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- Pokemon Sword and Shield
Even though the upcoming entries controversially won’t have all of them, there are a ton Pokemon. In the beginning, the slogan “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” was befitting for that many Pokemon and decorated every commercial for the ’90s classic. It’s a mantra appealing to many, pretty much a keystone for everything that spins out of those releases. If you’re a collector, you’re playing Pokemon so you can get one of everything. If that’s the case, why has Game Freak continued to make things more and more difficult as the years drag on? Are gimmicks like Pokemon Sword and Shield‘s Galarian Forms really enhancing the game? Or, perhaps, they’re just filler in a series that doesn’t need it.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Galarian Forms | Legendary gimmicks
This isn’t a recent problem either. It started all the way back in Generation 2 with Shiny Pokemon. That mechanic added rare instances of each species, with the only difference being a slightly different color palette. This is a perfectly executed mechanic for a game centered on collecting, persisting in every sequel since. Shiny Pokemon are now a core part of the series, but that’s the last time this would happen. Game Freak would toy with similar gimmicks going forward, but it would continually drop by the wayside like discarded toys exchanged for something shinier. No pun intended.
Things continued at a slow pace, easing us into the madness. Generation 3 had Castform and its ever-shifting form inspired by the weather. That inspired Rotom and his appliance forms, ensuring that every future game needed a washing machine. Generation 4 also had Pokemon that evolved via specific locations, which introduced the “Moss Rock” so that a handful of creatures could evolve properly. We got Pokemon evolving via beauty stats that didn’t exist in later games, evolutions based on what moves a Pokemon knew, evolution based on whether it was raining or not, a squid that evolves by turning your console upside down. It’s all very tiring to keep track of as it basically requires a wiki to sort out.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Galarian Forms | Kanto rock city
Not only did Game Freak have to push all these evolutions into new games, but it also had a new obsession with non-evolution forms, which could be part of the reason why the National Dex fell onto the scrap heap. It seems that Mega Evolutions and regional forms would not carry forward like other evolutional differences, so Game Freak could have more “fun” with them. That’s all well and good, and some folks just want to see new creatures and play through the same simplistic RPG every year or so. But there are also others who still want to “Catch ‘Em All” that find it infinitely harder as the games continue.
At the very least, Mega Evolutions are an interesting idea. In most cases, they add a well deserved alternate form to a Pokemon line and shouldn’t add to a collector’s headache. Sadly, the Mega Stones required for said evolutions throw that idea out the window, but it’s a salvageable concept. The regional differences are a different story since it’s so tied in to a single game’s identity. Unless we’re going to return of the apparently very difficult process of adding multiple regions to a single game, you can only get funny tall Executor from the Nintendo 3DS. That’s not a problem now, but it might be in the future, and Sword and Shield make it worse.
These new Switch games combine regional differences with evolutions to make Obstagoon. This is a Pokemon that only evolves from a regionally specific version of Linoone. Yes, it’s kind of amazing that there’s now a Pokemon based on Gene Simmons, but think about what happens next generation. It’s highly unlikely that the Galar region will show up again in-game for quite a while. All these alternate forms and this specific Pokemon remain trapped in Sword and Shield, just as the Alola forms are exclusive to Sun and Moon. Do you want to get one of everything? Cough up the money for the last game or get to trading. It’s too much to handle, and that’s coming from a player who went through the hassle of transferring creatures all the way from the GBA games.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Galarian Forms | Not even on my Dream Radar
If things have become so convoluted that even the developers don’t want to deal with a full Pokedex, then perhaps the time is now to wipe the slate clean. Let Pokemon Go satiate the fanbase while the main team works for more than a year on a truly next generation of Pokemon. Take a look at the full stable of creatures you have available and figure out what makes sense. Break your convoluted evolution rules if you have to. Create multiple playable regions so that different forms can run into each other and fight. Even though Sword and Shield are coming out on Nintendo Switch, they don’t seem to have the scope of a console experience. It’s very much in line with what came before, and one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises deserves better than that.
The developers surely would love to really get a handle on what makes Pokemon tick, but they probably never will. It’s a yearly franchise by necessity, given how much those games they rake in. There’s no room for really stepping back and learning from past mistakes, and the developers are building the tracks in front of a moving train. As fans, all we can do is point out the problems and hope things don’t get worse.
Like many long-running franchises at the end of this decade, Pokemon faces the problem of catering to many generations of fans with many differing opinions. Stuff like the Galarian forms are fun novelties now, but they’ll just become someone’s lost favorite tomorrow. Judging by both the state of our nostalgic society and the continued popularity of the games, a good chunk of fans are going to stick with it regardless of these hardships. Hopefully, the train eventually stops rolling just a bit so that Game Freak can keep it on the rails.