Pokemon Sword and Shield are out now on Nintendo Switch, marking the start of the series' eighth generation. Regardless of which version you pick up, the core adventure will be the same across both titles, so you can generally expect to encounter similar characters, Gen 8 Pokemon, and story beats whether you're playing Sword or Shield. However, as has been the case since the series' debut, each version also features some distinct elements, so the experience will differ somewhat depending on which game you play.
Traditionally, the biggest difference between Pokemon games is which monsters you can capture in the wild, but some installments have shaken things up in more dramatic ways with version-exclusive locations and characters. Below, we've rounded up all of the differences between Pokemon Sword and Shield to help you decide which version is right for you. For our full thoughts on the games, be sure to also check out our Pokemon Sword and Shield review.
In a first for the series, Pokemon Sword and Shield will feature some version-exclusive Gym Leaders. As we learned from the games' July trailer, some cities in the Galar region will be home to different Gyms depending on which version you're playing. In Pokemon Sword, players will challenge Bea, a Fighting-type expert. However, the same Gym in Shield will be led by Allister, a Ghost-type trainer. There's a second exclusive Gym in each version as well. The sixth Gym in Sword will be led by the Rock-type trainer Gordie, while those playing Shield will instead do battle with the Ice-type Gym Leader Melony.
Just as in the past, Sword and Shield are each home to a handful of Pokemon that can't be captured in the other version. There are some monsters that are much more common in one version than another, and in the case of Sawk and Throh, you'll be able to trade a Vanillish in Circhester for the one you can't find in your game. Below is the full list of full version exclusives.
- Farfetch'd (Galarian)
- Darumaka (Galarian)
- Darmanitan (Galarian)
- Ponyta (Galarian)
- Rapidash (Galarian)
- Corsola (Galarian)
Like previous Pokemon games, Sword and Shield are each represented by a different Legendary Pokemon. The cover of Sword is adorned by Zacian, which wields a sword in its maw and moves about gracefully, while Shield's cover is graced by Zamazenta, which boasts an armor-like mane. You'll encounter both Legendaries in each version, but you'll only be able to catch the one that appears on your game's cover.
While you'll normally face off against standard Dynamax Pokemon in Max Raid Battles, during specific windows of time, you'll have a greater chance of encountering certain Gigantamax Pokemon instead, and it seems these monsters may vary depending on which version you're playing. During the first announced window, which runs from November 15 to early January 2020, Pokemon Sword players will be more likely to encounter Gigantamax Drednaw in Max Raids, while those playing Pokemon Shield will have a greater chance of finding Gigantamax Corviknight.
One Pokemon, the Dragon- and Grass-type Applin, evolves differently depending on what item you give it, and the items in question differ based on which version you're playing. In Sword, you'll receive the Tart Apple, which will cause Applin to evolve into Flapple; in Shield, however, you'll receive the Sweet Apple, which will cause the Pokemon to evolve into Appletun. Check out our full Applin evolution guide for more info.
In previous Pokemon games, you had to choose between two fossils during the course of the story, each of which could be restored into a different Pokemon. In Sword and Shield, it works a bit differently. There are four fossils total, with the Fossilized Bird and Fossilized Dino being much more common in Sword and the Fossilized Fish and Fossilized Drake being much more common in Shield (based on staff experience at GameSpot). See our full fossil guide for all the details.
Pokemon Sword And Shield News & Guides
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