*Note: This article was written before the release of the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra DLCs for Pokemon Sword/Shield*
I’ve wanted to write this article for a long time. I dawdled on it for a while until I started playing Pokemon Sword again recently. I reviewed both Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee and Pokemon Sword/Shield a while back. I am still happy with those reviews and still stand by them, but today, I wanted to do something a little different. I’m going to compare both of these Pokemon titles to find out which one is the better game (in my opinion.) So, without further delay, let’s find out which is the better game: Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, or Pokemon Sword/Shield?
Point 1: Story
Except for Pokemon Black and White, mainline Pokemon games are not known for their complex storytelling. The Pokemon games will have the player go through the region and collect gym badges (or its equivalent in Pokemon Sun and Moon.) Both Pokemon Let’s Go, and Sword/Shield seldom deviates from this formula (in fact, Let’s Go is a remake of the games that started it.) I’ll be honest; neither of these games makes a compelling argument that they are the best story-wise. If I had to choose one, I’d have to give it to Sword/Shield. Pokemon Let’s Go has the gym leader just sit in their gym, waiting for the challenger to come up to them. It does make them somewhat imposing, but it’s nothing compared to the giant stadium with a huge crowd watching you beat the gym leader’s pokemon into submission. So, the point goes to Sword/Shield.
Point 2: Visuals.
This one is a no brainer. Pokemon Let’s Go looks leagues better than Sword/Shield due to its consistent visual quality. Sure, Pokemon Let’s Go is not the best looking game on Switch, but I remember being impressed by Let’s Go’s visuals. What’s more, Let’s Go feels like it had more effort put into its visuals than Sword/Shield. When it comes to visual quality, Pokemon Sword/Shield is all over the place. I know it’s become a meme at this point to complain about the Nintendo 64 tree, but the Wild Area, as a whole, looks archaic. For visual quality consistency, I award the visuals point to Let’s Go.
Point 3: Music
Music is another obvious choice for me. Pokemon Let’s Go has an iconic soundtrack, but if I hadn’t played the original Pokemon games years ago, I don’t know how much the songs would stand out. On the other hand, Pokemon Sword/Shield has me look up the gym leader battle theme whenever I think about it. Even if I omit the amazing gym leader battle theme, the rest of the soundtrack is fantastic. One other song that I can think of is the Galar Mine theme. The bass line in that song is unbelievable. With all that, the point for music goes to Pokemon Sword/Shield.
Point 4: Gameplay
Gameplay will be a lot trickier than the other two points. Full disclosure, I like Pokemon’s gameplay. Even after all these years, I still find the core gameplay of Pokemon fascinating. A lot of people say that it’s a simple game of rock, paper, scissors. On the surface, that might be the case, but if one is willing to take a closer look, they will notice how intricate Pokemon’s behind-the-scenes mechanics are. Pokemon Let’s Go deviates from the norm by having the player catch pokemon a la Pokemon Go, by using the Joycons motion controls to throw the Pokeball. The catching mechanics of Pokemon Let’s Go is refreshing, and honestly, enjoyable.
On the other hand, Pokemon Sword/Shield has the same old running into pokemon, weakening it, then catching it like all the other Pokemon games before it. Pokemon Let’s Go is more refreshing in this regard. That said, Pokemon Let’s Go trainer battles are more traditional. The strange thing about Pokemon Let’s Go is that I often find myself breezing through the battles so that I can go back to catching pokemon. In this regard, Pokemon Sword/Shield offers a more consistent experience. I like Pokemon Let’s Go’s catching mechanics, but battling in it feels much more tedious than it does in Pokemon Sword/Shield. This is a close one, but I think Pokemon Let’s Go deserves the point. My reasoning for awarding Let’s Go the gameplay point comes down to the fact that I’m slightly more willing to explore Let’s Go world, because of the great catching mechanics. So the point goes to Let’s Go.
Point 5: World
I feel like this might be a controversial opinion, but I prefer Pokemon Let’s Go’s world to Sword/Shield’s. The way Kanto is designed, the player has to go in multiple directions, try to find ways around obstacles, or even give them a choice to go through the dark cave or take the long way around to come out at the other end. Pokemon Sword/Shield is very linear. At no point during my playthrough did I question where I had to go because my destination was always evident. Some people might see this as a positive, but part of what makes Pokemon such a compelling game is the exploration aspect. When the game almost forces the player down a path, there’s hardly a reason to explore. Let’s Go is more lenient when it comes to letting the player explore, which is why it gets the point.
There are a few unique points to each game that need to be addressed, herein referred to as freebies.
Let’s Go Freebee:
Pokemon Let’s Go allows players to play local co-op. Even though the second player is limited to what they can do, they can give extra experience when catching Pokemon. That and the second player can join in on pokemon battles.
Sword/Shield freebee 1:
The Wild Area is absolutely a freebie for Sword/Shield. Despite being mostly optional, the Wild Area is an exciting and fresh concept for the Pokemon franchise. Being able to explore a vast environment is neat, and the things the player can find in it is surprising. Even though Sword/Shield’s world is linear, the Wild Area is fascinating, so it gets a freebie.
Sword/Shield freebee 2:
At the time of this writing, Pokemon Sword/Shield is set to have two DLCs released by the end of 2020. The developers are also dishing out updates for the game as time goes on, meaning Sword/Shield is still getting attention, whereas Let’s Go is pretty much done in terms of new content. Thus, Sword/Shield earns its second freebie.
Final Point: Challenge.
This is it, the deciding factor! Neither Pokemon Let’s Go, or Sword/Shield are particularly challenging. That said, Let’s Go is an incredibly easy game. The player’s starting pokemon (either Eevee or Pikachu depending on which version the player has) is so powerful that the player doesn’t need any other pokemon. Some people might be able to say the same thing about Sword/Shield, but what makes Let’s Go so easy is the co-op mode mentioned above. Having every battle be two versus one in the players’ favor makes Let’s Go’s difficulty trivial. For that reason, despite being one of the simplest mainline Pokemon games, Sword/Shield offers a better challenge, thus gets the point. I should emphasize that Sword/Shield getting the challenge point over Let’s Go is not saying much. Some of the older Pokemon games offer much better challenges than Sword/Shield, but when we compare the effortless Sword/Shield to the trivial Let’s Go, Sword/Shield is the harder of the two games.
The winner in our first Game Versus Game is Pokemon Sword/Shield. Despite feeling lackluster, Sword/Shield offers more features, stadium battles, fantastic music, and more content down the road. For that reason, I believe Pokemon Sword/Shield is the better game. That said, it was still a close call. For younger players, I would recommend Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee over Sword/Shield, but for those looking for a more traditional Pokemon game, Sword/Shield is the way to go.