Excitement for Pokémon Sword and Shield all but nosedived when their Treehouse Live preview revealed some unpleasant details. Unlike preceding titles since the fourth generation, National Dex compatibility is completely absent; the games therefore won’t allow previous generation transfers through Pokémon Home unless they are already native to the Galar region.
To say fan reception was swift and brutal is an understatement. The Treehouse video was subsequently heavily downvoted on YouTube, #BringBackNationalDex replies are flooding Pokémon social media, and gamers are cancelling pre-orders left and right. The competitive scene is in uproar over this blindsiding change disrupting firmly established meta. That’s without counting Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves being cut altogether in favor of the new Dynamax mechanic.
“We weren’t going to be able to [do it] indefinitely”
In spite of the response, Game Freak begrudgingly remains firm on scaling back Pokémon for Sword and Shield. As to why, producer Junichi Masuda spoke of a number of factors behind their decision in an interview with USGamer. While their reasoning involves balancing and working with new hardware, the main point comes down to the “sheer number of Pokémon.”
There are a couple of different parts to the thinking behind it, but really the biggest reason for it is just the sheer number of Pokémon. We already have well over 800 Pokémon species, and there’s going to be more added in these games. […] We knew at some point we weren’t going to be able to indefinitely keep supporting all of the Pokémon, and we just found that Sword and Shield would probably be a good point to go back and reevaluate what would be the best selection of Pokémon that appeal to the widest audience while keeping into consideration the balance of the battle system. […] there’s still going to be a lot of favorites that fans will be able to bring over that they’ve adventured with previously. But yeah, it was pretty much just balancing and getting this optimal selection of Pokémon for the adventure we wanted to provide.
If you’re holding out on post-release updates, you’re probably out of luck according to another interview with Famitsu. As of now, there are no plans to patch in remaining Pokémon in Sword and Shield after their mid-November launch.
A hard decision to make
While I don’t personally approve of the lack of National Dex support, I understand why to an extent. Including variations of existing Pokémon, Sword and Shield will be pushing the National Dex to over a thousand species. That also means a potential 71 new Pokémon with the eighth generation. That said, the decision still bites that I can’t “catch ’em all” like I used to. I’ve gotten attached to the number of teams and Pokémon I raised with every generation since Sapphire.
At the very least, there is some comfort in knowing that Masuda didn’t like the decision either. The fans certainly don’t! Who knows, maybe once Sword and Shield are out, Game Freak will look into patching in more Pokémon down the line. Either that, or have Pokémon Home provide a viable alternative!
In the meantime, let us know your stance on the matter in the comments.