For the first time ever in a mainline Pokemon title, fans won’t have access to all of the pocket monsters from past generations. This isn’t a one-off decision due to it being the first proper entry on Nintendo Switch either, as Game Freak has said that future titles will continue with the strategy of limiting what Pokemon are available. Fans have been livid about the limited Pokemon Sword and Shield Pokedex, but there is some upside to a more limited roster even if it won’t likely pacify those that are currently bummed out.
This isn’t to downplay the complaints of fans that are understandably upset over the removal of their favorite Pokemon, though, especially given how spectacularly Breath of the Wild changed the Zelda series after moving to a new system. While a lot of consumers have gone overboard in their complaints by calling the developers lazy and saying that the developers don’t care about the series, their anger comes from a true and valid place. After all, a large part of Pokemon‘s entire identity as a global media franchise is the phrase “Gotta catch ’em all.” They’ve encouraged players to invest hundreds of hours over the years to collect these Pokemon and to learn that they can’t be brought over to the new release is a huge divergence in attitude. Even if playing Pokemon is a leisurely activity, people still put in a ton of effort into maxing out their collection.
As such, it’s easy to understand where the hardcore fanbase is coming from. A lot of players have developed bonds with their favorite pocket monsters, have purchased merchandise featuring them, and look forward to having them in their squad. Meanwhile, competitive players will have to come up with new strategies if their mainstays haven’t made the cut. Klefki, which is ironically my favorite Pokemon, and Swampert, my actual favorite Pokemon, won’t be making it into Sword and Shield. It’s a bummer, but there are still plenty of awesome designs to be looking forward to this generation.
The smaller Pokemon Sword and Shield Pokedex has more upside than you think
One of the biggest advantages to the smaller selection of pocket monsters is that it makes filling out the Pokedex a far more achievable goal. I’ve been playing Pokemon for over 20 years now, but the first time that I actually accomplished the goal that was on the back of the box and caught them all was in Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu. It was something I never attempted in recent games as it seemed far too daunting of a task. However, I was able to fill out all 151 Pokemon and even get all of the variant forms as well. It will be considerably more difficult to do so in Sword and Shield, but it’s still not nearly as terrifying as it has been in the past. That will get more people to dive deep into the game rather than just enjoy it at a surface level.
The smaller Pokedex will also force players to appreciate new pocket monsters and the old ones that did make the cut rather than relying on old favorites. Having to use some new Pokemon that would have otherwise just sat in your collection collecting dust is a good thing and it will encourage players to vary how they play. It also makes the returning Pokemon feel a bit more special. Due to the limited amount of old pocket monsters in the game, I’m beyond excited about Zigzagoon making it into the game and I wouldn’t have given the raccoon a second glance in Sun and Moon.
This also gives Game Freak an opportunity to create more realistic ecosystems for their regions. They don’t have to shoehorn in old Pokemon if they don’t make sense, and it means that a ton of Pokemon from other regions won’t randomly invade the world after you beat the main story. With Sword and Shield being the most immersive Pokemon game yet, it makes sense for the game to try to build a more fitting world for players to explore. It will also help these areas feel more unique, as we’ve already seen plenty of caves with Zubats and Geodudes in them. Changing things up can only be viewed as a positive in a series this old and set in their ways.
It’s not changing, so it’s time to accept the Sword and Shield Pokedex
Game Freak has no intention on adding the rest of the Pokemon to the game in future updates, so players will have to accept the Pokemon Sword and Shield Pokedex even if they don’t like it. With the smaller scope of Pokemon, this has allowed the developer to create new forms of already beloved pocket monsters. Some are regional variants built around the British-theme of the game such as the bong top hat-wearing Weezing, while others are just twists on a familiar face like Ponyta and the aforementioned Zigzagoon. We’re also getting a few new evolutions of established Pokemon, so that’s a real treat for those that have followed the series throughout the years. It seemed as though Farfetch’d would never evolve, but that’s now happening in the latest release. This attention to past Pokemon might not have been feasible if every drip of work had been spent on cramming every possible Pokemon and move into the game.
The key to the future will be making sure that there is a good rotation of past Pokemon in future entries. Players don’t need a ton of the original 151 in this game since remakes of Hoenn just released on Switch last year. They have an option to spend time with Pikachu and the original starters if they want. So, if The Pokemon Company can alternate between remakes and new titles, it can wind up satisfying the nostalgia crowd and new players in one fell swoop. If that is the plan, then even those upset about the Pokemon Sword and Shield Pokedex won’t have a ton to complain about as they’ll get to spend quality time with their favorites, even if they’re not all in the same game.