November 15. That's the date that Pokemon Sword and Shield, known to fans as "Gen 8" for being the eighth generation of games in the main franchise, will hit store shelves. Until now, each new generation of Pokemon game has been released on a Nintendo handheld, from the Game Boy to the 3DS. Sword and Shield are exciting because they're developed from the ground up for the Nintendo Switch.
We found out a lot about the games in June, including the aforementioned release date, what Sword and Shield's legendary Pokemon look like and, enraging many fans, the fact that not every Pokemon ever will be in the game.
Most recently, Nintendo dropped a trailer on August 7 which showed us who the Team Rocket-esque bad guys of Sword and Shield are. We're sure to learn much more about Gen 8 as November 15 draws closer. Here's everything we know so far.
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 main-line Pokemon games 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 couldn't battle wild Pokemon, only other trainer's Pokemon, and instead gained experience by catching Pokemon repeatedly a la Pokemon Go.
As you probably guessed, Pokemon Sword and Shield reverts to the playing style of old. The first Sword and Shield trailer shows our intrepid Pokemon trainer getting into a random encounter-style confrontation with a Pikachu, with no Go-style catching depicted.
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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). Bikes make a return in this game, and at one point we even see our Pokemon trainer bike across a body of water, suggesting a new bike model will replace the Surf HM.
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 what we've seen in trailers presumably only gives us a taste of what wondrous sights are within.
What we do know, though, is that 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.
Nintendo has steadily drip-fed us information on other Pokemon since the launch trailer. There are some run-of-the-mill types, like Wooloo, that you don't need to fuss over. But there are also already some standouts, like Corviknight, a raven Pokemon that doubles as a transportation service, Duraludon, steel/dragon-type Pokemon, and Yamper, who appears to be an electric Corgi, if you're into that type of thing.
Then, of course, there are Zacian and Zamazenta, the legendary wolves of Sword and Shield. You can tell which Pokemon is exclusive to which game by the fact that one carries a sword in its mouth and the other is basically half wolf and half shield.
Following a feature introduced in Pokemon Sun and Moon, the Gelar region will have it's own variations of generations-old Pokemon. Weezing, for instance, is now a 1920s fat cat, and will be a Fairy/Poison type rather than the usual Poison type. Galarian Zigzagoon and Linoone add Dark typing to the standard version's Normal, and they'll have a new evolutionary stage, Obstagoon, exclusive to Gelar.
August's trailer also introduced Morpeko, a new form-changing creature who looks a bit like Pikachu. This Pokemon switches between two forms that are apparently related to how hungry it is: "full belly mode" is its happy one, but it also has a "hangry"mode.
Though June brought plenty of Pokemon news, not all of it was pleasing to fans. At E3 some fans were crestfallen to hear that Sword and Shield won't include every Pokemon in the franchise's history.
At the beginning of each Pokemon game you're given a Pokedex which contains information on all the Pokemon native to that region. After you beat the main game, you'll usually get upgraded to a National Pokedex, which enables you to use every Pokemon from previous games. At E3 Junichi Musada, Sword and Shield's producer, revealed these games will feature no such upgrade, and that only Pokemon in the Galar Pokedex can be used in the games.
In other words, players can only use Pokemon that developers decide are native to the world of Sword and Shield. Neither GameFreak, the studio developing the games, or Nintendo have said how many of the 807 existing Pokemon will be included, or how many new ones will be introduced.
Musada told Japanese publication Famitsu the decision to curtail the amount of Pokemon within the game mainly came down to gameplay balance and making each Pokemon feels visually unique. However, many hardcore fans are accusing the team of being too lazy to include all Pokemon, leading to the #BringBackTheNationalDex hashtag.
"I've read all your comments and appreciate your love and passion for Pokemon," Musada said in a statement addressing the fan outrage. "After so many years of developing the Pokémon video games, this was a very difficult decision for me. I'd like to make one thing clear: even if a specific Pokemon is not available in Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, that does not mean it will not appear in future games."
"We are pouring our hearts into these games, and we hope you will look forward to joining us on this new journey." You can read the full statement here.
Bigger is better
Pokemon X and Y introduced Mega Evolutions of certain Pokemon, and now Sword and Shield are taking that to another level with two features: Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing. They don't exactly roll off the tongue, but do look to add an extra layer of depth to combat.
Specific details have yet to be released, but Dynamaxing appears to super size your Pokemon, like they just ate a super mushroom from a Super Mario game. Gigantamaxing, meanwhile, not only makes your Pokemon XXL, it also changes their appearance.