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November 13, 2019 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Pokemon Sword & Shield: ambitious in places, seemingly unfinished in others [VG24/7] “In some ways, Pokemon Sword & Shield is the most ambitious Pokemon title ever. In other ways, it is a definitive step back. It’s a strange game. The promise of Pokemon Sword & Shield was always that it’d be a return to form. I really liked Pokemon Let’s Go for what it was – a simplified, streamlined remake of a classic designed to work as a gateway for lapsed fans and Pokemon Go players. Many of the ideas expressed in that title deserve to be carried back to the main series, but there was understandably a hardcore element that was missing there. The promise was that the next games would remedy that. This is the strangest thing about Sword & Shield: after all those promises, I’m not really sure it does.” [YouTube][Game Trailer]

• Pokémon Sword and Shield are the best Pokémon games in years [The Verge]
“In the past, I almost always knew what to expect: a series of small challenges followed by a battle inside a gym with a high-level trainer who is obsessed with pokémon of a particular type. And while that remains largely the same in the latest Nintendo Switch release, a newfound sense of scale turns it into something more exciting, with huge arenas filled with thousands of screaming fans while gigantic, holographic monsters do battle. This is the same Pokémon you know and love, but it’s cranked up with a bigger world and more adventurous spirit. [...] The game takes place in a new region called Galar, which is very clearly based on the United Kingdom. There’s a city that looks like London, ancient castles that wouldn’t be out of place in Scotland, and lots of rolling green English countryside to venture through. And if that didn’t drive it home, Sword and Shield are also full of English slang. You’ll battle with coppers, buy trackies from the shop, and just about everyone will call you “mate.” It can be a bit much at times, but it definitely gives Galar its own distinct flavor within the wider Pokémon universe.”
• Pokémon Sword & Shield – Maxing Out The Pokémon Formula [Game Informer]
“Throughout the history of the Pokémon franchise, each entry has introduced incremental new features and experimented with new mechanics to support your primary goal: traveling the world in search of the rarest and most powerful creatures. Pokémon Sword & Shield carry on this tradition, debuting a new wide-open area and supersized Pokémon in battles, without sacrificing the elements that made the series such a hit in the first place. While not every aspect of this new generation is perfect, Pokémon Sword & Shield bring several crowd-pleasing elements to deliver an outstanding new installment. Despite the technological leap forward and the aforementioned experiments, the core tenants of the Pokémon series remain intact. You choose a starter Pokémon in your small hometown, then venture across the region and collect new monsters in a quest to defeat eight powerful trainers and gain access to the final challenges. Finding the right combination of Pokémon for pivotal battles remains fun, and I still get a kick out of creating overpowered teams through stat-boosting items and move-teaching TMs that let you bend the rules.”
• Pokémon Sword and Shield - Dynamaxing Expectations [Nintendo Life]
“There’s a lot of classic hallmarks here, but it’s sprinkled with a few interesting (if potentially inconsequential) differences, such as the Pokémon that neither you nor Hop picks at the start being taken by the Champion rather than being sent to the processing plant to make more candy in Pokémon GO. This last-chicken-in-the-shop also happens to be the monster that’s super effective against your own choice, which instinctively filled us with a sense of dread and anticipation thinking about when we’d have to face up against them. What’s also new in Pokémon Sword And Shield is the hands-off approach to tutorials; the game does offer to explain things to you through dialogue options, but if you tell the game you’re already hard enough to tackle the swathes of level 2 monsters living just outside your house without any guidance, it’ll just let you be on your way. Considering how massive the franchise is, this is a very welcome breath of fresh air for series veterans and certainly seems to streamline the introductory part of the game.”
• The trickiest thing about Pokémon is trying to figure out who it’s for. [Kotaku]
“After 20 years, the behemoth series has accrued many masters to serve: kids, competitive players, and grown-ups who just want to pet a Pikachu. As such, Sword and Shield have already been divisive for months before release. Ever since it was announced that it would not be possible to import every Pokémon into this generation’s games, there has been a subset of fans who have primed themselves to hate this game. It’s easy to focus on this loud group decrying “Dexit,” the moniker they’ve given the cut roster of monsters. But that’s not the only story of what it means to be a Pokémon fan right now. Since Red and Blue released for the GameBoy in 1998, Pokémon has been a phenomenon. For many people my age, Pokémon is a relic of childhood, a tangible piece of nostalgia that miraculously keeps reappearing. So I want this review to clear some things up. I won’t currently address all of the complaints due to restrictions on spoilers, but I can say, unequivocally: Pokémon Sword and Shield are good games.”
• Pokémon Sword and Shield open up the world enough to spark wonder [Polygon]
“The Pokémon franchise is more than 20 years old. Its last game, Pokémon: Let’s Go!, was the franchise’s flawed-yet-charming move away from purely handheld gameplay when it was released on Nintendo Switch in 2018. Sword and Shield is an expansion of what Game Freak started with Let’s Go!, but with some meaningful changes. There’s a formula to Pokémon games: a preteen Pokémon trainer collecting pocket monsters to create a team strong enough to win a battle. The games are always nostalgic, but Sword and Shield is never mindless. It feels familiar in all the right ways, while adding elements that surprised me, for good and bad. But mostly good. [...] Though it’s a story Pokémon fans have heard before, Sword and Shield works because of its characters, both human and Pokémon — though not all are created equal.”
• Go Big or Go Home [Gamespot]
“With each new Pokemon game comes a new set of Pokemon, mechanics, and a region to discover, and Sword and Shield are no exception. The vibrant Galar region is a consistent delight to explore, incentivizing and rewarding collecting and battling in equal measure, and grandiose battles add an exciting dimension to the familiar Gym formula to deliver an engaging adventure beginning to end. But most notably, Sword and Shield cut down on the tedious and protracted elements from previous games in favor of amplifying what makes Pokemon great in the first place. This is the most balanced a Pokemon game has felt in a long time, and with that, Sword and Shield mark the best new generation of Pokemon games in years. [...] In collecting, battling, and exploring, Sword and Shield cut out the bloat and focus on what makes these pillars of the Pokemon games so captivating in the first place. You're not held back by overly complicated back-end systems or hoops to jump through; from the outset, you can start wandering the Galar region, seeing its new Pokemon, and trying out its new battle strategies with very little in your way. This leaves you free to enjoy what Pokemon is all about, and that makes for an incredibly strong showing for the series' proper debut on Switch.”
• Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield dev addresses backlash in impassioned message to fans [Eurogamer]
“The producer of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield has issued an impassioned message to fans following the backlash to the news the games won't support every single Pokémon species. Earlier this month it emerged Sword and Shield, which pushes the series' overall Pokémon count to over 1000, won't let you catch all the Pokémon, nor will you be able to transfer Pokémon outside of the games' regional Pokédex. Sword and Shield, then, are the first new, mainline Pokémon games not to support every single Pokémon species. The backlash to this news was as vociferous as it was immediate. In a prior interview with Japanese magazine Famitsu, Game Freak producer Junichi Masuda explained "it has become extremely difficult to make Pokémon with a new personality play an active part and to balance their compatibility".”
posted by Fizz (27 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
No Ekans, no sale!
posted by Pendragon at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think I'm going to skip this Pokemon (barring some kind of massive sale or finding it used and on a deal).

