This Friday sees the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield, a game that is nothing short of a monumental milestone for the franchise. After two decades spent on the Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS, Pokémon makes its first true generational leap this year onto the Nintendo Switch. Am I excited for it? I’m 100% amped for it and maybe even more.
Everything I’ve seen so far tells me exactly what kind of Pokémon game to expect: A familiar hyper-quick battle RPG with a collecting bend to it and a thoroughly British influence. What more could you ask for? Lots, if you’re coming from the more toxic side of Pokémon fandom. Now granted, no video game should be immune from criticism. As much as Pokémon Sword and Shield looks like a treat, there are some valid points to tackle, but the sticking points that certain elements seem attracted to are nothing short of petty.
In fact, after doing this beat for nine years, I can easily say that this might just be the most toxic atmosphere that I’ve ever seen a Pokémon game launch in. Here’s a prime example: A few days back, fans decided to give developer Game Freak a morale boost with an effort to get #ThankYouGameFreak trending on Twitter. Which is a fantastic gesture, for a studio that has brought so much passion to a series for so many years.
Currently, that campaign has been derailed by #GameFreakLied, a hashtag started by Pokémon players who happen to be upset with…and hear me out here: Reused character models. This has apparently been a thorny issue of note, with detractors claiming that if Game Freak planned to trim the National Pokedex by half then they had no reason not to create entirely new game models for existing Pokémon.
Recent data-mining alleges that Pokémon Sword and Shield happens to be reusing many of the models from the more recent Sun and Moon games, giving them a higher definition upgrade and then releasing them into the wild. Game Freak disputed this claim, saying that all models were rebuilt from scratch while data-miners say that the models are one and the same. Here’s the thing, there’s a lot lot more to a character model than just recycling the same wire-model.
There is lighting and shadow, textures and rendering techniques that all go together to create any single one of those pocket monsters. That there happens to be a vocal minority bitching that that Game Freak did not go even further in handcrafting hundreds and hundreds of models while still being able to craft the game for a timely release, is beyond the point of entitled.
And that overall whinging reached an apex of stupidity yesterday when some people called out GameFreak for, and I shit thee not, a single texture looking a tad bit off:
I’m just flabbergasted to be honest. While there is a level of debate to be had, that discourse is being done in a manner that threatens to ruin the experience for so many other fans who just want to sit back and have a good time. It must be soul-crushing stuff, to work yourself to the bone at a studio and be greeted with threads of pure vitriol from poison-type armchair developers who think they know better.
The fact that each new Pokémon game can build on its legacy, augment and enhance it with every new core title and still offer something new, is nothing short of a miracle. But no, you’ve got a collective of massive man-babies whose scrutiny of an unreleased game is frankly unhealthy. Don’t like what you see? Don’t buy it, simple as that. Just try not to ruin it for everyone else at the same time.
If you’re worried or cautious, you have every right to be so. At the same time, no one is forcing you to go and purchase the game. No one has a gun to your head, while you tearfully swipe your credit card and play through dozens of hours of catch ‘em all mania. If you’re that worried then try exercising this mythical ability known as patience, and read the reviews. Sit down and dig into the technical deep dives from the real experts who’ll try to ease your troubled mind.
This may be a controversial opinion, but I’d rather trust the likes of Digital Foundry than some rando on 4Chan to give me the 411 on Pokémon Sword and Shield’s technical architecture. Whatever the end result, I still have faith in Game Freak to deliver. If there’s one key takeaway from Nintendo, it’s that this is a company that values its reputation. Every single one of their first-party games are always released in a state that the rest of the games industry can learn from.
Polished and consistently amazing masterclasses in game design that seldom require a patch and whose value hardly ever fluctuates for years after release. To think that the company that took the latest Metroid game back to the drawing board rather than push ahead and release something that did not meet their expectations, would rush a Pokémon game out of the gates, sounds a little farfetch’d to me.
Maybe you have a gripe and you need the world to know that you won’t stand for a reduced Pokemon count, that one texture of grass not being on par with your expectations and your outrage that 800 of the Pokémon you don’t care for aren’t in the game. Or maybe, and hear me out here, you kind of need to shut the hell up because the rest of us are still looking forward to a grand ol’ time.
Last Updated: November 13, 2019