I had the wonderful opportunity to get a first hands-on preview for Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield with Nintendo at this year’s E3.
The new games are the next mainline entries in the franchise – the ones most fans have been waiting for after the Pokemon Yellow reboots Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Pokemon Let’s Go! Eevee. Those games were great in their own right, but they weren’t “traditional” Pokemon, per se.
Set in the Galar region – basically Game Freak’s take on the United Kingdom region, Pokemon Sword and Shield features a host of new features and ‘mons to catch. One of the biggest additions is the new “Wild Area” regions, or big open areas where you can go wherever you want and explore.
The games also feature a weather system – which also affects what Pokemon appear. If you’re wandering in a grassy area and it starts raining, water Pokemon are more likely to pop up, the same with snow and ice Pokemon. This new environment design is really exciting, is refreshing for the series.
One thing to point out is that wild Pokemon battles are back – something many fans could not accept in the Pokemon Let’s Go! spinoff games. All in all the games seem to be a return to form.
Visually, the games look great and seem to be running quite well, despite the upgrade in graphics and the expanded new areas. The demo shown off at E3 was unfortunately limited to just a Pokemon Gym, led by the recently revealed Gym Leader Nessa, a water-Pokemon user.
The gym had some simple but clever water column puzzles, and after a few minutes and a handful of Pokemon battles, I was ready to challenge Nessa. She curiously only needed two Pokemon, so I rolled in thinking she’d be a cakewalk. Boy was I given a run for my money!
I chose to Dynamax the electric corgi like Pokemon, Yamper, because why the hell would you Dynamax anything else, ever. Once my Yamper was large and in charge, I used a lightning attack and totally obliterated Nessa’s first Pokemon.
My Yamper went back to normal, and then Nessa sent out her final Pokemon, the other newcomer, Drednaw. The turtle-like Pokemon has some crazy attack and probably special attack, and even with normal damage would later blast through my team.
Nessa used a rock type move from her Drednaw, completely destroying my poor electric pup. Considering he’s a water/rock type, I had no ice or grass Pokemon to abuse that double weakness, so I had to whittle him down.
Eventually, with only a couple Pokemon left, I defeated Nessa. One thing about gym battles – Game Freak has really gone all out in making them feel like a real spectacle, just like in the anime show. You feel like you’re at the center of a massive stadium, with larger than life battles.
Another big new feature is the Dynamax Mode, which replaces Z-Moves and Mega-Evolutions. Once per battle, you can turn one Pokemon into a massive size, powering it up for three turns. It’s kind of like a trump card, but you should only use it wisely.
A big issue fans are noting is the fact that the entire National Pokedex won’t be in the game, meaning not all Pokemon will make the cut (there are over a thousand Pokemon now). I’m torn on this, however I’m over the moon that Pokemon is finally getting a more realized world in Galar.
I really wish could have gotten some time with the game’s wild regions, and was given more time to explore and tinker with things. Items and such were also disabled in the demo, so you could really only get to experience the gym battle. Still, I really can’t wait to get more when the games launch.
Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield will launch November 15th globally, for Nintendo Switch.