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Pokemon Sword First Impressions: The Hate Train Has Slightly Derailed

Pokemon Sword

Pokemon Sword

Leading up to its release, Pokemon Sword and Shield received some hate for the Dexit controversy. Developers Game Freak decided to cut many Pokemon from the game to save time. In total, Pokemon Sword and Shield’s Pokedex supports just over 400 Pokemon. That’s less than half of the total Pokedex across all regions. However, my first impressions of Nintendo’s latest JRPG are very positive.

Pokemon Sword: Dexit Doesn’t Matter As Much As You Think

Pokemon SwordMy favorite Pokemon, Emolga, has been cut from generation eight. It sucks. The question is how much of a negative impact does that have on my playthrough? A little for sure since Emolga is usually a lock for all of my teams. Generally speaking though, I got over it pretty quickly.

Here’s the thing with the Galar region. Many of the new environments are very open and encourage exploration. Actually seeing wild Pokemon roam free is far more fulfilling than just discovering them in grass patches. There’s a genuine feeling of surprise when you see something exotic or unexpected in the flesh.

For example, I encountered a level 32 Haunter within my first hour of playing Pokemon Sword. The idea of a Haunter just roaming around was cool enough, but the surprise of its strength panicked me. I had to find a way out of the battle before it swept my team. Fortunately, I had my trump card. Ninjask.

NinjaskNinjask is a bug type Pokemon with a staggering base speed of 160. That makes it the second-fastest Pokemon in the entire national dex, after Deoxys Speed Forme. Despite being less than half the level of the opposing Haunter, Ninjask’s crazy speed let it escape on the second try. Somehow, it managed to tank a Hex to the face.

I’m not saying these experiences couldn’t happen with the entire Pokedex present. Obviously, they could. However, I think Game Freak deserves a degree of credit where due, By sacrificing a large portion of the Pokedex they have managed to find time to enhance the encounter experience. I imagine if we had all 800 Pokemon they’d have just rushed in a generic old-school system instead. The lack of Pokemon sucks but there’s still plenty to fill the Galar region and create experiences like these.

It’s Not the Prettiest Game

Prettiest GameMany haters like to exaggerate generation eight’s visual shortcomings. Pokemon Sword and Shield are not ugly games necessarily. In saying that, even for Switch standards they are underwhelming in certain areas. Specifically, some environments feel lazily implemented and poorly rendered.

There’s a clear resolution issue present too. Certain edges or angled lines are very jagged due to a lack of pixels to accommodate them. Pokemon Sword and Shield runs at 1280×720, 30 FPS at all times. I didn’t notice any resolution upscaling in docked mode. As a result, the docked mode can look pretty unimpressive. Stretching out a 720p image that far is a recipe for disaster.

This is disappointing because we know full well the Nintendo Switch can perform better. ARMS runs at 1080p, 60 FPS when docked. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also manages to comfortably hit 1080p, 60 FPS in docked form. Even an open-world game like Super Mario Odyssey can hit 900p, 60 FPS most of the time.

Super Mario Odyssey

The only conclusion I can come to is that Game Freak just doesn’t understand Switch hardware as well as other first-party Nintendo developers. That seems to be the only logical explanation for the dire pop in too. I’d say Pokemon can appear invisible on screen as close as 10 meters away. It hurts what is otherwise an excellent opportunity for open-world exploration.

For clarity, I don’t think Pokemon Sword is a bad looking game. Pokemon models, as well as the character models, are well done. Equally, the cities and towns look better than ever. The environments whilst battling are pretty clean and, most important of all, I’ve yet to experience any significant frame drops. The visuals may not be ground-breaking but they’re not bad enough to really impact general gameplay.

My Opening Verdict

My Opening Verdict on Pokemon SwordIt’s still very early days and I’m certainly in no position to review this yet. Honestly, I’m only three hours into the story. A proper review will follow either on Monday or next week, but early signs do suggest this is better than the haters would have you think.

At its core, Pokemon Shield is just that, a Pokemon game. You explore an exciting new region, collect Pokemon and try to become the champion of Galar. It has plenty of new, interesting characters as well as arguably the best new Pokemon we’ve seen in years. From the Pokedex leak I can already tell there aren’t many new Pokemon I don’t like.

A defining moment going forward will be when I get to properly check out the new raid battles. Currently, I’ve only done one and it was against Rufflet. It wasn’t very fun as the Rufflet’s move set was so dysfunctional I didn’t have to try much. I and my adorable little Yamper just Nuzzled baby America Bird to death.

For now, that’s all I have to say. Hopefully, I can come back and give a proper verdict and breakdown after playing through the entire game.

Be sure to let us know in the comments back you think about Pokemon Sword and Shield. Were early concerns justified or was the hate unfair? We’ve love to hear what you have to say.

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