Two years after the last title of the main trend, Game Freak and The Pokemon Company are back on the market with great fanfare and applause and criticism with their two new titles: Pokemon Spada and Scudo!
Version tested: Nintendo Switch
Imagine a person dear to you, whom you have not seen for many years, who - suddenly - returns to ring your intercom. Amazed, you open the door and welcome her, offering her your time and your welcome. Speaking, you realize that it is no longer the same one you knew years before, but it is a new one, different, but still interesting. This person, for me, was the eighth generation Pokemon, back breaking straight into my heart and my feelings, chasing away the memories of the very nice pocket monsters like a flooding river to make room for new, amazing emotions. Because Pokemon Sword and Shield are not just new titles in an already established multi-twenty-year franchise. No, they are more: they are the childhood of a person who returns to the fore, with the awareness of offering a much tougher experience than it could have done in the past.
In this new adventure, we will find ourselves taking on the role of a boy who - together with his best friend - sets out on an adventure to catch as many monsters as possible and become the champion of the Pokemon League. What makes the whole different is not the end, now identical from title to title, but the means. In Pokemon Sword and Shield, in fact, the road to ascend to master of the region is much more difficult and complex than it has ever been in the past, refreshing a sector that has now turned out to be stale. Only for Game Freak's temerity to take on and take on important and difficult decisions makes the two titles have much more appeal than recent generations have ever had. For this reason, I want to start directly with the evaluation of the title.
A new adventure.
As I was telling a moment ago, in Pokemon Sword and Shield we will play the role of a child who, from the countryside of Galar, together with his best friend and rival, will set out on an adventure to become champion of the Pokemon League by beating all the gyms. Already from the first steps it is understood how, despite a now exasperated and extreme incipit to its limit, in Pokemon Sword and Shield it is different to choose your starter and get in gear. We will almost immediately come into possession of the Desiostelle, material that will allow the Pokemon of Dynamaxare or Gigantamaxare, and we will discover how the whole Galar region, and - consequently - the story, revolves around these strange phenomena that, in certain points, allow Pokemon to grow bigger and more powerful.
Without saying too much, a catastrophic event that took place millennia earlier revolves around this phenomenon, and on which the legendary cover has played a fundamental role in overcoming it and putting the world back in place. The Yell team for a good part of the game will play a very distant and marginal role, only to discover the truth and all the machinations behind it. Despite this, both the team and its boss are well characterized and - in the end - it is impossible not to empathize with that character as strange as it is surprising.
In addition, the other characters who will appear frequently in the story - from the nice Sonia to the frenetic Hop, passing through the Machiavellian president Rose and the disruptive champion Rose - are well characterized and you will never have that sense of too much, of exaggeration and of placed there by mistake. Their interactions can be counted with the measuring cup, but they will always be well positioned in the development of the plot and will always enrich our experience in the game with something.
In Pokemon Sword and Shield, the challenge of gyms and Pokemon League is a televised event followed worldwide. For this reason, each challenge will be characterized by a variable test and finally by the fight inside a stadium, as if it were a tennis match or in any case of some very popular sport.
Even the League is completely different: in fact, there will no longer be the Elite Four, but a new eliminatory challenge where each victory moves on to the next step, up to the final with the Champion, who accesses this clash by right on merit. . As if they were the soccer world cup, in short, with the challenge of the gyms as qualifications and the final phase of the League represented by the groups and play-off phases.
A dynamic way of fighting.
Speaking of Pokemon we can all understand what we are referring to: turn-based fights, many types with weaknesses and strengths, tools and strategies. Well, this Pokemon is no different, and it's the main reason why I don't want to dwell too much on the combat system in and of itself. On the contrary, there is a lot to be said about the innovations made in terms of combat. First, each Pokemon enjoys its own specific animations, and the moves will hit at different heights based on the opponent's stature. In addition, some Pokemon, including the starters, enjoy specific moves, which have amazing animations to say the least, and it's great to see them at work and enjoy so much power.
However, the main novelty is the Dynamax phenomenon. Thanks to this, in fact, it will be possible to magnify a Pokemon for three turns - with a consequent increase in all the statistics - and make him learn a completely unique moveset with infallible moves. During the game, however, it will only be possible to use it in gyms and at certain times, as it is clearly a feature designed for online competition.
The new combinations of types in the new Pokemon and regional forms are also well thought-out, effectively creating unique Pokemon with which to build superlative teams. Therefore, the cut of the Pokedex that many had frightened at the end of the fair does not even feel too much, drowning - as always - in stale water the sterile controversies that accompanied the title before its launch. Even the teams can be quickly modified: in fact, from the box - accessible from the menu and no longer from the Pokemon centers - it is possible to access an interface that will allow you to create fast teams to change them quickly without having to look for the right Pokemon every time.
