Bring Back National Dex refers to the backlash following the announcement that the 2019 video games Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield will not include the full roster of Pokémon from previous games and only include Pokémon that appear in the Galar Pokédex. This is the first game in the series that will not allow for some Pokémon from previous generations of Pokémon titles. The backlash also occurred within the Japanese arm of the fandom, where it spread on Twitter and Pixiv under the hashtag #互換切り (compatibility cut).
On June 11th 2019, during the Nintendo Treehouse showcase at Nintendo’s E3 event, there was a showcase for the Pokémon Sword and Shield on the game floor. During the end of the showcase, Pokémon director Jun’ichi Masuda announced in advance that in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, players will only be able to transfer Pokémon from the “Pokémon Home” app if they appear within the Galar region Pokédex, thereby removing the possibility for certain monsters to be playable at all. The reason for this move has been attributed to a number of issues, such as efforts to balance the game’s roster, and reducing the number of character models within the game data to make for higher quality animations. Masuda also appeared to state that this would be the policy for all future games in the series.
Speaking to USGamer, Masuda said,
We knew at some point we weren’t going to be able to indefinitely keep supporting all of the Pokemon We just found that Sword and Shield would probably be a good point to go back and reevaluate what would be the best selection of Pokemon that appeal to the widest audience while keeping into consideration the balance of the battle system… It isn’t just going to be all-new Pokemon in the Galar region Pokedex; there’s still going to be a lot of favorites that fans will be able to bring over that they’ve adventured with previously. But yeah, it was pretty much just balancing and getting this optimal selection of Pokemon for the adventure we wanted to provide.
Following the announcement, fans were quick to voice their disapproval for not being able to transfer their Pokémon to the latest entries. Twitter users started the #BringBackNationalDex hashtag amounting over seven thousands tweets in a day. Part of the disapproval stemmed from doubt in Masuda’s explanation for why the Pokémon were cut. Twitter user @shofu tweeted a sarcastic example of the game’s animation being “high quality,” gaining over 5,900 retweets and 21,000 likes (shown below). User @ExoExplorer tweeted a similar joke, gaining over 1,200 retweets and 3,000 likes (shown below, right)
“Junichi Masuda reaffirms that the sheer volume of high quality animations and desire to balance further resulted in the decision to block transfer of some Pokémon”
This is some high quality animation alright pic.twitter.com/gwXJCrXLqD
— Garbage. (@shofu) June 12, 2019
Yeah I just found this clip. The animation on those wingull is really something. I feel completely comforted knowing we had to sacrifice the national dex for this step up in quality. #BringBackNationalDex #PokemonE3 pic.twitter.com/d4tGVdBnbG
— ExoExplorer (@ExoExplorer) June 12, 2019
Others created memes decrying the change. Twitter user @extendedfreeze tweeted an object labeling meme about the change, gaining over 280 retweets and 740 likes (shown below, left). User @Roeltje666 also posted an object labeling meme about the change, gaining 7 retweets and 30 likes (shown below, right).
The controversy was covered by multiple gaming outlets, including Polygon, who defended the decision against criticism, writing:
Many miffed players are calling Game Freak “lazy” for not bringing the entire compendium of 800 monsters into Sword and Shield, which is a wild thing to say… The problem isn’t laziness. The problem, if you can call it that, is a difference in priorities. If Game Freak thought it was important to have the entire Pokédex available in the Galar region, it would do exactly that. Instead, the developer seems to be putting its focus on other portions of the game. We know that Sword and Shield will have raids, an open world, extended online capabilities, and a 3D camera, all in addition to improved graphics.
Gamesradar also covered the criticism, understanding that while it would surely be difficult to model 800+ Pokémon into future Pokémon titles:
If your favourite Pokemon isn’t chosen for Sword and Shield, well, tough luck. There’s seemingly very little we can do about it. If you don’t get lucky with the next games (Pokemon Catapult and Trebuchet anyone?) either, your Pokemon will simply be stuck in Pokemon Home limbo, unable to progress any further.
Thank you to all of our fans for caring so deeply about Pokémon. Recently, I shared the news that some Pokémon cannot be transferred to Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. I’ve read all your comments and appreciate your love and passion for Pokémon.
Just like all of you, we are passionate about Pokémon and each and every one of them is very important to us. After so many years of developing the Pokémon video games, this was a very difficult decision for me. I’d like to make one thing clear: even if a specific Pokémon is not available in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, that does not mean it will not appear in future games.
The world of Pokémon continues to evolve. The Galar region offers new Pokémon to encounter, Trainers to battle, and adventures to embark on. We are pouring our hearts into these games, and we hope you will look forward to joining us on this new journey.
June 28, 2019
After the message fans were quick to call out the statement for the lack of any promises for the newer entries in the series who were hoping for future patches. While other were angered that Masuda made a response to the backlash.