Ready or not, Pokemon Sword and Shield is coming. It’s crawling up your front steps, right now. In a few weeks, it’ll be banging on your door.
Despite Sword and Shield’s impending release date, we’re still learning tons of neat stuff about it. A lot of new information just dropped thanks to several interviews with lead producer Junichi Masuda and series director Shigeru Ohmori. For one thing, we learned a bit about the positive and negative things Game Freak took away from the backlash over Sword and Shield’s lack of a National PokeDex.
There’s lots more to Pokemon Sword and Shield than people getting emotional over the number of Pokemon contained within. We gathered up some interesting tidbits from the interviews with Ohmori and Masuda and collected them here for you. Is it accurate to say “1000 people” are working on Pokemon Sword and Shield? How long does it take to design a Pokemon from start to finish? And why is Sirfetch’d’s leek so wide and long?
Balancing Pokemon games to please old fans and bring in new ones is “really, really difficult” – On one hand, it’s very special to have a property that means so much to so many people across literal generations. On the other hand, pleasing them all is enough to make you tear your hair out.
“Balancing that sort of aspect is one really, really difficult element of development. The point that we always begin from is people who are coming into the game for the first time,” Ohmori tells VG247. “So, for example, there might be a lot of players who played a lot of Pokemon Go but who have never played a main series game, and they’re coming into this for the first time. We want to make sure that they can enjoy the game as much as anyone who plays it—be that for twenty years or two days.”
Team Yell is based on fans who “go overboard” – Team Yell fills in the “Baddie of the Week” role for Sword and Shield, and unsurprisingly, they look a whole lot like football hooligans. However, Ohmori says they’re generally meant to represent people who go bonkers at sporting events and in the presence of celebrities.
“We also have this character called Marnie—and this is perhaps something a bit more Japan-specific—but you often have idols who have their really hardcore fans who kind of follow them everywhere,” he tells Eurogamer. “[T]hat sort of overzealous fan is also something that this Team Yell has been based on, so that’s really where we took inspiration for them from.”
The next game should have a Team based on Hockey Moms. Trainers will be forced to fight for their lives.
There’s no plan to make another Pokemon Let’s Go game—unless you make some noise – Pokemon Let’s Go Gold and Silver would be easy sells for the Switch, but for now, Game Freak doesn’t have any plans for another Let’s Go game. That’s not set in stone, however.
“[A]t there’s no particular plans, but if the fans really like it then definitely keep those voices coming out to the Pokémon Company and Nintendo, and make sure we hear them!” Masuda tells Eurogamer. “We wanna hear those comments!”
Masuda asked for the Switch to be a platform that people can easily enjoy together – Game Freak was allowed to give input on the direction of the Switch, and they seized the opportunity by making a request.
“I did give feedback in general terms to Mr. Iwata long ago that it should be a hardware platform that people can enjoy together,” Masuda tells Polygon. “So, just in general terms, that was one piece of feedback I gave.”
The claim that Pokemon Sword and Shield has a “1000 person team” behind it is much more complicated beneath the surface – Pokemon fans who are upset about Sword and Shield’s lack of a National PokeDex say Game Freak has no excuse for complaining about the labor involved. “There are 1000 people working on this game!” they say. Unsurprisingly, that number doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The number being close to a thousand, that of course includes all the different functions like marketing and PR and everyone that would be associated with the game ahead of release,” Ohmori tells Polygon. “But I think at Game Freak, really the core team of people that worked on the game was around 200 people.”
It takes about three months to create a new Pokemon from idea to finish – Initial outrage over the lack of a National PokeDex in Pokemon Sword and Shield inspired some graphic artists to see how quickly they could render a Pokemon model in five minutes. Unsurprisingly, the results were a tangle of hilarious disasters. Polygon asks Ohmori how long it generally takes to make a new Pokemon, to which he responds, “A decent amount of time,” or around three months.
“It’s not just creating that outward appearance of the Pokémon,” he says. “You’ve got to make sure that then you build the model and make sure it’s within the limits for the polygons, rig it with all the bones and everything, texture it and make it look how we set it up, and then send it to the animators, have them create all the different animations, review those to make sure they still match the idea, and then eventually put it in the game and make sure that everything works in there. So it’s definitely a pretty involved process.”
Sirfetch’d’s “thick” and “chunky” leek is inspired by the U.K.’s large leeks – Farfetch’d’s Galar variant, Sirfetch’d, carries a much bigger leek than Farfetch’d. The veggie doubles as a sword. Nearly every one of the outlets that interviewed Masuda and Ohmori asked why Sirfetch’d’s leek is so long. Ohmori admits he was inspired when he noticed how the leeks in the U.K. are much bigger than the ones in Japan. Intrigued, I asked our U.K. team if their leeks are indeed thick and towering, to which they responded “What?”
Learn everything you need to know about Sirfetch’d’s mighty leek when Pokemon Sword and Shield comes out on November 15. You should check out our Pokemon Sword and Shield guides for now.