It’s crazy to think that after almost 21 years the Pokémon franchise still manages to capture that feeling I had during my primary years. Pokémon Sword & Shield is a total fresh breath of air to the franchise that's now legally allowed to drink. While the game itself might not be the open world hyper-realistic pseudo MMO people always seem to hope for, Pokémon Sword & Shield may be the most refined and polished monster fighting, pokeball throwing, Zubat stomping, backpack wearing simulator I've played yet.
Pokémon Sword and Shield is the best looking in the franchise for pretty obvious reasons. But the game's visuals don’t just end at a high poly count. Everything in this game has an attention to detail and level of style that only a developer like Gamefreak could pull off. It’s the little details that really bring this game to life such as the GBA style sprites when viewing your monsters in the menus, or the fact that I was able to make my girl avatar strike a pretty fierce pose when twirling the left stick in place a few times. Enemy trainers now have a vision cone, which is great when you don’t want to fight everyone in the room, and even the Pokémon themselves have more interesting animations during battle. There’s a real sense of world-building going on with this game's attention to detail that really sells this entry like no other before it.
Fighting in Pokémon Sword & Shield is the same familiar turn-based system everyone is familiar with now, but like everything else in the game, there are a few quality of life enhancements that are very much welcome. By pressing B you can see the direct attack power and various stats of each move at your disposal as well as access items and other Pokémon without the game feeling like it was coming to a sudden halt. The musical cues are even more present than ever this time around. When using my Dynamax summon on Scorbunny I noticed that the music went from a modern arrangement of the Pokémon battle theme to a chorus heavy orchestral arrangement. While this isn’t anything new in video games, knowing that there’s an almost dynamic score to the game really makes the entire thing feel fresh but still familiar.
Pokemon Sword & Shield is looking to be the game that finally revitalizes the tired but true franchise in many ways. While I’m not staying Pokemon has ever been “bad” or even anything less than good, there's always been a feeling of “Maybe next time they’ll really mix things up” every time a new game gets announced. From the small slice of gameplay I was allowed to check out at this year's E3, I could already see that this game is shaping up to do so much more than was possible on previous generations of handheld games. And with the inclusion of 4 player co-op raids, Dynamax battles, dynamic weather and Pokemon capture conditions, and what’s promised to be the biggest Pokémon game yet, it's hard to think that this isn’t the game we’ve all been secretly wanting since the late ’90s.
If you wanna watch the gym battle for yourself down below is a video of me just doing that. And yes, I know I burned my Dynamax on a fire type to fight a water gym leader ... I just really wanted to see a big bunny.
Pokemon Sword and Shield is set for a worldwide release this November 15th on the Nintendo Switch.
For more E3 2019 coverage, be sure to check out TechRaptor’s E3 Coverage Hub.