Back in 1996, there were 151 Pokémon. At the time, that seemed like an absurd amount. How could anyone capture that many Pokémon in a single game? Flash forward 20 years and there were over 800 Pokémon in Sun & Moon. Give it another few years and Pokémon’s National Dex would be well over 1,000 Pokémon.
Where does it end? Should every Pokémon game just have more and more Pokémon filling up the National Dex until it’s simply impossible to keep track of them all? Where’s the fun in that?
The only real answer is to stop bringing each previous generation forward and just let a few rest for a while. And while it’s sad that some Pokémon get left behind, the games moving forward will be better for it.
Making Room For The Next Generation
Sword & Shield is as good a place to start as any, so let’s start there. From over 800 Pokémon, Sword & Shield cuts the National Dex down to just 400. Less than half of the total number of extant Pokémon were cut, including many fan favorites. This was bound to cause a negative reaction among fans (and boy howdy, did it ever), but while the pain is real and valid, it’s like ripping off a bandage: temporary pain for long-term gain.
First, the game feels no less full and vibrant for the lack of all those other Pokémon. There are still plenty of older Pokémon to fill out the Galar region, but removing over half of the National Dex gives more room to create all-new Pokémon. Those new ‘Mons give the game its own unique temperament and character that can’t be replicated as a result.
By keeping the full National Dex, Game Freak would be tempted to re-use previous designs that sort of fulfill the same role as a “squirrel Pokémon” or a “bird Pokémon.” Cutting those previous monsters forces them to be creative and make new ones to further enhance Galar region’s uniqueness. Would we have Wooloo or Yamper or Rookidee if we could just always have Mareep, Herdier, or Starly on hand?
Making Pokémon Accessible Is Key
A streamlined National Dex is also much better for new players. Pokémon has always been about catching ‘em all, and with just 400 Pokémon in the game that’s at least a possibility. In previous games it wasn’t--you’d either need to bring Pokémon forward from previous generations or you’d need to wait for Nintendo to host an event where that Pokémon became available as a prize. It’s a lot easier to get just 400 than it is to get nearly 1,000 Pokémon.
And what about balance? It’s hard enough to design a game that can appropriately consider the capabilities of just a few dozen playable characters--just ask any fighting game. Balancing 800 Pokémon would just be purely impossible. With 400, it’s easier to keep track of them all in order to playtest and ensure none of them are too weak or too powerful.
This isn’t the first time Pokémon have been culled for the sake of gameplay. Ruby & Sapphire cut Pokémon to streamline the new player experience. Same with Let’s Go, Pikachu & Eevee. Nobody complained when those games came out without a full National Dex, so why is Sword & Shield so different?
The Way Forward
There’s one more thing that the Dexit crowd seems to have forgotten as well. Just because Sword & Shield doesn’t have every Pokémon doesn’t mean that future games won’t. Perhaps a new game in the future will compile every Pokémon ever made into a single, ultimate game. Or perhaps future games will include Pokémon that didn’t make the cut for Sword & Shield so that previous-gen Pokémon never truly fade away.
Or maybe Nintendo will offer a new Pokémon service such that every old Pokémon can be brought forward and stored online so that when a new game comes out that lets you play with an old favorite you can just immediately slot that ‘Mon into the new game.
Dexit is not the end--it’s really a new beginning. It’s a better way forward for the entire Pokémon franchise. You just need see what makes a good Pokémon game and what possibilities the future can bring.