doomocrat's Pokémon Sword (Nintendo Switch) review

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Pokemon Sword: A bit dull.

Cutting the roster isn't what leaves this game feeling incomplete.

(Progress: Main Story complete.)

When Pokemon Sun and Moon hit, the number one thing that stood out to me was the translation of the anime's charm and expressiveness to a 3D environment. Pokemon Sword and Shield seems to have taken that concept and dropped the ball. What starts out as a promising look into Galar's unique western scenery and monster design doesn't hold up throughout the course of the game and at times, can leave you wanting a lot more. From facial expressions of characters witnessing shocking events remaining completely static, to a rock singer character not even getting a music sting when he belts out his lyrics, there are a lot of confusing moments that make you wonder if the game needed more time, as areas that were focused on stand out. Context sensitive music for big battles draw you into the combat. Character customization is by far the best in the series, with many unique looks and items to equip. Dynamax raids and gyms ooze with character, and legendary events had me cheering along. Just don't be surprised if the cutscenes before and after take you right back out of whatever fun you're having.

He big!
He big!

Much has been made over the culling of the roster down to a more manageable set, and to be honest during the main playthrough, it was mostly a non-issue. Those trying to fill their team with new monsters do get a bit pigeon-holed though, as the game's main antagonists all use types weak to Fighting, but the game doesn't introduce its first new fighter until almost ten hours into the game.

Mechanically, Sword and Shield might be the best game in the series yet. Competitive battlers will find a lot to like; new environment moves and counters shake up the competitive meta of the past two generations and will likely expand options available to serious players leading to less template driven, cookie cutter teams being more successful. Wild Areas provide both a reprieve from the usual grind by offering unique encounters, real challenges, and raid battles which provide items to take a stuffed in the box zero to a main rotation hero faster than any other game in the series before. Despite the roster cuts, I imagine most players will have a bigger roster of trained up 'mons they actually use than previous generations. PokeJobs give you something else to do with that roster in the box, and the cost of move re-training being taken out allows easier responsive team building. Team codes will give newcomers to a more competitive playstyle a great set of training wheels, as renting out pre-built teams gives the player options not really available since Battle Coliseum on the Wii.

Sing it to the Clerks 1 chorus.
Sing it to the Clerks 1 chorus.

All in all, while I enjoyed my playthrough, I haven't been left with a lack of charm from the experience since the original Pokemon Black and White, and Sword/Shield doesn't have the excuse of a darker storyline teaching baby's first daoist meditation to fall back on. If you're a skip everything, power first, grind to the finish player, this may not bother you. For me, the character development and weird all-over animation design makes me wonder not only what they could do with another game in this generation, but even what this game could have been with another few months to tighten everything back up.

Too English. Like, Mr. Blobby too English. Woof.
Too English. Like, Mr. Blobby too English. Woof.

I haven't touched the post game yet, but from what I've heard, I'm expecting a little more emotional an ending story that hopefully fleshes out the rival a bit, who completely fell flat with me during the main questline.

All in all, Pokemon Sword's design is best represented by it's champion. With all its flash at times it's surprisingly inconsistent, with a face where everything doesn't quite seem to fit together the way it should. One has to wonder if Game Freak's classic small studio approach just doesn't mesh with the requirements of modern Switch development.

~* Post Game Addendum *~

While still sloppy in parts, the best writing in this game's story is much like Pokemon X & Y mostly contained in the post game story. While not really defining the character of rival Hop, the tone and tenor are much more human and not low poly Ken doll uncanny valley business. It's only a few hours of having things this locked down, but any fondness you have for the game's setting are well rewarded, even if writing in the champion is a bit of a rolled eyes moment. Five star raid battles are no joke, and the first events I've failed never stopping to grind XP; come in leveled or you might be letting your team down. Team protect moves and heals add an interesting inkling to raiding, especially without communication, everything having to be improvised. It doesn't move the needle a lot, but again much like X & Y, it leaves you more hopeful for future development than you may otherwise have been.

Other reviews for Pokémon Sword (Nintendo Switch)

    Pokémon Sword Could Have Used 'Sharpen' 0

    Pokémon Sword is a video game that has a ton of ambition but never sticks the landing. Everything from the Wild Area, to Dynamaxing/Gigantamaxing, and gyms just feel stiff and poorly implemented.The game's opening does a great job of setting up the word and its characters and does an even better job at setting up the drive behind your character's dream at becoming the Champion. However, the pacing of setting up the context, story, and overall characters, and their ambitions, is pretty ab...

    2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

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