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Looks like an early build of Pokémon Sword and Shield leaked

What looks to be an early, work-in-progress version of Pokémon Sword and Shield has appeared online, and fans are excitedly poring over its details.

The pre-release build was streamed last night on Twitch, apparently running on a debug Nintendo Switch unit. Simultaneously, fans began pulling apart and examining its files.

That Twitch stream is no longer available to view and the user’s channel is currently inaccessible. But screenshots from the stream, along with sound files and other data pulled from the build and originally posted to 4chan, have been widely shared on Twitter where they still remain.

Files list the build’s date as March 2018, more than 18 months before the game’s release in November 2019. As such, it is full of early designs, as well as elements using code from 2018’s Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee.

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This 3D model appears to relate to an earlier version of the game’s Route 7, with a couple of Gigantamax Pokémon included. In the game’s final version, this area is empty, though fans have felt a planned story element was meant to occur here.

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Several odd elements not present in the final game have excited fans, such as this pink version of Rotom with a bow, and hand-drawn in-game icons for your friends’ activities (and yes, that does look like Clefairy giving you the finger).

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This early version is said to include around 20 Pokémon species total, likely as placeholders, and some fans have pointed to particular species visible in the game’s beta build which are not in the final game. For example, artwork used for this version’s start menu includes Greninja and Mega Rayquaza, while Greninja’s unfinished in-game model also appears within the build itself. Neither Greninja or Mega Evolution were made available in Sword and Shield’s final build, though it is impossible to say what decisions, if any, had been made over which Pokémon to include in the final game at the time.

When asked for comment on the leak, a spokesperson for The Pokémon Company International told Eurogamer it could not comment on any “rumours or speculation”. But fans say there’s little doubt over this build’s legitimacy. This is due to the mountains of data it includes, they say, and the fact debug features are accessible and were shown working in last night’s Twitch stream. Early versions of music tracks – portions of which can be heard in footage of Sword and Shield’s public demo from E3 2019 – are also included, adding to its veracity.

But the question remains – where did this leak come from? Other recent Nintendo game leaks are all thought to have come from the same place as several earlier Pokémon leaks – a so-called “gigaleak” of data hacked from Nintendo’s servers back in 2018. This treasure trove of illegally-obtained information appears to have been the source for cut Pokémon Gold and Silver creature designs, among others. It also begs the question of what else remains from that hack, waiting to be revealed?

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