Editorials

Everything we’ve Learned from the Pokémon Sword and Shield Press Demos

The embargo has been lifted for press impressions of the first hour and a half of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, and they are overwhelmingly positive, thus far. While we were not able to go hands-on with the new games ourselves, we’ve been avidly reading and collecting information from various articles written by those who were able to. But we didn’t stop there–read on to discover the highlights and most important details of what we know so far about Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

Tutorials appear to (finally) be skippable

One of our most requested features from our Pokémon Wishlist last year was the ability to skip the tutorials. Yes, we know how to throw a Pokéball. Yes, I know about same type advantages, do I really have to sit through all this? For the first time, the answer appears to be no, no you do not. Alex Olney from Nintendo Life talks about his (admittedly, a little hazy) experience of skipping Leon’s tutorial in this video.

The Wild Area is accessible during the early game

One of my big questions about Sword and Shield was when we’d be able to access the Wild Area. While it seemed to span the entire continent, I was legitimately worried that it would be gated off until the very end of the game. Worry no more–multiple outlets have confirmed that you can access it as soon as you leave the first town. A Nintendo rep has also said that the Wild Area is as large as two regions in Breath of the Wild put together.

There are no physical barriers inside the Wild Area

The Wild Area has been confirmed by multiple outlets to be a vast, open piece of land that you can explore at will. Your traversal will not be held back by physical barriers or blockages which require a special move to get past, but rather by the difficulty of the Pokémon found there. We can’t imagine much more terrifying than running into a level 50, third-stage Pokémon while running around with our level 6 starter Pokémon. This is great news for those hoping for a little more exploration in their games, and something we can’t wait to experience.

The Wild Area has its own currency

You’ll need to start saving up a new kind of currency if you want to make curry or buy camping gear within the Wild Area. While it’s not entirely clear on how it’s earned, the Wild Area uses its own, unique currency known as Watts. You’ll be able to buy curry ingredients and camping gear from merchants within the Wild Area, and there are items which can only be obtained using Watts.

The PC is accessible from anywhere in the Wild Area

It seems that the Rotom Phone comes equipped with one of the bigger quality of life upgrades in a long time: trainers will be able to access their PC Box from anywhere in the Wild Area. Great news if you find a powerful Pokémon but you just don’t have the team composition on hand to try and take it down. It is worth noting that while multiple outlets have used specific wording about the PC in the Wild Area, this implies, though we have not seen it confirmed anywhere, that you still cannot access your PC from routes, the more traditional way of traversing the world of Pokémon.

There are two or three ways to encounter Pokémon

Trainers can encounter wild Pokémon which visibly wander through patches of tall grass in the routes between towns, the more traditional parts of the game, as well as in the overworld in general, both inside and outside of the tall grass. Players will also occasionally encounter an exclamation point inside the tall grass, which will be a random encounter with an unknown Pokémon. Some Pokémon can only be encountered through this method, so there is a good incentive to step into the unknown. There are conflicting reports about if traditional random encounters in the tall grass have returned, with some outlets saying it has been replaced by the exclamation point encounter. It seems we will have to wait and see for ourselves.

Powerful wild Pokémon have a tell

In a page right out of the Pokémon Let’s Go! games, Pokémon which have a perfect IV or a Hidden Move will be indicated by a yellow aura. This is a great quality of life improvement for breeders and those who want an easy way to uplevel and strengthen their team.

The map has quest markers

Speaking of quality of life quest markers have made a return! We first saw these in the Sun and Moon games, though judging by the excitement of several people who went hands-on with Sword and Shield, they may have seen an update or even an upgrade. It’s great news that means we won’t have to wander aimlessly until we find an NPC to remind us what we’re supposed to be up to, or stumble into the cutscene that advances the plot out of blind luck. Thanks, Game Freak!

Animations for overworld Pokémon and Trainers have been improved

While they might not live up to the expectations of some fans, Pokémon in Sword and Shield have updated overworld animations when compared to the Let’s Go! games. Outlets are also reporting that trainers appear to be a little more expressive in battles. These updates may be small steps and not quite the big change that fans have been hoping for, they will hopefully improve immersion and pave a path for future games.

Dynamic camera and auto-advancing text boxes

While Sword and Shield still lacks voice acting, they’ve tried to add more personality and excitement to their cut scenes by creating a more dynamic camera, that will move dramatically around characters at the appropriate times, and auto-advancing text boxes. The auto-advancing text allegedly helps to give a sense of cadence and a little more personality to the speaker.

The stadium and spectators have dynamic cheers

Galar is filled with huge stadiums which routinely fill with fans, and they do more than just toss their arms in the air. It seems that spectators will cheer for their favorite trainer, and they routinely spawn text bubbles with a Charizard icon, Leon’s partner and mascot, whenever he’s battling or making an appearance. Will players be able to win over the fans and have them shout out an icon, face, or partner Pokémon to express their support? We’ll have to wait and see.

You can save just before picking your starter

Regardless of if you’re looking for the perfect nature, after a female starter, full-odds shiny hunting, or are just paranoid that you’ll make the wrong decision and want to back out immediately, the ability to save your game right before selecting your starter is a gift. Twitter user (and game hacker) mattyoukhana_ suggests that, because the video footage we have seen of starter selection follows the same system as the Generation VII games, you will also be able to tell if your starter is shiny as soon as you select it. Shiny hunters, rejoyce!

