Pokémon has been apart of my life since 1998 with release of Pokémon Blue for the Game boy. Ever since that fateful year I have played ever iteration of mainline Pokémon games up to Let’s Go Eevee in 2018. I will continue to do so with Pokémon Sword, slated for release in November 2019, but I do so with a sense of wariness.
Anger at the Pokémon brand is nothing new. Black and White is still met with negative criticism as many Pokémon staples were removed (criticism that this writer empathizes with), Sun and Moon was met with general frustration regarding the amount of tutorialization, and Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee was met with skepticism at the inclusion of Pokémon Go mechanics. Most video games franchises never escape some type of backlash so this is par for the course all things considered. That said the amount of backlash and outrage Pokémon Sword and Shield has been receiving in recent weeks easily represents the lowest point the Pokémon series has endured.
#Bringbacknationaldex has constantly shrouded all Pokémon news announcements ever since it was announced at E3 that the entirety of Pokémon’s cast of cute and dangerous monsters would not appear in Pokémon Sword and Shield. While some met the news with general indifference, much of the Pokémon community has expressed vocal outrage over the lack of inclusion. Pokémon since the 1st generation has always availed the entire roster of Pokémon once the main story line had been completed and the post-game had begun. With this change many fans despaired that their fan favorite Pokémon would not make the cut. And while some Pokémon may have more love than others, this poll taken by Reddit user u/mamamia1001 showed that nearly every Pokémon of the 809 that exist were loved by at least one person. Yet despite the outrage Pokémon fans held out hope that the rest of the game would come together and still provide a fun and riveting experience.
The reveal and explanation of the Gigantamax feature only serve to enrage fans further.
To preface Gigantamaxing and to quickly run down Pokémon mechanics of the past few generations, Pokémon introduced two mechanics that helped to revitalize and reinvigorate the way competitive battling was played. Pokémon X and Y introduced Mega Evolution, the process in which a Pokémon uses the power of a mega stone to temporarily evolve into a new form. This mechanics was met with general praise by the competitive community as it opened new strategy and gave players thought as to how they would construct their teams. Mega Evolution when activated would change a Pokémon’s appearance, alter a Pokémon stats, and would generally provide the Pokémon with a new ability. Once transformed the Pokémon would retain the transformation for the duration of the battle and other Pokémon could not utilize their own Mega Evolutions on the same team. In addition, most Pokémon, with the exception of Rayquaza, have to hold a special stone to Mega evolve and as a result do not have access to other items to hold. While trainers has to take trade offs in regards to Mega Evolution, many saw the form as a trump card or ace in the hole that was sorely needed in the Pokémon community and provided for various thrilling comebacks and triumphs.
With the release of Pokémon Sun and Moon, Game Freak introduced Z-moves as the new mechanic of choice. Whereas Mega Evolution was restricted to a small set of Pokémon, all Pokémon had access to Z-moves so long as they held the appropriate Z-crystal. Once again the mechanic restricts the usage of items on the Pokémon holding said move, however the moves evoked are extremely powerful provided large status boosts or extremely damaging attacks. Z-moves can miss if the opponent is in an invulnerable state such as Fly or Dig, can fail if the type is unaffected by the attack, or fail if the status move is blocked in various manners. To offset the negatives, Z-moves are able to bypass the protection effect of moves such as Spiky Shield or Protect at the cost of a reduction of power. In addition a small subset of Pokémon have exclusive Z-moves that act as unique signature moves with added benefits such as stat reductions. Where Mega Evolution had near universal praise, Z-moves was met with middling reaction. The moves were used in competitive battling and were not tossed aside yet many saw the mechanic as a step back from Mega Evolution.
With the onset of Generation 8, Game Freak announced during E3 that in addition to the removal of the national Pokédex, Mega Evolution and Z-moves would also subsequently be removed. In its place would be the next new feature, Dynamax.
Dynamax, or also known as the Dynamax phenomenon, is the temporary transformation of a Pokémon into a gigantic version of said Pokémon. Sound familiar? Many in the Pokémon community had liken the transformation to that of Mega Evolution from the changed form and increased stats. However unlike Mega Evolution, Dynamaxing is not limited to certain species of Pokémon. Also unlike Mega Evolution, Dynamaxing is limited to 3 turns before turning the Pokémon back to its original size. In addition, Dynamaxing can only be activated in specific locations such as gym battles and raid battles.
Dynamaxed Pokémon also have access to special Max moves, stronger variations of their normal moves with some containing various added effects. Not unlike Z-moves? Exactly the point many trainers are bringing up. Many see the Dynamax mechanic as a combination of Z-moves and Mega Evolution. Instead of it being a new mechanic it seems to be the lazy fusion of two older mechanics.
A lot of counterargument towards Dynamaxing stated that it allowed ALL Pokémon access to this powerful form whereas Mega Evolution was restrictive in nature and made certain Pokémon staple in team compositions such as Mega Kangaskhan. Dynamaxing was suppose to level the playing field and keep all Pokémon competitively viable.
And then Gigantamaxing was announced.
Gigantamax in a nutshell is Mega Evolution. Gigantamaxing is the process of Dynamaxing Pokémon, however it grants certain species new forms such as Alcremie becoming a cake instead of a large Alcremie. It should be noted that all Pokémon of a species cannot Gigantamax. Only certain Alcremie can become Gigantamax Alcremie. However, this is exactly comparable to the Mega Evolution mechanic to a tee. And many fans have took note of the similarity, posting their frustrations and outrage over various social media channels. The anger does not come from the Gigantamax mechanic, rather stems from the removal of the Mega Evolution mechanic for being too similar in nature.
To summarize, people are mad at Game Freak primarily for three reasons. The lack of a full national Pokédex has been worried their favorite Pokémon will not be included in the new game. It also set the precedent that future games will similarly not have a full national Pokédex. The removal of the mechanics Mega Evolution and Z-moves are frustrating the people who enjoyed said mechanics and what they provided to the competitive scene. And finally people are mad that Gigantamaxing is essentially Mega Evolution with different effects. While each can stand alone as a point of frustration, taken as a whole many fans feel that these detract from the entire product. Many on social media swear to boycott Pokémon Sword and Shield as a result and even a petition was created to bring back the national Pokédex.
Personally I am sympathetic towards the outrage. I have a fondness for the Mega Evolution of Gardevoir and would be hurt if my shiny Gardevoir could not be transferred to Pokémon Sword and Shield. However the hive mind of social media can be a bit excessive at times. To say you are frustrated is fine, but to boycott a video game seems extreme. Would I be disappointed? Absolutely. Will I still buy Pokémon? Absolutely. In the end the game design and mechanics belong to Game Freak. They are allowed the final say in what does and does not make it into their final product. I am simply here as a gamer along for the ride. One positive I can say about Sword and Shield is the design of the new species. Duraludon is one of the coolest looking dragons Pokémon has ever released. And Yamper is the cutie Corgi that ever trainer has ever wanted.
As we move closer to the release date more announcements will be had. And I’m sure anger will continue to escalate. Yet it remains to be seen as to the outcome of the events. Will Pokémon Sword and Shield be polarizing like generation 5 or praised for its innovation? Only time will tell.