The release of Pokémon Sword and Shield, all-new 3D Pokémon games for the Nintendo Switch, was highly anticipated by fans around the globe. However, despite the initial hype surrounding their launch in November 2019, these games (part of the eighth generation of Pokémon) faced some significant backlash from players and critics alike. While many players enjoyed them, there are several compelling reasons why gamers may want to avoid Pokémon Sword and Shield. Here’s what prospective buyers should know to make an informed decision before spending any hard-earned cash.
Price vs. Content
One of the biggest reasons to avoid Pokémon Sword and Shield is a criticism you can aim at many Nintendo Switch games: the price tag. These games launched as full-priced titles costing $60. As many Nintendo fans know, big first-party Switch games don’t go on sale for deep discounts too often. While this is, admittedly, a subjective criticism, many players felt that the content did not justify the cost. Pokémon Sword and Shield may leave players feeling shortchanged regarding gameplay hours compared to other RPGs (including other Pokémon games).
Graphics Quality and Performance
Another significant criticism is the graphics quality in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Even by Nintendo Switch standards (a console running on mobile hardware from 2017), the graphics in these games are nothing to write home about. The world lacks the level of detail and polish seen in other contemporary titles.
Criticism was also leveled at the game’s performance. Fans noted that character animations can be stiff and unimpressive, for example. The Wild Area, a new open-world area in the game, faced particular criticism for its inconsistent frame rate and graphical performance. This problem was especially noticeable when playing online or in the more populated sections of the area.
This is another highly subjective criticism, however, as the Pokémon games (typically released on handheld devices) aren’t known for cutting-edge graphics. The Nintendo Switch itself is also not exactly a powerhouse, especially in 2023. Nonetheless, this could be a reason for some players to avoid Pokémon Sword and Shield.
National Dex Controversy
One of the most contentious decisions in Pokémon Sword and Shield was the removal of the National Dex. This means that not all Pokémon from previous generations are available in these games. Many longtime fans were disappointed and even angered by the limited selection of creatures. It’s hard to deny that this move diminished the core appeal of the franchise, which is all about collecting, trading, and battling a vast array of unique Pokémon. This culminated in the “Dexit” movement, with fans expressing their dissatisfaction on social media.
Game Depth and Challenge
Fans and critics argued that Pokémon Sword and Shield lack the depth found in some earlier titles. The games received criticism for their somewhat formulaic plot, lack of character development, and lack of post-game content. This left some players unsatisfied, especially for games in a franchise known for its depth and replay value.
Other players also found Pokémon Sword and Shield to be too easy, with a lack of challenging battles and puzzles. Experienced Pokémon trainers might not find enough to scratch their itch for battle.
Lack of Post-Game and Cut Content
After completing the main story, players are likely to find the post-game content rather limited compared to previous Pokémon titles. Furthermore, certain features and mechanics from earlier games were either scaled back or removed in Sword and Shield.
We already mentioned the removal of the National Dex, but other examples include the absence of Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves. Typically, the series introduces new features on top of old ones with each new installment. Many fans felt that cutting features (and Pokémon) was a step backward.
Controversial Expansion Pass
In 2020, Game Freak released an Expansion Pass for Pokémon Sword and Shield. Many players felt this should have been part of the original release. This expansion included two DLC packs and introduced new areas, additional Pokémon, and a bit more depth to the games. Naturally, it required an additional purchase. Many felt that this was an example of nickel-and-diming the player base, given the cut content from Sword and Shield.
Other Games to Consider
Although Pokémon Sword and Shield have their strengths and can offer enjoyment to many players, they faced considerable criticism for their price, graphics quality, limited Pokémon selection, cut content, lack of depth, and controversial expansion pass. Gamers looking for alternatives with similar gameplay mechanics and a more satisfying experience might want to consider the following titles:
- Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! – These games offer a more nostalgic experience, harkening back to the classic Pokémon Yellow while incorporating some elements from Pokémon GO.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses – If you’re looking for a deep and engaging RPG experience on the Nintendo Switch, Fire Emblem: Three Houses delivers. It offers a rich storyline, tactical battles, and a wide range of character interactions.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom – For an open-world adventure that showcases the full potential of the Nintendo Switch, look at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and its sequel, Tears of the Kingdom. Both offer stunning visuals, engaging gameplay, and vast, immersive worlds to explore.
- Tactics Ogre: Reborn – If you live for customizing your team and sending it into battle, Tactics Ogre: Reborn has much to offer. An enhanced remake of the classic SNES/PSX game Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, this strategy RPG delivers deep tactical gameplay, a complex job system, compelling characters, and a brilliantly written storyline with branching paths.
- Monster Hunter Rise – If the creature-catching aspect of Pokémon appeals to you, Monster Hunter Rise provides a different take on the concept with challenging battles and a wealth of content to explore.
While Pokémon Sword and Shield still have fans, these alternatives offer diverse gaming experiences that might better satisfy those looking for more value and depth.
It’s worth noting that while Pokémon Sword and Shield faced criticism, they also received praise for introducing new features and gameplay elements, such as Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing, and for bringing the Pokémon franchise to a console. Reviews and player opinions on the game’s quality were mixed, with some enjoying the experience despite the criticisms. Ultimately, deciding whether Sword and Shield is worth the price of entry is up to you. Hopefully, understanding these criticisms can help you make an informed choice.