Product Reviews

Pokémon Sword and Shield: everything we know about the 2019 Pokémon RPG

Nintendo has finally (finally!) announced the next generation of Pokémon games coming to Nintendo Switch: Pokémon Sword and Shield.

Using Nintendo’s favored method of new game announcements – Direct presentations – The Pokémon Company has now released a brief trailer giving a quick look at the new Pokémon games. 

With a release date set for late 2019, there are only months to go before Pokémon fans get another fix on their Switch consoles.

2018’s Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu and Eevee games acted as a sort of reboot of the original Red and Blue titles for the Nintendo Gameboy, and for many didn’t count as a ‘core’ Pokémon experience. Pokémon Sword and Shield are the first mainline Pokémon games to come to Nintendo Switch, and expectations will be high.

So what do we know, and what are we hoping to see when Pokémon Sword and Shield launch this year? Read on to find out.

[Update: Nintendo has announced the time and date of its E3 2019 livestream. This could be the perfect time for Game Freak to reveal more about Pokémon Sword and Shield.]

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The eighth-generation of Pokémon games
  • When can I play it? It’ll be late 2019
  • What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

Pokémon Sword and Shield: release date

Not long to wait now… The Pokémon Direct confirmed the late 2019 release date we heard from the official Pokémon Twitter account last year.

Given the usual releases of mainline Pokémon games, we expect to see Sword and Shield land in mid-November, just in time for the holiday season.

Pokémon Sword and Shield: trailers

The presentation doesn’t give too much away, but you can see the first glimpse of the environments and art style in the trailer below – without any in-game footage. 

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.

Pokémon Switch news and rumors

Nintendo E3 2019 Direct announced

E3 2019 is fast approaching and Nintendo has now confirmed the time and date it will be streaming its Nintendo Direct. The video will go live on Tuesday June 11 at 5pm BST/ 9am PT/ 12pm ET. Nintendo has also confirmed that it will be bringing back its Treehouse livestreams which will go live each day of the show, showing off gameplay from upcoming releases. 

Nintendo hasn’t released any kind of schedule for either its Direct stream or its Treehouse streams so there’s no guarantee of what will appear, but naturally we’re hoping that Pokémon Sword and Shield will emerge from the tall grass at some point. The Treehouse livestreams especially would be a fantastic place for Game Freak to show off a little more of the new Pokémon region and how we’ll be playing in it live on Switch. 

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).

Gym Masters

As spotted by We Got This Covered, a (now removed) tweet by Nintendo of America suggests Pokemon Sword and Shield will see Gym Leaders replaced by Gym Masters.

The tweet was accompanied with images showing in-game soccer stadiums, suggesting these will serve as gyms.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

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.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

A fully-fledged Pokémon game

After the release of the simplified Pokémon Let’s Go titles, there had been concern amongst fans that the 2019 RPG wouldn’t offer the full gameplay experience they came to expect from mainline Pokémon games.

Head of the Pokémon Company Tzunekazu Ishihara assuaged these concerns in an interview with Famitsu magazine (via Siliconera). According to Ishihara, the 2018 Pokémon release will be a “completely different game” to Pokémon Let’s Go. “It’s is not an entry game,” he says, “but a game that we want long term fans of the Pokémon series to look forward to.”

Unlike the Let’s Go games, it looks like Sword and Shield will be maintaining the random encounters so core to the usual series’ gameplay, for example.

We don’t have much to go on aside from the recent trailer, though with a 2019 release we’re sure to see more of the titles at E3 2019 in June.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

Swords and shields

The Sword and Shield titles seem out of character for a series used to using colors and letters to list its titles. The England-setting is curious given the titles, though. Our instinct says we could see a spin on Arthurian legend, maybe with players facing off against the Knights of the Round Table? It certainly wouldn’t be the most far-fetched thing we’ve seen in a Pokemon game.

We also wouldn’t be surprised if the game’s legendaries were based off the two wolves forming part of the Sword and Shield logos…

Pokémon Stars what?

What still confuses us is that we’ve been waiting for the long-rumored Pokémon Stars game for over two years now, after a 2016 report published by Eurogamer. published a report in late 2016 that said multiple sources had confirmed a new version of Pokémon Sun and Moon was being developed for the Switch under the code named Pokémon Stars. 

While it never materialized, ‘Stars’ could well have been a code-name for what eventually became the Let’s Go games, or could still prove a Switch port for the Sun and Moon games.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

Pokemon Sun and Moon on 3DS (Image credit: Nintendo)

(Image: © The Pokemon Company)

Pokémon Sword and Shield: what we want to see

That’s everything we know. Now let’s get into the things we’d love to see from the rumored game.

Better graphics and animations

Game Freak pushed the Nintendo 3DS to its absolute limits with Pokémon Sun and Moon (to the point where 3D support had to be removed). That means Game Freak is ready to move beyond the limitations of the 3DS and we’d fully expect to see graphical advancements in the Nintendo Switch version. 

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

The graphics and animations in Sun and Moon were already excellent, definitely the best we’ve seen so far from a Pokémon game, but moving to Nintendo Switch could very well allow for sharper character and environment models and much more expressive character faces.

Integration with Let’s Go, obviously

As the only other Pokémon games to have come to the Switch, the ability to trade and battle with Pokémon Let’s Go games is an obvious feature to include in the new games. Being able to bring new eighth-generation Pokemon to the Let’s Go Kanto region, too, would be a neat perk if Game Freak allowed it.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

More motion controls

The Let’s Go games put the Joy-Con controller’s motion controls to use for throwing Poke-balls, though we could imagine some other fun uses for Pokémon mini-games. Boxing with a Hitmonchan? Steering a surfing Lapras? Fishing on the Galar shoreline? Just give us things to do.

Amiibo Support

We want Pokémon Amiibo support. There, we said it. Though Pokken tournament and Detective Pikachu have Amiibo figurines, we want to see even more introduced for the brand new mainline Pokémon game. Whether they unlock new accessories for mini games, new items of clothing, or new moves, we just know these will be highly collectible and probably adorable. 


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