The last handheld gaming console I purchased was a Nintendo DS. Although it came out in 2004, I bought it in college, because I’m the type of gamer that actually waits for sales. I have to, it’s part of my fragile millennial DNA.
Like plenty of millennials, I can’t afford to get every new game or console I want. (I make plenty of money as a freelancer, but being frugal is how I get to be picky about clients, and make time for gaming and anime.)
As a college kid living in the costly city of Boston, I definitely had to make a difficult choice:
I could snag the new Nintendo 3DS and play newer Pokemon games, or I could get a DS and have access to a larger library of games to choose from.
Or so I thought.
I picked the DS, and promised myself I’d have no regrets. I didn’t have any for many, many years. That was until Pokemon Moon came out. As dramatic as it is to say, I couldn’t help but get really down about it.
I listened to my friends as they told me they scored Pokemon Sun/Moon, and one friend in particular told me they were close to having a full National Pokedex.
I never managed that, either because it cost too much to keep snagging mainline titles, or I just didn’t have the time. It made me sad.
I won’t go so far as to say I got depressed, but it was something: I grew up with Pokemon, and I missed it. I missed it a lot.
Enter The Nintendo Switch:
A handheld console that doubles as a home console.
As luck would have it, my partner likes to spoil me (what I did to deserve him is beyond me), and got me a Nintendo Switch (plus BOTW) for my birthday. I had no intention of buying a Nintendo Switch. I probably wouldn’t have ever purchased it on my own, honestly.
Even knowing a mainline Pokemon game was now accessible to me, I kept rationalizing my lingering (unnecessary) millennial financial anxiety.
I kept doubling-down on the idea that I didn’t need one more bloody console. I didn’t need one more bloody Pokemon game.
I didn’t need to blow any more cash.
I also bought-into the anti-hype surrounding Pokemon Sword/Shield.
Because of this, I was able to rationalize why I shouldn’t buy it.
Gamefreak had nuked the National Dex (dubbed Dexit) and seemed to have a lot of graphical problems. I agreed that it had to suck, because people said it did, so I didn’t have to cave and buy it. If everyone else hated it, I’d probably hate it too.
But, in my heart of hearts, I knew I was just hand-waiving my intense, vestigial millennial frugality.
It was a gut feeling.
I didn’t want to buy it. I wasn’t going to buy it. I had no plans to buy it.
That is, until my partner told me he was thinking about buying Death Stranding for the PS4. He’d need to use the payment option attached to my account.
My facade fell, like a literal tsundere. It’s not like I’ll enjoy it or anything! Baka! (yup, I went there).
I made a deal with him: if I got him Death Stranding, he’d get me Pokemon Shield, because there was a fairy-looking Ponyta. Yup, just for the Ponyta.
Nothing to see here, just a girl wanting a RainbowBrite Pony.
I was ready for disappointment, just like so many Pokemon fans promised I would be
I was not, at all disappointed. I was ecstatic.
The graphics problems plenty of Pokemon fans talked about, I just didn’t see. It looked beautiful. Honestly, it looked stunning. Whatever minor grievances I saw just weren’t there in the final product.
Furthermore, I could customize my character to look like my OC (seen below). This is a stupid thing to be very, very happy about, but lord knows I will take every pain to insert him into any universe I can.
Which made me feel like I was actually roleplaying in the world of Pokemon. I was actually there, as Alex, doing Alex Things, and catching little critters.
Fighting with them, caring for them, and trying to be a Pokemon Champion. This was what my friend from the UK had suggested: we can put our characters into Pokemon, finally!
I was not counting on how much of a draw this was for me, but boy was it ever. Also, the clothing options are amazing.
Pokemon Fans hate on Sword/Shield Starters.
Especially Sobble. But they have shit-tier taste, it seems.
The starters were cute and personable. In fact, being a staunch grass-type starter-fan, I ended up picking up the teary-eyed Sobble instead. His tears instantly drew me in: why was he so sad? And could I make him…happy?
For the first time in forever, I actually started to feel close to my Pokemon. I cared about them being happy, outside of a gimmick meant to help certain Pokemon evolve, etc.
I wanted Sobble to become the bad-ass I knew he was inside. And he did do that, and I was very happy about it.
Sobble’s evolution has him going from Crybaby, to Emo-kid to a James Bond-esque homey, with a water-bullet move.
