Due for official release on November 15, Pokémon Sword and Shield sees the beloved series undergoing a bit of a (somewhat controversial) redesign. Pokémon Sword and Shield is set in the brand-new Galar Region (basically, a Pokémon-ified version of the United Kingdom) and includes a number of new Pokémon including starters Scorbunny, Sobble, and Grookey, alongside a new combat mechanic called Dynamaxing that will replace Z-Moves and Mega-Evolutions.
However, in making room for these new Pokémon, Game Freak has decided to make big cuts to Pokémon Sword and Shield’s Pokédex while also doing away with the national Pokédex. It’s a controversial decision that has been some fans in uproar and #GameFreakLied trending on Twitter.
Despite the controversy, Pokémon Sword and Shield has been getting rave reviews, with critics praising the games’ beautiful new region, more strategies Pokémon battles and, in some cases, referring to the games as potentially the best entries in the series to date.
So, with the official release date just days away, here’s everything we know about Pokemon Sword and Shield.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The eighth-generation of Pokémon games
- When can I play it? November 15, 2019
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite
Pokémon Sword and Shield review roundup
Critic reviews for the new Pokemon games are now here, so in our Pokémon Sword and Shield review roundup we pulled together the verdicts for your reading pleasure, along with a link to each publication’s full review. We’ve yet to have enough time with the game to meet our review standard, so keep an eye on TechRadar for our verdict shortly.
Sam Loveridge – 4.5/5
‘This is a seriously memorable Pokemon adventure. The story delivers enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, steeped in the kinds of myths and legends that you forget the British Isles are chock-full of. ‘
Casey DeFreitas – 4.5/5
‘Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield are closer to my dream Pokemon RPGs than anything that’s come before.’
Alex Olney – 8/10
‘What we’ve got here is an experience full of highs and lows, from the unadulterated wonder and joy of seeing a brand-new Pokémon in a stadium full of cheering crowds, to the monotonous and dragged-out dialogue we just wanted to skip. ‘
Kallie Plagge – 9/10
‘In collecting, battling, and exploring, Sword and Shield cut out the bloat and focus on what makes these pillars of the Pokemon games so captivating in the first place.’
Chris Tapsell – No badge
‘Pokémon Sword and Shield add some brilliant new creatures, but like their gargantuan Dynamax forms, the games feel like a hollow projection.’
Pokémon Sword and Shield release date
During a special Pokémon Sword and Shield focused Nintendo Direct on June 5, Nintendo revealed that Pokémon Sword and Shield will release globally on November 15, 2019 for Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite.
Pokémon Sword and Shield trailers
Wondering what towns in the Galar region might look like? A trailer dropped during Gamescom will give you a better idea. Rolling verdant hills, quaint train stations and the ever-familiar comfort of the Pokémon Center. Check out the new footage below:
Pokémon Sword and Shield will made battling bigger and better than ever, and we mean the former quite literally. In a trailer released in August 2019, some new battle mechanics are explored. Watch the trailer below to see new Hidden Abilities, moves, items and some more details about Dynamaxing.
A new day, a new trailer. We were expecting possibly more of an in-depth Pokémon Direct, but this two-minute clip does give us a look at some new Pokémon designs – as well as some ‘rivals’ you’ll be facing off against in the game.
Check out the video below:
Another Pokémon Sword and Shield trailer gave us a closer look at Dynamaxing, new Pokémon and the Galar Pokémon League. Check it out below:
The best glimpse we’ve had of Pokémon Sword and Shield was during a special Nintendo Direct in June. The Nintendo Direct shed a lot of light on what new features we can expect alongside some new Pokémon pals.
Check out the video below:
The first Pokémon Sword and Shield trailer didn’t give too much away, but you can see the first glimpse of the environments and art style.
You also get a first look at three new starter Pokémon: the fire-rabbit Scorbunny, twig-monkey Grookey, and a sad-looking tadpole (sadpole?) called Sobble.
Check the trailer out below:
Another trailer, released right around the time of E3 2019, highlighted some of the geographical features of the Galar Region and introduced us to raid battles – a mechanic taken from the Pokémon Go mobile game.
Pokémon Sword and Shield news and features
Resetera user Atheerios posted several spoilers and leaks about the new games, including a list of every Pokémon we can expect to see in them, including lists of every generation eight Pokémon, several Galarian forms and evolutions, and new gigantamax forms. Plus a lot more.
We’re not going to post any spoilers here, because it’s up to you if you want to go find them for yourself but the lists highlight which classic Pokémon are returning – and which aren’t.
What we will tell you is that there’s a total of 81 new species and 13 Galarian forms – making for a total of 94 new Pokémon and an overall total of 400 Pokemon.
Ditching Nintendo Switch Online?
