Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, the upcoming Pokemon games for the Switch, were finally revealed last week during a special Nintendo Direct. While the presentation did not confirm many details about the games, a roughly two and a half minute long trailer was shared, and it is already giving fans a lot to ponder and praise.
With this article, we take a look at some of the elements that have players excited, ranging from new visuals to new Pokemon. This examination, coupled with some community-fueled speculation, should give you a good idea why we think you need to be looking forward to the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield.
A Different Perspective
Pokemon games have always felt fairly limited in the exploration that they offer, opting to provide players with a succession of tasks that they must complete until they reach the end. Earlier games were kept from seeming too claustrophobic by mixing up the way players travelled through the map, but Sword and Shield seems to be taking a new approach.
The trailer from the Direct shows off multiple different camera angles, which appear to vary depending on location. This change in perspective is the key that these new games will use to create a more dynamic seeming world, even if it’s just as empty and linear as previous games.
In the more open areas, for example, the camera pulls back some and is at a lower angle than we saw in Sun and Moon. This means that it is roughly level with the character’s shoulders, and while the routes themselves look about as narrow as Alola’s and Kalos’s, this change in perspective means players see everything around them.
We look off into the distance, over grassy plains and rolling hills with a bridge nearby. It’s an area that looks big and feels open, even if you can’t explore every inch of it.
In narrow places, like the snowy path, the camera goes up and zooms in a bit. This creates something similar to the perspectives in the first three generations of Pokemon where you can’t see much on either side of path. In doing so, a route’s short length, and potential lack of things to do and see on it, are overshadowed by a player’s wondering of what’s next and where it all will lead.
It’s the cities where this new perspective really shines though. Finally, a Pokemon world gets the bustling metropolises and charming rural hamlets we’ve always had to just imagine in previous games.
The cities and towns seem bigger, and it seems that the close-up angles will make it really feel like these areas can be explored. The industrial city appears to be the best example from the trailer, as it offers plenty of areas to see and, potentially, even different levels to navigate. The snow-themed city also looks appealing, with the almost-over-the-shoulder perspective making it seem bigger than it probably is.
It also helps that every town and city isn’t planned out on a grid. There can now be variations in the heights of structures and there are things like peaceful lake vistas, as the trailer shows, and a better general mix of environments. It’s basically what places like Castelia City and Aquacorde Town wanted to be but never could.
All of this combined create a sense of freedom and expansion. One that we have not seen in some of the previous games in the series.
A Non-Linear Map To Explore
A Pokemon game needs an interesting region to make players actually want to explore it, and it seems like Sword and Shield are going to deliver on that front. While the Galar region map, which seems to be inspired by the United Kingdom, may look tiny at first, closer examination suggests that the locale is going to offer quite a number of places to see and many things to do throughout the adventure.
Assuming that the journey in these games begins at the bottom of the map, as it does in most Pokemon games, it appears that players will start in an agricultural area. This fits with the idea of the south of England being the “breadbasket” of the nation (and a punny reference to the “Home Counties” surrounding London, since your home is in roughly the same region as those counties).
From there, it’s not too clear where your journey might take you, aside from north until you finally get to the Pokemon League. There’s a random house to the east, and then it looks like there is a train track going through the nearby mountain range. If, ultimately, you do have to take the train to leave the starter town, then it seems likely that the games’ second destination is a Lancashire-inspired red-brick industrial city.
There are several possibilities for where the journey may go from there, as it looks like the city has two potential exits — one to the east and one to the south. The eastern exit seems to take you over a ravine and to an area that appears inaccessible otherwise. From there, a player may be on their way to an eastern coastal town where one of the European football pitch gyms is.
The southern exit appears to take you to a mostly empty field, punctuated by a tower in the northwest area and a large stone in the southeast. Presumably, there’s something worthwhile in that area, but exactly what remains unknown.
It also looks like there’s a bridge in the field, which will take players over a small river and along a road that winds up further north. This appears to arrive at the large city that dominates the map’s center, and, from there, you can seemingly go west to a rocky area and, by extension, the mushroom forest or east to the previously mentioned coastal town and a snowbound city.
This is all quite exciting because, barring something like requiring an HM-type move or Pokemon to progress, it looks like Sword and Shield may finally bring branching paths to Pokemon. It might mean you could choose where to go next, and in what order to tackle at least a few gyms, in this new adventure. While it may not seem like a huge deal on the surface, as player choice is quite common in modern games, it would be a huge breath of fresh air for Pokemon.
Mysteries To Solve
The map revealed of the Galar region does offer some clues about the journey players can expect to follow in Sword and Shield, but there are still some mysteries as well. The snowy city, for example, appears to only be accessible through a muddy, obstacle-course looking area, but there’s also a southeastern exit that leads through a sea route and to a large building. Perhaps this will be the Galar region’s criminal gang hideout or the estate of some eccentric recluse like Bill.
