Review

Pokemon Sword & Shield Review - Curry Favor

  • First Released Nov 15, 2019
    released
  • NS

More like Gen M8.

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With each new Pokemon game comes a new set of Pokemon, mechanics, and a region to discover, and Sword and Shield are no exception. The vibrant Galar region is a consistent delight to explore, incentivizing and rewarding collecting and battling in equal measure, and grandiose battles add an exciting dimension to the familiar Gym formula to deliver an engaging adventure beginning to end. But most notably, Sword and Shield cut down on the tedious and protracted elements from previous games in favor of amplifying what makes Pokemon great in the first place. This is the most balanced a Pokemon game has felt in a long time, and with that, Sword and Shield mark the best new generation of Pokemon games in years.

The games waste no time in getting you a starter Pokemon and off on your way to becoming the Champion. You can even skip some of the hand-holding you'd get in previous games, including the "how to catch Pokemon" tutorial, which hasn't been done since 2001's Pokemon Crystal; if you simply catch some Pokemon right away, the character who would have taught you acknowledges that you're already good to go instead. You can reach the new Wild Area, an open-world expanse filled with all kinds of Pokemon of all levels, within an hour or so of starting your adventure.

And the Wild Area is the show-stopping feature of this generation. Pokemon roam the fields and lakes, changing with the day's weather. They pop up as you walk by, and you can even identify Pokemon out of your direct line of vision by their cries. It's all too easy to set out for one destination only to be distracted by a Pokemon you haven't caught yet, an item glittering on the ground in the distance, or even an evolved form of a Pokemon that you didn't realize you could catch in the wild. There's constantly something new to do or discover, and it's there to engage you right out of the gate.

Both in the Wild Area and outside of it, the Galar region is stunning. Locales from industrial city centers to rolling hills in shades of green and gold are vivid and beautiful, and small details, like Wooloo playing in a field, add a lot of charm. The United Kingdom-inspired motif includes both crumbling medieval castles and booming football-inspired stadiums, punk musicians and posh snobs--though Galar is still surprising to explore, not adhering so close to theme as to be totally predictable. I even found myself pushing ahead to the next town hoping to find a boutique with new clothes and accessories, on top of everything else waiting to be discovered in each locale, because the UK-inspired plaids and streetwear looks are cute.

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You're given much more freedom to explore than in previous generations. Sword and Shield go even further than Sun and Moon did in banishing HMs for good; you can fast travel to locations you've visited before from anywhere outside starting quite early in the game, and you have a bike that can later convert to a water vehicle to replace Surf. All other roadblocks, like trees in your path you need to Cut or large stones you need to move with Strength, are relics of the past. There are still hooligans that will artificially block your path at certain points in the story, but the actual hurdles to movement are completely gone.

Random encounters are also gone, and instead, you see Pokemon roaming all of Galar--even in the traditional routes and caves--which helps distinguish one area from the next. There are some Pokemon that remain hidden in the tall grass, denoted by an exclamation point, but you have to run toward the rustling grass to actually initiate the fight, so you're never caught totally by surprise. Some Pokemon can only be found this way; this further encourages you to explore each locale thoroughly while making return trips painless, free of constant interruptions by wild Pokemon or stopping to use Repels to keep them away.

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For wild Pokemon, battles are true to the established formula, but for big battles, Sword and Shield strip out Mega Evolution and Z-moves in favor of a new battle mechanic, Dynamaxing, which is sort of a combination of the two and can only be activated in certain locations. A Dynamaxed Pokemon grows to a massive size and is stronger overall, and its moves convert to superpowered ones based on type. It's much more bombastic than Mega Evolution or even Z-moves, but functionally, it's simpler--and that's refreshing. After years of using both Mega Evolution and Z-moves in high-level battles, Dynamaxing is a welcome reset that also feels like a natural evolution of the increasingly high-octane battle mechanics of recent games. Any Pokemon can Dynamax, too; you're just limited by location rather than an item, so it's a more flexible way to battle that works for relaxed and competitive battles alike.

