Here is everything you need to know about the latest entry into the Pokemon franchise, plus thoughts from my hands-on time with the game at E3 2019.
Pokemon Sword & Shield has been a must buy for me for the last 20 years and the newest generation is no different. The series has undergone many changes in two decades and much was revealed abut Generation VIII over the last few weeks between multiple Nintendo Directs, the E3 Treehouse Live, and live demos for the game.
I had the chance to get my hands on the game during E3, playing through the water gym in order to fight Nessa and her followers.
Nessa’s gym showcased the classic puzzle-solving elements the game is known for, requiring me to correctly switch a series of red, blue, and yellow (surely those color choices aren’t coincidental) consoles to start and stop various water falls around the map that lead me straight into the path of her followers.
I’ve been fawning over the graphics in all of the gameplay shown of the new games in the lead up to the event. The trailers looked impressive, a serious step forward for the series, and I’m happy to report the playable demo was just as breathtaking in person.
One of the things that grabbed my attention right at the start of the demo was the change in camera control. Revealed during the other week’s Pokemon Direct, the new in-game camera gives trainers full control to get a better look at the world (in my case, a gym).
The combat in the battles with Nessa’s followers is what fans have seen in previous titles (a return to format after Pokemon Let’s Go changed things up). The demo loaded my party up with the new Pokemon we’ve been shown so far: all three starters, Wooloo, Corviknight, and Yamper.
I got to test drive the all-new Dynamax battle-system, a temporary transformation that makes the selected Pokemon huge. And I mean huge.
The transformation lasts for three turns and completely changes the moveset of your Pokemon to Max Moves, in addition to increasing their stats. Dynamax transformations can only be used once per battle and only in certain areas (like Nessa’s gym arena), so there’s another layer of strategy involved. I was NOT strategic in my own demo thanks to my unbridled excitement.
Dynamax Pokemon also appear in the newly announced Max Raid Battles, where trainers team up with up to three other players (online or local). The Pokemon in Max Raid Battles are Dynamax-sized throughout the entire battle and, according to the Nintendo Direct, some Pokemon will only be available through Max Raid Battles.
These new battle mechanics are being introduced for the first time in Sword and Shield. Previous Pokemon generations have introduced their own changes to the battle formula, but in an interview with Famistu, Producer Junichi Masuda said the Mega Evolution and Z-Moves from X/Y and Sun/Moon will not return.
This makes sense because, in another first for the series, the Galar region will NOT feature all 800+ Pokemon in the series or a National Pokedex (I’ve included a list of all confirmed Pokemon so far at the end of this story).
Actually, there is no Pokedex as we know it. The game’s designers took Sun and Moon‘s departure from the traditional device with the help of Rotom one step further. The silly Pokemon has taken over the trainer’s phone, which will serve as Sword and Shield‘s Pokedex.
The game’s trailer also showed a trainer riding a bike that was powered up by the Rotom Phone and Nintendo revealed it can be attached to the bike to modify it multiple ways. Modifications include boosting the bike’s speed and giving it the power to travel over water (which would make sense, considering the series ditched HMs in the last generation).
Masuda said in the Nintendo Treehouse Live Presentation at E3 that the game’s designers had to balance importing the massive number of Pokemon that have been added to the series over the last two decades and that the game will feature a mix of older Pokemon in addition to new ones. There was no word on what the final number of new Pokemon will be and Masuda did not say how many different Pokemon will appear in the new game.
The reasoning is a mix of difficulty in balancing the massive number of moves. Moreso there’s concern with upgrading the full roster of Pokemon with the visual upgrades of the Switch while still meeting development deadlines, Masuda said. This limitation includes the newly announced Pokemon Home.
“What this means for Pokemon Sword and Shield is that players will be able to transfer their Pokemon from Pokemon Home, only if they appear in the Galar region Pokedex,” Masuda said via translator in the Treehouse Live.
Games Radar reported that a more direct translation of Masuda’s statement reveals slightly more information: “Because of this, from this game forward, our policy will change. The Pokemon that will appear will be specially selected to fit the stage of adventure.”
Nintendo and Game Freak are no strangers to making changes to the gameplay with Pokemon, especially as the franchise has released more titles outside of handhelds, with Pokemon Go! and Let’s Go!
Another notable change is that trainers will be able to see wild Pokemon as they roam freely in some areas and, as the weather changes, so do the wild Pokemon available.
Trainer avatar customization has also been confirmed for the first time in the series, giving players the opportunity to select skin and hair color. Outfit customization has not been officially confirmed, but fingers crossed! It was one of my favorite additions to the series in Pokemon X and Y.
These are all of the changes announced for the newest entry into the series so far.
Here is a list of all Pokemon revealed through by Game Freak or through the playable demo according to Game Rant:
- Gossifleur / Eldegoss
- Pichu / Pikachu / Raichu
- Minccino / Cinccino
- Hoothoot / Noctowl
- Grubbin / Charjabug / Vikavolt
- Deino / Zweilous / Hydreigon
- Trapinch / Vibrava / Flygon
- Rufflet / Braviary
- Wailmer / Wailord
- Espurr / Meowsticc
- Riolu / Lucario
- Larvitar / Pupitar / Tyranitar
- Munchlax / Snorlax
- Eevee / Vaporeon / Jolteon / Flareon / Espeon / Umbreon / Leafeon / Glaceon / Sylveon
- Bounsweet / Steenee / Tsareena
- Wynaut / Wobbffet
- Stufful / Bewear
- Snover / Abomasnow
- Rhyhorn / Rhydon / Rhyperior
- Onix / Steelix
- Duskull / Dusclops / Dusknoir
- Roggenrola / Buldore / Gigalith
- Golett / Golurk
- Gastly / Haunter / Gengar
- Frillish / Jellicent
- Mudbray / Mudsdale
- Caterpie / Metapod / Butterfree
- Tympole / Palpitoad / Seismitoad
- Charmander / Charmeleon / Charizard
- Bergmite / Avalugg
- Mantyke / Mantine
- Feebas / Milotic
- Wingull / Pelipper
- Chinchou / Lanturn
- Pancham / Pangoro
- Magikarp / Gyrados
- Budew / Roselia / Roserade
- Growlithe / Arcanine
- Inkay / Malamar
- Axew / Fraxure / Haxorus
- Vulpix / Ninetales
- Combee / Vespiqueen
- Bronzor / Bronzong
- Bunnelby / Diggersby
- Swirlix / Slurpuff
- Machop / Machoke / Machamp
- Goldeen / Seaking
- Joltik / Galvantula
- Vanillite / Vanillish / Vanilluxe
- Snorunt / Glalie / Froslass
- Electrike / Manectric
- Ralts / Kirlia / Gardevoir / Gallade
- Goomy / Sliggoo / Goodra
- Trubbish / Garbodor