Pokemon Sword and Shield, for all of the controversy leading up to release, turned out to be a pretty damn good game. It’s certainly not a perfect one though.
For long-time fans that have been around for a while, there are certainly some head-scratching omissions that would have made Sword and Shield better games.
Staying away from the obvious like the lack of a full National Dex, and moving on from previous generation features like Mega Evolutions, let’s dive into five ways that Pokemon Sword and Shield could have been even better.
Dynamax-Free Ranked Mode
Pokemon Sword and Shield is a big step towards a more organized competitive battle mode. There are now ranked matchmaking for both singles and doubles battles, very nice!
The problem that this generation has though is that the new Dynamax feature is not only meta-defining, but it might be completely unbalanced for competitive play.
All battles now revolve around this singular gameplay mechanic. Without proper preparation, a skilled Pokemon battler can easily run through half of your team with a single Dynamax Pokemon and throw any strategy you had planned out the window.
Some Pokemon benefit from Dynamax more than others and anyone that wants to take winning seriously will either need to use these Pokemon, or base their entire team around countering them which stifles creativity.
Dynamax is neat and it has something cool to offer, but what would have been even better is a separate ladder for Dynamax disabled. That way veteran competitive battlers could still get the traditional experience without having to build entirely around Dynamax.
I know I said I was going to try and stay away from the common complaints, but this one at least is unrelated to the gameplay.
At this stage, on a Nintendo Switch that we know is capable of handling move animations that are more complex than stuff we’ve been seeing since Diamond and Pearl, it’s embarrassing that attack animations are as basic as they are.
Sure, Dynamax is a feast for the eyes, and maybe that’s where the budget for move animations went; I don’t know. But what I do know is that it’s getting really lame seeing the same old lazy attack animations.
My personal favorite: Cinderace kicks the opponent when you use Headbutt.
A More Useful Pokedex
The Pokedex in the past has had some helpful options for sorting through the hundreds of Pokemon you’ll be coming across throughout your adventure. While the Galar Dex isn’t as large, I don’t know why Pokedex functionality needed to go backwards.
I mean at the very least allow the Pokedex to be sorted by Type for crying out loud. If you wanted to search your Pokedex for a Water-type to fill out your team, you can’t do that. You instead have the option to sort by: Number, A to Z, Weight, and Height; all very unhelpful.
Aside from including type, what would make the Pokedex something I actually use more than rarely is if I could get really in-depth with my searches and include queries like Abilities and Moves.
Knowing which Pokemon can use certain abilities without having to pull up an external resource would be amazing.
More Creative Dungeons
I hate puzzles and for the entirety of the Pokemon series I dreaded having to push rocks around or slide around ice. That said, I would have tolerated it more if random battles weren’t a thing.
Now in Sword and Shield, random battles are nearly completely removed but for some reason, dungeons, caves and other interior areas have been simplified heavily.
There’s zero complexity to navigating dungeons now in Pokemon Sword and Shield. While they are prettier to look at, they all just have a few branching paths, some trainers to fight and that’s about it.
This would have been the game where I actually would have been fine with some more complex puzzling since players no longer have to contend with random battles turning trial and error into a slog.
Deeper Story & Lore
Perhaps what bugged me the most about the story of Pokemon Sword and Shield is the b-plot of the origin of Dynamax and what is going on behind the scenes with Chairman Rose is pushed aside until the very last moments of the game.
The entire game is just focused on working through the gym battles. Granted, the gyms are far more exciting now, but I’d argue even Red and Blue spent more time exploring the b-plot than Sword and Shield.
What makes it more puzzling is that Sun and Moon had arguably the most complex and interesting plot in the entire series. It’s right up there with Black and White.
Sword and Shield, bizarrely, went the complete opposite direction and might have the weakest and most barebones plot in the entire series.
That does it for what we would throw in Pokemon Sword and Shield to make it better. Despite our gripes, Sword and Shield is still a great Pokemon game.
What would you like to see improve for future generations? Let us know in the comments below.