A very connected Galar.
Game Freak, without a doubt, with the addition of a large overworld area such as the Wild Lands, is making its intention understood: to veer towards an ever-present connectivity. Let's not get it wrong. Also in this title it is possible to access in any place the link exchange, magic and online battles, but only in that area it is possible to see the sprites of other players wandering around the map and participating in raids with them. Our trainer is completely customizable, being able to choose and buy clothing and accessories for him in the various stores, making us unique.
Raids are also a beautiful introduction, with the possibility of participating together with three other friends in a battle against a Pokemon Dynamaxato or Gigantamaxato. Each fight has a difficulty ranging from one to five stars. Each star establishes the number of perfect IVs of the Pokemon faced. Also, the higher the stars, the higher the likelihood that the Pokemon is in Gigantamax and non-Dynamax form and the higher the likelihood that the Pokemon possesses a special and non-classic Ability. In addition to the monster, at the end of the raid you will certainly get Technical Discs that - usually - teach moves useful for the competitive side, valuables to resell to the merchant and candies to speed up the training of your Pokemon.
Another honorable mention is to be made for the breeding, greatly improved and speeded up. In fact, Game Freak is pushing the accelerator to make the competitive Pokemon simpler and more accessible to most. I don't want to say that even the less capable can access it, because the choice of moveset, team and skills is still up to the coach alone; however, the part of breeding Pokemon and getting children with the right IVs and natures has been heavily stripped down to the bone, speeded up for a quick and convenient result within minutes.
The Wild Lands.
Long-awaited introduction, the Wild Lands are a cure-all and a breath of fresh air within the franchise. In these, in addition to being able to capture Pokemon exclusive to these areas, it will be possible to participate in raids, furious battles against dynamaxed Pokemon that will end with the capture of the opponent, escape, or the 10 consecutive KO for a member of our team. Not only that, inside the same there is a Pokemon board (in the title there are two), with which it will be possible to breed and obtain our favorite monsters.
In exploration, another important novelty, it will be possible to pitch a tent and camp with your team. Within this mode, it will be possible to cook with your Pokemon and play with them to increase friendship, affection and to make them gain a fair amount of experience.
Playing it, the feeling is that these lands, still immature in terms of graphics and content, are opening the possibility to a completely MMO twist of the title, or at least online-based. If this is the case, one cannot but appreciate the choice, as the franchise will always be available for the most loyal and nostalgic and open to new ones who are looking for a unique and essential experience online.
A world of color with a screaming melody.
Pokemon Sword and Shield introduce a new region that presents a very diverse geography, from sunny deserts to snow-covered plains, which in comparison the Dorne / Plateau gap seems like a continent far away. Obviously, nobody cares about the geographical fidelity of places, least of all me. Therefore, it is nice to be able to admire all possible types of landscapes in one region. From the lively countryside of the south to the icy plains of the north east, passing through the desert west and the stupendous glistening forest.
Although the paths are only 10 and fairly linear, their geographical peculiarity will ensure that every street remains etched in the heart and, indelibly, never goes away. Also, don't worry: the days of “too much water” are over. The sea is there, but in the right measure! The OST also has truly unique melodies to accompany its adventure, which remain etched in the mind: from the tranquility of the paths to the frenzy of battles, every single note remains etched in the brain.
Technical side: too bad.
Sore point, the technical department of the title is not crazy. It never shines and never takes flight. The Wild Lands have too obvious drops in frames, the battery in portable mode does not hold up and in general the graphics of the game when in docked mode are not convincing. The pop-up of objects, Pokemon and people, moreover, is very annoying, not making it clear to the player where to go without encountering unwanted fights.
Nobody looks at the graphics in a Pokemon, despite the fact that in 2019 some technologies are necessarily to be improved, especially considering the competition of the other rivals within the Nintendo hybrid console. In the fights and in the courses, however, the frame rate is very stable, making everything completely fluid and never nauseating. Indeed, in battles, the particles are well arranged, and can only please the eye of the players who, however, pay attention to certain small things.
However, we have to confirm that, apart from these slight flaws, the playability of the title is never compromised in the least and, indeed, it is one of the strengths of this generation.
Pokemon Sword and Shield are two titles with a capital T, capable of giving way to the present by remembering the past. They offer the player a unique, beautiful experience, with an adult storyline by the standards of the series and capable of thrilling for hours after the completion of the game itself.
This generation is made for everyone, for the old nostalgic and for the new enthusiast, for the competitive and for the casual. In short, do yourself a favor, play it!
- - Well-curated plot
- - Spectacular OST
- - Innovations for the competitive side
- - Amplified connectivity
- - Combination of present, past and future
- - Fluctuating technical side
- - Animations not always perfect
- - Connectivity implementations still unripe