Pokemon Sword & Shield Review – As Shallow as an Empty Pokeball

Pokemon is such an important franchise for me and one of my favourites of all time. Pokemon Red was one of the first games I ever played and it got me into gaming as a child. Its core formula has stayed the same over the 20+ years and that’s been fine as its stuck to handheld consoles with limited capabilities. I’ve wanted a home console Pokemon game for so long, where the series can really be pushed forward and make a big leap, expanding on the fun formula. When Sword & Shield were announced, I was instantly excited by the possibilities that could be realised. However, after spending 27 hours with the game, I can easily say that the game has pushed the series back in a number of aspects while adding very little. Lazy design choices and pared back content leave the game feeling empty and shallow, overshadowing the positives that are there, leaving the experience disappointing for the series’ first mainline game on a home console.

The game begins like every other, you start in your home town and we meet our friend/rival, Hop (an annoying boy who never really gets any less irritating) and are given our starter Pokemon. I chose the adorable Grookey, I typically go for the grass starter, while Hop chooses the one at a type disadvantage, starting the game off easier than usual. You then set off on your journey to challenge the gym leaders and eventually the champion to become the best trainer in the Galar region. Speaking of which, the region itself is brilliant, although I am a bit biased as its based off of Britain, my home country. Over the course of the game, we visit quaint little rural villages, industrial cities and snowy towns. There’s a good variety here to make the region very memorable.

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The story, while has never been the most important thing for Pokemon, is very underused here with bad pacing. Throughout the game we will here a very brief snippet of information about some legends of heroes that saved the world way back when and is known as the ‘darkest day.’ However, we’re constantly told to not worry about it and to carry on with our gym challenge. It just sits in the background with next to no attention given to it. Then all of a sudden, right at the end all hell breaks loose and we have to stop the ‘bad guy’ from causing destruction to the region. It just ends up feeling out of place and the real world commentary climate ends up falling flat. More attention should have been given to fleshing out the story and having it paced better, rather than throwing every main, significant aspect right at the end.

There’s no real villainous group like Team Rocket. In this game we have Team Yell, who are just an obnoxious and slightly extreme fan club for a rival of yours. They don’t do anything serious other than trying to stop you going about your day and slowing down your gym challenge progression. They were comical at first, but just became a pointless addition for the sake of having another new group of people for you to fight. Your rival Hop does have some character development by the end of the post game, where he has some self-realisation about his role in life. He does become less annoying less annoying, but he still remains a forgettable character. Marnie is a bit more interesting but is more underused compared to Hop, which is a shame.

One feature that I was unsure of from trailers was the new ‘dynamax’ system. At first I thought it was going to be another poor gimmick like the Z-moves from Sun and Moon, but I was surprised by how good it was. Once per battle, (locked to gyms, some story moments and max raid battles) you can make your Pokemon grow in size, giving them higher health and access to more powerful moves. This means it never becomes overpowered and requires a bit of strategic thinking about when the best time to use it is. Using it at the wrong time could end up meaning you waste it, leaving your opponent with an advantage. While it wasn’t an amazing addition, it was surprisingly well thought out.

Sword & Shield offers some nice quality of life improvements that are much welcomed. The ability to skip the arduous tutorials is perhaps the greatest, but small change to the early moments. You no longer have to sit through explanations of how catching works for example. When you pick up items for the first time, it will give you a description so you no longer have to find it in the inventory to decide whether to use it. However, because Gamefreak are strange developers, they decided to lock sound settings in the menu behind an item in the game you find. You have to talk to a random guy in Motostoke and he will give you the hi-tech earbuds, allowing you to alter certain sound settings. This is something players could easily miss if they weren’t talking to every npc in the game like I was. Also, I don’t understand why they couldn’t just add these settings into the menu by default like any other normal developer.

The new Pokemon roster is, for the most part, excellent. Grookey is such an adorable starter and his evolutions are great. I wasn’t a fan of the other starter designs though, particularly Sobble’s evolutions. The electric corgi, Yamper and its evolution is perhaps my favourite. There are a few really ugly designs, but that’s the same for every generation, in general these new Pokemon are great. While the new and returning Pokemon look great, their animations in battle haven’t improved from the 3DS, where they can look honestly terrible. For a more powerful piece of hardware, you’d think Gamefreak would have taken the time to really work on animations to bring them to life since they are such an important aspect. It just ends up feeling lazy, where the models will just statically hop on the spot when using a move like ‘double kick.’ When they’re out in the wild, they’re better. They’ll chase you down and run about, however, there are still times they are simply bad. Wingull for example, simply hover on the spot without moving its wings, as if it’s a statue. Overall, the Pokemon look great, but are poorly and lazily animated.

The gyms are such an important part to all Pokemon games and for the most part, they don’t disappoint. You will be required to complete a mission before you can challenge the leader, and while this sounds different to older games, it really isn’t. You will need to solve some light puzzles alongside fighting gym trainers. These are fun little things to do before the main event. Fighting the gym leader in an actual arena never gets old and helps make the battle more exciting and atmospheric, especially with the dynamax implementation. The music will change when the leader is down to their last Pokemon and it really keeps you pumped till the end.

Speaking of music, this is another aspect where the game truly shines. Pokemon games always have some excellent music and Sword & Shield are no exception. Nice relaxing music plays in the quite towns, more sprawling tunes play while wondering the Wild Area, and intense, catchy music accompanies fights and the aforementioned gym battles. What really made the soundtrack go from great to brilliant was the inclusion of a battle song written by Toby Fox, who created and composed all the music for the amazing Undertale. It’s a brilliant song that is very recognisably Toby Fox in feel.

Perhaps the biggest draw the game has is the Wild Area, a reasonably big, more open world style section. The initial feeling of wonder was definitely there for me. Being able to walk around this large section and see lots of Pokemon wondering the map for you to catch was a great feature. The other thing for you to do in this area is max raid battles. As you wonder around you will come across stone structures or ‘dens’ where a dynamaxed Pokemon is waiting for you to fight it. These can be played with other players online (when it wants to occasionally work) or it will pair you with 3 AI controlled people. Some are easy, some are difficult and they give you rewards such as TR’s (one use TM’s) and other things like experience candy to level up your Pokemon. These offer a nice distraction but not for long. There’s just not a lot to do in the wild area and I found myself bored after a couple hours. The area is not very interesting to explore, where all you do is catch Pokemon, fight in raid battles and play a bike riding mini game. There are no real interesting npc’s or side quests/stories, hidden areas or places to explore. It’s just very empty and dull, and if you try playing with online turned on, then good luck, the frame rate is appalling and stays like that, especially with weather conditions.

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Another new feature is the camping mechanic. This allows you to hang out with your Pokemon, play with them to become closer and cook food to heal your party and give some minor experience. It’s definitely fun at first, but like the Wild Area, it becomes boring and honestly redundant very quickly. While you can gain experience for your Pokemon, if you do raid battles, you get much more experience from the candies you earn as rewards. Similar with healing, the multiple TR’s you get as rewards can sell for so much money, making it incredibly easy to become rich, far more than any previous game. I ended up having over 300,000 by the 3rd gym and was able to buy so many healing items that I never needed to use the camping feature again. The balance of the games mechanics is very off, that features like the camping become useless and ,makes the game very easy.

Graphically, the game is pretty mediocre, especially compared to larger games on the Switch. While there are moments when the game looks genuinely great, such as in caves, interiors and some of the towns and routes, textures and assets can look abysmal. This is exposed the most in the Wild Area. The ground and water looks unappealing and the main trees honestly look as if no effort went into them and it’s just the same one copy and pasted around the map. It’s even more noticeable when they’re next to the berry trees, which look a lot better. It does seem to be these are likely old assets just brought over from the 3DS games without any rework. Compared to games like BOTW, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Skyrim (all larger games as well), it looks a generation behind in comparison.

