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Let me just say, I really, really wanted this game to be good. And why wouldn't it? Imagine getting to explore a huge, open world, getting to explore in any way you want like Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. What I got was something almost exactly like the 3DS titles, but with even less content despite being on a far more powerful system! It cut half the Pokemon despite the previous games getting all 700-ish of them in without any problems (completely going against the franchise's motto of "Gotta catch them all!" in the process) and looking and playing exactly like a 3DS game ported over to Switch, which is a crying disappointment considering Mario and Zelda both had really great main series games that took advantage of their new hardware to provide new experiences. On top of that, there's even less post-game than in previous games, and the dynamax system is no substitute for Mega Evolution or any of the other mechanics GF keeps removing to sell later. Oh yeah, bring back Pokemon the other games already had from the start as DLC. Nice.
I genuinely can't believe people still pay actual money for games that give less and less content every year when other games (like Mario and Zelda) actually innovate and deserve their sales. People need to stop supporting these awful practices, or GF won't bother putting in the effort: GF's gotten complacent when people won't give them actual criticism, and they know they'll just keep buying no matter how low-effort the games get. Absolutely disgraceful display from a big name company. For shame, Game Freak.
The games are abominations, that hold none of the soul, heart, or quality of the 3DS games - let alone the DS games.
Firstly, over 400 of the 807 Pokémon available in Ultra Sun/Moon are completely missing. It's not like Ruby/Sapphire, where the unavailable Pokémon are still programmed in and can be traded (or hacked) in; they are utterly gone. The DLC will bring back most of these, but unfortunately not ALL of them. This is despicable, considering EVERY previous game allowed the player to collect 'em all. It also suggests this stupid cut will be a mainstay for future games - a horrible omen.
Secondly, over 70 moves are missing, too. This includes fan-favourites like Return (meaning physical Normal-types now lack a reliable and powerful STAB move) and Hidden Power (thus reducing coverage options for almost every specially-oriented 'mon), along with other moves that were nice to have (such as Signal Beam, which many non-Bug 'mons could learn).
Thirdly, the inability to turn off the shared-EXP system (like one could in the 3DS games) makes overlevelling practically an inevitability, reducing challenge. This lack of difficulty is further enhanced by the abundance of free heals.
Fourthly, there's very little exploration one can do, unlike previous games. It's an extremely linear game, with very few dungeons and practically no optional areas. Most buildings in these games cannot be entered, unlike previous games.
Fifthly, there's far too many nerfs. This has been a problem since XY, honestly, with the nerf to Steel and special moves, but Sword/Shield mark the first time a Pokęcute;mon's base stats have been lowered (Aegislash). That's just unforgivable. Not to mention the nerf to Terrain, all but ruining their viability. None of the nerfs from previous games have been fixed either, resulting in a highly disappointing experience.
The models and animations are incredibly repetitive, lifeless, and static. The constant comparisons to Stadium (64) and Battle Revolution (Wii) are done for a reason - those games give each species personality, charm, and actual attacking animations that's not just "swivel model from side to side" or "move model up and down". Instead, in these old games, the attacker is shown actually kicking, actually punching, and so on. Granted, it was never perfect (any move that involved tails or heads often reused the punch or kick animation), but still leaps and bounds ahead of Sword/Shield. Indeed, the models and animations are practically identical to the 3DS assets. Limited animation was more acceptable on the weak handhelds, but on the big screen? HELL NO.
Then there's the environment - the trees are practically ripped straight from the original Ocarina of Time. Everything just looks ugly, with nothing living up to other Switch beauties, like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Super Mario Odyssey.
Lastly, T Rs being one-use items. Did we really need to go back to this? Everyone rejoiced when T Ms became infinite-use in Black/White, because it meant no more needing to grind for repeatable T Ms, or having to keep restarting a separate game to trade over one-time T Ms (like those gotten from Gym Leaders, or those found in the field). So why go back to one-use items? Ugh.
Just don't buy these abominations. I sincerely hope future games aren't tainted by Sword/Shield's ever-present and inherent flaws.
Sword and Shield is one game I almost didn't get because of the controversy surrounding it- and I can say with certainty if I bought into the controversies, I would've regretted it. This is one of the best Switch games out there, and anyone who says otherwise based on those controversies is a philistine. Do not read further if you wish to avoid spoilers.
Gameplay - 9/10
The game is geared toward the competitive end of the spectrum, and that can be off putting for more casual fans, but that doesn't mean it's impossible for them to enjoy it either. Max Raids make the game really easy, but that doesn't make it bad in any regard, because those never really become a free win unless you're incredibly over-leveled. Admittedly, that is possible, but not a dealbreaker. The Dex limit forces you to get creative, like in Colosseum and Gale of Darkness.
Graphics - 8.5/10
While the anime art style might not be everyone's cup of tea, the models are detailed enough they have individually done fingers, and most if not every place has at least one photogenic location I can name.
Audio - GOAT/10
Impeccable. I'd buy the game for the soundtrack alone. Absolutely sublime. I cannot find a single thing to fault.
Plot - 9.5/10
This is the first time a Champion's ever really gotten involved with the villain without already being a member from the start, and the first time the antagonist has remained likable consistently throughout. Rose clearly believes he's doing the right thing, and the most morally dark character is Oleana- and even then, she begs you to help the object of her Yandere affections. The characters are all much deeper than the prior entry, and it works well.
Final rating: 97%. Hidden abilities could be made to be obtained a bit easier, but other than that, this is my personal favorite main entry thus far. Don't pass this up.
With all the controversies surrounding the Dexit... and with it being Pokémon, Sword and Shield are the ideal games to call "love it or hate it", right? The truth is, they are neither of those cases.
Ultimately, I think the game is... fine. Nothing spectacular, and certainly nothing justifying the price tag it has, but it can be enjoyed. I give it a 6.5 out of 10.
Gameplay: 7/10. Pretty good. Having wild Pokemon visible on the map is a massive sea change in terms of QOL playing these games. No more random encounters every five seconds walking through empty fields, and the way wild Pokemon can spot you in the field is pretty cool. The Dex limitations are frustrating and don't seem to have much thought behind them. Going through a cursory look of the 400 they included, it definitely gives me the impression that the game was rushed out and they simply ran out of time. Pretty much every aspect of this game is diminished by having only have as many Pokemon in it as exist in total. The Pokedex feels uncomfortably finite, team building feels mediocre, and the replay value of the game suffers because the main plot is both very short and very easy. Dynamaxing is also just plain boring, and the focus on it as a gimmick becomes tiresome. The Max Raids are a neat idea, and something like it should stay.
Story: 5/10. I was pretty baffled by it, to be honest, and spent every minute trying to catch hold of what was going on. And the emphasis on a Pokemon tournament and superstar trainers a la the anime feels overblown and obnoxious.
Graphics: 9/10. This game is beautiful, and makes the jump to 3D for Pokemon ably.
It's not a bad game, and there are good ideas here for the series to work on going forward, but this was also not the strongest effort put out by Game Freak.
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