Letters to Summer

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Letter 26

Letters to Summer is a newsletter written by two best friends living on opposite sides of the country. Every other Friday, we share the things we're reading, watching, listening to, and enjoying. We hope you like it.

🎉 Today is our newsletter’s first birthday! We sent out our first letter exactly a year ago—pretty cool. Thanks for being here with us.

This week, we knew we had to talk about Pokemon Sword and Shield, which is pretty much all either one of us has been thinking about for the past week. Remember when we had that long chat about Animal Crossing for Letter 16? This is another one of those. You’re welcome.

(P.S. This one looks really cute on the website)

Jillian: Ummm ok so to start us off

Jillian: When we planned to do this, I wasn’t planning on buying the new Pokemon game

Jillian: But then I did and I played it all weekend

Summer: It be like that sometimes

Jillian: BUT I still have lots and lots of questions for you!!! Because you’ve been playing Pokemon for a long time and I’ve pretty much never played a Pokemon game before

Jillian: My first question for u: a few weeks ago, you tweeted “I don’t think any starters should be available in different gens gjsodnsodnf”

Jillian: What dis mean

Summer: Thank you for that direct quote

Summer: So! Every pokemon game kind of has the same formula. You’re a 10 year old kid and that means you’re old enough to have a pokemon of your own! The inciting incident to getting your first pokemon varies, but you always receive it from the professor of the region. The professor will have three pokemon for you to choose from: a grass type, a water type, or a fire type. The majority of the time, the moment in which you choose is the unique incidence of any of those pokemon throughout the game. Your rival will also choose one of the three. These pokemon have pretty steady level growth, balanced stats, good moves, and are cute! You can’t catch them in the wild. You get them from the professor. They are SPECIAL.

Jillian: Ohhhhh ok

Summer: You form such a lovely bond with your starter! It’s your FIRST pokemon and they occur in EVERY generation. Like, yes we get it, everyone loves Charizard. I do too! So much! But it doesn’t need to be available all of the time. Use Scorbunny. There are other cool fire types in this generation. The nostalgia pull seems unnecessary and sort of takes away from the specialness of a starter if they are obtainable across generations.

Jillian: Hmmmm does this tie into the drama about some Pokemon not being available in the new game or am I getting ahead of myself


Jillian: Lmao we WILL go there

Summer: How do you want to get into the drama?

Jillian: I don’t really know much about the drama other than…….there was some

Jillian: Specifically with the release of Sword and Shield

Jillian: Which is odd to me because it seems like such a great game that all my friends love, but I’m also viewing that from the perspective of someone who doesn’t really have any ties to the franchise

Jillian: So I wanna hear about it from your perspective

Jillian: Tell me about the drama babyyy!!!!!

Summer: Basically, after you beat the elite four in the majority of pokemon games, you get a thing called a national dex that has spaces for EVERY POKEMON that exists rather than those exclusive to that region/game. SWSH doesn’t have a national dex and people are super upset! On the one hand, I get it, when the catchphrase is “gotta catch em all.” However.

Summer: The deep, deep entitlement of gamers is soooo toxic. I’m not a big completionist type, but there’s still a pokedex to fill up. There are so many other lovely things to enjoy and we had so much to look forward to with this game—the fact that people were so violently upset with this decision was really disheartening

Jillian: Hmmm ok so you’re telling me I can’t get every pokemon that’s ever existed in this new game, but there’s still like……a lot of pokemon in it anyway

Summer: YES

Summer: I also think people are upset their specific favorites aren’t available, but it’s been like that across every game! You have to trade from weird places, across consoles even! (In the GBA era, to finish the national dex you had to hook up to the gamecube)

Jillian: I kind of understand where people are coming from, especially if they have deep nostalgic ties to certain pokemon that they’ve taken with them over many generations of the game, etc etc.

Jillian: But also there are so many cuties and sweeties in this game! And it’s kind of exciting to see all the new ones!

Jillian: Are there any specific pokemon that aren’t in this game that you miss?

Summer: Honestly, no. I barely notice what isn’t available. I try to just use new pokemon on my team? Because I want to familiarize myself with the region. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what IS available, actually. I saw a video on Twitter of a Lucario in SWSH and freaked out because I LOVE LUCARIO

Jillian: I do fully understand the instinct to distrust and critique big game studios, right? But I’m also really tired of the stereotypical toxic gamer who can’t just enjoy a cute, fun game without complaining about all of the reasons it isn’t exactly what they wanted!!! I’m not sure how to balance those two feelings

Jillian: BUT I think we’ve established that the game is good and fun and people should calm down and enjoy it

Jillian: We’ve both been playing it a lot since it came out so I can definitely endorse it as Good and Fun. Anyway.

Summer: Absolutely! And I have some criticisms, but nothing that is keeping me from being so overjoyed that I have it.

Jillian: I was kind of struggling with deciding which game to get, once I decided I wanted to play it. I went with Sword mostly because sword dog but also because you picked Shield. Why did you decide to get Shield?

Summer: This is the most I’ve ever struggled with picking a version, strangely enough.

Jillian: Oooh why?

