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Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield are both role-playing games released on the Nintendo Switch as the first installments of the eighth generation of Pokémon games. The games take place in the Galar region. The major new feature is Dynamax, where players can cause their Pokémon to grow to massive sizes and become more powerful.

Gameplay

The games largely play the same as the previous Pokémon games. The largest change is that Wild Pokémon will roam the grass in the overworld. Some Pokémon are still hidden in the grass, but they are indicated by an exclamation point and rustling grass rather than suddenly jumping at the player. Shiny Pokémon are not seen until battle, but there is a new "Brilliant" mechanic that gives a glowing aura to a Wild Pokémon and means that the Pokémon will have a greater chance to be shiny as well as having good stats and an Egg move.

The League challenge returns to the gym format, though the limits are more structured around the plot with gyms requiring the player to beat gyms in a certain order to progress to the next one and enter the tournament to face the Champion. Each gym is headed by a Gym Leader of a certain type and has a challenge specific to the gym. Depending on which version of the game the player has, some gyms will be a different type. When facing off against a Gym Leader, their last Pokémon will activate Dynamax at first and then Gigantamax for the later Gym Leaders.

New Pokémon

A total of 81 new Pokémon and 13 regional variants were introduced in the base game.

Wild Area

The Wild Area is a massive open area in the center of the Galar region. In this area, the player encounters the widest variety of Pokémon in the series with different encounters based on the weather. The player can find various items littered around the world from Poké Balls to evolutionary items. In addition, there are Pokémon Dens where players can start Max Raid Battles against different Pokémon.

Dynamax

Dynamax is the new battle mechanic for the Galar region, replacing Mega Evolution and Z-Moves. During certain fights in the main campaign, Max Raid Battles and online battles, a player can choose one Pokémon to Dynamax. This will massively increase its HP and turn its moves into the powerful Max Moves. Some Pokémon can be Gigantamaxed with a special G-Max Move replacing their Max Move of a certain type.

Max Raid Battles

Story

Development

The games were first mentioned during E3 2017 during which it was announced that a core Pokémon RPG was in development on the Nintendo Switch. It was later confirmed with the announcement and eventual release of Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! that the games were still in development and scheduled to release in 2019. The games were first shown in a Pokémon-centered Nintendo Direct broadcasted on February 27, 2019. The name, region and starters were all shown during the presentation. Another Pokémon-centered Nintendo Direct was broadcasted on June 5, 2019. During the direct, new Pokémon were shown, the two cover legendaries were revealed and various informations about the gameplay were shown both in a trailer and via various Game Freak employees who hosted the direct.

Expansion Pass

Announced on January 9, 2020, the game is receiving an expansion with two parts over the course of the year. The expansion can be purchased on a pass per version. Across the expansion, the game will receive two explorable locations similar to the Wild Area, the addition of 200 Pokémon new to the Galar region, new Gigantamax forms, new customization options for the player, including options to look like Chairman Rose or Marnie, and a new battle challenge once the content of both parts of the expansion is complete. Rather than being directed by the game's director, the development of the Expansion Pass is being led by Hiroyuki Tani. The Expansion Pass became available to pre-purchase on the same day with an update that added a Galarian Slowpoke event among glitch fixes. The Slowpoke will evolve with an item from each expansion. Pre-purchases of the Expansion Pass are rewarded with costumes themed around Pikachu and Eevee for the player.

The first part of the expansion is called The Isle of Armor, releasing in June 2020, and is themed around Growth. The player is training under Leon's mentor, Mustard, and is putting them in charge of a Legendary Pokémon called Kubfu, which will evolve into a Urshifu with its form dependent on the choices made in this expansion. During the player's time on the Isle, they will encounter many strong Trainers, including a new rival in Klara or Avery, depending on their version. The player will be able to train certain Pokémon to Gigantamax, including their starters. New Move Tutors will be available with different moves than earlier games. There is a new battle style called Restricted Sparring to hold back trainers with trained Pokémon.

The second part of the expansion is called The Crown Tundra, releasing in Fall 2020 and is themed around Exploration. The player is asked to join an expedition team and explore the The Crown Tundra. There are many Legendary Pokémon found in the area in a new cooperative mode where players explore the Pokémon Dens that only show the entrance in the main game. Players will work in teams of 3 to explore these Dens and then fend off a Dynamax Legendary Pokémon. In addition to the many returning Legendary Pokémon, there are multiple new ones including Calyrex and what seems to be regional forms of the Legendary Birds.

Reception

On Metacritic, Pokémon Sword received a metascore of 80/100 based on 86 critic reviews while Pokémon Shield gets the same metascore of 80/100 based on 88 critic reviews.

Sales

The game sold 16.06 million units as of December 2019, making it the fifth best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch in roughly a month. As of the end of March 2020, the game sold 17.37 million units worldwide. Pokémon Sword and Shield reached 18.22 million units sold by the end of June 2020. Even if it remained the fifth best-selling Nintendo Switch game, the landscape around it changed quite a bit. It actually outsold the former fourth place, Super Mario Odyssey, but both were outsold by Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Trivia

  • It is the first mainline Pokémon game to release on a system that can be considered a home console.

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