He even holds up his finger like a gun, and that’s rad AF. He had gloves. He had style. He was UwU.
This was fucking amazing. How could people hate him?
He also wiped the floor with Hop‘s (who I hated at first) chosen team, without much effort, and several gym leaders.
Sobble is best boy, it was decided.
Pokemon Shield actually made me care about my team.
It’s been a long time, friends.
Not only was I ready to defend Sobble to the death (and I still am, fuck you), I started becoming protective of my core team of Pancham, Lombre, Litwick, Meowstic, and Toxel (eventually Galarian Ponyta).
When I’d have to swap them out for a gym battle or an area where they’d be weak, I actually felt bad. I had them huff potions because I wanted them all to have a fair turn at greatness, glory, and becoming a Kaiju bad-ass.
When they evolved, I was beyond excited. Proud of them, even.
My Galarian Ponyta actually ended up being a boy, so whenever he’d fluff around onscreen I’d just coo and tell him how pretty he was (I still do this).
Especially when he evolved into Rapidash. Look at this fancy motherfucker; glowing and shit. Prancing around, being gorgeous.
Hair on fleek, bless this fashionable fellow.
The characters in Pokemon Sword/Shield get a bad rap.
I honestly think people just don’t want to like them, so they don’t.
As time went on, I realized that Hop actually had a goddamn character arch. Which, let’s be real here, Pokemon isn’t really known for its writing. Aside from Pokemon Black/White, I think Pokemon is definitely not Tales level.
Spoiler alert: Hop gets blasted down by another rival, told off, and he has to confront the idea that he might never be as good as his brother (the current champion).
He gets depressed. He grows. He matures. He keeps trying.
I’m on my way to being a Pokemon Champion, and that’s his dream. I’m stealing his goddamn dream by being a beast. I’m ruining this man’s life!
Oh shit, I actually feel bad for Hop of all characters.
Marnie also ends up being a pretty cool rival, having her own weird Team Yell fan-club. I dig the rocker-chic sitch, so it was a no-brainer I’d like her.
Even if her crew is annoying, Pokemon always has annoying-team-something obstacles. Getting mad about it seems inane.
Bede, another rival, was pretty irritating at first. However, when he ends up getting into trouble by being a terrible trashperson, he’s devastated.
He’s went nuclear on the ‘I must impress X’ scale. I can understand that. I can also understand that the repercussions of his actions made sense, but it still made me sympathize with him.
I felt sad, for a haughty piece of shit who kept treating me like crap every time I’d kick his ass. Then, something amazing happened.
He got a second chance, which I don’t want to spoil for you, because it was honestly pretty rad and unexpected.
Wow, a plot? Character development? Pokemon managed to craft engaging characters since Pokemon Black? Color me fascinated.
It also helps that the Galar gym leaders are all fascinating characters, too.
We’ve got a Woodsy Dork, an old dude who still has fire in his heart, Nessa the flawless Water-type Queen, a mask-wearing ghost-dude who honestly has me smitten, old lady Opal who lives in a magical fairy-tale town, an ice-queen Mom, a goth-rocker, and a dude obsessed with dragons.
All of these Gym Leaders felt special. All of them felt like they had their own story. Versus just being landmarks on the way to being a Pokemon Champion.
Nessa is also a babe, so there’s that.
Everyone seems to hate the ‘Camping’ aspect of Sword/Shield.
In reality, they’re just pissed there’s no National Dex and making up reasons to hate a fun feature.
Regardless of all the intriguing characters, what really got me was the ‘camping’ aspect, which tons of Sword/Shield haters—including for some reason Japanese Pokemon Fans—seem to dislike. I love cooking food in video games. I love crafting. It’s a serious problem.
If there are any cooking mini-games in a video game, I will go apeshit. I hammered out curry like it owed me money.
This was nice. It was nice to share food with my Pokemon, and see them happy. It was nice to make them meals. Guys, it was nice.
It was awesome I could camp in the middle of town if I wanted to. It was rad that curry-cooking was basically a Tales mechanic, paired with a way to play with your Pokemon.
I actually ate food IRL while they ate food in-game. It’s stupid, I know. But it’s oddly comforting and strangely, really fun.
I’ll never forget when my adorable Snom, who I named Omnomnom, first came on the scene. He took forever to come lurching my way. He still does this, because I refuse to evolve him.
