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.