Earlier this month Nintendo put out some pre-release previews of the upcoming Pokémon games Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Amongst these previews came some new information and while this new information was nothing too special and all it concluded to be was confirmation of some details which were pretty much expected. There is one piece of information that has yet again caused internet upset. What’s that? The Pokémon community being upset over a small feature in the upcoming game? I’m as shocked as you are.
This feature is of course the Experience Share or EXP. Share. So how does an in game item, which has been in every main line Pokémon game throughout the history of the franchise, cause a collective outrage? It’s because one cannot turn it off, at all. First of all it should be noted that this particular aspect of the EXP. Share isn’t new and was in fact included in Sword and Shield as well as Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee. The EXP. Share has been reworked several times throughout the history of Pokémon, with each rework vastly improving it in comparison to the version before it. I’m here to make the case for why the current version for the EXP. Share is the best version we’ve had and why it should stay that way. In order to do that here is a brief history of the EXP. Share.
In the original Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow versions (R/B/Y), upon receiving the EXP. Share the experience points gained from you lead Pokémon in a battle would be halved and then evenly distributed among the remainder of your team, and if you were sporting a full team of six that distribution would ultimately be a small number and that number would be even smaller if you switched your Pokémon during the battle. R/B/Y were games that required a good grind on the best of occasions and if you wanted a full team all at roughly the same level or even if you wanted to complete the Pokédex by levelling up evolving your Pokémon without using the rare candy cheat. Many hours were required to do this, even with this primitive version of the EXP. Share.
Upon the release of the second generation of Pokémon it gave us a new and improved EXP. Share, with the introductions of your Pokémon being able to hold an item which could assist them in a battle. The EXP. Share became a held item. And while it only affected the chosen Pokémon that was holding the item. It became an easy way to level up your weaker Pokémon, by focusing on that one you could let your stronger Pokémon take the lead and effectively babysit your weaker Pokémon until they had caught up. And considering how long that Togepi egg takes to hatch, it certainly isn’t a bad thing that you can level it up without risking your precious baby egg fainting in battle and subsequently crying. What kind of sociopathic monster would want to do that?
The EXP. Share stayed like this for a fair while, remaining as a held item throughout the Third, Fourth and Fifth generations of the Pokémon franchise. While it did change mathematically a couple of times in how it worked out and distributed experience points the main principle of it maintained the same. I won’t explain maths and you can’t make me!
The next big overhaul the EXP. Share received wasn’t until Pokémon’s sixth generation, in Pokémon X and Y. From these games the EXP. Share has become a key item, meaning it sits in your inventory, not using up your Pokémon’s held item slot. With the accumulated experience points being distributed among all non-fainted Pokémon in your current team. Sound familiar? Yes much like the original EXP. Share all Pokémon benefit from it, with one vital difference. Instead of a fifty percent split evenly through up to five other Pokémon, they gain fifty percent each, thus eliminating the need for hours of tedious grind. Pokémon X and Y gave us many new things and in my opinion it’s why the sixth generation of Pokémon is one of the best. But of all the things the mass overhaul had done, this version of the EXP. Share was welcomed like royalty. It enables the player to use more than six Pokémon with ease, without the risk of being under levelled. You can have a rotating roster using whoever you need most for a particular area or gym battle. In my first play through of Pokémon X I had fifteen Pokémon that I was constantly rotating. I can only say this helped my overall enjoyment of the game. Being able to swap my team around as often as I did, not only helped keep it fresh but it also made me want to play more. And that I did. I bought Pokémon Y without hesitation and have done at least three playthroughs of each title.
For the seventh generation in Sun and Moon the EXP. Share stayed the same. We didn’t get the next rework of the item until Pokémon’s debut on the Switch. In Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s go Eevee the EXP. Share was present from the word go. You automatically had it, and it was constantly on, with no option to turn it off. As it turned out, for this game due to its Pokémon catching mechanics being more akin to the mobile game Pokémon Go. The fact the EXP. Share was constantly on without negotiation was very much needed. Else one would likely be facing each gym heavily under-levelled and find oneself scurrying to the Pokémon Centre clutching you Pokéballs (heh) having just being annihilated.