I had what I’ll call the ‘cat toy’ swaying back and forth, and he was just taking forever. Honestly? Forever.
And the other Pokemon in my party would routinely barrel over him to snatch the toys because he’s just a slugboi. Rude!
I’d sit there (and still do) in between bites of pizza, verbally encouraging him: Come on you slow little dumpling. Wiggle my way. That’s it, you tiny idiot. I love you, you daft snow-eating bug.
Same with Litwick, who was also trying so very hard to make it to me. The little candle that could, each step being a little hop. I also had to encourage this little wax-ghost:
You’re such a good little candle. You can do it! Fuck off Lombre, let my baby boy play with a ball! God damn.
The Wild Area is a refreshing addition to the Pokemon Series.
If you don’t like it, I honestly think you’re allergic to fun.
What was possibly even more enjoyable than camping, was the Wild Area. I could catch evolved forms of Pokemon that I definitely couldn’t catch in-the-wild in prior games. Or at least, not easily.
I could bike around in the snow. I could go through tons of different climates. I could snag a Snorlax, for no reason. I could poke around dens and try to fight huge Pokemon and duke it out Kaiju-style.
The Wild Area feels like an expansive slice of the Pokemon universe, one where I can barrel over a Gengar with my bike and make him my pet.
I love Gengar. I love Snorlax. I love being able to catch these Pokemon very early-on, and dote on them until the day I succumb to old age.
The Wild Area is fun. I wish it was a bit bigger, or even that most of the journey existed in wild-area-like spaces. But it was fun.
To say it isn’t fun, is to be allergic to joy.
Some Pokemon in Sword/Shield seemed to have interesting quirks.
Like Lombre, who is too thick-brained to get hit by psychic attacks.
I also noticed funny little Pokemon-specific quirks. They may have been present in prior titles, but honestly I didn’t pick up on them. Like with Lombre, who couldn’t really be hit by Psychic moves very well.
I reasoned that he is just too daft to be persuaded by psychic moves. Just too damn thick-skulled to be affected by Pokemon with mental prowess.
This is adorable. He’s my little bro. He’s my little derpy Kappa-son. I love Lombre. I love him.
Look at how thick he is. I managed to blast through so many battles just having him leech HP and sit around being a derp.
Bless this dork.
I love Pokemon Sword/Shield
And I’m not going to apologize for it.
Pokemon Sword/Shield isn’t what Pokemon Fans, who apparently hate the series more than love it, say it is. The amount of hate this title gets is honestly unfathomable, regardless of their valid annoyance.
I understand their frustrations with being unable to carry over their Pokedex. I understand being upset that you can’t catch every Pokemon.
I understand being upset that there are tons of moves that were deleted. I understand disliking Hop. If your fave was cut from Sword/Shield, I sympathize. I understand this makes you feel left out.
You can’t dote on your favorite little monster, and that’s upsetting.
And if you spent the last bajillion years getting every single goddamn Pokemon, this was a slap in the face.
I get it, really, I do. But I want to challenge you right here, right now:
What’s stopping you from enjoying what this game actually is, and not what you want it to be? Be honest.
There are plenty of Pokemon to love in Sword/Shield. There are plenty of amazing creatures to raise, to train, to level up, and evolve. Plenty of little guys, gals, and others to play with.
You can even send your critters on jobs and, honestly, when they’d come back I’d congratulate them on work well-done. That’s stupid.
It’s stupid. But, I love this fucking game, and being able to feel close to my team of cute critters is a special feeling.
That’s what matters to me.
The little bros I get to spend time with, matter.
And what a wonderful time it is.
Maybe I can’t truly feel upset about something like Dexit, simply because I never had the opportunity to craft a National Dex. I was busy adulting, and fretting about money, and working my ass off.
Maybe it doesn’t upset me as much because I’m just so goddamn happy I even get to sit around and dote on my slow little Snom whenever I want to.
Maybe I can’t share your criticisms—though they’re valid—because my only desire was to get to experience Pokemon on a big television screen, in a new adventure, with new Pokemon I’ve never seen before, and get the chance to love them.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ve forgotten all of us who don’t have all the time in the world to work on a Dex, and would prefer to just spend some quality time with adorable monsters.
I think your feelings on Pokemon Sword/Shield are more than valid.
But, can you appreciate mine, as well? Can you just let people love something you dislike?