Pokémon Sword and Shield: Which To Buy?

While I’ve been spending a lot of time with Pokémon Shield, Natalie Degraffinried has been exploring Pokémon Sword. As is tradition for Pokémon, each version of this game has exclusive Pokémon, and this one has some version-exclusive gym leaders as well. We sat down to talk about what’s different between each version.

While choosing a Pokémon game will ultimately come down to personal preference, Nat and I go into detail about how different they are from each other. In the process, we mention the evolutionary typing for some of the revealed Pokémon, as well as some of the Pokémon used by the version-exclusive gym leaders, so don’t read if you want to go in totally uninformed. And in case you just want a list of version-exclusive Pokémon, here that is:

Pokémon Sword:

  • Deino
  • Zweilous
  • Hydreigon
  • Jangmo-o
  • Hakamo-o
  • Kommo-o
  • Farfetch’d
  • Sirfetch’d

Pokémon Shield:

  • Larvitar
  • Pupitar
  • Tyranitar
  • Goomy
  • Sliggoo
  • Goodra
  • Galarian Ponyta
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Natalie Degraffinried: We are here today to discuss the various differences between Pokémon Sword and Shield to help you figure out which one is right for you. I am here repping the Valiant Knights of Sirfetch’d on behalf of Pokémon Sword.

Gita Jackson: And I’m here defending my sweet child Galarian Ponyta with the strength of Pokémon Shield.

Natalie: So, there the first difference difference, and one I was admittedly sad about: If you want the adorable, Psychic-type Galarian Ponyta, you’ll need to grab Shield. If you want Sirfetch’d, the long-awaited evolution to Farfetch’d, a Pokémon that has been useless since it came out in the first generation, you’ll want to grab Sword. Have you been enjoying your Galarian Ponyta, Gita?

MY CHILD
Illustration: Nintendo
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Gita: Galarian Ponyta is everything I wanted and more. She looks like she’s made of cotton candy and she’s got a type combo after she evolves that makes her incredibly useful. A bit of a glass cannon, but my god is she ADORABLE.

Galarian Ponyta is a Psychic type, and evolves into a Psychic/Fairy type, which gives it specific but very powerful applications. She mostly learns Psychic moves, though the fairy move Dazzling Gleam, which she learns after evolving into the resplendent beauty that is Galarian Rapidash, saved my entire ass in the final moments of the game. I also think she’ll be great for Max Raid battles, as she has a move that heals other Pokémon but not herself. But she is so fragile... I just want my child to be OK...

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Natalie: Yeah, that’s the thing about Psychic types. I admittedly am a little bit jealous of your Ponyta, though my Sirfetch’d is pretty awesome, too. The new Galarian Farfetch’d form is pretty cool—it walks softly and carries a big leek. That duck has seen some shit, man. I guess your Ponyta would win the type matchup there, since Galarian Farfetch’d and Sirfetch’d are Fighting types! Speaking of fighting, my fourth gym battle was Bea, the fighting-type gym leader, whom I LOVE. Your version had ghost-type Allister coming in fourth, correct?

Gita: Yes! Allister gave me a “Whitney’s Miltank” moment with his team, but I appreciated the challenge. I also really loved him as a character, but I’m curious to hear about Bea. The fandom hasn’t adopted her as their child in the same way they’ve done for Allister.

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Natalie: So Bea was great! I had been training an Orbeetle (Psychic/Bug) Pokémon on my team, so I didn’t find her too difficult, but I loved her Gigantamax Pokémon. It’s a new twist on a classic fighting ’mon, though. For those who don’t know, Gigantamaxing is like Dynamaxing, but it also gives the Pokémon its own special, new form. I imagine one of the upcoming leaders that you encountered will wreck me, though, based on typing.

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Gita: Pokémon Sword and Shield will definitely punish you if you’re not paying attention to type advantages, which is both welcome and also something that occasionally made me need to take a little walk. At the very least, we both know this is true across both games.

What is a little disappointing for me is to learn that Bea and Allister’s gym missions—a puzzle you have to complete before challenging the gym leader—are functionally identical. I really like this gym mission, but I wish they’d change it up for each challenger.

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Natalie: Same! But also, Bea had a fucking Gigantamax Machamp, dude.

Gita: Fuck me UP.

Natalie: It looks so silly and beefy. It’s the perfect Pokémon for a mechanic like this.

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Gita: So Allister’s pokemon that Gigantamaxed was... Gengar. And that was the one that just kept destroying me over and over, because the Dynamax Ghost type move ALSO boosts special attack. So even though I’d survive the Gigantamax, I’d get wrecked afterward, because his attack was so high!

Natalie: Ooof yeah. I think the Fighting move raises attack? So it seems like Bea and Allister actually have similar dynamics going on. It seems like they’re both pretty cool—as someone who LOVES Ghost ‘mons, I’m a little jealous I didn’t get Allister, but Bea’s cool. Seems like it makes sense for people to pick whichever type they like more, in that regard.

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Gita: Yeah I think so! Personally, I love Allister’s timid little personality. When he introduces himself before the gym battle, he just says, “ Hello. ‘M Allister.”

Natalie: Awwwww. Bea is serious and stoic but also... with the shits. At one point during the battle she’s like, “Argh! Fine then, let’s just destroy everything!” And I was like YES, LET’S! LET’S GO!

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Screenshot: Nintendo

Gita: Bea has a side gig as the lead vocalist in a hardcore band.

Natalie: Maybe Marnie’s in it. Can you imagine?

Gita: I would DIE. She’s the silent-but-deadly bass player. Anyway, enough of that Pokémon fanfic.

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Update: 11/15/19, 2:50 p.m. ET: There’s also a difference in the sixth gym that we forgot to mention! Sword has a Rock-type leader and Shield has an Ice-type leader.

Natalie: Ha! I think we’ve hit the big things, except the legendaries for which my rule is always: pick the one that looks less dumb. I think I have definitely done that and won the day with Pokémon Sword and Zacian.

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Illustration: Nintendo

Gita: I think you won out, for sure. This is always what trips me up—the Pokémon I want are never in the same game as the Legendary I want!

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Natalie: Same!

Gita: But sincerely, “dog with a sword” wins out over “dog with a shield beard” like a thousand times over.

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Natalie: Luckily, it’s way easier to trade generally than it was when we were young Poké pups, so if you do not want the Legendary Pokémon that has skipped everything but chest day... you can trade for, say, a Galarian Ponyta pretty easily, I imagine. So I think that’s the verdict, right? Pick whichever version’s Pokémon (and gym leader!) look coolest to you. Just like it’s always been!

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