Take everything you love and redefine it. That’s the Herculean task that “Pokémon Sword and Shield” overcomes — or at least dies trying to. In the past, the elegant charm and nostalgia of the game was enough to steal the hearts of fans around the world. With Pokémon’s most recent installment, however, things have taken a drastic turn for the worse. Game Freak cut corners on the newest addition to their long-standing franchise and it’s seriously split the community apart.
With the premiere of “Pokémon Sword and Shield” released at long last, one question has towered above all others: Should I really get the game? With Game Freak’s reputation on the line, it’s distressing that we have to think twice about how competent the game actually is. Expectations of the game are at an all-time high, and that’s simply the standard they’ve continued to uphold until now.
Controversy surrounding the game stems from all sorts of technical issues and perspectives. People voicing their opinions from this angle are veteran fans of past generations, individuals who care about the future of the game and other critics who just don’t buy into all that nostalgia. As a standalone product, it makes perfect sense;
“Pokémon Sword and Shield” compared to other variations felt like an unpolished and rushed attempt. For the first main game on the Nintendo Switch, it’s introduction to the franchise fails to deliver the grand impression that could’ve been.
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) November 15, 2019
So, is the anger and frustration warranted for “Pokémon Sword and Shield”? Well, let’s shed light on a few of those major issues and you can decide for yourself.
For one, Game Freak has made a conscious decision to remove past Pokémon generations from its “National Dex.” From “gotta catch em’ all” to “gotta catch what I’m allowed,” the new limitations discouraged a lot of older players from joining this particular entry. Instead of rewarding long-time dedicated fans, they invalidated the progress and ports of previous titles. Perhaps that’d be okay to some, but the reasoning behind doing all this might not sit so well.
“Pokémon Sword and Shield” supposedly “scrapped the older models to start from scratch.” Game Freak promised brand new animated Pokémon, but on Nov. 13, data miners brought the heat when leaked information got out about the company’s usage of “Pokémon Sun and Moon” models, the very same from the previous generation. In fact, some changes are indiscernible, further fanning the flames of the raging fanbase, which led to nailing the company on its faults. No surprise here, but #GameFreakLied massively trended on Twitter for the lower quality and reused animations in the new installment.
These issues, along with outdated graphics and a smaller amount of content, could’ve been almost sympathetic if Game Freak honestly explained the situation, but, unfortunately, they took a sly approach. The sentiment now is that the company will try less and cut corners knowing that the game will massively sell out regardless, which is quite disappointing and leads to general mistrust among informed fans.
Still, with everything on the line, there are people who place their faith in Game Freak and in “Pokémon.” These are the people who appreciate what the game has to offer and can overlook those graphics or new restrictions to celebrate another arc of something remarkable.
— koallasaurus (@koallasaurus) November 13, 2019
While “Pokémon Sword and Shield” isn’t as refined as it could’ve been, it strived to be innovative and original, even mixing things up in the process. Their pooled efforts went into the new mechanics of the game like Dynamax, a signature of the new game, where Pokémon literally reach new heights as gigantic versions of themselves. Along with the humongous Pokémon and special tailored co-op mode are a variety of clothing customizations, impressionable landscapes, new Pokémon designs, expressive characters and the ability to make curry.
Adding on to that list, the game’s “Wild Area” is a memento of a concept that fans have always dreamed of. While it isn’t perfect, it’s a start, and this area of the region pays tribute by entertaining the notion of an open world where Pokémon roam, acknowledging that Game Freak does listen to some suggestions. While fans can discuss among themselves if it compensates or not, it certainly was a highly anticipated aspect of the final product.
While “Pokémon Sword and Shield” is individually scrutinized for certain company choices, the franchise itself remains a fan favorite and continues to touch the hearts and minds of many. In response to #GameFreakLied, #ThankYouGameFreak was a wave of positivity and gratitude for all the great memories in a timeline of influential and popular games.
Reminiscing about their past games leads me to believe that Pokémon has found the recipe to success. They’ve always taken this traditional, formulaic story and breathed it to life. No two Pokémon adventures are identical no matter how you spin it; it might be a relatable adventure for you and friends to talk about, but it’s entirely your own, and that’s the beauty of it.
In its past iterations, Pokémon has masterfully captured this one of a kind journey. The story is larger than life, beginning humbly in your hometown and exploring all sorts of inspiring cities and landscapes while having you meet all kinds of trainers. It’s a tale of self-discovery and friendship, and along the way, you’ll catch all the Pokémon you love and test your bonds to prove yourself the ultimate Pokémon master.
I've had my copy of Shield preordered and paid for since March. And guess what? I'm going to enjoy the game just as much as I've enjoyed every single main Pokemon game since 1999! #ThanksGameFreak
— Yotsuba Kowa (@yotsuba_kowa) November 13, 2019
Clearly, it’s meant to be something breathtaking. When one of the most profitable gaming companies squanders their signature launch with lies and laziness, fans understandably felt betrayed and let down. Game Freak is faced with insurmountable expectations to outperform themselves each generation and live up to their name. This time, they slacked off, and passionate fans could easily spot the difference.
It’s too much to say that they deserved the threats and pressure, but criticism is the fair and proper response. While the journey itself is timeless and beloved, some fans can’t overlook the issues and let it go. The situation is a mess right now, but fans have the voice to either boycott this standard or celebrate it — it’s all a matter of perspective. Now that you’ve weighed the information, will you have a say?