We are finally here, on the eve of the release of Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield.
Reviews and impressions are pouring in, leaks have been available for months, and so many fans are confused as to how, exactly, they should feel about the changes that have been made in the franchise. This final article will allow me, the writer, a chance to express my thoughts before I have any first-hand impressions of the new duo of games.
I have been cautiously optimistic about the release of this new generation. On the one hand, the release cycle excitement has been at an all-time high for me. The region looks beautiful, the characters look interesting, and the new Pokemon designs that have been revealed have looked really neat. The region is expansive, harkening back to the designs of the Xenoblade worlds. As soon as I saw that open field area where Pokemon congregate, I knew that I had to make sure to have it on day one.
Growing pains need to happen.
On the other hand, rumors and changes have been circulating for the past year as to what, precisely, Game Freak’s choices mean for the future of the franchise. The biggest controversy took place during E3 2019, where it was functionally confirmed that not all Pokemon would be able to transfer up to these new games, even if they are deposited on the upcoming Pokemon Home cloud service. People instantly took to the internet to debate back-and-forth about what this could mean. Is Game Freak wanting to “kill the franchise?” Are there simply too many Pokemon anymore for this series to be sustainable? Will I be able to transfer my favorite teams to Generation VIII or will they be forever stuck on Pokemon Home until Generation IX comes out?
While I was initially disappointed by the limitation news, I couldn’t deny that the series had become absolutely bloated over the past few years. While some generations slowed down with how many new creatures were introduced, the expectation that has been hammered down for two decades is for a healthy batch of Pokemon to be revealed for each new mainline generation. The only way to keep these games feeling fresh each entry is for this to happen, but when you are now approaching 900 total Pokemon as part of your National Dex… well, something has to change. Growing pains need to happen.
Not only does this benefit the games in the long run when it comes to the collection aspect, but the competitive metagame itself is also helped. For too many years, being able to rely on every generation for transferring competitive Pokemon was super helpful; yet, it doesn’t take too long for the metagame in each generation to settle into a very predictable rhythm. Out of the hundreds upon hundreds of Pokemon available, there is a relatively small number that is actually competitively viable. There are many trainers who are not bothered by this, but for someone looking for variety and diversity in team lineups, it can be disappointing that I have to craft a team out of the same few dozen Pokemon that are deemed “acceptable” for competitive use. Culling that list and readjusting which Pokemon can be used for these particular games has its benefits in that regard.
Whether the critics rage or praise the new titles has meant very little to me over the years of being a fan of this franchise, and it’s still the same today. I still made sure to preorder my copy of the game, although my initial choice of Pokemon Shield has been supplanted by Pokemon Sword and the sweet exclusive Pokemon I can catch on there. I still found myself excited about every trailer that has been shown, although I think we can all agree that the 24-hour livestream was a complete dud and should never be tried again. And I still took a few glances at the leaks just to get a quick peek at what mystery Pokemon might be included that I never dreamed about (and trust me, one in particular is going to be HIGHLY used in my initial team).
Why do I keep doing this? Am I not looking at the franchise with the “proper” critical eye? Should I be upset if I can’t use a Pokemon that I’ve been using for years? I guess I could be. I could go ahead and find myself with a negative attitude just because. But for me, I can’t help but be happy when I see a new Pokemon. It stirs up thoughts and emotions for a fictional franchise that I don’t usually feel for many other pieces of media. And while some may call me nostalgic, I find that these labels don’t really bother me anymore.
I LOVE playing Pokemon. I love reading about Pokemon. I love writing about Pokemon. And that’s enough for me. That’s enough to ensure that, while I may have some nitpicks and quibbles each generation, Pokemon is STILL Pokemon and I will still keep playing, whether I like the new coat of paint or not.