A lot has been said about the cut features from Pokémon Sword & Shield, but that has done little to diminish the enthusiasm for the games in terms of sales. Pokémon fans around the world were hungry for the first mainline entries on a console and plenty of people have been willing to overlook the missing features and enjoy the games for what they are.
As the story of Pokémon Sword & Shield progresses, it becomes obvious that less focus was put into developing the later stages of the game. Once players reach Spikemuth, the Gym challenges become less interesting and it feels as if there is a rush to finish things up. The Champion Cup mostly consists of rematches against trainers that the player has already defeated and the big heel turn from Macro Cosmos comes out of nowhere and feels tacked on. Pokémon Sword & Shield were intended to be the big 2019 holiday season games for the Nintendo Switch, especially since Animal Crossing: New Horizons was delayed, so there may have been internal pressure to wrap-up the latter part of the game in order to ensure that they hit their release date. The games start to lose their steam when the player reaches Spikemuth for the first time.
The Piers Battle Is Awesome (Even If Spikemuth Is Empty)
The battle against Piers is one of the highlights of Pokémon Sword & Shield, thanks to his awesome theme and arena, as well as the fact that he is the first Dark-type Gym Leader in the series. It's clear from entering Spikemuth that little effort has been put into the city, as it's just two streets with a Pokémon Center and the Gym. The Spikemuth Gym challenge isn't very involved since it's just a handful of battles against members of Team Yell.
The Lazy Dragon Gym
Once Piers is defeated, players can return to Hammerlocke using the fast travel option and challenge the eighth Gym straight away. Raihan's Gym challenge is equally as lazy as Piers, as it's simply three Double Battles against trainers who use weather effects. This might have been an interesting idea if the enemy trainers used more than two Pokémon, but they don't get the chance to show off their tactics in any meaningful way. Raihan is the only one who puts up much of a challenge, as he at least brings four Pokémon into the battle.
The Repeat Rivals
Players travel through Route 10 to Wyndon, which serves as the location for the final tournament in the game. This could have been a great opportunity to throw some new opponents at players, such as other Pokémon Trainers who had complete the Gym Challenge but never crossed paths with the protagonist until that point.
Instead, you get to fight Marnie and Hop... again. Marnie has added a Grimmsnarl to her team, but both her and Hop's teams are almost identical to the last time you fought them.
These Guys Are Suddenly Villains
One of the strangest story twists in Pokémon Sword & Shield is the heel turn of Chairman Rose and Oleana. There is no indication that either of them is up to anything dodgy throughout the story up until this point unless you count Oleana totally looking like a villain. Their treatment of Bede might have seemed harsh earlier in the story, but he was being punished for ordering his Pokémon to attack a historical monument, so it didn't seem out of character.
Chairman Rose's motives are also weak, as he is worried about an energy crisis that isn't going to occur for another thousand years. His actions seem a little drastic for the situation. It would have made a lot more sense if the energy crisis was expected to happen within the next forty to fifty years, but a thousand years feels way too distant to be relevant to the story.
The Same Old Gym Leaders (Instead Of An Elite Four)
Pokémon Sword & Shield did away with the Elite Four, as the Galar region uses a tournament made up of the best trainers in the region. The Elite Fours of the Pokémon series have provided some of the best character designs and most potent teams that players can encounter.
Instead of an awesome battle against the Elite Four, players have to fight Bede (again), before three rematches against Gym Leaders who they have already defeated earlier in the game.
Final Fantasy Boss Out Of Nowhere
The battle against Leon is interrupted by Chairman Rose and players have to return to Slumbering Weald, which is an area from the start of the game that has new Pokémon, most of which likely won't be interesting to players who aren't trying to complete the Pokédex, as they should already have a final team ready for Leon.
Players return to the Energy Plant, where they will have a chance to battle Chairman Rose, who does, admittedly, have one of the more interesting teams in the game. This is followed by the battle against Eternatus, which might have been interesting if players didn't have Hop and two Legendary Pokémon fighting alongside them to drain any potential challenge from the battle.
Once Eternatus is defeated, players finally get to battle Leon in one of the best battles in the game, which might have something to do with the fact that he's the only trainer during the final tournament to actually use six Pokémon on his team.
The post-game in Pokémon Sword & Shield is pretty barren and mostly exists to make things easier for the people who want to train their team for competitive battles. There is a storyline involving new characters called Sordard and Shielbert, but this quest mostly involves returning to cities you have already visited to fight Dynamax Pokémon. Players then get the chance to catch the cover Legendary for the game.
There is one last battle against Hop in which he finally uses a team of six Pokémon, but the difficulty has more to do with the fact that he added a Legendary Pokémon to his team (either Zacian or Zamazenta). Hop still uses the same Pokémon that you've been facing throughout the game.
Pokémon Sword & Shield are available now for Nintendo Switch.