This is the first generation where I'm just kind of 🤷🏾 about the game. It looks very generic and I feel like this series has not done enough to adapt or evolve (the irony).

Also, I have like 20 other games I should be playing.
posted by Fizz at 9:54 AM on November 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

I really wasn't sure "gamers" could find a new thermal later of insane toxic discourse but apparently Pokemon is a national emergency now? I just hope everyone at Game Freak is able to weather the hate wave.
posted by selfnoise at 10:01 AM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

That there is already a pet term for not cramming 1000 creatures, their models, animations, and game balance all into one game is why we can't have nice things.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:14 AM on November 13, 2019

I will likely get this game at some point but my kids haven't really finished Let's Go Pikachu yet, I mean we've defeated the Elite Four but we haven't captured Mewtwo or beaten those specific Pokemon experts yet so there's still a bit more to do, so we can still wait a bit.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:25 AM on November 13, 2019

I really wasn't sure "gamers" could find a new thermal later of insane toxic discourse but apparently Pokemon is a national emergency now? I just hope everyone at Game Freak is able to weather the hate wave.

I love shitting on gamers and gamer culture as the next person who loves an easy group to pick on with relatively unhateful justification. But the comparison to national emergency seems uncalled for, this is an issue pretty much constrained to reactions about the world's most successful IP and a company charging a premium price with inferior content knowing their brand strength alone will ensure millions of sales regardless of what they put out.

