Pokémon Sword and Shield
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Pokémon Sword and Shield are the 2019 games in the core Pokémon series by Nintendo. The games mark the eighth generation of Pokémon games, following Pokémon Sun and Moon, and are the first core entries in the series to be released on the Nintendo Switch.
On February 27th, 2019, the 23rd anniversary of the release of Pokémon Red and Green in Japan, Nintendo streamed a Nintendo Direct focused entirely on the announcement of Pokémon Sword and Shield (shown below).
The game takes place in an all-new area dubbed the Galar region. The game features a return to the "gym" method of progression, which was absent in Sun and Moon. The Pokémon Company described Galar thus:
Galar is an expansive region with diverse environments -- an idyllic countryside, contemporary cities, thick forest, and craggy, snow-covered mountains. The people and the pokémon who live there work together closely to develop the industries in the region. Fans will have the opportunity to visit various gyms in the Galar region in their quest to become champion.
The Direct introduced the generation's three starter Pokémon: Grookey, the Grass type; Scorbunny, the Fire type; and Sobble, the Water type.
Online, fans quickly remarked upon the content of the first trailer, namely the designs of the new Pokémon and how Galar appeared to be based on the United Kingdom. User @androssety pointed out that the Galar region looked like the UK if it was flipped upside down, gaining over 90 retweets (shown below, left). Twitter user @TBSkyen joked that the villains of the game would be pro-Brexit, gaining over 30 retweets and 70 likes (shown below, right).
Scorbunny generated excitement in particular. Fans quickly suggested the Pokémon's evolutionary line would make its type Fire/Fighting, a popular trope amongst Pokémon fans since the frequent type combination for fire starters was introduced in the third generation. Fanart referencing this was created by Twitter users 0503090s and seiryuuden (shown below, respectively first and second image), gathering respectively over 9,500 and 18,500 likes in less than 24 hours. Additionally, Scorbunny's bunny design quickly lead to fans associating it with the Big Chungus meme. Big Chungus variations by Tumblr user Witchtaunter and Twitter user @Nagrolaz (shown below, respectively third and fourth image) respectively gathered over 70 notes and 7,400 retweets in a similar time.
Sobble also managed to gather a lot of attention, as fans gravitated towards both the character's design and demeanor. User MFKAOZ joked the character was reminiscent of You Know I Had to Do It To 'Em, gaining over 110 retweets (shown below, left). User @defensebench posted art of Sobble, gaining over 150 retweets and 250 likes (shown below, right).
Following the reveal of the subtitles as Sword and Shield, many fans jokingly speculated a third version would have the title Pokémon Gun. Pokémon games in the main series are known for always splitting new games into 2 versions with minor differences since the first generation. A completed third version is often released at a later date, although this hasn't appeared since generation V. The first popular tweet mentioning Pokémon Gun was created by Twitter user @Sir5000 (shown below, left) and gathered over 17,500 retweets and 47,250 likes within 24 hours. Following the tweet, other fans soon followed with similar jokes and fanart. Versions by Tumblr user Circateas and Twitter user @ScruffyTurtles (shown below, right and bottom) managed to gather respectively over 31,000 notes and 43,000 likes.
June 5th Nintendo Direct
On June 5th, 2019, Nintendo held another Direct focused on the upcoming games (shown below).
In the Direct, members of the development team introduced several new Pokémon, characters, and game mechanics that will be present in Sword and Shield. The new Pokémon introduced were Gossifleur, its evolution Eldegoss, Wooloo, Corviknight, Drednaw, and the legendary Pokémon Zacian and Zamazenta. New characters include the champion Leon, his younger brother Hop, who will be the player-character's rival, Professor Magnolia, and her assistant Sonia. The major new mechanic announced for the game, called "Dynamax", allows Pokémon to become giant and super-powerful for three attacks. It can be used once per battle. Also announced was the "Max Raid" feature, in which players will use co-op to take on a giant Pokémon together and capture it. Other gameplay details include a moveable camera and weather effects that affect the appearance of wild Pokémon. The game will see a global release on November 15th, 2019.
Fan art for the new Pokémon and characters quickly followed the Direct. Twitter user @pankendev posted art of Wooloo, gaining over 100 retweets and 200 likes in an hour (shown below, left). User @bkub_comic posted art in the Pop Team Epic style, gaining over 6,100 retweets and 12,000 likes (shown below, right).
Sonia in particular inspired fan artists, as fans commented upon the cuteness of the character (GIF from the trailer shown below). Shortly after the trailer, a Twitter Moments page devoted to people commenting on the character was posted. Twitter user @Little_Luly posted art of the character that gained over 270 retweets (shown below, left). User @hommie_ya posted art that gained over 180 retweets and 720 likes (shown below, right).
