I wrote about Pokemon Sword in a quick review, it was my first Pokemon game in years and I was fairly disappointed with it. I’ve started a second playthrough and am taking a more focused look at it.
It starts out very slowly, the new graphic style meant they couldn’t just have text box speech so we get drawn out cutscenes instead. There is an option to turn off the cutscenes which speeds the game up considerably. The graphics also mean the scale of walking anywhere seems different to older Pokemon games making it seem smaller while the map is in fact bigger than older regions.
We get experience share and experience is awarded when capturing Pokemon. There should be a button to turn off experience share but there isn’t. Capture experience helps with the catch-‘em-all idea of Pokemon rather than just battling everything, it can be seen as a good thing.
Hop, the rival character is intentionally weaker than the player. The dialogue from Hop is generally quite encouraging and he has a story about self confidence. The name Hop could relate to the translation of Magicarp’s Splash move from the Japanese so maybe he really is intentionally weak. Hop isn’t the only rival character in the game, Bede is a second rival who faces the player a few times throughout the game. Neither rival is very hard to beat but they are a bit harder than most trainers you encounter. The third rival is Marnie who is the sister of a seemingly depressed, downtrodden dark type Gym Leader, the two of them are in charge of Team Yell who seem like villains but are really just idiotic supporter hooligans (probably a football reference). There’s more focus on character stories in this game and I’m not sure that it comes across well enough.
The real villains are the Macro Cosmos who only make themselves known at the end of the game. The end of the story feels quite rushed with the Darkest Day coming out of nowhere. It’s still annoying that we don’t get the box legendary until after beating the Champion. I previously criticised the Elite Four but I realised this time they don’t exist, instead you battle rivals and Gym Leaders for the Championship match.
Galar region of Pokemon seems to be based on Britain which is done in a noticeable way. Hop even says cream crackered which is rhyming slang, famous for cockneys. Town names seem quite British in how they’re written too. A very green area full of trains. The uniforms for gym challenges look like football (soccer) kits which is a nod to Englands national sport.
The camp system still seems fairly pointless and the Dynamax system still seems like a pointless gimmick. Dynamax had moments where it looked like a good idea like the idea of a four player raid boss or how we get to battle alongside legendary Pokemon but it’s not quite there as a good fit, just a way to force a rushed story.
The Wild Area replaces routes in this game, the way it is done really suggests Pokemon hunting is the aim of this game as all the Gyms are close together but the Wild Area is vast and has Pokemon of a wide range of levels. They ruin the experience by locking high level Pokemon behind Gym badges meaning you can’t capture them without progressing the story, at which point battling becomes the main focus and hunting loses its appeal as you build your team to win.
Taking the catch-‘em-all attitude makes the game a lot more fun, having less of a competitive angle and more of a hunting idea gives it a different feel that I didn’t have on my first playthrough. If you do go for battle then the game is still too easy. This is probably a good introduction to Pokemon or even gaming for children and it can be fun for adults.
Overall, the game feels like it’s trying to be something more than a standard Pokemon game. It has quality but doesn’t manage what it tries and ends up a worse game than it should be. Only good, sadly.