The one about Sword and Shield and the Pokémon community

Max raid battles in Pokemon Sword and Shield
Max raid battles in Pokemon Sword and Shield

I admit, the situation about Sword and Shield (SwSh further) has been bugging me for a while now. For the uninitiated, SwSh is the first installment of the Pokémon franchise on the Nintendo Switch, the home console everyone loves to own. Unfortunately, early reactions suggest that SwSh won’t have the same sentiment behind it.

The problems with Sword and Shield began when Game Freak shared that not all previous generation Pokémon will be available in Pokémon Sword and Shield. From June 13th onward, the Pokémon community has widely become a toxic pool of hate, analyzing every move GF makes and criticizing the overall direction of the franchise.

I thought that I was immune to the hate, as many of us did, but after the recent leaks and discoveries publicly shared on Reddit, I decided to take a step back and see what’s coming and what’s not coming to Sword and Shield. Mostly, I was interested in seeing if its worth putting my money behind it and making the purchase.

From this point on, there are massive spoilers for Sword and Shield. If you don’t want that, stop reading now, abandon the Internets and wait for November 15th, when SwSh officially launches.

Why everyone is angry

I’m using Terotu’s excellent summary for this list, which is based on leaked and data mined information. As usual, this can turn out to be wrong, but this is what’s going on right now, and this is what players are reacting to:

  • Sword and Shield will not feature every Pokémon. Only 400 and something Pokémon will be present in the game. The reasoning behind this was twofold: it’s hard to make high resolution models for all 900 Pokémon and it’s hard to balance them.
  • Sword and Shield will not feature every move. It seems that 144 moves were removed from the game, including Hidden Power, Return, Frustration and Pursuit. This is a rather strange move, as it seems that some signature moves were removed as well.
  • The game is seemingly short, with very little post game content. Apparently, the game can be finished in roughly 15-20 hours, and there’s very little to do after defeating the champion.
  • Fans are clamoring that the game looks unfinished, with low resolution textures and pop in animations for Pokémon in the wild area. Comparing it with Zelda or something more graphically intense makes the game look even worse. This image in particular got me thinking, but personally I don’t agree with this point (more about this in the last section):

  • Players are angry as move animations and models seem to be the same as they’ve always been. The seemingly low graphical fidelity has enraged a number of players who’ve seen the leaks, and today players have reported that Pokémon models were reused, and not rebuilt as Game Freak claimed. In a response to this, players took to social media and #GameFreakLied is #1 trending hashtag on Twitter at the moment of writing this post.

  • The Japanese Pokémon audience is not happy as well. That’s an understatement, they’re furious with the removal of National Dex. Apparently, the Dexit information was only published in western markets.
  • The game is reportedly too easy. I’ve expected this to happen, but it seems that reduced difficulty has gone to the extremes.
  • There are apparently way too many bugs in the game.

The list goes on and on, but it sums up into three main things:

  1. A lot of Pokémon were cut, players are not happy.
  2. Early reports indicate the developers did not deliver on their promises to deliver better graphics, model and animation work.
  3. Players are dissecting everything in the game, looking for busted promises and taking it to social media.

That, my friends, is not a good start for any game. We’re two days away from launch (November 15), and there’s a negative hashtag trending on Twitter ahead of launch. Ouch.

In other news

Meanwhile, the Poké just published a lengthy interview with Ohmori and Masuda, Game Director and Producer of GAME FREAK, inc. The interview goes over many details that affected game design. We were surprised to see that SwSh was developed at the same time as the Let’s Go! series:

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! were developed at the same time as Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, and the two teams collaborated heavily. With Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, we were able to create the core systems that form the base for our development on Nintendo Switch.

One thing we didn’t originally intend to implement in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield was having Pokémon roaming around in the field. After Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! were released and we saw how popular the feature was, we worked hard to bring it over to Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield for a lot of the Pokémon and adjusted the balance of the games to make it work.

I think that the interview is fair and it outlines sensible direction for any Pokémon game. Nothing to hate here, regardless of how you slice it. Ohmori and Masuda are doing their job, and yes, there’s a lot of corp talk, but its all reasonable.

So, what happens next? Honestly, I don’t know.

Parting words

This is not good. This is not good for any game, but let’s talk Pokémon games in general for a second.

From what I’ve seen, SwSh looks like any other Pokémon game to date, with a smaller Pokedex. And that’s fine, these games were never Breath of the Wild or Red Dead Redemption style juggernauts. The core battling game play loop is still there, you’re still catching Pokémon and you’re still gonna spend ~20 hours exploring a new Poke region.

Players are furious, that’s for sure, but the reasoning seems to be directed at the general approach to how Pokémon games are developed, not Sword and Shield in particular. Players are having problems with issues around the game, not the game itself.

The graphics

Yes, I’ve seen the live streams that leaked the game. No, it’s not that terrible as the Internet wants you to believe. The game looks great at some occasions and it looks fine otherwise. It’s colorful, most models look great to my eye, the animations outside of the ones that have been cherry-picked to look bad, look fine as well. The only problem I have is the low culling distance and Pokémon popping in, but I can live with that.

My decision

I’ll try the game. I’ll give it a shot this Friday. Part of me wants to play a new Pokémon game, and a part of me wants to see if the Internet was right. It’s hard to imagine that it can be as bad as people are making it to be, this is Pokémon after all.