E3: It Isn’t Time to Panic About Pokémon Sword and Shield

Your favorites will likely be back.

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 06/13/2019 15:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

From the very outset, Pokémon taught us to treat our digitized creatures as something more. They weren’t just tiny bits of data on a cartridge; we had a special bond with the Pokémon we caught and trained. While this was clearly articulated in-game by Professor Oak, our ability to take Pokémon from one game to the next played a huge role in helping fans to truly appreciate these creatures as something more. From Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow to Gold, Silver and Crystal to Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Stadium 2, fans were able to take their Pokémon along with them on an extended journey. But eventually, that journey came to an end.

The release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire proved a bit controversial among fans. While the titles incorporated many strong new features, one was notably dropped: Pokémon from previous iterations could not be transferred. The only Pokémon that could be used in the games were the 200 native to the Hoenn region, leaving some of the most popular Pokémon unattainable. Later releases such as Pokémon FireRed, LeafGreen, Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness would help fill in the blanks left in the Pokédex, and every subsequent Pokémon game has allowed players to continue to import their favorite creatures. But those raised in the Game Boy games? They were left forever stranded.

This week, Pokémon fans have been feeling a bit of déjà vu with the announcement that only Pokémon native to the Galar region can be used in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Players can transfer older Pokémon over, but only those native to the region. According to series producer Junichi Masuda, coming up with animations for the 800+ existing Pokémon is a time-consuming process, and that led to the decision to abandon the National Pokédex, this time around. Given the sheer number of existing creatures, it’s an understandable problem, but fans have been quite unhappy with the news, taking to social media and even calling the developers “lazy” in response. That said, it seems pretty improbable that every Pokémon won’t eventually see release in Generation VIII.

The most telling reason for this is the existence of Pokémon Home. Revealed late last month, Home will allow players to import their creatures from a number of different places. In a roundabout way, Pokémon from every major release since 2003’s Ruby and Sapphire can be compiled in one place! Even Niantic’s Pokémon Go will be supported when the service releases next year. Clearly, The Pokémon Company wouldn’t be going to such extremes if they had no desire to bring every Pokémon into the modern era.

Some fans have questioned why The Pokémon Company hasn’t simply delayed the games in order to ensure every Pokémon makes the final cut. Doing so, however, isn’t nearly as easy as delaying any other game. The Pokémon Company has grown significantly over the years, with many different moving parts. A new Pokémon generation doesn’t simply mean new games; it also means new toys, new cards, new episodes of the TV show and even new animated films. While Nintendo can make the decision to delay a game like Animal Crossing: New Horizons with fewer repercussions (though still some significant financial impact), for The Pokémon Company, delaying their new release would mean delaying everything under the tent, causing huge financial losses and leaving fans with less in the way of product. Consumers are a fickle lot, and giving kids no new episodes of the anime or new cards to collect could hurt the brand much more in the long term.

None of this is to say that fans shouldn’t make their voices heard. Letting The Pokémon Company know that there’s a demand for the National Pokédex will certainly help increase the likelihood that it will eventually be added to the game as a patch. After all, fan demand helped convince Nintendo to add multiplayer with friends to Super Mario Maker 2! However, the outrage seems a bit unwarranted.

If there’s one thing The Pokémon Company has proven over the past 16 years, it’s their dedication to the bond between players and Pokémon. Things have changed significantly since the days of Ruby and Sapphire. The Pokémon Company is well aware that fans are frustrated, and it seems incredibly likely that a fix will eventually appear, just as it did in Generation III all those years ago. The difference this time, however, is that the technology is now in place to make sure that, when the fix inevitably does happen, players will be able to bring their older creatures over, rather than forcing players to start again from the ground-up. As M2M said on the soundtrack for Pokémon: The First Movie, “if you really want me, then give me some time.” While the musical duo wasn’t talking about Pokémon Sword and Shield, it certainly applies here. Just give The Pokémon Company some time.

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