This is an ongoing list where I attempt to do the following: Play, Complete, and Rank every video game in the known universe in order to finally answer the age old question "What is the greatest game of all time?" For previous entries find the links on the attached spreadsheet.
How did I do?
|Hours Played||60 +|
What better time to do a write up about Pokemon, then when a "new" version is released into the world. At least that was what I thought, until I sat down and started writing, and realized that Pokemon is a hard game to write about. That isn't to say that I have nothing to write about, or anything meaningful to say about Pokemon Shield before it hits our list of greatest games of all time, but rather I am woefully unqualified to talk about the nuances of Pokemon in general. See, I have only played two mainline Pokemon games in my entire life, and therefore anything I talk about in this review/ranking is colored by me comparing it to my previous adventure. That adventure was of course Pokemon Red/Blue released 100 years ago for the OG Gameboy. All of my knowledge comes from the original game, back when times were simple. So this is a long preamble to tell you, that I am not an expert in Pokemon, I don't know what every version brought to the table, and outside of probably 3-4 pokemon I don't know which ones are exclusive to this game and this generation. If you are still on board to see how I felt about the game, then lets chat, but otherwise this is your chance to back out now and no-one will think less of either of us.
Lets start at the top shall we, Sword/Shield (hereby abbreviated as S/S) is a Monster catching/training RPG where the main draw of the game is catching new creatures and training them up so they can help you win in battle. There is a plot, and it starts off simple enough with your character and his best friend looking to start their careers as Pokemon trainers and become recognized the world over for their skill and ability in having the best Pokemon at their side. You start off with your very first Pokemon, and then are seemingly let loose in the world to capture and train as you see fit. In order to do that you will have to get in fights with wild Pokemon (who can be seen on the map) and then decide if you want to just fight them for XP or attempt to catch them so that they join your team. Along the way in the game you will take part in gym battles in an effort to gain badges which not only advance the story, but give you perks like being able to control Pokemon at higher levels, or gain access to better items. Outside of being the very best, there is also a story about Pokemon Dynamaxing and growing super large in areas that they shouldn't be able to do it, and you are the best to solve that problem as well.
The story is meh and mainly follows the story that seemingly every Pokemon game and show has followed before and will follow after. It is a thread to keep you moving forward, but at this point nearly everyone plays these games to catch, train, and raise all their favorite monsters. I am predisposed to the addiction of completeness and will admit that this game had me in it's clutches very early. There is something inherently satisfying about filling out your pokedex, or catching a truly wimpy Pokemon and training it up so that it can hold its own in a fight. That thrill hasn't really changed from any Pokemon, and I could write that for any review and it would apply. Catching cute monsters is fun. There was a time when I played this game that I thought, "I am truly going to catch them all, and I am going to level them all up, because I am having such fun." That is a time commitment that I don't think anyone can account for, so needless to say I failed in filling out my pokedex and leveling everyone up to 99.
At the risk of sounding uninformed (because I am) I don't know if the things I list below are unique to this version or not, but bear with me. Unlike Red/Blue this isn't a game where you steadily march forward in a linear path and nearly all of the pokemon can just be acquired by hanging out in a new area and fighting random battle after battle until you come across what you need. In this version there are those little paths to the story bit, but there is also a large area seemingly in the center of the world that houses large swaths of Pokemon for you to catch. The wild (as its called) is divided into different regions that all have their own Pokemon, but in addition to each region having its own set, there is an everchanging weather assigned to each region that also determines what Pokemon show up and when. If you go down the route of trying to catch them all, you will need a guide handy at all times, because a rare pokemon might only show itself in one region during one weather pattern and you wouldn't necessarily know that ahead of time. While die hard fans are willing to put that time in, I would encourage us stinky "Casuals" to actually embrace just moving forward without trying to lock down every rare pokemon. We all know that you will catch more than enough Pokemon to satiate your desire for variety anyway.
Also in the wild are literal holes in the ground that you can catch light glimmering through that with the right item you can jump down and fight a rare giant pokemon in an effort to catch it. These fights are mainly set by the online service as they are constantly updating what Pokemon are going to show up and when (at least in a general sense) and cycle through these weekly, but it took me a long time to figure that out. In fact you have to update your wild data in the game, if you want to download the new dynamaxing Pokemon battles and take part in whatever the new week holds. That aside, you jump down into the whole and fight 4v1 against a strong pokemon. Before heading into the battle, you are given a silhouette of the pokemon you are going to be facing, and if you recognize the silhouette you can counter-pick the pokemon you want to fight it in an attempt to make the fight more favorable on your side. Recognizing the silhouette also allows you to potentially skip the battle if it is a Pokemon you aren't interested in catching or already have. If you are playing online you can queue up for a battle and other trainers from across the world can join you if they also want a chance to fight that Pokemon, and if you are online or can't find people to queue with you, will be dropped into a battle with 3 A.I. who will attempt to help you take on the Pokemon. Both of these routes have their benefits and drawbacks. Playing online means that for the most part you will have other players who know how to fight Pokemon who are putting their best foot forward in an attempt to win the battle. Whether that is putting their strongest Pokemon out there or ones that can capitalize on the weakness your opponent has. The drawback is that these battles take longer, as you are waiting real people to make decisions, and you could always run into someone who is either not paying attention or just doesn't know what they are doing. On the flip side offline battles are faster, and you get to be the one in charge, but you aren't guaruanteed to have smart A.I. fighters. There were numerous times where I would launch into a fight only to have the A.I. pick fighters that were very weak to the monster we were fighting.
