Pokémon Sword and Shield: Nintendo ups their game

Pokémon Sword and Shield mark the 8th generation of Pokémon, a game series that has captured the hearts of most long-time Nintendo fans since their childhood. However, long gone are the days of the Gameboy and the Nintendo DS where you had to play your games on a tiny screen that was practically invisible when exposed to light. The developers of the franchise (Game Freak) have now provided Pokémon fans a full-fledged experience on the Nintendo Switch, a home console that doubles as a handheld.

Since the game’s release on Nov. 15, 2019, I have had the pleasure of playing Pokémon Sword many times. Playing this game has been an extremely enjoyable experience for this long-time Pokémon fan, conjuring up feelings of nostalgia and wonder each time I begin.

The storyline follows the classic formula of any Pokémon game. You begin your journey alongside your childhood friend and rival. After you are given your starter Pokémon and Pokédex, you both set out on your quest to train and develop your very own team of Pokémon to compete in the coveted gym challenge, while also taking on the task of saving your home region.

The story holds up against its predecessors well enough and provides players with a memorable experience. Much like other Pokémon games, the stars of the show are the characters. From your passionate purple-haired rival to the arrogant kid in a puffy coat that may enrage you, Pokémon Sword and Shield boasts a wide cast for players to love (or hate.)

The Generation 8 Galar Region brings a new spin to the gyms, doing away with many of the old puzzles that blocked you from facing the gym leaders, as well as removing the Elite Four challenge and replacing it with a tournament cup. These changes greatly excited me, as I would often grow frustrated at the complicated puzzles and would always be disappointed that I would never be able to face rivals or gym leaders again after their initial fights.

Though it was expected for the next generation to include a variety of changes, Pokémon Sword and Shield have kept the same classic gameplay features of the past. Pokémon Sword and Shield do introduce a few improvements and new features that make them feel just different enough to pass as a new experience. The key new features of the Wild Area, Dynamax Pokémon and Pokémon Camp have the ability to keep me entertained for hours on end.

As you enter the wild area at the start of the game, you are welcomed by a sprawling wild land. Pokémon wander in front of you as you traverse the land, making your way throughout the game. While I must admit that the wild area is not quite as vast as I had expected, there are plenty of areas to explore. In addition, the varying weather conditions add difficulty to the task of completing your Pokédex, especially if there is that one Pokémon that only shows up during a sunny day on the water.

Pokémon Sword and Shield bring their own twist to battles. The games have introduced the concept of Dynamax and Gigantamax Pokémon, which are oversized and powerful forms of both your companion Pokémon and the wild Pokémon you catch along the way.

Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing also added Max Raid Battles, where you can encounter both Dynamax and Gigantamax Pokémon that you can capture and fight with NPCs (non-playable characters) or friends.

While the Pokémon Camp feature may appear to be a glorified version of the 3DS games’ Pokémon Amie, it is much more. Pokémon Camp allows you to spend time with your entire team, which gives you the chance to play, chat, and watch each of your Pokémon interact. You are also given the ability to cook curry for your Pokémon to help heal them and raise their experience points.

Pokémon’s graphics have been greatly improved over the years. It is out with the old days of 8bit sprites on Gameboy and the crunchy 3D of the Nintendo DS and 3DS systems, and in with the crisp 3D graphics of today. These improved graphics make the wild area, routes and towns look amazing at both day and night.

In addition to the new graphics comes a new user interface. While it still contains the features from Pokémon’s handheld days, we are provided with a sleek and easy to maneuver experience all on one screen that makes navigating the pause and battle menus a breeze.

The music of Pokémon Sword and Shield adds to the gameplay experience and rivals every other soundtrack within the Pokémon series. Whether you are in a casual battle or fighting a rival or gym leader, you’ll always have a song to keep you motivated as you determine your next move.

Since the introduction of customization in Pokémon X&Y, you can make a trainer look the way you want. Customization options opened a new possibility within the games that has made the experience of playing feel much more personal. Yet, unlike the prior forms of customization that provided you with only a few clothing items, Pokémon Sword and Shield contains a whopping 1,000 items that you can buy at the boutiques within the game, and a variety of hairstyles, eye colors and makeup options for you to choose from.

Overall, Pokémon Sword and Shield are just as entertaining as the other games within the Pokémon franchise and they can provide players with hours of entertainment. Do not fret if or when your adventure is finally over. Summer and fall of this year are slated to bring players a brand-new part of their journey through the Isle of Armor and the Crown Tundra expansion passes.