Pokémon Sword and Shield are the first proper new generation Pokémon games for Nintendo Switch, introducing a ton of new adorable creatures in a colorful new world dubbed the Galar Region. And while my E3 demo of Sword and Shield felt largely familiar to previous installments, it did stand out in one big way — literally.
I experienced one of Sword and Shield’s trainer gyms during my demo, and it played out much like a gym does in any previous Pokémon title. Take out a few trainers, solve some basic navigation puzzles and make your way to the gym leader — you know the drill.
While the gameplay was familiar, I was immediately struck by Sword and Shield’s visuals, which are a notable step up from last year’s Pokémon Let’s Go. Adorable new Pokémon like Sobble and Grookey (my beautiful son) have more of a cel-shaded, hand drawn look to them compared to the softer looking Let’s Go, and the entire game just pops with color.
Once I got through some basic battles and made it to the gym leader, I really got a sense of what makes Sword and Shield feel new. The battle took place in a large stadium with a cheering crowd, which made the action feel more akin to the Pokémon TV series and movies. But the real kicker is the new Dynamax mode, which allows you to make your Pokémon gigantic and extra powerful for a limited time during leader battles. This enhancement results in epic, Godzilla-like fights between huge, adorable creatures.
I couldn’t help but grin with joy when I saw my beloved Grookey become huge. But I was even more impressed by how much extra damage I was able to dole out when I had him in Dynamax form.
Replacing Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves from previous games, Dynamax mode gives your Pokémon access to extra-powerful abilities for three turns once per battle, allowing you to turn the tide of a fight if you use it properly. On top of the added layer of strategy, seeing two Dynamax-sized Pokémon go at it is a real spectacle, especially for a series whose turn-based battles have traditionally been pretty tame-looking.
In addition to Dynamax mode, Sword and Shield will introduce full 360-degree camera control while exploring, and Max Raid Battles. These battles take a cue from Pokémon Go by letting you team up with other players to catch rare Pokémon. It will also see the return of traditional wild Pokémon encounters and the ability to battle wild Pokémon, ditching the Pokémon Go-like system from Let’s Go. While I’ll personally miss some of the more streamlined systems from last year’s game, I can’t wait to spend more time with the cute and cool-looking new Pokémon that await in Sword and Shield — especially when they’re gigantic.
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