Game Freak’s latest title: Pokémon Sword and Shield has only just hit retail shelves around the world, yet the game itself has managed to gather its largest public outcry in recent memory. It’s a clusterfuck of a controversy, but to briefly inform those who are still in the dark, five months prior to its release, the game received huge amounts of criticism regarding its flawed design choices and low effort graphical fidelity. I’ll be running through a technical examination of the flagrant issues which plague the game’s graphics and art aesthetic.
I’ll start things off with what is probably my biggest peeve in gaming: low framerates. Right off the bat you can notice that the entire game is locked at 30 fps, regardless if the Nintendo Switch is docked or not. The game’s still playable I’ll give it that, but frames drop at a very noticeable rate during cutscenes and gameplay, typically when camera perspective changes. But you know what’s much more noticeable? The piss poor draw distance. It’s actually a complete mystery to me whether it was done by choice to keep the game running, but god it’s so downright unimmersive seeing trees, Pokémon and even human NPCs just popping into existence. You only need to move 10 or so inches towards your general direction, and the next thing you know a Tyranitar starts having a massive growth spurt and proceeds to breathe down your crotch.
Low resolution, N64 quality textures are also abundant for common place assets, which include walls, trees and even certain paths on the ground. Isotropic filtering (a method for enhancing textures at an oblique camera angle) would’ve been a much needed implementation in this case. Additionally, visual bloom is used haphazardly on objects such as plants and vegetation, resulting in them being shined into oblivion. On a minor note, gaussian blur can be noticed during certain cutscenes, causing it to spill into the boundary of the foreground.
Now it’s time to discuss the graphical sin of the highest order: the animations. It must be stated…they’re dogshit, and almost make Mass Effect: Andromeda’s look like God’s work. You’d have to go to rock bottom lengths to defend a character model that’s performing a precise 180-degree rotation, while it’s using the animation for walking straight forward. If I was generous, there were at least two or three animations (during actual gameplay) that I could recall were serviceable. Of course, those moments were too few and far between and the overall package just reeks of mediocrity and laziness. This is highly evident almost everywhere in the game, such as during the battles, the overworld, cutscenes and the new Pokémon camp feature. To add more salt to injury however, it was discovered in a recent data mining that the animations/models for past Pokémon were copied and pasted from the older 3DS titles. The leak itself includes images, showcasing side-by-side comparisons of models from Sword and Shield next to those from older games. Immediately, the models look completely identical to one another, down to the last polygon. And the same can be stated for the animations used for them, as you can find countless YouTube videos, providing more blatant examples of copy and paste.
#GameFreaklied blew up for a valid reason. It was because the fanbase have had enough of the developer’s lack of ability to stick to their words and deliver their biggest promises. The removal of the national dex in favour for “higher quality animations” being a prime example of this attitude. Major graphical flaws including the embarrassing draw distance, the fps drops, ugly textures and countless model pop-ins don’t help to remedy Game Freak’s reputation in the slightest. At the end of the day, it’s safe to confirm that the general consensus is that the game should’ve been delayed. After all, “A delayed game is eventually good…” as a famous and humble man once said, and it’s apparent that some of the developers and corporate suits didn’t get the goddamn memo.