“Pokemon Shield” protects the franchise’s reputation

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As the release date for Gamefreak’s yearly Pokemon game, “Pokemon Shield” grew nearer, I found myself getting more and more excited. Why, exactly, was I getting so excited for a franchise that releases a title almost every year? I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you, however, is that my excitement was most definitely valid.

“Pokemon Shield,” much like previous installments, directs the player to defeat eight Gym Leaders, each with their own specific Pokemon type. After that, the player gains the ability to challenge the Champion of the region and claim that title as their own. Changes in play made in “Pokemon Shield” made the Gym Challenge fun and rewarding. 

The game’s flagship gimmick, “dynamaxing,” is generally only available during these Gym battles, since the stadiums are built on “Power Spots” that enable it. Once activated, for three turns the player’s Pokemon grows to an impossible size and becomes able to use powered-up moves. The spectacle created by the roaring of the NPC crowd and the almost ridiculous overkill of moves like “Max Rockfall” that slam the enemy with a giant slab of rock make Gym Battles a lot more enjoyable.

“Dynamaxing” was not the only enjoyable aspect of the game. The Wild area was refreshing, move animations interesting, story relatively compelling, and new Pokemon creative. Additionally, there was a lot that “Pokemon Shield” did to give it more post-game content, such as max-raid battles, that allow the player to team up with friends to defeat a giant, dynamaxed Pokemon.

That said, the game isn’t without flaws. The Exp. Share system delegates experience points to your entire team regardless of whether or not they participated in battle, which removes a lot of the grinding that defines Pokemon games. The graphics are underwhelming, and not much of a step up from the previous Pokemon, “Sun and Moon.” The player’s “rival,” Hop, is extremely annoying. 

Overall, “Pokemon Shield” accomplished its objective in providing a fun, refreshing Pokemon experience. Unlike previous installments in the franchise, after finishing it, I find myself wanting to go back and explore the world more. I would give this game a 4 out of 5.