Over 10 years ago, there was a unique fan-made Pokemon project called “Pokemon Spirit Chronicles” that had a very unique concept and nice (but limited) concept art. It’s really hard to find anything related to the project these days since it eventually died out, but I was able to find this thread which contains a lot of the concept art from it: https://plus4chan.org/boards/coc/res/25552.html
The basic premise was an alternate world where Pokeballs were never developed, and you’d have to capture their spirits and forge those spirits into weapons and armor to survive in that world. I’m curious what your thoughts are from that concept and what limited fruits the project came to bare. Also if you could magically pick up those pieces and somehow create that concept in your own vision, what other details might you add to flesh out the concept, the world, and what direction would you take the story? This last part is only if you find the concept interesting enough to warrant a theoretical investment.
I’m not sure it plays well into the things that I currently find most interesting about Pokémon (namely, that all of Pokémon’s monsters are natural creatures that theoretically coexist in an evolved ecosystem, and that Pokémon training works as an aspirational metaphor for the real relationship between humans and nature). It also seems a lot more adversarial than anything I can imagine Game Freak/TPC being comfortable with; like, one of the creators describes the process as “you found a Pokémon, beat it to within an inch of its life, ripped its soul from its still-living body, and forged it into a shiny new piece of equipment, essentially forcing it into slavery FOREVER,” which… I mean, honestly that’s a hard sell even for me; like, there’s “dark” and “cynical,” which I am totally on board for, and then there’s “you have to torture Pokémon in order to use this game’s signature mechanic.” There’s… there’s gotta be a better way to frame that, right?
There’s a few comments in that thread to the effect that this doesn’t really need to be a Pokémon game and would work as well, or better, as an independent IP, which I kind of get, but also it does seem like the creators were very invested in using a lot of the existing creature designs, both for personal reasons and for the draw they’d have for other Pokémon fans. These pieces of equipment are basically elements of gijinka – non-human characters redesigned as humans in costume – and Pokémon gijinka are a really popular genre of fanart (just Google it), so there’s obviously appeal for the aesthetic. The ideas that each Pokémon can do different things defending on what kind of equipment you bind it to, and that they can amplify or dampen each other’s effects when used in combination, seem like they’d offer some interesting space for setting up cool interactions that produce emergent strategies. Although… the thought of putting together those designs for every Pokémon is a little daunting.
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The sentence “(…)an alternate world where pokéballs were never developed(…)” started really well, and then it went downhill so quickly. I don’t mean to be rude if you’re a fan of the concept but my gut reaction was just a disgusted “wHAT THE F&#%*” when I heard the devs outright said that the idea was to seem horribly cruel.
I mean, why would you want that? I just. It’s official policy for every pokémon to seem like you could be friends with them. They’re almost, potentially entirely(?) sapient, and seem as emotionally sentient as humans. So much of the appeal of the world to me is that you can be friends with these little critters, and go travel with them and meet all sorts of different and intriguing creatures. When you make your team you can pet them, and read on their nature about which ones are serious or goofy, cantankerous or friendly. And then you make a world where anyone with any relevant power is inherently an evil torturer of these creatures?
I mean, ok? It’s just so confusing to me. Why does “no pokéballs” mean medieval themed dystopia, anyways, when it could just mean you have just one partner?
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So… use the IP of a [i]battle pets[/i] franchise to make a game where you play as a human being with a weapon?
I don’t get gijinkas and I don’t get this either.
I mean, I’d pay for a Monster Hunter style Pokemon but… I also think there’s no amount of twisting of the IP to justify it. It would be too jarring. Not that this would even be like this, as it seems to be keeping the turn based combat but removing the monster raising/collecting aspect (rather than being some sort of real time action RPG). Like, the weapons and armor designs looked cool but ultimately it just wouldn’t feel right to rip an eevee’s soul from its body. At least games like MH treat most of the monsters as a threat to humans – half of the Pokedex is cute, harmless creatures and even most of the ones that aren’t are usually not aggressive to humans. Sure, it’s an alternate universe, but it probably would feel about as odd as trying to bring Pokémon into a historical feudal Japan setting and making them partners to humans in a tactical strategy game…
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I do mean it when I say “there’s gotta be a better way to frame that,” though – like, if the essential concept is “cool weapons and armour based on Pokémon designs” there must be *some* way of presenting that theme that isn’t as wildly out-of-step with Pokémon’s values as what’s presented in this thread. I’m just… not sure what that might be.
