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LONG BLOG

Pokemon Sword Review (Switch)

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Pokemon Sword is supposed to be the first non-handheld console version of the game despite Let's Go Eevee and Pikachu existing (I haven't played either because I hate Pokemon Go). 

EDIT: Online functions finally started working for me on 11/18/19. It took them the weekend, but at least the new Wonder Trade works.

Story:

Lee is the undisputed champion of the Galar region along with his Gigantamax Charizard. After chasing a Wooloo that broke through a fence, you and your buddy/rival Hop chase after it, only to see a doglike Pokemon through the fog. The Pokemon vanishes through the fog and you end up being recommended by Lee to the Pokemon League. Go through the eight gyms and a few mythical shenanigans, you end up in the Pokemon League tournament (no Elite Four this time) and fighting the champion, eventually becoming the new champion.

There is a post-game subplot that expands on the Sword and Shield story that is present during the main game, but it isn't as deep as something like the Delta Episode from Ruby and Sapphire. It is pretty much busy work running between the gyms.

Graphics:

Considering that this is the first of Generation VIII (8), it doesn't look all that impressive. The towns look the same as ever with most buildings being copy pasted of one another with different inhabitants. That is provided you can even enter them. Most towns have buildings you cannot even enter. The shops account for nearly half the non-gym buildings you can enter in the game. This is before you even consider the poor draw distance where Pokemon are sometimes not rendered.

In exchange, you do have a lot more diversity in environments. But, I had issues with some of these. The Glimwood Tangle (dark forest) was hard to see anything and the snow area along Route 10 sometimes has a dip in frame rates too. The animations are mixed. You have some great character animations during battles now, but the Pokemon model animations all went into the new stuff (like Dynamax attack animations) while the old ones are a bit of a joke.

They do have some of the full motion videos like they did in Sun and Moon, but they still do not have voice acting for them.

Gameplay:

If you've played Pokemon before, then you know what to expect. There are eight gyms that you must defeat in order to enter the championship. What is different this time is that the exp share is acquired immediately at the beginning. You also have gyms that resemble the trials of Sun and Moon with more gimmicks  rather than the old ones. There are a few just simple "battle only" gyms without the maze shenanigans. The crowds of the gym leader reacting to knock outs definitely makes it feel a lot more exciting than before. It is a shame that the trials that lead up to it are so pitiful by comparison since they did not even bother to make proper backgrounds for those fights.

The same four moves and dual types that have been present remains. And because of it, not much has changed. Most battles are still going to be over in two hits. The new feature this time around is the Dynamax, which is a combination of Z-Moves and Mega Evolution together. It only lasts three turns (unless it is bugged and it ends when your opponent's current Pokemon dies) and only one Pokemon can use it per battle provided you are in an area that supports it. The problem I had was that I often forgot that it was a feature that even existed because of how rarely you get to use it. For the most part, it's only available in gym battles (minus one of the gyms that does not even support it) and raids in the Wild Area. While it seems interesting at first, Dynamax quickly became something just to answer your opponent's Dynamax and because they always saved it for their last Pokemon, I ended saving it for the last Pokemon I had to fight every single time until I caught the legendary that has a counter to Dynamax. It's too bad you literally get it just before the final main story battle.

One of the biggest changes is that there are no more random encounters. You can see most of the Pokemon on the map with some hiding in brushes until you make contact with them. This makes it a lot easier to look for a specific Pokemon compared to previous entries. But since this was a feature already in Let's Go, it is not really something new.

What is especially weird is that they have two types of TMs. There are the ones you can use over and over again and then there are the ones that are limited. I do not see the reason of keeping both around. The only reason why I can see they did this is they did not know how to make one time drops from the Dynamax raids.

But, one glance at the world map and you will immediately notice a big problem. There are only ten Routes, two tunnels, two forests, and the battle tower. Much of the world map was dumped into the single large Wild Area that accounts for pretty much half of the game's map. And because of this, the world feels unusually small, especially when the Wild Area spawns some Pokemon that are significantly higher level than you and you cannot catch them. Heck, there is not even a lot of places where you can find the tents of other players. The Wild Area is meant to be the end game grind, but relies on a good Internet connection to work. My entire time playing the game (20 hrs or so), I have been unable to get any of the online features to work.

The problem with Dynamax comes with the "raids" that occur in the Wild Areas. The Dynamax only lasts for three turns for you, but the raid boss will spawn multiple layers of shields at times that absorb based on the number of hits, often drawing out battles far longer. Due to phases being forced, you may have to go through as many as twelve layers of shields before the boss even goes down. With useless AI help, it just becomes long and drawn out battles that are downright frustrating if you get the wrong AI help since you cannot run and have to just die over and over again until the battle ends (takes 4 deaths among your team). You will need these raids to level up in the post game since they drop candy that give tons of experience.

The biggest problem in the game seems to be the rather small pool of Pokemon. Upon completing the main story of the game, I had seen roughly 260 Pokemon, of only which half could be acquired through capture or evolution. However, for the first time, I found myself struggling to put together a team that could face the champion since I did not know much about the details of individual Pokemon. I even considered switching out my Cinderace until I learned that I could not get Charmander until the post game. I ended up screwing around in the Wild Areas trying to find both a grass type type that I could actually use. Shield has Lotad, which can fulfill both roles, but I eventually settled for a Roserade and ignored water altogether. Unlike with the other Pokemon games, for the first time, I had to actually seek out specific Pokemon for a composition so that I could just beat the champion because I was unable to find something I could use during the course of regular gameplay.

Final Score: 6/10

It's still a Pokemon game though rather short. The game feels shorter and smaller than any of the other main linegames to date. The number of areas is fewer than any other game. There are onlythe Wild Area and Battle Tower at the end. The Pokemon League is pretty much a boss rush with more fights and breaks inbetween if you so desire, but other than Hop, no one really presents a challenge as they are not scaled up. It is no longer the consecutive battles against Elite Four and Champion and even the gyms feel half done. The core Dynamax feature of the game is highly restrictive with the legendaries being unable to use it at all. Overall, it really feels like they just took Sun and Moon and mashed it together with Let's Go in order to make Sword and Shield. That means if you are a fan of Pokemon games, you will still like this. But if you were expecting this to be the superior groundbreaking game of the next generation, then you will be disappointed.

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About Blanchimontone of us since 10:18 PM on 09.14.2008

I studied to be a teacher, but I only have a tutoring job right now that has very few hours. When I'm not busy, I'm trying out random games that get my interest and writing reviews about them. Keep in mind that these reviews are based on my own opinion and what I think about the game. I generally dislike F2P features that exclude players by making the top items only obtainable with real money or are absurdly expensive and P2P games that limit a player's ability to play with something like fatigue or stamina systems. I also tend to be late with reviews as I only purchase games when I have the time to actually play them.