Review: Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield

The first console installment of Pokemon is here thanks to Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield. For the last 25 years, Pokemon has been a handheld only experience on portal devices or phones. Today, we can play it on the big screen. However, how does it hold up? Is it any good? Was it worth the wait? These questions and more shall be answered in this review. For review purposes I played the Pokemon Shield version of these games.

30 Second Review

+ Kid Friendly

+ Appeals to Casual & Hardcore Gamers

+ New Experiences

– Pokemon Box Inventory Management

– Lacking End Game Content

Oddish I Choose You

Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield is a fun experience with mass appeal to all ages. That being said, Game Freak and Nintendo are trying to appeal more to the casual market and the younger generation rather than the hardcore pokemon fan base. If you’ve ever played a Pokemon game before, you have a good idea of how this is going to play out, unless you’re only experience is Let’s Go Eevee & Let’s Go Pikachu. Then some things are different. First difference from Let’s Go is you no longer have to throw a poke ball with a joycon, and every encounter is a battle. Also, you can finally play using a Pro controller! There are also new features like Dynamaxing, Gigantimaxing, and Raiding. Basically, you are now fighting very large Pokemon that have been granted special powers from wishing stars and power spots. These events will only appear in certain spawn locations in the wild known as raid dens or when battling in most arenas.

Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield is fun. Since it’s launch a few days ago, I’ve put 80 hours into the game. It might be easy to say I’ve developed somewhat of an obsession, but I’ve got to catch them all, with having 300 of the 400 Pokadex filled. I’ve taken my time with the game. I’ve done a lot of level grinding, I’ve been playing with about 4 teams of 6 pokemon throughout the game, so keeping them all the same level has been part of the experience for me. I’m a completionist, and the main story could have been completed much quicker, but I had to do and see everything. Really you only need 1 team to about level 60-65 to complete the game as long as you have a good mix of pokemon for all occasions, but even if you don’t, it’s easy to over level in this game and just out power your opponents.

I was surprised at how easy it was to gain experience in Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield. All experience is shared, however, any Pokemon that actually battle rather than just sitting in your party will get double the experience amount typically. So if you have a weaker Pokemon that you want to level fast, just stick it in the first slot so that it starts off every battle, but then switch it out before you actually start battling. Then it’ll get double the experience and not have to do anything. Typical battles for me was battlers got 700 to 1k experience in the wild with getting 1k to 2k in gym and trainer battles.

The story in Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield is good but simplified. A young child of about 8 could completely play and understand this story. It does give you some lore into the Galar Region, but it definitely left me wanting for more. I was also a little saddened that there is no voice acting. The game is a text based experience.

There are two ways to trade Pokemon in Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield: Link Trade and Surprise Trade. Link Trade allows you to trade tit for tat with another player, and you can trade specifically with your friends using a 4 digit link code to secure the trade. However, you want to pick a unique 4 digit code that’s not too common, otherwise you’ll be matched with someone random rather than the friend or family member you are looking for. Don’t use code 1111. Trust me. Surprise Trade is where you take any Pokemon you want, and throw it out to be traded for a mystery Pokemon of another players choosing. You can get some stuff pretty easy for your Pokedex this way, but you’ll also see a lot of the common Route 1 and early wild Pokemon as well. It is possible to get a shiny Pokemon this way if you’re lucky, so best of luck to you.

We’re Getting a League

Starting in December, Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield are going to have ranked battles and seasonal league play. This is a new feature that I’m completely jazzed about. I love Pokemon battling, and I love breeding, max training, and looking for the best stats on my Pokemon. I also shiny hunt. What better way to show all this investment of time off than to do it in ranked battles. I’m going to make them all jealous of my Shiny Oddish. There is a regular versus mode for anyone that doesn’t want to participate in the ranked play, so you’re not forced into it, and that mode is currently working now.

In addition to the ranked and casual battles, there is also going to be competition play in Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield. Periodically Game Freak will announce special competitions over a period of time that you can compete in to earn special awards. Beware though, whatever Pokemon you choose to battle with in the competition will be locked in your inventory box till the competition is over. So you’ll be unable to trade them.

So that was the news for the hardcore gamer crowd. If you want something to do after you beat Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield, and you’re tired of raiding, the battle system is what you do, and that’s about it. There is shiny hunting, with the typical Pokemon odds of something like Pokemon Sun & Pokemon Moon. If you’re coming from Let’s Go, it’s a little different. They no longer show the chain combo; it’s now a hidden mechanic, and you have to battle every pokemon. You’re odds get drastically better if you beat a Pokemon 500 times that you’re trying to catch. After you complete your Pokedex, be sure to grab the shiny charm. It’s a must for shiny hunters. You can also get shiny’s through breeding, but if you’re going to do that way, then you probably want to do the Masuda method. That’s where you get a Ditto from another country and use it to breed with any Pokemon. You can use a Ditto from your country, but you’re odds are greater if it’s one from another language speaking country.

What’s Not To Love

Oh Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield, do you really need that grind? If you do not like extremely grindy games, then this probably isn’t for you, cause it’s all about that grind.

I’m actually happy there is only 400 Pokemon in the Pokedex of Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield, cause my God, trying to capture a thousand Pokemon. I can wait for that in the next game thank you very much.

Everything is rather simplified in Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield. There is no escaping that this is a kids game, and it’s marketed to them first. As a 40 year old gamer, has it really come to this? I love the game. I’m really enjoying it, but I’m also feeling a little weird about it, because I can’t stop thinking that this is for kids. How am I so enthralled with a game designed for children. It’s a conundrum.

Once you beat Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield, for some people, that will just be it. Unless you enjoy battling in the tower for BP to help boost your Pokemon, battling online against other players, or breeding and shiny hunting, there is nothing for you to do. There just is no end game content. All that remains is the grind.

Do not buy the double pack of Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield. You’d basically be buying the same game twice. The only difference between the two is a couple of Pokemon that you can trade for, and Sword has the Fighter Gym while Shield has the Ghost Gym. For me, it came down to did I want a Galarian Sirfetch’d or a Galarian Ponyta. I chose the Ponyta, and I’m not even a brony. Who doesn’t want a pony?

Pokemon inventory management. I laugh at such a concept in Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield. You can get up to 31 boxes by placing one Pokemon in each box. You start off with 8, then when you do that for 8, it doubles to 16. Then when you do that to 16 it doubles again. Once you’ve become champion, you’ll be rewarded with a 32 box. There is a search feature, but there is no way to sort your Pokemon by type. Everything is done manually. Moving Pokemon around in 32 boxes individually and manually is a pain, and why do you do this? You not only do it, but you’ll do it daily if you have anything to do with the Poke Jobs.

Pokemon can be sent out on jobs in groups of 4 to 30. It’s basically a way for them to earn experience and get you special items in a time based way. You can send them out all day, 24 hours, half a day, 12 hours, very long, 8 hours, and it goes down in time from there. If you send 30 Pokemon out of 12 boxes, you’ll be manually putting them back where they belong. I left my first two box slots empty, that way when I get Pokemon back from jobs they just fill those two boxes and then I can put them back to where they belong from there.

Physical or Digital

Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield is $59.99 for a single copy of one game, or you can get the Double Pack of both games for $119.99. If you buy it digitally, the download is 9.5 GB, so you may want to consider a physical purchase. You not only can buy these games individually, but you can also buy the Double Pack digitally from the eShop as well. Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield is rated E for Everyone for Comic Mischief and Cartoon Violence.