Journalist, student, writer, gamer, and walking Irish stereotype. If I'm not playing something new, I'm probably replaying Dark Souls again. Find me @JacobBrooksFL
When I was a kid, the excitement that a new Pokémon game gave me was enough to keep me feeling elated for months. Back then, the thought of being able to play it on a home console would blow my mind. Now that Pokémon Sword and Shield has been announced and is promising just that, I was surprised by my feelings of almost complete and total apathy towards the reveal. I still love the idea of Pokémon for the same reasons I did 15 years ago, but the announcement of the new generation had about as much impact on me as someone telling me it would be a warm weekend — a moment of vague happiness before forgetting about it entirely. One would think that the first mainline Pokémon game on the Switch would have been a bigger deal. So why did it feel like such a fizzle?
Part of it was that the wonder of the series has largely evaporated. I could tell you exactly what almost every part of these games will look like, because they’ll look the same as every other game since Red and Blue on the Gameboy. It will be the same unskippable pokéball tutorial, the same slow text scroll, the same annoying random encounters, the same everything. Oh sure, the gyms might be in a different order, and the type matchups may have been slightly tweaked. It won’t really matter though; every Pokémon game in years may as well have been a remaster of the previous one. These are the same problems that keep me, and a lot of other fans, from replaying the older games in the series, but still somehow find a way to manifest in every new iteration. It’s all so bloody formulaic that I couldn’t even muster up the enthusiasm to remember the name of the new games. I had to look them up online before writing this article.
Granted, we haven’t seen much of the games yet. It is entirely possible that Nintendo could reveal some big twist about them at some point before launch, like maybe there will be an option to skip the tutorial this time. However, the time to demonstrate that twist would have been the reveal: a new era of Pokémon for a brand new console. Pokémon Let’s Go offered that to some extent. Even if they weren’t all well received, the tweaks to the existing formula were generally pretty welcome by a fanbase that has been vocal about series stagnation for almost a decade. Why not have a new Pokémon catching system? Why not have a new starter type trio? Why not take some risks? Nintendo seems content to shake things up with every property except Pokémon. When they took a risk with Zelda, they created what is widely considered to be the best game of the generation. Nintendo Labo sounded absurd on paper but made them a huge profit. A battle royale version of Tetris turned out to be just what the online service needed to sell itself, and no one would have ever thought that would work. They can afford to roll the dice on Pokémon occasionally.
Alternatively, there is another path that Sword and Shield could take. Instead of trying to revolutionize the franchise, they could just refine it. A lot of the franchise fatigue that fans are feeling has to do with the fact that the same annoyances will inevitably be present in the new games. I have played literally dozens of Pokémon games, and I do not need to see a 5 minute long tutorial on how to catch a wild pokémon again There should have been an option to skip it by the second generation in the series, but here we are over twenty years later, still forced to sit through it every time. Some people will say that this is a pretty small criticism, but that’s exactly the point. It’s such a small thing to add an option to skip it, but Nintendo (or possibly Gamefreak) seems hell-bent on wasting the players time.
Give an option to speed up text boxes, let experienced players skip the tutorial, have more than one save slot, skip pokécenter animations, and for God’s sake, let us access stored Pokémon from the menu instead of PC’s like you can in Let’s Go . The games take place in essentially the same timeline as the real world, let us do it with a smartphone or something. Sword and Shield does not need to be this series equivalent of The Witcher 3, but it would be nice to see that some lessons were learned at some point in the last two decades.