‘Sword and Shield’ exposes what the series lacks


Illustration by Lillie Busch.

After a long wait that featured a series of leaks and spoilers, “Pokèmon Sword and Shield” have finally been released. Despite the unavoidable issues with the game, “Sword and Shield” remain entertaining entries in the “Pokèmon” franchise.

It is nearly impossible to not have fun while playing any new, main series “Pokèmon” game. As a fan since the third generation who has since gone back and played each of the previous games, though, I find it glaringly obvious in what “Sword and Shield” lacks. The new region of Galar is undeniably stunning and the new Pokèmon are great, but the story is stagnant and the missing Pokèmon are unignorable. 

“Sword and Shield” places the new trainer in the Galar region, which is arguably one of the most well thought out regions of any main series game. Its heavy British influence is ingrained in nearly every factor of the game from the casual use of “mum” and “telly,” to the town names of “Hammerlocke” and “Circhester.” It is clear that Gamefreak desired for an incredibly British vibe, which they got, especially with the gorgeous Gothic Revival architecture. 

The new Pokèmon in Galar are all pretty great design-wise with the typical range of cool-to-cute-to-strange. Alcremie and Polteageist are personal favorites of mine, not only because of their heavy British influences of pastries and tea, but also because they are solid, competitive members on any Pokèmon team. Even the Galarian forms of older Pokèmon are great additions, particularly the now-psychic Galarian Ponyta. 

One major complaint about the new Pokèmon, however, is the latest design rehash of Pikachu: Morpeko. Gamefreak, just because you add a dark type does not make it more interesting. I do not know who keeps asking for these Pikachu copycats, but that person better be quiet for the next game. Morpeko now joins Minun, Plusle, Dedenne, Emolga and Pachirisu in their club of electric types who are depressingly similar to the series’ superstar.

This addition of yet another boring electric type makes it even more obvious how many of the previous generation favorites are missing in “Sword and Shield.” Are your favorite Pokèmon Florges and Ampharos? Well, mine are ,and if they are your favorites too, then tough luck because you won’t be able to find them in “Sword and Shield.” 

The lack of previous generations’ Pokèmon might not be too much of an issue while getting through the gyms, but it becomes obvious in the postgame. Gamefreak has never made it easy to transfer Pokèmon from old games to new, but making them nontransferable is unheard of. Their excuse for the MIA Pokèmon being absent because of graphic capabilities is complete flapdoodle when the entire game looks like it could have been released alongside 2016’s “Sun and Moon.”

Even if you ignore the lacking Pokèdex, the stagnant and predictable storyline remains. You could have not played a Pokèmon game in 20 years, and you would still be able to predict the main story’s plot points from beginning to end. Sure, it is still fun to play, but I would have liked for a fresher story in the first main series game on the Switch. Hop is a good rival whose story is better written than rivals like Blue, but he is still a copy-and-paste of Hau from “Sun and Moon.”

There is lots to enjoy about “Sword and Shield” though. The wild area is pretty and packed with new things to do, but the area’s ability to control the camera angle makes me wish I could do this in other places in the game.

Camping is a super cute feature and a nice way to take a break from battles and long cut scenes. One of my favorite things was making curry and filling my curry dex even though I know deep down that this will just be another feature Gamefreak will discontinue in the next game. As a fan of the “Cooking Mama,” though, learning how to cook different types of curry was totally addictive. 

Gym missions also make the typical gym battles just a bit more exciting with tasks like herding sheep and answering questions during an audition. Even Dynamaxing brings a little bit of an adrenaline rush, despite it basically being the same as Mega Evolving. Oh, and that bumping dance music that plays during gym leader battles with the crowd chanting is top-notch. 

“Pokèmon Sword and Shield” are not bad games; they are just nothing new. They are as entertaining as previous games in the main series, but as a fan, I want better for the series. There is still so much potential for growth in “Pokèmon,” and Gamefreak needs to realize that.