Top 10 Things Pokemon Sword and Shield Did Right

Friday, 29th May 2020

Disclaimer: I invented Pokemon. Using Microsoft Paint, which I also invented, I created ALL of the graphics and logos here, including, somehow, any from the game itself. All copyrights are MINE.

Maaaany years ago Pokemon happened. Everyone was talking about it. At first, for an extremely brief time I decided that this was just a strange phase that everyone was into. To some degree I was right. Many years later and none of those people are playing Pokemon now. Traitors, the lot of them!

Anyway, back then, during a dramatic, raging thunderstorm (well, not really, but I think it makes the story more interesting) a friend bought Pokemon Red over. I played it and became instantly addicted. I still clearly remember picking Charmander and then catching a Rattata in the grass at Route 1. For some reason I was more interested in the Rattata than the Charmander. My friend told me it was a weak Pokemon, but I loved the idea I could take this Rattata and train it until it was much more powerful. Of course, my friend was right. Raticate is useless competitively. But back then before competitive Pokemon was a thing I didn't care. I proceeded to buy Pokemon Blue, start my very own save, and my Rattata/Raticate was my most important ally and pal during the adventure.

Aaaanyway, I've rambled on. So to save time, I'll skip the next couple of decades. Or this is gonna be one long post. We're now on the eighth generation of Pokemon games, with Pokemon Sword and Shield.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield have sold an absolute ton, of course. But of all the Pokemon releases to date, I'd say these ones have been the most controversial *cough* #bringbackallpokemon *cough*. I have my own criticisms, as I do with any game. But I've still enjoyed them a heck of a lot and no one can deny they're pretty darn solid Pokemon games. For that reason I decided to make this blog post. A top 10 of things I think Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield did right. Why? Because positivity! Spreading happiness! Cute bunnies!

1. Pokemon are More Customizable

Pokemon Sword and Shield have gone further than any Pokemon game yet to make it easier to customise your Pokemon's stats and moves.

You can max out your IVs with Bottle Caps. EVs are easy to manipulate with Berries, Vitamins or EV training. You can change Abilities with Capsules. Finally, FINALLY you can (effectively) change your Pokemon's Nature using the new Mints. Your Pokemon can relearn any move it's forgotten, including ones from its previous evolutions. Your existing Pokemon can even learn egg moves.

Even if you're not into competitive play, that's pretty darn great. You can completely customise, and re-customise the existing Pokemon you've grown attached to, rather than having to train up a new one from scratch.

Once I finished Pokemon Sword, I took full advantage of all this. And now for the first time in a Pokemon game, the same team I used for completing the story is now completely trained the way I want them.

2. No HMs

Okay, this was introduced in Gen 7 but still.

In older games you had anything up to eight HMs to teach your team. A couple of the HM moves weren't too bad I guess. Surf is an accurate and powerful Water type move. But other than that pretty much all of the HMs were a waste of a move slot. I mean Cut, what the heck?! And since Pokemon only learn four moves and you only have six Pokemon on your team, that would mean that potentially 33% of your team's moves might be junk! Or at least, could be better.

In Sword and Shield, there are no HMs or field moves. The "Flying Taxi" replaces Fly. And the game's bike replaces Surf. The others are simply not an issue at all. Your entire team's movesets are completely up to you, and can be geared up just for battles. Excellent!

Some people say that not having HMs means you're not bonding with your Pokemon as much, because they're not helping you in the overworld. Well, as Garfield would say, people like that deserve to be dragged out into the street and shot.

3. It's... ALIVE

One thing I love about the Galar region is that it's truly alive with Pokemon. Pokemon appearing in the overworld just makes it feel that bit more real.

When I first got the game, occasionally a Pokemon would run at me unexpectedly and trigger a wild battle. It can really catch you off guard, but it's fun!

There are Pokemon in the towns, Pokemon on the routes, Pokemon in the new Wild Area. There's a lot of Pokemon. They all have nice animations and react when you talk to them.

