Updated: Feb 19
Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield are the 8th generation in the Pokemon universe, and this is the first time that a main line Pokemon game has come to a home console. These games are set in an English-style world and have many interesting areas - like the wild area (which we will touch on later). I have really enjoyed my time with this game; let's break it down and see what's good and what's not so good.
The gameplay for both of these is pretty much the same as every Pokemon game - you catch Pokemon, battle them, and raise their level. You also challenge the gyms to collect the badges that gain you entrance to take on the champion of that region. Each Pokemon game has some different aspect, but all follow these mechanics in some way.
Defeating the gyms in Pokemon games is the ultimate objective and are some of the best battles you will face. Pokemon Sword and Shield take the gyms and turn them into a sports game with huge crowds. I do like this aspect of the gym battles, but the crowds don't seem loud enough to be a sporting event (see video below). The gym battles do become difficult as you progress further, unless you use too many exp candies from raids (which we will talk about later).
One of the things you will notice in your battling and gym battling is Dynamaxing Pokemon. This is something that makes your Pokemon huge and have stronger moves. You only get three turns with this ability, and it is something you need to be careful not to waste during battle.
These games make it easier to raise your Pokemon with the help of exp share. This means all of your Pokemon gain exp when you win a battle or catch a Pokemon. Unfortunately, even if you want to increase the difficulty level of these games you cannot disable this feature, which is a downside to players who want more in the game.
In most Pokemon games you run through grass and get a random encounter of a Pokemon to battle and catch. Sword and Shield both take a lot of inspiration from the Pokemon Let's Go! series in that Pokemon run free and you can walk up to them to battle and catch; this makes it so you can choose which Pokemon to encounter. It is possible, however, to have a random encounters - red exclamation marks in the grass indicate a spot you can run up to for a random Pokemon. I am very happy to say that the number of Pokemon in these games is enough to keep you busy. The best place to see all these Pokemon is the "wild area," which is a huge open world space in the middle of the map. This is a place where you can do raids, catch Pokemon, find items, and connect with other players.
Raids are a huge part of both games and are different than all the other Pokemon games. They are a great multiplayer option and are made better with friends online or local play. You get into the battle with three other players and battle a Dynamax Pokemon. Only one of your team members has the ability to make their Pokemon a Dynamax. At the end of the battle you get a ton of items, exp candies, TM's, and you also get a chance at catching the Pokemon.
Camping gives you a chance to see your Pokemon and interact with them. As a result, you are able increase your Pokemon's friendship level quickly - building up this friendship level will evolve certain Pokemon. Another thing you can do while camping is cook - to do this you can buy ingredients from shops, find them in the wild area and routes, or acquire them from people in the wild area (we will talk about this later). You can try to master cooking and get the best recipe - the benefit to this is that the better the food, the more you can heal your Pokemon's HP, PP and status.
This aspect of these games is interesting and gives them some character. You can assign your Pokemon to jobs and send them for half a day or all day to work. When they come back they gain experience points and sometimes their job rewards you with items. The downside is that you can't use a Pokemon while they are at a job - this concept is a lot like the daycare system, in which you can leave your Pokemon and they level up (the daycare system is still in Sword and Shield as well).
This was a fun thing for me when I caught a Pokemon I already had. It gave me the opportunity to trade the duplicate Pokemon for a mystery Pokemon. You offer up your Pokemon in return for a random Pokemon, and if you already have the new Pokemon you got from the trade you can trade it again.
When you are in the wild area you can see others locally or online (if you turn this feature on). You cannot walk up to them and battle them or trade with them, which is a huge miss to me. Instead you can talk to them and acquire an item - keep in mind, the item is randomly generated and has nothing to do with that person. By meeting up with others here you can also join raids together and catch Dynamax Pokemon. However, you don't have to be in the wild area to get an invite to join a raid.
I have been loving these games and have put many hours into them. Either one would be great for fans of previous Pokemon games, as well as anyone who wants to begin their Pokemon journey. There are a few downsides, which I hope will be worked on in the coming sequels - that being said, I would still recommend these games and believe they are some of the best of the Nintendo Switch.
Rating: 4/5 stars
+ Wild area
+ Amount of Pokemon
+ Special trades
+ Pokemon Jobs
- Exp share
- Need voice acting/sound in stadiums
- Gyms too easy
- Online/local in wild area
Family approved:+ Age 7 and up