Update: Game Informer have retracted their claim that the games would have 18 Gyms. You can find more details here.
Game Informer recently got a series of interviews with Game Freak, and learned new information on Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield.
First of, the game’s Max Raid Battles were actually partially inspired by Pokemon Go. Development started on a cooperative battle system before Niantic incorporated their raid battle system into Go.
As Director Shigeru Ohmori explains “I think there was some influence like how in Pokémon Go, you don’t need to be a hardcore battler to enjoy the raid battles. It’s really easy to invite a friend. We wanted to have that element in Sword and Shield’s raid encounters as well.”
Planning Director Kazumasa Iwao however cautions that the battles will be a challenge.
“I think it’s going to have a kind of difficulty we haven’t seen in a lot of main series Pokémon games up until now, but there is a wide spread of difficulties even in the Max Raid Battles.
[…] It starts out a little easier, then you can choose the difficulty based on how powerful your Pokémon are. Even for me, a seasoned Pokémon player, even if I go with one of the five-star Max Raid Battles, I can definitely run into situations where I’m not able to win.”
It was also confirmed the game would introduce autosaving, but this can be turned off. The latter is sure to make those who reset the game to reroll certain results happy.
Ohmori does insist that “it’s actually a bit harder to restart your game” on Nintendo Switch compared to older consoles. However, most mainline games have features a “quick reset” input in the past.
The interview also discussed the controversy surrounding some Pokemon being cut– not just being uncatchable, but untransferable. This was due to the sheer number of available Pokemon, and the need to make new assets for them on new systems- in-spite of attempts to make 3D models future-proof. Some fans have rallied behind #BringBackNationalDex on social media.
Producer Junichi Masuda explained the situation again to Game Explain:
“Up until now, we’ve been proud we’ve been able to include so many Pokémon in the games, but as a result of that, there’s actually been quite a few features or gameplay ideas that we’ve had to abandon in the past. Going forward, thinking about the future of Pokémon, we want to prioritize all those new gameplay ideas, new ways to enjoy the game, and want to challenge ourselves at Game Freak to create new ways to enjoy the game. That’s really what drove the decision for this new direction.”
The decision was a result of talks between Game Freak, The Pokemon Company, and Nintendo. Masuda added “We have a lot of awesome new challenges that we haven’t even revealed in Sword and Shield. […] We want to continue to come up with these new features, so we figured this was the best path forward for the franchise.”
While the decision promises to lead to improvements, the hardest part came from who was getting culled. Masuda states the decision came down to what Pokemon would “look like they could live in the Galar region.” Attempts to find out which Pokemon or how many did not make the cut were not elaborated upon.
Cutting Pokemon will be used in future titles. “Definitely” Masuda stated. “You can look forward to seeing Pokémon that don’t appear in these games appearing in different regions in future games. I think Pokémon Home, for a lot of players, will serve as a launching pad to gather them all there and then embark on future adventures.” No new information was offered on Pokemon Home at this juncture.
HMs were also confirmed to not be returning. The special attacks a Pokemon could use to help players navigate (such as cutting trees or swimming) were removed in Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon (though the attacks themselves remained). In those games, players called upon Ride Pokemon to help.
Iwao stated that while HMs fit the series in the past, it no longer worked as the inclusion of the “Wild Area” encouraged freedom.
The item “EXP. Share” has changed over the years- with the latest versions of the game having it be a key item that activates whether experience points are shared among all Pokemon on your team- whether they battle or not.
Ohmori states while the item is gone in Sword and Shield, each Pokemon will be getting equal experience points. In essence, EXP. Share is always on.
In past games, EXP share also shared “Effort Values”- a hidden point system that effected a Pokemon’s stat growth. So if you fought a lot of fast Pokemon, your Pokemon would get faster. Being the competitive scene heavily balances their “EVs” to ensure perfect builds, whether this new feature also shares out EVs is currently unknown.
Speaking of the competitive scene, Iwao states new changes to ensure the Pokemon you use on your adventure can become competitive ready.
“Traditionally in the series, you start with your starter Pokémon and then you catch a lot of Pokémon in the beginning, and those are with you throughout your whole adventure, and the player gets attached to them. But a lot of times, they get into the competitive battles and they find they can’t actually use those Pokémon or they’re not competitive, so they have to go out and find the exact right Pokémon or breed them in a certain way to make sure they’re viable in competitive battle.
This time around, we really wanted to introduce some systems that help the player be able to take those Pokémon they caught in the beginning, and the first one they chose, and actually take them straight into competitive battle. There’s a lot of hidden parameters to Pokémon that aren’t surfaced to the player. We’re doing a lot of stuff in the back end introducing systems that allow players to make sure that Pokémon they want to use in competitive battles are viable.
[…] I’ve got to be very vague about it, but one example – it will be visible to the player and they’ll know when they see it, I think – say you have a Pokémon where it’s got all the right stats and everything, but there’s a personality parameter as well that comes into play in battles, and it might not be the right personality, so you’ll breed until you get the right one, is what people do currently. But you’ll see that there’s a system in the game that will fix that for people.”
What Iwao may be refering to is a Pokemon’s Nature. While the effects were hidden in earlier games, Natures change a Pokemon’s stat growth. So a Pokemon with a Brave Nature would gain extra attack, but a little less speed. For those who wish to find rare, legendary, or shiny Pokemon, it can be annoying to constantly reset for a “competitive” Nature.
Many players also used Pokemon breeding to get the Nature they desire. Iwao also stated that breeding will still be of use. “We do think there’s value in that effort that players put into it, but at the same time, I think with Sword and Shield we wanted to also have a system that makes it a little bit more accessible.”
“For example, if you’re bringing a Pokémon over from a previous game into these games, being able to use that specific Pokémon that has sentimental value to you in the battle system competitively is something we wanted to try this time.”
Sun and Moon also introduced the ability to change a Pokemon’s “Individual Values” (as fans call it). These essentially act as the Pokemon’s genetics, and influence stats. Competitive players often breed to ensure “perfect IVs”, though Sun and Moon added rare items that allowed you to maximize a Pokemon’s IVs. Will we see something similar with Nature changing? How hard will it be to obtain?
The strangest piece of information comes from Game Informer’s latest issue (and at this time or writing, not currently on their website). While Sun and Moon rejected traditional gyms, early footage of Sword and Shield showed them returning. It seems they have returned in force- with 18 as oppose to the traditional 8. As Ohmori explains there are minor and major leagues:
“There are 18 different types of gyms in this story and depending on which version, which gyms are in the minor league and which gyms are in the major league are different.
For example, in Sword the Fighting-Type Gym will be in the major league, but in Shield, the Ghost-Type. The idea is that every year, the Galar Region is playing and which Gyms make it into the minor league versus the Major League changes”
With each Gym having a soccer theme, the idea of minor and major leagues makes some sense. It may also mean previously assumed version-exclusive Gym Leaders can be battled in both versions.
It should also be noted there are 18 Pokemon Types. However, most members of the Elite Four in past games also specialized in a single type. Could this mean the Elite Four will not focus on a Type? Will they use Types also used by Gym Leaders? Will the Elite Four even return?
What do you think of the new info? Sound off in the comments below!
Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield are both launching on November 15th, for Nintendo Switch.
In case you missed it, you can find our thorough hands-on preview for Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield from this year’s E3 here.