Pokémon Sword and Shield need changes, and they need them soon

Just yesterday, Pokémon Sword and Shield were shaping up to be strong entries in the Pokémon franchise: clean, stylized graphics, wide open areas, and interesting new mechanics had sold fans around the globe. Today’s Nintendo Treehouse Live presentation featured Pokémon Sword and Shield, and an appalling bit of information was confirmed: players will not be able to transfer Pokémon that are not assigned to the Galar region Pokédex.

Despite everything, the Pokémon developers still seem out of touch with their core fanbase, and this raises a point: several aspects of the Pokémon series have become stale or overused, and Sword and Shield are as good a time as ever to change things up for the greater good. In today’s post, we’re going to go over why an incomplete National Pokédex is such a bad thing and how the new titles could potentially draw competitive players in with updated features.

Grinding

Imagine playing a match of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as your favorite character. In a tournament environment, you’re going to need to have a proficient understanding of the game’s core mechanics and a clear idea of your fighter’s damage-rackers and kill moves. You’ll also need to memorize matchup data regarding the rest of the cast and how they stack up against the character you play as. Now imagine your character must be leveled up. At level 1, its attacks do no damage and can’t KO opponents at all. Instead, you must play against CPUs for several hours, after which the fighter will level up to level 50 and its attacks will start working. That’s how Pokémon works.

Now, don’t get me wrong here; grinding has always been a key aspects of Pokémon games, and I think it can be a good thing — in moderation. The current issue with competitive Pokémon is the amount of hours players must invest in building a Pokémon team. This is why you see sites like Smogon and Pokémon Showdown, as many players simply can’t spend ten hours breeding Pokémon Eggs. Not to mention that competitive players modify their teams very often to account for metagame trends. Flexibility like this is entirely absent in main series Pokémon games, as breeding a Pokémon and raising it to level 50 takes far too long.

And once you get your team built, congratulations: you can now start playing the video game. It doesn’t matter how long you spend breeding or raising Pokémon; if that’s all you do, you’re not going to be very good at battling. Pokémon battles are a completely different venture and can only really be explored once you have a team built. Nobody uses just one team, either; they use multiple, and each new team means more hours you have to spend collecting and hatching Pokémon Eggs.

IVs, also known as Individual Values, are one of the worst features in competitive Pokémon. Each Pokémon is assigned a random value between 0 and 31 for each of their stats (HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed), and once it’s set, it can’t be changed. In layman’s terms, IVs make a Pokémon better or worse for no reason — and whether that Pokémon is good or bad is left up to chance. That being said, I’ll give credit where it’s due, as Pokémon Sun & Moon introduced Hyper Training to patch up low IVs and “set” them to their maximum with Bottle Caps; unfortunately, players are forced to grind for them and their effects wear off if the Pokémon is traded to another generation.

EVs, also known as Effort Values, are more well-known among Pokémon fans. Each type of Pokémon yields an Effort Value in a certain stat when defeated, so defeating the same Wild Pokémon multiple times can help increase a stat even further. Personally, I’m neutral on them; EVs do add a customizable layer of strategy to the game, but EV training is a big time-sink and serves to add to the amount of time players will need to spend grinding their team.

National Pokédex

Pokémon games have forced players to grind for decades. In a recent Pokémon Press Conference, the developers (Game Freak) announced Pokémon Home, a successor to Pokémon Bank that will allow trainers to transfer their Pokémon between games. Game Freak then claimed they knew how important transferring Pokémon was to trainers, and now, they’ve announced that at least a hundred of them aren’t going to make it in Sword and Shield.

You don’t do that.

You don’t announce a new subscription service based around transferring and managing Pokémon only to say that you won’t be able to transfer all of them to the newest titles in the series. As mentioned before, we’ve been grinding Pokémon for over ten years. And now, that time spent was essentially for nothing, as we can’t trade them to Sword or Shield. This is clearly a big problem that directly contradicts the entire point of the series: to catch them all.

What Needs to Change

Pokémon Sword and Shield are going to have to address the obvious at some point. Fans aren’t happy with the transfer limits — and that’s an understatement. Whether it’s post-launch updates or a rehash before release day, something has to happen, but while we’re at it, Sword and Shield could stand to patch up some other mechanics, too.

In my opinion, Game Freak should completely remove IVs, but keep Natures. Without IVs, Pokémon have more competitive value, but they can still be optimized due to the different Natures Pokémon can have. This would also make breeding much easier; slap an Everstone on a parent with the correct nature, and boom — you’ve got your competitive Pokémon. The removal of IVs would make teambuilding easier and would slightly discourage hacking and genning. As for Hidden Power, have a random type assigned to each Pokémon and an NPC who can change its type.

We can only hope that Game Freak will add the missing Pokémon in a game update — or if we’re lucky, before release. We can also only hope that Sword and Shield will have a sizable postgame, but that’s for another post at another time. In the meantime, let’s hope something changes prior to the launch of the new games. I’ve been a fan of Pokémon for years, and want to see the franchise become even better. Who knows – maybe this entire post will be rendered obsolete in the near future – it’s all we can hope for at this point.


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