Playing With Imagination: Thoughts on Pokémon Sword and Shield

Scorbunny is shocked at how controversial this game is getting.

Ah yes, we finally get to this, don’t we? When this was announced, there was some reasonable excitement for it. But once word got out that the National Dex (a collection of all Pokemon in generation order) was when people were nitpicking the game to the extreme. I admit, I was a bit cautious at first. Would they have really lived up to our expectations as Pokemon fans?

For me, it did enough. I’ve been a fan since Pokemon Red. I may have gotten Yellow first because of the anime, but I definitely remember playing Red and Blue. As a lifelong Pokemon fan, I wanted this to be special. While there were some concerns, this was an unforgettable experience that I needed in my life, and how it exceeds my desire as a Pokemon Trainer. So let’s get into it.

Galar Awaits

The world of Galar is vast, and perhaps one of the largest in scope. It is a huge world with plenty to explore and tons of Pokemon to catch and train. You start in the small town of Postwick, where you and your rival, whose older brother is the champion of the Galar Pokemon League, encounter a mysterious canine immune to your attacks. Throughout the game, you discover the origins of the mysterious phenomenon known as dynamaxing.

Since Generation VI, there have been strong power up moves and forms introduced. Dynamaxing involves your Pokemon growing to colossal sizes and use powerful versions of their attacks. Some can even change form, known as Gigantimax. As much as I like seeing giant Pokemon, it feels gimmicky and seems too creative with how it functions as an ultimate transformation. It does provide some strategy in competitive since you may not always rely on that main Dynamaxing Pokemon.

As far as the game itself, I’ve been playing it a ton since I bought it. I was a bit apprehensive because of all the backlash, but looking at it now, I don’t think I remember playing a Pokemon game this long since Emerald. The Wild Area takes up most of my time, finding raids and catching Pokemon.

The music is probably the best it’s ever been. The Gym Leader theme is one of my favorites and truly feels like being in a stadium. The atmosphere is portrayed nicely in the themes. The Wild Area song where the bagpipes come in really make the world feel alive. I could spend days in that area and never get tired of the ambient music of the Wild Area.

The Pokemon

Like every generation, new Pokemon are introduced. And also like every generation, they range from amazing, to eh, to WTF?

Some of my favorite designs from this generation include Scorbunny’s evolution line, Boltund, Corviknight, Galarian Darmanitan, Indeedee, Morpeko, and so on. In fact, I do have a lot to pick from than I had in prior generations. The starters were top notch this gen and I really like a lot of the final evolutions this time around. Wooloo is really adorable and Dragapult is pretty cool.

Some of them have been questionable, but I’ve gotten used to. Falinks is likely the Exeggcute of the generation in which this singular Pokemon comprises of five entities as one, all acting like a Wiggler-style Pokemon reminiscent of Mario. Other examples, such as Dottler and Eiscue have that Mario feel to them as well. The Galarian variants of existing Pokemon heavily vary. Pokemon like Ponyta and Darmanitan look great, but others like Stunfisk and Meowth look unappealing. I’m not sure what they were going for with that viking theme. Even the Alolan variants are questionable.

And I’m not going through a review of Sword and Shield without mentioning the mix and match Pokemon. Basically, you have a scientist who attempts to take two unrelated fossils and uses them to create a new Pokemon. Many of these vary and all look disjointed, but that’s mainly by design. Supposedly, they’re based off of a fossil found that almost resembled a unicorn on legs with its tail as the body. I can see where they would find fun in doing a mix and match theme, but it does make me wonder what their original forms are like and if we’ll ever see them in the future.

The Content

The Wild Area is massive. It has all the Pokemon you could ever want, aside from the Starters, and it’s fun to explore. I’d love to see this be the main theme going forward in future games where the main world is this massive open land with loads to explore. I’ve probably spent more time there than I had ever thought I would. There’s a surprising amount to do, and it mainly relates to Max Raids and filling the Pokedex. Plus seeing some Pokemon interact with you is super fun. I posted a short clip a while back where two Maractus greeted me and wanted me to dance with them. I could spend days taking cute interactions with all of the Pokemon.

There is a post-game scenario, but it’s not too engaging. There’s also the Battle Tower which is the go to BP grind, but it really does make me miss the Battle Frontier. Having a pseudo-gym format with all sorts of challenges is super fun. I will never know why that wasn’t a recurring thing, but perhaps it being bigger in scope is an issue, but I would love for this generation to be the moment of redemption. DLC or something, give us the Battle Frontier to end all Battle Frontiers.

Aside from that, there isn’t much else to do otherwise besides explore and fill the Pokedex. There is competitive battling which is much easier to get into now more than ever with Hyper Training and Hammerlocke University (a nice nod to Smogon University) and plenty of ways to make Pokemon powerful.

Issues

Now, there have been a few issues with the game. The one I should get out of the way would be my thoughts on the Nat Dex cut. Personally, I’m fine with it. Having this small of a scale seems more manageable than the 1000 Pokemon we would have gotten otherwise, nevermind the loads of legendaries that are hard to obtain. Pokemon Home, an app that is coming out sometime soon, will be the national dex home.

Another issue is the lack of story. I did find the idea interesting and a unique take, but I felt it wasn’t present enough. Sure Team Yell kind of exists, but they’re not really the villains in this scenario. Just a toxic fanbase for a trainer. I felt that since there’s such a massive scale of worldbuilding in Pokemon, it would be more helpful to have a proper antagonist with clear motivations. Together, it feels shoehorned and it could have been a great storyline.

The biggest issue is, surprisingly, the apparently lack of voice acting. Now, Pokemon in general has a rocky history with voice acting. Sometimes it’s great, other times, it’s horrifying to listen to. I am typically under the camp of “it does fine without voiceover work,” but seeing this game, it definitely felt out of place. Even having VA roles in specific cutscenes would have been fine.

I realized this the moment Chairman Rose spoke in the very beginning with how much Voice Acting would have worked in that scenario. Instead, you see a grand cutscene with no voiceover and subtitles. This would have been a good opportunity to give it a shot and if the devs are that fearful of voice acting not going over well, my take is they should probably let another studio handle it, like Bang! Zoom.

The graphics are somewhat lacking, even for Switch standards. I was impressed with the graphics for the Let’s Go games and would love to see that improved upon for future titles on the Switch. I’m not too bothered with the animations since they’ve been that way since the various 3D entries in both mainline and spin off titles, but I could see attacks be presented a little better, like with Cinderace’s Pryo Ball, which is one of the more unique attack animations, where the Pokemon kicks a rock around, its feet igniting it into a large ball being kicked around like a soccer ball, launching it at the opponent for a large amount of damage.

It doesn’t feel too bad overall. The game functions better and I found very few issues that the apparent modders would leave you to believe. To this day, that reactive editing disgusts me as a Pokemon fan. I truly hope the national dex doesn’t return if this is how the fanbase behaves.

Final Thoughts

While flawed, I thought this was one of the best experiences I’ve had with Pokemon. I truly felt like I was back to exploring instead of rushing through the game. Now that I’m finished with the main story, I am now able to attempt competitive battling and build my team to be the very best in the world. If you’re on the fence still, do give it a try. Play it as you would any Pokemon game, and just let things go. It’ll be more enjoyable that way.

That’s all for today.

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