Here we are: after yesterday’s tweet from Nintendo of America, Pokémon Direct has brought us the news it promised to deliver. It was commonly anticipated that today’s live stream would regard an eight generation flagship, and that’s precisely what GameFreak has given us. Pokémon Sword and Shield are scheduled for release in late 2019.
Given how much the Japanese studio has riding on the success of the Switch console, it isn’t a surprise to learn that it will host the next main-series Pokémon title(s). It is a great addition to a lineup counting such important upcomers as Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Astral Chain, but lacking in names that immediately bring the Nintendo name to mind.
As the 7-minute video began to play, Tsunekazu Ishihara’s smile gave a brief content introduction. It offered brief flashes of past games—recalls that are quite common throughout the entire broadcast.
After this briefing, images of what appears to be actual gameplay followed suit. As a result of this bait-and-switch between old and new, admiring how the Pokémon series’ graphics have evolved over the years comes rather naturally.
We quickly transition into a not-actual-gameplay bit of footage showcasing the new starters: Scorbunny, Sobble and Grookey. Moreover, snippets of their personality are shown to us. Scorbunny is a fire type bustling with energy, while Sobble maintains a quiet demeanor. Grookey handles a stick in a manner typical of primates and happily climbs a building. It’ll certainly be interesting to observe how concept artists develop their evolutions. Before Junichi Masuda—lead producer—takes the scene, Ishihara reveals the games’ names.
According to Masuda’s brief speech, Pokémon Sword and Shield will be a catch-all for players of the franchise’s diverse titles. This could mean that GameFreak is planning to turn the more easily accessible games, such as Pokémon GO, into a way of attracting people to the main franchise.
Masuda passes the torch to Shigeru Ohmori, game director and last speaker of the video. Ohmori’s first prerogative is to explain how Galar Region—this generation’s setting—is laid out.
To fit Pokémon types and provide gameplay variety, we have a number of biomes. However, visible themes keeps this diversity from becoming dispersive. Industrialization is one such theme: people and pokémon have teamed up to create large cities that stand out among the greenery. A metropolis nested between the northern mountains likely represents the games’ most active area.
A Touch of Speculation
At this time, we have no other details about Galar Region. How GameFreak plans on putting a fresh spin on traditional geography remains to be seen. A harbour to the east suggests we’ll visit zones outside the main landmass, although this remains to be seen. From a visual point of view, this setting is certainly a far call from Sun and Moon‘s Alola.
Sword and Shield might also refer to the games’ unrevealed legendaries. Considering it is customary for titles to hint at their characteristics, it will be interesting to experience how this new generation of Pokémon pans out. Gameplay innovations are, of course, as important to the dedicated fanbase as a good scenery change.
With the recent success of series spinoffs, GameFreak might also choose to further innovate the formula. The Switch platform definitely offers more options than the 3DS. While critics mostly approved of Sun and Moon‘s freshness, complaints of an unfulfilling plot held the games back from perfection. Hopefully, Sword and Shield will find a good balance between old and new.
There are a few more design choices that we can find in the trailer. For one, a gym is briefly visible, signifying that we might be coming back to the tried-and-true paradigm of leaders and badges. In the same manner, endlessly choosing and modifying outfits is presented as something we’ll have our usual fix of.
While we await new information, gamers will no doubt keep themselves busy with fan art and speculation. Mysterious symbols can be seen in certain bits of the Direct announcement, so there’s plenty of fuel in the fire.
Here’s to another year of Pokémon!