Additionally, the Pokemon Company loves hiding important areas behind cloud cover on early map reveals, as was done with Aether Paradise in Alola and frozen Unova from Black 2 and White 2. The Galar map shown during the Direct also has a few small areas covered by clouds, and the map’s southern edge is certainly of interested. There’s so much cloud cover there that it obscures almost everything except the river’s course.
Some enterprising Pokemon fans have actually matched the land layout and river course in southern Galar to the northern edge of Kalos. This has sparked the rumor that, perhaps, we’ll be revisiting Kalos in Sword and Shield. If that is not the case, there may still be a lot of Kalos references, like the Fletchling weather vanes seen in the trailer, and Pokemon in these new games.
Image via NintendoSoup
Of course, what most people are anxious for is to learn more about Galar’s Pokemon. Unfortunately, the reveal trailer didn’t show any new Pokemon outside the three starters, but these three are certainly promising in their designs (and, I’m just sayin’, Grookey wins for best Sword and Shield starter).
One noticeable way the starters have changed from previous Pokemon games is their color scheme. Gen 6, and Gen 7 even more so, utilized a bright color palette for the starters, and Galar’s three are somewhat muted by comparison.
This contrasts well with the design of the surrounding region, and the chosen colors and shading strongly resemble the starter designs from Gens 2 through 6. It might have been a calculated design meant to evoke nostalgia, but even if it was not, it’s a pleasant change that goes far in separating the new Pokemon games from their immediate predecessors.
The choice of animals and overall design is a boon as well. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Alola starters, especially Litten, but there’s something about these new Pokemon that makes them seem like they’re just ready to play about and have a good time.
It’s a marked contrast from earlier generations, where friendship and an anime-inspired look took a backseat to more of a wildlife-influenced approach. The Galar starters do both: they combine cuddliness with more of the wild animal look that was the guiding force behind the design in the original games.
That juxtaposition of the familiar with the exotic is what takes a generation’s starters and makes them really stand out. For example, Scorbunny is a rabbit that sets things on fire with its feet. It’s more in keeping with Torchic, the fire-breathing chicken, or the samurai otter Oshawatt — a combination of ideas that stands out as more inspired overall.
Of course, there’s bound to be some duds in the mix. The way Pokemon designs go, for every Kommo-o, you get a Vanillite thrown in somewhere. At the very least though, Sword and Shield are off to a strong start.
Elsewhere, it looks like the lessons learned in Unova are still being applied to the pool of wild Pokemon you will encounter in the new games. Opinions change, and despite the fact that introducing all-new Pokemon in Gen 3 went over well, it bombed in Gen 5. This means that Sword and Shield may offer a wide variety of Pokemon, old and new, from the get-go.
While, of course, players will be excited to see the new Pokemon that Galar has to offer, this mix is not a bad thing. It was very successful in the first few areas of Sun and Moon, and Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, as they had the best combination of Pokemon in the series to date, ranging from Munchlax and Grubbin to rarer ‘mon like Zorua.
The trailer doesn’t show a whole lot of what looks like the new games’ opening areas, but it does looks like trainers can plan on fan-favorites, like Pikachu and Minccino, making an appearance early on. There is probably also Hoothoot and, if the player’s home is anything to go on, Munchlax again as well.
Beyond that, there looks to be a ton of other returning ‘mon, from favorites like Lucario to less popular choices such as Wailmer. Alola gets some representation too, with Wishiwashi making an appearance. It’s a bit odd seeing a tropical fish apparently thriving in the frigid north, but, it’s a Pokemon world, so it doesn’t have to make sense.
More Important Pokemon
There’s potentially more though, as a post on 4chan, made before the Direct aired, accurately named the games, predicted the region’s inspiration, and made mention of a new feature replacing Mega Evolutions: Armored Pokemon. The thread was taken down, but its contents made the rounds again after the Direct because its information was so close to everything that was revealed.
There wasn’t much detail about these Armored Pokemon, but the post named Charizard and Flygon, among others. It also stated that Meltan would be involved in the games’ plot and the mystery surrounding armored evolutions.
Whether any of this ends up being true is anyone’s guess, but the idea of locating Pokemon more centrally in the games’ plot and additional mechanics is another new step forward for the series. Instead of just hearing NPCs talk about how central Pokemon are to daily life, we would now see them actually take part in it.
This approach could even provide the foundation for the villains’ activities, with some sort of genetic engineering (like with Mewtwo) or general, nefarious scientific plots taking center stage. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing the games’ baddies be some sort of ethically challenged group of rogue academics, as opposed to another variation on the criminal gang theme. Who knows? We might even see Colress again if that ends up being the case.
Indeed it seems that there is a lot to be excited about it when it comes to Pokemon Sword and Shield. While we have only gotten a glimpse of what the games will bring, the first trailer definitely put a strong foot forward, and hopefully more details are on the way shortly.