My Thoughts on Pokemon Sword/Shield

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Amid plenty of controversy, the Pokemon franchise has finally come to the Nintendo Switch. Sword and Shield do a decent job in their debut, offering battles that feel as great as ever, and Gamefreak has added just enough to the standard formula for the game to feel fresh even to series vets. Probably the biggest new feature, dynamax, is extremely cool even if its implementation is kind of off. I love the dynamax Raid battles, as they add an extra layer to the battle system as well as multiplayer gameplay. My issue with it is how it affects gym battles.

 In my experience I would simply wait to dynamax my pokemon after the computer does. Boom. Problem solved. Gym Leaders only dynamax their last pokemon, and if you can survive the 3 turns they have in that form you’ve all but won the battle. Just wait for them to revert back to normal size and respond with a dynamax of your own. It’s not a huge complaint, I just didn’t feel that it added any new challenge or require any real strategy to overcome. Honestly, i miss mega-evolutions. Maybe if the timing of the computers dynamaxing was more of a surprise, I would feel differently. 

I do love the fact that they dropped the random battles almost entirely from the game, in favor of a more real time approach. Running through the wild areas and being able to see each pokemon before doing battle is awesome, and makes catching certain pokemon a lot less of a chore. Its very cool how you can still trigger a random encounter while running through tall grass, but can also be chased if you walk to closely by them. This addition is my favorite, and made me so hype to explore the world. It is also why my next complaint is so troubling.

The game is way too linear. I felt like I was just moving up the map, and the game doesn’t give the player any true option for exploration. Remember your first time walking around Veridian Forest? Or Mt. Moon? Or Team Rocket’s hideout? The game sets you on a linear path from the start and hardly ever diverges from it. I thought the towns were beautiful when I first started playing, but even those started to feel the same after awhile.The game holds your hand the entire time, almost as if the developers were scared to allow the player to fail. 

My last and most biggest complaint is concerning the story, or lack thereof. I’m not saying that Pokemon games are always top tier in this department, but at the end of the day these games are classified as rpgs. Pokemon Sword and Shield have the weakest story and character motivations of any Pokemon game to date. My first( and probably only) playthrough of the game quest clocked in at about 30 hours. There wasn’t an actually antagonist in the story until maybe 28 hours in. Where a character that was never said to be the bad guy, but was OBVIOUSLY the bad guy, finally showed his motivations and plans. 

I played through hours and hours wondering when I was going to be giving something to do other than walking from gym to gym. I was extremely disappointed when this moment never came. You go the entire game battling your rival and other trainers/gym leaders, and at the very end is when they decided the game needed some type of villain. And don’t even get me started on Pokemon League Championship. Instead of presenting the player with a new challenge before facing the “Unbeatable” Champion, they make you participate in a tournament where you do battle with the same gym leaders you just spent all game destroying.Yes, that’s right. They Mega Man us at the end. So we have to beat eight gym leaders for the opportunity to participate in a tournament, to compete for the opportunity to face the Champion? Okay?

The game is a ton of fun, even if it sounds like Im bagging on the game. I just feel the story element could and should have been constructed differently. Also, the Wild areas should have been expanded further. They could have easily fixed the linear feel of the game if there were more of the Wild Area to explore. Overall, the game has brought some really cool additions to the Pokemon franchise, even if some of the implementation was off. I definitely can’t wait for the next installment where they expand on these great ideas,and hopefully provide a more compelling story to compliment the amazing gameplay.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time so far with Pokemon Shield, and look forward to roaming around the map to catch more of cool creatures they’ve created for this generation. If you’re new to the franchise or a series vet like myself I definitely recommend this game. If you’re a Switch owner this game deserves a spot in your library

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