Prior to Pokémon: Sword & Shield, the last Pokémon game I played would have been Pokémon Emerald. Yes, I can hear the ‘OK Boomer’ comments coming from you already, but please allow me to give you an unbiased and honest opinion based on my play-through of the game.
The story and setting of the game take place in Galar, a Britain inspired region in the Pokémon world. This strong correlation can be both tied into the geographical aspects and utilizing a railroad system that connects towns. There are also some note wordy real world appearances of similar London based monuments such as The Shard if you look close enough, as well as Big Ben.
The environments is also not the only aspect based on Britain. The Pokémon’s character design strikes an intriguing culture adoption which correlates with British themes. Some notable Pokémon includes Polteageist, a ghost type Pokémon which essentially lives in a cracked pot of Tea, and we all know how much the British enjoy a good ole cup of tea. Another good example is Yamper, an electric type Pokémon striking a similar appearance to a corgi – the type of canine the Queen herself has a preference for.
Editor Note: Brits don’t really care about tea as much as media may make it out to be, particularly the younger generation.
British themes aside, the game begins with the player meeting with an unexpected level of hype as we are introduced to this region’s current champion, Leon, defending his title. Unlike other Pokémon games, before you can embark on your journey you must be ‘endorsed’ by a notable figure in the Galar region. Lucky for us we are endorsed by the champion himself due to being close to his little brother, Hop, our main rival.
This region’s adorable and over-hyped starter Pokemon are:
- The grass type Grookey
- The fire type ScoreBunny
- The water type Sobble
Unlike other typical rivals, your rival picks the Pokemon that is weaker in terms of elemental type advantage to yours, giving you the upper hand in your first battle. Having this is a first and very much welcomed change for the series. Hopefully this will continue to be a part of the formula for future iterations.
After selecting a starter the game progresses further while introducing new takes on some franchise staple features. One of which allows the player to enhance the bond with their Pokémon by camping. Setting up a camp and cooking a variety of curry-based food gives your Pokémon temp stats boost or revive them instead of returning to a Pokémon center. Having such a convenient alternative for reviving improves traversal and allows the player to have more freedom in how they approach their adventure.
That adventure takes place in towns and a place known as the WILD AREA, basically the open-world aspect of the game that strikes a somewhat similar resemblance to the Legend of Zelda’s Breath of the Wild. Here, Pokemon appear both in the overworld as well as in the tall grass. Unlike other Pokemon games you can encounter ridiculously strong Pokemon at level 60 In the wild area, while you’re just barely level 12. This is different from its earlier counterparts in that you cannot capture Pokemon of really high levels till you have the badges for them.
The game also doesn’t utilize HM moves for progression. Instead, you are given the ability to traverse the terrain by upgrading your gear. This is a big improvement in that we don’t need to worry about always having a Pokemon in your party that knows a particular move-set to get past certain obstacles.
Another new feature that stands out in this game is the use of Dynamax/ Gigamax Pokemon. Essentially, the Pokemon of Galar can use the power of wishing stones to grow to insane heights, literally. This ability doubles the size, HP and stats of your Pokemon. Making them a lot more fun to battle with. This is also a fun feature added to the game’s are max-raids. Within the wild area, there are spots where you can battle super strong Pokemon called dens. Within these dens, you and a team of three others must band together to take down an absurdly strong Pokemon that lives in it. The Pokemon can then be captured upon it’s defeat similar to any other monster in the game.
The hours I have invested in the game were worthwhile and breathtaking. It’s enjoyable and feels intense whenever pitted against a Dymaxed Pokemon. The controls, animations and feel of the game is rather fluid. In these cases they seemed to utilize the Switch effectively. There’s also the ability to turn your Pokemon into giants which does seem to be rather fun.
Now while it is true the game does bring something desirable to the table, there are some drawbacks to the latest installment. One of which is the removal of some Pokemon from the national dex. There are some new Pokemon to be caught, but the developers decided to cut back more than 100 Pokemon from the dex. This seems to be a bit disappointing for the latest installment of Pokemon on the Nintendo Switch given the platform’s capabilities.
Hopefully, future updates of the game should be able to patch out the dex. Until then, I would recommend that you try out this new installment of Pokemon if you own a Switch.