#43 - Pokemon Sword - Nintendo Switch
I like Pokemon, Gen 1 is cool, 2 is fine, 3 is pretty great, 4 is probably more okay now that there are remakes that play at a proper speed, 5 is magical, 6 is depressing, 7 is pretty great too.
Gen 8 I didn't expect to like as much as I did, it definitely brought me back to them Black and White days, and is probably the most fun I have had with a Pokemon game.
Sword and Shield are the undisputed best at making the Pokemon League feel important, the whole proper tourney setup, the fact that you have actual people following your journey and cheering you on, every gym battle is a proper grand event, as they should be. This is backed by a really good cast of characters, Hop is a fantastic rival, Bede is super entertaining, Marnie is a cute friend, Sonia is a great spin on the professor, and Leon, while I initially was expecting to not like him that much, easily became my favorite champion, he does his job, he is a fun guy, and his team is great. And that is just a handful of the main characters, I quite liked all the gym leaders, plus the extra lore and backgrounds you unlock through the trainer cards add to that.
As far as the new Pokemon goes, these are my favorite additions, pretty much love all the designs, went out of my way to actually catch every new Pokemon this time around because they were all that good, and Snom dethroned Caterpie as my favorite bug type.
The music is also the best it has ever been, love that they finally went back to the Gen 5 thing of having a final Pokemon theme for the Gym Leaders, this time pushed more by adding a variation for fainted Pokemon as well, be it yours or your opponent, and adding a final battle theme for your rivals, there is also a lot of nods to that gen, the music team is probably as much of a fan as I am of that gen, the Trainer battle having part of the credits theme of 2, Bede's battle theme having the PWT final battle thrown in there, Rose's theme being very Ghetsis, is all good shit. The first time I just had to stop playing the game and listen was the Slumbering Weald, like my god what a beautifully catchy, atmospheric and haunting theme that is, and is like right at the start of the game too. I love that there are constant motifs playing through the game to make the journey all that more whole and connected. And the journey is finished with the best send off possible, by having the Champion theme be an amazing reinterpretation of the Hall of Fame. The DLC is also consistent with the music, giving the Kanto birds, on top of better designs, a theme worth the wait.
Mechanically I like having the PC open at all times (and has more balance in the sense that the PC doesn't heal your Pokemon anymore, have to go to the center), it actually made me swap Pokemon more often, since is more convenient, so I didn't stick to a single team the whole way. Dynamax I like, not from the competitive sense or anything, but for the fact that it finally gives Pokemon a proper way of having them being boss fights without the need of a trainer, a classic 4v1 composition, and it makes for some cool fights, I know it will probably be abandoned for Gen 9, but I hope they come up with something similar to keep having set pieces like that. The main wild area is bland, is not terrible to traverse but nothing super interesting besides the music, the DLC Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra are fantastic tho, they feel like multiple well designed Pokemon routes all stick together, there are some cool discovery moments, like going through a cave in the isle and you end up in this desert area, which also gives me hope for Arceus, if they stick to this kind of level design for the rest of the series I'm more than ok with it.
My favorite part of the story is the theme of succession and passing the baton to a new generation, not only your character as the champion, but Marnie and Bede become part of the new gym leaders, how Sonia takes the mantle of the main professor over the course of the game, Hop finding that for him is not about succeeding his brother Leon, but having a different path in life as a professor, I think is quite nicely done, and pretty heartwarming by the end of it all.
The game has some glaring issues, like some town designs, and main routes being too on the small size, and the main story pacing that runs alongside the League being thrown off in the last stretch, but it didn't detract much with how much joy this game brought me.
The * here is that Black is also pretty great, and would be in the top 50 next to this one most likely, but I decided to give the spotlight to Sword.