The days leading up to December 25th 1998 were excruciating. The wait was agony and sleepless nights made their appearance for the first time in my life. Father Christmas was bringing Pokemon Yellow, the must-have game of the year (in my head and that of my friends anyway) and I could not wait. It didn’t matter that the Gameboy I had was ancient. Pokemon Yellow would be the best game in the world and it didn’t matter how many batteries I went through on my old 1989 Gameboy, this was one game that would be squeezed for every second of gameplay.
Other than Metal Gear Solid, this remains my fondest gaming memory, spending more than a hundred hours playing through. The Elite Four faced more than 100 battles against me and my pokemon ended within touching distance of level 100.
It was a great game and with the same enthusiasm, I tore through Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu but spent many months stretching out Pokemon Sword. For me, it fell short of that original addiction and is it because I am older now or because the game was not as good?
As the only videogame podcast on my phone and as one of the most recognisable names when it comes to videogames journalism, IGN, will be the first review on the list to analyse.
Streamlining Pokemon’s most tedious traditions without losing any of the charm.
Pokemon Sword and Shield review, IGN
Overall, IGN, gave Pokemon Sword and Shield a 9.3 out of ten. This for me is too high. At most I would give it a 7, which is still a great score but it doesn't capture that childlike obsession that drove me to beat the Elite Four a hundred times. The tedious traditions of which the review speaks of are what made the games for me. Levelling up for one is something that I am not a fan of in the latest games as all pokemon gain XP unless they have fainted. This ends up with some pokemon at higher levels than others, as you are not able to focus and build each creature individually.
Next on the list is TechRadar, who have rated Pokemon Sword and Shield at an acceptable, 3.5 out of 5.
Close to being the very best
Pokemon Sword and Shield review, TechRadar
Concluding their review, TechRadar summarises Pokemon Sword and Shield as not being flawless but being fun for old and new players. This I would agree with in terms of the not being flawless part but for being fun, I’m struggling. As soon as the competition that was running with a couple of friends was over and I realised that I would not be the first to complete, I gave up and put it to the side for a few months. Only bringing it out this year with the thought that I may as well finish it in my mind. This thought doesn’t suggest to me that I was having fun, more that I was playing out of loyalty. I certainly didn’t push through as quickly as I did with Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu.
Last on the list is Eurogamer and the tagline for this review aligns much more to my views on the game;
Pokémon Sword and Shield review — a shadow of a former great…Pokémon Sword and Shield add some brilliant new creatures, but like their gargantuan Dynamax forms, the games feel like a hollow projection.
Pokemon Sword and Shield review, EuroGamer
Dynamaxing is something that all of the reviews agree upon. To different extents, they project how little the ability adds to the game. For one, only one Pokemon per battle can utilise, on top of this is the fact that unless you are in a wild area or gym battle, then you won’t have the energy to do so. It was pretty pointless, merely being saved as a back-up to finish off each gym leader. Dynamaxing is nothing more than smoke and mirrors to hide the flaws in the game that do not capture the spirit of the original.
Is it me or is it the game?
I am older than I was back in 1998. Then I was nine and now I am 31.4. Back then the only bills that I needed to consider were for my magazine subscriptions and now my bills reach nearly £900 each month. Work was nothing more than pushing a hoover around and now it dominates nearly 40 hours of my life every week.
My tastes have changed alongside this and some programs that I loved growing up are now irritations on my eardrums. Throughout all of this, I have kept in touch with Pokemon, leaving it only for a few years during the Black and White era. As soon as I saw a creature that looked like a black bag, I was out of there, choosing the more ‘adult’ videogame stylings of Resident Evil.
I went back though and have been slowly completing my Pokemon card collection, alongside getting back into the series, starting back with Omega Ruby. This I enjoyed, Pokemon Shield I played. A part of it may be that age is taking over but mostly I feel that the game was disappointing when held up against those originals. Yes, you need to re-invent and be creative but when that creativity misses the mark for long-term fans, then you have a problem.
Age has changed me, as it changes all of us but through it all, I have been a fan of Pokemon. 151 creatures that expanded into a universe of more than 800 that have starred in movies, TV series, videogames, books, trading cards and more. They have raised and shaped me every bit as much as my family has, spending hours reading and caring for them, from Red to Sword, these creatures are my friends.
Over the years we have grown apart but they have always been there, occupying a key part of my heart. Have I loved everything that they have done? No, but then again, which of your friends do you agree with all the time? Friends argue and disagree but the important thing is that you always come back and I always will for Pokemon.
Pokemon Sword may have missed the mark for me but it was still playable and in the absence of any other Pokemon game, something to play. It is nowhere near as good as the originals that absorbed many hours of my youth but they are playable and with no alternative, in terms of a new game, something to while away the hours in quarantine. The best this is not but it is playable.