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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jerusaelem

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Easy games are really fun for about a month. By this time next year, the community will be mostly dead. There's a price to pay for "quality of life" changes, and that price is usually paid in boredom. It will be very difficult to give a rats ass about post game content knowing that the majority of any hard work and effort I put into the game can be completely undone by the time they release it's sequel.

This direction is short sighted and catering most to the people who won't be around to give a damn come next November. Can't see the forest for the trees. They got paid. They don't care. Sad days for people that don't enjoy the concept of disposable pokemon. Canceled my preorder two months back and almost everything detailed in this review only strengthens my conviction that I made the right choice. Swell to those who enjoy it, though I suspect the enjoyment will be fleeting.

6 • 
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oEvo

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@jerusaelem: It will not be dead this time next year because of the competitive PKMN seen. Regionals and Nats will make this game mandatory for competition soon.

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phili878

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@jerusaelem: The game from your avatar is epic to this day. I am on a second playthrough, they surely don't make them like that anymore, Mani ;)

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ucfknight92

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Kallie called everyone criticizing the decisions of game freak children, telling us to grow up on twitter, before this review even came out. I was sincerely hoping she wouldn't be the one reviewing this game, but GameSpot really screwed up here. She's in no way impartial, and there's so much bias here. Not only that, but she blatantly disrespected, in the most condescending of ways, a ton of your viewership. Now to the review, are you really going to tell us the only con are the designs of the starters? As someone who has played every gen. of Pokemon, I have a few cons to point out.

-The animations are absolutely juvenile. We still have characters and pokemon in cut-scenes doing 360 turns because they can't walk directionally. Building upon that, pokemon in battle still don't have detailed animations for attacks. We're currently in late 2019, but this game still latches on to 3ds tech limits. Which brings me to the next point.

-Game Freak blatantly lied about the reason why they cut pokemon - they were going to make new models. THEY DIDN'T MAKE NEW MODELS. The game has been datamined and they imported all of their models directly from the 3ds generation, not one model is new. There's no disputing this. GF lied straight to our damned faces about why they cut pokemon, but why?

I feel like these are two rather large cons, bigger than "bad designs of starters," that should probably be included by any reviewer worth their salt. But remember, most game journalists aren't hired on merits or education, and they're certainly not all critical thinkers. Don't blindly accept what people like Kallie have to say.

25 • 
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JustPlainLucas

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@ucfknight92 said:

Kallie called everyone criticizing the decisions of game freak children, telling us to grow up on twitter, before this review even came out. I was sincerely hoping she wouldn't be the one reviewing this game, but GameSpot really screwed up here. She's in no way impartial, and there's so much bias here. Not only that, but she blatantly disrespected, in the most condescending of ways, a ton of your viewership. Now to the review, are you really going to tell us the only con are the designs of the starters? As someone who has played every gen. of Pokemon, I have a few cons to point out.

-The animations are absolutely juvenile. We still have characters and pokemon in cut-scenes doing 360 turns because they can't walk directionally. Building upon that, pokemon in battle still don't have detailed animations for attacks. We're currently in late 2019, but this game still latches on to 3ds tech limits. Which brings me to the next point.

-Game Freak blatantly lied about the reason why they cut pokemon - they were going to make new models. THEY DIDN'T MAKE NEW MODELS. The game has been datamined and they imported all of their models directly from the 3ds generation, not one model is new. There's no disputing this. GF lied straight to our damned faces about why they cut pokemon, but why?

I feel like these are two rather large cons, bigger than "bad designs of starters," that should probably be included by any reviewer worth their salt. But remember, most game journalists aren't hired on merits or education, and they're certainly not all critical thinkers. Don't blindly accept what people like Kallie have to say.

You'd think that someone complaining about a toxic community would stop being toxic herself...

11 • 
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monkyby87

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@ucfknight92: you sound awfully biased yourself.

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BasketballFan

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@monkyby87: You sound uninformed and in denial.