More than any other Switch game I have played, Pokemon S/S shows how poor Nintendo's online offering really is. S/S is meant to be played online, not only does it make more sense to fight these giant Pokemon together with other trainers, but a huge aspect to every Pokemon game is trading your monsters to other trainers. Gone are the days of link cables and finding a friend next door that happens to have the opposite version of the game you have, because now you can just trade online with strangers to get your fix. However one big issue remains, there is no way to talk to or communicate with other players. If you have Sword and are looking to trade for a pokemon only available in Shield, there is no way to dictate that in the game. You can enter trades with random players, but you don't get to highlight or look through their pokemon to pick what you would like for a trade, you only get to pick what you are giving up. I was never able to trade with anyone, because every attempt would end the same way, with either myself or my trading partner backing out of a trade because they didn't like what was being offered. How do I signify I want your Charmander outside of me offering you a Squirtle? There needed to be some light pinging system where I could notate what I am looking for either prior to a trade or during the trade itself. Now of course this isn't an issue if you have a friend with the game and are just trading between the two of you, but from what I gathered nearly all trades would then have to be organized via a non-nintendo website in order for everyone to communicate what they want. This is just not an efficient way of getting this done.
Now I already know the counter to this, and that is that Pokemon was created for kids, who are more packed together, who play and talk to their friends ahead of time, etc. etc. However, what about me, the creepy 30yr old who is playing Pokemon and is looking to complete my pokedex? I am also confident that a lot of true Pokemon fans are buying both copies of the game and are then trading with themselves in order to avoid going this route as well, but dropping an additional $60 for virtually the same game seems like madness to me.
There is a lot I didn't bring up, like gym battles, or dynamaxing your own Pokemon, or how you ruin your best friends dream, or even the rock-paper-scissors element to fighting, but I think people probably get the gist of this game as long as this isn't the first time they have heard about Pokemon. Some of that is fun, but I still don't think I know all the strengths and weaknesses to every type.
I don't really know what else to say. I enjoyed my time with Pokemon Shield, but I think that is partially because it had been so long since my last foray into the world of Pokemon. I didn't care about the uproar about not every pokemon being in the game, because there were so many new ones that I wasn't going to miss the few that didn't make it over. I also didn't have legacy attachments to any pokemon that I have carried over for 30 years now. I liked the game being in 3D as I thought it looked very stylish, I liked being able to see the Pokemon before getting into a fight, because it made hunting for the pokemon I actually wanted to catch that much easier if I could just run back and forth and wait for new ones to pop into the map, rather then fighting thousands of random battles for my 1% chance of a Pikachu emerging. I think all the new changes are welcome additions to the game, even if they came generations ago and I am just learning about them. Despite all my enjoyment with S/S I have no plans on getting Shining Diamond, Pearl or Archeus as they release. Unless I hear about a truly revolutionary story, or something that I need to see to believe, the Pokemon games are an every 5 yr kind of game for me, because despite enjoying 60 out of 75 hours of my playtime, I don't think I want to start over catching Caterpie and Weedle and training them back to top form all over again. Realistically the next Pokemon game I get into, will be the ones my kids get into, and then I can play alongside them and trade with them for whatever they need to complete their set.
Is this the greatest game of all time?: It is not, but it IS the current greatest Pokemon game on the list (as it is the 1st)
Where does it rank: I knew about the range of where I wanted to put this, but I keep going back and forth if it should be above Fire Emblem or below it. I think Fire Emblem is the better game, but just by a sliver. Its story is better, and its combat is more exciting, but it drags on too long and by the 30th time you re-visit the school it becomes a bore chatting with your whole squad again. Pokemon never seemed to drag for me and was fun in catching monsters, but obviously it's story is pretty rote and a lot of its online and friends aspect is antiquated and doesn't reflect the modern age. I have it ranked as the greatest game of all time. It is below Fire Emblem: 3 Houses (19th) and Griftlands (21st).
1. Serial Cleaner (PC)
2. Mario and Rabbids (Switch)
3. Streets of Rogue (Switch)
4. Dragon Quest 11: Echoes... (Switch)
Anyone looking for it: here is the link to the list and more if you are interested in following along with me (this is not a self promotion). Here. I added links on the spreadsheet for quick navigation. Now if you missed a blog of a game you want to read about, you can get to it quickly, rather than having to scroll through my previous blogs wondering when it came up.
Thanks for Listening.