Game Informer released a handful of articles today recounting their recent experiences at Game Freak’s headquarters in Tokyo discussing details about Pokémon Sword and Shield, in addition to their interview with Junichi Masuda regarding old Pokémon who don’t make the cut for the games. This new information involves the battle system, HMs, and a new autosave functionality.
Of the battle system updates, Game Freak discussed the new max raid battles coming to Sword and Shield. Based on raid battles from Pokémon Go, max raid battles will take the new Dynamax and Gigantamax mechanics to another level, challenging players to work together to battle and catch powerful, giant Pokémon. Surprisingly, the idea of having raid-type battles came to the Sword and Shield team before they were ever implemented in Pokémon Go. Now that they’ve seen its success in the app, the Sword and Shield team decided to bring it to their games. While raid battles are a fun way for more casual players to work together with friends, Sword and Shield planning director Kazumasa Iwao told Game Informer that some of the max raid battles will “have a kind of difficulty we haven’t seen in a lot of main series Pokémon games up until now.” Like Pokémon Go’s raid battles, these max raid battles will use a ranking system to specify the difficulty for players before going in.
The next change coming to the battle scene is a little more vague, but is intended to make competitive battling more accessible to all players. Pokémon games often attract a subset of hardcore fans who search high and low for the best possible Pokémon for battling, whether it be through repeated wild encounters or hatching Eggs. While Game Freak respects and acknowledges the dedication of these players, Iwao wants players to be able to use the Pokémon they start out with and take on their journey for competitive battle, since players often become attached to those Pokémon. Because of this, Sword and Shield will “introduce some systems” to enable players to use their starter Pokémon in competitive battle. Iwao used the example of Pokémon who have good stats but the wrong personality type, teasing some sort of new system “that will fix that for people.” This will also apply to any Pokémon that players transfer over from past games, so players can use their old favorites in competitive battle as well. Iwao didn’t specify what exactly these new systems would entail, but assured that they’re “doing a lot of stuff in the back end” to change things up.
The final aspect of battling expected to change is the Experience (EXP) points system. Traditionally, Pokémon would earn EXP from battles on an individual basis—that is, any Pokémon that participated in a given battle would receive EXP from that battle. Eventually, Game Freak added the Exp. Share item, which players could give to an additional Pokémon in their party to hold while battling with other Pokémon. Later, this item expanded to share the EXP among the entire Pokémon party, and could be turned off for players who preferred to level each Pokémon up individually. Now, Sword and Shield have done away with the Exp. Share and instead automatically split EXP up among the entire party. Because of this, it appears players will no longer have the option to turn it off.
Next on the list are the ever-controversial HMs (Hidden Moves), which were a core part of the Pokémon games until Sun and Moon. HMs are unique moves that Pokémon can use outside of battle to clear obstacles in the overworld. Sun and Moon replaced HMs with Ride Pokémon—specific Pokémon that could be summoned at any time to transport the player from one point to the next, depending on the environment. Iwao has confirmed that HMs will not be appear in Sun and Moon either, as he wanted to maintain the “higher degree of freedom” that Sword and Shield will offer players as the first-ever Pokémon main series game on a home console.
Lastly, Sword and Shield director Shigeru Ohmori revealed that the games will have an autosave feature, rather than the traditional manual save system past Pokémon games have had. Players who prefer to save manually can turn autosave off in their game settings, but Ohmori notes that the process of saving and resetting a game on a Nintendo Switch involves a few more steps than the handheld systems Pokémon has been available on before. Because of this, players may prefer the convenience of autosave.
Pokémon Sword and Shield will launch on the Nintendo Switch on November 15.