Why diehard Pokémon fans are threatening to revolt against 'Sword and Shield'
"It's not an easy decision. I've played these games my entire life."
Pokémon Sword and Shield will hit shelves worldwide on November 15 and it’s shaping up to be the most controversial installment of the 23-year-old series yet. Diehard fans already are lambasting and shunning the eighth generation of Pokémon owing to what they see as a mix of poor design decisions, performance issues, and a short-lived campaign.
Life-long Pokémon fan Terotu, who asked to be identified by his Reddit username, published a 16-point list of Sword and Shield grievances on Tuesday that has amassed more than 45,000 upvotes as of Wednesday. They’ve played every Pokémon game since the 1996 release of Pokémon Red, but told Inverse their gripes with Sword and Shield might just kill their interest in the series.
“I don’t see myself buying this game, and if these problems seep into the future games, I will probably be done with the franchise,” wrote Terotu. “It’s not an easy decision. I’ve played these games my entire life.”
“Dexit” was the breaking point for many fans.
Their biggest issue with Sword and Shield was Game Freak’s decision to cut the number of usable Pokémon from previous games, a controversial June announcement fans have since nicknamed “Dexit.” In response to the outrage, producer Junichi Masuda responded by saying his team reduced the number of Pokémon to deliver on “high-quality animations.” But early glimpses of Sword and Shield revealed that Masuda’s promise has fallen flat.
On Wednesday morning, #GameFreakLied trended on Twitter. Tens of thousands of fans were exchanging leaked images and footage of Sword and Shield that clearly showed that a majority of the game’s animations had remained the same as in previous games, making them even saltier about the Pokédex cuts.
Terotu’s Reddit post also included a clip (potential spoilers) of Sword and Shield’s climax, showing awkwardly stiff animations with marginally improved resolution. Fans on Twitter also pointed out how shockingly barebones the game’s environments look is compared to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017). There’s also video evidence of the game having trouble loading things like trees, bushes, and wild Pokémon.
But wait, there’s more reasons fans are upset!
Fans anger extends beyond the removal of iconic Pokémon (RIP Dragonite), questionable graphics, and Masuda’s seemingly misleading statements. It appears 144 classic moves have also been removed removed from Sword and Shield, including Pursuit, Hidden Power, and Dragon Rage, according to a datamined list shared on Pastebin. Elsewhere, rumors have circulated that the main story section of the game would only be about “14 hours long”, significantly less than other games in the series.
Terotu told Inverse if fans aren’t vocal about their disappointment, Game Freak’s future releases will likely include more of the same shortcuts.
“This is a very dangerous breaking point for the games. While previous games had some issues, you could tell there was a lot of effort put into them,” they wrote. “These games continue a dangerous trend of low effort, and it goes way below expectations in a lot of ways. If a release like this is cherished and sells well, not only will it dictate future games philosophy, but it will also continue that downward spiral.”
Initial reviews don’t reflect fan outrage.
Popular gaming news outlets seem to disagree with those sentiments. The review embargo on Sword and Shield lifted Wednesday, and the new generation of Pokémon titles seem to have met with a positive reception thus far.
IGN’s Casey DeFreitas gave Sword and Shield a near-perfect score of 9.3. She said many of the early complaints about the game were “nitpicks” and didn’t affect the complete experience.
“Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield are closer to my dream Pokemon RPGs than anything that’s come before,” wrote DeFreitas. “I’d still like better cutscenes, companion Pokemon, the complete Pokedex, and a more visually interesting Wild Area, but nitpicks are just not very effective when everything else was such a complete joy to play.”
Gita Jackson from Kotaku said it made her feel like she did when she first played Pokémon Red on the GameBoy Color. But she added that this is a new era for the franchise and that it will likely upset some fans.
“It won’t be everything to everyone, and it will not make everyone happy,” wrote Jackson. “I’m not sure it needs to. It’s a portal to a new world. And it definitely has something for Pokémon’s core audience: everyone in the entire world.”
Games Radar’s Sam Loveridge echoed Jackson’s statements, noting that the story’s sense of intrigue that made Sword and Shield unforgettable.
“This is a seriously memorable Pokemon adventure,” he wrote. “The story delivers enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, steeped in the kinds of myths and legends that you forget the British Isles are chock-full of… It’s a great way to start the next core generation of Pokémon games.”
So far, reviewers seem to be okay with Game Freak’s omission of numerous classic Pokémon, since Sword and Shield is the beginning of something new for the series. But thousands of Pokémon are clearly not convinced about Sword and Shield, and it remains to be seen if it will impact sales or consumer reviews of the title.
Pokémon Sword and Shield will be released on the Nintendo Switch on November 15.