Pokémon Sword and Shield DLC Review: Electric Boogaloo?

Back in February 2020, I wrote a review on Pokémon Sword and Shield, heavily criticizing it for its numerous problems, calling it “just an okay game” and that, “…it feels like another yearly-cash-grab [rather] than something innovative for the series.” And that was it. The copy I had purchased was left to sit in the dust while I continued on with life.

A couple of months into lockdown, I started seeing Twitter and Instagram in a frenzy over Pokémon again. I was somewhat confused since I had been out of the loop after playing so much Animal Crossing practically every day. It turned out that a new DLC (downloadable content) was going to come out six months after its reveal. There was some reluctance about purchasing it, considering it was another $30 that had to be paid for on top of the $60 already paid for the original game.

But here I am writing this, meaning I did eventually purchase it.

First up, the Isle of Armor. Released in June 2020, this was the first part of the DLC. Its main focus is on the “bonding” experience with Kubfu, a legendary Pokémon that is received at the beginning of the DLC. It also brings back 100+ Pokémon that weren’t in the original game, and everything is much better looking than most of the base game. Although not the most impressive, there’s much more varied scenery, and it felt much more open, albeit even if the area was a bit small. There’s not much of a story to this; you basically receive Kubfu from a dojo master by the name of Mustard (yes, that’s his actual name), and explore the whole island doing some trials. Afterwards, you head up to the Tower of Waters or Tower of Darkness to evolve Kubfu. Within each tower, you battle others until you reach your final battle with Mustard. Once this battle is won, Kubfu will evolve into Urshifu, who has two forms depending which tower you go up. That’s pretty much it, and there’s a small post-game after that but nothing that interesting. While fun, it wasn’t particularly special to me, apart from the fact that the lead Pokémon in your party could now follow you. This, unfortunately, felt half-baked and the implementation of it felt glitched and not so enjoyable. But the addition that was nice, was that G-Max Mushrooms were also introduced, which after finding a specific amount, could be made into a soup that gives Gigantamax abilities to some Pokémon. The most major gripe I had was that it felt quite short, only taking me a few hours to finish which was surprising considering that I took my time doing this. While the experience I had was much better, it’s only moderately better than the original game, and I was left with a bit of disappointment.

The second part, the Crown Tundra, was released later in October 2020. This time, the main focus was more on “exploration”. It’s more story-based, and just like the Isle of Armor, it brings back another 100+ Pokémon that also weren’t in the original game. For me, it blew the Isle of Armor out of the water, and in almost every way was superior. Solving the small puzzles and just exploring the islands in search of various legendary Pokémon along with the story that went along with these were a joy. I especially enjoyed the story of one of the legendaries, Calyrex, who used to rule over the Galar region as a king in ancient times. In summary, Calyrex had its power from those who praised it, but over time that power was lost as many forgot about it. You eventually find out that you can get back its steed (Glastrier or Spectrier, whom both are also legendaries) via special carrots that you grow, which is what attracts them. Other new legendaries include the Galarian forms of Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres, and Regieleki and Regidrago. I can’t also forget about one of the main characters, Peony, who is such a great character with his cheesy dad jokes and excitement for exploration. He’s probably my favorite character from Sword and Shield. Crown Tundra also introduces Dynamax Adventures, allowing players to catch legendary Pokémon from the past games. This adds a fun and challenging addition where the Pokémon you use is a randomly selected rental and you must work with three other players. Unless you encounter berries on the path, it does not allow any healing between the four non-stop battles that culminate in a random legendary battle. Apart from that, this also did feel disappointingly short also, and there’s not much to do afterward apart from a new tournament format (called Galarian Star Tournament) and catching other legendary Pokémon, which although there is a ton to catch, Dynamax Adventures do become boring when done repetitively.

While both DLCs were a major improvement, at best they’re good, not great. They still have the issues I originally had with the base game, and the $30 I spent to play both of these did sting quite a bit. By all means, it’s much more noticeable that there is more time put into these DLCs, but in general, there are still so many areas that could have been improved. Personally, do I think it’s worth it to spend the extra $30 on this? I would surprisingly say yes. There’s much more enjoyment that I received from playing both DLCs than from when I played Sword for my first time, and if done right, it’s something that could be much better rather than releasing a third version the next year.

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