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monkyby87

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@basketballfan: you sound like an idiot.

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RogerioFM

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@monkyby87: Actually, you do, you're just being toxic because people disagree with you.

9 • 
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phili878

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Edited By phili878

@RogerioFM: Non-Nintendo players have since Nintendo is covered on Gamespot (and other review sites obviously), they have had nothing better to do than constantly troll, disagree, use passive-aggressive or direct aggressive comments towards a good rated Nintendo game reviews and supporters of such reviews. I follow this forum since 1998 (lost original account), and first they insulted Nintendo players directly (open insults, like F--ing Kids, 12 year olds, etc this all started happening around 2005 ish), then as Nintendo games kept beating Console games in scores, they suddenly shifted their crusades vs the reviewers and even Nintendo itself. Again, that's sad man. What they fail to realize is that most Nintendo players also play consoles and PC, so for many people out there (me included), seeing such replies is actually sad, like, I feel sorry for them. I really do. Imagine you also play the games those kids or mentally-childish adults also play, imagine you also play on their platforms, but you are looking forward for a Nintendo game as well, and you see all these constant same replies, over, and over, and over....So calling them idiots, is actually not toxic in such a viewpoint, it is actually the truth (if you look up the definition of it). Now, I don't call them idiots in forums, no need to, because I know very fast by how people reply whether they are idiots or not, but sometimes actually writing idiot can be just, it is not always toxic, or, it can be justified toxic rather, heh.

2 • 
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RogerioFM

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@phili878: There is truth in that. I wont deny it, but there are valid points on both sides, people have the right to enjoy the games they want, yet if someone feel they either have been wronged or a game didn't live up to their expectations it's healthy to express that, as long as it's in a rational manner, the problem is, once you call someone an idiot, regardless of what the dictionary says or well, if you're right, well that's it, there is no further dialogue, I get it, it can get tiresome sometimes, but overall I think it's best to avoid a pointless discussion that resort to insults, because these behaviors tends to just escalate further and further. The problem is that this is nothing new, not sure if I'm just tired of it all or it have gotten worse with the years, because I'm feeling fatigued of drama everywhere in every single game, but I also find it hard to ignore when a company "supposedly" lies to the customers, supposedly because we'll have to wait and see regarding if the devs are or not using recycled resources.

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monkyby87

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@RogerioFM: no, I just enjoy seeing everyone here get worked up over a fucking video game on a stupid website.

2 • 
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RogerioFM

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@monkyby87: hahaha point confirmed.

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Gr4h4m833zy

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Well. Being that kallie also gave death stranding a 9, i guess i can trust this review. Im having fun with kojima's latest even though he should choose his words more wisely when speaking about american tastes. Now if only i hadn't sold my switch to gamestop. 😞

3 • 
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alastor529

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@gr4h4m833zy: you sold your swtich to Gamestop? lmao
don't ever sell to gamestop they give you nothing, if oyu were dying for some pennies you were better off selling on ebay, let go, offer up

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Mattock1987

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Why were reviews embargoed?

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Unga_Bunga2

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Edited By Unga_Bunga2

What a strange review. You seemed to have omitted all of the negatives and/or issues with the game. Either that or you completely missed them while playing through it.

Things like:

* Animations being unfinished

* Battle backgrounds not matching the scenery of the overworld

* Over half of the Pokemon being completely cut to "work on animations", something major that you glanced over for about two sentences (see point 1)

* The massive culling of over 100+ moves

* The graphical issues and the very noticeable pop in throughout the game

and much more.

Is this a review or a blog post about the things you liked in the latest Pokemon?

16 • 
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videogameninja

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So, what you're saying is that I STILL gotta' catch 'em all?

😉

- IF IT AIN'T BROKE NINJA APPROVED-

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TJDMHEM

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I'll be playing it when I get it for Christmas.

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phili878

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Great review. I checked some other reviews now as well and it appears on par.