Seems most of the complaints are fair and justified. The "it's a franchise for kids" doesn't hold up when the point of marketing anything at kids is twofold: First, make kids want something strongly enough to pester their loving parents into buying commercial products for them. Second, capitalize on the childhood born love for artwork and ideas you legally control to continue to sell products to them. Adult fans and demands of pokemon games aren't an accident and it's something they overtly claimed to consider and support. It's also not unreasonable to expect the games cater to it's audiences, babys-first-pokemon, easy-kid-mash-fest, and serious compettive breeders and brawlers can all be included in the games, have before, could again. It's not as though the different audiences pull the game in radically different directions, one things the games historically have been masters of is making the complexity of the game almost entirely hidden, it was there, but you had to dig to find or mess with it, no hapless kid was going to stumble upon the complex world of EVs and IVs playing naturally.

I'm also more concerned about how the company itself treats it's workers with an intense yearly release and development schedule at the helm of an enormous cruise-liner behemoth of marketing and ancillary franchises and products than I am them about passionate fans displeased with the latest product whipped out.

Lastly, the games are built around this idea of bonding with your little creatures. People have no problem growing attachments to inanimate objects, let alone digital, loveable creature -- comforting teddy bears from their youth. Previously they outright encouraged you to keep and carry your beloved pokemon, they make you feel guilty releasing them, or abandoning them in boxes. Then they released a paid service to store your pokemon across games semi-conveniently, but at the same time would not hesitate to permanently delete your beloved monsters if you didn't make payment for their service. They are soonish going to release something else, but even worse, with a double subscription required and no guarantee you will ever actually be able to bust out your beloved monsters, who may instead be forever trapped in their app without a way to store them physically.

Anyway, I know it's easy to dismiss people being upset over something like this, it's easy to dismiss anything you haven't been made to care about, something that hasn't been a familiar constant and small part of your life since childhood. Pokemon might not be real, being passionate about the games might be silly, but the love people have for their little critters is real and it only takes a little empathy to understand why these design choices have upset longtime fans.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:01 AM on November 13, 2019 [12 favorites]

I pre-ordered, cancelled, and am now playing with the idea of pre-ordering after all.

I thought Let's Go was lovely, and a lot of things folks decried as oversimplification (e.g., built in utility moves) were absolutely improvements to me. But it was MEGA short and had no real post-game. I haven't gone back to it once, whereas I still pick up X and Y now and then to change my outfit, put together a team, and do a few battles. Sword and Shield seems to have the same issue, so I'm worried that it could be disappointing for players like me who like to spend 100s of hours after the Elite Four catching everything, breeding for IVs/movesets, buying everything in the stores, shiny hunting, etc.

I really wasn't sure "gamers" could find a new thermal later of insane toxic discourse but apparently Pokemon is a national emergency now?

I've been following this pretty closely, and maybe it's because I've been selective in my sources/tuning out frothing garbage, but I haven't seen a ton of discourse I'd describe as "toxic". Yeah, it's there. There's a lot of stuff that sounds way overheated or silly. But some of the issues people have shared about the release seem pretty damning as far as this possibly ending up being less-than-stellar. Battles with no backgrounds/in a void, cutscenes with no music, clipping probs, crummy/reused animations.

I dunno. Maybe i'll wait for the inevitable deluge of used copies after the new year. I've always like picking up used carts and seeing what ppl named their 'mons anyway.
posted by Ennis Tennyone at 11:11 AM on November 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

To be clear, I am not comparing it to a national emergency. People on the internet are literally calling this "Dexit". Brexit is a national emergency.

Anyway, I've been waiting almost a decade for a new Elder Scrolls game that is certainly another five years out at minimum and will probably be disappointing but I promise not to start talking about Bethxit. Or Todxit, or something... I dunno I think I need to workshop that.
posted by selfnoise at 11:13 AM on November 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've been following this pretty closely, and maybe it's because I've been selective in my sources/tuning out frothing garbage, but I haven't seen a ton of discourse I'd describe as "toxic".

Are you trying to tell me to stop reading Resetera. Because uh you are correct
posted by selfnoise at 11:14 AM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I see what you're saying, but "-xit" has become a pretty common short hand for the seemingly destructive and senseless elective removal of something from a greater and more stable established body. Like how "watergate" gets continually reference with "-gate" in every other scandal, no matter how spuriously relevant to the original scandal of the name.