4. The Wild Area

Okay, I do have some negative thoughts about the Wild Area. It's essentially two simple, fairly flat fields separated by a bridge. The last game I played before Pokemon Sword and Shield, was Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And the Wild Area doesn't hold a candle to Hyrule.

Okay, so why is the Wild Area in this list?

Well, when it comes down to it, the Wild Area is really enjoyable!

It's great for just casually roaming around, collecting items and berries.

Max Raids are actually really good fun in themselves. And even more so when teaming up with others to defeat a Max Raid Pokemon. I'll often just spend an hour or two doing a sweep of the Wild Area to stock up on TMs and Exp Candies.

Nintendo also regularly do events where rare or otherwise unobtainable Pokemon spawn in the Max Raid dens. Whenever this happens I'll be back on the game again trying to obtain a few for myself.

So basically, the Wild Area offers a lot of replay value, and gives you a reason to return to the game even after you've finished it.

5. Pokemon

The starters are some of the best yet. At the beginning when you and your in-game rival each choose a starter, there's a moment where the remaining one sort of just stands there looking lonely and rejected. I felt pretty sorry for it at that moment. xD Luckily, the Pokemon is taken by another trainer. Shame mean old Professor Oak just left the spare starter on his desk for all eternity. Why would he do that? Why?

In their final evolutions the starters look tough without looking like freakish mutants or something. So yeah the starters are a good bunch. I'm very grateful to a friend who had the time for us both to help each other get all three starters for our playthroughs!

Some other Pokemon that stand out for having good designs I think are Corviknight, Wooloo, Boltund, Poltageist (must nickname "Tetley"), all of Galarian Zigzagoon's line and Galarian Ponyta/Rapidash.

6. The Galar Region

Now, one of my criticisms of the Galar Region is that aside from a few slightly hidden offshoots, the region is lacking in exploration compared to previous Pokemon games. I stick by that, but at the same time I did in the end very much enjoy the journey.

It's a very pleasant land to travel through, and let's be honest, considering that it's based on the miserable old United Kingdom that's a pretty impressive feat... JOKE! (Or was it a joke..?)

There's plenty of variation in the Galar region as well. You start at your home town, a typically sleepy village. Throughout the adventure you visit modern cities, desert-like areas, a neon-coloured forest, a nice snowy town, caves full of gems, and a sort of slightly futuristic looking city. And all of it looks great. Sure, it's not as detailed as Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or the latest Battlefield game or something, but it's still very nice, and has a certain style.

The Gyms in the games are now giant stadiums, resembling (British) football stadiums. Football isn't my thing, but the way it's used here is clever. When you're battling the Gym Leaders, the crowd chants as part of the music and it just really gives the entire battle a much more exciting atmosphere than past games.

The crowd chanting seems to actually react to the battle, for example it gets more intense if your or the Gym Leader Dynamax your Pokemon.

7. Battles

In some Pokemon games, such as Diamond and Pearl, battles can take a long time. The move animations take too long and, even if you turn them off there's still a strange delay, and the HP bar crawls down at a really slow pace. So a battle that could take 30 seconds ends up taking a few minutes. When you're doing a lot of battles as you tend to in Pokemon games, this adds up.

In Pokemon Sword and Shield, I actually left the animations on for the entirety of the story. Which is something I haven't done in a Pokemon game in a long time. The animations could still be made faster. And sometimes the animations are a little lacking or don't fit the move. But, for the most part battles are fun to watch, are fast paced, and the animations really add to the intensity.

8. Music

I'd literally been counting the days down in waiting for these games and, when I first booted up Pokemon Sword and heard the music in the intro video it really gave me that "YEEEES, let's DO THIS!" feeling. I totally didn't stand up in my living room and shout it out loud.

And it's not just the intro music, it's consistently good throughout the entire game.

