Today’s Pokémon Day, marking the 23rd anniversary of the Japanese release of the Pokémon Red and Green on the GameBoy. From those unassuming 8-bit beginnings, Pokémon has snowballed into a global phenomenon, becoming the second-highest selling franchise in gaming history (Mario’s the first) and spawning an enormous raft of movies, manga, card games, soft toys, theme parks and so on. The Pokémon Company’s marking today with a number of special events, but they’ve all just been rendered a footnote by Nintendo’s announcement of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield for the Switch.
Taking place in a bucolic-looking open world setting called the Galar Region (that seems to vaguely resemble Britain), the game’s set to take players through various environments including grasslands, cities, mine-shafts, snow-covered mountains and into huge Pokémon stadium tournaments, as well as introducing a number of very cute (and extremely marketable) new Pokémon. The initial three you choose from at the start are Grookey, a chimpanzee Pokémon; Scorbunny, a rabbit Pokémon; and water lizard Pokémon Sobble. But there are going to be many, many other new additions to an already enormous collection of creatures.
Though the Nintendo Switch saw the release of Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu! and Let’s Go Eevee! last November, those weren’t exactly the full-blooded Pokémon RPG games that fans have been craving ever since the release of Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon on the 3DS back in 2017. But Sword and Shield has the potential to be something truly special, with the added power of the Switch evident in the open world setting, looking as if it’s set to go far beyond what could be achieved on previous handheld systems.
Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield will hit shelves in late 2019 and should mark the end of an enormous year for fans of the franchise. Between then we’ve got Detective Pikachu hitting cinemas, which has tested so well that Legendary Pictures are already planning a Pokémon cinematic universe with multiple spinoffs, a Japanese remake of the first Pokémon movie entitled Pokémon the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution and continual updates to the still incredibly popular Pokémon Go. Suffice it to say, it’s a good time to be a fan.