A Brief Guide to Pokémon Sword and Shield (AKA Yamper's World)

"Pokémon Sword" and  "Pokemon Shield" were recently released for the Nintendo Switch on November 15, 2019, and since then players all around the world have been trying to “catch ‘em all” — but not really because of #BringBackNationalDex. Game Freak faced backlash from fans when they announced that not all pre-existing Pokémon would be included in the games, and many players were left disgruntled wondering if the game would even be worth buying thanks to all sorts of rumors floating around. As a dedicated Pokémon fan (and one who believes that "Pokémon Colosseum" for the GameCube was truly the peak of gaming), the moment the preorders opened up I shoved my money into GameStop’s face and waited not so patiently for my copy of "Pokémon Sword" to arrive on the release date.

Since school and life do come first (sadly), I’ve only gotten a few hours of gameplay in, but I have to say I’m more than impressed. At the point of writing this article, I’ve just earned my first gym badge from Milo, the grass-type gym leader, and have started my trek towards the second gym where the water-type gym leader Nessa resides. So for those of you who haven’t gotten the chance to play the new Pokémon game yet, allow me to convince you as to why you should cough up the $60.

  1. 1. Differences between Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield

    So as I mentioned earlier, I bought the "Pokémon Sword" version of the game. There’s no particular reason that I did since there isn’t much of a difference between them, I just liked the way that Zacian looked because I tend to prefer the sleeker good boys. (Yes, if you take a look at my party of Pokémon, they’re all dogs because I can’t get enough of those cute boopable noses). Even though I personally don’t think that there are significant differences between the games, many fans do and Game Freak definitely did more to separate the two than in previous Pokémon games.

    One of the factors that vary between the two games is that two of the gym leaders are exclusive to each. In "Sword," there is a fighting-type gym leader, Bea, and a rock-type gym leader, Gordie, while those same gyms in "Shield" are instead run by a ghost-type leader, Allister, and an ice-type leader, Melony. (If I'm being quite honest, I’m glad I avoided Allister at all costs because he gives me the heebie-jeebies.) 

    Another factor that is different between "Sword" and "Shield," just like in the other pairs of Pokémon games, is that there are certain Pokémon that you are able to catch in one that aren’t available in the other. Some "Sword" exclusives are Seedot, Rufflet and Mawile, while some "Shield" exclusives are Goodra, Solosis and Lotad and of course, the legendaries are also exclusive to each of their games — Zacian for "Sword" and Zamazenta for "Shield." So if it comes down to the legendaries for your choice, figure out whether you prefer a fast good boy or a big good boy.

  2. 2. Region

    Galar is the region that "Pokémon Sword" and "Shield" are set in, and is home to a plethora of new Pokémon. It has been said that it was designed with the United Kingdom in mind which I can kind of see from the zoomed out map, but the weather is definitely less gloomy (sorry if I’m stereotyping to the English folk out there). I’m a huge fan of the Wild Area that is composed of many different portions of the region, but so far I’ve only explored the part that is between the village and Motostoke. I love that the weather constantly varies and that you can run into all sorts of Pokémon in the paths and in the grass — even cooler is that the types of Pokémon you encounter depends on the weather at the time. While I was there, it was raining so I stocked up on a lot of water and electric types before heading straight to Motostoke.

    Note: Be cautious while shaking berry trees  if you get too greedy and keep shaking for more, a Pokémon might flop their way out!

  3. 3. Starters

    There always seems to be some intense competition between fans of each of the starter Pokémon — as expected, because everyone gets attached to their pick. For "Pokémon Sword" and "Shield," the starters were: Grookey, the grass type, Scorbunny, the fire type, and Sobble, the water type. Even though I’m normally a fan of fire types, I actually chose Grookey as my starter because I couldn’t resist his cute little face — and by this point, he’s evolved into Thwackey, so it’s safe to say that I adore his silly names.

    For those who haven’t played a Pokémon game before, the starters are set up in a way where no matter which one you choose, it will be stronger than one and weaker than the other. For example, since Grookey is a grass type, his grass-type moves would be super effective against Sobble, who is a water type, but not effective against Scorbunny, the fire type. Instead, a fire-based move from Scorbunny would seriously damage Grookey. It takes some time to learn all of the types and what their strengths and weaknesses are, but eventually, it’ll become second nature and you’ll be able to utilize that information during battles and while capturing wild Pokémon.

  4. 4. Dynamax & Gigantamax

    Dynamax and Gigantamax are both new features that were added to the "Pokémon Sword" and "Shield" games — but if our cards are out on the table, I have to admit that I’m not a fan of them and find them rather gimmicky. Dynamax is a temporary state where your Pokémon becomes massive (and I mean so huge that the ground breaks beneath them) for three turns, in which your HP increases and you gain access to special moves that can pretty much annihilate another Pokémon if done right. Any Pokémon is able to access their Dynamax form no matter if they have evolved or not because it all depends on the wristband that the player obtains after speaking with the professor. 

    On the other hand, Gigantamax is a step ahead of Dynamax in the way that only a few Pokémon are capable of accessing it. In order to catch a Pokémon that is capable of Gigantamax, you have to participate in Max Raid Battles to find one — which is easy, because they look different and are able to use the G-Max move which is even more powerful than the Dynamax special attacks. While some might find these new features interesting, I honestly felt like it took away from the “feel” of the usual Pokémon games, so I try not to use them unless I’m forced to during the quest.

  5. 5. Fun features

    Other than the previous things that were mentioned, there are so many more unique features in "Pokémon Sword" and "Shield." One of these things is that Pokémon — if they are not currently in your party — are able to have jobs, even if they're technically only for a maximum duration of one day. Once you gain access to the box where you store all of your Pokémon, you have the option to check job listings in which shops and companies around Galar ask for help from certain types of Pokémon. If you accept the post, you can send up to three Pokémon from that type to go help for as long as you want, with a minimum of a “short period” to a “whole day.” Depending on how long they were at the job, your Pokémon gain experience; I thought this was a really clever way of leveling up your Pokémon when they aren’t in your party as opposed to having them sit at level 4 for centuries while they hang out in the box.

    Another feature is that if you visit the towns, there are boutiques that each have their own style of clothing, which gives the player more opportunity to truly customize their character after picking a basic template on the home screen. You can also visit a salon to change your character’s hair, eyes and makeup which I adored because it really gave me the freedom to make her look however I wanted. 

    One last new feature that I would like to mention is that in "Pokémon Sword" and "Shield," at a point in the game you are given a box link that allows you to access your boxed Pokémon while out and about as opposed to having to run to the nearest Pokémon center each time which saves so much time. In previous Pokémon games, I always hated having to sprint circles like a headless chicken before a gym battle because I needed to change my party, but couldn’t remember where the closest Pokémon center was. 

  6. 6. Yamper

    That’s it. That’s all I have to say.

All in all, I have to say that "Pokémon Sword" and "Shield"​ were another successful pair in the Pokémon series, despite some of the things that upset other fans. While it was saddening to have a regional Pokédex as opposed to a national Pokédex, after seeing how smooth and detailed all of the animations were in the game I could understand that it simply was too much of a hassle to do all of that. There are plenty of new and old Pokémon to focus on in the game, so I didn’t think it was that big of a deal in the end, and all of the new features certainly made up for it. 

Plus, being able to set up camp to play fetch with my Yamper certainly made the burning hole in my wallet worth everything.