Pokémon Sword and Shield: development, gameplay, and review

Pokémon Sword and Shield refer to two role-playing video games (RPG) developed by Game Freak. They are the first titles for the eighth generation of the Pokémon franchise.

The Pokémon Company and Nintendo published both games for the Nintendo Switch in November 2019.

One of the most controversial aspects of Pokémon Sword and Shield is the fact they don’t include every pre-existing Pokémon from other generations. Despite the fan backlash, people had a generally favorable reaction to the games themselves.

However, in January 2020, the developers announced that more than 200 pre-existing Pokémon from earlier generations would become available via free updates.

Development

Pokémon Sword and Shield started as a mere concept back in 2016, which lasted for about a year before moving into production.

It took the coördinated efforts of more than 1000 people from different companies to handle not only development but also marketing and public relations.

Around 200 employees from Game Freak worked on the games while about 100 people from Creatures Inc. handled 3D modeling, and hundreds more got involved in debugging as well as game testing.

The producer Junichi Masuda, a veteran video game designer, confirmed that more people worked on these games than in every earlier entry in the franchise.

The inspiration for the game soundtrack was British rock music. And Toby Fox (the creator of Undertale) composed a track for these games.

Due to the sheer amount of Pokémon species in the franchise, Nintendo, Game Freak and The Pokémon Company decided not to include every existing Pokémon in favor of game balance, new features, and overall quality.

Gameplay

These games are the first ones to include several new features such as cooperative raid encounters, large open areas to explore which have free camera movement as well as dynamic weather.

Those changes in the weather have a direct influence on which Pokémon species may appear.

Pokémon Sword and Shield also include “Dynamaxing” and “Gigantamaxing” (replacing mega-evolutions and Z-moves), which makes Pokémon grow into huge intimidating beasts, enhancing abilities and sometimes changing forms.

The game introduces a new mechanic known as “Poké Jobs” which consist of tasks and side quest that reward players with experience or items.

Each version has its own share of exclusive content such as different available Pokémon, and even different gym leaders.

Review

Pokémon Sword and Shield a strong and memorable gaming experience and streamlined the process of completing the Pokédex.

Every final battle, which takes place at a stadium, feels like a huge sports event, and when you Dynamax your Pokémon and hear the crowd cheering for you, it becomes easy to feel like an actual star or an athlete.

Each gym battle feels like remarkably significant events, not just like another requirement to beat the game, which happens partly due to the awesome gym leaders who are memorable in their own unique ways.

Just like many other entries in this franchise, Pokémon Sword and Shield features some rivals.

Other games had rivals that were merely nice people giving the players tutorials, but in this title, the rivals are actually interesting characters, each with a lot of personalities and surprisingly some depth to them.

The battle tower gets a lot more simple here than the versions from earlier games. Every time you win a couple of matches, you go up in ranks. And each new rank gives players several items and points.

Pokémon Sword and Shield also optimized the process of catching and managing every Pokémon you caught.

Unlike previous entries, you can get access to every Pokémon through the menu at any point of the game, pull them out and add them to your current team. This optimization makes catching Pokémon a lot easier and not tedious at all.

You can basically fly to any of the towns around you at any time early on the story, and enjoy one of the coolest Pokémon catching experiences of all times in the wild area.

You may have so much fun in the wild areas that sometimes you can forget to progress the story.

When there’s an active internet connection, you can actually see other players from around the world making their way through the wild area.

However, not everything in these games is praise-worthy, the animation didn’t have many notable improvements, a lot of models got reused from previous Pokémon entries from the 3DS, and the cities and locations felt barren.

The games also had massive amounts of technical issues, especially in the brand new wild area. Pokémon Sword and Shield seemed more like a good 3DS game than an actual Nintendo Switch title.

The story isn’t perfect; the villains’ motivations get poorly justified, and some minor characters can get annoying at times. But, the gym experience overshadows all the bad stuff from the plot.

Overall, Pokémon Sword and Shield provides a fun, memorable, and somewhat addictive gaming experience, and we highly recommend it.