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Pokemon Sword and Shield release date, starters, trailer and leaks

Nintendo caught us all off guard with a welcome announcement: two new Pokemon adventures are on their way to the Nintendo Switch! Fans have been eagerly anticipating new mainline games. We had fun with Pokemon: Let's Go — Pikachu and Eevee, but a proper Pokemon game with a whole new region and fresh new batch of Pokemon has been on our minds since leaving Alola in Pokemon Sun and Moon.

The shiny new games are called Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, deviating from a long tradition of games named after colors, gems, and celestial bodies. One logo features a wolf-headed sword, the other an equally intimidating shield. The two titles games were announced fittingly on Pokemon Day, the 23rd anniversary of the series' release. The Nintendo Direct gave fans a brief but tantalizing look at what the new titles have to offer: a new region, new Pokemon, stunning graphics, and a whole new adventure to embark on.

The release date for Pokemon Sword and Shield

Switch users rejoice: fall 2019 is packed with Nintendo games. The Pokemon Company has confirmed that Pokemon Sword and Shield will be released Nov. 15. This November release follows with five whole years of tradition: the Let's Go titles were released in November of 2018 and Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon in November of 2017. Sun and Moon came out in November of 2016 and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire came out in November of 2014. There is a notable difference this time around, however: Pokemon trainers have two different console variations to choose from for their journey in the Galar region. 

The Nintendo Switch Lite, an entirely handheld version of its predecessor, will be released in September. A little less pricey and a little more, well, little, the Lite features a long-awaited standard D-pad and some super cool colors. The standard edition of the Lite comes in gray, yellow, and turquoise, but for a limited time a two-toned special edition model will be available for Pokemon fans. Gray with red and blue buttons, the special Zacian and Zamazenta model features the aforementioned Pokemon facing each other off on the back of the console.

Trailers, trainers, and twists for Pokemon Sword and Shield

Each new trailer expands the Galar region just a little more. In one of the newest trailers we get new Pokemon, new Gym leaders, and some new hints as to the story we will get to explore as intrepid young trainers in the wilds of Galar. 

Firstly, the Pokemon League is a big deal. Gym battles are public events, and the leaders are stars with hundreds of screaming fans. Like sports stars, they get deals and endorsements from various companies. Champion Leon's kingly cape is filled with logos of the businesses who apparently sponsor him. Chairman Rose, the smiling, mustachioed chairman of the Pokemon League, was the first to sponsor Leon. In the new trailer we met him and his VP Oleana, who looks markedly less thrilled about Pokemon battles. She, complete with white lab coat, is the inventor of the Dynamax Band. 

Dynamax Pokemon aren't the only new twist: for the first time, certain gyms will be version exclusive. Pokemon Sword will have Bea and her fighting-type gym. Pokemon Shield will feature the masked Allister and his ghost-type gym. Want to fight them both? You'll have to buy both of the games.

First mainline Pokemon game for the Switch

Back when Pokemon trainers were wrapping up their adventures in the Alola region of Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon, there was a pervasive rumor going around. Since the well-received release of the Nintendo Switch, it was only a matter of time until a Pokemon game made its way onto the new platform. And it did, in the form of Pokken Tournament, but fans were really sure that another game set in Alola was on its way to the Switch: the fabled Pokemon Stars.

When Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon for the 3DS were announced instead, people were ultra salty. When would there be a mainline Pokemon game for the Switch? Not until now. It took a couple more years than expected, but Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield will be the first in probably many mainline games for the Switch. Developer Game Freak confirmed that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were the very last new Pokemon games for the 3DS, which had been the console of choice for the last eight titles, but according to Game Freak, the platform has been stretched to its limits. The future of Pokemon is on the Switch.

Sword and Shield take you to the Galar region

The Pokemon games allow their players to travel the world. Kind of. The first four games' regions were based on different locations in Japan, like Kanto for the first game's Kanto region (who knew?) and Hokkaido for Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum's Sinnoh region. Later regions are based on New York, France, and Hawaii. With Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, fans were instantly reminded of the United Kingdom upon the reveal of the Galar region.

