OPINION: How To Fix The Pokedex Issue In Sword & Shield
The wait is almost over for the latest game in the Pokemon franchise, and a lot of people are very excited (and rightly so, see my ‘5 Reasons To Be Excited For Sword & Shield’ article), but the past few months haven’t been all excitement and hype for Gen 8. Controversy has swirled around the title for a number of reasons, the biggest of which has been the limitation of the areas Pokedex to 400, rather than the 829 that make up the entire roster.
This decision to limit the amount of Pokemon available to capture and use in the Galar region means that quite a lot of peoples favourites are simply not going to be available in Sword or Shield. It’s understandable in terms of the sheer volume of Pokemon, and how difficult it would be for the developer to create all of the assets and properly balance them – especially going forward as more and more Pokemon get added in future. This is the reason that Game Freak themselves have given, and on first glance it’s absolutely logical – 400 is still a lot of Pokemon. You’re in a new region, so it stands to reason it only has so many Pokemon. I totally get it from that perspective.
Being new to the series myself, a part of me feels like this should be good enough. I don’t have a Poke Bank full of hundreds of Pokemon, and it’ll take me a long time to fully play and appreciate all of the 3DS games, never mind Sword and Shield, so this decision shouldn’t bother me at all, right?
Well… It kind of does. Not so much that I would boycott the game or threaten the devs (we absolutely condemn those who have done, that’s not on in the slightest), but enough to irk me. Pokemon has always centred around the ‘gotta catch em all’ mentality. Though this is an entirely optional way to play, previous games (including Pokemon Go) have been centred around the idea of finding and capturing – or trading – new creatures in order to update your Pokedex and have an enviable collection. The Gen 7 games, specifically Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon on the 3DS, allowed you to complete and use a ‘living’ Pokedex, meaning you could own and battle (by swapping out from your boxes and the Poke Bank) every single one of the 807 Pokemon available at the time. In Gen 8 that will no longer be the case, and I think that takes away a bit of the spirit of these games.
Putting my thinking cap on, I began to ponder whether there might be a better way. Can we retain the developers desire to limit the main game to 400 Pokemon, while also giving fans and collectors a way to bring in other hard-earned Pokemon should they want to?
Here’s how I would propose fixing the issue that is seemingly dividing the Pokemon community. Game Freak could add the ability for players to import all Pokemon from other games they have played, even if they’re not available to catch in the Galar region itself, through paid DLC, their upcoming Pokemon Home app, or a combination of the two. I understand creating the assets for an additional 429 creatures would be a lot of work for the team, but if they were to charge additional money for the privilege then this would surely make it worth their while.
The paid DLC option would essentially be the addition of a new wild area (perhaps an island off the coast of the Galar region) which would be home to either all or a portion (if they wanted to split this into DLC packs) of the Pokemon not included in the main game. I would propose this new area isn’t unlocked until the main game has been completed, thereby meaning your main adventure is still limited to the initial 400. However, this new DLC would then not only unlock the Pokemon and new area (possibly with new gyms and challenges – I’d suggest locking previous legendary and mythical beasts behind these), but potentially also a ‘new game plus’ mode where battles against other trainers and gym leaders in the main game become harder still, allowing people to utilise their ‘new’ Pokemon in a second play-through. Having DLC like this means that players new to the series can still find and capture every Pokemon ever conceived. Also, we’ve already seen a similar set up in Black and White, where only the new Pokemon could caught and used at the start of the game, so it’s not something which is out of the question, historically speaking.
Not much is known about Pokemon Home just yet, besides the fact that it is the new app that people can use to store and trade their Pokemon via. Poke Bank can also be linked to it, meaning your full collection from older games can be brought in. Poke Bank currently charges five whole pounds per year for its use (a bargain, I’d say), so it’s only logical to assume that Home will also have some kind of subscription fee. My idea here would be to include the ability to bring any of the Pokemon in your collection into Sword and Shield, should you subscribe to the service. This would provide cash for the developer to use in order to create the assets for the game, and if needs be they could slowly introduce the availability of Pokemon, kind of how they did it for Pokemon Go perhaps – gen by gen. I personally wouldn’t mind spending a fair amount on a subscription that allowed me to do this, and I think others who actually have a living Pokedex, unlike me, would jump at this option
If you combine the two, then Home subscribers perhaps wouldn’t have to wait for Pokemon to be added as the DLC could have introduced them all already, and they also wouldn’t have to go out and catch em all again – but could enjoy the additional content the DLC supplies. Meanwhile, those who have no access to prior games (or no drive to play them) can still get a complete collection, right from Sword and Shield.
Basically, Game Freak just need to be incentivised to add this content. It’s not fair to expect them to add so much for the price of the standard game, especially considering that all the assets would need to be created from scratch due to this being a new console. If fans are willing to pay extra to be able to have access to every one of the 829 Pokemon in the new games then I think this is the best solution we have. This would also set future Switch games up to be capable of utilising ALL Pokemon.
Besides, it’s not like Nintendo are averse to taking money for the same content (*cough*Wii/Wii U Virtual Consoles*cough*), so there’s absolutely precedent here. We just need to make our voices heard – nicely.