On June 11th, 2019, Nintendo included some news about Pokémon Sword and Shield during its E3 presentation. This included the introduction of new characters and the announcement of a playable demo of the game at the expo.
Nessa is a gym leader set to appear in Pokémon Sword and Shield. After her cameo in the Nintendo Direct for E3 2019, she quickly developed a massive fandom, as fans created memes and fan art about the character, similar to their response to Sonia.
During the Nintendo Treehouse E3 Presentation, which included a playable Sword and Shield demo, fans were introduced to Yamper, an electric-type Pokémon modeled after a corgi. Serebii tweeted its Pokédex information, which reads "If the Pokémon is not holding an item, it will fetch the Poke Ball from the first failed throw of the battle." The Pokémon was a fast favorite of fans, who appreciated its cute design, particularly a heart-shaped tuft of fur on its butt. User @TAHK0 tweeted his excitement, gaining over 41,000 retweets and 122,000 likes (shown below, left). User @pasteldogg tweeted fan art of the Pokémon expressing that they hoped its evolutions would be just as cute, gaining over 4,400 retweets and 10,000 likes (shown below, right).
Expansion Pack Announcements
On January 9th, 2020, the Pokémon company held a Nintendo Direct in which the company announced Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, a Switch remake of the 2006 Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team games, and expansion packs for Pokémon Sword and Shield, titled "The Isle of Armor" and "The Crown Tundra."
The expansion passes will expand to new areas outside the Galar region, and players will be able to enter the areas using their current save file. Both areas will have areas that operate similar to the "Wild Area" in the base game. In the Direct, Game Freak clarified that these expansions will take the place of the traditional altered versions of the base game like Pokémon Platinum, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon, and Pokémon Black and White 2.
The Direct also teased that both old and new legendary Pokémon would be available in the expansions, as would several pre-existing Pokémon that were not present in the base game, such as Garchomp, Blastoise, Venusaur and many others. The Direct stated that there will be roughly 200 old Pokémon in total entering the game through the Expansion Pass. Certain Pokémon and characters will be exclusive to Sword or Shield. Players who do not purchase the Expansion Pass can still acquire the Pokémon through trading. "The Isle of Armor" expansion is set to release in June of 2020 and "The Crown Tundra" will release in Fall of 2020. They are available for pre-purchase for $29.99.
The game received intense backlash prior to its release due to what fans perceived as poor quality in leaked footage and data about the game. These issues largely stemmed from the cutting of 400 Pokémon from the National Pokédex (making Sword and Shield the first games in the series to not include every Pokémon in the series' history). Game Freak had stated that they had made this choice in order to create higher quality animations for the existing Pokémon in the game. When footage of the game leaked, however, fans did not accept Game Freak's excuse, claiming that the animations were not significantly improved enough from previous titles to justify the cut Pokémon. Several moves that had appeared in previous games were also cut from the games, including moves popular in the competitive Pokémon scene like Return and Frustration. These frustrations were covered in hashtags #BringBackNationalDex and #GameFreakLied.
Though fans had generated significant backlash to the games prior to their release, critics were mostly positive about Sword and Shield. On the day of the game's release, the game's Metacritic score was 81, or "generally favorable." Some critics called them "the best Pokémon games in years." Gamespot wrote the game "cut down on the tedious and protracted elements from previous games in favor of amplifying what makes Pokemon great in the first place." In the least positive review included in Metacritic's score, the Daily Star gave the game a 3/5, writing that Dynamaxing was "a shallow imitation of past games’ features," and that the "Wild Area," the games' new wild-Pokémon feature, was akin to "a level-gated Safari Zone." Critic Dom Peppiatt concluded that the game could be thought of as a "good-not-great" Pokémon game.
Bring Back National Dex refers to the backlash towards the reveal that Pokémon Sword and Shield will not allow players to transfer Pokémon absent from the Galar Regional Pokédex, breaking the series's tradition of having all Pokémon from past generations usable in one title, even if they are not able to be caught in-game. Following this restriction's reveal at Nintendo Treehouse's E3 2019 presentation, fans voiced their displeasure towards it over various social media outlets, and the aforementioned presentation became the most disliked video of E3 2019.
#ThankYouGameFreak is a hashtag started by a Pokémon fan intended to celebrate and appreciate Pokémon developers Game Freak amid ongoing criticisms and controversy for the as-yet unreleased Pokémon Sword and Shield. Many fans used the hashtag as intended, while others used it more sarcastically to further criticize Game Freak. A rival hashtag, "#FuckYouGameFreak" was started alongside it to voice criticisms of the series.