The upcoming Pokémon games on Nintendo Switch are set to launch this week, though players wishing to take part in online bouts with each other would usually require a subscription to Nintendo’s paid online service – as you do for the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, or similar multiplayer games.
However, Sword and Shield seems to be doing things a bit differently, with an option to pay for online access for your Pokémon game alone.
The official Nintendo website cites the unusual payment strategy in the text below (emphasis our own): “Nintendo Switch Online membership (sold separately) and Nintendo Account required for online features. This game includes an in-game purchase option for users who do not have a membership. Not available in all countries. Internet access required for online features. Terms apply. nintendo.com/switch-online.”
By the sounds of it, even those without a full, paid subscription to Nintendo Switch Online will have a way to partake in online battles, trading, and the like – though we’re yet to see whether it would be a cost-effective alternative, given the already low $3.99 / £3.49 / AU$5.95 price.
Another research update
As promised, a new research update was shown on October 16 and it gave fans a peek at some of the new Gigantamax forms that will appear in the game. The video (embedded below) reveals that Pikachu, Meowth, Eevee, Charizard and Butterfree will have Gigantamax forms.
While Charizard and Butterfree will be generally available through Max Raid battles in the game, Pikachu and Eevee will be available to those who purchased the relevant Let’s Go title and still have play records on their Switch, while Meowth will be an early purchase gift for those who get the game before January 15 2020.
Download size revealed
It’s time for a clearout! Pokémon Sword and Shield will take up 10.3GB of storage on your Nintendo Switch.
Glimwood Tangle Livestream
Aspiring Pokemon researchers have tuned into the promised Sword and Shield livestream and what have they discovered over the 24 hours? Well, it looks like there’s a Galar region variant of the horse-like Pokémon Ponyta.
This psychic type will be exclusive to Shield, balancing out the recent announcement that Sirfetch’d will be exclusive to Sword.
This Ponyta will have two special abilities: Pastel Veil and Run Away. The latter seems fairly self explanatory while the former will prevent Ponyta and its allies from being poisoned during battle. This ability can also cure poisoned Pokemon when they join a battle.
The rumor that Pokemon Sword and Shield will be the first games in the series to include an autosave feature have been confirmed. In an interview with GameInformer, director Ohmori said that autosave will run in the background throughout the game. The feature will be turned on by default, but fans looking for a more traditional experience can go in and turn it off and save manually.
Another feature that will be automatic in Sword and Shield is Experience Share which will see XP fairly distributed among your Pokemon team by default, rather than subject to the use of an item.
Nintendo has introduced the new Wild Duck Pokémon: Sirfetch’d. According to the Nintendo, “Farfetch’d that inhabit the Galar region can evolve into Sirfetch’d after experiencing many battles”. However, this new Pokémon is exclusive to Pokémon Sword.
Check out the reveal trailer for the leek-wielding Pokémon below:
Nintendo Direct September 2019
Nintendo dropped a Direct in early September with some brand new details on Pokémon Sword and Shield.
First up, as we already knew character customization is making a return but it’s going to be more wide-ranging than ever before. Now in addition to changing tops and bottoms, you can change hairstyles, apply make up and pull some stylish outerwear. Catching Pokémon in a leather jacket? You betcha.
There’s also Pokémon Camp which allows you to pitch up a tent during your journeys and play with your Pokémon. This will improve their performance in battle and you can even take your Pokémon to visit the camps of other players online.
Camping also means cooking. Now you can lovingly create dishes of curry and rice for you and your Pokémon with more than 100 variations to enjoy. To keep track of your recipes you’ll be using the Currydex (yes, seriously).
Of course, there are also some new Pokémon. The Direct introduced us to flying-water-type Cramorant and ghost-type Polteagiest.
The new footage gave us a good look at an as-yet-unnamed town in the Galar region. This footage revealed that in addition to the previously revealed flying taxi service in the game, players will also be able to travel by train. Hopefully the attempt to reflect the UK will only be surface level or we’ll get nowhere by rail. Towns will also have, as expected, Pokémon Centers, grocery stores and clothing stores to have a look around and spend some money.
New battle mechanics
In a trailer, some brand new battle details have been confirmed.
Corviknight is shown to have a Hidden Ability called Mirror Armor which will allow it to reflect any stat-lowering effects back at its opponents.
Hidden Abilities, it’s been confirmed in a blog post, are slightly more special than standard abilities as they’ll only feature in Pokémon that have been caught in Max Raid Battles (so a Corviknight you catch from a normal encounter won’t have the Mirror Armor ability).
These Max Raid Battles, coincidentally, are the way to encounter another kind of special Pokémon: one that’s capable of Gigantamaxing. If you’re really lucky you might go into a Max Raid Battle and come away with a Pokémon that can Gigantamax and has a Hidden Ability but that’ll be a very rare event and you’ll have to take part in a lot of Raids.
