This November, Pokémon Sword and Shield will introduce a whole gaggle of new pocket monsters to befriend and capture. Unfortunately, the foray into Pokémon’s eighth generation hit a snag this past E3; Pokémon Home can’t transfer every Pokémon ever conceived into Sword and Shield. Fan excitement turned into fan fury overnight, with movements like #BringBackNationalDex overtaking Pokémon social media.
The Pokémon Company did share a statement from series producer Junichi Masuda, but furor still refuses to die down. That said, further details from last month’s Famitsu feature are making rounds online; this follows a Reddit thread by u/BrokenWho, quoting Comicbook.com’s “A Wild Podcast Has Appeared.”
A National Dex balancing act
According to CB, it all stemmed from shifting development from the Nintendo 3DS to the Switch. The 1000+ Pokémon models made between X and Y to Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were all made for less powerful hardware with lower resolutions and framerates. This is all on top of balancing newer Pokémon, Abilities, moves, and mechanics; even porting every Pokémon into Sun and Moon was a feat Game Freak barely managed to accomplish.
Though they appear the same, returning Pokémon for Sword and Shield had their assets remade from scratch. However, the full extent or reasoning of which is currently unknown, as is whether Dynamaxed Pokémon required new models and animations, clarified Serebii’s Joe Merrick.
While you can’t import every past Pokémon into Galar, Game Freak seeks to mitigate the issue in the long run with Pokémon Home. Older Pokémon may vary in games going forward depending on how they fit a given region, and so that they each have time to shine. On that note, Game Freak is allegedly considering additional gameplay features besides trading in Pokémon Home, but this remains unconfirmed.
Sure, a delay would help, but remain ultimately unfeasible for the Pokémon brand. Nintendo occasionally delays games like Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Animal Crossing: New Horizons without real consequence; that same luxury unfortunately is not extended to the Pokémon games. With Pokémon being the most lucrative intellectual property on the planet, delaying Pokémon Sword and Shield would also mean delaying anime production and a whole host of new merchandise, including the Trading Card Game, toys, apparel, and so on.
Back to the drawing board?
While some gamers are pointing fingers at Town (working title) for splitting up Game Freak’s team of 143 full-time staff, the studio handling multiple projects at once is nothing new. Game Freak often develops multiple Pokémon games simultaneously, as new mainline Pokémon RPGs drop on a near-yearly basis. If you take a look at the credits of any Pokémon game, you’ll also notice the names for a litany of freelancers, contractors, and other co-developers like Creatures Inc. and Nintendo localizers. Pokémon aside, Town is far from Game Freak’s first non-Pocket Monster venture. Drill Dozer, HarmoKnight, Tembo the Badass Elephant, and even this year’s Giga Wrecker Alt all come to mind.
I can’t help but empathize with Game Freak at the end of the day; it isn’t easy juggling enormous pressure from The Pokémon Company above, and fans’ high expectations below. Hell, dealing with the ensuing backlash following the National Dex in Sword and Shield even now definitely isn’t an enviable position to be in. Whether or not The Pokémon Company or Game Freak’s priorities are skewed is up for interpretation, but regardless of one’s stance, we certainly can’t accuse a game developer for “laziness” of all things.
But hey. At the very least, we will always have hilarious memes to help soothe the soul!
Speaking for myself, I’ve long since swallowed this bitter pill and made peace with it. What do you make of Pokémon Sword and Shield now, vis-à-vis the National Dex? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!