Editorial

Growing Up and Letting Go in Pokemon Sword and Shield

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With a “console” Pokemon hitting this Fall, the pre-release hype train has hit a rough patch, and the fallout has me thinking about my storied past with the franchise and how I’m not just growing out of it, but accepting what it is. Pokemon built its brand on the iconic phrase “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”. This makes the bitter pill of not being actually able to catch or even obtain ‘em all that much harder to swallow. We’re not going to see the 800+ Pokemon of the previous generations make it over in Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield. You can still transfer your Pokemon to the Nintendo Switch collection hub, Pokemon Home, but the buck stops there.

Back in the Pokemon Black and White days, I took painstaking lengths to make sure all my favorite Pokemon from years prior transferred over. As the years and generations progressed, fewer and fewer Pokemon made the cut. There are still a few I’ll hold on to for purely sentimental value (shout out to Bearhat the Snorlax from the GamesRadar Forum days!). Learning to cherish the memories I have of the games I’ve played and the experiences I’ve made instead of holding on to “stuff” has been a huge part of me growing over the last few years. This isn’t to say that my experience is the only valid one, but learning to let go does put my mind at ease.

The continuity of Pokemon through generations has been pretty iron-clad over the years, but during Nintendo’s Treehouse Live demo, series figurehead Junichi Masuda noted that only Pokemon in the Galar Pokedex will be able to be transferred over via Pokemon Home. Without a doubt, the decision to cut Pokemon from Sword and Shield was not an easy one. That being said, Game Freak has always been a somewhat small, insular team that really struggles in generational gaps. 2019 is no different.

A lot of this outcry stems from the fact that you’ve been able to transfer Pokemon for so long, and that it’s been a part of Pokemon’s DNA since the Game Boy Advance era. Even if the methods seemed chaotically nonsensical, if you had a Ralts in 2003, you were eventually able to bring it to Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. That novelty and earnestness felt completely genuine, and to throw that aside for making the game a more polished experience would be great…if that polish was easily seen in the game’s demonstrations.

However upset these yearnings make us, perspective is important. Pokemon is far more than a mere RPG. It has movies, card games, anime, and a treasure trove of other industries it has to keep in check. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be upset – far from it. We should find ways to properly channel that frustration that doesn’t involve online petitions and irrational tweets. That’s the entire impetus for what I’ve been talking about right now. If you want to vote with your dollar, by all means, do so. Nobody should stop you from taking that initiative. That being said, you don’t have to thumb through tweet after tweet talking about how GameFreak is lazy and Sword and Shield look like garbage. This spiraling cesspool of negativity and vitriol has worn itself very thin, and it doesn’t help that the likes of YouTube turns that into a cottage industry.

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A lot of the news out of E3 made me excited to give a Pokemon game another go, but it would be disingenuous of me to not accept that Pokemon isn’t what it was to me growing up. The world has changed in an infinite amount of ways that make my experience something of an anomaly to most kids today. I’m not pouring dozens of hours on fan sites and dedicated forums, and neither is most of the Pokemon audience in 2019. In many ways, I’m moving on, and Pokemon is naturally going in a different direction compared to when I was a kid glued to his computer. It takes a lot for a game developer to grind my gears when it comes to what’s actually in the game.

This is all incredibly dramatic for what is little more than “baby’s first RPG”, but it’s that connection to childhood that makes Pokemon all the more impressive that its lasted this long, and that it has its roots in its dedicated players like few franchises could ever achieve. Pokemon is more than a flash in the pan 90s gimmick, and has proven time and again how relevant it is in an industry that’s quickly demanding more and more from game developers. It’s that very demand that drives people to start up petitions essentially giving GameFreak the bird until every last Pokemon from Abomasnow to Zygarde shows up. Compromises had to be made, and delaying Pokemon Sword and Shield to 2020 simply wasn’t in the cards. Your feelings of betrayal or heartbreak are completely valid. It’s up to you to figure out what to do next. For the love of god, just keep that hot take tweet in your drafts.

Credit to AnimeLover96 for the header image.

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