Title announcements, starter unveilings, cover Pokémon teases, all are exciting reveals for Pokémon fans as anticipation builds toward a new game. With global releases, the advent of Nintendo Directs, and improved company communications in general, new Pokémon generation reveals and game announcements seem to be getting better and better, with the reveal of Pokémon Sword and Shield for Nintendo Switch a serviceable new addition. Actually, this may even be the best Pokémon unveiling ever compared to previous announcements and teases.
Over the past few years, some semblance of a pattern has emerged with regard to the way the Pokémon Company and Nintendo reveal and promote new entries in the core Pokémon series. Preceding any true reveal, development is announced in a press statement from The Pokémon Company (TPCi) or Nintendo. The game is then teased or revealed at the beginning of the release year in January or February, though how much is revealed varies. Additional information arrives in April and or May, frequently including the cover Pokémon and or cover art as well as more defined release window. The rest of the information tends to come from direct uploads to the official Pokémon YouTube channel or through CoroCoro (a Japanese magazine with a long history of exclusive Pokémon stories and tie-ins) that are picked up and distributed to the Western world. So far, Sword and Shield fit into this trend perfectly.
Though this reveal schedule may have originated earlier, it was solidified with the release of X and Y in 2013, though traces of it are visible in Black and White‘s reveal. The announcement of Black and White preceded the Nintendo Direct format, however, and there was no initial reveal trailer, no major press event, and relatively little fanfare when the fifth generation of Pokémon first emerged. Instead, taking a page from the transition from Kanto to Johto (Red/Blue to Gold/Silver), the first tease for the fifth generation was a silhouette of a then new Pokémon revealed on a Pokémon variety show in Japan in February, 2010. That Pokémon, Zoroark, was later at the center of the thirteenth Pokémon movie in anticipation of Black and White, not unlike Togepi, Marill, and Donphan all making an appearance in the anime/films prior to the release of Gold and Silver. The actual titles and title art for Black and White, weren’t announced until April 9, 2010 in a quick press release followed up when the cover Pokémon, cover art, and release date were uploaded on Pokémon’s website.
While that follows relatively the same framework (teases emerging in February, additional information provided two to three months later), the reveal of Sword and Shield is closer to the reveal of Pokémon X and Y in the first ever Pokémon Direct in January, 2013. Where Sword and Shield‘s direct was focused exclusively on the newly announced titles, the first Pokémon Direct primarily focused on the evolution of the franchise and its features and concluded with a short trailer for X and Y. In that trailer, general gameplay was revealed, the starters were introduced through a title card and in game footage, and the new region, Kalos, and cover legendaries, Yveltal and Xerneas, were teased, though not named or discussed. The inclusion of the cover Pokémon might give the illusion of more information revealed by X and Y‘s introduction, but more was ultimately disclosed in the Sword, Shield reveal.
With announcements close to or on Pokémon Day, February 27th (the anniversary of the release of Pocket Monsters Red and Green in Japan), and only three years between them, it’s easiest to compare the announcement of the eighth generation to the seventh. Sun and Moon‘s unveiling ended up being nothing more than the reveal of the game’s title artwork in a Pokémon Direct similar to, but shorter than X and Y‘s which celebrated the franchise’s twenty year history and disclosed the release of Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow on Virtual Console. On May 10, 2016 a more proper unveiling occurred when TPCi uploaded an additional trailer to their YouTube that unveiled brief footage of the Alola region, the generation seven starters, the cover Pokemon (again without typings or names), and a release date.
After only one Direct, more is known about Pokémon Sword and Shield than was known about Sun and Moon after two. While revelations are limited, we can indisputably confirm a number of things and infer even more. We know generation eight takes place in the Galar region, clearly based on Great Britain (complete with its own version of Big Ben), the full map of which has already been revealed. The new environment totes diverse terrains including the “idyllic countryside, contemporary cities, thick forests, and craggy, snow-covered mountains,” not unlike, say, Britain. Replete with steam and iron, the game seems to take inspiration from the Industrial Revolution and England’s notable position in that chapter of history. Mist, steam, moss coated stones, textured brick and metal, amongst other striking sights- like a Fletchling weather vane and a mysterious etching in the hillside- make for what appears to be the most detailed Pokémon title to date.