Your first battle is more challenging

Jumping back to the beginning of the game, you’ll be able to pick your starter Pokémon and, as is tradition in more recent games, your rival will pick the starter which is weak to your chosen Pokémon’s element. This time, however, he’s going to come at you with more than one Pokémon; you’ll have to beat both his starter and his adorable Wooloo. Hopefully this, combined with the ability to skip cutscenes, bodes well for a more challenging, less hand-holding Pokémon experience.

Wooloo plays a big role in the early plot

While both Game Freak and members of the press seemed reluctant to reveal too much too quickly, we do know that Wooloo will play a big role in the early game. The implication seems to be that it’s tied to the plot, though certain leaks have long-suggested that Wooloo will play a big part in the puzzle for a certain gym. We will simply have to wait and see what Wooloo will be getting up to.

You can rename Pokémon and delete moves at any Pokécenter

Pokécenters received an upgrade back in Generation V when they started selling items instead of making you hike across town to the Pokémart. Game Informer tells us that Pokécenters in Generation VIII will all have the ability to rate nicknames, rename Pokémon, and delete moves. We’d like to assume that they will also have the ability to have Pokémon remember moves, but that has not been confirmed or denied.

Improved character customization

You’ll now be able to select even more clothing and hairstyles, (though the hair colors still seem to be a little limited) and even add layers of clothing to make your Pokémon character uniquely you. While skirts and dresses still seem to be restricted to female characters, male characters can access and use the makeup section so they can live their best life.

You make and collect trainer trading cards

Keeping with the predominant sports theme, these new games have collectible trading cards featuring trainers from across the Galar region–and you! You’ll be able to customize your own trainer card, though it’s not quite clear if this is a collectible which you can give to your friends, or if these are trophies which other players will have to earn by beating you in battle. NPCs will also have and distribute their own cards, Leon appears to give a signed card to the player at some point during the game.

There are a lot of multiplayer features

The multiplayer has been upgraded in Sword and Shield to a robust collection of features. While the usual trading and battling make a return, you can now team up with up to three other players in cooperative multiplayer battles against raid bosses. We have seen clips featuring other players wandering the overworld within the Wild Area, and you can now camp with friends. You are able to visit a friend’s camp, or invite someone over to yours. Within camps, you’ll be able to team up to cook curry, and you and your Pokémon will be able to play with your friend’s Pokémon. It’s not only a great feature, it’s also a heartwarming nod to the Pokémon anime, where Ash and his friends will find a clearing, set up camp, and let all of their Pokémon out of their Pokéballs to play.

There is an offline mode for Max Raid Battles

There’s no need to worry about not being able to corral three of your friends at the same time in order to take on a raid boss. Game Informer confirms that you’ll be able to team up with three NPC trainers in order to take down some bosses. You’ll probably have better luck when battling alongside humans, rather than artificial intelligence, especially as you wander deeper into the Wild Area and encounter more difficult raid bosses, but it’s nice to know that there’s a robot friend or three out there to help you in your time of need.

You will earn your title in a real Pokémon tournament

While Game Freak is not commenting on if Galar has an actual Elite Four or not, we do know that players will have to earn their title of Pokémon Master in a true tournament much like what we’ve seen in the Pokémon Anime. This, combined with the news that there are both major and minor leagues for you to challenge suggests that you’re going to be battling a whole bunch of NPC Pokémon trainers. Are you up to it?

The technical side isn’t that impressive

The world of Sword and Shield is more dynamic, more decorated, and more alive than any previous Pokémon game, by all accounts, but it’s still running at 720p and 30fps, even when docked. On the town side, it doesn’t seem to quite Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but there have also been no complaints about crashes, bugs, or other hiccups. That’s good news, at least!

It is incredibly charming

In preview after preview, people talk about how they weren’t terribly excited about Sword and Shield, or about how they had doubts and concerns, but again and again they mention how charming the game is. They talk about how the technical issues mentioned above don’t seem as important once you’ve spent a little time exploring the world, and how they left the demo more excited for the game than ever. It seems there may very well be some magic to be found in this IP.

There are a lot of features, surprises, and Pokémon still to come

Almost everyone who wrote or made a video about the preview made mention of all the things they couldn’t talk about. Alex from Nintendo Life said that there’s a list of things that he can’t talk about as long as his arm, adding, “and I’ve got relatively long arms.” Given that we are less than 30 days from release, it seems that there are going to be an impressive number of surprises for the release of these games. And we think that’s great news! It’s a far cry from the release of Sun and Moon, when the final forms of the starter evolutions were released early, and leaked versions of the game meant that it was nearly impossible for anyone who so much as glanced at the Internet to avoid spoilers and major details about the game. There’s going to be a whole lot for trainers to discover for themselves, and that in and of itself can make the experience of a game more exciting, and even more personal. Now if we could only get a little more information about Pokémon Home…

Pokémon Sword and Shield release exclusively for the Nintendo Switch on November 15th. Eager for more Pokémon? Check out some of our other articles: What Little Town Hero can tell us about Game Freak and Pokémon, Where does Pokémon go from here?, My Biggest Sword and Shield Questions are Actually about Pokémon Home, and Pokémon: Evolved — Up close with Pokémon x Original Stitch Shirt Collaboration.

Best known online as damphyr, Kay Purcell is a purple haired popular culture expert and San Diego Comic-Con panelist who spent fifteen years as as a Senior Community Manager and Brand Writer for DeviantArt. An avid shiny Pokemon hunter, she has a habit of nerding out over video games, cats, VR, and geek culture.

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