As the first pair of mainline Pokémon entries to land on a home console, Pokémon Sword and Pokemon Shield will usher in a new era for the worldwide sensation later this year on Nintendo Switch. Sword and Shield represent the eighth generation of Pokémon. With that comes many new Pokémon to add to your Pokédex, a new region to explore, and much more. Let’s break down everything we know so far about Sword and Shield.
Like all mainline duos in the series, Sword and Shield will let you choose between three Pokémon as your starter. Sword and Shield will, of course, make this early decision super tough for you. All three starters are quite adorable.
- Sobble: The water starter. Sobble is a sad little lizard that looks as if it cannot believe The Pokémon Company chose it to be one of the starters.
- Grookey: The grass starter. Grookey is a chimp-like Pokémon with a perpetually curious personality.
- Scorbunny: The fire starter. Scorbunny is an adorable rabbit that is always on the move thanks to its endless motor.
We don’t know much about the starters other than what they look like and their primary types. Secondary types, movesets, and evolutions have not been revealed.
New region: Galar
Sword and Shield, like all new mainline entries, will introduce a new region for Pokémon trainers to explore. In both Sword and Shield, you’ll spend your days in the Galar region. It appears The Pokémon Company used the United Kingdom as inspiration.
The official description of the Galar region as told by The Pokémon Company: “An expansive region with diverse environments — an idyllic countryside, contemporary cities, thick forest, and craggy, snow-covered mountains. The people and the Pokemon who live there work together closely to develop the industries in the region. Fans will have the opportunity to visit various Gyms in the Galar region in their quest to become Champion.”
In the February Pokémon Direct, we saw roughly two minutes of footage showcasing the Galar region. Farmlands leak into small towns and woodlands break way to reveal large cities. The commercial city shown in Galar has a steampunk vibe with gears, pulleys, and other mechanisms prominently shown on the outsides of buildings. The design of the commercial areas harks back to the Industrial Revolution. There’s also a tall clock tower that could be a nod to London’s iconic Big Ben and another attraction resembling the London Eye.
As shown in the overhead view of Galar, the region is elongated and surrounded by water. It actually resembles the United Kingdom in shape, if you flipped the U.K. upside down.
Pokémon Sword and Shield will offer a traditional mainline RPG experience. While Let’s Go ditched random battles for a Pokémon Go-style catch minigame, random battles return in Sword and Shield. In the trailer, we see a Pikachu spawn from the tall grass, initiating the turn-based Pokémon battles you’ve known and loved for more than two decades. With the help of the Switch hardware, battle animations have more moving parts.
When walking through towns and other designed areas such as belowground railways, Sword and Shield‘s camera angles are a traditional third-person view. The camera follows behind your trainer, which gives Sword and Shield a more modern feel than the 3DS titles and even Let’s Go. You won’t always see the world from this angle, though. Walking around the overworld switches the camera angle to the isometric overhead view, similar to what we’ve become accustomed to over the years with the mainline franchise.
However, in special stretches of grass and foliage in between major towns, you’ll notice the camera switch to a third-person perspective that you can rotate. These areas are known as “Wild Areas,” and the Pokémon you find roaming in these regions will vary based on your location as well as the weather.
The Wild Areas will also be where you participate in Max Raid Battles, which are four-player fights against a giant, powerful Pokémon. These monsters have special moves and will stay transformed in their Dynamax mode for the entire fight. If successful, you and your friends have a chance to capture it together. Only one player can use their own Dynamax transformation during the battle.
You will also be able to spend time with your monsters at Pokémon Camp, where you pitch a tent and play with Pokémon in a laid-back setting. Doing this will improve their performance in battle, and you can also cook curries for them using a variety of ingredients. The curries you make will be gathered in the Curry Dex. No, we are not joking. If you want to be social, you can also visit other players’ camps in the Wild Areas.
Overall, the exploration of the Galar region seems to let players get a closer look at the environments, which will undoubtedly make Sword and Shield feel larger in scope.
You’ll get to play as either a boy or a girl. In the trailer, the gender you choose changes not just your attire but the backpack you carry. You will also be able to change your outfit, haircut, and even put on makeup.
Sword and Shield also bring back traditional gym badge progression. The seventh generation, Sun and Moon, dropped gym badges in favor of Island Trials. The number of gyms in Sword and Shield hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s typically eight and then the Pokémon League where you battle the Elite Four. These gyms resemble sports arenas, and this is because they need to accommodate the giant Dynamax Pokémon you will face and use.
Pokémon Sword and Pokemon Shield will bring the next major expansion of the Pokédex, starting with No. 810, which will either be Grookey, Sobble, or Scorbunny.
For an idea of how many new Pokémon to expect, here’s a breakdown of each generation:
- Gen 1: 151
- Gen 2: 100
- Gen 3: 135
- Gen 4: 107
- Gen 5: 156
- Gen 6: 72
- Gen 7: 88
- Gen 8: ? (three confirmed)
As you can see, the number of new Pokémon per generation has varied wildly, ranging from 72 to 156. If generation eight comes in around the average, Galar will more than likely host somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 new Pokémon.
Like all generations, look for Pokémon Sword to have some Pokémon you cannot find in Pokémon Shield, and vice versa.
A few new monsters have been revealed during the June 5 Pokémon Direct event and later press events, each offering unique benefits to the citizens of the Galar region. These include:
- Wooloo: A sheep Pokémon, whose wool can be used to craft goods.
- Gossifleur: A flowering Pokémon that has healing properties in its pollen and can evolve into Eldegoss.
- Drednaw: A bite Pokémon that can chew through rock or iron.
- Corviknight: A flying-type Pokémon that can take trainers to any town they have already visited.