The Galar region looks to be a great island filled with greenery, not unlike the real life British isles. The Pokemon Direct described it as expansive, so get ready for a long journey toward becoming a Pokemon master. On this huge map, there are many different areas: idyllic countryside, contemporary cities, thick forests, and craggy, snow-covered mountains. Those mountains look pretty formidable, but a huge London-esque city sits atop them, complete with Ferris wheel and clock tower. The bottom of the map is farmland, with colorful fields and adorable cottages. There are lakes, rivers, and steampunk cities that remind us of Kingdom Hearts' Twilight Town. According to the Pokemon site, "The people and Pokemon live together in this region, and they've worked together to develop the industries here."

Even with several steamy, brick and metal cities there are so many places to explore on the Galar map. A high-quality rendering reveals innumerable details, new places populated by new Pokemon that we have yet to see.

Galarian forms confirmed!

The show stealer of the last generation of Pokemon was the Alolan forms of old favorites: these redesigns switched up the typing and appearance of Kanto classics like Raichu, Vulpix, Sandslash, Meowth, and more. Fans then wondered if there would be Galar regional variants in this new generation to better fit the British-esque climate of Galar. A trailer answered everyone's punk-themed hopes and dreams by unveiling some Galarian forms packed into Sword and Shield

To match the mischievous Team Yell, cute little Zigzagoon has been reimagined as a hard rock icon. Rather than brown and tan, Zigzagoon and by extension Linoone are now black and white and punk all over with lolling tongues and red eyes. What's more is that Linoone can now evolve into the bipedal Obstagoon, who looks like it will be going on tour alongside Ozzy Osborne. Wheezing has also gotten the Galar treatment and been transformed into a Poison/Fairy type that sports two tall smokestacks and smoggy mustaches as a homage to the Old Smoke itself, London. The newest trailer unveiled new rivals, a transforming Pokemon called Morpeko, and what's sure to be a lot of exciting battles in store for players.

The new Pokemon Sword and Shield starters: adorable as always

A new region in a Pokemon game means a whole new population of Pokemon to catch, befriend, and battle. Before they make their debut, the design of these critters are one of Nintendo's most closely held secrets. There are always alleged leaks of design documents detailing the next gen's starters. These are fake, but surprisingly not too far off the mark. Earlier in the week before the announcement of Pokemon Sword and Shield, supposed sketches of Generation 8's three starters were posted on Reddit.

The real starters and their official designs were brought to life in the Nintendo Direct announcement trailer. Like the illegitimate leak, trainers met a fire type rabbit and a grass type monkey, but the official water type starter for gen 8 is a lizard rather than a platypus. We first got to met fire-footed Scorbunny, "a Rabbit Pokémon that is always running about, bursting with energy." Then we saw shy Sobble, "a somewhat timid Water Lizard Pokémon that shoots out attacks as it hides itself in the water." And finally Grookey, "a mischievous Chimp Pokémon that is full of boundless curiosity."

As usual, they're all adorable. These three new Pokemon will be hard to choose between. This difficult decision might later be made easier when we see what kind of super-powered bruisers these three cuties evolve into, but for now we wanna catch 'em all.

The internet is already obsessed with Sword and Shield's Pokemon

As per usual, fans immediately took to the internet following the announcement of new Pokemon games to express their excitement, disappointment, and undying devotion to their choice of starter. These three little Pokemon evoked some seriously big emotions from fans.

Sobble, with its sad name and anxious demeanor, became a fan favorite. Already people are theorizing that its later evolutions will be even more tearful, and that his two-pronged grasping hands are very chameleon-like and very cute. Fans work fast: there is a vast array of art featuring this wide-eyed water lizard and even a very well-made plushie from KazzysPlushEmporium on DeviantArt. Scorbunny's energetic intro and fluffy face has captured the hearts of many trainers, but there are dark theories surrounding this little fire bunny (who clearly should have been named Hopscorch.) Fans are tired of fire starters that evolve into dual fire/fighting type Pokemon. Scorbunny's apparent bandages on its nose and feet suggest that this rough and tumble rabbit might be a fire/fighting type in the making. Grookey remains more of a mystery. Fans wonder if his evolution will be a creature like Rafiki from The Lion King or take a more Nintendo route and become a green Donkey Kong.

The strangest theory so far surrounding the new starters was pointed out by Twitter user Sazanami Salami. The three starters — colored red, green, and blue — have designs that minorly mirror that of the Powerpuff Girls. A coincidence? Probably. Actually, most definitely.

Sword and Shield isn't exactly like Pokemon: Let's Go

Although Pokemon: Let's Go — Eevee and Pikachu were essentially remakes of Pokemon Yellow, there were many features that differentiated these titles from the mainline series. Rather than picking an elementally based starter Pokemon, players met either a Pikachu or an Eevee, who would then learn special moves and ardently avoid evolving. The Let's Go games pulled some game mechanics from the mobile Pokemon Go as well. Rather than battling wild Pokemon, all players had to do was toss some Pokeballs in order to catch them.

The Pokemon Sword and Shield trailer appears to have gone back to basics. In the trailer, when the player is sneaking through some tall grass, they don't see the wild Pokemon before they encounter it, while in Let's Go, players can see the Pokemon walking around in the overworld. Upon encountering the wild Pikachu, the player throws out their own Pokemon, confirming that we're back to battling wild Pokemon, weakening them before capture. This supports the classic kind of gameplay that fans may have missed. A frequent complaint about Let's Go was that it made things too easy. Shiny hunting was more straightforward than ever, for one thing. When it comes to Pokemon Sword and Shield, the difficulty looks to be like that of Pokemon games past.

Pokemon Stadium(s) in Sword and Shield

The Let's Go games did bring back a mainstay that players have welcomed with open arms: gyms. Pokemon Sun and Moon had traded these familiar tests of strength for trial captains. In the Let's Go games, players fought against some fan favorite gym leaders like Brock and Misty. With Sword and Shield, gyms are once again the way that trainers will have to test their mettle, but they might not be like the gyms we know from past games.

The Nintendo Direct specifically used the word "gym," but the design of these challenges have been altered in order to fit the giant Dynamax Pokemon. Dotting the map are rounded structures that have the distinct look of soccer stadiums. While we don't think this means players will have to participate in a Rocket League-esque minigame to earn badges, we do think that battles will take place in soccer-like stadiums with an audience to motivate trainers.

Are the main characters Scottish?

Pokemon games originally didn't give players much chance to customize their characters. The very first games only had one playable character to choose from, later games adding in a female character model. Customization of trainers was introduced in Pokemon X and Y, allowing players to change their hair, skin tone, and eye color in order to better represent themselves in the game.

It's expected that this feature will be present in Pokemon Sword and Shield, but what we've seen so far of the trainers from the trailers has caused a bit of a ruckus online. The Galar region appears to have the chilly weather expected of the UK countryside, so the new characters are decked out in woolen sweaters and hats. The male trainer sports a wool beanie, a red sweater, and jeans with green tartan pockets. The female trainer has a pink dress with a grey sweater layered over it, and a green golf hat with a white poof. It is this look that has gathered the attentioned and speculation of the internet: are these trainers Scottish? There has been many a joke going around Twitter about this, and players are excited regardless as to whether or not this was the designers' intended impression. Further, because of the apparent Scottish flair to the games, players are demanding the inclusion of a Pokemon based on the Loch Ness monster. Could little Sobble, so determined to stay hidden, be this legendary beast?

The graphics in Pokemon Sword and Shield are all new

Remember the days when Pokemon were just a collection of pixels? When Pikachus were a little more plump than the athletic design they sport today? The graphics of the Pokemon games have certainly evolved in the last 20-some years. Pokemon X and Y made the jump to 3D, and ever since, the games have continued to build the distinctive look of the world.

Pokemon: Let's Go gave players a look at their Pokemon on a bigger screen than ever. Pokemon Sword and Shield is expected to be just as immersive because of the technology of the Switch. However, fans have already taken a closer look at the all-new, and pretty amazing, graphics of the Galar region. It turns out that Sword and Shield has a different look than Let's Go, despite coming out only a year after.

Twitter user RuffledRowlit did a side-by-side comparison of Let's Go's Pikachu and Sword and Shield's Pikachu. There are notable differences: the new Pikachu look is a lot more like that of the Pokemon anime with hard lines and more precise shadows. Pikachu from Let's Go is comparably less defined and shiny. It was noted that the Let's Go graphics line up with those from Pokemon Go. Sword and Shield are mainline, and the graphics follow that, so it appears.

Dynamax is a dynamic new way of battling

You know what's cool? Pokemon battles. You know what's even cooler? When your Grookey is the size of a six-story building. There's something mysterious and exciting about the Galar region: Dynamax Pokemon. Similar to Mega Evolution, Pokemon get temporarily oversized and overpowered through this mysterious force. The temporary transformation makes them big, with special "Max" moves. This makes for rather tremendous gym battles; gyms are specifically built with Dynamax Pokemon in mind, and there are few other areas in the games that will support Dynamax transformations.

That said, throughout the map are areas marked in red. These beacons draw in trainers who want to band together in order to take on a Dynamax Pokemon and try their luck at catching it. Sound familiar? Players of Pokemon Go will recognize this formula as your everyday raid battle. In Pokemon Sword and Shield, these are called Max Raid Battles, wherein real players can team up to bring down a big bad wild Pokemon.

Pokemon Sword and Shield has a Breath of the Wild area

Although Pokemon Sword and Shield don't deviate entirely from the usual formula, they have added new mechanics made possible through the power of the Nintendo Switch. You know all that open world goodness Nintendo graciously gave us with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? The new games feature a little taste of what it would be like to run free, unconstrained by paths and routes.

Forget the Safari Zone, the world is your Cloyster: in the Wild Area, players are free to wander and encounter wild Pokemon. Players are able to control the camera themselves to seek out items, other trainers, and of course the Pokemon who are also free to roam around. The type of Pokemon that appear depends on the weather, which changes day to day. The Wild Area connects several towns together, the landscape gradually changing. Players can experience everything from snowfall to sandstorms as they explore the open world.

Mysterious Legendaries in Pokemon Sword and Shield

Thanks to the Nintendo Direct preceding E3 2019, we finally learned what the sword and shield in the titles are: the legendary Pokemon Zacian and Zamazenta. They are two fierce, armored wolves arrayed in blue, red, and gold. They seem to have a somewhat antagonistic relationship, or maybe they were just engaged in a friendly battle when we saw them in the trailer.

Zacian wields a sword in its mouth, lacking any apparent thumbs. This was quickly riffed on by the internet, comparing the otherwise regal Pokemon to dogs with knives and a Dark Souls boss. Zamazenta doesn't hold a shield so much as it is a shield: the Pokemon is covered in golden plating that snaps together at the first sign of danger. Zacian is described as having the ability to cut through anything while Zamazenta can force back any blow. We're still waiting on word of what third legendary, as is traditional with mainline Pokemon games, would stand opposed to them. According to the official Pokemon site, not even the people of the Galar region are aware of these two knightly wolves' existence.

#bringbacknationaldex

Not everything about Sword and Shield is all sunshine and Ho-ohs. Some are saying that Nintendo managed to crash its hype train via the revelation that not every Pokemon will be able to make it to the Galar region. While yes, fans are definitely excited for the brand new batch of Pokemon that the games have to offer, they're still attached to their old favorites. All games previously have allowed for various ways to import previous generations of Pokemon into the newer games, but Pokemon Sword and Shield might just break with this tradition, much to the ire of veteran players.

Producer Junichi Masuda broke hearts when he said that only Pokemon from the Galar region will be available in Sword and Shield. This was a decision made to support "much higher fidelity with higher quality animations." Animating nearly 800 Pokemon would put an undue strain on designers. Still, fans are miffed, upset that their favorite Pokemon might be excluded from the newest incarnation of the game. Briefly the hashtag #bringbacknationaldex made their anger known on Twitter. No word yet as to whether Nintendo has heard their cries.

More new pokemon (confirmed leaks!)

Galar is kind of sort of based on Britain, and upon realizing this, everyone and their grandmother immediately assumed that somewhere in these new games would be a Corgi. The Queen of England has an impressive collection of the adorable little dogs, so it would follow that the Welsh breed be adapted for the world of Pokemon. A seemingly credible leak posted before the first Nintendo Direct revealed the new Pokemon Wooloo, Drednaw, Corviknight, Gossefleur, and Eldegoss and also mentioned a Corgi Pokemon named Pamper.

Pretty close. Yamper is an electric type Pokemon that looks strikingly like a fluffy-butt Corgi. Players were delighted to discover this good boy during the E3 demo of the games, along with the new, considerably less cute Dark/Fairy type Pokemon Impidimp, which is very pink and very mischievous-looking. You know, like an imp. Wooloo still seems to command the hearts of prospective players with its round, cute design, but as more Galar Pokemon appear, there are sure to be new contenders for the internet's favorite new Pokemon.

New friends and enemies

Each new game comes with new friends and enemies to befriend and battle. The neighbor kid is always conveniently the same age as the player, ready to set out on their own adventure at the exact same moment that the main character is. What a coincidence. In the new games, Hop is the player's frenemy to the end. His older brother Leon is the undefeated champ of the whole Galar region, something of a celebrity and sure to be a difficult opponent when the player finally faces him down.

The Pokemon professor this time around is Professor Magnolia, who looks like she would appreciate a herd of Yampers herself. She and her granddaughter Sonia study the Dynamax phenomenon. Sonia also clearly studies fashion, with her manicured nails and heart-shaped hair barrettes. The real show stealer so far, however, has been Nessa, the water type gym leader. As soon as she appeared, fan artists went to work. She has cerulean blue eyes and stripes of aquamarine in her hair, as befitting a water type trainer. The fandom has embraced her and the new friends waiting for them in Pokemon Sword and Shield.

The big animation shake up might be due to Gigantamaxing

Another new trailer has proven that the new games will be bigger than ever. Game Freak is maximizing on the Dynamax phenomenon and has revealed a further discovery in the world of Pokemon: Gigantamaxing. In battle, Pokemon can become bigger than ever, and this comes with its own transformation. In the trailer, a newly debuted Fairy-type Pokemon Alcremie went from a dollop of whipped cream to a multi-layer cake that would make any baker balk. Drednaw got a considerable upgrade as well, standing on two legs and looking like a proper kaiju. 

Gigantamaxing and its added animations might account for the concerns that designers cited as the reason behind the apparent exclusion of the entire Pokedex. Veteran fans are still rankled that their favorite Pokemon may not be able to come along with them to the Galar region where Pokemon can get Gigantamax-ed and attack with a special G-Move. Fans were reassured by the Gigantamax trailer that old favorites Tyranitar, Goomy, and Mimikyu were making a return. The Pokemon Company revealed some new faces alongside Alcremie as well: the Pokemon Rolycoly and Duraludon and gym leaders Bea and Allister.

Camping and all-new customization in Pokemon Sword and Shield

When trainers wander in the vast Wild Area, what do they do when it starts getting dark? Apparently set up camp. As an all-new mechanic similar to Pokemon-Amie, players of Pokemon Sword and Shield can camp out under the stars with their Pokemon team. During this time they can pet and play with their Pokemon and make some curry, a Japanese camping staple, to share. 

In addition to this adorable new feature, the September Nintendo Direct revealed that players will be able to be as adorable as they like: Sword and Shield feature unparalleled customization for the player's avatar, allowing them to dye their hair, try on wide-ranging outfits, and even change their eye color with never before seen color options. The dollop on top of this super sweet trailer was the introduction of 16 different flavors of Alcremie, each with their own unique appearance, and new fan-favorite ghost type Polteageist. Yes, it's a ghost in a teapot, and yes, we love it dearly. Cramorant, a bird Pokemon who attacks by hacking up fish at its enemies, was also introduced, but it was not nearly as adored as Polteageist.