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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.
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.
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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