Comparing Pokémon Legends: Arceus vs. Sword & Shield is no easy task. At first glance, many wouldn’t look twice at Sword & Shield when offered the choice between these two games. However, Sword & Shield has a lot more to offer new and returning players alike.
That being said, it is difficult in this day and age to recommend another traditional Pokémon game. Sword & Shield have a lot of good things going for them, but they fail to shake up the same outdated formula that we’ve been playing for the past two decades!
For this reason, Pokémon Legends: Arceus should be the go-to choice for any Pokémon fan looking for something new. The game breathes fresh life into the Pokémon world while still keeping the core elements we’ve come to love throughout the mainline series.
For a complete breakdown of the similarities and differences between these two series, check out our full comparison down below. We’ll be going over artistic styles, quality of life differences, exclusive Pokémon, and more!
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Pokémon Sword & Shield
Before we dive headfirst into the various differences between these two games, let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with each title.
Pokémon Sword & Shield are the most recent mainline entries in the Pokémon series. Kicking off generation VIII, Pokémon Sword & Shield are the only mainline Pokémon games on Nintendo Switch at the moment (excluding spinoffs and the not-yet released Pokémon Scarlet and Violet).
Several controversies accompanied the rocky release of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Let’s take a look at whether the complaints were justified or if these two games are underrated.
One of the first complaints lobbied against Pokémon Sword & Shield in the leadup to its release was the art style.
Several assets were reused from the 3DS Pokémon games, including almost every 3D modeled Pokémon. This rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way as one of the main reasons for the controversial “Dexit” (which we’ll get into more later) was stated to be because of the extra storage space the updated 3D models would take up.
Unfortunately, there are little to no new animations for attacks or status inflictions. If you have played a newer 3DS Pokémon game such as X & Y or Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, there are no new assets to be found here.
Another issue with Pokémon Sword & Shield’s art style is the lack of polish when it comes to the overworld textures. The infamous Sword & Shield tree artwork that looks like it belongs on the PlayStation 2 as opposed to the Nintendo Switch, ran rampant during the lead-up to the game’s release.
Now that the game has been out for some time, players have had time to acclimate themselves to the art style. It isn’t perfect and a far cry from other next-generation titles on other consoles, but it is serviceable enough to not detract from the overall experience.
Quality of Life
Pokémon Sword & Shield has continued to make things easier for new and returning Pokémon players. HMs have always been an unnecessary inconvenience, and they have been done away with here as well.
Players can also access their boxes of Pokémon from wherever they are without having to trek all the way to the nearest Pokémon center.
It is now easier than ever to farm shiny Pokémon. The shiny charm in this game is acquired from completing the regional dex only and not the national dex. This makes Masuda Method farming much more quickly accessible.
Additionally, the introduction of Dynamax Raids is also a great way to acquire shiny Pokémon. Coordinating with someone who has a shiny raid will allow multiple catches of the same Pokémon until you’re satisfied.
Dynamax Raids also drop EXP candy. This is another great inclusion and alleviates the need for endless grinding when training up a new team member.
All in all, Pokémon Sword & Shield may not be the deepest Pokémon games out there, but they are certainly some of the most generous.
The biggest thing that turned fans away from Pokémon Sword & Shield was the cutting of over half the full roster of creatures. Pokémon has always been about creating a team of your favorites and subsequently catching them all.
It’s safe to say that every Pokémon in the entire series catalog will be somebody’s favorite. Lots of fans were upset that their mainstays didn’t make the cut into Sword & Shield.
Moreover, it felt in poor taste to then have these Pokémon sold back to us in the form of DLC. Yes, even those who did not purchase the DLC could obtain the new Pokémon via trading. However, if you wanted to catch these Pokémon yourself, you have no other option than to bring out your wallet.
If the removal of the Pokémon were to make the overall game better, players would likely have understood and accepted this decision. However, as we have mentioned, almost every art asset has been reused from previous generations. The complaints are justified, and it’s unfortunate that something like this looks to be the plan moving forward for Pokémon as a series.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Now, let’s take a look at Pokémon Legends: Arceus. This game completely reimagines the traditional Pokémon gameplay experience by introducing several new Pokémon and a ton of new mechanics as well.
Before we talk about what’s new in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, let’s talk about what’s gone. Gym battles, the Elite Four, and random encounters have all been removed from this game, despite these mechanics being staples of the series since Pokémon Blue and Red.
Instead of trying to conquer the Pokémon League and become a Pokémon master, this game takes place long into the past at the advent of the Pokédex. Players will be traveling around a bygone era of Sinnoh, attempting to categorize all the local Pokémon for future research purposes.
Turn-based battles return but with a new twist. The inclusion of Strong and Speed styles allows players to strategically plan out their turns for either a stronger hit or to fire off multiple attacks at once.
Additionally, new boss battles have been included in which you, as the player, will fight off against a powerful Alpha Pokémon.
