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Most routes are pretty straightforward and there are less trainers along the way to battle, yet another reason why this game is much shorter than previous entries. Pokémon games have never been known for their amazing visuals, but I assumed that would change when the series finally landed on a home console. The graphics aren’t bad, but I can’t help but feel these games weren’t developed with the Switch in mind.
It’s a little strange to think of a simple feature like camera control being innovative in 2019, but this is Pokémon we’re talking about, which is famous for its lack of change. All of the cutscenes might not have been as poorly executed if there was a bit of voice acting to go along with them.
Fans of the TV gameshow will find a lot to like here, but it might be too difficult for younger players. With Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing come Max Raid battles, which can be found in the Wild Area. Players can battle one of these powered up Pokémon with up to three friends in order to get the chance to capture it.
This was honestly a lot of fun and the biggest reason why I kept returning to the Wild Area after every badge. Unfortunately, if you don’t have friends these battles can be quite difficult because the NPCs the game gives are often pretty bad. I would have liked the ability to participate in Max Raid battles with random people online, however they are limited to your Switch friends list.
It goes without saying that the player shouldn’t have to stop using an intended feature because it makes the game stutter. From a gameplay standpoint these are very much the same games we’ve been getting for the last couple of decades with a few welcomed quality of life improvements. First introduced in the Let’s Go games from last year, wild Pokémon can now be seen wandering around in the world and there are no more random encounters. Another step in the right direction is the addition of the Wild Area. Here, Pokémon roam freely and the player can freely control the camera.
Much like Mega Evolution and Z-Moves from the last two generations, Dynamax and Gigantamax are the new battle gimmicks introduced within Sword and Shield. Acting as a mixture of Mega Evolution and Z-Moves, Dynamaxing a Pokémon increases its size and the power of all its windows explorer 11 moves for three turns. Gigantamaxing does all this and changes the look of certain Pokémon. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would, but I was a bit disappointed to learn I could only use it in gym battles and not throughout most of the story. Because Mega Evolution and Z-Moves were cut for these new battle features it makes me wonder if I should even care about them as they’ll most likely be removed in favor of some newer gimmick sometime in the future.
This is supposed to be a big seller for the games, however when connected to the online communications within the game it’s a buggy mess at best. Trainers pop up out of nowhere and there are constant framerate drops that are unbefitting of a modern day console RPG. Playing offline alleviates this issue, but then the player will miss out on raid invites and other features.
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Each town has its own charms and I was particularly fond of the forest village, Ballonea. Sadly many towns are quite small without much to explore and nothing to do there other than battle the local gym and move on.
It’s strange to think that big budget JRPG on a home console doesn’t have any voice acting, especially considering the games could just use the anime’s voice actors. This really hit me when Piers, one of the gym leaders, had a full cutscene where he sang a rock song, hilariously muted. The criticism I think is cospicuously missing relative to the hackers is about the length of the game.