As for the inevitable 10 steps back with an inch of turtle wax polish each new Elder Scrolls brings... I'm not sure "-xit" is relevant, new iterations being disappointing compared previous iterations is almost just a part of the series itself at this point, but in the interest of cheekiness -- perhaps we can call it Oblivioning. Morrowind got Oblivioned, and Skyrim was an Oblivioning of Oblivion, it stands to reason ESVI will be an Oblivioning of Skyrim. Hmmm... maybe not any more catchy or helpful than your musings after all.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Nintendo-gamer-daughter informs me that much of the ire relates to the Pokemon Bank, a paid subscription service that allows you to transfer your captured (and trained) pokemon to different games.

Some gamers had been (have been?) paying $5/month for a long time, with the expectation that they'd be able to bring their favorites into Sword & Shield when it was released. They're now facing the fact that (1) no, that's not going to happen, and (2) whatever they catch in S&S, may be limited to that game, because there's no guarantee these new pokes are going to carry into the next game.

There's a new service, Pokemon Home, being released next year, just for the new games. So you can pay for TWO subscriptions to transfer your pokemon from one game to the next, depending on which hardware is involved!

Plenty of fans feel cheated, and many are going to give up on the service.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:25 AM on November 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

I linked to that last article because once I saw the hashtag #DEXIT, my eyes almost rolled so far back into my brain that they almost exploded. It's such a small thing to become upset over.

And I get it, we care about the games we play, but we shouldn't start to harass people who make games or employees at these studios over it. So much of this comes from entitlement.

The best way to express displeasure at a game is to vote with your dollars/wallet.
posted by Fizz at 11:28 AM on November 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

paying $5/month
That's $5/year, just for the record.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 11:50 AM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

"The best way to express displeasure at a game is to vote with your dollars/wallet."

I don't believe this at all, especially not for a franchise like this. It's basically a very capitalistic way to say "shut up." They could release Sword and Shield as pong with pikachu's face as the ball and it would still sell millions pre-release. Voting with your wallet is important but so is vocally complaining and getting those complaints seen, heard, and acknowledged by the creators.

Harassing workers is obviously bad, but the majority of what's going on isn't harassment, it's just people voicing their complaints.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:57 AM on November 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

That's $5/year, just for the record.

Oops, sorry. I'm so used to that being a monthly subscription cost that I glossed over it being annual. So: less financial hardship than I'd thought. Still a whole lot of, "so... why am I paying for this?" reactions.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:15 PM on November 13, 2019

Has anyone involved here addressed the kind of weird aspect that the ‘sword and shield’ were the emblems of all the Soviet intelligence services, from Cheka to KGB? It’s in odd taste I’ve thought, since I heard about the title
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:34 PM on November 13, 2019

I was hyped from the trailer but as news came out and I'm less interested. I played UM and it was fun just nothing to do after clearing the main quest so I ended up selling it later. I'm still playing FE3H (100+ hrs) so I'll be good unless there's a major patch that'll fix everything.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 1:47 PM on November 13, 2019

Oops, sorry. I'm so used to that being a monthly subscription cost that I glossed over it being annual. So: less financial hardship than I'd thought. Still a whole lot of, "so... why am I paying for this?" reactions.

As someone with who has a living dex in progress in my Pokemon Bank (for which I have a corresponding IRL spreadsheet to record stats, natures, hidden powers, and other interesting traits) including a "Special Collections" bit with a section for shinies, event pokemon, cherished trades with sentimental value, and things with funny names I randomly ended up with through the Global Trade System, this is a biggie for me.

(Which did not stop me from reinstating my previously cancelled preorder a little while ago. Grass starter for life. See ya Friday, Grookey my dude.)
posted by Ennis Tennyone at 1:48 PM on November 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

For me Pokémon has always been one of those games where I enjoy the idea and the world more than I like the games themselves. They've always been too grindy to me. The only mainline RPG I played was Red, and I didn't even finish it. I did finish Let's Go. I also play a Pokémon spinoff game, and am involved with the scene there, so I have a lot of Pokémon-loving friends.

If you think any of the framing of this post is exaggerated, I promise you if you're in the scene it sure doesn't feel that way. Every day this week there's been a Pokémon-related hashtag trending on Twitter, and that's if you're not logged in. If you are and Twitter knows you like Pokémon, good luck.

Most of the people and points on both sides are reasonable. But the Pokémon fanbase is huge, so just by playing the numbers, it's unfortunately inevitable that some of them have crossed the line. There's a change.org petition asking Trump to ban sales of Sword/Shield. Is it serious? Poe's Law means it's really hard to tell. But it's there, and at face value portrays the existence of this game as a (US!) national problem. I've also seen tweets using sexual imagery and racist Japanese "accents" to criticize Game Freak's perceived attitude towards its fans. What is normally a respite and a source of joy for me on the Internet has been angry and trying for the past few weeks.

As a software developer, I know that (big) games only get more expensive to make, and the National Dex only grows. To me it seems like there had to inevitably come a time when Game Freak couldn't include the whole dex in every game. For whatever myriad reasons, which were probably both business and technical, they decided this was that game. I understand fans' disappointment. And the other apparent technical problems with this game combine to make a really bad look that Game Freak isn't too concerned about the quality of the game they're putting out. I don't blame anyone for calling those out either.

I don't have any special information, I'm just speculating, but to me it feels like this is the game where Game Freak the development shop really buckled under the weight of Pokémon the franchise. They wanted to take the game in genuinely new, modern directions with the Wild Area and camping, and they built the skeleton of the game around that. But they bit off more than they could chew. More powerful Switch hardware and general game development trends meant all that work took longer and more money than ever. Delaying the game isn't an option, because Nintendo is counting on it as their holiday system seller, and there's anime to air, trading cards to print, toys to sell. So they cut other things. Pokémon, moves, technical corners.

I find it hard to blame them. The whole situation is sad, for sure, all around. But more than anything else, it just seems like a victim of making commercial art under capitalism.
posted by brett at 2:16 PM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

My sympathy is with the dex collectors and competitive players who aren't getting the expansive game they deserved, genuinely, but I'm merely a wee casual cog in the capitalist machine who wants to catch some cute 'mons and squeeze maybe 20 hours out of the game and be done with it. The post-gamergate internet has a habit of turning legitimate criticism into non-stop, profoundly over-dramatic toxicity that I've unfortunately experienced firsthand this time around and it's really souring me on participating in a fandom I've mostly enjoyed for the past 20 years.
posted by mcfighty at 6:53 PM on November 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

the kind of weird aspect that the ‘sword and shield’ were the emblems of all the Soviet intelligence services

Sword and shield are a classic pairing that shows up throughout history and culture of all sorts. Certainly no one brought up the concern when Marvel had the S.W.O.R.D. counterpart to the more popular S.H.I.E.L.D.
posted by explosion at 8:46 PM on November 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

All I really want to do is play Pokemon Heart Gold on my Nintendo Switch. Or maybe a 3d version of that! I'm so annoyed.
posted by yueliang at 11:14 PM on November 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Never pokémanned before, just picked up Sword (not entirely clear on the difference between the two or what you get for combining (?) them, but the price of one was more than enough for me right now.

I'm very confused. In the wild area and getting my ass kicked a bit. And now my switch is recharging.

This is fun, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:34 PM on November 19, 2019

Yeah, that's what I'm seeing. I'm heading from the London Stand-in City Motostoke to the first Gym currently (while letting Switch recharge again.) This being an RPG, I fully expect I'll hit a wall at some point letting me know just how much more grinding I've been expected to be doing over this journey, but I'm picking up everything that I can. And all the city names are hilariously U.K.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:52 PM on November 19, 2019

Oh, and my starting Scorbunny (this seemed at once the most obviously basic, but obviously correct choice, for me to begin with) is now a Raboot, which is fun, and one of my other party members has evolved as well (into a Nuzleaf.) I assume these are generally good things.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:54 PM on November 19, 2019

I've only played the original Pokemon and Diamond so things may have changed but...

It isn't always a good idea to evolve your Pokemon at the earliest opportunity. Once they evolve it takes them longer to learn new moves. So in the short term you get the stat boost for the evolved Pokemon but it'll take longer to get that killer attack (or maybe you can't get it?). When the Pokemon starts to evolve you can press a button to stop it. You'll be able to evolve them when they level up later on.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:30 PM on November 20, 2019

They've always been too grindy to me.

Well, this may be the installment for you. I agree that the grind is obnoxious, but in this generation (and maybe in recent gens, I only ever played Gen I and Gen II before this) your entire party gets experience in every fight, whereas before only the individual fight participants would get XP. So everyone levels up a lot faster and there's much less pacing back and forth fighting an endless string of Zubats.
posted by zeusianfog at 2:33 PM on November 20, 2019

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