New items will also be introduced to the game. One of these is Room Service, which will lower the speed of the Pokémon holding it during Trick Room. The other is Eject Pack which will switch the holding Pokémon out of battle if its stats are lowered, allowing you to replace it with another from your team.
A few more details on the Online Battle Stadium have been confirmed. Players with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription will be able to connect over the internet and compete in single or double battles. These battles can be ranked or casual, with the former involving facing trainers of similar ranks to try and earn points to move up, while the latter is, well, just for fun. With things working through the Nintendo Switch Online service, that means Pokémon Global Link is not supported.
Pokémon have jobs now
An official listing on the Pokémon Sword and Shield’s website shows a way of earning experience points by freelancing your Pokémon out to random employers. Exploitation, or a fun summer job? At the very least it’s a great way of ensuring your boxed Pokémon aren’t languishing while you take your main team on your adventure as can sometimes happen. It seems something of a shame that you can’t go along with your Pokémon and take part in a mini game for some jobs but either way it’s a great way to keep your Pokémon training and to bring in some special items as rewards.
Regional variations of familiar Pokémon always make exploring new areas even more fun. The region variants for the Galarian region really play up that U.K inspiration.
There’s Galarian Weezing which is clearly drawing heavily on the Industrial Revolution with its chimney pipe hat and Victorian factory-owner vibe.
Meanwhile Zigzagoon and Linoon have taken on a more badger-like appearance.
There’s also an entirely new Pokémon confirmed for the Galar region: Morpeko. This little hamster-like creature is adorable until It gets hungry. In perhaps the most relatable Pokémon behaviour ever, when Morpeko enters hangry mode, it goes from electric type to dark type and looks utterly merciless.
🚨 New Pokémon Discovered! 🚨Galarian Weezing consumes polluted air and poisonous gases for sustenance. It then emits purified air from the tops of its heads. How helpful! https://t.co/zwlpel56bD pic.twitter.com/iJnWwlXw3VAugust 7, 2019
The bad guys
Pokémon grunt organisations are very rarely subtle and Team Yell are continuing that trend with their name, their fashion and their utter adoration of Marnie.
Marnie is one of your main rivals in Sword and Shield and she’s hell bent on becoming a champion. Team Yell are her followers who will get in your way in order to help her get there.
Bede is your other rival. He’s a little more mysterious than Marnie (and looks a little more like a grandmother too). While he’s also aiming to become champion, he’s got other motives you’ll be aiming to uncover.
Brand new models
The Pokémon Sword and Shield development team has been facing ire from fans following the news that every single Pokémon ever won’t be available to catch in the new games with the latest rumors suggesting that Game Freak has been utilising old 3DS creature models for the Switch game in order to cut costs. This theory has been shot down by an older Famitsu interview with Junichi Masuda and Shigeru Ohmori (via Polygon) in which it’s stated that the models for the new game have been created from scratch.
It was also said that the more intensive graphics of the Switch has lengthened the time needed to render Pokémon so the limited Pokédex would have come at some point.
Version-exclusive Gym Leaders
Pokémon Sword and Shield will have version-exclusive Gym Leaders. In Pokémon Sword you will battle karate prodigy Bea, while in Pokémon Shield, you take on emo king Allister.
Previously we had heard of the Dynamax feature that allows Pokémon to become super-sized during battles, however Nintendo has now revealed the “phenomenon” of Gigantamaxing.
While Dynamaxing can only occur in specific areas of the Galar region, and is a common occurrence for Pokémon from the region, Gigantaxmaxing is only specific to certain species of Pokémon and kicks things up a notch by not only increasing a Pokémon’s size but also its appearance.
In addition, Gigantamaxing boosts the power of the Pokémon and allows it to use a unique move known as a G-Max Move – each G-Max Move is particular to a specific species of Gigantamax Pokémon.
More new Pokémon
In a recent trailer Nintendo introduced us to some more new Pokémon we’ll be encountering in Galar, including the walking ice-cream sundae Alcremie, adorable puppy Yamper, coal chunk Rolycoly and steel dragon Duraludon.
Pokémon producer Junichi Masuda has reiterated the news that not all Pokémon would be available to catch in Sword and Shield in a statement to fans on the official Pokémon site. In the statement, Masuda thanked fans for their love of the Pokémon series but reaffirmed the decision to limit Pokémon in the game to those within the Galar region.
He did, however, add that “even if a specific Pokémon is not available in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, that does not mean it will not appear in future games.”
