The Pokemon series isn’t especially renowned for being progressive. I think its fair to say its glacial like innovation is the equivalent speed of an asthmatic sloth shuffling home to fill in some tax returns. Moreover its always been a rather stubborn brand, anxious to make even the most minute alterations. Its reluctance to evolve as it were can largely be attributed to GameFreaks obsessive need to preserve. Their “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach has been an especially lucrative adage. With Pokemon being the second best selling series for Nintendo, having sold in excess of 300 million copies worldwide, only surpassed by Mario, its easy to understand GameFreaks reluctance to innovate. The proliferating success of the series has seemingly been suppressed by the frequency at which the games are released. With the exception of a few peripheral advances, most notably the introduction of a day and night cycle and a visible experience meter in gen 2, the former of which was actually removed from the proceeding game, the series obstinate adherence to commercial prevelance has always been Pokemons greatest weakness. That an the insidiously antiquated system that only permits one save file per game!? So with the announcement that “Pokemon Sword and Shield” will purposely omit many established Pokemon, I can’t say I’m really that surprised.
The ubiquitous “Gotta catch em all” slogan hasn’t really been a pervasive incentive for quite some time. With over 800 fictional species to collect, tame and battle, over the course of 7 widely fluctuating generations, its almost farcical to expect anyone to accomplish this thankless, arduous task. Having a redacted level of creatures to compile streamlines the adventure, enabling GameFreak to provide a greater emphasis on story. Unlikely as that seems considering Pokemons well established reluctance to change from the numerous derivatives of a young trainer exploring a region, gaining notoriety through battling Gyms and crippling a criminal gang seeking world domination. Perhaps there’s a degree of comfort from the familiarity, that the games rather simplistic nature simply doesn’t necessitate overly complicated themes or mature elements. I disagree though. There doesn’t need to be a drastic topical adaptation, perhaps a subplot concerning ecological unrest or the ethical implications of capturing Pokemon for the purposes of inciting violence. Something? But I digress. The point is…well, I’ve forgotten that too.
GameFreak limiting the number of formative species was inevitable. When the series next “creative” measure is introducing mineral and dairy based Pokemon as an actual logical development, then of course you’re going to limit the visibility of more interesting Pokemon. Though I’ll admit that an Ice cream Pokemon could have some rather devastating, super effective moves against a lactose intolerant Pokemon. Of course a diminishing roster of Pokemon isn’t the only controversy, as there’s also been prevalent speculation that GameFreak have been using 3d models from past games, to cut down on production, which GameFreak have vigerously refuted. This is a far less desirable revelation that can’t be defended, if the alleged allegations are indeed true of course.
What I’ve seen of Sword and Shield so far however is promising, if mildly concerning. I’ve been waiting the better part of a decade for a mainline Pokemon game that I can play on a home console, and I just don’t want it messed up. For the moment I’m edging on the side of pragmatism, hoping that any pessimism I have will be dismissed when Sword and Shield delivers on my lofty childhood expectations. No pressure!