In truth, we weren’t bowled over by the idea as it seemed nothing more than a rather unsubtle means of getting fans excited about ballooned ‘mon. Colour us surprised, then, when we started using it in Gyms (you can’t use it in normal encounters, only very specific ones) and actually ended up having a really good time with it. It’s a mechanic that’s not going to set the world on fire by any means, and realistically, we can’t see it becoming a staple of the series for years to come, but for what it is, it’s really good fun.
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Stadium-based battles are a great new addition, adding a huge boost in atmosphere. That was just the first in a series of underwhelming aspects of Pokémon Sword and Shield. This, the first main-series game in the franchise to be released on a home console, was surely going to be the pinnacle of the series, much like Breath of the Wild and Odyssey were for Zelda and Mario. But, other than the Wild Area, an open world-ish zone with free camera controls and Pokémon of all species and levels roaming around, the majority of this iteration feels like it could have been done on the 3DS. In fact, Pokémon Sword and Shield is entirely dungeonless.
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There is no route or cave or building or wood more complex than Red, Blue and Yellow’s Viridian Forest, the tutorial pseudo-dungeon at the start of generation one. It might seem inconsequential to say these games are dungeonless – Breath of the Wild did away with traditional ones, after all – but I can assure you it isn’t. Dungeons, in every generation until now, are the very essence of Pokémon games. They’re where you find the most trainers, the most items, the most puzzles and the most interesting, mysterious nuggets of lore.
You can also make use of your Poké Ball Plus if you have one, slapping any one of your many ‘mon inside it to carry it around in the real world for a bit, and earn some in-game items at the same time. It’s not much, but considering the accessory’s rather hefty price tag, it’s nice to see that it’s still compatible in these newer titles. Then there’s Dynamaxing, the new gimmick slapped all over the promotional stuff where your Pokémon gets ludicrously big for a few turns.
If there’s one thing everyone knows about Pokémon Sword and Shield is that they have been talked about. Whether it’s the controversy surrounding the omission of individual Pokémon or a tree that looks a bit too low-res for people’s tastes, chatter about these games has been incessant since their announcement. Overall, the feeling which keeps boiling to the surface is that of an overwhelming lack of ambition.
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Sword and Shield is undoubtedly a Pokémon game, so there is a minimum quality level as standard, but other software downloader free than the Wild Area, I felt like I’d played it before. This was supposed to be the finest moment for the series, but overall this one was just going through the motions.
The game’s story has nevertheless been given a little tweak and shows glimpses of becoming engaging at points, but too much is reminiscent of what we’ve seen in previous Pokémon games. The new bad guy gang, Team Yell, are reminiscent of the wacky Team Skull from Sun and Moon, while the main villain simply isn’t given a prominent enough role to be interesting in any way.
Considering how massive the franchise is, this is a very welcome breath of fresh air for series veterans and certainly seems to streamline the introductory part of the game. It’s nothing you’ve not seen before if you’ve played a Pokémon game. This time, however, you’re in the largely idyllic Galar region, which is inspired directly by the United Kingdom, complete with the green and pleasant lands that undeniably remind us of dear old Blighty. You meet up with the first of your several rivals Hop, and you get yourself a Pokémon from his philanthropic brother Leon, who just so happens to be this region’s Champion.