E3 is normally a beacon of exciting news and updates concerning video games, but this year, Pokéfans were left with a very sour taste in their mouth. Game Freak, the masterminds behind all of the Pokémon games, announced that not every creature would make the cut into Pokémon Sword and Shield: a tragic first for a mainline game duo. This news did not sit well with the Pokémon community and sent many fans into a Uproar (HA! Pokémon joke!).
Game Freak’s explanation for this cut was the massive workload required to properly include and animate in detail almost 1,000 monsters for battles. Naturally, fans were very eager to jump in and point out that many of the battle animations shown off so far in Sword and Shield look nigh identical to the last two generations, both of which were on handheld devices and don’t include very detailed animations. Concerns about world details also crept in, notably the tree textures in the overworld that looked on par with the 20+ year old Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. Junichi Masuda of Game Freak reached out with a statement on June 28 thanking fans for their passion for the series and hoping that they will continue adventuring in the world of Pokémon.
Let’s look first and foremost at Game Freak’s initial piece of information: that not all past creatures would be featured in this new adventure. Pokémon has featured a growing family of monsters for well over two decades, each main installment adding a plethora of designs, move sets, type combinations, and even sometimes introducing new types that are applied to monsters new and old! It was inevitable that eventually the company would reach a point where they had bitten off more than they could chew: either by not being able to include older monsters as is currently happening, or by not including any new monsters and leaving us with “only” the 850+ that we already have. I understand Game Freak’s decision to opt for the former and still offer a fresh journey packed with new creatures, as well as many old favorites.
And now to the other worry fans brought up: visual quality and lazy animations. Beyond the terrible textures on the trees, there was also a deal of concern about Game Freak’s “detailed” animations that they claimed were preventing other creatures’ inclusion. Many Pokémon in the featured Gameplay were featured attacking and simply “bouncing” up briefly to simulate some kind of motion: definitely nothing realistic or appealing to look at. As much as it would be nice for Blastoise to finally shoot Hydro Pump from his cannons instead of his mouth, I don’t have high hopes for that kind of individuality.
I think some of these fan concerns have objective merit and others are simply a matter of opinion. Let me break down my reasoning, as well as my thoughts on whether it’s a genuine concern of mine or not:
Visual Details- Minor Worry: Sword and Shield are still several months away from release and I’d like to think that some of the simple graphical details will continue to be worked on until closer to the November release date. Something static like tree textures seem like they would be a relatively simple task in the grand scheme of the project. But if worst comes to worst and it’s not addressed, I’ll end up playing a Pokémon game with ugly trees. A disappointing yet not overly-consequential outcome.
Creature Animations- Moderate Worry: The fact that a great deal of Pokémon still feature simple animations that we’ve seen since Gen 1 is a bit discouraging (seriously, bouncing a model up and down to simulate a tackle attack? Very lazy by today’s standards!). I understand that working with an HD console like the Switch presents new challenges, but what is the point of bringing the series over to console if the only difference is that you can play it on a larger screen? Crappy animations in high-definition still aren’t appealing. Giving Pokémon their own personalities and charm with attack animations seems like a crucial step in maintaining player immersion in these high-definition adventures.
Exclusion of Some Older Creatures- I’m not assigning worry to this because I feel that it is entirely a matter of opinion. Let me start by saying that I completely understand peoples’ frustration at potentially not being able to catch and journey with some of their favorite monsters. The fact that Pokémon have been able to be transferred forward since Gen 3 and now might potentially be stuck in the past would be a heavy blow to long-time fans who have consistently nurtured their creatures for over a decade. That being said, I don’t believe these exclusions will ruin the game. We know that there will still be a multitude of creatures to capture and explore with and considering you can only even bring six Pokémon with you at a time, I have difficulty believing that trainers won’t be able to fill that roster and more with their favorites.
However, I think a much more effective way of presenting this transition to Nintendo Switch would have been to take a similar route as Ruby and Sapphire back in 2003: give us 150-ish brand new Pokémon, don’t include any old monsters, and provide every single player with a fresh experience in a mysterious new landscape. This would ensure everyone is on the same page with an entire new world to explore, learn about, and adapt to! It might still irk trainers who have maintained a team for fifteen years, but it also wouldn’t have the same sting as seeing a “lame” old Pokémon that somehow beat out one of your favorites for a spot.
While some of these concerns might leave a small stain on my time with Sword and Shield, I can’t see any of them ruining the overall experience. I would be more concerned about hand-holding tutorials throughout the entire game a la Sun and Moon, or that the Dynamax system will completely take the fun out of gym battles by becoming a cheap gimmick (although I’m very interested in seeing how it is used for raid battles!!). There’s still a lot of questions about Sword and Shield, but hopefully these will be answered in short order before the November release!
But those are just my thoughts on the matter! What is your takeaway from this tumultuous turn of events? Are you preparing your torches and pitchforks with the masses, or are you more lax and understanding with the coming change? Let me know with a comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thank you for reading!