Choose your weapon, Trainer.
Pokemon has sent out a call to arms with the reveal of the new Gen 8 games on the Nintendo Switch, Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield. We’re going to point out all of the new and returning mechanics, what the trailer tells us about the new region, and piece together some clues about the two new Legendaries.
But we’re going to start with the most sacred of rituals that marks the start of every new Pokemon Generation…
The Judging of the Starters!
Scorbunny is a Fire-type rabbit with great speed and acrobatic prowess. It definitely channels the same vibe as Speed Boost Torchic, able to out-speed opponents to deliver powerful fiery attacks. It gets top marks in the cuteness category and bonus points for that bristling confidence. But it needs to stay off the grass with those hot feet!
Next up is Sobble, a Water-type lizard with anxiety issues. It appears to use Acid Armor to go invisible and attack with Water Gun while in hiding. You just want to pick up this slimy little monster and tell it everything is going to be okay.
And rounding out the Gen 8 starter trio is the Grass-type Grookey, who uses a stick to drop a beat that causes the traumatized grass to revitalize. Restorative moves are common amongst Grass-types, so this may be Photosynthesis or a new move of its own.
This is going to be a tough choice, but we’ve got a while to decide, as the game is set to release in late 2019.
Welcome to Galar
We get a brief tour of the land of Galar, the new region that looks inspired by the geography and landmarks of Great Britain.
The first town shown evokes the English countryside and we’re thinking that’s where the player starts the game, as indicated by the Route 1 sign. We get a look at the player characters in their trendy travel gear as they set out to forge a path of greatness.
As the scene transitions, you can spot a Nintendo Switch. The player character’s room always features the current Nintendo console, and Sword and Shield continues that tradition.
We next get a look at a town that bears a resemblance to Manchester, a city in northwest England that has a more industrial history. The train seen here will likely act as our fast-travel method throughout the region, as the map of Galar below shows tracks connecting the various cities.
While the map is structured to look a lot like Great Britain, doesn’t the features bear a striking resemblance to Westeros? There’s a city towards the top (a stand-in for Winterfell) with a wall at its back (just like The Wall guarded by the Night’s Watch) blocking off the frigid region where undead ice Pokemon probably roam. No wonder we need a sword and shield in this game — winter is coming, yall!
Return of Pokemon Gyms
After doing Island Challenges in Alola, it looks like Pokemon Gyms are making a comeback, and in a big way!
We see what appears to be the Grass-type Gym, and its emblem is probably the Grass badge you get for defeating the gym leader. But the inside is huge and seems to be modeled after a soccer stadium. And given that it looks like gym battles will be decided in front of a roaring crowd, it makes sense that competing trainers would come dressed in a professional sports outfit. The player character is wearing a soccer-inspired uniform complete with a glove for your Pokeball throwing hand. The map shows several more stadium structures that could be the Water Gym, the Rock or Ground Gym, the Poison Gym because the mushrooms, and the Ice Gym. If there are a total of eight gyms, as per usual, then there are probably others we haven’t spotted yet.
The city at the tippy top of the map looks inspired by London, as you can see a version of Big Ben and the London Eye. This city looks the most advanced, whereas the city in the middle of the map has a medieval vibe thanks to the crown atop this tower. Could the player find themselves in service of a king or queen?
Going Back to Basics
But before we become the hero of Galar, we’ve got to catch some Pokemon! It looks like we’ll continue to do that via random encounters in the grass. The game appears to be bringing back the sneaking mechanic from Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire that gave players the chance to catch Pokemon with better stats.
Trainer battles are once again triggered by crossing their eye-line.
And it looks like we’ll see lots of returning Pokemon, including Grubbin, Hoothoot, Zweilous, Flygon, Braviary, Wailmer, Meowstic, Lucario, Tyranitar, and Munchlax.
We also want to point out the mysterious symbols found throughout the trailer.
They’re most commonly found on old stone slabs, although we do see some in the stadium too. Perhaps these symbols are an ancient language that we’ll learn about in the game.
The Figure on the Hill
The figure carved into the hill looks inspired by the real-world Cerne Abbas Giant carved into hillside in Dorset, England (which we’re not going to show because his… Ekans is on full display).
The game’s hillside figure may very well be a depiction of one of the wolf-like Legendary Pokemon teased in the Sword and Shield logos. Well, at least its head has a lupine vibe, whereas its humanoid body is sharp and angular with people running away at its feet. That could make this the Sword Legendary, and the smoke and lightning coming from its mouth might mean it’s a Fire- or Electric-type. The cover model Legendaries often balance each other out, so if the Sword Legendary is attacking people then the Shield Legendary will probably rise up to protect them.
For even more on the Starters and a comprehensive breakdown of the Galar map, be sure to check out the IGN Pokemon Sword and Shield wiki!
And we’ve also got the Nintendo Direct for you to watch again (and let’s be honest, again and again and again until the next trailer drop).
Joshua is Senior Editor of IGN Comics. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Game of Thrones are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.