The news of no National Dex in Pokemon Sword & Shield has been received poorly without much of a break in the discourse surrounding the idea as a negative one, but there are a few different reasons the decision from Game Freak is at least well-worth trying out for both fans of the franchise and the developer. Pokemon Sword & Shield marks the first big leap from the mainline games onto a console, and that shift in platform location is also the perfect opportunity to try something new.
When news first broke that no National Dex would be in Pokemon Sword & Shield, fans were extremely upset. They felt that it was a bad move from the developer because so many Pokemon players have carried over their teams through generations of games, and the emotional attachment those fans feel to their roster is deeper than Game Freak and Nintendo might have expected. As momentum and fan outrage continued to swell following the announcement, some expected that the policy would be changed last minute and Game Freak would scramble to include a National Dex in Sword & Shield. Instead, the developer doubled down on its decision, then tripled down earlier this week.
In a recent interview with Inside Gamer (via VG24/7), Game Freak producer Junichi Masuda stated that having no National Dex in Pokemon Sword & Shield is an approach that the company wants to "continue with in future Pokemon games." Truthfully, it's not a bad idea - just one that fans might need to get used to. While the emotional attachment to Pokemon that can no longer make the leap to the next generation of games isn't something that should be discounted, it's also reasonable to examine the positives, starting with a reduced workload for Game Freak developers and more space for the franchise to breathe and innovate. Even if it feels like Pokemon Sword & Shield isn't delivering on enough innovation in this iteration to justify the lack of a National Dex, it's the theory behind that decision - and the possibility for even bigger, positive changes soon - that should at least be enticing as something to try out over the next few games.
No National Dex in Pokemon Sword & Shield also means players will likely need to experiment with different team lineups and get more familiar with the newer additions to the Pokemon franchise in this generation. It gives the new Pokemon added in Sword & Shield a better chance to shine, not needing to compete with favorites from past generations that might otherwise slot into the role the new creature is trying to fill from a design perspective, either aesthetically or functionally. With the change to Nintendo Switch as a platform, it's also a great time for a new generation of Pokemon fans who might have been uninterested in purely handheld games to jump into the series, and it's frankly overwhelming to deal with a roster of creatures that is gradually approaching 1,000 unique entries.
Yes, the lack of a National Dex in Pokemon Sword & Shield is a blow to long-time fans of the series, and that's not something to completely ignore or trivialize. However, Pokemon has always been about generations, whether it is the creatures themselves passing the torch to a new lineup or someone who was enthralled by Pokemon Red & Blue as a child passing on that love to someone younger who will have that same experience with a new game. The latter feels very much what Sword & Shield will be about, and if no National Dex means the newest Pokemon game is no longer for a certain type of fan, then maybe that's because it will instead be for someone from a new generation of players.
Pokemon Sword & Shield releases on November 15, 2019 for Nintendo Switch.