Released just a few days ago, Pokémon Sword and Shield were eagerly awaited by fans, despite the leaks and numerous criticisms related to their content. We tested the new Game Freak title in its Shield version and we weren’t (finally) disappointed.
The release of a new Pokémon opus often sounds like a must for the millions of fans of the license. Even though we have known for years that the saga is struggling to renew itself, both in form and substance, we have been looking forward to the event for years. This year again, Sword and Shield, the two new opus of the licence, did not depart from the rule. After a return to Kanto in the last opus Let’s Go Pikachu and Evoli, it is in Galar, in a new region largely inspired by the city of London, that our character begins his adventure, accompanied by his friend and rival Nabil. A race through the Terres Sauvages that will bring us to fight the different champions of Galar, but also to complete the very serious and tasty Currydex.
Not surprisingly, this new Pokémon Sword and Shield adventure doesn’t focus on originality. After the choice of a first companion among the three starters (not very charismatic, let’s admit it) of type Water, Plant and Fire proposed, the adventure begins and offers us the everlasting combo farming / fighting in arenas. No drastic changes to the date, but at the same time it’s this sweet habit that tends to make Pokémon episodes taste good. Nothing has really changed since the first games for Game Boy in 1996, yet we still enjoy (re)discovering the license, generation after generation.
Graphically, Sword and Shield had been heavily criticized even before their release. Some users were blamed by the #GameFreaklied hashtag on social networks for the development studio’s use of old 3D models of Pokémon from previous generations to animate the new episodes. Allegations refuted by Game Freak, and on which we won’t dwell, preferring to rely on our personal feelings: despite obvious similarities with Pokémon Let’s Go, the graphic evolution proposed by Sword and Shield remains visible, and above all appreciable. The character animation is certainly not memorable, even far from the possibilities now offered by the Nintendo Switch with the beautiful Luigi’s Mansion 3, but it’s still very correct (especially compared to the ultra-freaky faces of Let’s Go), especially since the title boasts much more successful characters than on previous generations. On the other hand, the graphic gap is more than visible and offers a real added value. Despite , a palpable aliasing on the big screen, the aesthetics of the new Pokémon games are pleasant, and remain true to a franchise that, let’s be honest, has never made us dream about graphically anyway.
In terms of story and gameplay, Pokémon Sword and Shield obviously doesn’t revolutionize the license. However, this second title for Nintendo Switch does have a few really nice additions that bring a fresh wind to our gaming experience. The discovery of the Galar region and its few regional forms is already a nice novelty. If the Dynamax/Gigamax phenomenon, sold as one of the major interests of the episode, is unsurprisingly very anecdotal, and finally quite redundant compared to the now usual Z-Capabilities or Mega-evolutions, it is especially in the exploration of Galar and farming that Pokémon Sword and Shield shine with their novelties. We also note with pleasure thereturn to the good oldcapture system, abandoned with Let’s Go, which allows you to regain the stress of having to weaken an enemy Pokémon, while hoping not to be able to knock him out.
Less exotic than Alola, but just as exotic to discover, the region of Galar offers less linear cities than in the previous opus, linked together by a network of railways, but above all by les Terres Sauvages, vast plains with the appearance of an open world to be explored according to the weather. We are obviously far from the immensity of a Red Dead Redemption 2 or a The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but the presence of this parenthesis within a usually very directive adventure sounds like a bubble of oxygen in the middle of the main quest. Many Pokémon are available on the Wilderness, and unlike the previous s, they offer a real disparity of levels. While it was once rare, if not impossible, to come across a wild Pokémon stronger than our starter, encountering an Onyx ten levels higher than our starter is now a reality. In such cases, escape is the wisest course of action, especially since while there have been no restrictions on catching monsters in Pokémon games up to now, you’ll now have to earn badges to catch high level monsters, making combat as dangerous as it is pointless.
Another novelty specific to the Terres Sauvages, the Raids Dynamax, which materialize in the form of wells surrounded by a halo of light. In single player or four-player co-op, the exercise once again brings a real (albeit very simple) revival togameplay, and makes it possible to capture more powerful, and often rarer, Pokémon. The opportunity to discover the 94 new monsters (13 of which are regional) that populate the region of Galar. Sullied at the time of Pokémon Let’s Go, to the benefit of a return to the sources assumed, the eighth generation makes its arrival in Sword and Shield, and if it is definitively not memorable, it has nevertheless the merit to offer itself some pretty specimens, in particular on the side of the regional forms.
Despite an adventure that turned out to be very pleasant, Pokémon Sword and Shield are not without some (big) weaknesses. Apart from the few graphical flaws already mentioned, ‘s biggest flaw lies unsurprisingly in its Pokédex. Of the nearly 900 species recorded since the launch of the saga, Galar’s database currently contains only 400 Pokémon over the eight generations. A total that remains obviously consequent, but which is still very far from the sacrosanct national Pokédex, that players had already reluctantly accepted to give up with Let’s Go. However, even though no official information has been announced to that effect, our naive little trainer heart is pinning its hopes on updates similar to those for Pokémon GO, which would allow new pocket monsters to be implemented in the game on a regular basis, thus drastically extending its lifespan in the process.
In addition to its Pokédex, which we hope will be quickly reviewed and corrected, Pokémon Sword and Shield also has the unfortunate tendency to continue a trend already adopted in the episodes, and to chew up the work ofplayers. Nothing dramatic, but between the flying taxi that allows you to move freely between cities at the beginning of the game, the bicycle and the fishing rod present by default in the inventory, or the display of the efficiency rate on attacks during a fight, it sometimes feels as if Nintendo has tried to erase all the potentially frustrating aspects of from previous adventures, while forgetting some features that we thought we’d acquired and needed, such as the shortcut to the map, and theonline GTSexchange function. This makes PC boxes accessible everywhere, including outside of Pokémon Centres, which is convenient but tends to make things easier for us, once again.
XP gains are also fast, especially thanks to Poké-camping, which allows you to gain extra experience outside of clashes. In the end, and without rushing, the main adventure ends in about twenty hours. So there’s nothing dramatic about it, especially since it’s no secret that Pokémon’s main interest lies after the Final League.