Pokémon is a return to form while streamlining most UI, gameplay elements and adds a new open-world aspect that breathes new life into the series. As with most entries in the series you have a choice between two games in which the only difference (in most cases) is that some Pokemon are exclusive to each title. Naturally, I wanted the exclusive and badass Wolf with a sword Pokemon Zecian, while my wife picked up Shield so we can trade Pokemon down the line. Hell yes.
I had so much fun in the opening hours of the game exploring every nook and cranny. Fighting and catching Pokémon Sword and Shield is fulfilling and fun while having the same beats; finding the right Pokemon to win against your opponent. Filling out my Pokédex, searching for loot to sell to vendors later and battling Dynamax Pokémon hiding out in dens curbs my inner OCD need to collect everything. At first, the idea of Dynamaxing didn’t seem that interesting to me, but being able to fight them with a group of people or NPCs gave it a very raid co-op type feeling that redeemed it for me.
The story for every Pokémon game follows the same nostalgic story beats ( start off in your mom’s house, meet your rival get a Pokémon and battle, etc.) but the fun really begins you get to explore the new region. After choosing my starter Pokémon (Grookey) I set off and explored the hometown which acted as a tutorial area and met a ton of charming characters like Leon and Hop. After completing that I jumped on a train and made it to the wild area, which is the open world that connects all the cities together.
While the story is not very original, it felt great meeting new characters, and the art direction was great especially with the new Pokémon designs for the gala region. The addition of cutscenes to the game has been great, especially when battling certain characters and seeing them react to you defeating their Pokémon.
When I finally made it to my first gym I was surprised and thankful that they had changed the formula a little bit. With gyms, you have to figure out certain puzzles or meet a certain goal in order to progress to the gym leader. There are still battles you can fight with trainers in the gym, but just that small addition of puzzle elements really went a long way for me.
All in all, Pokémon will always hold a special place in my heart even with its shortcomings regarding the story. The grind and gameplay and nostalgic charm will always have me coming back for more.