Available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, the Pokemon Sword and Shield games usher in the eighth-generation Pokemon, putting the number of Pokemon and Pokemon variants in the 23-year-old franchise to more than 1,000. There are 81 new Pokemon and 13 regional variants of existing Pokemon to catch and collect in these new games.
Nintendo has always released two versions of the same game with every new generation of Pokemon. Sword and Shield are essentially the same game, apart from having different exclusive Pokemon, gyms and raid encounters. For this review, I played Sword.
Regardless of how you name and customise your character, your aim is the same. It is to explore the new Galar region, defeat the eight Pokemon Gym leaders of the land to compete in the Champion's Cup and become Galar's Pokemon Champion.
If you have played Pokemon: Let's Go Pikachu! or Eevee! on the Switch, Sword and Shield will feel very familiar. But while the gameplay is accessible for all ages, it has more depth compared with the Let's Go series.
For example, you cannot simply catch a Pokemon by hurling Pokeballs at it like in the Let's Go games. Instead, you usually need to battle it with your Pokemon until it becomes tired, before throwing a Pokeball to catch it.
You start the game by choosing your first Pokemon from the three starter Pokemon - the grass-type Grookey, the water-type Sobble and the fire-type Scorbunny.
You can carry up to six Pokemon in your active roster during your travels. These Pokemon are the ones who will be able to go into these turn-based battles.
You can switch Pokemon during battles, which is handy especially when you find an ill-matching opponent match-up - a fire-fearing Grookey against a fire Pokemon like Scorbunny, for example.
Sword and Shield introduce the Dynamax and Gigantamax features in battles. All Pokemon can Dynamax - grow in size and become much more powerful. Certain Pokemon, like Charizard, can Gigantamax, or change appearance and gain different battle skills in addition to becoming bigger and more powerful.
The use of Dynamax and Gigantamax is restricted to only three turns during battles. Thus, you need to use it strategically.
Pokemon that you catch during your travels can be stored in boxes and you can swop them with your active Pokemon. However, only the six Pokemon in your current party are able to gain experience and level up.
To ensure your Pokemon in those boxes also gain experience, you use a new feature called Poke Jobs, in which you send your Pokemon to fulfil certain jobs. Besides gaining experience, doing so will also earn you in-game currency and items.
The Galar region, which is inspired by Great Britain, is an open area that you can slowly explore. This is great, as you can marvel at the beautiful lush countryside with different weather conditions and the magnificent architecture, some of which resemble iconic British buildings like the London Eye and Big Ben.
Although it is an open area, there are regions you cannot enter without completing some prior quests. Thus, your path is pretty much linear, as you have to follow a certain sequence to fight the eight Gym leaders. Only after you complete the game, you can go back to the wild to explore and catch more powerful Pokemon.
Not to mention, you can set up camp in the wild. In this camp, you can play and cook meals for your Pokemon and bond with them. Also, there are random Max Raids that you can participate in to capture a Dynamax or a Gigantamax Pokemon. There is a lot to do, making the game addictive and entertaining.
Perhaps, the only downer about Sword and Shield is the reduced number of Pokemon you can catch. There are only 400 Pokemon from the 1,000-odd existing Pokemon you can collect.
For example, Squirtle and Bulbasuar, two much-loved starter Pokemon of the first generation, are currently unavailable. But they might be appearing in the future, according to the rumour mill. I can only hope.
• Accessible gameplay for all ages
•Innovative Dynamax and Gigantamax features add new battle options
• New Galar region is a great place to explore
• Highly entertaining and addictive
• Not all Pokemon are available
Price: $76.90 (Nintendo Switch only)