I had to purchase a new console to play this game, so it had a lot to live up to.

A bit of background – I thought the trailers and feature Pokemon shown off in the build up to the launch of generation 8 were mediocre at best; the starters all looked fine – I’d settled on Scorbunny the second I saw it – but the designs of non-starter Pokemon were truly uninspired. To give examples of this, Gossifleur and Eldegoss were just basic Grass types that I doubt anyone would use, and Duraludon is just a lump of metal with a frowning face drawn on.

Things were not looking good, and, as the game wasn’t available on my 3DS, coupled with controversy after controversy from unpopular announcements from Game Freak, it looked like I could safely allow generation 8 to completely pass me by. I will mention that even very early on, I wasn’t ever bothered by the ramifications of Dexit (brilliant name), where only 400 of the 890 existing Pokemon would be available in the game at launch, as I agree that 890 is far too many to cram into one game. While I would like to be able to send over some of the almost 150 level 100 Pokemon I’ve grinded up over the years, I wouldn’t let that distract me from a game I was already indifferent too.

Then they came. The full leaks of the games Pokedex and gameplay two weeks before launch, which I followed every crumb of information out of sheer curiosity and more than a little bit of general boredom, and they totally won me over.

I decided I’d seen enough that I liked, and as I’ve always wanted a Switch, purchased a Switch Lite (as I doubt I’d ever play it docked and so saved myself £80) and Pokemon Shield on release day. As I write this, ten days after the release date, I’ve clocked up 27 hours of gameplay and finished the story, the post-game, and am comfortably into grinding my team to the pinnacle of their power, level 100.

During the first two hours of gameplay I couldn’t stop smiling. The music, the gorgeous environments and the charming Pokemon you can see wandering around in the wild completely absorbed me – I had already found out what each of the starter Pokemon evolved to, so changed my pick to Sobble, but even at the last minute I found myself completely torn between the three of them as I watched their models tumble around, playing together in a bid to be the one that I chose.

Over the first hours I found myself constantly switching new Pokemon in and out of my team, something I hadn’t done since Pokemon Y which launched back in 2013. I wrote an article following the original leak of the Sword and Shield Pokedex, and can now confess I only ended up using one Pokemon from my list. Of course, this was my top pick Toxtricity (I favour Poison type Pokemon if you weren’t aware), and he’s now one of my absolute favourite Pokemon of all time.

Having played all of the mainline Pokemon games, I would say Shield is my third favourite Pokemon game of all time, after Pokemon Black 2 and Pokemon Silver, and is definitely one to pick up if you are or have ever been a fan of the franchise. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to purchase a Switch Lite just to play Shield, and I feel that speaks volumes about the quality of this game.

Pokemon Shield isn’t perfect, and no doubt you will have already heard that characters pop in and out of sight if you move a couple of metres away from them, and that wall and plant textures don’t hold up under any scrutiny whatsoever. These are far from real issues as they don’t negatively impact gameplay or enjoyment at all, though I do concede that Breath of the Wild looks significantly better despite launching two and a half years earlier!

I do have two real issues with the game, and that is the five star raid battles against wild Dynamax Pokemon. These can vary from unfair to totally broken, as constantly respawning shields and poorly directed AI trainers make the encounters an uphill struggle from the word go. From the little kid trainers who send out an Eevee and refuse to attack, to the perplexing abundance of Magikarp being used, it baffles me how some of these choices were cleared for the final release of the game.

I’m also not a big fan of the fact that if you encounter a rare Gigantamax Pokemon, you only get one shot to catch it, and if you fail the Pokemon will escape, meaning you have to wait for it to spawn again later on. I am by no means a collector, but I’ve found myself incredibly irritated on more than one occasion when the Gigantamax Pokemon I’ve just spent ages battling is whipped away from me in the final seconds of the encounter.

For the hours upon hours of enjoyment, but keeping in mind the badly optimised raid battles and graphical issues (that don’t detract from the experience but still shouldn’t be present), I give Pokemon Shield a 9.5/10.

9 / 10

Thank you for reading my review of Pokemon Shield, and let me know your thoughts on the game if you’ve picked it or Sword up in the comments. I will be posting a run down of my final team (that I took forever to settle on) soon, so I will see you then.

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