Pokemon Sword and Shield‘s appearance at E3 2019 was somewhat marred by the reveal that the Pokemon you’ll be able to use will be limited by the Galar region’s Pokedex. Essentially, if you have a Pokemon that doesn’t appear in the Galar Pokedex, you won’t be able to transfer it over to Sword and Shield. As you might imagine, the internet’s reaction to this news was pretty negative.
It isn’t hard to see why there was such a negative reaction, either. After all, this is the first time that Game Freak has prevented players from bringing their full Pokemon collections over to new main series game. The company has put restrictions on Pokemon before – for instance limiting players to using only Pokemon from the Unova region in Black and White until they entered the post-game – those were generally only temporary measures.
In a new interview with USGamer, Pokemon Sword and Shield producer Junichi Masuda explains the thought process behind this decision, and though his explanation probably won’t make upset players any happier, it does shine a little more light on why Game Freak thinks this is necessary.
“There are a couple of different parts to the thinking behind it, but really the biggest reason for it is just the sheer number of Pokemon,” Masuda said. “We already have well over 800 Pokemon species, and there’s going to be more added in these games.” The number of Pokemon hasn’t really been a bottleneck in the past, but with the franchise now moving to the Nintendo Switch, Masuda says Game Freak is using higher fidelity graphics and higher quality animations, which obviously require more resources.
He also reiterated that this decision was based on a desire to make balancing easier. With Sword and Shield likely bringing the total number of Pokemon either close to or over 900, balancing seems like a particularly tricky task, and limiting the number of Pokemon that can be used in Sword and Shield ultimately makes that easier. In the end, Masuda says, this is something that was going to happen eventually, given the massive number of Pokemon:
We knew at some point we weren’t going to be able to indefinitely keep supporting all of the Pokemon, and we just found that Sword and Shield would probably be a good point to go back and reevaluate what would be the best selection of Pokemon that appeal to the widest audience while keeping into consideration the balance of the battle system. It isn’t just going to be all-new Pokemon in the Galar region Pokedex; there’s still going to be a lot of favorites that fans will be able to bring over that they’ve adventured with previously. But yeah, it was pretty much just balancing and getting this optimal selection of Pokemon for the adventure we wanted to provide.
So, even if Sword and Shield did support the entire global Pokedex, we would have seen this happen at some point down the road anyway. USGamer asked Masuda about the process of choosing which Pokemon would be included in the Galar Pokedex, and though he didn’t dive into many specifics, he did say that Game Freak tried to pick Pokemon that would “make sense in the region,” while also trying to make sure that the collection of selected types was balanced.
Whether or not this more detailed explanation will soften the disappointment of longtime Pokemon fans is hard to tell. On the one hand, we’ve got Game Freak making seemingly justifiable compromises based on what the Switch can and can’t handle and game balance.
On the other, we have the Pokemon faithful who are understandably upset that they can’t bring their entire collections – some of which are years or even more than a decade in the making – over to the newest games, something they’ve always been able to do since the series moved to the Game Boy Advance.
It’s a particularly sticky situation and one that doesn’t sound like it’ll have a positive resolution for everyone. We’ll see if the continued frustration behind this decision is enough to get Game Freak to change course, but for now, check out USGamer’s full interview with Masuda and Sword and Shield director Shigeru Ohmori for more on these upcoming games.