Bootleg Pokémon game keeps the Sword and Shield fan controversy boiling

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!

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