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DancingCactus

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So they made the combat simpler. How is that a good thing? In what way was Pokemon combat in any way dragging down previous games? If anything, the minor complexity provided by mega-evolution and z-moves made the combat more engaging than the vanilla combat that felt like it was designed for some low-powered handheld device generations out of date.

Oh wait.

I never even liked mega-evolution or z-moves, but I could appreciate how they made the games better.

And your only flaw is the starter Pokemon aren't cute enough? Really?

Daily Star says they're still artificially gating what you can do in game behind gym badges, yet this is supposed to be open world. How is that not a negative?

Everyone else is saying the new features are nice but not utilized enough to hide the plethora of boring old pokemonisms.

VG247 says the game feels unfinished in certain aspects.

I've, of course, never played these new games. However, these other reviews actually seek to explore the pros and cons of this new generation rather than just spit out some garbage about how the only fault is the starters aren't cute enough and a plus is the insultingly simple Pokemon games being simpler is somehow a good thing.

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BtotheOtotheJtotheF

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@dancingcactus: theyre pandering to their enormous child demographic

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Oemenia

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@dancingcactus: Its called Nintendo innovation.

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jbrittain

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Edited By jbrittain

Thanks for the review. I enjoyed reading it. And thanks for taking the extra time to play the post-game content even though I'm sure time was limited to get this review out.

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Unga_Bunga2

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Edited By Unga_Bunga2

@jbrittain: The post game content is less then four hours long. They weren't in a rush as this is one of the shortest Pokemon games to date.

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aross2004

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@unga_bunga2: Aren't there 400 to collect in this game? Seems like that would keep me going for quite a while.

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Unga_Bunga2

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Edited By Unga_Bunga2

@aross2004: Collecting everything isn't what people usually consider post-game content.

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Dubshark

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Of all the people working at gamespot they got Kallie to review a pokemon game? I bet this review isn't biased at all

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Blahblah7

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@dubshark:

They should get someone who isn't an obsessive Pokéfan to review it. Someone who isn't blinded. We know from the leaks this is the worst Pokémon game made. Yet we see these reviews

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Mujulioj

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@blahblah7: if you already decided that you dont like the game, why read the review?

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Blahblah7

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@Mujulioj: So if I think the game looks bad I'm not allowed to read reviews for it? I can still read what people say, and disagree with it, I don't have to lock myself in a bubble and refuse to read any reviews

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PraisetheShat

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@dubshark: I think it's a good idea to have a pokémon fan review this because they know what they want in the game, and can tell other pokémon fans the pros and cons about it.

Like, let's say you get someone who doesn't like JRPG's AT ALL to review an amazing game like Persona 5, which has stellar reviews all around. I'm one of those people who sadly couldn't really get into the game but I totally get why it's an awesome game. Not every type of game can appeal to everyone.

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JustPlainLucas

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@praisetheshat said:

@dubshark: I think it's a good idea to have a pokémon fan review this because they know what they want in the game, and can tell other pokémon fans the pros and cons about it.

Like, let's say you get someone who doesn't like JRPG's AT ALL to review an amazing game like Persona 5, which has stellar reviews all around. I'm one of those people who sadly couldn't really get into the game but I totally get why it's an awesome game. Not every type of game can appeal to everyone.

I think they're saying Kallie is too much of a Pokemon fan, which is being illustrated by people who are calling her out for neglecting to mention the games' obvious flaws and omissions.

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phili878

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Edited By phili878

@dubshark: As if Pokemon was ever a crap game (except maybe the phone version).... sigh, what kind of half-baked comment you put up. Another option, how about you apply to gamespot and write better reviews then?

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saltymemesoup

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@phili878: Too much water 5/10

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phili878

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@saltymemesoup: I'll take this as a compliment, coming from a main GS forum troll, lol.

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Pokemon Sword / Shield More Info

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  • First Released Nov 15, 2019
    released
    • Nintendo Switch
    Pokemon Sword / Shield
    5.9
    Average Rating32 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