After releasing some of the best games in franchise history on the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo and Game Freak are finally ready to bring the main Pokémon games to the Nintendo Switch – the first of which are called Pokémon Sword and Shield.

The games will release globally on Nintendo Switch this November and will bring with them a brand-new region, features and Pokémon for trainers to swoon over.

The key points Nintendo has announced so far are that the games are set in the Galar Region (basically, a Pokémon-ified version of the UK) and will include a number of new creatures including three new starting Pokémon, Scorbunny, Sobble, and Grookey. We’ll also see a new mechanic called Dynamaxing that will replace Z-Moves and Mega-Evolutions, and more intense gym battles.

How does Sword and Shield stack up to Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu and Eevee? Those 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. Since Pokémon Sword and Shield are the first mainline Pokémon games to come to Nintendo Switch, and expectations are much, much higher.

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: Junichi Masuda has reiterated that not all Pokémon will appear in Sword and Shield in an address to fans. Read on to find out more.]

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

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

Image credit: Nintendo

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. 

In addition, Nintendo announced pre-orders for a double-pack edition of the games will be available soon.

Pokémon Sword and Shield: trailers

The most recent (and 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:

The last video, 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 screenshots

Pokémon Sword and Shield news and features

Doubling Down

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.

Legendaries

Pokémon Sword and Shield’s wolf-like Legendary Pokémon are Zacian (sword) and Zamazenta (shield).

Dynamax Mode

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.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

Image credit: Nintendo

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).

Wild Area

Galar features a Wild Area where trainers can explore, battle and capture Pokémon. Which Pokémon appear depends on the environment and weather.

Stadiums

Trainers will battle Pokémon leaders in Stadiums rather than the usual gyms. These stadiums are huge and packed with a cheering audience. 

New characters

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.

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

Image credit: Nintendo

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, but we’re hoping to catch a glimpse of some more if Nintendo shows us some new Sword and Shield footage during its E3 conference this year. 

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).

Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield

Image credit: Nintendo

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.

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, 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.