These boss battles equate to nothing more than strafing around and throwing projectiles at them, but the inclusion is a nice touch and really immerses you into this game’s version of the Pokémon world.
Here, Pokémon feel more aggressive, and they aren’t afraid to attack trainers directly. You will need to carefully sneak up on Pokémon in the wild to make sure they don’t run away or engage you in combat.
Hisui takes inspiration from traditional Japanese architecture. The art style incorporates several traditional Japanese brushstrokes, and many of the new regional forms are based on Japanese mythology.
The region itself has lots of different areas to explore and lots of creative ways to do so. Whether it be via the air, water, or on foot, traversing through the beautiful landscape of a Pokémon game has never been easier.
Plenty of new regional forms appear here and while many players would someday like to see the return of Mega Evolution, it’s always a good thing when an older Pokémon gets some new love.
The story here, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s painfully slow during the first few hours and still just as linear as any other Pokémon game when you are finally given the chance to explore.
However, Pokémon has never really prided itself on its story, and if you can overlook the lack of a concrete narrative here, the gameplay truly does shine.
Legends: Arceus Vs. Sword & Shield
Now that we understand what each of these two Pokémon games has to offer, let’s dig a little deeper into their main differences.
Hisui Vs. Galar
The Hisui Region, as stated, is based on traditional Japan. As such, modern conveniences such as trains and PCs can’t be found here.
Galar, on the other hand, is set in the modern day, much like every other Pokémon game. Specifically, Galar is based on the UK.
Despite Hisui being set in the past, transportation and exploration are pretty much the same in both games.
Arguably, Hisui is even more fun to explore than Galar, as you can freely fly around and swim on top of walking.
Depending on your preference for aesthetics, either of these games will appeal to your more. Aside from the artistic direction, the regions themselves are relatively similar when it comes to the gameplay.
Both Pokémon Sword & Shield and Legends: Arceus are incredibly easy games. Pokémon Sword & Shield continues the habit of having the EXP share permanently on, meaning your entire team will become more and more over-leveled as you progress through the game.
Legends: Arceus, on the other hand, is just an easy game overall. The fresh mechanics will likely mask the easy difficulty in the early game while you spend your time acclimating to the new gameplay.
However, once you master the new features, the game becomes a linear stroll to the finish line. Considering Pokémon Sword & Shield has a lot more content than Legends: Arceus, there is more room for challenging battles here. If you enjoy difficulty, Sword & Shield would have to be your choice.
Still, there are plenty of Pokémon guides available online if you do find yourself stuck in front of an especially tricky roadblock.
As always, both Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Sword & Shield have a mainline story that players will progress through.
However, after this is complete, it becomes up to you how you want to spend your time in the post-game.
Shiny hunting is easier in Sword & Shield arguably, but just as fun in Legends: Arceus (with the added bonus of acquiring rarer shiny Gigantamax or Alpha forms in each game). You may be wondering how to catch shiny Pokémon in Legends: Arceus without the daycare or other chaining methods. Luckily, there are plenty of unique ways to hunt shinies in this game.
Sword & Shield has a lot of competitive potential as well. Legends: Arceus is much more of a single-player experience in this regard, with no access to multiplayer battles or trading.
Eventually, the game will become compatible with Pokémon bank, allowing you to trade your most powerful Pokémon in other games. However, as it stands at the moment, Legends: Arceus has little to no PVP interactivity.
Furthermore, Sword & Shield has two entire DLC expansions, The Isle of Armor and the Crown Tundra. These include new locations, new Pokémon, new battles, and new quests to complete.
If you are looking to get the most out of a single-player experience, Sword & Shield is the way to go. However, if you prefer quality over quantity and are very much satisfied with a good game regardless of how long it is, Legends: Arceus is the game for you.
Character customization has become a staple of modern Pokémon games, and why not? Pokémon games have always strived to be as immersive as possible, and being able to change your character’s clothes or skin tone is all but necessary for a modern RPG.
Both Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Sword & Shield offer a wide variety of different clothing options and accessories for you to adorn your character.
Additionally, you can choose from several different skin tones and hairstyles as well. Naturally, the level of customizable options pales in comparison to other RPGs, but even the simplest of inclusions like this is a welcome addition.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a step in the right direction for Pokémon as a franchise. The new mechanics, open world, and freedom to explore are all things Pokémon fans have been dying to see return since around generation IV.
Alternatively, Pokémon Sword & Shield has some of the most content we’ve ever seen in any Pokémon game. This comes with the caveat that, to experience the full adventure, you’ll need to fork over some cash for both DLC expansions.
When it comes to a thoroughly enjoyable single-player experience, you can’t go wrong with Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Even if the post-game is not as lengthy as Sword & Shield’s, it is entirely possible to create your own fun via Shiny Hunting.
However, if you need some kind of interaction, whether it be trading or PVP battles, you have no other option than Sword & Shield (or Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl).
That being said, our recommendation still goes to Legends: Arceus purely for the number of new features and unique mechanics on offer.