The Pokémon Sword & Shield backlash has primarily been about the National Pokédex, but the thing is, there are bigger issues that plague the new Pokémon games. The Pokémon: Let's Go games served as an appetizer for the true Pokémon RPG experience that fans have wanted on home consoles since the '90s, and while it's finally happening, there are some problems.
The enthusiasm for Pokémon Sword & Shield began to diminish during E3 2019, as several revelations were made about the content of the games. Pokémon Sword & Shield are lacking in content compared to the previous games in the Pokémon franchise, which has prompted a backlash from the fans.
Pokémon Sword & Shield are going against the original "Gotta Catch 'Em All" slogan, as it will be impossible to collect every Pokémon for the first time in the history of the series. Even though that seems to be the main cause for concern, we've noticed some other issues with the games, which have also drawn ire from fans in recent weeks.
Pokemon Sword & Shield Backlash Explained
Junichi Masuda of Game Freak revealed in an interview at E3 2019 that not all Pokémon would be available in Pokémon Sword & Shield. There will be a limited number of Pokémon in Pokémon Sword & Shield and it will only be possible to encounter Pokémon from the Galar region. The reason for this is that the ever-increasing number of Pokémon in the franchise has made it difficult for Game Freak to include them all. So future Pokémon titles will include a fixed number of Pokémon in each game, starting with Pokémon Sword & Shield. Masuda didn't mention how many Pokémon would be appearing in Pokémon Sword & Shield, however.
There has been a significant backlash against the absence of the National Pokédex on social media. The fact that it will now be impossible to catch every Pokémon goes against the core concept of the series. The restricted number of Pokémon in Pokémon Sword & Shield means that players might not be able to trade Pokémon that they have been using since the days of Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, at least for the time being.
It originally seemed possible for Game Freak to add the missing Pokémon in post-release updates, which is fairly common for recent first-party Nintendo titles - Splatoon 2 received new items and maps regularly after its release, while Super Smash Bros. Ultimate added the Stage Builder mode in an update - but Masuda rejected this notion in an official statement. If there were plans to add the missing Pokémon to Pokémon Sword & Shield in future updates, then Game Freak would have confirmed it following the backlash. The fact that Masuda's response only mentioned future Pokémon games gives the impression that the National Pokédex will be gone in the immediate future.
The Graphics Aren't Good For The Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch is the most powerful system that a Pokémon game has ever appeared on, which is one of the reasons why fans were so excited for the announcement of Pokémon Sword & Shield. The previous Pokémon titles were always limited by the graphical capabilities of handheld systems, but that was no longer the case. The Nintendo Switch has some beautiful games, which means that Pokémon Sword & Shield have the potential to be the best looking games in the series.
Pokémon Sword & Shield came under fire when a tree was shown during one of the E3 2019 videos that wouldn't look out of place in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There have also been comparison videos released that suggest that Pokémon Sword & Shield are using recycled assets from Pokémon Sun & Moon, including character animations and textures. There are so many impressive looking first-party titles on the Nintendo Switch, yet Pokémon Sword & Shield wouldn't look amiss on the Nintendo Wii U. There is a lot of content in the average Pokémon game (even with the cut features), so it makes sense that Game Freak might not have the time to make Pokémon Sword & Shield look as good as Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which means that the incredible looking console Pokémon RPG might still be a few years away, if it comes at all.
It bears mentioning that Pokémon Sword & Shield are still in development and it's possible that the build demoed at E3 was a much older one than usual. There is still some time for improvements to be made to the visuals of Pokémon Sword & Shield before their release, but any adjustments made will be minor at this point.
Lots Of Features Are Being Dropped For No Reason
It isn't just certain Pokémon that will be missing from Pokémon Sword & Shield, as two major features from the previous games will also be absent - Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves. Pokémon X & Y introduced the concept of Mega Evolutions to the series, which allowed a Pokémon to undergo a temporary evolution that lasted a single battle. Mega Evolutions changed the face of the competitive battling scene, as forgotten Pokémon like Kangaskhan suddenly became feared on the battlefield, while Pokémon like Mewtwo and Rayquaza became even more powerful.
Pokémon Sun & Moon, meanwhile, introduced Z-Moves to the series, which allowed Pokémon to unleash an incredibly powerful move once during a battle. There were certain Pokémon who possessed unique Z-Moves (like Eevee and Snorlax), and these featured special cutscenes. Junichi Masuda confirmed during an interview at E3 2019 that Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves will be absent from Pokémon Sword & Shield, which means that two major factors in battles will no longer be present.
Pokémon Sword & Shield have Dynamax transformations, which seems to be a replacement for Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves. The fans have criticized the Dynamax battles for being uninspired, as they just increase the size of existing Pokémon and strengthen their moves & stats. The Dynamax transformations lack the creativity of the cut features, and many fans would have preferred the inclusion of Mega Evolutions and Z-Moves over battles with giant Pokémon.
Can Pokemon Sword & Shield Still Be Successful?
Pokémon Sword & Shield are definitely a step back from the previous games in the series, but will the missing features matter in regards to sales? Nintendo revealed at E3 2019 that Animal Crossing: New Horizons had been pushed back to 2020, which means that Pokémon Sword & Shield will be the biggest titles released for the Nintendo Switch during the crucial holiday 2019 season. Nintendo will be heavily promoting these games in the run-up to Christmas, which will likely include console bundles and a wave of new merchandise.
The missing content in Pokémon Sword & Shield is disappointing, but even the most bitter of fans will find it hard to avoid the allure of a mainline Pokémon experience on a home console. The cut features feel more like a symptom of harsh deadlines than anything else, and the ever increasing number of Pokémon would have brought up the possibility of cutting the number of available Pokémon eventually, even if the series had remained on a handheld system. There are bound to be a lot of fans who are disappointed when it's revealed that their favorite Pokémon has been cut from the game, but the backlash may prompt Game Freak to ensure that all Pokémon are available in future games, even if it means adding them in through post-game updates.