People are crying. They were once overjoyed, blissful of the state of the upcoming Pokémon games, which would grace the Nintendo Switch for the first time in the series’s (mainline) history. Their expectations and hopes were shattered upon the announcement that they wouldn’t be able to transfer all of their pokémon from the upcoming Pokémon Home into Sword & Shield. The reason? The Galar region will not support a national dex, code for “Only a fraction of the total number of pokémon will be available in Sword & Shield.”
The outcry has been substantial. Thousands of Pokémon fans are swearing off their loyalty from the company and the upcoming game. The hashtag “#BringBackNationalDex” has become a symbol of their contempt, a unifying plea for the Pokémon Company to answer. Fans are now hostile, suspicious, and cynical of every detail on the once-beloved upcoming titles. They wish for every pokémon, not just “some.” After all, it’s about catching them all.
What a time to be a Pokémon fan.
I will try to be as cordial with this as I can, as the topic makes me hostile just on the thought of it. The sense of entitlement I gather from these people is the type of thing that only builds an overly-toxic community. They always wish for more, for better, and for everything they could possibly want and damn all who oppose it. How easy it is to say “I want more pokémon” without taking into consideration what that would mean in this point in time. So, I’ve decided to write a few counterpoints to those who have sworn off Pokémon until the national dex is available for every game that comes afterwards.
There aren’t 150 pokémon anymore
The main argument to this, I suspect, would be “There hasn’t been 150 pokémon for a long time! There was a national dex in the last Pokémon game!” Yes, this is true. It is also true that the pokémon are now being animated on a more powerful system that likely takes more time to implement every movement, every detail, and every interaction. Consider the effort it takes the development team to do all of this.
How many pokémon are there now? 809, not counting the Galar region pokémon already showcased. And with any new region, the amount of new pokémon will only increase, likely by about 100. Assuming this, the developers would have to properly animate the movement, battle stances, attack animations, and whatever else for 900 pokémon! That is a daunting task for any developer! Think of the team working on this game. People shit on EA or Rockstar for overworking their development team to meet deadlines and push games out as early as possible. Are you willing to advocate the same for Game Freak? Because you want more?
At the same time, it was likely much easier for Game Freak to be able to implement every pokémon in previous games due to the copy-paste method of saving sprite models for attacks and creatures. One of the reasons for the franchise’s move to the Switch was because they reportedly “pushed the 3DS’s hardware to its limits” with recent games. With their debut mainline title on the Switch, is their goal to already push it to its limits? I wouldn’t be surprised if they took this opportunity to get a feel for what the Switch can do and improve upon it after some active experience. Y’know, like with a third upcoming title.
How would they top it?
The main argument to this, I suspect, would be “Look at Super Smash Bros.! They just did a shit-ton of stuff with their latest game! How would they top that?” The answer: I don’t know. But here’s the difference between Smash Bros. and Pokémon: the latter is much bigger scale. At least, it should be.
Here’s something I’ve picked up in my 25 years of living: game companies like putting out good games. They don’t like putting out great games, because then people will continually hold them as the standard for what comes afterwards, and with time, things are expected to adapt and improve. I see The Pokémon Company as figuring out this specific business model, so they do what they can to distinguish each region with different sorts of “innovations” and specifics so that they can sell what is essentially the same game over and over again, yet have it feel different.
Now, I’ve seen complaints about the company being money-hungry and intentionally withholding these things because they’re “lazy.” To some extent, I can understand this perspective, being very anti-corporate myself. However, I don’t think it’s because they’re “lazy,” but because it’s good business to only provide the potential for something more and sprinkle only bits of it for each game. This sounds incredibly manipulative, and that’s because it is! Whether Game Freak is doing this intentionally, I couldn’t tell you for sure. Would it surprise me? Not really.
…Wow, I just went off on a little tangent there. Anyway, yeah, how would they top it? Putting a national dex in Sword & Shield would pressure the developers to put it in the next game, and each game after that. Now that the game has become bigger through its yearly graphical enhancements, this proves to be more time-consuming. And with new pokémon coming every generation, the time will only build—quite quickly. And they have dynamaxing, too, which they would likely have to design around every pokémon possible! (Every pokémon can be dynamaxed, right?) What else can the company possibly do to both retain their core, traditional audience while also pleasing the hardcore veterans of the genre? This question brings me to my next point:
What would have to give?
Have you seen that thing going around where people are starting to criticize Game Freak because one of their in-game trees look like complete shit? I get it. It’s 2019 and trees, one of the most common objects in any game in existence, shouldn’t look like shit. But… if Game Freak is going to put all of their time on developing pokémon models to fulfill a national dex, would you be willing to put up with shit-looking trees? And potentially shit-looking everything else?
All these new things, like dynamaxing and open-world exploration and region designs—they aren’t exactly easy to design. Game design is an incredibly time-consuming and rigorous process, especially if you want a game to look really good. And what about all those other things that Pokémon fans want? Would you be willing to sacrifice the possibilities of further enhancement in gameplay, graphical updates, or whatever else for the sake of having every pokémon available?
For a game this big—including narrative, adventure, number of NPCs and recurring characters, scripted events, day and night feature, a billion specific items, etc.—you can’t have everything. That is like asking for a pan-styled deep-dish pizza with every single topping, cheeses, spices, and different sauces depending on the slice with stuffed crust and cheesy bites on the ends, all for the same price as a pepperoni pizza. That’s not how it works.
Would you be willing to wait for it?
Of course, there is always the potential for a waiting game. We’re doing this with both Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Metroid Prime 4, both of which were delayed to give them more polish than originally intended to meet fan expectations. Would people be willing to do the same for Pokémon? I think most reasonable people would say yes, but… Pokémon isn’t just another Nintendo franchise. It’s an absolute global phenomenon.
If we’re counting the dual-release of games (a la Sword and Shield) as individual games, Game Freak will have released 14 games in the past seven years upon the release of the two new ones. As expected with Pokémon, most games make a kajillion dollars in profit. Why stop? They have historically released a game (or two, depending on how you look at it) every two years on average. Would people be willing to break that chain to wait four or even five years between each Pokémon game, so that they can guarantee a national dex and substantial gameplay improvements in all of them?
From a business standpoint, this is stupid. Why go through all the extra detail and overwork your team when you’re going to make a substantial profit on a decent and functional game regardless? And by cutting out a certain number of pokémon, they can actually focus on other new things to provide to the games that hasn’t been done before. They can be dumb (dynamaxing/mega evolutions), but at least they’re willing to go the extra mile to make the games feel unique on some level. I suppose the idea of a vanilla adventure with uninteresting characters and zero new quirks and shit-looking trees would be fine if one can catch every possible pokémon, right? That way, they can still get a new Pokémon game every two years (or even yearly). It just wouldn’t be any different from the last.
Alright, I’m going to be late for work and this took much longer than it needed to. Those are my reasons as to why I think expecting the national dex in Sword & Shield is insane and why those who are burning bridges because of it are taking it way too dramatically.
What do you think of this whole controversy? Do you think the national dex should be included? Why or why not?
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Thank you for your time. Have a great day.