The return of random encounters and gyms is also confirmed after their notable absence from Let’s Go and the seventh generation respectively. Gone are the wide-eyed sprites of Let’s Go, replaced with something more akin to Sun and Moon, though looking sharper than ever on the Switch’s more capable hardware. We can also assume the inclusion of Pokémon featured in the trailer, including two pseudo-legendaries, Tyranitar and Hydreigon, fan-favorite Lucario, and, of course, Pikachu. The rest of the Pokédex much beyond that is anyone’s guess, though Aegislash seems like a logical inclusion, as well as Bisharp, Escavalier, and Accelgor if the game runs with a chivalrous theme.
Sword and Shield‘s starters also made their debut, perhaps leaving more of an impression than any before and with more perceivable character thanks to the gorgeous, cinematic introduction they received, a first for the franchise. The impact of the animated introduction has been immediate, and now fans are looking beyond the starters designs when selecting their partner Pokémon, giving more weight to the perceivable personalities instead. Sobble, the timid water lizard, has made quite a splash thanks to its disarmingly shy persona and is currently the most popular of the three thanks to the cinematic. Other fans are bouncing with excitement over Scorbunny, the energetic fire rabbit. That’s not to say that Grookey, the mischievous grass chimp, doesn’t have a gang of his own supporters. The popularity of the Pokémon could shift, of course, as soon as their evolutions are revealed. Will Sobble be the next Greninja? Is Grookey doomed to become a big, slow, grass Gorilla (Growrilla?), or will his stick become a bow staff and we’ll have a new martial arts monkey a la Goku…I mean Infernape.
We also don’t know if the abilities demonstrated in the trailer imply new starting abilities. Literally every starter thus far has had either Blaze, Overgrow, or Torrent, but could Sobble’s camouflage, Scorbunny’s ability to scorch earth, and Grookey’s ability to regenerate that grass signify something? Or perhaps that’s looking at it wrong, and the reveal is actually alluding to their evolutions. Sobble is, again, a timid water lizard with the ability to cloak himself in water. Is he destined to become the regionally appropriate Loch Ness Monster? Will Scorbunny evolve in to Bunburn and Hopscorch (I’m good at naming Pokémon)? Could Grookey go dark and be the next Incineroar? There’s no saying. There’s also no real indication of the starters’ second typings, but if I had to take a stab in the dark I’d guess Sobble is Water/Steel because he’ll have nerves of steel by the end, Scorbunny will be Fire/Fairy based on looks alone, and Grookey will undoubtably be Grass/Fighting, thus completely two full triangles. Again, who knows. Maybe Pokémon will throw us for a loop and Scorbunny will use its ears to fly and become a Fire/Flying type named Hareocopter or Hareplane (Actually, I’m incredible at naming Pokémon. These names are bunbelievable!…Sorry….), meaning Sobble is Water/Rock, and Grookey is again Grass/Fighting (he just is, don’t try and change my mind).
This is all just wild speculation. A couple of educated guessing can still be made. For example, the next trailer will drop in April or more likely May and reveal the cover Pokémon, the cover art work, and give a firmer release date based on the reveal schedule of previous games. The end of the gameplay trailer featuring the player’s avatar in a jersey might signify a tournament mechanic closer to something featured in the anime. Since at least one Eevee evolution has been introduced in every evenly numbered generation, a new Eeveelution isn’t unprecedented, and I for one would sincerely appreciate a Ghost type: Spookeon, Spectreon, Obliveon, Morticeon (these names are just off the top of my head, TPCi, and yes, I am available for hire), whatever it be called, though steel and poison Eeveelutions might make sense if they really want to lean into the Industrial Revolution theme. And finally, it would make a lot of sense if the cover Pokémon were creatures you might expect to see on a shield, perhaps a griffin or a dragon, though likely not a lion since Sun‘s mascot was Solgaleo.
Two things are unequivocally and indisputably certain following the announcement of Pokémon Sword and Shield. First, the reveal of the eighth generation did not disappoint and the titles are already off to a great start. Second, the months leading up to their inevitable release (likely in November) will be frenzied fun as fans run wild with speculation, the community divides itself as fans rally behind their starters of choice, and again as the Sword and Shield mascots make their grand appearance, and yet again when allegiances change as the final evolutions of the starters debut. Enjoy it. Enjoy it all the way until you’re enjoying Sword or Shield at the end of the year, which can’t come soon enough.