×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The differences between Pokemon Sword and Shield explained

It's been a tradition since the start that, when a new Pokemon game is released, it has a twin. From Red and Blue all the way to Sword and Shield, there have always been two titles to choose from. But why?

There are two games because Pokemon creator Satoshi Tajiri wanted trading Pokemon to be a core aspect of the titles. He imagined little creatures crawling along Nintendo's Game Link Cable. To encourage trading, he made it so that one game has certain Pokemon, while the other hosts a different variety. In order to catch 'em all, you'll have to find a friend to trade with. Whichever game you choose is entirely up to you, but as per tradition, Pokemon Sword has Pokemon that Pokemon Shield doesn't, and vice versa.

However, these newest Pokemon games have broken with tradition, in that there are all new differences between Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield. Below, we'll run down what those differences are.

The legendary sword and shield

As usual, Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield are fronted by two legendary Pokemon. For Pokemon Sword, there is Zacian, a regal wolf-like Pokemon with a sword in its fangs. For Pokemon Shield, Zamazenta stands proudly and protectively, its body like a shield. In the game, you'll encounter and eventually catch one of these two mysterious protectors of the Galar region. 

The decision about which you should choose ultimately comes down to whether you like offense or defense.

Zacian's "shining blade can cut through anything," while Zamazenta's "gleaming shield can turn back any attack." Zacian is a Fairy/Steel type, boasting moves like Moonblast. Zamazenta is Fighting/Steel and can shrug off just about any move from an opponent. You and your rival/neighbor Hop take up ancient sword and shield against a third and formidable legendary, summoning the slumbering heroes of Galar to your side. Recognizing your worthiness, whichever graces the cover art of your game will choose you as its trainer. The other takes a shine to Hop, so keep in mind that you'll be battling against the both of them at one time or another.

Which hero of Galar do you want on your side? The choice is yours.

Version-exclusive Pokemon from the past

Okay, we'll address it: People aren't happy with the fact that Pokemon Sword and Shield don't include each and every one of the 800-plus Pokemon in existence. Games in the past have done it — why not now?

We've already discussed why Game Freak chose to exclude about half of the PokeDex. Let's talk about the unique Pokemon that are included in each game, instead.

Pokemon Sword is the only place you'll find the Dragon-type evolution lines of Deino and Jangmo-o. Gothita and Seedot's lines are also exclusive to this game, along with Rufflet, Scraggy, Swirlix, Sawk, Mawlie, Solrock, Passimian, and finally, Turtonator. 

When it comes to Pokemon Shield, you'll have your pick of Larvitar or Goomy's evolution lines (in terms of powerful Dragon-types). To counter Sword's Turtonator, you can also find yourself a Drampa. Shield hosts Solrock, Sawk, and Passimian's fraternal twins, Lunatone, Throh, and Orangaru. Out there in the Wild Area, you can find Solosis, Vullaby, and Lotad's evolution lines. Last but not least, Croagunk and Sableye can only be found in the fields of Shield.

As you can see, there are plenty of unique Pokemon included with each game.

Oh, and one more thing: Both titles feature Basculin, but Sword's has a blue stripe, while Shield's sports a red stripe. We thought that might be worth mentioning.

Some Galarian forms are exclusive to either Sword or Shield

In Pokemon Sun and Moon, some old favorite Pokemon evolved into slightly different Pokemon thanks to the climate of the region. With that said, Galarian forms were one of the most anticipated revelations of this new generation, but there aren't nearly as many as we saw in Alola, the setting for Sun and Moon.

Owners of Pokemon Sword will find that Farfetch'd, the leek-carrying bird, is a little different from its Kanto counterpart. This Farfetch'd can evolve into the dashing Sirfetch'd, a warrior who wields, quite appropriately, a sword and shield. Players will also find that the usually fiery Darumaka has cooled off considerably, becoming an Ice type. Indeed, its evolved form, Darmantian, looks like a yeti. 

When it comes to Pokemon Shield, players will be treated to a rather magical new version of Ponyta. The revelation of a pastel unicorn Ponyta caused quite a bit of fanfare on the internet. Rapidash is just as, well, dashing and regal when it evolves, as it grows a rather intimidating horn. Lastly, Corsola has a new, kind of sad look in Galar. Usually pink and perky, Corsola is washed out white and evolves into the Ghost-type Cursola, which is apparently a reference to dying coral and global warming. Yikes.

A Pokemon first: Version-exclusive gym leaders

For the very first time, there are different gyms depending on whether you play Pokemon Sword or Pokemon Shield. You may consider one game over the other if your planned team is weak against, say, Fighting-type Pokemon. This does, however, mean that you won't get to know some of the outlandish personalities of certain gym leaders. Choose wisely. 

In Pokemon Sword's village of Stow-on-Side, you can encounter Fighting-type gym leader Bea, whose reputation precedes her. Don't let her cute looks fool you: she's tough and absolutely dedicated to training. She has, of course, a team of four Fighting-type Pokemon who also mean business. In Circhester, you'll have to fight Gordie, the Rock-type gym leader and son of Shield's Ice-type gym leader, Melony. 

Shield players, beware: Melony – who serves as the Circhester gym leader in that title — is also armed with powerful Pokemon, and a penchant for embarrassing her son. Over at Stow-on-Side, you'll find the Gym there is rather spooky. Allister is the Ghost-type gym leader who wears a mask, making him all the more mysterious, sort of like his Mimikyu. 

Pokemon can be created using fossils

Science isn't always an exact art. We learn this the hard way in the games when we try to piece ancient Pokemon fossils together and bring them back to life. Something, of course, goes wrong, and these cobbled-together creatures don't look quite right. No matter what you do, your new Pokemon will be a mismatched amalgam of two ancient Pokemon. 

In Sword, there are two fossils to find: the fossilized bird and the fossilized dino. You can put these together to create Arctozolt, a rather sneezy and cold-looking Electric/Ice-type. In Shield, you find a fossilized drake and a fossilized fish that come together to make the Water/Ice-type Arctovish, which kind of looks like it has its head on backward.

You can make two more combinations through some careful trading of fossils between games. Combining the fossilized drake and dino together will make Dracozolt, an Electric/Dragon-type that looks the most comfortable of the four. And meshing together the fossilized drake and fish will give you a Dracovish, a Water/Dragon-type that's... pretty ugly.

Has science gone too far? 

Apple evolutions

In both games, you can happen upon little Applin, a dual Grass/Dragon-type Pokemon that hides itself inside of an apple. The only parts we really see are its eyes and its tail. According to the PokeDex, the flavor of the apple determines how it will evolve. These Pokemon are rare in the first place, but the two types of apples that will trigger an evolution are even more rare. 

Giving Applin a Tart Apple — an item exclusive to Pokemon Sword and one that just so happens to be unavailable for trade — will turn the tiny creature into a Flapple. Because of the sour nature of the apple, Flapple stores acid in its cheeks. Its wings are made of apple skin, and, true to its name, it flaps around. 

In Pokemon Shield, you can opt to be sweet and give Applin a Sweet Apple, which will trigger an evolution into Appletun. This is also a Grass/Dragon-type, but it looks like a dessert. It lures in Pokemon with the sweet smell of nectar. And, rather disturbingly, the PokeDex says that children used to snack on this Pokemon. Oh no!