A part of the Switch’s critical success can be attributed to Nintendo’s well-calculated approach in making the console a new home for its beloved franchises. Games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey have already provided us with a glimpse into a future where Nintendo first-party releases can strive to be much more ambitious than their predecessors.
This has led many to wonder what impact the Switch will have on the next mainline Pokémon games scheduled to release later this year. While the monster collecting series has always appeared on a Nintendo handheld system, tracing as far back as Red & Blue on Game Boy, and most recently Ultra Sun & Moon on 3DS, Generation 8 will mark a shift for the JRPG when Pokémon Sword & Shield launches on the Switch.
And with big transitions come big questions, especially for long-time Pokémon fans who are curious about where the series is headed. So we’re here to cover everything you need to know about the upcoming games, including any rumors and potential leaks regarding story and gameplay details. We’ll be updating this story in the future with new information, so make sure to check back.
Pokémon Sword & Shield Release Date
During E3 2017, we got a short announcement from Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara, stating Game Freak had begun development on the next core RPG Pokémon title. A recent Nintendo Direct provided us with further details about the next mainline games, titled Pokémon Sword & Shield, including a worldwide release date for November 15, 2019. Both versions are currently available for pre-order, including a double pack bundle that includes a copy of each.
Pokémon Sword & Shield Story
New Region & Characters
Sword & Shield will take place in the UK-inspired Galar region, which is comprised of multiple environments ranging from small rural villages, bustling urban cities, icy mountains, mineral-rich caves, and massive stadiums. Along with the new region comes a new cel-shaded visual style that maintains the 3D-perspective of recent titles, including the ability to rotate the player camera freely.
Keeping with the series’ tradition, Sword & Shield has you set off on a journey to become a Pokémon master and defeat each gym leader in addition to the Elite Four and the region’s Pokémon champion, named Leon. Leon is described as being “the greatest trainer in the Galar region” as he’s never been defeated and has an army of loyal fans. Leon’s younger brother, Hop, has dreams of becoming as great as his brother and begins his Pokémon journey on the same day as you, making him your rival.
At the start of your adventure, you’ll be introduced to Professor Magnolia, the Professor of the Galar region, along with her assistant and granddaughter, Sonia. Gym battles will be returning in Sword & Shield and we’ve already gotten a chance to check out two of the region’s gym leaders – Milo, who specializes in Grass-types and Nessa, a Water-type expert.
Just like every other mainline game in the series, Sword & Shield will feature new creatures to catch, including some that are exclusive to each version. Here are the three Pokémon available to players from the start:
- Grookey (Grass-type)
- Scorbunny (Fire-type)
- Sobble (Water-type)
While it’s currently unknown how many new creatures will appear in Sword & Shield, Game Freak recently revealed some of the new Pokémon players can expect to encounter in the wild:
- Wooloo – a sheep-like Pokémon with fluffy fur
- Gossifleur – a flower Pokémon that evolves into Eldegoss
- Drednaw – a vicious Pokémon with a powerful bite
- Corviknight – a bird Pokémon that can be used as a flying taxi and bring players to any town previously visited
- Yamper – a dog Pokémon whose design seems inspired by a Welsh Corgi
- Impidimp – a mischievous Pokémon based on the mythological imp creature.
Lastly, the two legendaries for Sword & Shield have also been revealed:
- Zacian – a swift and nimble Pokémon that holds a sword in its mouth (Available in Sword version)
- Zamazenta – a tough Pokémon whose front is covered in armor (Available in Shield version)
We’re not sure what role these two Pokémon will have in the story, however, we expect they’ll be a central component of the game’s plot.
Additionally, a recent leak that hasn’t been confirmed nor denied by Game Freak or Nintendo outlines a list of Pokémon from previous generations that will be given new “Galaran Forms”, similar to the Alolan regional variants in Sun & Moon.
- Noctowl – Ice/Flying (becomes black, with bits of dark blue.)
- Sentret – Normal/Ground (now has steel-claws)
- Furret – Normal/Ground (has a drill on its tail)
- Spinarak – Bug/Ghost (is now black, but the smiley on it’s back is bright pink)
- Ariados – Bug/Ghost (same as Spinarak. Now has a spooky angry-face on it’s back.)
