More than twenty years of action, collecting and exploring new regions, and Pokémon is finally on the Nintendo Switch in core fashion. So how does this particular slice of gotta catch ‘em all action stack up to past highlights? Well let’s find out! Nintendo may be holding back most of the review copies for this game until Friday (Us included), but a select handful of publications got their hands on early code and now that the embargo is up, they have plenty to say.
Which is conveniently copied and pasted right below. I’m a nice guy like that.
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.
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.
Pokémon Sword and Shield project a sense of scale and ambition far beyond any previous ones in the series, but to take it back to those gargantuan new Dynamax forms, the size is merely a shadow. A shallow projection, in place of the real thing.
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.
Pokemon Sword and Shield clearly want to be the genesis of a new age of Pokemon, setting the course for a long and productive run on Nintendo’s flagship Switch console. Hard choices were made in order to achieve that goal, but in the end those tough decisions were absolutely worth it. The beautiful Galar region is a joy to explore — even if the story told within it is far from revolutionary — and there are hundreds of Pokemon to find, train and battle. The core mechanics of the game play it safe for the most part, but the new features make a big impact. It all amounts to a total package which will delight Pokemon fans new and old, as it’s an experience seemingly plucked from the minds of the Trainers of yesteryear. Pokemon fans should be sure to take up this sword and shield as soon as possible.
The Pokémon series is one that has long felt resistant to change, to the point that even seemingly obvious changes, like a shift to 3D graphics, can feel monumental. In this context, Sword and Shield are what the franchise has been building toward for more than 20 years. They don’t change up the formula dramatically. But the changes that are here — a larger, more detailed world and a streamlined structure that cuts out the annoying bits — are enough to make this the ideal iteration of the concept to date. The moments when I felt frustrated or bored in past games simply don’t exist in Sword and Shield. It’s one big adventure.
Pokémon Sword and Shield will be out on Friday, for the rest of us. Obviously, Pokémon Shield is the superior version.
Last Updated: November 13, 2019