Dynamaxing is a fixture of the new Max Raids, in which you and three other people or NPCs take on a giant Pokemon at certain locations in the Wild Area. Raid Pokemon can vary from run-of-the-mill, easy-to-catch Pokemon to ones that are incredibly hard to find in the wild, but regardless, the rewards are fantastic; completing a raid, even if the Pokemon escapes and you fail to catch it, nets you tons of rare and important items. Plus, the Pokemon you get from raids are guaranteed to have some perfect stats, so even duplicate Pokemon are worth catching again.

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At the lower levels, the raids are pretty easy, and you'll likely have no trouble taking them on with only NPCs in tow. But the four- and five-star raids are challenging to the point where I couldn't even complete some of them without the help of other human players. This is a welcome level of difficulty in the post-game, and communicating locally to get a raid group together is seamless--all you have to do is put out a call for raid partners (or people to trade or battle with in general), and nearby players will get a notification and have the option to join you from the social menu. It's a great alternative to traditional competitive play after you've beaten the game, and while it does feed into competitive battling in both the item rewards and the caliber of Pokemon you're catching, it's satisfying just to overcome the challenge with friends.

The new Pokemon themselves are fantastic as a set. Quite a few of them seem geared for competitive play, with abilities and moves that inspire interesting strategies. Galarian Weezing, for example, has an ability that neutralizes opponents' abilities; because many battle strategies involve use of abilities like Intimidate or Sand Stream to set up the battlefield to your advantage, Weezing could be a serious threat. There are also the aesthetically-inclined Pokemon, like the incredibly goth Corviknight or the adorable electric corgi Yamper, to inspire collectors. Throughout my journey, I was consistently delighted to discover each new Gen 8 Pokemon and the Galarian forms of older ones.

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The starters, sadly, are among the worst of the new Pokemon; while they're cute at first, their final evolutions are all not great. Each fits the British theme in a clever way and has a unique move to go with it, but on a purely visual level, all three are awkward with no clear winner among them. I still feel guilty confining my starter to the Pokemon Box, but it at least freed up a spot in my party to try out the new Pokemon I do like.

The Pokedex features a healthy mix of old Pokemon from each previous generation as well. There are certainly surprising omissions, but like with the new Pokemon, the list includes both fun Pokemon and competitive ones, plus an even spread of types. Sword and Shield might not have every Pokemon in existence, but what's here is balanced exquisitely for battle, cuteness factor, and type. And because there are items that give Pokemon experience points now--and because you can access your Pokemon boxes almost anywhere--you can easily change up your team on the fly without having to stop and grind just to get a new Pokemon caught up in level. I experimented with different Pokemon more during Shield's main story than I ever did in a previous Pokemon game, and it made me appreciate the Gen 8 Pokemon even more.

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It also makes for a more digestible experience. The Wild Area is expansive, and because the available Pokemon change with the weather, it can look very different from one day to the next. There are enough Pokemon to keep things dynamic and surprising as you explore each day, but with some consistency across each biome so you know at least what kinds of Pokemon to expect. Even after 55 hours, there are still Pokemon I have no idea how to find, and uncovering the Wild Area's secrets bit by bit has been a treat.

If anything, the constant draw of the Wild Area made the pacing of the story a bit choppy. I wandered and explored for five hours before challenging my first Gym, then defeated the next two in quick succession before breaking again to revisit the Wild Area. That said, I also was never too over- or underpowered for each Gym, and I was eager to explore in between them regardless. You can also do more in the Wild Area than just battle and catch Pokemon--you can camp out and make curry with your Pokemon, and that ended up being a lovely distraction. Making curry and playing with my Pokemon was a great way to break up longer excursions, plus a convenient way to heal everybody at once, and it's really just an adorable way to spend a few minutes.

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The Gyms themselves are a refinement on the longstanding formula in which you would have to go through a maze or solve a little puzzle to reach the Gym Leader. Similarly, each has a Gym Challenge, but they vary from herding Wooloo to competing with NPC trainers to catch a Pokemon, and this keeps things from getting stale. Dynamaxing combines with anime-style drama to make the Gym battles themselves appropriately exciting, too, as your opponents tend to put on quite the show when they enter the stadium. While the Gym and other story battles are largely pretty simple, some of the later ones do take more thought (and a few revives, in my case).

For competitive battles, small but significant quality-of-life tweaks greatly reduce the remaining barriers to entry. There are now items that allow you to change a Pokemon's nature, which was the main missing piece in getting Pokemon battle-ready without hours and hours of tedious breeding and soft-resetting. You can also leave two Pokemon of the same species in the Daycare together, and one can pass Egg Moves to the other, meaning you don't have to re-breed a Pokemon just because you forgot to put one Egg Move on it or changed your strategy a bit. The post-game Battle Tower also includes rental teams right off the bat to introduce you to some basic strategies, which also means you can start climbing the ranks without scrambling to prepare a slipshod team of your own first. All of this gets you battling at a competitive level much more quickly than was possible before, which is the whole point.

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In collecting, battling, and exploring, Sword and Shield cut out the bloat and focus on what makes these pillars of the Pokemon games so captivating in the first place. You're not held back by overly complicated back-end systems or hoops to jump through; from the outset, you can start wandering the Galar region, seeing its new Pokemon, and trying out its new battle strategies with very little in your way. This leaves you free to enjoy what Pokemon is all about, and that makes for an incredibly strong showing for the series' proper debut on Switch.

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Now Playing: Pokemon Sword And Shield Video Review

Back To Top
The Good
You're given the freedom to explore the vibrant Galar region from the outset, and each new discovery is delightful
The new Pokemon are great as a whole, and the Pokedex at large strikes an excellent balance of cute, cool-looking, and battle-ready monsters
Dynamaxing is a refreshing replacement for Mega Evolution and Z-moves and makes for bombastic battles
Raids are consistently rewarding and provide a welcome challenge as you progress
The last big barriers to entry for competitive play are eliminated with quality-of-life tweaks
The Bad
The starters' evolutions are among the weakest designs of the bunch
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kallie finished Pokemon Shield's main story in 40 hours, spending plenty of time exploring the Wild Area. She then spent another 15 hours doing post-game activities, including more raids. Alcremie is one of her favorite new Pokemon. Copies of Sword and Shield were provided by Nintendo.
246 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

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RogerioFM

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Is gamespot covering the cut content and the ported models from 3ds even after the dev TOLD everyone that the reason some pokemons were left out was because they were being remade?

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Mogan

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@RogerioFM: I suspect they're just reviewing the game as it shipped. The reaction to this the game pre-launch has gotten so toxic and vile that I'd be a little surprised if too much of the complaints about S&S get covered.

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RogerioFM

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@mogan:Yeah, sometimes people lack common courtesy, still, news are news, I think it's very relevant to the industry if developers aren't being upfront.

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Lord_Sesshy

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@RogerioFM: For people like me that's important in a review. Now if they said they reused models from the 3DS because there just wasn't enough time to redue all ~800 Pokemon from scratch then I wouldn't mind. It's the fact that they specifically told people that they redid all the Switch's models and I won't support a dev that blatantly lies to it's fan faces. (Not that I was gonna get the game anyways after learning that all of "my" favorite Pokemon were cut. Not out of spite or anything though but just because I wasn't interested anymore)

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RogerioFM

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Edited By RogerioFM

@Lord_Sesshy: That's my point, gamespot supposedly should cover the gaming industry, well, news about a developer of a major title lying is important. I would buy this game before I knew about that, simply because since I'm not a fan I was expecting this game to be my entry point, so as someone new I wouldn't mind cut pokemon and streamlined gaming mechanics, simply because everything would be new to me regardless, but I won't abide lies.

I also understand the toxicity regarding this as I mentioned, some people do not know how to express themselves without resorting to offenses, but that's hardly an excuse for a big gaming news outlet not to cover it, they have good moderators here like Mogan.

6 • 
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Zero0010

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@RogerioFM: They have covered the Natural dex issue once or twice before

Also I hope you understand that the evidence that said that GF lied is data mined content from the game which is not out yet. Gamespot other signed NDA, so what they showed was approved by Nintendo. if the say or show something that not part of the NDA. Gamespot could face legal repercussions unlike some random twitter or youtube. They got more to lose! Reddit post from random few data miner are not always reliable

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RogerioFM

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@zero0010: NDA's doesn't work like that, they are not spoiling content from an unreleased game based on their review copy, but reporting news and as a news outlet should and as they have full autonomy to do, reporting the findings of third parties is acceptable since this concerns the industry in general. But yes they do have something to lose.