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Character models are actually great with lots of personality, however, the lack of variety and lazy placement can lead to glaring presentation issues. I walked into one of the clothes shops and 3 out of 4 of the npc’s were the exact same woman in a red top. Or in the second gym, all of the gym trainers were again the exact same model with just a different name. While this was excusable in the 3DS games and prior, for a game on the Switch, it’s simply lazy and low-effort. It really does stand out a number of times and breaks any semblance of immersion. Pop-in is another issue, where people and Pokemon just appear out of nowhere about 5 meters in front of you. In the Wild Area, this just breaks the illusion of Pokemon wondering the world, where there were so many times Pokemon would just spawn right in front of you or appear out of the void. It may still be one of, if not the best looking Pokemon games, but compared to other, bigger games on the switch, it’s not great.

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There isn’t a real improvement in scale when it comes to the towns and cities, where at times they’re smaller than older games. While there are some relatively big towns, there are usually just a small number of buildings to enter and the interiors are all copy and pasted down to the smallest detail. Some towns are so tiny that it once again feels like little effort was put into fleshing out the world. One beautiful looking village in a mushroom forest has just a Pokemon centre, 2 houses and a gym. Another place is just a single street with just the Pokemon centre and gym. Lazy/rushed design like this really sticks out in showing the lack of scale and jump from the handheld games.

Perhaps the main issue that game has is that so much content and exploration has been reduced or removed from older games, (not just the pokedex) that make the game feel empty in comparison. First off, the routes and caves (only 10 and 2 respectively) are much more simple and linear than older games in the series, particularly the DS era and earlier. They are now mostly just a single path with very short connecting sections. There’s no real off-the-beaten path to other areas or hidden parts, everything just feels shorter and less complex, when in reality they should have expanded on these areas and made them more intricately designed. Furthermore, there are no dungeons whatsoever, these used to be challenging gauntlets to test the player and their team, yet they are absent entirely from the game. There is no victory road also, which used to be one of the toughest sections of the game, a labyrinth of difficult battles to help train you before the Pokemon League. In Sword & Shield, it’s just a short, mostly linear path with about 6 trainers on it, which took me 10 minutes to get through. This leaves the game feeling incredibly rushed and drastically easier and shorter.

What I do like is the changes to the Pokemon League to make it more in line with what it’s like in the show. There may not be an Elite Four, but instead you go up against other trainers who obtained all eight gym badges. I hope this continues and is expanded upon in the next game. Overall the game was more difficult than the last few entries and I was never hugely over levelled, but it still ends up being easier compared to the earlier games, where I never lost a battle and only struggled a few times. The lack of dungeons and a victory road greatly impacted the challenge.

In terms of post-game content, it is drastically minimal. There’s no new added part of the map or section, just an hour and a half of trudging back to nearly all the gyms again to defeat dynamax Pokemon before a few more final battles in Motostoke. Other than that, there’s just the battle tower which gets boring quickly. I still find it strange that despite being on very limited hardware, Gold, Silver & Crystal still have the most content and largest post-game in the series. There were a few nice little short moments that hint at what interesting side quests Gamefreak could have implemented, such as the mystery of a basket of berries and story of a ghost girl. These quick moments were some of the most memorable parts, but there isn’t enough there and it’s a real shame.

Pokemon Sword & Shield ends up feeling like a wasted opportunity, where glaring issues such as a lot of cut or pared back content aren’t compensated with anything substantial of value. While there are moments of potential and certain steps in the right direction, with regards to the Wild Area, it isn’t a generational or hardware leap in any real way. It can often feel like a step back for the series in many respects and with much less scale, especially compared to entries like Gold and Silver which released on hugely limited hardware. While it may not be the worst Pokemon game in the series, it’s far from being great.