From the cheery music on Route 1 so the crowd chanting music in Gym Battles it's all just really darn good.

9. Choose Your Difficulty

People say that Pokemon Sword and Shield are too easy but, I disagree. I think what Pokemon Sword and Shield offer is that it's very easy to level up. If you spend a couple of hours in the Wild Area, you'll receive Rare Candies and Exp Candies which you can use to very quickly level up your team and easily complete the next few hours of the story.

Now, of course. just like in any RPG, if you are over-levelled you will be able to easily defeat all your opponents.

On my first playthrough (Sword), I caught every new Pokemon on my path and regularly cleared all the Max Raid Dens in the Wild Area for Exp Candies, and used them. My team ended up being over levelled, and the playthrough was easy.

But, I found on my second playthrough (Shield), I was rushing, so I didn't catch every Pokemon and barely touched the Wild Area. In this playthrough, the game was much more challenging. The opponents, especially important characters, actually do have decent movesets and strategies. You just don't notice them when you're one-hit-KO-ing them with an over-levelled team.

So, if you want a more difficult playthrough, just avoid the Exp Candies and save catching Pokemon (which also earns Exp) until the end. You'll be forced to think of strategies rather than just relying on being overpowered.

If you want an easy playthrough, catch every Pokemon you haven't registered in the dex yet, and sweep the Wild Area once in a while.

So, that's why this is on the list. Sword and Shield give you the choice on how difficult you want the game to be.

10. Dynamax

In some battles, there is Dynamax energy around. When this is the case, you can Dynamax one of your Pokemon. Which means, turn it into a giant-sized version of itself. When it's in this state, it has more HP, and its moves turn into Max moves or G-Max moves, which are usually more powerful than normal moves, and often deal out status affects, boost/reduce stats of change the weather.

I was a little sceptical about Dynamaxing before I played the games. I was worried it would be too gimmicky, and that every battle would just turn into a Dynamax war. But I've found this isn't the case.

Not only is it pretty sweet seeing a gigantic Pokemon. xD But it actually does add something to battles. Dynamaxing effectively turns your moves into different moves. In online battles, you might surprise an opponent with the decision to Dynamax. And choosing when to do it can turn the battle either way. You might Dynamax right at the start, aiming to get some early KOs, or hold it off as long as possible until after your opponent has used theirs and finish the battle with it. Or something in between.

There's also of course Gigantamaxing, which is a form of Dynamaxing where in addition to turning giant, the Pokemon also changes form and might be able to use a unique move. Meowth's Gigantamax form for example learns G-Max Gold Rush, which is like a super duper version of Pay Day.

Dynamaxing is also part of the game's story to some degree, and it's interesting seeing how that unfolds.

And finally, while Dynamaxing exists, it's not in every single battle in the game. In fact, most battles don't feature it, so you are still mostly enjoying traditional Pokemon battles. I think they got the balance right here.

11. Hopefully The DLC

What? An 11th thing? Well the DLC isn't out yet, so I'm not counting it.

Anyway, In previous Pokemon games they've gone with third versions or second pairs of games. With Pokemon Sword and Shield, they've decided to go down the DLC route. As you probably already know, in June (next month!) we're getting an expansion called The Isle of Armor, and in the Autumn we're getting another one, the Crown Tundra.

The nice thing about this... is that for a while at least, we're not completely starting over. It's a continuation of the existing adventure rather than a fresh start.

We already know these expansions are adding more Pokemon, new and old to the games, so that's a good thing, even if it means I haven't completed the Pokedex after all. xD

With these expansions there's a chance to take our existing team and continue the story, see where all the characters go next and learn more about the Galar region and its lore.

We'll hopefully be seeing some new challenges. We already know about the Dojo thing so that's a good sign. And on the multiplayer front adding all these Pokemon will mix up the metagame a fair bit.

So yeah that's that. I hope someone out there enjoyed this post, even if it was just just a load of old garbage. :D