, local wireless, or the internet – to take down a permanently-Dynamaxed “Raid Boss” Pokémon. Max Raid Battles aren’t all that fun, as it essentially boils down to mashing A, but they do offer a variety of rewards such as level-up candies that make these battles worth grinding. Some animations take a long time to complete in Max Raid Battles – particularly moves that hit multiple times – and that can make the experience somewhat frustrating at times. The Crown Tundra’s Dynamax Adventures handle Max Raid Battles infinitely better. If you have the DLC, there’s little reason to play standard Max Raid Battles.

In addition to Max Raid Battles, you’re still able to battle and trade with friends (or random users) either online or through local wireless. Problem is, this game’s communication system – the Y-comm – is strange sometimes. If you want to play with a user in your friends list, you can’t just send them a request. You have to coordinate an eight-digit link code that both of you will use the connect. Sometimes the game takes a long time to link you up, even if you’re using the right code, so you’ll occasionally have to re-enter the password and search again. Why can’t we just have the PSS from X & Y and Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire again?

The Verdict

With that, we’ve finally covered all of the most important points. Sword & Shield does have its strengths, but I believe it has many more weaknesses that are unfortunately holding it back from being the game it deserved to be. It’s a mediocre game, but only a slightly mediocre Pokémon game. Ultimately, I think Sword & Shield has exposed many decade-long issues that were introduced in X & Y; the presentation is inconsistent, the story isn’t great, and the characters and Pokémon appear stiff thanks to lackluster animations.

The DLC certainly made Sword & Shield better, but it didn’t actually fix any of its issues — it added new content that was slightly less flawed. Paying $60 for Sword or Shield and then $30 for the DLC on top of the initial cost is rather pricey; in fact, I’d value the base game of Sword & Shield at around $30 tops. Of course, if you like playing competitive Pokémon or hatching shiny Pokémon, there’s a lot of hours to be had here; unfortunately, the amount of story content on offer is too low-quality to justify that steep price tag. These games were a step in the wrong direction, and I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that they were rushed to completion. I just hope that the series is suffering from a minor hiccup and that it can return to form with the next games. That’s perhaps unlikely, though, considering how well Sword  & Shield have sold…

This was a long post – even by my standards – so thank you very much for reading it all! There was a lot of ground to cover regarding Sword & Shield and all of the games’ intricacies, so big thanks to Abbie for helping me sort through all of my ideas and organize them in a clear fashion! We’ll have plenty more Pokémon content coming up in the near future. In the meantime, you can read my review on the Crown Tundra DLC if you haven’t done so already. I’d appreciate it! Thanks again for reading — until next time!

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