- Jumpluff – Grass/Fairy (body becomes white, pom-pom-things turn pink)
- Sudowoodo – Steel (now disguised as a pine tree)
- Houndour – Dark/Ice (“skull” on its head is now made out of ice)
- Houndoom – Dark/Ice (horns and bone-parts are now Icicles)
- Magcargo – Fire/Water (now wears a seashell as its house)
- Ralts – Dark/Fairy (green “helmet” turns dark blue and the dress-part becomes purple)
- Kirlia – Dark/Fairy (same as Ralts, but its legs stay white)
- Gardevoir – Dark/Fairy (same as previous, looks a bit like it’s Mega)
- Zangoose – Fighting/Dark (white fur becomes black, has sharper claws)
- Seviper – Poison/Steel (has a giant iron spike-ball instead of its Knife-tail)
- Spoink – Poison (tail is made of purple sludge and its crystal is dark purple)
- Grumpig – Poison/Ghost (same with Spoink, but it’s pink parts become dark green)
Pokémon Sword & Shield Gameplay – What Could Be Changed?
It seems like Sword & Shield is aiming to bring some key new features to the series without disrupting too much of the core Pokémon experience. For one, the games will feature a new “Wild Area” that stretches between cities and spawns different wild Pokémon depending on the weather and the player’s current location. While exploring environments, players will see wild Pokémon roaming freely and can approach them for battle, similar to Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee. However, battling and catching mechanics seem largely unchanged, maintaining the turn-based combat of previous entries.
Aside from providing opportunities to catch new Pokémon, the Wild Area will contain beacons that allow players to connect with others via local wireless or online multiplayer and participate in “Max Raid Battles”. These battles have 4-players working together to defeat wild “Dynamax” Pokémon, a new kind of Pokémon transformation that can be performed once per battle, causing a Pokémon to become massive in size and have their attacks boosted for three turns. This new mechanic will replace Mega-Evolutions, which were introduced in X & Y, as well as Z-Moves from Sun & Moon.
During Max Raid Battles, only one of the four players will be able to Dynamax their Pokémon, greatly increasing the group’s chances of winning, so team-coordination will be key. If your team is successful, you’ll each have a chance to catch the wild Dynamax Pokémon. The kind of Pokémon you encounter will vary based on weather, and some can only be caught in the wild after being defeated in a Max Raid Battle.
To accommodate this new feature, Gym Battles have been relegated to massive stadiums that allow for Dynamax transformations. Here, you and your opponent will battle while a large audience watches from the stands. Other noticeable changes include:
- Bikes can now be ridden on water
- Trees can now be shaken and drop berries
- Trainers can now gain a wild Pokémon’s attention by whistling
Lastly, Nintendo’s E3 Treehouse presentation provided us with some more information concerning which Pokémon will be available to catch in the Galar region and/or be traded over via Pokémon Bank. It turns out not every creature from the series’ history will be available in Sword & Shield, at least not at launch. According to the game’s producer, Junichi Masuda, this decision was made in order to “keep everything balanced and give all the Pokémon that appear in the games a chance to shine.”
It’s unclear which Pokémon from previous generations will be included in the final game and/or if Game Freak has plans to add more as part of a future update, however, a leak from popular Pokémon news site Serebii.net details which creatures will be included in the Galar Region Pokédex. The list includes some obvious fan favorites like Charizard and each of its pre-evolutions, all of the Eeveelutions, and many more. While there is a disappointingly large amount of creatures missing, keep in mind this is by no means the official roster.
The Final Word
For a series with such a rich and lengthy history, it’s exciting to think about what the future for Pokémon will be. The existence of the Switch has no doubt led Game Freak and other Nintendo studios to search for ways to refine their tent-pole franchises, and much like Pokémon themselves, evolve for a new era of gaming. The addition of new Dynamax transformations and cooperative Max Raid Battles have us eager to see what other new experiences await in Sword & Shield.
In this day and age, it’s difficult for developers to make a sequel that can cater to loyal fans while also drawing in a new group of players. This seems especially true for Pokémon, a series that focuses heavily on player preference. Everyone has a favorite starter, a favorite rival, a favorite gym leader, one generation they prefer over all others, and soon, we’ll all have a preferred Pokémon size.
If you’re excited for Pokémon Sword & Shield and need a game to hold you over until it’s release, check out our list for the Best Games Like Pokémon.