On November 9th, 2019, Twitter user @MysticUmbreon94 posted, "I wanted to see if I could start a #ThankYouGameFreak trend. #ThankYouGamefreak for creating the games that got me through all the tough times in my childhood. I know times are rough, but there are still fans that love what you do. Spread if you appreciate what Gamefreak does." The tweet gained over 3,200 retweets and 11,000 likes (shown below).
The hashtag inspired others to share their positive experiences with the Pokémon series. Twitter user @heyshanmurphy tweeted several pieces of fan art with the hashtag, gaining over 260 retweets and 1,400 likes (shown below, left). User @TamashiiHiroka tweeted, "#ThankYouGameFreak Your games helped me survive the hardest years of my life and taught me how to problem solve, strategize, explore, appreciate nature, and connected me to thousands of people when I felt the most alone. I wouldn't be who I am today without Pokemon for sure," gaining over 170 retweets and 1,500 likes (shown below, right). In response to the praise, Pokémon director Junichi Masuda tweeted, "Thank you, everyone!"
However, many Twitter users used the hashtag to lob further criticisms at Game Freak. User @fina_sergio tweeted criticism of the game's "generic backgrounds," echoing criticisms that the series' animation has not significantly improved (shown below, left). Additionally, angry fans started a counter-hashtag, "#FuckYouGameFreak" to voice further criticisms of the game's early footage and cut content. User @DudeMcShoot tweeted, "#FuckYouGameFreak your fanbase is full of spineless cowards who would rather lick your boot than have any form of self respect."
#GameFreakLied is a hashtag used to complain about Pokémon Sword and Shield after an apparent data-mine of the as-yet-unreleased games appeared to confirm that Pokémon developers Game Freak had reused character models and animations from previous entries in the series. The company had previously taken the position that it was forced to "cut a significant amount of Pokémon because it was remaking animations and character models from scratch. The decision, colloquially known as "Dexit", was unpopular with fans and upon seeing that Game Freak's excuse did not seem legitimate, fans tweeted angrily about the upcoming games using leaked footage.
On November 12th, 2019, Redditor MindWeb125 posted a thread in /r/pokemon showing allegedly leaked data-mined comparisons of several Sword and Shield Pokémon models and the same Pokémon models from the previous games, Pokémon Sun and Moon. This was significant as Game Freak's Junichi Masuda and Shigeru Ohmori had previously stated that the reason many Pokémon from previous entries were cut in Sword and Shield was so the team could focus on remaking Pokémon from scratch.
Meanwhile, the leaks were posted to Twitter by user @BlazingFlare, two posted GIFs comparing models, gaining over 160 retweets and 440 likes (shown below).
I've been going through the returning Pokemon models in SwSh and comparing them to the ones from SuMo, and so far every model I've checked has (unsurprisingly) been 100% identical. pic.twitter.com/ehyytH0QQY— Blazingflare (@Blazingflare) November 13, 2019
Shortly after MindWeb125's post, Redditor BigHailFan posted about the leaks with the hashtag #GameFreakLied, suggesting anger about the leaks be shared with the hashtag, gaining over 25,000 points. Users then took to Twitter to post their frustration with the leaked information about the new games. User @Eldgammel tweeted a comparison between Sun and Moon's Hau and Sword and Shield's Hop, gaining over 500 retweets and 3,000 likes (shown below, top). User @GonFreecs1 tweeted some leaked footage from the game showing basic animations, gaining over 380 retweets and 1,800 likes (shown below, bottom).
These are the "new animations", Hop uses the same animations as Hau from Sun and Moon pic.twitter.com/1VMPMJ7Zbf
— Thorsen (@Eldgammel) November 13, 2019
BRUH I can't believe this is happening lol, I'm still gonna buy it tho 👀 #GameFreakLied pic.twitter.com/QfX3ttAY5m— Gon / Josue (@GonFreecs01) November 13, 2019
 Twitter Moments – Celebrating 23 years of Pokémon on Pokémon Day
 Endgadget – 'Pokémon Sword' and 'Shield' come to Nintendo Switch on November 15th
 Twitter – @pankendev
 Twitter – @bkub_comic
 Twitter Moments – The fan art is flowing with the introduction of Pokémon's Sonia
 Twitter – Little_Luly
 Polygon – Pokémon Sword and Shield has a corgi Pokémon
 Twitter – @SerebiiNet
 Reddit – Currently Pokémon is the most hated game in this year E3
 Metacritic – Pokemon Sword and Shield
 Gamespot – Pokemon Sword and Shield review
 Daily Star – Pokemon Sword and Shield review Nintendo Switch debut arrives not with a bang, but with a Yamper
 VentureBeat – Pokémon Sword and Shield get Expansion Pass content
Nov 13, 2019 at 09:31AM EST
Nov 14, 2019 at 02:46AM EST
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