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Zero0010

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Edited By Zero0010

@RogerioFM: but trying to prove that GF lied. You need evidence or proof to see were concerns are coming from and is it validated. "Headlines would just say pokemon fans are upset about re-used models "it will be just that... That fact they you didn't see old post about the N dex shows you they have big headlines to grab you attention. As good journalist you have look a evidence and back it up. Third party are not always truthful with there information and can't always be trusted. Some times goes for huge news company's too .

Yes they can talk about the leakers post, but the can get in trouble too. Since what they are doing was illegal . Post are getting taken down about leak information.

If they could contact the leakers and prove, they might have done so already

2 • 
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RogerioFM

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@zero0010: No, there is absolutely no way they could get into legal trouble by covering something like that. I understand your point though, suppose we have to wait until the game is released for everyone.

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BasketballFan

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This game is a kick in the nuts to the fans. How can anyone support this cash grab?

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RogerioFM

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@basketballfan: I would definitely have gotten it if the devs didn't lie to us. I'm not a fan, I just wanted a game to get into the series, I wouldn't try to get all the pokemons anyway and I'm fine with a simplified system. But not lies, lies I won't support.

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Himiko

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@RogerioFM: You're not even a fan of the games and yet you're believing some alleged datamine leak about the game from some obscure 4chan/reddit post. You would be surprised at how far the haters are willing to go to paint the game in a negative light. There's even been people hacking pirated versions of the game to make it buggy and then streaming it to make the game look worse than what it really is, so that datamine leak could be a lie for all we know. You can't trust everything you find online, play the game for yourself or read some trusted reviews. And from most of the reviews so far, the game has received moderate to favorable ratings.

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RogerioFM

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@himiko: What being a fan have to do with anything?

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Himiko

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@RogerioFM: You're the one who mentioned first that you're not a fan. I assume that means you don't have much experience with the past games, which makes it even more jarring why you would believe some random 4chan leak info related to the past games that could easily be a lie.

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RogerioFM

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@himiko: Actually it makes absolutely zero difference whether I'm a fan or not.

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Himiko

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@RogerioFM: If you really believe that then you shouldn't have mentioned it in your post.

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RogerioFM

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@himiko: Wot, are you on drugs?

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Himiko

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@RogerioFM: “I’m not a fan, I just wanted a game to get into the series”.

You must be the one on drugs if you can’t remember what you even said.

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RogerioFM

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@himiko: I know I said that, but it bears no relevance in anything I said before, not being a fan doesn't invalid my opinion, the REASON I said that was because even though I not a fan I was still interested in the game.

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Himiko

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Edited By Himiko

@RogerioFM: And I never said it invalidates your opinion. Just unwise to believe non-credible sources especially when you have no prior experience to make a more informed choice on what to believe.

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RogerioFM

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@himiko: Sigh, you know, this whole exchange of ours was so pointless. But fine, believe what you want and I'll do the same.

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Himiko

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@RogerioFM: Of course it was pointless, because you’re addressing non-important things rather than my actual point.

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RogerioFM

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@himiko: Ah yeah, well while the devs keep quiet I rather believe those unreliable sources.

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briguyb13

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My Pokémon Switch Lite will be here tomorrow, and my copy of Sword will be here Friday!

It's all about da Pokémons.

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Lord_Sesshy

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@briguyb13: Well half of them at least lol.

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briguyb13

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@Lord_Sesshy: You don't need them all. 400 is plenty of Pokémon to use.

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Lord_Sesshy

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@briguyb13: Don't worry, I wasn't being serious. It was meant to be sarcastic.

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PlaystationZone

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So it got a 9 for copy and paste game from last game ?

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Mogan

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@playstationzone: I think it got a 9 for all the reasons described in the review.

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Aaronalbana

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@mogan: I think it got a 9 because the game has just the right amount of water.

