Gotta Catch Some of 'Em, I Guess
If you haven't been following developments with Pokemon Sword and Shield, you might have missed this whole "Dexit" thing. It's got fans in a bit of an uproar — understandably so, all things considered — and it's put a serious downer on what should be a crowning moment for the Pokemon franchise. I, too, am not in the best spirits as the bad Pokemon Sword and Shield news piles up, especially because it put an end to a dream of mine.
Simply put, I was very much looking forward to following the original Pokemon tagline and catching them all. I had never truly completed a Pokedex, and I thought now as good a time as any. Unfortunately, Dexit brought an end to that.
Dexit and #BringBackNationalDex — A Recap
To understand my troubles, it requires an understanding of two things: Dexit and #BringBackNationalDex.
Several months ago, the disquieting announcement was made that there wouldn't be a "National Dex" in Pokemon Sword and Shield. Without getting too technical, this was the developers saying that, for the first time, you wouldn't be able to import all of your previously-captured Pokemon into the newest game of the franchise.
Then, the leaks happened. Whether it was stores breaking street dates, reviewers, or something else entirely, a purported list of the new game's roster had been leaked online. The news, suffice it to say, was not good.
More than half of the Pokemon had been cut.
Dexit thus took off and countless irate fans expressed their dissatisfaction at best and unbridled rage at worst, mourning the loss of some of their favorites. The term had been used earlier in the year, but it was only just recently that it really seemed to have caught on.
Perhaps most devastating was the loss of nearly every starter from previous games save for Pikachu, Eevee, and Charmander. (A later datamine found some more starters like Bulbasaur and Squirtle in the game's files, likely being saved for future special events.) Longtime friends that many of us grew up with — Bulbasaur and Squirtle most prominent among them — would not be in a core Pokemon game for the first time in history.
A Boy's Dream, Nearly Realized
While there was a lot of information here and there about a new Pokemon game, it was the above trailer that really did it for me personally. I'm not ashamed to say that the crescendo of the music revealing an open field with wild Pokemon brought a tear to my eye.
This was what fans have been dreaming of for (quite literally) decades. A core Pokemon game on Nintendo's flagship console with multiplayer and an open-world component. It was everything we could have possibly asked for.
I'm not exactly swimming in money, but I'm not a broke kid anymore, either. I mentally calculated the cost of buying a 3DS, a Nintendo Switch, Pokemon Sword and Shield, and all of the previous games via the virtual console. Surely, now was the time — I was finally going to catch 'em all. It'd take months, but it would make up for stolen childhood games and impoverished teenage years where I was deprived of staying with a franchise I truly loved.
Then, Dexit happened. It seemed all but certain that we wouldn't be getting more than half of the Pokemon in the newest game. And just to make sure that we wouldn't hold onto the slightest sliver of hope, the game's director came out and confirmed that there were no plans to restore the full Pokedex in Sword and Shield.
Ignore Miyamoto at Your Own Peril
"A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." — Shigeru Miyamoto
The above quote is often trotted out when a game appears to have been rushed, and you can bet your butt that it applies to the Dexit controversy.
The possible reasons for Dexit are numerous. I've seen one or more of the following used as an explanation:
- The developers couldn't get the game out on time with a full Dex.
- A rumor that porting the models from the 3DS to the Switch caused problems, and they had to recreate a lot of assets.
- "Streamlining" the lineup, either for competitive play or general gameplay reasons.
The first two fall afoul of Miyamoto-san's wisdom. As for the third, well, let's get to that.
The Reality of Competition
How does competitive Pokemon even work? I have never competed in an official tournament, much less a friendly one. I had no idea, so I went looking.
One set of official tournament rules from 2016 has a proviso for allowing all 720 Pokemon that had been released thus far into the tournament. Another set of rules [PDF] is much stricter, limiting certain 'mons and banning others from the tournament outright from one reason or another.
It doesn't seem all that hard. Nintendo figured out how to make it work with 700+ Pokemon, and I don't see how tossing another hundred or so onto the pile is going to cause the collapse of the entire system.
What's more, there's no reason that there couldn't be multiple formats. Magic: The Gathering has 16 different formats of play, and there are way more Magic cards than there are Pokemon.
Granted, it may well be a problem of scale, but I feel comfortable presuming that Nintendo probably has just a tad more money than Wizards of the Coast. And hey, if it's really that big of a problem, they could simply restrict the legal Pokemon to the newest 80-something 'mons only.
Pokemon Prints Money
One possible concern surrounding Dexit is the budget of the developers. I mean, they only have so much money to work with and they need to put a product out at some point, right? It's not like they have more money than god.
They've only earned a paltry $59 billion across the entire franchise since 1996.
The health of the overall Pokemon franchise is driven by the quality of its games and its surrounding media. Even a mediocre game is going to damage the brand in the short term at the minimum (what we're seeing now) and possibly in the long term.
Financially speaking, Game Freak has zero excuses for the sorry state of Pokemon Sword and Shield. Full stop.
To Absent Friends
I'm sure there are any number of arguments that could be made about why Dexit isn't that big of a deal. Perhaps Game Freak used internal stats to see which Pokemon were the most popular and they simply cut those that didn't have a lot of fans. Maybe they decided on the smaller Pokedex size with competitive play in mind, eliminating troublesome 'mons who made for a frustrating meta.
None of that matters to the kid who loves one of these outcast Pokemon. The kid whose mother, frustrated at the inability to find a Pokemon doll for their son or daughter, handmade one because their beloved child loved Omanyte, Seel, or some other weird creature.
Somewhere in the world, there are hundreds of kids and adults that have fond memories attached to any single Pokemon on the long list of creatures from more than 20 years of pretty great games. Maybe Psyduck was their favorite character in the anime. Maybe, in a battle many years ago, a heroic Jigglypuff struck the final blow in beating the Elite Four for the very first time.
Dexit (and all of the many other problems I haven't mentioned here) is mildly annoying at best and heartbreaking at worst. Finally, the dream of an open-world console Pokemon game had arrived, only for us to discover that our wish had been warped into something bad by a monkey's paw.
I'm sure there are millions of disappointed fans around the world. I'm sure Game Freak will get it right in the future and remember what made the Pokemon franchise so great. I'm sure that Pokemon Sword and Shield will sell millions of copies, but I won't be one of the people buying one.
I guess I'll get Ring Fit Adventure instead.