If the Pokemon Go phenomenon of summer 2016 taught me anything, it's that no game franchise commands the same amount of nostalgia as Pokemon. (It also taught me wading through hot-soup humidity to net a Snorlax at a park a half mile away is a stupid idea.) I've been all about games since 1984, and I've never seen anything game-related seize pop culture quite that hard. People have feelings about Pokemon. Intense, loud feelings.
A lot of these intense, loud feelings have poured out over the Internet since news got out that Pokemon Sword and Shield for the Nintendo Switch won't have the National PokeDex. In other words, Sword and Shield won't let you catch or import every single Pokemon in the series. (There are currently over 800 Pokemon; the Galar region PokeDex might push that number up to 900 or 1000.)
The entrenched Pokemon fandom, particularly the fans who hang out on Twitter and the Pokemon Reddit, are still furious over the cull. While I do sympathize with being upset—every Pokemon is someone's favorite, and the series' slogan is "Gotta Catch 'em All"—the backlash has drifted out of hand. Unrelated Twitter posts by Pokemon series producer Junichi Masuda are promptly bombarded by angry fans, and people attempting to share fan art get the "Bring Back the National Dex" hastag in their replies. Sword and Shield's E3 demo has been eviscerated and paraded around the Internet as an example of Game Freak being "lazy and corrupt." (The argument is that since Game Freak wants to focus on making the game look good instead of animating 1000 Pokemon, it should be much more graphically impressive.)
There comes a time—now is good—when it's important to remember Pokemon doesn't belong to a single generation. It's for everyone, and everyone has their beloved first generation. What you consider a "bad, lazy, shoddy" Pokemon game is lighting up some kid's life this second.
Remember: Pokemon is a game franchise and multimedia empire that spans decades. The kids who grew up playing Pokemon on the Game Boy are grown up and are introducing the new games to their own children. They probably don't care much about the Galar Region controversy, and their kids assuredly don't give a single flying Fearow about it. They just want to play as a ten-year-old who gets to forsake school and go on a cross-country trek to catch cool monsters. That's why most of us fell in love with Pokemon in the first place, right? We just wanted to go on adventures, and the Pokemon series still offers some of the very best.
The people waving around the footage of the E3 demo might shout, "But look at this mess! Kids deserve better!" Putting aside the average observer generally meets the criticism with a shrug and a "It looks fine," there's a reason why teasers and demos have "GAMEPLAY NOT FINAL" at the bottom of the screen.
To reiterate a point I've made elsewhere, E3 demos aren't up-to-the-minute representations of what a game looks like. Game Freak didn't work on its assets until the week before E3, throw together a demo, then turn around and say, "OK, now we can start polishing. Hurry up! The game's out in a few months!" Game development is not a linear process. Artists, programmers, etc., don't twiddle their thumbs and wait for their piece of the game to come rolling down an assembly line. (Unless the team is terribly uncoordinated, and I highly doubt that's the case at Game Freak.)
You can argue that Game Freak should've spent more time making Sword and Shield's demo graphics extra-shiny, but it was probably more interested in making a fun experience that wouldn't chug or crash on the show floor. If we still see noticeable instances of corner-cutting when the game arrives in November, that'll be different. But I've already noticed the latest trailer showing off Gigantamaxing already looks more polished than the trailer we saw at E3. The stadium's spectators look more varied and livelier, for one thing. I don't doubt the finished product will look good.
I'm not going to pretend I have no idea where Sword and Shield's critics are coming from. When Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire came to the Game Boy Advance in 2002, I was irritated to learn Game Freak cut much of the old PokeDex in addition to Gold and Silver's day-night cycle. I thought the addition of berries, double battles, and weather conditions were dumb trade-offs—same as how Sword and Shield's critics think Dynamaxing and the Wild Areas aren't worth however many Pokemon we're losing in Sword and Shield. (By the way, let's not forget we don't know how many Pokemon Game Freak is cutting.) For ages I disliked Ruby and Sapphire, and I assumed everyone else likewise hated it for its cuts.
Then I watched social media lose its mind when Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were announced for the Nintendo 3DS in 2014. That's when I realized my Pokemon likes and dislikes weren't universal. I was an adult by the time the "inferior" Ruby and Sapphire hit the market, but for many long-term Pokemon fans, that was their first childhood Pokemon experience, and therefore it was indescribably special.
They didn't care about Pokemon not making the jump from Gen One and Gen Two. They didn't care about the loss of the day-night cycle. I realized, why would they? They didn't have my reference level. I decided to stop touting the benefits of one Gen over the next. It was time to just live and let play. I can't say I miss getting angry over "lame Pokemon designs" and other "signs that Pokemon is going downhill." Litten is cute. Corviknight is cool. Arcanine is the best Pokemon, period. That's what's important.
I hope Pokemon fans who are angry over the Galar PokeDex controversy will have a similar revelation when the time comes. Don't sit with a pen and paper and scribble down every slight the game makes against your personal perception of Pokemon. Play along with your young siblings, nephews, nieces, and cousins, and re-experience the magic of your first Pokemon experience through them. Talk about your favorite starters, and your favorite episodes of the anime. There's nothing to gain by putting a wedge between the generations of Pokemon fans. Be the very best together, not apart.
Major Game Releases: July 15 to July 19
Here are the major releases for the week of July 15 to July 19. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.
- Sky: Children of the Light [July 18, iOS]: It's been seven years since thatgamecompany released Journey. Now here the company is, many years later, building on the ethos of its studio for a new social adventure—or "casual MMO," depending on who you ask. Releasing this week exclusively for iOS, and coming to other platforms later, in Sky you customize your own child of light and navigate a beautiful world alongside friends. Your character is extremely customizable, with lots and lots of emotes (or "gestures") to collect in solving puzzles and meeting NPCs. It's a wildly ambitious game for the studio known for the indie darlings Journey and Flower, and you can look forward to our opening week coverage of the ongoing game later this week.
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order [July 19, Switch]: Bit of a slow week as far as game releases are concerned, but that's OK: You should all be playing Dragon Quest Builders 2, anyway. In all seriousness, this is the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance game we've seen in a decade. Though it might seem a little demure, it actually shines with its own light when held up against the disappointing debut footage for Square Enix's own Avengers game.
News and Notes
- Caty has a great interview with Nihon Falcom that reveals a lot about the company, including why it doesn't put more games on the Switch. Does Falcom's President dish on when Adol and Dogi are finally going to kiss on-screen? Find out.
- Our review of Fire Emblem: Three Houses is still some time off, but our impressions are good so far. Read our preview.
- Not sure if you should get Dragon Quest Builders 2 on the PlayStation 4 or the Switch? Don't worry! We're here to help!
- Red Candle's Devotion probably isn't getting a re-release any time soon. If you recall, Devotion was removed from Steam and other digital platforms after it was discovered the game makes a joke about how China's President, Xi Jingping, resembles Winnie the Pooh. Oh, bother.
- Speaking of China, denizens of the country can net their very own Fat Black Chocobo mount in Final Fantasy 14 by eating a lot of KFC, and things are getting a bit out of hand, kweh.
- Cyberpunk 2077 won't let you hurt kids in-game. Boycott! Booooy coooooott!
- Axe of the Blood God: This week, Kat and I talk a whole mess about Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Dragon Quest Builders 2. We also gab about the Switch Lite. Are we getting one? Are you? What do you mean "I asked you first?" [Listen here]