Just ahead of E3 2019, the Pokemon Company announced some GIANT news in a roughly 15 minute Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield Direct, outlining some new features and unseen Pokemon that will be introduced in the eighth generation of the franchise on the Nintendo Switch. The Direct opened with a recap of past press releases, reintroducing the new starters and areas seen in older trailers. After that, it was a wild ride.
James Turner, art director for Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, gave players their first glimpse of the eighth generation of Pokemon outside of its starters. First to be revealed was the immediate fan-favorite and incredibly cute Wooloo, a sheep Pokemon in the same vein as Gold and Silver‘s Mareep. According to Turner, Wooloo is known for it’s “fluffy fur, which is treasured by weavers in a town in the Galar region,” hinting that the cuddly Pokemon will presumably be the mascot of an area in the upcoming titles. As seen in Bulbapedia, Wooloo is a Normal-type Pokemon and can be caught with either Fluffy or Run Away as it’s ability. One thing is for sure, it is safe to say that this Pokemon is going to be featured on many plushies.
Gossifleur was introduced next and appeared to be very reminiscent of past flower Pokemon like Floette and Lilligant. Described as “the flowering Pokemon,” Turner stated that grass-type Gossifleur’s pollen is said to have healing “properties.” This could be linked to the Pokemon’s possible abilities, either Cotton Down or Regenerator, or the Pokemon could also have HP recovery attacks as a part of its moveset.
Following Gossifleur was the “Bite Pokemon” Drednaw, a snapping turtle-like Pokemon that looks a bit like a cannon-less Blastoise. According to Bulbapedia, Drednaw is a water-rock type Pokemon and will have either Strong Jaw or Shell Armor as an ability. Turner described the Pokemon as “very difficult to train for all except the most experienced Pokemon trainers”.
Arguably the most interesting-looking eighth generation Pokemon was Corviknight, the raven Pokemon. This flying-steel type bird has feathers that resemble a knight’s suit of armor, and it is said to have an integral part in the game as a transportation system. According to Turner, the bird “puts its skills to use working as a flying taxi, taking players back to any town that he/she has previously visited.” It’s possible that Corviknight will work in the place of the HM Fly, serving as the warp system within Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield on the Nintendo Switch.
Lastly, Turner introduced the first evolutionary Pokemon in Gen 8, Eldegoss, the second stage of Gossifleur. Appearing as a cotton ball, this grass-type Pokemon is said to have seeds that “promote growth in plants and can revitalize both people and Pokemon.” This is a strong indication that the cotton bloom Pokemon could have a moveset geared towards stat increases and could prove very popular in tag team and multiplayer battles.
Turner’s role in the Direct was ended with a “Look forward to finding many Pokemon you are already familiar with,” implying that generation eight will be another crossover generation similar to what was seen in Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon, where many Pokemon from all past generations will appear.
The Wild Area
Next, Players were introduced to the new level design element of Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, the Wild Area. This space is said to “stretch between cities” and have “different Pokemon appear depending on where you are and what the weather is like.” While in the Wild Area, players will have full 360-degree control over the camera, allowing them to look around for Pokemon and items. It’s possible that the Wild Area will take the place of the Route systems seen in past titles, instead offering a Pokemon Let’s Go-type catching experience in a much more open world setting. From the trailers and clips, it appears that interactions within the Wild Area will have a more modern JRPG-like feeling than in past titles, echoing the world traveling experience of games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Nintendo Switch.
Arguably the most controversial portion of the presentation was the introduction of the Dynamax feature. According to Iwao, the planning director for Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, this battle mechanic makes Pokemon massive in size and boosts their power, transforming all of their attacks into powerful “max moves.” This feature can only be used once per battle and lasts for 3 turns, giving players strategic options of when to activate the power. It’s important to note that Dynamaxing was never referred to as an “evolution” during the presentation, although it is entirely possible that this new feature will take the place of the Z-moves and Mega Evolutions from past titles.
Max Raid Battle
Following the introduction of Dynamaxing was the reveal of Max Raid Battles, a multiplayer event that offers new ways to connect with friends. In the Wild Area, wild Dynamax Pokemon can be challenged by a party of four in a tough, no-holds-barred battle. During this challenge, the wild Pokemon stays in Dynamax form for the entire battle and gains special abilities to make it a formidable opponent. Multiplayer parties must choose one player to Dynamax once during the encounter, making strategy an important part of the attack. If a group defeats the Pokemon in a Max Raid Battle, they get a chance to capture it. In these battles, the Pokemon found “varies by region and weather,” and some Pokemon can only be exclusively caught in a Max Raid Battle. Multiplayer parties for these encounters can be made locally or over the internet if all players are signed up for a Nintendo Online subscription.
New Characters and Gyms
As with any new entry into the Pokemon franchise, new mentor and sidekick characters are needed. First shown is the Champion of the Galar region, Leon, a burly, blue-haired man that appears to be a celebrity in the area. Clothed in a cape and shadowed by a Charizard in most scenes, Leon is presumably a dragon-type trainer that will offer support along the way and challenge players after the Elite Four.
In addition, Leon’s younger brother and the main rival in the game, Hop, was shown next. Strongly reminiscent of Hau from the Sun and Moon Series, Hop’s journey begins on the same day as yours and he will presumably compete with you throughout the adventure.
As in past games, the sagely advice characters return in the form of Professor Magnolia and her granddaughter Sonia. According to the Direct, their “advice will come in handy throughout your adventure.”
Finally, the new gym systems were introduced with Milo, the grass-type gym leader in the Galar region. In Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield on the Nintendo Switch, gym battles take place in special areas that allow for Pokemon to be Dynamaxed and are viewed by thousands of spectators in Soccer-style stadiums. To illustrate this effect, Milo and his partner Eldegoss were shown fighting against a giant Grookey in a leafy green enclosed arena.
Legendary Reveals and Release Date
To wrap up the Direct, the Pokemon Company revealed the titular legendaries of the eighth generation and announced November 15th, 2019 as the title’s official global release. These mythical Pokemon, known as Zacian and Zamazenta, were shown to be fighting in the woods in an intense showdown, although it remains to be seen what role they will play in the story. Both appear to be armored dog-like Pokemon with Zacian holding a sword in its mouth and Zamazenta having a shield on its front. This also opens up opportunities for rumors of a third medieval weapon themed legendary, either a bow or spear related canine.
Finally, the presentation was wrapped with the reveal of the official box art of Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield for Nintendo Switch featuring the newly revealed legendaries and a final globally-unified release date, November 15, 2019. In addition, a special double pack with both versions of the game was announced for pre-order.
What do you think? Where you satisfied with the Direct? Is Dynamaxing the greatest feature to reach the franchise? Will Max Raid Battles fulfill your multiplayer needs? What happens if Zacian drops his sword? Let me know in the comment section below.