Pokémon Sword & Shield Producer Explains Controversial Pokédex Limitation

Pokémon Sword & Shield Producer Explains Controversial Pokédex Limitation

There are rarely any games as anticipated as a new entry in the Pokémon series. The upcoming Sword and Shield versions are no exceptions, with new entries to the Galar Pokédex proving wildly popular. But at this year’s E3, development studio Game Freak dropped a revelation that broke the Internet in an entirely different way: The National Pokédex, which allows players to find and catch every Pokémon, will not be featured in Sword and Shield.

To say that this caused an uproar is an understatement, and one doesn’t have to look far to find upset fans. To address the controversy, long-time series director/producer Junichi Masuda made an official statement on the Pokémon website:

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.

Let’s follow this up with some speculation. Consider the statement made in the middle; ‘if a specific Pokémon is not available in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, that does not mean it will not appear in future games.’ While intentionally vague, it does raise the possibility of this National Pokédex removal being permanent. I, for one, would be pleased to see this happen.

Yes, pleased.

Look, I get it. I’s understandable that fans may be distraught at not being able to transfer their favourite pocket monsters to the new titles. Some of them would even have been physically transferred from as far back as the third generation of games! But this upcoming eighth generation of games will put the running total of Pokémon up to around a thousand. That’s a lot of ‘mons.

But there’s an upside to this that I’m very excited about. Imagine, if you will, no longer knowing which Pokémon will feature in newer games. Formerly guaranteed entries will become mysteries; your teams will become different each game! On the competitive side of things, available Pokémon changing dramatically each generation could make the meta much less static. Not saying that it doesn’t change the way it is now, but it could further open up the scene to newcomers and even challenge some veterans!

Remember when you played these games back in the day, and part of the fun was discovering new critters to raise and decimate opponents with? If there’s any way that feeling of childlike wonder is coming back, it’s by limiting the number of Pokémon. There’s a disturbing amount of people that never give new ‘mons a shot. Sure, it’s their choice. But if you never leave your comfort zone, how will you find your new favourite Electric type?

A second reason to be excited is the possibilities of a ‘soft reboot’. The nine-year-old Black and White versions attempted this approach with excluding non-new Pokémon from the ‘regional’ list, making it a controversial entry in the series (The National Pokédex, however, did feature in that game). As a quite old series, Pokémon suffers from some significant feature creep – for want of a better word. 1000 Pokémon is a damn lot, and not all are necessarily created equal. Is anybody losing sleep over Dunsparce? Or Garbador? Well, I’m losing sleep over my garbage boy – I stand up for my Poison-type amigos. But if a cleaner experience necessitates sacrifice, I’m willing to make it. Who knows, we could all be pleasantly surprised. Less work on Pokémon should mean a more polished game in theory, which is never unpleasant!

Finally, please don’t berate Game Freak for what’s essentially a design choice in a franchise for children. They get plenty of that ‘criticism’ already. Kotaku’s Zack Zweizen succulently put it:

The people at Gamefreak who are working on this game are spending months and years of their lives developing this new Pokemon adventure. It’s okay to be disappointed or even a bit upset about the National Dex news. But don’t attack, harass or insult the people making this game. That accomplishes nothing and is a shitty way to treat people.

Pokémon Sword and Shield is scheduled for release on November 15th 2019.

Aza blames his stunted social skills and general uselessness on a lifetime of video games. Between his ears is a comprehensive Team Fortress 2 encyclopedia. His brain, on the other hand, remains at large.