With the release of Pokémon Home and the announcement of the expansion pass for Pokémon Sword and Shield, I felt like it was high time I actually finished this game. I completed the Pokédex in Pokémon X, but I largely skipped Sun and Moon, only getting maybe a third of the way through one of them. I’ll admit, I had high hopes for Sword, given that it was the first mainline game to debut on a console (albeit a hybrid), though I tried to temper those expectations after early reviews and the lack of a complete National Dex (more on that later). All in all though, I think Sword and Shield are worthy entries in the pantheon of Pokémon games, and I’m excited to see what comes next.
Prior to release, the so-called Dexit controversy seemed to overwhelm every preview about the game. ‘Only 400 Pokémon included!’ as though that number is insignificant. 400 is still a lot of ‘mons! I’m not as emotionally invested in any particular team brought all the way from Gen III, but I did like the convenience of being able to use the GTS in previous games (also relegated to the subscription service of Home) to search for and complete the missing entries in my dex. That being said, I don’t think Dexit is as big a deal as people have made it out to be, especially since the expansion pass will be introducing over 200 more Pokémon into the games.
Goodness, third paragraph and I’m barely starting to talk about gameplay! If you’ve ever played a Pokémon game before, you’ll be familiar with the structure. A youth sets out on an adventure to ‘be the best’ with a rival/friend and a companion pocket monster. Various challenges ensue, usually gym based. One fun twist that Sword and Shield put on it is that battling Pokémon in the Galar region, which is based on the United Kingdom, is a spectator sport. Much like soccer (or football, for folks not from the USA) in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, these gym leaders are huge stars with raving fans, and the battles draw large crowds. One small touch I enjoyed is that after beating this version’s ‘Elite Four’-style tournament, people will start to recognize you on the streets of Galar. You’re famous now, Champ!
The much talked about Wild Area is the only part of the game where you have control over the camera, making it more like a modern 3D adventure game you’re likely familiar with. It’s probably the closest the series has come to having the world feel like a lived in place where monsters are actually roaming about. Even early in the game, you can run up against level 40 or 50 monsters that are way too powerful for you to think about battling or capturing. It reminded me of Xenoblade Chronicles X (criminally underrated, IMO (I should replay this one and review it)) in that way, where there are areas you can technically access, but you’re definitely not equipped yet. Are the graphics top of the line? No, this is definitely not Destiny or The Witcher. Are they the best the series has seen so far? Probably. Are they respectable for the developers first outing on a console? I’d say so.
I think that Pokémon Sword is better than the last generation, despite any controversies surrounding it. I’m back to grinding in X and Moon in order to fill up my living Pokédex, (universe, help me) so I’ve been able to compare the last three generations side by side. It might be 160+ hours of nostalgia speaking, but X is still my favorite of the three. I’m intrigued and excited to see what’s to come in the expansion pass for Sword, and I’m optimistic for the future of the series as a whole.