- Alcremie: A cream Pokémon that can produce whipped cream with richness determined by its mood.
- Yamper: A puppy Pokémon who loves to chase after everything that moves. Can fetch thrown Poké Balls.
- Rolycoly: A coal Pokémon with a red eye that can light up dark areas. Gets speed boost if he’s by fire or water attacks.
- Duraludon: An alloy Pokémon that can grind down rocks for food. Moves quickly and protected against corrosion.
- Polteageist: A ghost-type tea Pokémon that can let its trainer take a sip. Yes, really.
- Clamorant: A hungry flying and water Pokémon that can grab food after diving and spit it back at its enemies.
- Sirfetch’d: A Sword-exclusive evolution of Farfetch’d who can use its leek as a sword and a shield.
Alongside the brand-new Pokémon, you’ll also find Galarian versions of existing monsters — similar to how the Alolan Pokémon worked in Sun and Moon. Weezing gains a fairy-type classification in its Galarian form alongside a smokestack on its head, and certain Pokémon will only be obtained by evolving the Galarian form of a different Pokémon.
One Pokémon will also be able to shape-shift on command. Morpeko alters between “Full Belly” mode, which uses electric attacks, and “Hangry” mode, which uses dark attacks. The modes can be switched at will, and it could offer new strategies in battle.
The friends you meet along the way
Of course, it isn’t all monsters you’ll be running into in Sword and Shield. There are also several human characters we know will appear in the games, thanks to the June 5 presentation. These include:
- Leon: The current Galar champion, he is extremely popular despite having horrible facial hair.
- Hop: Leon’s little brother, who aspires to be a Champion, as well. He is the main rival of the player.
- Professor Magnolia: The Galar region’s professor, who is investigating Dynamax transformations.
- Sonia: Magnolia’s granddaughter and assistant, who can offer advice to the player.
Other human characters we know about include:
- Chairman Rose: The chairman of the Galar Pokémon League and president of “a large business conglomerate.”
- Oleana: Rose’s secretary in charge of the day-to-day operation of the Galar League.
- Bea: Fighting-type Pokémon expert and Galar karate practitioner.
- Allister: Ghost-type Pokémon expert who hides his face behind a mask and rarely makes appearances.
- Bede: One of your rivals, whose motives remain unclear.
- Marnie: Another of your rivals, Marnie uses a Morpeko and has a passionate fan-base called Team Yell.
Marnie’s Team Yell will be your primary enemy team throughout the two games. They will repeatedly appear to battle you during the story and will interrupt your attempts to challenge a gym leader in order to battle you. They will appear when you are battling Marnie, as well, and Marnie is apparently capable of calling them off when they get too rowdy. As a distraction device complete with towels and horns, they just might be her most important tool.
The major new feature added to Sword and Shield is the Dynamax transformation. Once per battle, you have the ability to turn one of your Pokémon into a giant, complete with more powerful moves. This effect is similar to the transformations we saw introduced in the 3DS games, but it only lasts for three turns.
You will need a special Dynamax Band item in order to transform your Pokémon. Using their Max Moves, you could see an additional effect added onto their attacks, as well.
Another, similar phenomenon called “Gigantamax” will also be included in the game. This will make certain Pokémon grow larger, gain access to a special “G-Max Move,” and alter their appearance.
The Pokémon Company has made a habit of placing legendary Pokémon on the covers of each mainline game. With Sword and Shield, the key art didn’t initially appear to be straightforward, but as a matter of fact, it was.
The two legendary Pokémon you will be able to get, which should vary based on the game you choose, are Zacian and Zamazenta. They carry a sword and shield, respectively, with Zacian holding the weapon in its mouth like a boss from Dark Souls. They are both wolves, which was hinted at by the game’s art already.
During a press conference in May, The Pokémon Company announced Pokémon Home, a cloud-based service for storing and transferring Pokémon. Pokémon Home is an upgraded version of the Nintendo 3DS’ Pokémon Bank and will work on smartphones and Switch. Using the app, you can transfer Pokémon from Pokémon Go, Let’s Go, and Sword and Shield to Pokémon Home. Sword and Shield Pokémon, based on the diagram, cannot be transferred to any other game, but you will be able to send Pokémon from the Bank, Go, and Let’s Go to Sword and Shield.
A price for the service hasn’t been revealed (Pokémon Bank costs $5/year), but it will launch sometime in 2020.
Pokémon Sword and Pokemon Shield will be available on November 15, 2019. The release date will be global.
Pre-orders and special editions
Pokémon Sword and Shield are available for pre-order now. No pre-order bonuses have been revealed yet, but a double pack containing both games is available. Nintendo released a special Let’s Go-themed Switch last year, and Sword and Shield feel like prime candidates for limited edition Switch hardware, too. Pokémon games rarely feature meaningful pre-order bonuses, but Nintendo has sold bundles that include both games in the past, such as this steelbook Sun and Moon bundle from Amazon. You can get $10 in credit if you pre-order Sword or Shield from Amazon.
For those who purchase the double pack, you will receive two codes containing special Dynamax Crystal reward items. These can be used in the Wild Area to fight a few Pokémon in special Max Raid battles that would not normally be in the game. Those who download the digital version of the game before January 15, 2020 will also get a code for 12 Quick Balls, used to catch Pokémon before dealing damage instead of afterward.
- The best Pokémon games, ranked from best to worst
- How to catch and breed shiny Pokémon in Pokemon Sword and Shield
- How to unlock every new feature in Pokemon’s Isle of Armor DLC
- Pokémon: Let’s Go beginner’s guide
- Everything we know about New Pokémon Snap