Pokemon Sword and Shield will emphasise Switch handheld mode

Long-awaited Pokemon Sword and Shield (opens in new tab) titles Pokemon Sword and Shield are positioned as more ambitious and traditional RPG counterparts to the offbeat duo of Pokemon Let's Go (opens in new tab) Pikachu and Eevee. And as Nintendo explained in a new fiscal report (opens in new tab), where Pokemon Let's Go pushed the Switch's TV mode, Pokemon Sword and Shield will focus on handheld mode. 

"Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield are being developed to emphasize the fun of playing Nintendo Switch in handheld mode," the report reads. "We want these games to be played not only by longtime Pokemon fans, but also by consumers whose first encounter with the series was on a dedicated video game platform with Pokemon Let’s Go, Pikachu and Pokemon Let’s Go, Eevee." 

Mainline Pokemon games have always been on handheld systems, so in some ways it's no surprise to see Nintendo lead with the Switch's handheld mode. Of course, Pokemon Let's Go was also perfectly playable in handheld mode. At the same time, this emphasis could translate to a number of differences between Pokemon Sword and Shield and Pokemon Let's Go.  

Pokemon Let's Go was basically an experiment that used Pokemon Go (opens in new tab) as a springboard. It featured a Pokemon Go-style catching system which allowed players to use the Joy-Con motion controls to physically toss Poke Balls. The entire game could be played with just one Joy-Con in fact, to say nothing of the optional Poke Ball controller which also used a pedometer system similar to Pokemon Go. Additionally, two players could use both Joy-Cons to catch and battle in local co-op. 

Given Pokemon Sword and Shield's reveal trailer and Nintendo's statement regarding handheld mode, we can safely assume the upcoming Switch titles will be much closer to the 3DS games than Pokemon Let's Go, likely with motion controls and co-op minimized or cut. That said, hopefully this focus on handheld mode doesn't result in more forced control schemes. I like handheld mode as much as the next Pokemon trainer, but sometimes I just want to use my Switch Pro controller or kick back with a single Joy-Con in-hand, so I'd like to see a variety of setups supported in Sword and Shield. Likewise, handheld mode and docked mod should both run and play well. 

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Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature.