Bootleg Pokémon game keeps the Sword and Shield fan controversy boiling

Game Freak via Polygon

Let’s Go Pokemon Mobile is not an official pocket monsters game, but you wouldn’t know that from the amount of attention it’s been receiving lately. The knockoff has been a huge conversation piece for the Pokémon community over the last week, largely due to a wider controversy involving Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

To make a long story short, Pokémon Sword and Shield won’t incorporate every monster in the wider compendium, and this bit of news has drawn ire from fans who take the “gotta catch ‘em all” motto to heart. Game Freak explained that it was cutting down the list of overall creatures because the developer wanted to give models higher-fidelity animations. It’s a sound development decision, except that some incensed players have taken that statement as a weak excuse. The result is that now every time some new Pokémon footage is released, players will highlight supposedly lackluster animations, or point out what seem to be “recycled” movements.

While much of this chatter lacks nuance and doesn’t consider the complicated realities of game development, it’s also a conversation that refuses to die. The latest flare-up in this unfortunate debacle is the surfacing of a knockoff that, at first glance, appears to have more lush animations than those in Sword and Shield.

Footage showing off battle animations from this unofficial game have gone viral on Twitter, with confused fans wondering how it is that a fan-developed game could possibly surpass the offerings of a real Pokémon game.

“Blastoise just shot out of its cannons,” one YouTube commenter noted. Pokémon games, by contrast, have Blastoise spurting water from his general head area, which makes no sense when you consider that the design has literal water cannons. “The animation is far above the qualifications of mainline Pokémon games,” the commenter continued.

What’s ironic about this conversation is that it ignores a large chunk of what actual Pokémon developers have to contend with. A knockoff game doesn’t have to design new monsters, moves, or models. Fans are also ignoring that the knockoff game doesn’t have the full compendium of monsters either, so of course it’s theoretically easier to devote more resources to all sorts flourishes. In short, people are praising the production of a game that was only possible using Game Freak’s new pared-down design philosophy.

But the kicker is this: the fancy animations that so many people are complimenting? Well, the bootleg game doesn’t seem to have entirely come up with them either, as noted by Twitter user Lewchube.

Pokkén Tournament is a fighting game, and that genre of video game necessitates in-depth animations that can clearly communicate the differences between dozens of moves. Pokkén also has a limited roster, which allows its developers to flesh out its characters in ways that Game Freak probably never could, at least not with nearly a thousand monsters to account for. The same is true of clips that purport to show “better” animations from old Nintendo 64 Pokémon games — these also had much smaller rosters than what’s in modern games. But regardless, the bootleg game isn’t definite evidence that Game Freak is pulling a fast one on fans.

All the same, the furore around Pokémon Sword and Shield continues a month later. Community members are growing weary of all the in-fighting. The Pokémon fandom isn’t in a great place right now, but if there’s one slight upside to all of this, it’s that we’re having more conversations about what game development actually entails. Now if fans could stop harassing the general @Pokemon social media feeds — those poor social media managers aren’t even a part of Game Freak!


This just in: Gaming populace increasingly full of man-children that don’t know anything about the medium they use as a hobby. News at 11.


Oh yes, the famous entitled man-child argument. I love it.

Remember, pointing out the very apparent flaws of sword and shield, like that it has the textures of a N64 game, makes you entitled.

I also hate that being critical of a product you intend to pay money for is seen as hypocritical, with people saying, "don’t buy it then".

Motherfucker, I want pokemon. That don’t mean I don’t want pokemon to be better.

FUCKING THANK YOU! This is the best way to put it.

it has the textures of a N64 game

I mean it literally doesn’t, but please do continue with this rock-solid argument.

Alright, let me broaden my criticism then. It doesn’t have textures on par with a N64 title, but it has dogshit textures for a Switch title..

I know people throw around PS2 as a slur in terms of lower visual quality, but…

This time it might be more apt than freaking N64. At least put some effort into your criticism.

In what ways are the textures that poor? Because they’re lacking in the visual fidelity that you expect, which is an impossible thing for the developers to meet because this will vary depending on the amount of detail each end user expects?

Or are you speaking on a technical level in a way that you can somehow work out from just looking at screenshots? The resolution of the texture map, how it’s wrapped to the model, and so on? Pretty hard to eyeball in my opinion.

Remember, pointing out the very apparent flaws of sword and shield, like that it has the textures of a N64 game, makes you entitled.

When your arguments are outright lies like this, then yes, it does!

So many experts in game development out there that also have bad opinions on Pokémon. It’s weird.

Does that only apply to people you disagree with?
I don’t see a huge issue with saying the visuals of a game are not looking up to scratch. It’s not a gameplay criticism.
I have the same issue with footage I’ve seen of the upcoming fire emblem game. The textures are very low quality.

I’m sure the game has its flaws but as someone else pointed out, people complaining about something before they even give it a chance are pathetic and sad. And if you’re looking for problems, you’re always going to find one. If you don’t like it? Don’t buy it. If it doesn’t sell, they’ll realize it’s a bad direction. Complaining and grabbing pitchforks over decisions you have no idea how they arrived at is a sad use of the internet.

Thank God we have commenters like you to wine about it. Remember you, and only you, are allowed to voice a complaint about a thing you don’t like.

Game Freak explained that it was cutting down the list of overall creatures because the developer wanted to give models higher-fidelity animations.

There would be a lot less controversy if there was some evidence of this. I think most fans would understand the need to restrict the Pokedex if the animations really did see significant (or any) improvement.

But ah well, carry on with the one-sided coverage Polygon.

They posted an article yesterday about making new models? The whole "just outsource the models / [insert some random method for making more models]" reasoning is also conjecture. Evidence is lacking from all sides, since y’know Game Freak owes us nothing. People have been theory crafting this entire time.

This whole "Game Freak owes us nothing" argument seems to miss the point. Nobody is saying Game Freak is required to do what they want; by the same token, we’re not required to like Game Freak’s decisions or buy their games. Same thing with Fallout 76; yes, Bethesda didn’t owe us another real fallout game, but we also weren’t obliged to buy their shitty MMO. You can be sad that a company makes a decision you don’t like, and ask them to change that decision, without feeling that they "owe" it to you.

Except Fallout 76 is objectively a bad game with a lot of issues that may or may not improve in the future.

Pokemon Sword and Shield haven’t even released, yet people are already claiming doom and Gloom because the roster was cut in favor of excuses that people are now scouring EVERY video/screenshot to prove otherwise.

For all we know, the game itself is actually really good, barring a "smaller" roster size. People are just so hung up on that detail that they’ll find any reason to be mad about it.

If it gets me my goddamn Battle Frontier back then I’ll forgive Game Freak for almost anything

I’m going to rec this just because you capitalized Gloom in a Pokemon article comment.

People keep asking for "evidence" as if they deserve a detailed explanation from Game Freak. That’s what I was attempting to respond to above. Every time Game Freak explains something, the reason for the controversy changes. So they’ve stopped explaining.

I didn’t say anything about new models so not sure what that has to do with my post. I’m saying it’s reasonable for people to feel cheated if the main reason given for the change (higher quality animations) does not seem like it has actually been improved. Even if they redid the models, the animations don’t look to have improved based on the footage we’ve seen so far, so the reason given just seems disingenuous.

Apart from whether they are lazy or the change was necessary, how they’ve handled it is just bad PR.

Yesterday it was models. They refuted that. Now it’s animations. We’ve seen, like, 20 animations. Lot of game left to be revealed.

The more "evidence" that is provided, the more the goalposts move. Game Freak seems to have decided there’s really no way to appease people here. From what I’ve seen I agree with them.

Game Freak seems to have decided there’s really no way to appease people here. From what I’ve seen I agree with them.

And if you think the games side of things is bad…

…the anime side is a whole ordeal in and of itself. People have thrown fits over some of the stupidest things possible. Some were kind of justified, and others… well, the term "fandumb" exists.

Of the ones that are recent enough that I got to see the insanity first hand… Ash losing to Alain in the FINALS of the Kalos league, and almost immediately leading to showing some previews of the Sun/Moon anime. And guess what? People like Sun and Moon now! People have said it’s actually a really good series if you have a different perspective on it! This entire fandom is one of the most reactive ones to the tiniest goddamn details, it’s actually embarassing.

(For the record, I have no say in this, I’m just reporting on what happened, I ain’t going into a discussion about the above. If you have opinions on it, fine, that’s cool. Agree/Disagree, I don’t mind. This is just for use as an example, and it’s relevance. That is all, thank you.)

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