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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pokémon Sword and Shield are adventure role-playing games exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. These are the latest chapters in the long-running and wildly popular Pokémon franchise, which has launched games, toys, cartoons, and other products, including a Poké Ball Plus peripheral that can be used to play the game and imitate catching creatures. This game brings a pair of young Pokémon trainers across a new region as they attempt to become the champion of the land, defeating rivals and amateur collectors to prove they're the best. Combat is the focus of the game, and Pokémon launch a variety of attacks at each other in combat ranging from punches and breathing fire to blasts of energy and jets of water. But enemies, when defeated, either fade away or disappear into a shimmering pool of light -- no blood or gore is shown. Some female characters wear tight or revealing clothing, but otherwise, no inappropriate content is included in the game. Parents should know that there's a larger focus on teamwork and cooperation in this game than in previous titles in the series, and players can partner together with other gamers to defeat Pokémon or to trade creatures.
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What's it about?
POKÉMON SWORD and SHIELD are the newest games in the long-running Pokémon franchise, set in the new region of Galar. You take on the role of a young kid who wants to embark on a journey to become a Pokémon trainer, along with your best friend and next-door neighbor, Hop. Your eventual goal, of course, is to become the best trainer in the land and to have the chance to challenge the undefeated champion, Leon (who just happens to be Hop's brother). But before you can reach him, you've got to fight your way through the leaders of gyms to prove that you belong. That means selecting an initial Pokémon to start with, and then traveling into the wilderness to gather a sizable collection of Pokémon along the way. You can also potentially trade creatures with friends and townspeople to expand your roster. Getting the right mix of beasts for your team will be crucial, especially because you can face off against difficult challenges in the form of Dynamax Pokémon. These giants dwarf the battlefield with their size, strength, and new abilities. Fortunately, you'll be able to call up to three human or AI trainers in to help you during these fights known as Max Raid Battles. Can you make your Pokémon strong enough to defeat Leon? Will you be able to uncover the secrets of Dynamax Pokémon?
Is it any good?
With lots of new features that keep your adventure interesting, this is one of the easier, yet more engaging, chapters in the long-running franchise. The Pokémon Sword and Shield games start out with a familiar plot for Pokémon fans: becoming the best trainer in a new land, fighting gym leaders to prove that your squad is stronger in combat. Players will travel the world, fighting many creatures and trainers, and will gain experience to boost their creature's stats through battles or by assigning beasts to jobs to complete in towns. Fortunately, Sword and Shield ease the labor of fighting for hours to improve everyone in your party by sharing experience across all the monsters after a fight. That reduces the chore of leveling your creatures and ensures that you'll practically increase one character by a level during each battle, which is perfect for newcomers just learning the basics of the game. What's more, players can easily swap their party members in the wild without having to head back to town, which is a massive time-saver. It's also useful when you're traveling through the larger wilderness of Galar, hunting for a specific creature through its diverse ecosystems and trying to get creatures to evolve to more powerful forms.
On the journey, players will uncover a mystery surrounding legendary Pokémon that have disappeared, and the cause behind the special ability known as Dynamaxing, which transforms Pokémon into gigantic versions of themselves. You'll unlock this power, which gives you the option to transform one of your roster into one of these massive creatures. Dynamaxing provides lots of gameplay twists -- you can tactically use it to whittle down an opposing roster, or save it to cause huge damage against one target. The main problem here is that, in most cases (unless your large creature is weak against an enemy it faces), Dynamaxing can make many fights way too easy to complete. But Dynamaxing also highlights an improved multiplayer focus of Sword and Shield. Players can partner up with three other trainers (human or computer controlled) to fight giant beasts in Max Raid Battles, group combats that are clearly inspired by Pokémon Go's raids. This can be a fun way for friends to help each other clear difficult sections, or use the trading feature to gather and swap newly captured Pokémon among themselves after fights. Even better, players can camp out in the wilderness and play with each other's Pokémon, bonding over a meal, making their roster more willing to shake off negative status effects, even gaining experience to strengthen their squad. The result: You have a sense of being supported by both the game and other players in your quest to become a champion. Pokémon Sword and Shield may be easier than earlier games in the franchise, but the journey is fun from beginning to end, and makes you eager to catch 'em all.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about marketing to kids. With no shortage of Pokémon-themed products available, how do you choose the best to spend your money on?
How can you work best with others to accomplish your goals? Can friendly competition between people spur you to become better, or does that shatter the bonds of teamwork?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo of America
- Release date: November 15, 2019
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Wild Animals
- ESRB rating: E for Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence
- Last updated: December 03, 2019
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