Score = 5/10

Thank you so much for reading. These are obviously just my own honest opinions so I’d love to hear your thoughts down in the comments and your experiences with the game. For all things gaming, stay tuned to Honest Gamer.

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24 thoughts on “Pokemon Sword & Shield Review – As Shallow as an Empty Pokeball

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    1. Thanks, I’ll be interested to see what you think of it. I just really hope they take time with the next one to push the series forward. Gold and Silver remain my favourites, mainly because of how much content there was. Platinum is a close second.

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  1. Thank you for being honest once again. It can sometimes be hard to speak up against Pokemon as it has such a strong emotional connection to a lot of gamers (including myself who also played Red growing up!). I was worried about S&S before release and even more so when playing Sun for the first time this summer. I saw that the formula hasn’t changed in 20 years making parts of it such a chore to playthrough. It’s such a shame S&S hasn’t changed either.

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    1. Thanks, that means a lot. At the end of the day people can enjoy the game for what it is, I still had fun. But there was just so much lacking compared to earlier games in the series, while adding very little, that I had to talk about it. People will use “it’s a kids game” or “stop being negative and just enjoy it” but that’s a very bad viewpoint to have. How will things ever improve and change if we just accept things and ignore the very glaring problems. Sun and Moon were my least favourite in the series and it continued the trend started in X and Y of simplifying and reducing the scale and size of the game, Sword & Shield unfortunately do the same thing in my opinion.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review, sorry for the long comment 😅😊

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      1. I know what you mean, it’s frustrating the game hasn’t evolved further because the potential at the franchises fingertips is endless. I played Detective Pikachu on the 3DS this year and loved it! If they could incorporate this type of storytelling and script into the main series it would be incredible.

        Well, people are only negative when there’s something to be negative about. It sounds like there’s a lot of issues in the game at the moment. And it is a kids game, but a kids game can also have mechanics and features that appeal to a wide audience (like Luigi’s Mansion 3 for example or even Mario Odyssey).

        And no worries about the long comment! This one is probably long too…

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  2. Question: you mention how the lack of complexity in the environment design is a misstep. Why do you think that?

    Pokemon hasn’t been a series that heavily rewards players for going off the beaten path, or taking the time to comb through an area meticulously. Nor has Pokemon been difficult at any point in its history when compared against its contemporaries (within, or outside of its genre). Having streamlined routes to connect each area makes sense from a design standpoint if you don’t want players to get lost and exploration isn’t a core part of the game’s design.

    For context, I say this as someone who really enjoyed playing games like Axiom Verge, Super Metroid, and Hollow Knight. The difference there is that getting lost and exploring is the primary source of entertainment in those games wherein Pokemon it’s about collecting and battling creatures. Just because the environments could be grander doesn’t mean they should be if it doesn’t accentuate the core gameplay.

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    1. While exploration in the earlier games has never been its core focus, it was still a main feature. You might go off and find a hidden section with some items or a small cave to explore. The routes were generally longer with more paths than simply being very linear. There are also no challenging dungeons to test the player.

      The world is much smaller in scale to games from the DS era and before. With around 2-3 times less routes and caves while also being much smaller and simple. It makes the game have much less content and end up not being about a journey. It becomes win this gym, take 15 mins travelling on a single path, win the next gym and so on. That crucial aspect of making the player feel as if they are exploring the region on a long journey is absent.

      Earlier games were difficult, trainers on the routes had more Pokemon and the dungeons and victory road would test the player. It doesn’t help that this is the easiest game in the series to become rich, meaning you can have such a massive supply of healing items that you’ll never be in danger of struggling on routes. I played Platinum and Soul Silver again recently and found them much more challenging than this game.

      The simplified routes, no dungeons, hardly any secondary areas like caves, makes the game feel very lazy and lack so much content from earlier games. For the first main line game on the Switch, it’s reduction in scale and reduced content is a major flaw and doesn’t take advantage of the much more powerful hardware.

