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7 Things We Love (And 6 Things We Hate) About Pokémon Sword and Shield

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Pokémon Sword and Shield represent the first new main series Pokémon games on a home console, and the results are mixed.

Instead of playing it safe, the series boldly introduces many new mechanics and features, such as the free roaming Wild Area, co-op Raid Battles, and Dynamax. But these new features come with some annoying growing pains. We’ve listed below everything we love – and hate, about Pokémon Sword and Shield.

LOVE The Wild Area

The wild area is the single biggest defining feature of Pokémon Sword and Shield. This area is like a mini-MMO as we’re free to wander around and get into battles with stronger Pokémon. Each area within has its own weather and native Pokémon, making it worthwhile to check back in, not to mention hunting for items and finding Max Raid Battles.

HATE Everywhere Else

As cool as the Wild Area is, it makes the other routes feel archaic in comparison. Snapping back to a fixed camera and linear paths is how Pokémon always plays, which now feels like a step backwards. We’d love future Pokémon games to fully embrace the more open-ended Wild Area regions going forward.

LOVE New Pokémon

Every generation adds new Pokémon, and Gen 8 has some of the best designs we’ve seen in awhile, like the punk-rock Electric/Poison Toxtricity, the Rock/Fire mine cart pokémon Carkol, and the epic mustachioed Fire/Bug Centiskorch.

HATE Missing Pokémon

The big controversy leading up to Gen 8’s release was the lack of a National Dex, meaning we would not be able to, you know, Catch ‘Em All. While 400 Pokémon in Pokémon Sword and Shield are plenty to enjoy the game, it’s a major bummer that another 400+ were left on the cutting room floor. Hopefully they’ll be added in future Switch releases.

LOVE Swapping Pokémon

One of the best new quality of life improvements from last year’s Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee was the ability to quickly swap Pokémon between our active party and our storage boxes anywhere in the field. It’s a much-needed feature, and we’re motivated to use many more Pokémon than ever before.

HATE Very Easy Difficulty

Pokémon games are still designed for kids and rarely present a challenge to anyone who has experience playing them. But the games have been getting steadily easier over the years. We were annoyed to see the party-wide EXP Share (added in Gen 6) built into Gen 8, and no longer an option we could turn off. That combined with getting XP when catching pokémon make it almost impossible to not become over-leveled for the majority of the campaign, where we continue to battle trainers with only one or two pokémon, and easily exploitable single-type gyms.

LOVE Max Raid Battles

A neat concept from Pokémon GO were raid battles, co-op events where multiple trainers came together to defeat super-powerful pokémon. In Gen 8, that means extra large dynamax (or unique Gigantamax) pokémon. Finding dens with limited time raid battles give a fun excuse to travel around The Wild Area, and they remain enjoyable through harrowing post-game fights. Thankfully you can play them offline as well, though NPC allies often leave a lot to be desired (Magikarp – seriously?).

HATE Online Multiplayer

The online multiplayer integration is an excellent example of a good idea that’s poorly executed. We love the idea of being able to seamlessly log on and seeing other trainers around us in the world. But the framerate suffers, trainers teleport around, and joining raid battles or trade requests is a convoluted nightmare. We’d love to see more online multiplayer features in future Pokémon games but it needs serious work.

LOVE Seeing Pokémon in the World

One of our favorite features from Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee/Pikachu was seeing Pokémon wandering around in the grass. It brings the games to life like nothing before, and we’re thrilled to see that becoming the new normal with Gen 8. Sword and Shield actually use both methods to hide rarer pokémon behind exclamation points, giving us a good reason to root around in the grass while avoiding (or seeking) wandering pokémon.

HATE Gigantamax

Gigantamax is another good idea that’s horribly executed. Certain pokémon can transform into more powerful unique forms when dynamaxing, called Gigantamax. But the horrible catch (pun intended) is that you have to find these specific pokémon from Max Raid Battles. That awesome Centiskorch that’s been with you since Route 3? Kick her to the curb if you want to get a special Gigantamax version. The best solution would have been to make it a rare item, like the Z-Max, or have it ingrained in all versions of that pokémon, like Mega Evolutions.

