If you are like me, then you look forward to the next iteration of Pokémon every time it’s on the horizon. Pokémon is a gaming staple. It is massively popular, has spawned a long-running anime and movie series, and has given many children their first foray into video games, including me. After being on Nintendo’s handheld consoles for the last seven generations, the upcoming Pokémon: Sword and Shield will be the first iteration on a home console, the Nintendo Switch. Before E3, back in June, people could not wait to get their hands on what was expected to be a massive, new Pokémon game. Now… there are some problems.
At E3, the developers (GameFreak) sat down with Nintendo for an interview and some gameplay. I was extremely excited, but things quickly went south. While GameFreak certainly showed off some great inclusions, such as a new semi-open world are dubbed the “wild area” as well as showing off some new Pokémon, there were other details that were immediately not as welcome.
The first one being, aside from the wild area, the game looks very similar to previous Pokémon games. The second major detail is that the upcoming Sword and Shield will not have the ability to have every single Pokémon in the game. Now, if you have been following along with the drama, you should know that the vast majority of the Pokémon fan base is extremely upset at these two developments. We are going to take it one at a time.Image courtesy of Nintendo/The Pokemon Company
New System, Same Old Graphics
The first major detail that fans noticed is that the game truly looks like past games. For years now, fans have complained that the fighting animations have been lackluster and, quite frankly, lazy. Ever since Pokémon ushered in the era of 3D with Pokémon X and Y in 2013, fans have expected a certain gaming standard. Over the past six years, Pokémon fighting animations have been nothing more than a movement with a generic fighting motion added on. Most fans understood in X and Y that this was most likely due to hardware limitations and it being the first 3D game. However, once we moved on to generation seven, complaints got louder.
With the release of Pokémon Sun and Moon in 2016, fans expected something brand new. While we did get a vastly different story format and an interesting setting, the core game and animations were still the same. Pokémon continues to have generic and simple fight animations that do not show off any defining characteristics. The most egregious example is Blastoise. His iconic water cannons protrude from his shell. So, one would think his signature move, “water cannon” would utilize them, correct? Wrong. Like every other Pokémon, Blastoise simply shoots water randomly out in front of him, which takes away from the immersion.
Now, for the most part, I even understand this issue. With the ever-growing list of Pokémon, it will always be harder and harder to animate every single Pokémon with reasonable and interesting animations. Moreover, I even am OK with this fact, since we now have well over 700 Pokémon. But, this was back when GameFreak still had the limitations of the Nintendo 3DS.
As mentioned before, Sword and Shield is going to release on the Switch. The console is a much more powerful piece of hardware than the 3DS. So, at the very least, I expected some modest character upgrades for the battle animations. However, fans all around are annoyed that Pokémon are re-using the animations from previous games, and not taking advantage of the better hardware.
New Pokémon Bring Number Problems
This brings us nicely into issue two. With Sword and Shield ushering in another hundred or so Pokémon into the fold, there are expected to be over 800 Pokémon now over the course of eight generations. Most fans understand that GameFreak simply cannot put every single Pokémon into the main story and region that the game takes place in; it’s unreasonable. However, GameFreak has gotten around this fact by allowing any Pokémon to be transferred or traded into a new game once a player completes the game. Fans have been more than accepting of this compromise, and this is how it has been for some time now. Until, Sword and Shield.
At E3, GameFreak dropped the bomb that the upcoming games will not have the ability to receive any Pokémon, but only some from a preselected list. Again, many fans are extremely disappointed that GameFreak will not allow their favorite Pokémon to appear in the new game. And in this instance, similar to the previous issue, I sort of understand. The list of Pokémon is just going to keep growing, and it is reasonable to think that GameFreak had to make this decision sooner or later. However, this issue does not stop here.
There are rumors the GameFreak made this choice while simultaneously choosing to have a smaller staff. Whether this rumor is true or not, it has led many fans to think that GameFreak is simply being lazy and pushing out a new game as fast as they can. While that may not be necessarily true, fans have already made up their minds. The consensus is that GameFreak just wants to put out a new Pokémon game as fast as they can on a new console and that they have cut corners to do so.
Now here is why you, a Pokémon fan, should care. We have problem one, and problem two.
Problem one, not having upgraded visuals and animations, has been excused by the growing number of Pokémon. It is too hard to create new animations for 800 Pokémon. The issue would be upsetting on its own, but we might move past it. However, we also have problem two.
Problem two is that GameFreak is removing the ability to import any Pokémon in Sword and Shield once the main story is completed. This issue is excused by the notion that GameFreak cannot create the necessary visuals and animations for such a high number of Pokémon, which would be fine, but not great on its own as well. If you are following along, GameFreak has put themselves, and by extension their fans, in a vicious circle of excuses.
We have both problems seemingly being the excuse for why the other problem cannot be fixed. If problem one is solved, would the lack of Pokémon transferability be acceptable? Conversely, if problem two is solved, would the lack of upgraded animations be acceptable? These are questions you will have to answer for yourselves.
The consensus here is, however, a different answer. Many fans feel that GameFreak rushed this game too much and has too small of a staff, and should delay it a year or two to solve both problems, instead of just one of them. Whether you can live with both of the issues, one or the other, or will not be buying the game at all; that decision is entirely up to you.