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  3. All of what you’re describing is true of the earlier games as well though, especially the more recent installments. The generation 1 games are a fairly straight shot from gyms 4 to 8 unless the player deliberately goes out of their way to explore side content like the power plant, or sea foam island. Generations 2, 3, 5, and 6 all consist of routes that are mostly straight shots between area A and B as well.

    Generation 4 is the only generation where there is a lot more faffing about in between each gym, but that largely comes down to the world being laid out in a cumbersome manner. And it seems I’m not the only one who thought that because the generation 5 and 6 games feature a return to more linear designs between towns.

    Calling the world smaller because their is a smaller number of routes entirely discredits the value the wild area adds. Around half of the game’s Pokemon can only be found in the wild area. It also contains Pokemon from a wide array of different levels and with streamlined flying mechanics the player can frequently return to collect new Pokemon throughout their journey. You don’t need to do this, but it acts as a substitute for side routes or caves of other games where the only mechanical purpose was to hide a rare Pokemon or TM.

    Earlier games in the series are more difficult compared to the newer entries because newer ones never let the player have under-leveled Pokemon. The AI in Pokemon isn’t terribly complex: they never switch Pokemon, rarely use items, and usually stick to using 1 or 2 moves on repeat. That hasn’t changed. The only time a fight is difficult is when you lack the appropriate attacking types, or when your opponent has a substantial level lead against your Pokemon. Having reusable TMs, every Pokemon having a wider move pool, and shared experience are all quality of life features that have done away with any sort of difficulty that once existed in Pokemon. Each new entry has become progressively easier than the previous. This is definitely not a trend that started with S&S.

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    1. Gen 1 was the first in the series and on limited hardware, while gen 2 did improve in a number of ways as well as allowing you to revisit Kanto, adding a large post game. Gen 3 had much more longer and complex route structure. 4 and 5 continue this trend, where it makes you feel like you are going on a long journey, not just going from gym to gym with very little in between. There’s no secondary areas whatsoever in S&S, making the game much shorter and rushed in comparison.

      There are no dungeons, which would test the player with both trainers and navigation. There is no real victory road, which was one of the toughest section to train your team before the Pokemon league. How can you not see that this is rushed and lazy design?

      X and Y, and Sun and Moon I wasn’t fans of, especially the latter and I have criticised those games as well for over simplifying and making the games easier. Pretty much every trainer in Sun and Moon only ever had a single Pokemon and while this was improved in S&S, it was still rare for them to have more than 3.

      The Wild Area adds little value, which was a point I made in my review and doesn’t make up for the heavily reduced number of routes and exploration value. The area is empty with nothing to do except catch Pokemon and do raid battles which get old quite quickly. They could have filled it with caves, hidden areas, NPCs, little quests and dungeons but they didn’t. Because you don’t have to come back to the area, the rest of the game is very short in comparison. Rather than expand and improve upon the exploration and design of the routes, they simply cut them all back and added a dull and empty area that doesn’t do enough.

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      1. I don’t agree with that statement in the slightest. The routes may be longer, but they are no more complicated than the older generations. Having the route in the shape of an L such as routes 104, 119, or 111 doesn’t make them any more complex than the long straight lines of routes 124, 116, 113, 110, etc. The bends in the road are only superficial. You’re still functionally walking along a straight path from point A to point B.

        I don’t think it is rushed or lazy to not have a victory road because there is no need for one. Victory road in past games was a combination between a final grind before a boss rush and a test of the “skills” (HMs) you’d collected up to that point. S&S doesn’t have any HMs, so there isn’t a need to verify that you as a player understand the use case for each of them. As for the final grind – with the entire game being balanced around EXP sharing there isn’t a need for this either. By the time I reached Wyndon my team was already level 60-62. This was accomplished without any grinding detours. After the league championship my team was on par with Leon’s team level wise. If there had been a victory road I’d have been horrendously over-leveled. Neither of Victory Road’s intended purposes can be adequately fulfilled in S&S, which would have made it feel entirely out of place.