But that’s just me.

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RogerioFM

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@aaronalbana: lol what is this water meme I keep hearing about?

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Aaronalbana

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@RogerioFM: look up her review of Pokémon Alpha Sapphire/Omega Ruby on YouTube or ign and you’ll understand lol. After that look up a video titled "Too Much Water" -IGN” on YouTube.

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Dragerdeifrit

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Edited By Dragerdeifrit

Right amount of water this time around Kallie? :p.

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bobjones1980

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bobjones1980  Online

Great review can wait too get my hands on the game

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KungfuKitten

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Hmm would Shield or Sword be a better choice? I'm lukewarm on both the Legendary designs... Tough choice.

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Himiko

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@KungfuKitten: I'm going with Shield, the exclusive Pokemon and gym leader typings are more my type, even though I kinda prefer the Sword legendary and I like Bea from Sword. My friend was going to choose the opposite version from what I'm getting, so she's getting Sword. She'll even trade legendaries with me if I want to.

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Ice12Tray

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@KungfuKitten: I’m going sword because my boy Farfetch’d finally gets an evolution and it’s exclusive there.

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AlfredoJones

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@KungfuKitten: I don't know about you, but Goodra being exclusive to Shield made it an instant buy for me. I'm not sure what other exclusives there are aside from Sirfetch'd in Sword and Galarian Ponyta in Shield. I've been avoiding spoilers so that's all I know atm.

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odolwa99

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No ekans? What the kcuf?

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bat725

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Another winner for Switch.

Still waiting for a reason to buy an XB1.

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Ice12Tray

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@bat725: 1 word. Gamepass!

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bgrosz

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@bat725:

Yeah, Nintendo is on an epic roll.

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baral-o

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@bat725: well...xbox one x is way more powerful and...em...it has forza horizon and...I honestly can't think of anything alls, at least for my taste

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Utnayan

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The animations in this are hilariously bad and it is complete low cost development with no effort at all. Another pandering review.

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BasketballFan

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@Utnayan: They are cut paste from the last 2 games and that is a proven fact.

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Oemenia

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9/10 for a Nintendo game? That means the next one will be 10 and the review will complaining how much this one sucked.

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monkyby87

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People complain about them cutting Pokémon when 5/6 of them suck anyways.

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Unga_Bunga2

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@monkyby87: Yes and most of the good ones are now gone.

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MARl0

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@unga_bunga2: I demand Shuckle!

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Poisontongue

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Edited By Poisontongue

9/10 more land than water

Game just doesn't look like a 9/10, but that's why I don't give much credence to reviews anymore. I find it hard to believe the only negative is the starter designs (the evolutions of which are hideous).

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Himiko

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@Poisontongue: Well it looks like a possible 9/10 to me. And yeah sure, don't trust reviews at all even though the majority of reviews have been giving moderate to favorable ratings for the game. You can't be so biased as to dismiss the majority of reviews for a game and blame them for being biased when you haven't even played the game yourself.

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Poisontongue

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Edited By Poisontongue

@himiko: THAT looks like a 9? Are our standards that low now?

There is a reason why I don't give much credence to review scores anymore. Most of them are questionable no matter what game. Really depends on the reviewer and knowing their style and is still far less informative than seeing the game in action.

It's Pokemon, I don't think there's much of a need at this point to play it in order to know what to expect. Especially when everything available displays it as another paint-by-numbers iteration like the last two.

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Himiko

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@Poisontongue: My standards aren't low, you're just in denial. There is a reason the game is getting a ton of good reviews. Whether you're willing to open your mind and see it is up to you.

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Poisontongue

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@himiko: Lol what does that even mean? In denial about what? What am I supposed to be opening up to?

And there are many games that got great reviews that have not been great in retrospect. Like Skyward Sword. Review scores are so inflated these days.

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Pokemon Sword / Shield More Info

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  • First Released Nov 15, 2019
    released
    • Nintendo Switch
    Pokemon Sword / Shield
    6
    Average Rating31 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Pokemon Sword / Shield
    Developed by:
    Game Freak
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genre(s):
    Management, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence