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Everything we know about Pokemon Shield and Sword

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.

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.

Welcome 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.

The new 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

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.

When do we get the games?

As happy as we are to at last receive news of a mainline Pokemon game, there is a problem. Nintendo has hyped up its fanbase into an excited frenzy, rabid for more news and glimpses at the games. They want Pokemon Sword and Shield soon, but the two titles won't be released for a while yet.

Before, fans had to cling to the assurance that at some point in 2019, they would be getting new mainline Pokemon games. Those who weren't into the ease of the Pokemon Yellow remakes in the Let's Go titles held this promise close to their hearts. And now we know that in late 2019, players will be able to check out the Galar region on the Switch.

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 2016 and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire came out in November of 2014. Following five years of tradition, it is probably safe to assume that Sword and Shield will be released in November.

Not exactly like 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)

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 looks to be altered in order to fit the United Kingdom theme of the Galar region. Dotting the map are rounded structures that have the distinct look of soccer stadiums. The trailer also had a couple snatches of battles that look to take place on the green grass of a soccer pitch, a massive audience cheering on the battle. At the end of the trailer, the player is dressed in a soccer jersey, walking into a stadium wherein a crowd is going absolutely wild. 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 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.

Returning favorites

We know that Pikachu is set to appear in the Galar region, because it would just be wrong to exclude the series' mascot from the newest games. There are 800-some Pokemon, and unlike Pikachu, not all of them are expected to make the journey to the UK-inspired map. There will be a whole new generation of Pokemon to register in player's PokeDexes, but we understand the attachment to old favorites. Thankfully, although the trailer only revealed the three Gen 8 starters, it did serve to confirm the return of some Pokemon from previous generations.

Battling the wild Pikachu in the trailer was the adorable Minccino from Gen 5. Also representing Gen 5 was the two-headed Zweilous, a dark/dragon type Pokemon, and the valiant Braviary. Tyranitar and Hoothoot from Gen 2 also make an appearance, alongside Flygon and Wailmer from Gen 3. Lucario is naturally in the middle of a fierce fight when we see it in the trailer, and so is a female Meowstic. Contrastingly, Munchlax can be found chilling out inside someone's house. Finally, the Alola region was not forgotten: Wishiwashi and Grubbin are both present and accounted for.

As more information is released, more Pokemon from previous generations are sure to be included, and — perhaps more excitingly — all new Pokemon native to the Galar region will be revealed.