How did Pokemon Sword and Shield hold up in 2020? We track its progress through this insane year and see how it did.
Ah, 2020. To paraphrase the movie Wayne’s World, if 2020 were an ice cream flavor, it would be pralines…and crap. It was a year of pandemics, politics, and panic but also of Pokemon. While both Pokemon Sword and Shield technically came out in November of 2019, 2020 is the year when Pokemon really flourished.
When first releasing there was a lot of controversy behind it. Nintendo made a statement revealing that only 400-some Pokemon would be in the game. This is a fairly big deal as, currently, there are 896 different ones. All of this lead to a lot of drama and the internet claiming to rebel against Game Freak using the hashtag “Dexit” a less than tasteful play off the famous Brexit which, unlike Dexit, was a real thing that was actually important.
Never-the-less, the game launched and the complaints were all sound and fury signifying nothing as the game sold a ridiculous amount within its first two months. The holiday season definitely helping.
So how was it? Surprisingly good! The new region was gorgeous, filled with charming set-pieces. Unique locations from traditional deserts and snowy mountains to unique places like fairy forests and bizarre ridiculously tall skyscrapers kept the locations as ever-changing as the Pokemon themselves.
The story brought back the return of Pokemon Gyms, something that was removed with the launch of Sun and Moon. In addition, version-specific gym leaders were added to the game. Those with Pokemon Shield got a creepy Ghost leader and a charming Ice leader. Pokemon Sword got a stoic Fighting leader and an egotistical Rock leader. It wasn’t particularly story-changing but it was still kinda cool to see.
Eventually though, once everything was done with the game, that was really it. There wasn’t a whole lot of post-game content outside just grinding and trying to shiny hunt. Until June at least.
June 17th was a game-changer (literally and figuratively) for the Pokemon franchise. That was when Isle of Armor released. In the past, when a Pokemon game wanted more content they’d release an entire new version of the game. For example, Sun and Moon had an idea for a new side story and post-game content so they released Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, both at the price of a full game for, pretty much the exact same game with a few more characters. Games like Ruby and Sapphire would later get Emerald. An almost exact copy with the features of both games combined with a little extra story, again, at full game price.
Isle of Armor changed this. For half the price of a Pokemon game, you could get an expansion pass which gave you Isle of Armor and the promise of future DLC, Crown Tundra, when it releases. This was great because, for the first time, you could actually take your trainer and the Pokemon you’ve been working with and just hop into the new story unlike past games where you had to start fresh.
Isle of Armor brought with it a ton of new content as well. In addition to a new story complete with a new version-specific gym rival, Poison if Sword, Psychic if Shield, they also added over 100 new Pokemon to the mix including the new legendary Pokemon Kubfu, the adorable fighting bear that could evolve into one of two different versions of Urshifu depending on how you raised it.
This also added the ability to craft your own Pokeballs, though this was pretty tough to do if you wanted rare ones and it also added some decent new outfits for your trainer to wear.
Then, on October 22nd, Crown Tundra dropped and this one was huge. Adding another 100+ Pokemon to the game, Crown Tundra added a gorgeous new area to the game filled with gigantic trees and glistening glacial waterways.
It also added a surprisingly funny storyline leading to you befriending Calyrex, Pokemon’s newest legendary. But this wasn’t the only legendary you could find. In addition to Calyrex, there was also a series of temples that allowed you to collect the various Regis including the new Regidrago and Regieleci. Collecting all these allows you a chance to catch Regigigas. The giant Dyna tree gave access to a really fun quest in which you had to hunt down exciting new variants of the famous legendary birds (as well as giving you a strange encounter against the worst new Pokemon ever). A quest to track footprints leads you to discover all the Swords of Justice as well.
Not enough legendaries for you? Fine. Crown Tundra also added the Dynamax Raid battles. Another first for the game, you team up with three other trainers online (or with computer-controlled dummies) and head into a maze of caves where, after a series of Dynamax battles, you encounter one of 47 different legendaries including popular ones like Mewtwo and the Island Deities from Sun and Moon as well as all the Ultra Beasts. Not only is this an incredible chance to capture these rare beasts but, if you’re patient they also have a ridiculously small shiny rate. The smallest ever. One of my first raids gave me a shiny Latios.
After all of this there is also the Galarian Star Tournament. A really fun way to grind EXP by teaming up with the trainer of your choice and going in two-on-two battles against other major characters from the game’s storyline. Each time you beat it you unlock new partners, get a ton of gold AND get a random set of Pokeballs from Pokeguy. It also gives us a chance to see some of the characters interacting which gives them a bit of depth they normally did not have in the main story.
What’s next for the game? Honestly not sure as Nintendo loves to be weirdly tight-lipped about this stuff. We know that right now they’re working on Pokemon Snap and there are rumors abound that the next entry in the Let’s Go Pikachu/Let’s Go Eevee line will come out next year but I feel Nintendo still has room for more DLC, especially considering what I’ve discovered looking at the remaining Pokemon.
Here’s hoping but still, 2020 was an incredible year for Pokemon and I can’t wait to see what 2021 holds for the franchise.