By the time this comes out, Pokemon Sword and Shield will have launched in stores around the world. The newest installment of the massive Pokemon franchise is the first main-series game to appear on the Nintendo Switch, which also makes it the first main-series game to appear on a home console. As such, fan expectations have never been higher.
However, from the moment Sword and Shield were announced to the public, there has been widespread disappointment among online communities. In the last weeks of data mines and leaks, red flags popped up one after the other, culminating in #GameFreakLied hashtag trending on Twitter in Japan. The GTS, which functioned as the online hub for battling and trading over the last two Pokemon generations, was removed. This is likely due to Pokemon Home, an upcoming paid service designed to do these services. It was also revealed that over 100 moves from previous games were removed entirely, including ones that can be traced back to Pokemon Red and Blue. The move “Flash” was a Hidden Machine in the original games used to light up dark caves. It was downgraded to a normal move and now it’s not in the game whatsoever. Both “Return” and “Frustration,” moves that vary in power based on how much your Pokemon likes you, are gone. Iconic moves such as Cubone’s “Bone Club” and Exeggcute’s “Egg Bomb” are gone.
Again, this alone doesn’t really break the game. It wasn’t enough to remove features and classic moves. Early in the game’s development, it was announced that there would be no national Pokedex to complete past the original one. Not all of the Pokemon were going to be present in the game, which meant you couldn’t bring your favorite Pokemon from a game you had already played. Speculations were that we might be limited to 600 or 700, but the real number proved to be far worse. Less than half the Pokemon in the franchise will be available in the new game. Charizard made the cut, sure, but none of the other starting evolution lines made it. Most if not all legendaries are gone. The Pokemon subreddit had a competition some months back, showcasing that all Pokemon are someone’s favorites, but they might not get to see them again. Personal favorites for me, such as Absol, Ampharos, and Luxray are gone. Fan-favorite pseudo-legendaries such as Garchomp, Salamence, and even Dragonite didn’t make the cut.
The Pokemon being cut somehow isn’t even the worst part. It’s how GameFreak has communicated this to fans. To start, the movement now being called “Dexit” wasn’t even announced to Japanese fans, who had to find out the news via interpretation of news in America. From there, they claimed the cuts were to ensure better animations overall. This was put in a harsh light in reveals featuring water battles happening on dry land and a pitiful scene of the box legendary using a walk animation to turn around in a cutscene. Other than that, “new” animations can be sourced back to reused animations from the most recent 3DS game and even games released years before that.
As if the lies from GameFreak weren’t enough, they can’t even hide behind the lack of models for other Pokemon. Two years ago, it came to light that GameFreak had made unique walking and running animations for 800 Pokemon and they simply aren’t being used.
When streams started emerging with actual gameplay, the issues got worse. The game runs at 30 frames per second maximum, suffers from crashes, freezes, and intense FPS drops in certain situations. This might have made more sense on a handheld but not on the most powerful console Nintendo has ever released. Hell, there’s a fight with the box legendary where there isn’t even any music playing.
Every issue seems small, but it all adds up to something that’s symptomatic of a larger issue. This entire game reads like it was lazily put together under the assumption that they will still make unreal amounts of money. If GameFreak doesn’t improve how they handle making Pokemon games, this could be the beginning of a new era where Pokemon is no longer what it used to be.