Summer: I, too, love sword dog and was immediately enamored. But there were a few version exclusives that I was into—like Galarian Ponyta and Goomy—but mostly, it was because of my brother! We have, traditionally, always gotten opposing versions. And we’ve never even had a problem deciding who got what—generally we were always drawn to different legendaries. But he really wanted Sword because of Sirfetch’d and it felt wrong to not continue our sibling tradition, even though we don’t live together.

Jillian: Omg aw that’s very cute

Summer: We did pick the same starter for the first time!!!!

Jillian: Wait who did you pick I don’t remember

Summer: Grookey 🐵

Jillian: Ahhhhhh!

Jillian: All the starters are extremely cute

Jillian: I am very happy with my Sobble that I refuse to evolve

Summer: In their first forms, I agree. I did choose Grookey because his last form was the least terrifying, to me.

Jillian: That’s such a good way to do it

Jillian: Ok what was the first pokemon game you ever played

Summer: So! I would play my brother’s copy of Pokemon Blue, but he wouldn’t let me restart it so I would just catch Rattatas and I didn’t know how to save so I would just turn the power off. That doesn’t super count, I guess, and maybe neither does Pokemon Stadium for N64, so Pokemon Ruby!!! 3rd gen.

Jillian: Wow you go alllllll the way back huh

Jillian: What’s your FAVORITE pokemon game

Jillian: And least favorite?

Summer: Oof. My nostalgia brain wants to say Pokemon Emerald, since it has some of the best post-game and I know that generation inside-out. I also love all three of those starters, even if I choose Torchic more often than not. I think XY is my least favorite—the graphics were so cool and the pokemon were also great, but I thought the new mechanics made it too easy and I was really frustrated. There’s not a lot of post-game either.

Summer: Generally I feel like I will love a pokemon no matter what? So what makes a game for me is the story—and I think difficulty level is built into that.

Jillian: Do you often replay pokemon games?

Jillian: Or do you just keep playing one forever? Or do you let it end and wait for the next one?

Summer: I’ve played gen 1-4 over an EXCEPTIONAL amount of times, especially Gen 1 by way of FireRed. I clocked soooo many hours on Emerald specifically, even in the post-game—not super sure what I was doing, to be honest, but when you’re roughly 10 you have so much patience to do so many things. Replaying was great because there were so many new team combinations to explore!!!

Jillian: This sort of touches on something that I was wondering, especially now that I’m in the trenches of a pokemon game, which is: do pokemon games…….end?

Summer: I guess it depends on how you define winning? You can beat the elite four, which technically makes you the champion, as many times as you want. Gens 3 and 4 had “pokemon contests”, which were like beauty pageants in a few different categories; each pokemon can compete and get ribbons and stuff, etc etc.

Summer: Completing your pokedex is another definition people have

Summer: Theoretically, I can be happy with rechallenging the elite four over and over again, which is what I was doing in XY and Let’s Go. And in something like FireRed/LeafGreen, being the champion opens up a whole new set of areas to explore! So that’s not always the conclusion.

Jillian: So you can pretty much keep going forever?

Summer: Basically! Each game has different ways to make it interesting, but yeah. The final boss battle will always be open to you

Jillian: nice, I like that

Jillian: Do you think SW/SH is a good pokemon game for beginners? Or would you recommend starting somewhere different?

Summer: I think it is, and I think it’s definitely designed to be easy to grasp as possible. Hop is a constant tutorial character, unfortunately.

Jillian: He is………….annoying

Jillian: In a brotherly way I guess

Summer: HE IS!!!!

Jillian: Pls give me your tips for pokemon newbies like myself

Summer: I strongly encourage having a balanced team and understanding typing as well as you can. I also recommend reading the pokedex online and familiarizing yourself with a region! I get people don’t like spoilers, but it’s really beneficial to learn what pokemon you want early on and where to find them, so there are no regrets. I get really attached to pokemon and am reluctant to make team adjustments, so knowing apple dragon, for example, existed was good!

Jillian: Summer I am literally reading the pokedex RIGHT NOW because of you!!!!!

Jillian: I think we both know how I feel about “spoilers” in video games which is: look up as much stuff as you want, who cares, I just like to follow directions

Jillian: I want to end this the same way we ended our conversation about animal crossing which is: tell me about your favorite pokemon memory!

Summer: THIS IS SO HARD! Pokemon is my whole life. My first thought was playing Pokemon Go with my brother when it first came out, and our UTTER JOY at seeing a goddamn sandshrew on our driveway with the AR function. We were literally jumping in glee!!!! We are adults!!!! I used pokemon to make friends when I moved to California. My closest friends all gave me pokemon plushies as a present when I left Michigan. I got two Pikachu-based gifts when I graduated college. I have love tied to every aspect of the franchise: the games, the anime, etc.

Summer: I am so happy you have joined this journey

Jillian: I’m super happy to be on this pokemon journey too

Jillian: Thank u for teaching me stuff

Summer: I am here to answer every question. I have to do something with all of this knowledge in my head.

Jillian: this was fun but the whole time I was like……I can’t wait to……play pokemon after this

Summer: RIGHT

Summer: My switch was charging….it’s time

Jillian: Ok I’m gonna go do that

Jillian: ❤️❤️❤️