        As it stands, the semi-finals against your various rival characters worked better as a final challenge (though my team had a 10 level advantage against them). Instead of wasting the player’s time going through a maze with HMs fighting a bunch of relatively easy opponents you fight 2 characters you have an established rivalry with. Neither of those fights are any more challenging than a victory road trainer, but instead of plowing through 15 face-less opponents you’re facing down 2 characters you have an established relationship with. It provides the same sort of final test without dragging out the runtime needlessly and has some story pay-off as well.

        The number of Pokemon a trainer has doesn’t actually make them more difficult. Would you rather fight a trainer with 6 Magikarp, or a trainer with 1 Dragonnite? In fact, would you rather fight a trainer with 6, or 1 Magikarp? I’d rather have the latter in both scenario. Having more Pokemon doesn’t make the various NPCs any more or less challenging, rather it makes them more or less tedious to fight. Trainer battles are only barely a step above wild Pokemon in terms of difficulty and aren’t any less tedious to deal with. I actually preferred having the shorter battles, and lower volume of battles because defeating 4 brainless trainers is functionally no more or less challenging than defeating 30. One of those things just takes a lot less time than the other.

        Yes, but catching Pokemon is kind of the point of Pokemon games, wouldn’t you agree? They don’t have a grand narrative or much world building, have very little strategic depth (outside of competitive play), and haven’t ever been technically ground breaking (except Silver and Gold). The area acts as a giant safari zone style area that you’re supposed to return to repeatedly because the available Pokemon change every couple of hours meaning there is always some new Pokemon to catch, up until you’ve caught them all. The Wild area focuses on enhancing the primary gameplay of Pokemon. Dismissing it because it lacks the secondary and tertiary gameplay you wanted feels like you’re judging it against your own list of criteria rather than how it fits into the game as a whole.

        One other thing: you repeatedly point out how Pokemon was limited by the hardware that it has been on, but I don’t think that holds up. Square Enix and Atlas have both been putting out grand scale RPGs that have the kinds of stories, worlds, and detail of games like Xenoblade, or The Elder Scrolls. Games like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and Persona are richly realized RPGs which create deep game worlds and all appeared on handhelds at one point. Heck, there is even a Xenoblade remake on the 3DS. If GameFreak’s intention was to make a grand scale RPG than they already could have. They didn’t. The reason for that is Pokemon hasn’t ever been about richly detailed worlds, epic journeys, or well realized characters. They’re about capturing and discovering Pokemon.

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      2. This just keeps going around in circles. I believe my points are right and you believe your points are right. At the end of the day, the games are smaller in scale and content from earlier games in the series in my opinion, many others share my view. For many people, the games aren’t just about catching Pokémon and fighting, they are about exploring the world and going on a journey, and this wasn’t the case with how short the game is. Routes were better designed and not simple in earlier games, particularly gen 3-5.

        They should have simply expanded on and improved these designs whilst making exploration much better, they didn’t. Removing dungeons, caves was a bad move, when they should have improved these sections. The Wild area doesn’t do enough to replace the missing content.

        The post game is pathetically short (taking an hour to complete) and half of it is just repetitive dynamax fights. The battle tower isn’t enough to keep people interested. While there is online, for a lot of people, no one touches, so the game just lacks content for that large section of tie player base.

        Trainers in the older games would typically have Pokemon of higher level to the wild Pokemon. And would have more than a couple, not just 6 magikarp as the example you gave. If they had just one, it would be even more of a higher level. That isn’t the case in S&S. Having more Pokemon does make them more challenging, that’s like saying the Elite 4 or gym leaders in the series would be just as difficult if they had one Pokemon, having 5 just makes those battles tedious. In that regard you are completely wrong.

