Pokémon is one of the biggest franchises in the world and with nearly 25 years’ worth of games, it’s safe to say that there are some rather cool features highly anticipated Pokémon Sword and Shield versions. For one, it marks the first fully traditional Pokémon game to transition from its renowned handheld format to the home system.
It’s a whole new world
Sword and Shield start off the 8th generation of Pokémon with a fresh coat of paint to the franchise. The bigger thing people are most excited for is exploring the new UK-inspired region of Galar where these games take place, and the transition to the Nintendo Switch from the 3DS obviously means a huge overhaul in graphics and a world design that can give a true sense of exploration like never before.
There are massive cities and large open world areas called “Wild Areas” where Pokémon appear in their overworld state, roaming the land waiting to be captured, much like how they appear in Pokémon Let’s Go before you encounter them. Gamefreak has also shown us in previous trailers that there will be areas that won’t be as large as the Wild Area and won’t have overworld Pokémon, which is an odd design decision, but does mean that the genre’s staple of random encounters will return.
Pokémon unveiled so far
The starter Pokémon in the region of Galar are Grookey, Scorbunny and Sobble which all feature lovely designs, actually. Even Sobble has certainly grown on me since its unveiling, but beyond this a few more Pokémon have been unveiled at E3, and you might have missed them.
Yamper is an electric Corgi Pokémon which gets its inspiration from the Queen’s beloved dog breed. It has a yellow accent suggesting its electric typing and a heart shaped bottom. Impidimp is probably not the best looking Pokémon of the new set, but with its Dark/Fairy type, it should be a real hidden gem for team building as it will have hardly any weaknesses to the sturdiest of Pokémon types.
Gossifleur is a cute little flower Pokémon, which is described as sassy by The Pokémon Company. Its design is quite simple, but the evolution Eldegoss was also confirmed, which basically turns it into a seeding dandelion, but still maintains its sassiness and good looks, which is obviously the main thing. Wooloo are common sheep Pokémon which can be found in various Wild Areas and routes, but they’re ridiculously cute and fans are already adoring the design of this little one.
Drednaw is one of the coolest designs I’ve seen for a Pokémon for quite some time. Its design is based on a large snapping turtle and seems to be quite the powerhouse. Meanwhile Corviknight is this dark crow-like bird which seems to be quite formidable in battle much like Drednaw, so it’ll be interesting to see if Corviknight can evolve.
Zacian and Zamazenda are the Sword and Shield-inspired legendaries of this game. Both are wolves, one wielding a sword in its mouth, while the other has a shield for a mane. One’s obviously offensive, with the other is defensive. It would be nicer to have a bigger variation between the two legendary mascots for each game, both visually an in terms of stats, but they’ll both be useful in different ways.
Rotom is confirmed in the sense that it integrates itself with a smartphone to give the players a variety of features to access such as the Galar Pokedex. You can also attach the Rotom Phone to your bike to make it faster and travel over water.
Gym Leaders and Characters
One thing that divided opinion from Pokémon Sun and Moon was the Island Kahuna system of bosses. Gym leaders are making a comeback in Sword & Shield, with the two leaders shown so far displaying varying personalities.
The first of these is Milo, a rather muscly kind-hearted child who uses Grass type Pokémon and is apparently pretty popular with the trainers in his gym. The other is Nessa, a female Water type trainer. Nessa looks to be a super-confident and trendy gym leader who leaks some badass energy. The gyms nowadays are essentially large battle stadiums, so the scale and magnitude is much grander as you’ll have a crowd watching your gym battles. In addition to this you can also make your Pokémon become a giant with the new Dynamax forms – it’s a good thing the stadia are so big!
Your rival’s name is Hop and he is the younger brother of the Galar regional Champion, Leon, while the new Professor is Professor Magnolia who studies the mysteries surrounding dynamic forms. She has a granddaughter called Sonia who will also offer helpful advice along your journey. All of these characters play an important role in your rise to the top.
Dynamaxing isn’t a particularly creative new feature, and I would have much rather seen more mega evolution forms, but what is interesting is that they open the door for four player raids. Within that, there’s some strategy to be found in deciding which of you gets to use your Dynamax, as only one can do so and it only lasts for three turns.
The Dynamaxed raid Pokémon shown so far have been Gyarados and Steelix, but we’ve also been promised more variations of these at different difficulties. Wild Dynamax Pokémon might use multiple moves in one turn, neutralize the challenging Pokémon’s ability, or even remove all stat changes that have been put in place. They can also spawn protective barriers that prevent almost all damage.
When a player’s Pokémon are knocked out in the Max Raid Battles, they can still assist other Trainers by cheering them on. If a Trainer emerges victorious from a Max Raid Battle, not only will all participating Trainers have an opportunity to catch the defeated Dynamax Pokémon, they will also be rewarded with other useful items.
Pokémon Home Functionality
Since the initial announcement of these games at the last E3, people were looking for a way to transfer their beloved Pokémon collections across to the newer games that Nintendo has lined up. In the Pokémon Direct last month, the Pokémon Company announced Pokémon Home, a Pokémon Bank-like app where you can pay a subscription to be able to transfer Pokémon to Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee, Sword & Shield and future games.
Junichi Masuda confirmed at E3 that not every Pokémon can be transferred to Sword and Shield from Pokémon Home, as only those that feature in the Galar region can be imported into the game. It’s a simple matter of the resources needed to update over 800 Pokémon for the new games being a bit too much!
Poké Ball Plus Functionality
Trainers will be able to sync their Poké Ball Plus with the games so they can take Sword and Shield wherever they go, but you sadly won’t be able to control the game with this.
This is something that I’m slightly gutted about as playing the whole of Let’s Go one-handed was one of the more unique things that I enjoyed in those games, and honestly, I really don’t want to be carrying around Poké Balls that occasional make a Pokémon noise in public!
If you do end up picking up one of the Pokeball Plus accessories, then you’ll be delighted to know that it comes with a free Mew inside the device, which you can redeem when you connect it to either Sword or Shield version.
Pokémon Sword & Shield is a great opportunity for Pokémon to reinvent itself, with a large sense of exploration and discovery that we could get from roaming Wild Areas and training out team to take on some of the coolest gym leaders to date. Perhaps the main disappointment is with the Dynamax forms which, though the raids look cool, just don’t seem as cool as Mega Evolutions were.
Pokémon Sword & Shield is out on November 16th 2019 for the Nintendo Switch.