As always, I'm a little late to the thread. Tournament sparring for Shotokan (JKA anyway) is generally like this: no padding or helmets, no shin guards or foot protectors. Gloves and a mouthpiece only (women can wear optional chest protector underneath uniform)...
We also get use a groin box too
It's the same for a few non-JKA & ex-JKA associations competitions too.
However not all Shotokan/Shotokai schools/clubs/associations are the same. Some are hard going, some aren't. Some are sports orientated, some are not. Some teach properly, and unfortunately there are some that teach a watered down version. Visit the school in your area, you'll get a feel pretty soon.
However if you're looking at more bunkai for kata's, even though I love Shotokan karate (it's the first art I properly studied, it's my base art, plus I reached Shodan in it), you may want to check out Tang Soo Do first of all. I've learnt more bunkai/applications from my current TSD school from the first few kata's than the Shotokan associations that I use to train with (I've trained with a JKA club, two associations whose head sensei's trained under Kanazawa Sensei's/SKIF and ex-JKA clubs). I'm not saying that's better or worse, I'm just saying that it's different. Plus also most of TSD's patterns are very similar to Shotokan's and you'll already know the language (Korean).