‘Pokémon Sword and Shield’ a good time but not worth the price tag

Game Freak’s latest installment in the mainline Pokémon franchise makes its debut on a console for the Nintendo Switch. Drawing inspiration from the United Kingdom, the ‘Galar’ region is a gorgeous new environment to explore.

The ‘Pokémon: Let’s Go’ influence is apparent as Pokémon can be seen in the overworld. The scope of the Galar region is deceptively massive. The world feels so lived in, and it’s the best the franchise has ever looked.

Yet, despite the massive feel of the world, it is empty. Camera angles are zoomed out as much as they can and try to make you forget you’re walking a linear path the entire game. There is an apparent lack of things to do outside of the main story and catching Pokémon.

Even the 86 new Pokémon, while they look great, feels a little light for a marque console Pokémon game.

Making curry and playing with your Pokémon in camps is fun but lacks any real purpose aside from being a small distraction with no real depth to it. All that happens is your Pokémon get a little more experience and a bit more friendship, that’s it. There are dozens of recipes that do that same thing of next to nothing.

The next prominent feature that Game Freak tried to promote heavily is ‘Dynamaxing.’ It is a feature when Pokemon grow exponentially for three turns. They get status increases and are much more powerful, and it adds a certain level of strategy to battles. It is only available in ‘Gym’ battles and certain other areas.

‘Gigantamaxing’ is another form of ‘Dynamaxing’ that only certain Pokémon have access too; however, it’s nothing more than an aesthetic feature. You can access this by getting candies and giving them to your Pokémon from doing, ‘Raid Battles’ in the ‘Wild Area.’ The ‘Wild Area’ is a hub where you can see other players and join in to do ‘Raid Battles’ together.

All these features sound like a lot, but after a while, they get very repetitive. The lack of actual content would have been fine if it was still a handheld game worth $40, but it is a full-priced game for a console at $60.

They cut the roster of over 900 Pokémon to a mere 400, to make the models of the Pokémon look “better.” They do look better, but the rest of the game does not make up for the cut content.

The Pokémon battle animations look no better than they did since the first 3D game came out for the Nintendo 64 in 1998. That’s not good. It begs the question, what was all that time spent on?

Rating: 3/5 stars

Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @rtovarg13 on Twitter.