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From a quick glance at the creators’ comments, I get the feeling they are going out of their way to push the concept in a grimdark direction. Since the core mechanic is given a magical explanation to begin with, it should in theory be just as easy to make the concept uh, fuzzybright (well, at least more in line with Pokémon’s values):
a) Instead of “capturing the spirits of Pokémon”, maybe just establish that Pokémon can (i)share(/i) their spirits somehow. Pokémon will share their spirit as an act of respect and recognition upon being bested in battle, and/or as a reward for species-specific mini-quests or through a friendship/pet sim mechanic.
b) Two artifacts from an ancient civilization, the “DNA Extractor” and the “DNA Imprinter” are handed to the protagonist by a wise sage. The DNA Imprinter applies extracted DNA onto weapons and armor covered by a molecularly volatile biofilm (another ancient relic, presumably integrated into gameplay as a farmable resource). If a 1-1 mechanical equivalence of Pokéball capture is fancied by the creator, it can be asserted that DNA extraction is successful only when the Pokémon is still conscious (because something something “a Pokémon’s power spring from the spirit into the matter”), and that Pokémon may shake off/resist the device unless sufficiently weakened. Naturally, Pokémon attack the player by their own volition in the first place.
c) If grimdarkery is absolutely necessary, it could be mitigated somewhat by narrative framing: (i)the bad guys(/i) are going around ripping Pokémon souls from their still-living bodies and essentially forcing them into slavery FOREVER. The plot of the game is to stop this atrocity, and the hero acquires Pokémon weapons and armor in a morally justifiable yet tragic fashion. Eg: our protagonist, a tall muscular 30-something guy with brown hair and a five o’ clock shadow, arrives at Lake Mirage, but it’s too late. The Soulripper Templars have already struck. It’s a scene of devastation and woe. Countless innocent Pokémon have been essentially forced into slavery FOREVER, their mortal remains scattered across the shores of the sacred lake. Lake Mirage’s cherished protector, a Lapras, was powerful enough to withstand the Templar’s attempt at soulripping, but was wounded in its fight against the assailants. Solemnly and with a heavy heart, our protagonist approaches. Only he can stop the Templars, defeat the Final Boss and release the captured souls into the eternal Soulwind. Lapras knows it’s time is near, but she may yet contribute to his valiant efforts. She stares intently into Protagonist’s eyes and begins to sing her swan song, transferring her soul into his Spirit Wand (Specter Scepter?). Protagonist’s face remains stoic and playerbase-appealing, but inside he is torn apart by sorrow. The song brings back memories – his wife used to sing just like this, while they tended their Miltanks and Skiddos in the idyllic village surrounded by deciduous woodland and gentle, rolling hills. He remembers her lullaby, the one she was humming to soothe the [Bulbasaur/Charmander/Squirtle] they found abandoned by the road one fateful day. (Camera focuses on wife’s perfectly symmetrical face for a while as she hums.) When the Templars attacked the village, she died (tragically) to protect [Bulbasaur/Charmander/Squirtle]. But she was too late. Its soul was ripped from its body and essentially forced into slavery FOREVER. Protagonist’s eyes open; he sheds a single tear. [Bulbasaur/Charmander/Squirtle]’s soul was the first one he acquired, his only memory of his late wife. Now Lapras will join his arsenal, granting him +5 Ice Res (level up for OP Perish Song AoE-spell)… but at what cost? He knows that Soulbinding condemns the Pokémon-spirits to never-ending agony, yet he cannot fight the Templars on a level field without making use of their nefarious magic. As he leaves for the Mirage Sanctuary to massacre ~50 Templars and tragically mind-controlled Pokémon, Protagonist’s mind heavies with moral ambiguity and existential doubt. It’s very deep. /End cutscene. Game has a blue color filter.
…So, uh, in my opinion, the first two options might be more suitable for Pokémon’s established values, but there are also potential ways placate the (evidently existent) portion of the fanbase that craves for more (i)mature(/i) and (i)grown-up(/i) and (i)complex(/i) approaches to electric rodents and hula-dancing flower-people.
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…Right, WordPress uses “” for formatting.
“”. I shall be the laughingstock of WordPress Club.
