With the surging protest movements titled #GameFreakLied and Dexit firing on social media during its pre-release, Pokémon fans were concerned whether the newest generation of the main series, “Pokémon Sword and Shield”, would live up to previous Pokémon titles, or more importantly, if the game was worth the expensive price of 60 dollars.
The complaints stemmed from the Pokémon’s developing company, Game Freak’s, decision to only include half of the complete Pokedex, in order to focus more attention on their updated character animations and sprites. However, when leaks revealed that the changes to the characters were almost non-existant, fans angry with the lazy sprites titled their backlash #GameFreakLied, and the disappointment by the lack of a complete National Pokedex was titled Dexit.
Regardless of the controversy, on Friday, Nov. 15th, Game Freak released their newest game for the Nintendo Switch, “Pokémon Sword and Shield”, which had the highest-grossing launch of any Pokémon game to date, selling more than six million copies during its opening weekend alone. The game focused on a new region called Galar, which is largely based on Great Britain, and offered a new story, new Pokémon, new characters, and new features for old and new fans to enjoy.
To get the negatives out of the way, the game does have a smaller Pokedex than others, with only 400 Pokémon available as opposed to over 800, but the disappointment from Dexit died down once the game released.
The big issue is that the game does have some flaws in terms of an engaging plot, specifically at the end. Overall, the game plays out like a typical Pokémon game: the trainer catches new Pokémon, battles rivals and defeats gym leaders to ultimately become the Champion. However, this new game suffers from a lack of conflict. Past games had villain teams popping up throughout the journey that would get in the main character’s way and pose a threat that would harm the entire region. “Sword and Shield” do deliver this, but in a rushed, non-suspenseful manner, leaving all until the very end with almost no build-up.
When the conflict does arrive, however, it feels unearned, making the least sense from any of the series’ predecessors. However, once the “villain” is out of the way, the remaining conflict and post-game plot makes up for it with vibrant, colorful battles, accompanied by exciting gameplay.
In all honesty, the goods outweigh the bad, and Game Freak offered a handful of new material that would make any Pokémon fan excited. It’s obvious that the game’s ultimate priority was on the delivery of the characters in this region. The new rivals, Hop, Bede, and Marnie, are all handled well, with good character arcs and cocky attitudes long missed since the first two games, “Pokémon Red and Green/Blue” (1996) and “Pokémon Gold and Silver” (2000), and solving mysteries with Sonia, the professor is engaging. The human designs were also given a make-over, with more diverse-looking sprites and flamboyant character expressions and movements, accompanied by some reused ones.
If some still aren’t sold on the plot or the new characters, many fans are unanimous about loving all the new Pokémon. The new designs, supervised by the game’s head art director, James Turner, were a massive success and the legendary Pokémon and region exclusives were worth, for many, the price of the game. The camping feature offers more interaction between the trainer and their Pokémon than any game before it and offers new mechanics that experiment with the Switch’s joy-cons. The soundtrack has many head-boppers and adds to the larger scale of the battles. The new Dynamax and Gigantamax features, in which Pokémon grow to a gigantic size for up to three turns in battle, at first seemed quite silly but turned out to be a fresh, welcomed addition to battling that partnered mega evolutions and z-moves with a new twist that amped up the stakes in gym battles.
Despite the inherent flaws with the plot, remember that each Pokémon game is an individual experience. Every team is different and there are many things to enjoy and critique. Overall, “Pokémon Sword and Shield” is an entertaining game and a welcomed member of the Pokémon series, that will bring old and new fans rushing in to give it a try.
Alexandra Gerges // Staff Writer