Pokémon Sword & Shield – First Impressions

Yesterday morning, the Pokémon Sword and Shield-centric Nintendo Direct was made available to Pokémon fans around the world. A treasure trove of information was revealed regarding the upcoming titles, including its worldwide release date of November 15. The presentation also revealed new features and several brand-new Pokémon, and today, we’re going to break down each individual reveal. If you’d prefer to watch the Nintendo Direct yourself, you can do so here. Otherwise, let’s get right into it!


New Features

Perhaps the most exciting new feature revealed for Pokémon Sword and Shield is the inclusion of the brand-new Wild Area, a vast open world that can be explored with free camera control. This is actually the first time players can control the camera in a main series Pokémon game, so this addition is more than welcome! The Wild Area is home to a wide variety of Wild Pokémon, and its selection changes depending on the current weather. Another notable addition is the re-implementation of wild Pokémon appearing in the overworld from Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! As I mentioned in my review, being able to see Pokémon in the overworld gives wild battles a greater sense of purpose.

One feature a good chunk of the internet didn’t seem too excited about was the addition of the Dynamax mechanic. In a similar vein to Mega Evolution and Z-Moves, one Pokémon per battle can undergo a Dynamax transformation that significantly increases their size. Dynamax transformations only last three turns (thank goodness) and upgrade the Pokémon’s attacks with extra power and additional effects. Gym Battles, which return from Pokémon X and Y, now feature Dynamax transformations.

The Pokémon developers have been on a bit of a dangerous streak for the past several years. and introduced Mega Evolution, Sun and Moon introduced Z-Moves, and Sword and Shield will introduce Dynamax transformations. Think about a competitive match in Sword and Shield. Just one trainer will be able to use all of the following mechanics on one team:

  • A Pokémon that can Mega Evolve
  • A Pokémon that can use a Z-Move
  • A Pokémon that can undergo a Dynamax transformation
  • Groudon or Kyogre, who can use the Red / Blue Orb to undergo Primal Reversion
  • Necrozma, which can use Ultra Burst to transform into Ultra Necrozma

It’s clear why this is becoming a problem, as the developers keep introducing stronger and stronger mechanics that are beginning to take up space in battles. At the time of writing, neither Mega Evolution nor Z-Moves has been confirmed for Sword and Shield, so it’s entirely possible one (or both) don’t make the cut. I’d personally be fine with the removal of Z-Moves, as I feel that collecting Z-Crystals (of which there are well over twenty) would make for a poor postgame.

Nitpicking aside, the final new feature revealed for Sword and Shield was Max Raid Battles. Trainers can meet up in the Wild Area and work together to take down a wild Dynamax Pokémon, and they’ll be given the opportunity to catch it if they defeat it. Max Raid Battles sound like a fun co-op mode, as they can be played online or through local multiplayer.


New Pokémon: Gossifleur, Wooloo, and Drednaw

A few new Pokémon were revealed, and overall, I’m rather happy with their designs. Let’s start with the one on the left: Gossifleur, a Grass-type Pokémon. It can have either the Regenerator or Cotton Down abilities, the latter of which is entirely new. I’m fond of Gossifleur’s design, as it’s very colorful but isn’t overly complicated; at the same time, it isn’t simple enough to the point of being bland.

In the middle is Wooloo, a Normal-type Sheep Pokémon. It can have either the Fluffy or Run Away abilities. As with Gossifleur, Wooloo has a fairly simple design, but again, not to the point of being bland. It’s got enough visual distinctions to be interesting but not so many that it’s overwhelming to look at.

On the right is Drednaw, a Water / Rock Pokémon. This is probably my least favorite of the new Pokémon, as I feel its mouth looks a bit too “mechanical” to fit the snapping turtle aesthetic. Its entire body looks natural, but then you have a strange-looking jaw. That being said, I do like its color scheme.


New Pokémon: Corviknight and Eldegoss

The Flying / Steel Raven Pokémon Corviknight is definitely one of my new favorites. It’s one of those cleverly-designed Pokémon that becomes more interesting the longer you look at it, and its dark blue color scheme lends to its mysterious design. Needless to say, I’ll be using this one on my team!

Another new Pokémon – Gossifleur’s evolution, Eldegoss – was also introduced. Its design is just okay, in my opinion. If you take away its giant cotton ball, it looks a lot like Sewaddle and Swadloon. I think Eldegoss might actually have an additional unrevealed evolution, but only time will tell if that’s true or not. (It wasn’t.)


New Legendary Pokémon: Zacian and Zamazenta

And finally, we have the new Legendary Pokémon Zacian and Zamazenta. Zacian is the one on the left and is the mascot of Pokémon Sword; Zamazenta is the one on the right and is the mascot of Pokémon Shield. I personally prefer Zacian to Zamazenta, as its colors complement each other better. Whereas Zacian bears subdued reds and blues, Zamazenta utilizes intense blue and magenta colors, and I don’t think these look quite as good. Overall, though, I think the new Legendary Pokémon are alright.


Closing Thoughts

Pokémon Sword and Shield are shaping up to be solid entries in the series. The graphics look great, the majority of the new designs hold their own, and the developers seem to be including many highly-anticipated features. That being said, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the new games, and what we don’t know is going to make or break these entries. Personally, I’m hoping that Sword and Shield include an actual postgame, considering the main series games have been sorely lacking in that department for many years now.

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