Fan backlash against the news has been severe but it seems that Game Freak is sticking to its guns. Masuda added in his statement that the Galar region will see “the world of Pokémon continues to evolve. The Galar region offers new Pokémon to encounter, Trainers to battle, and adventures to embark on. We are pouring our hearts into these games, and we hope you will look forward to joining us on this new journey.“
Can’t catch ’em all
It’s been confirmed that Pokémon Sword and Shield will not feature every Pokémon from the franchise so far, making them the first mainline games to do so. Given there are now more than 800 species of Pokémon this is, perhaps, not all that surprising.
The reason, according to Game Freak producer Junichi Masuda (via Famitsu), is that on reaching generation eight there will be more than a thousand Pokémon in the Pokédex. Such a large number means “it has become extremely difficult to make Pokémon with a new personality play an active part and to balance their compatibility” as well as to make sure they’ll all be balanced in battle.
Not only that, it would be too difficult to have so many in-game models with a high enough graphical quality.
Though the choice saddens Masuda, he says that it’s a decision he “had to make some day” and that he’s opting to “choose the quality”.
Pokémon Ball Plus
We didn’t hear much about Pokémon Sword and Shield during Nintendo Direct at E3 2019, but it was teased that the Pokémon Ball Plus can be used to take your in-game Pokémon for “a stroll”. However, the ball cannot be used as a controller.
In addition, it was teased that “good things” will happen if you build up a strong connection to one Pokémon in particular.
Release date revealed
Nintendo held a special Pokémon Sword and Shield focused Nintendo Direct on June 5 that revealed both games will release globally on November 15, 2019.
Max Raid Battles
Much like Pokémon Go, Sword and Shield has a feature which allows trainers to team up with up to three others online to take on more powerful Pokémon.
Pokémon Sword and Shield’s wolf-like Legendary Pokémon are Zacian (sword) and Zamazenta (shield).
This new mode allows trainers to make their Pokémon giant and super-powered. This mode can only be activated once during a battle and lasts three turns before a Pokémon reverts to normal size.
More new Pokémon
Alongside the starter Pokémon, Nintendo has also revealed a few more new Pokémon joining Sword and Shield: Wooloo (sheep Pokémon), Gossifleur (a fancy lady Pokémon that evolves into Eldegoss), Drednaw (who resembles a snapping turtle) and Corviknight (a raven and glorified taxi service for the Galar region).
Galar features a Wild Area where trainers can explore, battle and capture Pokémon. Which Pokémon appear depends on the environment and weather.
Trainers will battle Pokémon leaders in Stadiums rather than the usual gyms. These stadiums are huge and packed with a cheering audience.
Nintendo revealed your new rival is Hop, whose older brother is the Pokémon champion of Galar. Meanwhile Professor Magnolia and her assistant Sonia will act as your guides.
Trainer outfit customization will be a feature
While it’s not a brand new feature, trainer outfit customization has been popular with Pokémon players since it was introduced in X and Y. And it’s a feature which a recent Uniqlo competition has confirmed will be in Pokémon Sword and Shield.
In a collaboration with The Pokémon Company, the clothing brand asked fans to design a top which would then be sold in stores. Now that the winning entry has been chosen (a design featuring Magikarp and Gyrados) it’s been revealed that the top will also be wearable in Pokémon Sword and Shield as a trainer outfit.
Just how many more outfit options there’ll be in the games isn’t known yet.
Made for handheld
While the Pokémon Let’s Go games were developed with TV mode in mind, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa has stated that Pokémon Sword and Shield will “emphasize the fun of playing Nintendo Switch in handheld mode.” Furukawa made the comments during Nintendo’s March 2019 Financial Results Briefing (via Nintendo Life).
A whole new world
We know the game is set in a brand new region of Galar, rather than a rehash of Kanto or a previously visited territory. Galar seems to be loosely inspired by England’s cities and countryside, with rolling hills and brickwork cities to explore.
The trailer also showed glimpses of jewel-encrusted mines and what might even be a football stadium (see the kit below), though we’re waiting to see whether competing in a Pokémon-themed Football World Cup will be possible for players.
Brand new Pokémon
Yup, this is a new generation of Pokémon, meaning you’ll be seeing a lot of new faces – as well as a lot of old ones. The trailer gave us a mix of familiar Pokémon like Pikachu and Hoothoot along the new starters, and we’re hoping Game Freak manage to keep the new designs interesting (no ice cream or candelabra Pokémon, please.)
Modern to the core
Sword and Shield look to retain the look and 3D animation style of the Pokeémon Let’s Go games that launched on Nintendo Switch last year.
Pokémon games haven’t been flat 2D games in years, and has increasingly been moving towards full-size avatars and 3D environments. Some may miss the old-school pixel charm of the earlier games – and find the 3D creature models a bit bland – but for better or worse this is what we’re getting.