Some Pokémon fans have abandoned their Swords and Shields and grabbed their torches and pitchforks.

It’s no secret that some Pokémon fans have been vocal about the current state of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. The largest issue stems from the decision leave out some of the pocket monsters from previous titles. A handful of other concerns have also been expressed, ranging from lacklustre graphics to limited animations.

It’s an odd time for Pokémon fans with the controversy clouding what has long been a universally beloved franchise. I believe there are valid issues gamers have with Sword and Shield, but some issues have been blown out of proportion, too. Here is a breakdown of fan concerns with Pokémon Sword and Shield, and crucially, why there’s still hope for the games.

The missing Pokémon

Galar Pokédex

So long, National Pokédex. Hello, Galar Pokédex. Pokémon Sword and Shield will feature a limited selection of pocket monsters when they arrive later this year. The tagline “gotta catch ’em all” has cemented itself as a double-edged sword since you literally cannot catch them all anymore. It’s a tough pill to swallow for aspiring Pokémon Masters and I can see why they’re frustrated.

The Pokémon community is so upset by this decision, they’ve launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #BringBackNationalDex. The number of fans expressing their disappointment with the news eventually led to an official response from the games’ producer. Game Freak’s Junichi Masuda, said the following about the missing National Dex in Sword and Shield:

“Thank you to all of our fans for caring so deeply about Pokémon. Recently, I shared the news that some Pokémon cannot be transferred to Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. I’ve read all your comments and appreciate your love and passion for Pokémon.

Just like all of you, we are passionate about Pokémon and each and every one of them is very important to us. After so many years of developing the Pokémon video games, this was a very difficult decision for me. I’d like to make one thing clear: even if a specific Pokémon is not available in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, that does not mean it will not appear in future games.

The world of Pokémon continues to evolve. The Galar region offers new Pokémon to encounter, Trainers to battle, and adventures to embark on. We are pouring our hearts into these games, and we hope you will look forward to joining us on this new journey.”

Screenshot of stadium in Pokemon Sword and Shield video game

How did this response go over?

Catch Some of 'Em

The response didn’t do much, as the dialogue provided by Masuda essentially read as a non-statement. Frankly, the lack of a National Pokédex in Sword and Shield is a gripe that I share with the community. For years, we’ve been conditioned to craft friendships with these creatures. We spend ample time amassing and befriending them, and now some of them can’t join us on this new journey. Many longtime fans have transferred these monsters across three generations of Nintendo hardware, so it’s sad to hear that some Pokémon will be left behind.

Another comment has begun generating ire amongst aspiring Pokémon Masters as well. In an interview with Masuda and Japan’s Famitsu magazine (via Eurogamer), it was confirmed that all of the models for the Pokémon in Sword and Shield have been made from scratch. Some fans remain unconvinced this is the case, as textures appear to be the only things that have changed. A freelance 3D character artist known as Vaanrose showcased how the 3DS model of a Gyarados stacks up to its Switch counterpart. Evidently, he believes that the Famitsu comment is incorrect and he’s not alone.

Character with backpack running through desert in screenshot from Pokemon Sword and Shield video game

These statements are creating broader distrust between the community and those involved in making Sword and Shield. The lack of any further communication to the community regarding the National Dex hasn’t helped. Simply put, fans want to know why their favourite monsters were removed.

There seems to be two contrasting views shared among Pokémon fans: those who understand animating and texturing 1000+ Pokémon is perhaps too much to ask, and those we simply want their favourite Pokémon included regardless of the effort required. It’s a tough spot for Game Freak with no easy solution.

Pikachu with trainer in screenshot from Pokemon Sword and Shield video game

What about the rest?

The Tree

Naturally, fans began looking at what may have led to cutting the number of Pokémon down in Sword and Shield. If the rationale of brand-new models didn’t hold water then, maybe it was an animation of the monsters? As it turns out, fans didn’t buy into that as the battle animations are, admittedly, lacklustre. Some snippets of gameplay that have been shown off thus far have fallen under fire for being average-looking at best.

Rightfully or wrongfully, a rather simple-looking tree in the open-world Wild Area sections of the games has gotten the brunt of the anger. This low texture tree has been compared to N64’s Ocarina of Time, a game that released over 20 years ago. In my opinion, however, this is where the frustrations for Pokémon Sword and Shield feel undeserved. We have to keep in mind the footage is from an E3 2019 build, and that demo would have been created well ahead of the event. Tree textures may not have been a priority, and there’s plenty of time to refine the look.

Character looking at tree in screenshot from Pokemon Sword and Shield video game

I’m not out of my gourd either, because screenshots released by The Pokémon Company look significantly better. They also show different weather affects and how they change the setting’s atmosphere. From a field with wild Wooloo grazing to a creepy forest shrouded in fog, there are a few vistas shown that appear further in development. Those screenshots are likely to be closer to the final version envisioned by the creators. So, my advice would be not to get too worked up by a tree just yet.


Riley's Take


There are improvements that fans are right to see made to these titles, and they’re right to expect more. Pokémon is the highest-grossing multimedia franchise in the world and there are high expectations that accompany such a title. Having every Pokémon is an expectation that fans rightfully have, but there’s also room for rational thinking and understanding. Pokémon Home (the app that will allow you to transfer your mons over to Sword and Shield) won’t even launch until 2020. This gives Game Freak time to add more Pokémon through DLC or a patch, although this is still a long shot.

When it comes to graphical hiccups from an early demo, I’m less concerned. There is so much we haven’t seen yet, so fans shouldn’t be so quick to focus on the tree(s) and miss the forest. It’s really not the backbone of an argument that a number of people believe it to be. That’s not to say being vocal about displeasure for the products is a bad thing—because that’s how franchises grow—but being respectful towards the developers putting countless hours into Pokémon Sword and Shield is a much better way of getting your point across.

At the end of the day, we love Pokémon and we just want these games to be the very best—like no one ever was.

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Riley has written about video games across several publications for almost a decade now. In his eyes, there’s really no better field to work and grow in. During his time as a reporter, he's interviewed gaming legends like Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and Mortal Kombat's co-creator Ed Boon–just to name a few. When he's not writing about games, he's often playing them. Super Smash Bros., Halo, Gears of War, and Rainbow Six are some of his all-time favourites. Outside of games, he’s also a fan of hockey, wrestling, and many other Canadian things. You can find Riley over on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.