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Pokémon Sword/Shield

Pokémon Sword/Shield - Hands-On Impressions

We take a look at all the new features coming to the next iteration of Pokémon RPGs.

  • Ben LyonsBen Lyons

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Ever since the Nintendo Switch first released over two years ago, Pokémon fans have been eagerly waiting for the next official RPG in the series. Last year, we saw Lets Go Pikachu/Eevee globally release and whilst it was a lot of fun, it was missing that iconic Pokémon RPG charm, which has become so important for devoted fans. A few months ago, however, a particularly interesting Nintendo Direct went live, bringing news of a new adventure in an unfamiliar region. Now, finally, after a rather long wait, trainers can strap back on their running shoes and prepare for another journey of a lifetime in Pokémon Sword and Shield.

Set in the Galar Region, which shares a great deal of resemblance to the United Kingdom, Sword and Shield brings the eighth generation of Pokémon to life. Developed once again by Game Freak, in this adventure trainers will have to travel across rolling hills, snowy mountains and sprawling lakes to catch brand-new and returning Pokémon in a land as dynamic as it is packed with life. To really get a feel for how this title is evolving the series, we've brought together everything new revealed at E3, from hands-on time with the demo to a look at the expansive environments.

The world of the Galar Region is unlike any other overworld in a Pokémon game. Sure, there are similarities shared, such as the Pokémon being visible when free-roaming (which was introduced in the Let's Go titles), however, this is just one thing that goes into making Galar so lively. The newly implemented Wild Area has elevated the experience of finding Pokémon, and this portion of the world is loaded with wild encounters that can be activated by simply walking into the desired creature. The impressive thing about this place is that it stretches across several towns, making for an area that's seamlessly explorable for hours on end.

Pokémon Sword/Shield

One of the most unique features of the Wild Area will be its ability to bring new Pokémon encounters to trainers. Unlike previous games, the weather systems in Sword and Shield have a direct impact on the types of creatures you will find throughout the world. For example, if it's raining, you'll likely encounter water types, although if a sudden snowstorm appears, ice types will become more prevalent. On top of this, a new whistling mechanic will allow players to attract certain Pokémon, whilst also scaring away others, whether this system will attract specific creatures is yet to be determined.

Whilst exploring in this area, players have free control over their camera, making it easy to discover secrets. As well as this, Game Freak has brought back an old-school favourite allowing the bike to once again be used for easy traversal, only this time it has received some upgrades. It would seem as though not only will Rotom be influencing your mobile device in-game (similar to the Rotom-dex in Sun and Moon), he may also be assisting in powering your bicycle, bringing a new boost feature to the vehicle. However, perhaps the biggest update to the bike is its unusual ability to float and subsequently cross water, making even lakes easy to explore.

Pokémon Sword/Shield

During the demo, we played through the Gym encounter at Nessa's Water Gym. Like most other gyms in the Pokémon world, before we got to take on Nessa herself, we had to solve a puzzle that would open a door to her. In this case, we had to manipulate waterfalls by using switches that could control the flow of water. As we moved around the newly named 'Gym Challenge', we also had to fight off several trainers, each using water types. As for each of these battles, aside from higher fidelity graphics and different animations, everything played very similarly to other Pokémon games currently available.

Up to this point, the newest feature we noticed was two more Pokémon which were previously unannounced. The first was an electric type corgi-dog called Yamper, sporting the traditional corgi body shape with very similar fur colour. It also had an eye-catching lightning bolt tail and a strange yellow bulge around its neck, likely something to do with how it utilises its electric ability. As this Pokémon was in our party and useable in the demo, we became quite adept with it. On the other hand, there was a second that we only had a brief experience with. Named Impidimp, this purple-pink creature resembled a monkey crossed with a pixie and used dark and fairy type moves in its kit. Unfortunately, this was about all we have to say about the Pokémon as it was absolutely no match for the overwhelming power of our Yamper.

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