        Also, the longer routes with more trainers and more Pokemon in the older games were challenging because you had to be strategic with your healing items. Unlike this game where you get fully healed so many times and it’s so easy for you to become rich that you end up having a ridiculous amount of healing items. That also makes the game easier.

        I, like many people agree that the game doesn’t not feel like a step up or generational leap in any real way. So many tiny towns, lazy repetitive interior design, and mediocre graphics. It can look great in some places, but textures are bad, pop-in is so noticeable and breaks the illusion of a lived in world with Pokemon roaming the wild area. Lazy character model placement/allocation and Pokemon animations remain unchanged from the 3DS games.

        There was stuff I loved, but there was so many glaring issues that hold it back from being a great Pokemon game. Better than the last few, but still one of the lower end entries.

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      3. Yeah it looks like we’re going to have to agree to disagree. You’ve been a good sport up to this point and I appreciate that. Thank you.

        For boss fights, yes having more Pokemon does make the fight more difficult. But are you really going to dig your heels in and say that trainers that have 2 Rattata and a Pidgey, or 2 Pidgeys, a Bellsprout, and an Oddish are not a waste of time? Those aren’t examples I made up. Neither is the 6 Magikarp one. Those are actual battles from some of the games. Having more cannon fodder that goes down in one or two attacks doesn’t make the fights more difficult.

        I don’t really agree with the point about longer routes requiring more strategic healing because I’ve never had a problem keeping my teams topped up while replaying older games in recent years. And when I was younger I wouldn’t even take items with me, so I’d just face tank through routes and heal my creatures when I got to the other side. This was only possible due to the sheer lack of challenge that the games provided. Keep in mind we both grew up playing the older games as kids, which are a lot less forgiving compared to the newer ones (though they are much more forgiving than virtually every other RPG released at the time).

        I wasn’t ever disputing that S&S aren’t a leap forward. I was disputing one of your stated reasons for it. I don’t think it holds up when examined under any amount of scrutiny.

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      1. Personally, I thought Moon’s story was interesting. I found Lusamine to be a rather interesting villain but I didn’t like how Lillie just leaves at the end. But to each their own. I would love to read that.

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  4. Nice review even though I disagree with the entire thing :). I actually read one of your comment threads and I totally agree with @Frostilyte’s points. None of the older Pokemon games were ever hard and battling 20 trainers that all used the same Pokemon (except one or two different ones) was not challenging. It was just filler to make a short game seem longer than what it was. Is Sword & Shield linear? Yes, but they’re honestly up there with my favorite Pokemon games of all time. I think that people wanted to hate this game before even playing it and it showed when it was review bombed at launch. The people that hated on this game has been drowned out by everyone that loves it.

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    1. Yeah I get what you mean, but other games were more challenging, not necessarily hard. I played through Soul Silver and Platinum recently and had much more of a challenge, mainly as I was never over levelled or had a ridiculous amount of money for healing items, which is what happened in this one.

      I watched a video on YouTube, I can’t remember who it was by, but it explained really well why difficulty in the older Pokémon games was important. Mentioning that gym leader’s Pokemon used to have four moves and ones that counter their weaknesses, whereas from X and Y, this stopped being the case. While they were never hard, there was a challenge there and many people feel the same way.

      Everything from the routes to a lot of the towns were so small. I never felt like I was going on this journey, since the scale of the world was heavily reduced and shortened, in favour of wild area that didn’t really do much.

      I never went into this game hating on it. I didn’t care about the dex being cut. However, when I found out the reason why they said they made this decision, to improve Pokemon animations to make them more alive, it was clear they did lie about this after playing. While newer and more unique moves looked great, every other animation was the same as the 3DS and it just looks bad and lazy, especially when so many times it’s just Pokémon hopping statically in spot. These are games on the switch, so it should be improved.

