Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review

Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review

Always striving to be the very best.

  • System: Nintendo Switch
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Game Freak / Nintendo
  • Release Date: November 15, 2019

Who it Caters to

Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review
If there’s one franchise that continues to be inventive in its ways, while still having the power to retain an incredibly large demographic of devoted fans, it’s Pokémon. In spite of the most recent controversies surrounding Pokémon Sword and Shield lacking a strong National Dex prior to its release, all of the naysayers were silenced once both games dropped and people truly had a chance to experience the game in its entirety. Pokémon Shield is the version we chose and much like the beloved classics Red and Blue, each version comes with their own respective legendary and exclusive Pokémon to discover. Whether it’s traversing around the vast and beautiful Wild Area in search for new Pokémon, or teaming up with people around the world to take part in Max Raids, Pokemon Sword and Shield are hands down the most refined Pokémon titles to date.

What to Expect

Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review
In the 40+ hours we invested into the game, much of that time was spent merely catching new and familiar Pokémon, trying our hardest to fill up our Dex as much as possible. With 400 Pokémon to discover within the game that’s not a small number to ignore, and considering past iterations had slightly less, Pokémon Shield has a lot to offer to both new and beloved fans. Sure, the game does without a lot of the prominent features that you’d find in previous titles, but where it lacks it makes up for that with its Dynamax feature, a feature that many had mixed feelings about.

It’s fun to make assumptions about a feature prior to release but it’s very clear that the Dynamax and Max Raids are a truly exciting addition to the series, creating an enormous amount of added depth when it comes to battle strategies. This is the first ever Pokémon experience where players can finally traverse around a vast and beautiful open world, where you truly feel like the Pokémon are alive and you’re a part of their thriving ecosystem. With your Rotom Bike it’s easy to travel anywhere in the wild, whether it be on land or on water, and the more energy you collect along the way, the faster you can travel with the turbo boost.

These are just a few things to expect within Pokémon Sword and Shield but they make up a big chunk of the gameplay, especially after completing the story and moving into post game content.


Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review
As with most Pokémon titles you have the main character alongside a rival, who travels with you in order to become the best Pokémon trainer. Hop is your newest rival, a young and passionate boy who wants nothing more than to get a taste of the championship, in order to be just like his brother Leon. Along the journey the two of you come to learn more about the mysteries behind Dynamaxing and understand the history behind this mysterious new power within the Pokémon world.


Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review
Pokémon Sword and Shield takes place in the brand new region of Galar, a UK inspired location that’s nothing short of amazing. The moment you’re thrown into the vast open world it’s very clear that Game Freak did their homework to ensure that the game not only felt immersive, but felt authentic in every way possible. The Wild Area is hands down the best addition to the series because of how much freedom it allows you to have, and the abundant number of Pokémon you can discover along the way.

Every location that you visit throughout the game is vastly different than the one you visited prior, with each location representing a specific element pertaining to the gym and its leader. One moment you’re traveling through a rough and unforgiving terrain known as Stow-on-Side then suddenly find yourself in this dream-like fairy area known as Ballonlea, both of which are very distinct in design. Even going so far as to adding dragon scales to replicate a sidewalk in Hammerlocke is something a lot of people will overlook, but to us it only shows the amount of consideration and care the team at Game Freak invested towards visual impact. It’s all in the small little details that really help this game shine in a lot of ways, in spite of its shortcomings that we’ll dive into later. Being able to visit your local hair salon to change your hairstyle or simply walking into a designer store to grab the latest threads is something truly amazing, since it encourages players to personalize their character and create a unique experience while playing. This becomes even more apparent once you start running around the Wild Areas only to encounter other players, all of whom stand out from each other, which gives the game more life.

Pokemon Sword and Shield add an element of realism to the experience that makes it feel that you’re not just a part of this illustrious Pokémon world, you coexist with it.

Sound / Music

Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review
Perhaps the most defining feature outside of the visuals and gameplay is the audio. Pokémon Sword and Shield does a spectacular job of combining modern and classic aesthetics into its musical score in order to capture the true essence of the Galar region. One primary example is Hammerlocke, one of the main hubs that you travel to in the game, and as you wander around the location you can hear the music that reflects that of royalty and prestige. Then once you move to snowy location like Circhester, the music you hear is a stark contrast but a very soothing one at that. With its smooth and enchanting tone it really gives off the feeling that you’re in an entirely new world, but deep down you know it’s still a part of Galar.

This even trickles down into the actual gym battles themselves, as each respective gym leaders’ theme music reflects that of their style and appeal. Hop, Sonia, Bede, and Marnie, all have their own respective theme song as you encounter them and that in itself creates a very refreshing audio experience. We could have this entire game soundtrack just playing in the background as we work and love every minute of it, because that’s just how polished it is. Also, shoutouts to Piers for being such a badass looking character. We only wish there was some voicing behind the game because a lot of the cutscenes would’ve truly captured more of our attention had there been some vocal leverage behind it. Be that as it may, the overall audio for Pokemon Sword and Shield are brilliant and really speak volumes when it comes to Game Freak and their design choices.


Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review
Prior to the release of both titles, words were circulating around the social media realm that the game would fail, mostly due to changes made to gameplay. Fast forward to now and the haters have been silenced because the gameplay as a whole is truly riveting and impactful. Sure, the game does suffer tremendously regarding frame rate in the Wild Area and ok, we don’t have every Pokémon in the National Dex to feel benevolent about. However, where the game lacks it makes up for it big time in just the sheer amount of versatility you have in terms of catching brand new gen Pokémon, traveling, breeding, shiny hunting, and experimentation regarding Dynamaxing/G-Maxing (short for Gigantamaxing).

After you’ve completed the story, which shouldn’t take you longer than 10-15 or so hours, the post game content is all there for you to take advantage of. Whether you simply want to grind it out and find your favorite shiny Pokémon (you can of course do this anytime but post game is rewarding!), take part in Max Raid Battles with people around the world, or simply test out potential competitive team building through Link Battles, Pokemon Sword and Shield provide so much abundance that you’ll be playing for hours on end. Just wandering around the Wild Area on its own sapped so much time from us, because there was just so much to unravel and absorb. One could easily do a second run through of the game and still enjoy every minute of the experience because there’s just so much to soak in. Talking to the local NPCs comes with their perks as well, since many of them provide you with sometimes rare items like TMs, or other useful tools like items for your Pokemon to carry during battle. Simply just rushing through the game in order to brag about how you’ve cleared the story just doesn’t suffice because outside of that, you’re gifted with a world that is just overflowing with mystery and intrigue. Riding around to collect energy via the Energy Well is a nice relaxing endeavor, hanging out with your Pokemon via Camping, or even just wandering around to see if you can find hidden items in untapped areas is a treat in of itself.

Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review
Once you’ve collected all 400 of the Pokémon it doesn’t end there because now you’ll want to better understand how each of those Pokémon function, what their stats are, how well they do in solo vs. team battles, among other things. Just that alone can easily take you days, weeks, even months, especially if you intend to compete at a high level. There are just so many Pokemon available that at times, even for us, it became difficult to pick who we wanted on our team because all of the new generation Pokemon are so cool!

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review
If there’s one thing we take pride in, it’s that we don’t listen to rumors and only go by facts, and the facts are quite clear in Pokémon Sword and Shield. While the game can use a few improvements like perhaps adding in some voice acting to give characters more life, and fixing the abysmal frame rate you experience in the Wild, overall Pokémon Sword and Shield really capitalized on its willingness to take things to the next level for all fans to enjoy. In spite of the game feeling a bit easy at times due to how Max Raids provide so many benefits to quickly raise the level of your Pokemon, it really all boils down to how you truly want to experience the game. Some may take the slow route and others will want to breeze through it all in one attempt but one thing's for certain, there's truly something for everyone and while it may not be perfect, it's still a refreshing adventure that we’ll never forget. We await patiently as to what Game Freak will do next!
Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review

Honey's Pros:

  • Hands down the most audio-visually impactful Pokemon title to date.
  • Pokemon Sword and Shield is immersive, creating an expansive world that you can soak hundreds of hours into without much thought.
  • The Wild Area deserves its own pro. Just that area on its own is a totally jaw-dropping exprience.
  • Max Raiding is so much fun because of how many rewards you can receive through participating.

Honey's Cons:

  • The game truly looks stunning but suffers severely in the Wild Area due to so much happening on screen all at once.
  • Many would agree that leveling up your Pokemon is very easy due to the game giving you more than what you'd expect in terms of battle rewards. It's a mixed bag since it stands on the cusp of being either too much or too little. For us, we allowed ourseves the challenge and refrained from Max Raids until post game, but it still did feel a bit easy during gym battles.
  • The Y-COMM system could use a bit more refining, especially when searching for new Max Raids, Link Battles, or just about whatever it is you're on the hunt for.

Honey's Final Verdict:

Is Pokémon Sword and Shield the best Pokémon game ever made? It did make up for a lot of the shortcomings of previous titles and added in a little extra flavoring to entice players, but to say best Pokémon game ever made is a debatable one. Perhaps it’s much safer to say that for now, Pokemon Sword and Shield have surpassed its predecessors and is hands down the best Pokémon game on the market right now. Just how it will fare in the long run is something only time will reveal but until then, this is our favorite Pokémon game and we’re not going to stop playing this for a very long time.

Until next time!

Pokemon-Shield-SS-1-560x315 Pokemon Sword and Shield [Shield Version] - Nintendo Switch Review


Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.

A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!

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