Pokemon Sword and Shield receive a lot of flack for a various amount of ridiculous reasons, but, Pokemon Sword and Shield are the best Pokemon games. There’s no getting around it. The game mixes up the classic Pokemon formula in superb fashion, adds brand new gameplay mechanics, and introduces some wonderful new Pokemon to the series. With this morning’s Pokemon Direct looming and an announcement coming regarding Sword and Shield, we may just be getting those Kanto starters (and others in the datamining of the game) that so many miss. The story in Pokemon Sword and Shield is, by far, the best in the series. There’s a level of personal growth that previous Pokemon games lack with the main characters, and your rival is a prime example. Throughout the game, all he wants to do is surpass his brother and become Pokemon Champion. This doesn’t necessarily work out though, as you beat him at every turn. He goes through a period of self-doubt, self-realization, and self-discovery like no other Pokemon character in the history of the franchise. By the end of the game, Hop is nearly unrecognizable compared to his previous feeble self. The gym leaders are also some of the most memorable of the bunch. Each gym is filled with thought-provoking puzzles that differentiate themselves from previous Pokemon Gyms in the franchise. Some of them can actually be quite difficult, like in the Water gym. Each gym leader has spunk and assists you along your journey, as well as give you some tremendous gym battles. There is no Elite Four in the game, which is refreshing; what there is is a tournament at the end to determine the Pokemon Champion. There, you get to face the gym leaders again, but they aren’t so easy the second time around. This Pokemon game also has a level of challenge that previous titles have lacked. The Dynamax gameplay mechanic is a nice added twist to battles, and while it doesn’t add any challenge to battles, it can be strategic in battles in their own right. The Dynamax mechanic is also balanced, only lasting three turns, so it must be used carefully. It adds a level of fun factor and innovation not seen in a Pokemon game in generations. One great thing about the story is that it doesn’t stop once you become Champion – it goes on for an additional couple of hours. This is where the character development shines in the game, and the cast of characters you’ve met throughout the game all have their highlights. I cannot praise the story of this game enough – and for a Pokemon game, having such a great story is a huge accomplishment. The last bit that makes this Pokemon game stand out from the others in the series is the open-world component. It is here that you can catch most of the Pokemon in the game, although the routes do have their fair share as well. The game isn’t completely open-world, and the exploration can seem fairly bare-bones, but that’s not the point of exploration in Pokemon — it’s to catch Pokemon, which Sword and Shield do masterfully. There are no random encounters, thank God, so Pokemon are visible on-screen before encountering them, although which Pokemon they are while in the grass is not always evident. Regardless of this, I will never forget the first time I caught one of my favorite Pokemon, Lapras, a carryover from the Red/Blue days. The Galar region doesn’t have all the Pokemon from each generation, but it has enough, old and new, and the new starters are some of the best since the Hoenn region in Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. Pokemon Sword and Shield are the best Pokemon games, overtaking that title from Silver/Gold (or rather SoulSilver and HeartGold.) It innovates, the story is the best in the series, the gyms are intriguing filled with the best puzzles in the series, includes an open-world component, a first for the franchise, and is a breath of fresh air for a series that had become stagnant. While I personally cannot wait to see what the next Pokemon game has in store for us, it’s much too early to even begin to speculate. Pokemon Sword and Shield have only been out since November, and they are the pinnacle of Pokemon. Let’s enjoy them for a bit before speculating about next-generation, no?