      Having not a single dungeon in the game was a bad move and once again, reduced the content. Rather than improve the designs and make exploration even better, they simply removed them, making it seem that they just couldn’t be bothered.

      It was a game that just felt so rushed and empty. Where many areas saw no improvement and others were a step back. Difficulty and linearity are subjective tastes, so differences in opinion are understandable. The heavily simplified and shortened routes (only 10 and they took 10-15 mins to get through), poor and unimproved animations, lack of exploration and content are objective fact. For a series that sells millions and makes as much money as it does, these issues shouldn’t exist and need to be mentioned, otherwise how will future games improve?

      I love Pokemon so much and I’ve played every mainline game apart from Ultra Sun and Moon. For the first proper entry on the switch, it was very lacklustre and shallow and didn’t feel like a game that was made for the switch.

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      1. I disagree but to each their own. And the challenging thing is highly subjective. I also recently played through all of the older games and I’m currently playing through Ultra Sun & Moon and none of them were challenging at all. I was never short on cash to buy what I wanted and I rarely needed to go out of my way to buy potions because my teams would steamroll through everything.

        It’s funny how people hold Gold & Silver on pedestals when they’re arguably the easiest Pokemon games ever made. Okay… X & Y are the easiest, but Gold & Silver are up there with them. Choosing Totodile is like putting the game on easy mode. And Gold & Silver are in my top 3 favorite Pokemon games ever.

        To each their own though.

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      2. Yeah depending on what Pokémon you have it can be easier. Gold and silver are one of the hardest generations, pretty much everyone agrees on that, especially towards the end of the Johto section and Claire. Which one do you find the hardest? I’m curious.

        Also the point about trainers with the same Pokémon are true for earlier games when there weren’t as many Pokémon available. However, even with the dex being cut, there’s still around 400 something Pokémon to choose from to have more Pokemon per trainer and still keep them diverse, they just chose not to do that.

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      3. I don’t consider any Pokemon game hard, but if I had to choose one I would go with a fan made game called Pokemon Reborn. You want difficulty play that. And I’ve never been one to care about what the so called majority think the hardest Pokemon game is because I’ve read plenty of comments from people that said the exact same thing I wrote. Social media makes up a very small portion of Pokemon fans so no one can say for sure that the majority of fans feel this way or that way.

        I don’t think the new Pokemon games are a 5/10. I can understand someone giving them a 7 because of all of the issues they would have with them, but that’s just me. I gave them a 9 in my review. I think they’re the best games I’ve played since Black & White. I’m not including the remakes in that I’m just referring to the main games in the series.

        Many people also complained about Sword & Shield even though those games had all of the Pokemon. You can never make everyone happy. I’m very happy with the new games and that’s honestly all I care about. It’s all I wanted. A new Pokemon game. Not a BOTW inspired Pokemon game, because that game is honestly average at best to me, or anything else. I wanted the Pokemon game I’ve always enjoyed growing up and that’s exactly what I got.

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      4. That’s fair 🙂 I also agree with BOTW. That game changed the formula so much to the point it didn’t feel like a Zelda game to me, it was obsessed with trying to be fully open world. The dungeons and bosses ended up being forgettable, short and all looking the same. With Sword and Shield, while I had some fun playing it, in contrast to BOTW, it changed very little, while taking away or reducing content from earlier games. I didn’t want them to go open world, just expand upon the exploration and scale of the mostly linear nature of the series. Instead they shortened, simplified and reduced everything. I stick by my 5/10 score as it was pretty average and had a lot of issues, alongside quite a lot of stuff I liked, such as the new Pokemon, music and aesthetic of the region. But it was too restricted and lost that sense of a grand journey because of the incredibly short, simple routes and no dungeons. Not to mention copy pasted/lazy designs of interiors and towns that don’t make use of the more powerful hardware. Sun and Moon remain my least favourite, but Sword and Shield are tied with X and Y as just above that.

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