Pokémon Sword and Shield also carried this feature over and while it was a point of discussion at the time while there were people who were not happy with the always on EXP. Share, it didn’t receive as much attention as it did compared to how it is currently with the Diamond and Pearl remakes. All this outrage seems to stem from the fact that as I mentioned above, in the original Diamond and Pearl games (Fourth generation) the EXP. Share was originally a held item and that does not carry forward in the remakes.
The idea of making a remake of a game is to bring it to the modern standard. Not just in graphical aesthetics but also in how the game plays. This includes quality of life features, features which franchises like Pokémon have the huge advantage of being able to fine tune and improve them over the years. It took six generations of Pokémon games for the EXP. Share to evolve from a somewhat useful item, into an absolute essential part of the games playability. So why would you not include a quality of life feature? And why is this particular feature the one that seems to be the point of contention?
There are plenty of other features within the Pokémon games that have been present since the very beginning. Features much like the EXP. Share have been developed over the years, all making vast improvements and improving things from both an aesthetic and performance perspective. Such as the Pokédex, the running shoes, the bicycle. Hell even the way items are laid out. I swear the backpack interface gets improved every game. None of those things have ever been in the firing line and I doubt they ever will be. From what I can gather the “logic” seems to be that the newest version of the EXP. Share isn’t “faithful to the original” and allegedly contradicts the promise we were given for faithful remakes. As I’ve mentioned the point of a remake is to build and improve and already loved thing, the mental gymnastics required to conclude that Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl won’t be faithful remakes before their launch is in a word: ludicrous.
The sixth generation saw the remakes of Ruby and Sapphire; these remakes featured the EXP. Share of the time, the massively overhauled one that for many revitalised Pokémon as a whole. In the original Ruby and Sapphire the EXP. Share was a held item. How is the change good in one remake but not the other? By applying the “logic” that the haters are applying in their argument against the EXP. Share we should rule out the whole of the Fairy type and not include Fairy Pokémon in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. But we won’t see that get argued as the click bait sites managed to milk that for all they could. “New Pokémon games introduce new type” But that’s a discussion for another day.
Another argument I’ve been reading is that the games are too easy, and to a certain extent I am inclined to agree. There have been times where you could sail through a good chunk of a Pokémon title in a couple of hours with no grind. These games are not meant to be difficult, as first and foremost, they are kid’s games and I think that is something the older Pokémon trainers (myself included) forget sometimes. If Game Freak set out to make the games with the same difficulty level and to be as unforgiving as Dark Souls the franchise would have tanked a long time ago. While I will concede there is certainly a case for having the EXP. Share to be optional like it was in Generations six and seven. Furthermore if it were optional, there likely would be times in the game where I would turn it off. However ultimately I do fully support the decisions to make it always on. Pokémon is a kid’s game, whether we older fans like it or not. Younger children always have been and always will be the core demographic. In an age where hundreds if not thousands of games are at our disposal with a couple of button clicks, any game company with sense would want to add any and all possible features that take away the need for hours upon hours of tedious grinding. You can still do the grid in Pokémon games if you want to. I know I do. It is however an efficient grind and that is what makes all the difference.
The EXP. Share shouldn’t be a point of contention among Pokémon fans. Of course have your opinion and voice it if you so wish. However there is no need to inflict toxic attitudes upon those who may disagree. There is simply no need for it and it will ultimately achieve nothing other than a handful of people getting wound up like a clock. Are the Pokémon games perfect and void of any criticism? No, of course they aren’t, but I’d wager my entire Pokémon card collection that the fact that you can’t turn off the EXP. Share won’t be the reason for score point deductions in upcoming reviews from any reputable reviewer.
If you’d like to hear more of my Pokémon related ramblings follow me on Twitter @LeeLee108. I’m also intending on streaming my play through of Pokémon Shining Pearl on Twitch from launch day. Look out on my Twitter for details closer to the time.