Buzz surrounding Pokémon Sword & Shield was almost entirely positive since the titles were revealed—until a surprise E3 admission that the games wouldn’t support the full roster of Pokémon. Fans were understandably upset that the Pokémon they had diligently collected wouldn’t all be able to accompany them to Galar, the games’ new region, to take part in battles or trading through the use of the intermediary Pokémon HOME app.
Some fans thought that perhaps a future update would allow more Pokémon to be brought into Sword & Shield. Then Game Freak reiterated their decision to limit the number of Pokémon in the games and finally, yesterday, Junichi Masuda offered an official statement.
Now we as fans have to come to terms with this brave new world of Pokémon collecting.
Why it makes sense
It isn’t easy to leave a Pokémon on the sidelines—we all have favorites that we bring from past games if the species can’t be caught in the latest title. Sewaddle, Dunsparce, Carnivine… many of my own favorite Pokémon are not high on Game Freak’s list of frequently included monsters. I will be pleasantly surprised if any of those three make it into the first Generation VIII games.
While I am sad about the Pokémon that will be missed, Game Freak’s stance makes sense. Many have contended that it would be easy to polish the X & Y models and import them, which they seem to be using with improved textures in Sword & Shield, but that is much easier to say from the perspective of a fan than a developer.
We still don’t know what new features are in store that would require brand-new animations, how many Pokémon are being introduced or the full extent of the Dynamax system.
It’s very likely that a feature similar to Pokémon-Amie will be included in the games and those interactions require more animations outside those seen in battle. We know nothing about it, therefore speculation about the workload involved in the games’ development is further obscured at this point.
Why would Game Freak cut such a large feature of Pokémon games, and risk the backlash that we’re now seeing, if this wasn’t necessary? From the way Masuda announced the design decision at E3, it was clear he knew it wouldn’t go over well with fans. Potentially angering the people who buy your products isn’t something a company would take lightly. Game Freak doesn’t seem to be doing itself any favors if they were doing this without reason.
If you’re still having doubts about how complex the Pokémon games have become, even if generations only seem to improve incrementally year after year, I recommend watching the video below. It’s a very thorough look at the games through their battle animations.
How this could benefit fans
Leaving out Pokémon doesn’t seem like a prospect that offers any benefit to players, but there may be upsides many have overlooked. It’s never easy to see the silver lining.
Excluding older Pokémon could leave more room for brand-new ones.
Let’s just look at the numbers. Each generation brings with it new Pokémon to catch, but how many are introduced vary widely:
- Generation I: 151
- Generation II: 100
- Generation III: 135
- Generation IV: 107
- Generation V: 156
- Generation VI: 72 (28 Mega Evolutions)
- Generation VII: 88 (18 Alolan Forms)
Pokémon Black & White gave us a huge explosion of new species, but then things tapered off dramatically. Generations VI & VII introduced Mega Evolutions and Alolan Forms, respectively, but it didn’t make the lack of genuinely new Pokémon feel any better.
If Game Freak is less worried about bringing over all the old Pokémon into a generation it may really free them up to make new games more impactful by including even more new species. They don’t have to worry that inflating the total number of Pokémon will create an untenable situation for future titles if they’re able to pick and choose what will appear in a title.
The truth is, we don’t know if Sword & Shield will blow fans away with the number of new Pokémon introduced; it may not. Hopefully Game Freak will be able to use this as a starting point to craft even more impressive rosters of new Pokémon in the future. New features will also benefit from a more limited scope as well, with development time going into a more nuanced, individualized approach rather than spending time on all 1,000+ creatures that may all look more bland.
Reorienting ourselves for a new dynamic
Many of us see the franchise through the original English slogan: “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” We’ll still be catching them all, but looking at HOME as the backbone of future generations is important. You may not be able to bring some Pokémon to Galar, but you will very definitely be able to keep them for future games.
Just like the Pokémon TCG is constantly updating what cards are legal to use, we may have to use a similar mindset with our collection. We are in a more privileged position in that older species will again get their time to shine, but the franchise definitely seems to be set on introducing rotating availability of species.
It’s hard to be patient, but there are more ways to enjoy the franchise than ever before. If you were a fan in the 1990’s or early 2000’s there were very few ways to play with the characters you loved outside of the main series. There are now a good number of spin-off titles with strong support, such as GO and the upcoming Pokémon Masters, as well as a massively expanded selection of merchandise to enjoy in real life.
If you told me 20 years ago there would come a day when there would be too many Pokémon to fit into one game, I’d have stars in my eyes just trying to imagine it. That it wasn’t until they had hit 1000 (with alternate forms and Mega Evolutions) in itself is pretty amazing. Game Freak may not always make decisions that we, as fans, agree with, but it is unfair to say they haven’t tried throughout the franchise’s existence to make games that players would love.
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