Giving a heads up now that this story will not be one of my cheerful, goofy post, but not devoid of some humor.
A little known secret about me is that if I am interested in a game, I will play it no matter how bad everyone else says it is. Months leading up to this game, I was starting to get tired of hearing the complaint about these titles. I had to block #bringbackthenationaldex from my Twitter feed because it was getting annoying and it felt like everyone was just repeating themselves. I like to keep my expectations low because in the end I want to judge something based on my experience and give my honest opinion about something without influence from people that I do not know. So then the question is how did I find Pokemon Sword and Shield? Was I upset about the Pokemon available in the game? Did I cringe at all the “lazy, reused” animations? Was I upset that this title was not on par with Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Skyrim, The Last of Us, God of War, the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich, or the release of Half-Life 3? The answer to all of those is no not really, and for me that was due to a special reason.
I am going to be completely honest and open about me for a moment. The last half of 2019 was probably the most stressful period of my life. I work a full-time job, I take two classes a semester for my graduate degree, I take on almost all the responsibilities at home and in my relationship, I took on some music gigs playing an instrument that I had not touched in years and on top of that my weekly band rehearsals, and I started this blog. I juggled a lot of things to keep myself busy, but what I did not realize was that it was all taking its toll on me. I remember waking up already miserable for what was planned for the day. I would clean or fix on thing just for something else to fall apart the next. I would have moments where I would be bombarded with stressful thoughts that I felt trapped in this never ending cycle. My wife would try her best to help, but I was in such a rough patch that she did not know what to do in order to help me. Any time I had free time to myself, I would just stare into space and freak out about what was next to come. I had convinced myself that no one in the world would be able to handle the things that I did and that only I could do it. This made me super anxious about doing anything that I did not want to do because it was another thing on my plate. I think you get the picture now that I had the Big Sad.
The height and moment I realized I was unhappy with the status of my life came one day when I had nothing to do. It was the weekend, my wife and I had no plans of going out, and I had finished my school work for the week. I remember sitting in my game room looking at all the games we had and trying to decide what to play. After staring at the shelves for about 10 minutes, I felt sick and disgusted with myself that I would waste my time playing a game for a few hours when I could be doing some “more important.” I went to my wife and asked her if she wanted to help me box everything up and sell it all since just looking at them made me fell miserable. Immediately she knew something was wrong (that’s like Code Supernova in our house that something is wrong) and reassured me that all the stress that I had built up was eating at my depression and I needed to rest and stop creating work for myself. I believe I also messaged my good friend about my predicament and we played Final Fantasy 14 for a while. While it was good to get my mind off of things, I still felt bad that my other games were just sitting on a shelf collecting dust (the dilemma of a collector).
There was one thing that was keeping me going through all of this. Every new Pokemon game that’s been released has always made me feel good playing through them. Something about starting a new Pokemon journey with new mons and a new team always brought me back to the first time I played Pokemon Red all those years ago. The only worry I had was that it would feel like Sun and Moon, where nothing made me feel excited due to the trials feeling mind numbing and not a lot to do after you finish the game. Ultra Sun and Moon did not help this feeling, and for some reason Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby made me realize that I do not like the Hoenn region as much; making them the only Pokemon games that I have not finished. These worries would stick around, but I realized that I had developed a habit of enjoying things that most people don’t (my choice in gaming is proof of that). When November 15th rolled around, I eagerly went to the store and picked up the double pack for me and my wife and we made plans that evening to do nothing else but to play these games together. Would our hero find these games interesting or as ridiculous as the internet said it would be?
I was addicted to this game. The presentation of the game really sold it to me since there was a reason for going on this journey. In the other games it felt like you went on it because everyone else has or you have to “help” the local professor with their research. Things felt a bit more personal since the region is crazy for battles and things make sense for you to be a part of that. I loved the fact that the game had random encounters and Pokemon out in the open for you to catch. I enjoyed it in Let’s Go and I continued to enjoy it in this. My wife and I spent a lot of time in each area because for once I wanted to catch everything that I saw since I could see what was in each area and it was no longer a guessing game. The Wild Area was a laggy mess when online, but it was basically a giant Safari Zone where you could find almost anything. My entire weekend was spent just exploring, battling, trading, and researching all that I could about this game. For the first time in what felt like months, I was truly happy.
I thought about writing a review for this game, but felt like a post like this was more appropriate. So I am going to rapid fire some of the things that I liked and disliked with an arbitrator score at the end. So, (inhale)
- Grookey is best don’t @ me
- The credit scene made me realize that I can create a “rock band” team
- Raids are fun as long as you play with others
- Shiny Applin is a myth
- The way Exp share works in this game is a godsend for training
- I had a moral dilemma when I learned about the fossil Pokemon. Arctozolt however became one of my mains and I love the little abomination
- Hop is not a bad rival. He has issues with living up to his brother’s name and he grows from it.
- The backstory is lame. The villain’s motivation was weak, and I miss having a serious evil organization.
- Cramorant is my favorite Pokemon from this generation
- The gym challenges felt like a better trail system from Sun and Moon and they were actually fun to do.
- Best gym challenge was Opal’s Quiz. Worst was Gordie’s I guess because I do not remember his.
- Gym battles felt hype due to the stadium ascetic and the crowd’s chants during the last fight.
- I reset my game during the Leon fight because I felt like I was cheating using revives during the fight. I wanted to the satisfaction of beating him without recovery items and it felt great when I did.
- Speaking of Leon, he ranks third on best league champion. His personality and presence made him fell like a great champion.
- I enjoy the battle tower in the post game. It is an actual challenge if you have not been training properly.
- Bede was a better challenger than Marlene. Bede had the better story arc and continued being a jerk at the end.
- The post game story was ehh….
All in all an 8/10. Just the right amount of water
This game has also gotten me interested in the competitive scene. I may not be ultra devoted to the idea of breeding perfect IV’s, maxing EV’s, getting the right abilities and whatnot, but I do like the idea of creating crazy teams and seeing if I can make them work. This was also the first time in a mainline series that I actually completed the Pokedex. Normally I would not care about completing it, but I felt compelled to do so for the very first time. The limit number of Pokemon helped with that as well as hunting for them in the Wild Area. Along the way I also stumbled upon the joy of shiny hunting. I am not hardcore dedicated to it yet, but it is another option when I feel like it. Even though there is not much to do after finishing the game, I am still finding ways to enjoy and come up with new things to do. To this day I am still playing it from time to time and I’m starting to see people actually enjoy the game as well.
So to wrap this post up, I am so glad this game was able to bring me out of my dark spell. It wasn’t perfect since nothing is perfect, but it hit all the right buttons for me at the time at the time and made me enjoy gaming again. To those that bashed on the game and say that Pokemon is on the downfall, I would say that that happened starting with the 3DS games and time has caught up to us. It is hard to have something new come out that is not meet with backlash and people’s individual expectations not being meet. We have forgot how to find simple fun in things now that we are the ones paying and spending our limited time playing games that need to meet several factors in order for it to be worth our time. I know that is how I felt for a certain time, and now all I want to do is find my own enjoyment out of the things that I do and be my own voice and judge. So again, thank you Sword and Shield for not making me sell my entire collection which I would have regretted and had the even bigger sad afterwards.
Thanks for reading,