Nintendo Switch users were treated to their first mainline Pokémon games on the console with the release of “Pokémon Sword” and “Pokémon Shield” on Friday.
Like most Pokémon games, the two games are similar, but different Pokémon are available to catch, and the gyms have different themes.
However, what would normally be a day of celebration has been a buildup of anger and hate toward game developer Game Freak.
One look at the review scores on Metacritic shows the clear divide in opinion. While game critic reviews were generally favorable, with the game scoring 81 out of 100 across 19 critic reviews, users rated the game 3.4 out of 10.
Game outlets that have posted positive reviews of the game have faced harassment and insults by users online. One look at the comments and responses to any positive reviews of the game show just how much what is likely a small but vocal minority of fans hate the game.
The cause of fan ire comes from their belief that the studio cut corners when developing the new Pokémon game, with fans accusing the studio of everything from lackluster animations to supposedly reusing old game models.
Earlier this week, the hashtag #GameFreakLied trended in the US. The hashtag was in reference to decisions that users feel Game Freak lied about regarding development of the game.
Game Freak and Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.
The criticisms are not without merit. Users have been flooding the internet with videos pointing out shortfalls in the game.
Simple things such as characters turning to face your character when you speak to them don’t always occur, and there are cut scenes toward the end of the game in which a dialogue track is played but the characters remain still.
CNN Business got to play the game ahead of launch, and while some of the graphics appeared pared down, parts of the game did deliver on what fans said they wanted. The open world Wild Area in the game gives fans an opportunity to catch dozens of Pokémon and pan the camera around in an immersive experience.
Perhaps more importantly to fans of the series, Game Freak opted to limit the Pokédex, which is the catalog of Pokémon available in the game. A number of legacy Pokémon are not available, which is disheartening to a lot of longtime fans of the series.
Although, considering how large the Pokédex has grown over the years — Pokémon database pokemondb.net currently lists 809 Pokemon — it seems that it was only a matter of time before they culled the number of available Pokémon.
“We came to the decision that, at some point, we need to be able to prioritize new gameplay ideas,” developer Junichi Masuda said in an interview with Polygon. “We need to be able to find a way to balance the right number of Pokémon and also still introduce new ways for players to enjoy the game, new gameplay ideas to keep the series fresh and enjoyable far into the future.”
Any eroded trust between fans of the series and developer Game Freak is likely to blow over at some point, but it’s a big lesson for the studio to learn from.
“A thing we talk about a lot in the video game community is the ‘vocal minority,’ meaning a small group of people that speak their voice very loudly,” Fadel Ragheb, a 23-year-old gamer, streamer and podcaster in Montreal, told CNN. “In this case, the outraged fans spoke extremely loudly, even though that is barely going to harm the game, as the average Pokémon player does not care about minor graphical issues or not having 800 Pokémon in the game.”
Ragheb added, “I’m playing the game right now and having a great time. The character models look great, and the areas are unique and interesting, and the game brings a lot of new elements never before seen in Pokémon. I commend the team for this. And while criticism is fair and warranted, harassment is never okay.”