Pokemon may have become synonymous with the hit Pokemon Go mobile game, or the Detective Pikachu movie that came out in May. But fans are already looking forward to the next big thing: Pokemon Sword and Shield.
There’s a lot to get excited about in these new games, which will include hoards of new Pokemon monsters in an update called “Gen 8.” Firstly, it’s a new-generation Pokemon game developed specifically for the Nintendo Switch. Secondly, you don’t have to wait too long. Nintendo says it’ll be out before the end of the year.
Nintendo typically announces big new games during the show. Last year, the company focused on hammering home how awesome Super Smash Bros. Ultimate would be, but it also announced a few big-name games like Super Mario Party and Fire Emblem: Three Houses. We don’t know for sure that Nintendo will treat us to a Sword and Shield spectacle at E3, but it would make sense.
Until then, though, here’s everything we know about Pokemon Sword and Shield.
Do pass Go
Sword and Shield aren’t the first Pokemon games developed specifically for the Switch. They follow Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu and Let’s Go: Eevee, reimagined versions of 1998’s well-regarded Pokemon Yellow.
The Let’s Go games were fun, but unlike the “proper” Pokemon games in the series in a few ways. There were no “random encounters,” with Pokemon scuttling about in front of you instead of hiding in the tall grass. You also couldn’t have your trained Pokemon battle wild Pokemon, you could only battle other people’s Pokemon. You also gained experience by catching Pokemon repeatedly like you do in Pokemon Go.
As you probably guessed, Pokemon Sword and Shield reverts to the playing style of old. The trailer shows our intrepid Pokemon trainer getting into a random encounter-style confrontation with a Pikachu, with no Go-style catching depicted.
This likely means a harder experience than that found in the Let’s Go games, which, while a delight to play, presented almost no challenge whatsoever to the PokeMasters among us.
Another Let’s Go feature noticeably absent from the Sword and Shield trailer is rideable Pokemon, which replaced bikes and flight skills (known in the games as HMs).
Welcome to Galar
Sword and Shield take place in a region of the Pokemon world known as Galar. Based on official Nintendo art, Galar looks absolutely huge, and the trailer presumably only gave us a taste of what wondrous sights are within. But from what little we’ve seen, it’s already apparent the region is loosely based on the UK.
Each of the seven preceding Pokemon regions have been based on actual cities and areas. While Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnohh (Gen 1 to Gen 4 regions) are all inspired by different parts of Japan, the Pokemon team has looked at international regions to base newer games on. Unova (Pokemon Black and White) had a New York City vibe to it, while Kalos (Pokemon X and Y) took on France and Alola (Pokemon Sun and Moon) was a clear take on Hawaii.
The launch trailer depicts scenes that certainly look British, with fields reminiscent of England’s countryside and buildings that look like English manors.
Plus, the northernmost city in the aforementioned region artwork has a clocktower, a ferris wheel and a bisecting, Thames-like river. We’re assuming the housing market in the city is appropriately unaffordable.
A new start
Pokemon has changed a lot since 1996’s Red and Blue, but one component hasn’t: You still choose between a fire-, grass- or water-type starter Pokemon.
Sobble, Scorbunny and Grookey are your three options here. Each was profiled briefly in the Sword and Shield reveal trailer.
Scorbunny is a bipedal white rabbit with red-tipped ears and feet. It harbors the power of fire within, but also looks like it could evolve into a fighting type, like Gen 3’s Blaziken. Then there’s Sobble, a stealthy water-type Pokemon that has the ability to camouflage itself. The little guy doesn’t look very confident in itself, but in the Pokemon universe that often means a fierce evolution looms.
Finally there’s the grass-type, which is usually kind of lame. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but in Gen 8 the grass-type Pokemon actually looks the coolest. It’s Grookey, a green primate fellow who scares off Sobble in the trailer by beating his stick into a rock like a cheeky monkey warrior bashing a war drum.
Though we saw many Pokemon from previous games, these three are the only Gen 8 creatures we’ve been shown thus far.
The Game Boy experience: While you can play these games on your TV, they’ve been designed to cater more to the handheld Switch experience. That’s according to Shuntaro Furukawa, president of Nintendo.
“Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu! and Pokemon Let’s Go: Eevee! … are designed to highlight the fun of Nintendo Switch in TV mode,” he said during Nintendo’s Q1 2019 fiscal results briefing, while “Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield are being developed to emphasize the fun of playing Nintendo Switch in handheld mode.”
Two types of training: The trailer for Sword and Shield reveals several glimpses of trains. This could just be a background aesthetic ode to Britain, where railway transport was invented, but some fans are speculating these trains could provide either fast transport or a post-game link to another region.
Stuff of legends: Another visual nod to Britain comes in the form of a geoglyph, seen below. It could be a random anthropomorphic shape, but it’s unlikely to mean nothing. I’m guessing it has something to do with the legendary Pokemon in Sword and Shield.