cover art for pokemon sword and pokemon shield

Like many Pokémon fans, I was excited to have a main Pokémon game on the Switch. I enjoyed the Let’s Go games, even if most didn’t, but they were spin-offs. Pokémon Sword and Shield had a lot to live up to, but unfortunately fell short in a lot of areas.

New Console, Same Graphics

Pokémon Sword and Shield just looks like a handheld game to me. This was Pokémon’s chance to be on a home console, but they played it safe here. For a long time, Pokémon has been handheld and that tradition shows here.

What’s more disappointing though, is that the Let’s Go games looked great. I know Game Freak is capable of making a gorgeous Pokémon game, so to see Sword and Shield suffer here was a let down.

Pokémonsword and shield wild area
The Wild Area was a step in the right direction, but not executed properly.

Pokémon Sword and Shield looks good in moments, and mostly in handheld mode. Those few moments don’t make up for the overall presentation of the game, though.

Online Features Need Work

Pokémon Sword and Shield have been out for over a year now and online matchmaking is still basically nonexistent. The Dynamax Raids are this generation’s Mega Evolutions but they are a pain to join.

It is confusing to navigate the Y-Comm. I can see the potential of this system, but it lacks the accessibility it needs to be effective. I personally enjoy the raiding system in these titles but I don’t enjoy doing them alone.

The game’s NPCs for these raids are just awful, often giving you NPCs whose Pokémon have type disadvantages. It can be frustrating when you get kicked from a raid because the NPCs die too often. It encourages online play, which isn’t polished.

 Pokémon Sword and Shield Have No National Dex

With the Nintendo Switch, I just expected to have access to every Pokémon. Pokémon Home helps with that, but if they aren’t part of the game or its DLC, your Pokémon can’t be put in the game. The two expansion passes gave us more than the starting 400, but we still are missing around 200 Pokémon.

This was another decision I didn’t understand. To still not have added these Pokémon is disappointing for anyone who wants to complete the National Pokedex or play with their favorites.

The name of the game is catching them all and unfortunately in these titles you just can’t do that. You can get close, but close isn’t good enough when you’re used to these games allowing each Pokémon to be present. I don’t even need them to spawn in the game, just let me bring every Pokémon from Pokémon Home.

Pokémon Sword and Shield Remain An Enjoyable Experience

Pokémon Sword and Shield are certainly charming games. The designs of the new Pokémon for the 8th generation are wonderful and the Galar region is full of lore and places to explore. Cooking curry for your Pokémon at the campsite and playing with them is one of the best ways to be intimate with your Pokémon.

I had a lot fun with Pokémon Sword and Shield. At its core it is still a Pokémon game, but it just has so many shortcomings. It is far too easy, even though that’s how Pokémon games have been recently and the quality of life improvements needed to make these games better just don’t seem to be happening.

I find myself still coming back to Pokémon Sword and Shield, but it is mostly for shiny hunting or online competitive play. I enjoy these aspects of Pokémon a lot, but I’d love to see a game with higher difficulty and more heart to it.

Gameplay: 7.0

Pokémon Sword and Shield has at least stayed true to their roots. The classic turn-based battles are a blast. The game is too easy and too short, but it still plays like the Pokémon games we know and love.

Graphics: 5.0

The graphics aren’t bad, but they aren’t up to date either. The Switch can do way better than what Sword and Shield gives. We’ve seen franchises like Mario and Zelda get the Switch treatment, and Pokémon is still in need of that.

Music: 8.0

I honestly enjoyed the music. The gym leader theme song is so good, and really feels like an epic battle. The gyms feel packed full of an audience too, which helps sell that feeling even more.

Routes and towns have charming music as well, like most Pokémon titles. It sets itself apart while still feeling like a Pokémon game.

Story: 4.5

There are way too many exciting events in the story happening without you. Instead of being imperative to the story like in previous titles, you just seem to exist in this game. I know Pokémon games aren’t known for their story, but Pokémon Sword and Shield disappointing even for Pokémon standards.

Team Yell is a huge disappointment, too. There are no team headquarters to take over or even anyone to save from Team Yell. These games are more linear than Pokémon has ever been before and offer very little in extra content until you play the DLC.

Replay: 4.0

Unless you are curious in forming another team and playing through with different Pokémon, I don’t see a lot of reason to replay these games. There’s no New Game Plus feature or increase in difficulty.

What’s more, you’ll have to delete your save file if you want to start a new one. While that may be traditional to the Pokémon franchise, it make replaying them difficult to justify. I still play on my Shield save file for the post-game content and would never delete that file.

Overall: 6.0

Honestly, Pokémon Sword and Shield need some work. I enjoyed what was given to me, but was left wanting so much more. At its core it is a lovable Pokémon game, but there are many improvements that could elevate this franchise into the current generation of video games.

Metacritic rated Pokemon Sword and Shield an 80.

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By Dakota Deitsch

I love all video games but primarily enjoy RPGs. Pokémon is my favorite franchise, but I’ll play any game really. I tend to game on PlayStation and on my Switch the most.