Using the February 27th Nintendo Direct to announce game info, The Pokémon Company treated us to the latest addition to the mainline games: Pokémon Sword and Shield. After Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, it seems like Nintendo’s learned a lot about how that gameplay experience, of what worked and what didn’t.
They were preparing us all for a new evolution in Pokémon. Now fully making the leap from handheld systems to console, Sword and Shield has some high expectations to live up to. Given how much Sun and Moon changed the Pokémon formula, Sword and Shield needs to be better, graphically beautiful, and continue tapping into that core spirit of Pokémon that keeps us coming back for more.
After rumors and some time to fully digest that trailer, here are 10 things we already know about the game.
10 The New Starters
As with any new Pokémon game, we’re treated to three new starters: Scorbunny, Grookey, and Sobble. Fire, Grass, and Water type Pokémon are always the first to start any adventure (minus that one time Pikachu was) and due to how the type match-ups work, it makes sense. Those three are the easiest to start your journey with, especially when your first gym has a disadvantage to at least one of the starter types.
We don’t know their evolutionary chains yet, but given how past evolutions have gone, they’ll most likely end as dual types. Dual type evolutions actually go back to Generation I of Pokémon, with Venasaur being a Grass/Poison type and Charizard being Fire/Flying. Poor Blastoise, at least make it part Rock. Blastoise deserves some dual love too.
9 The Galar Region
Unlike the Let’s Go games, Sword and Shield will add a new region to the Pokémon world. The Galar region has a blend of very different environments, blending contemporary cities with older architecture. So far, it looks like it was inspired by England which is equal parts awesome and hilarious given that Kalos was inspired by France.
But it’s cool to see Pokémon continue to expand their world to reflect ours. In certain cases, The Pokémon Company bases a region or city on a real-world equivalent. Alola was definitely inspired by Hawaii and Unova draws from the NYC metropolitan area.
The first four regions fall more into fan speculation, but it’s easy to draw the conclusion that they were based off certain areas of Japan. The Kanto region is pretty much a given, seeing as there’s a Kanto region of Japan and for the most part, remains similar in geography to its IRL equivalent. The Johto region aligns with the Chubu region to the west, Hoenn with Kyushu in the south, and Sinnoh with the northernmost island of Hokkaido.
8 New Pokémon!
This one should be a given, but just in case: yes, there will be new Pokémon. Usually, the only exceptions to this rule are remakes of games, such as Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby, or the “new and improved” releases, like Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.
So far, we can only officially confirm the three new starters. But we’re getting our fair share of familiar faces too! Pikachu, Hoothoot, Wailmer, Tyranitar, and Flygon all made an appearance in the trailer. The games have slowed their roll on adding more than 100 Pokémon to each new generation, which is probably for the better. An updated PokéRap would be impossible. But given the trend of the newer mainline games, we can probably expect to see between 70 and 80 new Pokémon.
7 Gyms, Not Trials
Sword and Shield has us going back to the classic Gym battles that made Pokémon so popular. It’s bittersweet. The creation of the trials and introducing solid mini-boss battles into the story was a welcome change of pace. Going back to a Gym format feels like taking a step back rather than forward, though we still don’t know how many Gyms will be in this game.
For the most part, the Alolan trials were a welcome change of pace and introduced some fun concepts like Z Powers and Guardian Pokémon as the pseudo-Legendaries. And it was nice seeing a Legendary that’s entire purpose was destroying the world. Kudos to you if you kept the nickname “Nebby.”
6 Gym Masters?
In a now-deleted tweet from the official Nintendo of America Twitter, the company mentioned something about the inclusion of Gym Masters rather than the typical Gym Leaders. There’s not a lot we can say on this topic, but given the potential title switch, it could lead to a different Gym experience.
A good blend of trials and Gym battles could be cool, given that some of the puzzle elements of the trials were a bit tedious. If Sword and Shield can refine that and merge it with the traditional setup and battles, it could work really well.
5 Changes from Let’s Go Pikachu! and Let’s Go Eevee!
Tzunekazu Ishihara, head of the Pokémon Company, assured us that Sword and Shield will be a complete Pokémon game. The Let’s Go titles refined many of the aspects from the more accessible Pokémon GO and adapted the concepts well to console-based play. But an entire, full-length game of that? Maybe not the best idea.
In the trailer, we see our character encounter a wild Pikachu. So we definitely know the random encounters are back, which many prefer over the Let’s Go style. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Overall, Sword and Shield looks and feels like a more traditional Pokémon game and maybe that’s exactly what the Switch needs.
4 Only On The Switch
As of the Nintendo Direct announcement, Sword and Shield will only be available on the Nintendo Switch. Kind of a bummer for those of us still on the 3DS and living vicariously through them.
In all seriousness, the transition makes sense given the Let’s Go games. Pokémon makes a habit out of releasing sort of “test” games before finalizing a mainline game or taking the time to finesse a mainline game during the off year. So hopefully, we’ll see the best from Let’s Go in Sword and Shield.
3 That Late Year Release
The Pokémon Company confirmed that Sword and Shield will be dropping in late 2019. Given past experience and common sense, this will most likely be around mid-November. But Pokémon actually confirmed this about a year ago on their Twitter. We were just hoping for, you know, an actual date with the trailer.
Oh well, we can always restart Ultra Sun while we wait. Only 7 more months to go!
2 3D Graphics
We haven’t had a 2D Pokémon game since Generation III on the GameBoy Advance. Diamond and Pearl up to Black and White saw the start of the 3D environment, but still using 2D animations for the Pokémon battles. Starting with the Kalis region in X and Y, Pokémon fully transitioned to 3D graphics and they haven’t gone back since.
Though we may miss the old graphics, the new models offer better flexibility considering the team has to animate over 800 Pokémon. It’s amazing that there are so many Pokémon models available in the Amie feature. Whoever animated a happy Giratina is a hero.
1 Pokémon World Cup?
One of the key features in that deleted Nintendo tweet was a structure that looks like a football (soccer for Americans) stadium. Outside of the States, football is a really big deal and among many, is considered the most popular sport worldwide. The FIFA World Cup is played every four years. Around 210 countries participate in the sport, though only 32 make it to the qualifying rounds.
Galar probably won’t go that hardcore, but considering how popular football is worldwide and where Galar is based on, it makes sense to finally introduce the sport in a very Pokémon way. The anime sometimes shows brackets of competitors within the Pokémon League, why not transition some of that over to gameplay?