Pocket Monsters Sword and Shield are the most controversial release in the franchise yet. It’s not too surprising since Game Freak removed little over half of the available Pokémon in the franchise. They said that they will improve graphics and animations.
When the game released, it appears that they didn’t do that, which caused the vocal minority of the fandom to become angry and review bomb the game saying it’s bad. This reminds me of a famous quote of people going on message boards complaining about games they never played. With that, since I played around 14 hours with only two badges, it’s time to share my first impressions.
Pocket Monsters Sword and Shield is the first game in the main series that make it to a full Nintendo gaming console. Sure, Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee was the start, but it felt more like a remake spinoff of Pocket Monsters Yellow than anything else.
Sword and Shield brings back the usual Pokémon formula with a bunch of gameplay additions and quality of life improvements. This includes the vast open area called the “Wild Area” that you can explore and catch various Pokémon. When you have the internet feature enabled, you can see other players as well. Also, there is an accessible day care center that you can access before earning the first badge.
The Wild Area also have spots where you can collect watts and also start a Max Raid Battle. A Max Raid Battle is somewhat similar to Raid Battles in Pokémon Go where you face of a gigantic wild Pokémon. You can invite three other players help out. Everyone who participated has the chance to catch the Pokémon and receive rewards. The star ratings determine how many max individual values they will have.
Dynamax is another new addition that replaces Mega Evolution and Z Moves. In certain battles and Max Raid Battles, you can make any Pokémon huge. Their stats will be increased by a multiplier depending on the Pokémon’s Dynamax level and they can use special Max Moves.
Some Pokémon have special Dynamax forms called Giantamax. This includes the special Eevee and Pikachu if you have a Let’s Go save game. Dynamaxing can be used without a special item and on any Pokémon, but it lasts only three turns. In other words, you should use it at the right time for maximum benefit.
In addition, there are some competitive battle improvements. It’s a lot easier to train Pokémon for competitive. In the last generation Game Freak implemented Super Training, which allows a level 100 Pokémon to gain maximum individual values for a certain stat by the use of bottle caps.
Sword and Shield improves more on this by removing the cap on the use of vitamins. You can max out the Effort Values in one stat by using 26 vitamins. However, it can get really expensive. Also, Effort Values can be raised by having a Pokémon do special jobs that raise the stats. Of course, this takes time and best used on Pokémon you are not actively using or when you are busy doing other things.
Lastly, there are nature-changing mints. This does not actually change the nature visibly in the stats, but grants the effects instead. With these changes, you don’t have to spend hours breed tons of Pokémon just to have the perfect Pokémon. The only things you have to worry about is the gender, egg moves, and hidden abilities (if any).
Also, there is improved character customization options. Besides the expanded hair style and color choices, it’s possible to customize other aspects such as eyebrows, eye colors, and makeup (female) in addition to your hair. As for me, I kind of make my character look somewhat like Nanami Yachiyo. Of course, in addition to your usual outfit, you can also change the uniform as well. Yes, you can pick any number to put on your jersey. This includes popular ones like 69, 420, 666, and 777.
For the most part, the thing that gives me the mixed amount of feelings is the graphics. Sure, Pocket Monsters are not known for having great graphics. That said, while Sword and Shield graphics look good, there are some rough edges. This includes the lazy animations that don’t look any better than the last generation.
In some areas, it looked really bad, especially in the Wild Area. So many haters complain about the infamous tree that looks like it’s from Ocarina of Time. In other areas, it’s not as bad, but it shows the growing pains Game Freak have while transitioning to the Nintendo Switch. However, these graphical flaws are not a game breaker as the most vocal minority make them out to be.
I finally decided to give online a try after subscribing to a year of Switch Online. The new YY Communication feature allows you to initiate battles, trades and trade league cards with other connected players.
While it’s better than the Festival Plaza since you can access it instantly, it feels clunky. When I tried to do a Miracle Trade (also known as Surprise Trade), it doesn’t feel instant. When I pick a Pokémon to trade, I have to wait until it finds someone to send the trade.
Also, there is no Global Trade Station in this game, thus requesting other Pokémon you want can become a challenge. You would have to find someone who has the Pokémon in real life through social media or forums. This makes me wonder if they moved that feature to the upcoming Pokémon Home application.
Another thing that bothers me is the forced experience and effort value sharing. In the past, you can turn this off. Now, you can’t, which is bad since you can easily mess up the effort value spread with this. Technically, you can deposit and withdraw Pokémon from storage outside of the Pokémon Center, but it’s still an inconvenience.
Of course, there is the Pokédex cut. Only 435 Pokémon is in the game, 35 in which you need to transfer from Pokémon Home. While all the Pokémon are in the game day, the remaining does not have all the data that can make them usable.
Sure, it’s sad that I can’t use some of my favorites such as Dragonite or Altaria. However, most of my favorites such as Eevee and the evolutions, Milotic and several others are in the game. I feel that the reason they couldn’t put all the Pokémon in the game is because their model importer broke or the tight development schedule. Perhaps in an enhanced release, they will be able to add the remaining Pokémon.
Lastly, there are the bugs. It’s not too surprising to see show-stopper bugs. This includes the save glitch in Pocket Monsters X and Y that causes the game to freeze. Sword and Shield is not immune from this with the microSD card corruption and Roku devices malfunctioning. Note that the MicroSD corruption does not affect the save data since that is saved in the internal memory.
It’s quite obvious that Game Freak rushed the game out due to tight deadlines, which led to these decisions. These of course caused some controversial decisions that angered the fans. Yes, to the point of sending death threats, which is not okay.
At the end of the day, I think Game Freak will realize that not including every Pokémon is a very unpopular change. I think they will change their minds and put in the effort to include the remaining Pokémon in the next release. This happened mostly because of the growing pains of developing a full console experience. I think the Pokémon cut won’t happen again as they would get used to developing for the Switch and that most of the heavy work is done.
While Sword and Shield are not bad games, I have to admit that they are still enjoyable to play despite the flaws and controversy. I will share my final thoughts once I completed the game.
With that, if you are playing Pocket Monsters Sword and Shield, feel free to share your experiences and opinions about the game in the comments.