At the time of writing, Pokémon Sword and Shield have only been out for a few days. Here are my first impressions from my experience so far! Look out for my full review coming soon!
For me, new Pokémon are always by far the best and most exciting part of every new game, and Sword and Shield do NOT disappoint.
It feels like every single area gives me at least two new Pokémon that just HAVE to be on my team; my only complaint is that there’s not enough room for them all! As well as completely new Pokémon, the Galarian forms, as well as Galarian Evolutions for older Pokémon (such as Sirfetch’d and Obstagoon), are all incredible, and it’s great seeing older Pokémon get extra love by getting a new lease of life with their new-found power.
Something that’s really worked in favour of how exciting all these new guys are is the advertisement, or rather lack of, before the game came out. Sun and Moon infamously revealed pretty much every single new Pokémon before release, leaving little to be excited for. Sword and Shield have done the exact opposite, and each route is full of surprises.
I very much recommend going in as blind as you can, because I’ve not had this much fun in a Pokémon game for a long time. For that reason, I don’t want to give any specifics away while writing this, which is really difficult, but there are so many cute and clever designs, you’ll smile every time you encounter a new one.
So far, this game is gorgeous, and the UK-inspired flare really shines through in the design of the region. The starting town is particularly beautiful, decorated with brightly coloured flowers and farmers’ fields (full of Wooloo rolling around).
The Wild Area, a huge open-world space in the centre of the map, is equally very pretty, full of vastly different environments, such as an arid desert, lake areas, and of course, a grim, dreary, rainy one. They really nailed that last one.
I’ve admittedly not got far enough yet to have experienced the real meat of the main story, so a lot of character development is still yet to happen and I can’t comment on that yet.
Hop, your main rival, so far fits the mould of many recent rivals, being a lot more friendly and happy than the old-school edgy ones like Gary and Silver. He’s particularly reminiscent of Hau from Sun and Moon, which isn’t the best since they were the most recent games (and in my opinion, Hau did it better).
The dialogue across all NPCs in the game is absolutely hilarious; they really went all out on incorporating UK dialect, which just looks really funny in a Pokémon game. Sidenote, but it’s also incredibly amusing looking online at people’s reactions who don’t live in the UK, thinking some of the writing is either mis-translated or riddled with typos. Really makes you realise how ridiculous some of our dialect is, but god I love it.
I briefly touched on the Wild Area earlier, but it’s basically a huge expanse full of Pokémon, including incredibly powerful ones. To stop people exploiting this, the game doesn’t let you catch Pokémon above a set level, which increases the more gym badges you get. However, you can fight them for huge EXP, which is still a little over-powered, but it’s your choice whether you want to do that or not. It’s so cool roaming through an area and seeing a really powerful, fully evolved Pokémon like Dusknoir just floating around, and thinking ‘I’ll be back for you someday’. You could argue that having rare Pokémon like that there reduces their value somewhat, but hey, it’s just so cool.
In the Wild Area, there’s also Max-Raid Battles, where you play with three other people (or CPUs) to take down a Dynamaxed Pokémon. Dynamaxing is the new gimmick in Sword and Shield, which is basically making a Pokémon really massive, and consequently more powerful. It’s a simple concept, but the raid battles are really fun (and actually quite challenging at times), and honestly I just love seeing a really small, cute Pokémon become absolutely colossal. I’m easily amused.
Online and local communication battles and trades are dealt with by the Y-COMM. The Global Trade System is gone, which is definitely an inconvenience when it comes to filling out your Pokédex, as you’ll no longer be able to search for the Pokémon you want.
The Y-COMM sends out ‘stamps,’ which appear on the left side of the screen when your friends and nearby players catch a Pokémon, evolve something, want to battle, and so on. There is, unfortunately, no way to turn off these stamps appearing, which can get very annoying, and can also spoil Pokémon you’ve not seen before if someone is further ahead in the game than you. There really needs to be an option to disable this.
The cutest addition has to be Pokémon Camp, where you can set up a tent, play with your Pokémon, and cook curries. It really helps deepen your attachment to your little guys when you play fetch with them (especially with the really slow ones that take minutes to get across the screen, but bless them they’re trying). The curry cooking mini-game is also fun, although simple. It reminds me a lot of the Poffin making mini-game in Diamond and Pearl, and that’s always a bonus in my books. I just wish we could still pet our Pokémon, especially now with Joy-Con compatibility!