LOVE Sports Theme

The Galar Region is based on the United Kingdom,home to big FIFA sports fans, which translates nicely to the world of Pokémon. Instead of tiny buildings where trainers battle gym leaders in a back room, Galar Gym battles are a major sporting event, with gigantic stadiums and various mini-games leading up to a final showdown, with cheering crowds and epic dynamaxing pokémon.

HATE Team Yell

We get it – the sports theme means the antagonistic group in Sword and Shield are a bunch of soccer hooligans. Upset sports fans are a far cry from organized crime syndicates who want to control the world through severe climate change, or an underground resistance who want to free pokémon from their trainers, as in previous Pokémon games.

LOVE Poké Jobs

Thanks to the new Poké Jobs system, all those pokémon languishing in our storage boxes can be put to good to use. By visiting any Pokémon Center, we can see a list of jobs that require certain types of pokémon. Sending pokémon off for hours or even a full day lets them earn a significant amount of experience and generate items and money, while we enjoy catching more pokémon to feed our burgeoning business empire. Whatcha need done? I gotta pokémon for that.

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Explore the Galar Region in Pokémon Sword and Shield, Out Now

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It’s a historic day for the long-running and incredibly prolific Pokémon series. Pokémon Sword and Shield are out today on Nintendo Switch, the first main series Pokémon game ever released on a home console – though, of course, the Switch is also a handheld.

Like previous generations, Pokémon Sword and Shield present an entirely new region filled with Pokémon. The Galar Region is modeled after the United Kingdom, featuring locations and themes inspired by the sports-loving country.

Trainers can choose between three starter Pokémon: Grookey, Scorbunny, and Sobble, and embark on a journey to become the very best, like no one ever was.

In addition to the standard Pokémon catching and turn-based battling, Sword and Shield add a host of new features and gameplay elements, and of course, lots of new Pokémon. Trainers can grow their Pokémon to extreme size and power via Dynamax, while select Pokémon will transform into more powerful forms called Gigantamax.

The Wild Area stretches for the length of the Galar Region, and features free-roaming Pokémon a la Pokémon Let’s Go, as well as online co-op Max Raid Battles against super-charged Dynamax Pokémon. Other welcome features include auto-saving, swapping out Pokémon in the wild, and being able to nickname traded Pokémon. Hardcore competitive trainers should be pleased to learn that Pokémon stats and Nature can be changed by feeding Mints and supplements.

Pokémon Sword and Shield are available separately for $59.99 in physical stores and digitally on the Nintendo eShop, as well as a dual-pack that includes both games. Purchasing the double pack also includes a special offer of two codes, one per game, that allows you to face off against Dynamax Larvitar and Dynamax Jangmo-o in Max Raid Battles.

Pokémon Sword and Shield are rated E for Everyone.

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Pokémon Producer Releases Statement on National Dex Controversy

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Longtime Pokémon director and producer Junichi Masuda has released a statement addressing the controversy surrounding the lack of a National Pokédex.

It was an easy to miss detail since it wasn’t exactly a promotional bullet point. But during E3 last month, Masuda confirmed that upcoming Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield would not support the full 800+ Pokémon National Dex, the first for a mainline Pokémon game.

Longtime Pokémon fans who have been importing their favorites for years were understandably disappointed. The furor has lasted for weeks since E3, prompting Masuda to release an official statement:

Thank you to all of our fans for caring so deeply about Pokémon. Recently, I shared the news that some Pokémon cannot be transferred to Pokémon Swordand Pokémon Shield. I’ve read all your comments and appreciate your love and passion for Pokémon.

Just like all of you, we are passionate about Pokémon and each and every one of them is very important to us. After so many years of developing the Pokémon video games, this was a very difficult decision for me. I’d like to make one thing clear: even if a specific Pokémon is not available in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, that does not mean it will not appear in future games.

The world of Pokémon continues to evolve. The Galar region offers new Pokémon to encounter, Trainers to battle, and adventures to embark on. We are pouring our hearts into these games, and we hope you will look forward to joining us on this new journey.

While the news is disappointing, the actual Galar Pokédex has not yet been announced. Currently we don’t know how many Pokémon will be included in Sword and Shield. Sword and Shield are also the first main new Pokémon games to appear on the Switch, outside of the traditional handheld consoles. We expect to see expanded and updated animations and models, and look forward to more Pokémon getting the same treatment in future Switch Pokémon games.

Pokémon Sword and Shield is out November 15 on Switch.