For Mew’s sake, that last one made me so uncomfortable with the sheer accuracy of it. Like,,, f%$*, that’s so many triple A games at once, or at least their protagonists. But also don’t forget we need the player to be able to collect plenty of tragic, unethically-sourced, SLAVERYFOREVER armors, not just the ones in the main story, so let’s have random goons drop the stuff.
Anyways, as for the setting making more sense… tbh, the franchise already tried something like this, but I don’t know too much about it and think even though they tried to frame it as totally not a bad thing it didn’t work that well, so I’d still try to workshop the concept. (If you’re curious, it was in the manga- Pokémon RéBURST.)
But anyways. Pokémon channel elemental magic, no two ways about it. Like, a regular normal-type pokémon, can learn to gather up a ball of ghost energy and shoot it, or do the same thing with grass energy. So just say the humans are channeling the same energy that a species of pokémon has, not an individual, into the armor. And to craft the armors you need to meet an individual, but only to like, collect some scales and learn what the species is like. There’s a short little cutscene, like petting cerberus in Hades. Hell, if that seems forced maybe just put ice-and-water type magic into the armor when forging it and shape it like a lapras and boom. There’s plenty of warriors with animal motifs and similiar powers in fiction, and they don’t usually require stolen souls.
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“so let’s have random goons drop the stuff.”
Of course! We can’t have dramatic cutscenes for every evolutionary line, plus later you might decide you really wanted to make a Lapras halberd, not glaive, which any sensible game has to account for. There have to be collectible spares.
A “channeling energy” approach would be legitimately free of in-universe ethics complications & tonal dissonance. Human magic-users who simply theme their equipment around magical animals is also a perfectly intuitive idea. For a Pokémon game specifically, this could be the way to make a medieval “no Pokéballs” game work. You can bring /one/ Pokémon along as a companion, and the lack of team diversity is accounted for by magical equipment.
I agree that this concept’s tonal whiplash is absurd, but for me, the leap from uh
[non-human battle pets as controllable combat units]
[human being with a weapon as controllable combat unit(s)]
is much more jarring than the moral leap into edgy soul-ripping. Like, I’m even offended (somehow) by someone even getting that idea. I’m not sure why – Monster Hunter and all the other games where you play as a human being with a weapon can of course be fun, good games. But the idea of taking the IP of Pokémon specifically and going “Hmm – would be cooler if it centered the humans more and the monsters less” strikes me as… [insert a variety of negatively slanted adjectives].
In our pokemon tabletop united game, the gm let me give my character an unique class that allows him to copy the primary type from a pokemon (as long as its not a normal type, which is ignored. because otherwise you couldn’t get flying types at all.) and change his own type to match + gain a specific ability and two moves depending on the type that was copied. n stuff. Though my character fights alongside his pokemon.
Thinking of stuff to make ‘pokemon into equipment’ into a less heinous thing… I’m thinking of the gameplay loop as being very heavily monster hunter inspired.
I imagine you could come up with a concept where you get ‘shards of power’ or something that you can then apply into normal weapons and armor. The shards would explicitly be something that leaves the pokemon unharmed, though maybe to get them appearing you’d have to fight the pokemon a bit. Probably with the attacks missing until the pokemon appears to respond to your challenge, so it’s not portrayed as you just attacking them out of nowhere. Many of the pokemon would themselves be aggressive, based on species.
The challenge-concept could be worldbuilt more via NPCs, maybe the class of people that your character is has a strong concept of honor toward pokemon.
Further, if you are vastly more powerful the weaker pokemon might just immediately do a ‘you won, eek!’ animation after being challenged and run away (fading away and despawning), leaving behind their shard. to facilitate grinding for an item. Or if there is need for such grinding at all… maybe the shards those weak pokemon leave behind will become available as something you can buy from npcs? Either way, no need to actually OHKO the rattatas and pidgeys.
Or maybe you can ‘up the environment difficulty’ and the rattatas and pidgeys become stronger, and give like ‘+1 shards’ or something. MYSTERY.
I think also having one or two pokemon that are your partners would be important. One small agile one (flying?) to help track down the ‘target’ and one medium sized one that fights alongside you.
The big target monsters would likely need to be framed as unnatural somehow, like a pikachu that’s the size of a bus and all ragey, and once you beat them up they turn back to normal and you’re left with a strange remnant of whatever it was that made them all weird. Ooo. spooky.