Pikachu as Mimikyu. Charmander as Cubone. Lucario and Celebi as live-action role-players. This year’s batch of special Halloween-themed “Pumpkin Parade” plushies from The Pokémon Company are adorable at first glance. But if you look closely, the cute facade begins to crumble. Let’s start with Charmander wearing another Pokémon’s dead mother’s skull as a costume.
Depending on its generational description, Cubone is either wearing the actual skull of its dead mom, staining the eye holes with its tears, or it’s a random skull the unfortunate critter wears in honor of its dead mother, eye holes similarly stained. That in mind, what the hell, Charmander?
No really, what the hell? Even if it’s only a replica skull, it’s at the very least evocative of another Pokémon’s deceased parent. I’m imagining Charmander getting into an elevator on Halloween night with a Cubone. The awkward silence. The quiet weeping. You bastard, Charmander.
Pikachu isn’t being any more sensitive of his fellow Pokémon with its Mimikyu getup. Yes, seeing Pikachu wearing the skin of a costume resembling a creature whose whole deal is dressing up like Pikachu is a cute juxtaposition. But why does Mimikyu disguise itself as Pikachu? Because it wants to be popular. It wants to be loved.
Imagine you are lonely. You feel like no one loves you. You idolize a more popular Pokémon, hoping to be cherished as much as they are. You go to a Halloween party, alone, and there is the most popular Pokémon ever dressed as you, surrounded by friends. Friends you will never have. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how serial killers are born.
Lucario isn’t quite as menacing. He’s just sort of pimping it incredibly old school. I call him Lothario Lucario, and I suspect he has plans to sleep with my wife. Look at that cape. That’s a sleeping-with-my-wife cape if I ever saw one.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the LARPing grounds…
Celebi wants to know if you want to hang around after the Renaissance Fair closes. Things get “pretty wild,” it says. I’d be wary.
The remaining three new plushies for the season are pretty harmless. Bulbasaur’s Shedinja costum is incredibly on point. Zorua looks like it’s being eaten by a Crobat, which is a pretty cool effect. And Squirtle? Squirtle is just wearing a top hat and holding a wand. Squirtle is the guy who shows up late to the party wearing just enough to get free candy and booze. We all know a Squirtle.
Hopefully we don’t all know a Charmander. It’s just wrong.
In Pokémon Masters, out today for iOS and Android, players recruit famous Pokémon trainers from throughout the series’ 23-year history, creating teams of three and battling through an adventure that feels more like the cartoon than any game that’s come before.
Pokémon games up to now have been mainly focused on the goal of becoming the very best, capturing critters, filling that Pokédex, and taking on the elite four. The ongoing animated series, on the other hand, has focused on trainers like Ash Ketchum and friends and the special bond they share with specific Pokémon. Ash and Pikachu, Misty and Staryu, Brock and Onix—these teams are the stuff of animated Pokémon legends. They’ve appeared in games, sure, but they live in anime. And now they live in Pokémon Masters.
The new game begins with the player, a nameless human partner to Pikachu, joining up with Misty and Brock on the island of Pasio. On Pasio, trainers from across all Pokémon regions compete in the Pokémon Masters League. The goal is the same as it is in many Pokémon games: Players travel the world collecting badges, eventually earning the right to take on the upper echelons of the league. What’s different is that instead of building a large collection of pocket monsters, each trainer is partnered with just a single Pokémon.
There’s no collecting or capturing pocket monsters in Pokémon Masters. Instead, the player collects Sync Pairs, the game’s name for trainers and their set partners. Some trainers, like Misty and Brock, join automatically as the game’s story unfolds. If there’s a big battle against a badge-holding boss trainer at the end of one of the game’s chapters, odds are they’ll be joining the player’s team. The vast majority of the 65 Sync Pairs available at launch are purchased via an in-game market.
Players spend crystals, either earned through play or purchased with real money, for a chance to summon a random new trainer. Should a duplicate be summoned, the existing trainer’s power is enhanced automatically. I’ve played the Sync Pairs gashapon game a dozen times, two of which were doubles. I am pretty sure both of them were Lt. Surge. I hate that guy.
The battles in Pokémon Masters are interesting. Before each fight players form a team of three Sync Pairs. Each pair has a specific elemental type, so the idea is to create a team that’s super-effective against the enemy. The pre-battle screen recommends types for each fight, so it’s normally just a matter of having the right trainers on your team and keeping them leveled through combat or the use of purchased and awarded upgrade items.
Every Sync Pair has abilities that cost energy. There’s an energy meter that fills slowly during battle at the bottom of the screen. The player taps an enemy target, taps the team they want to attack, chooses a skill and, should they have enough energy handy, attacks. Once the player has taken a certain number of actions they can set off a Sync Move, generally a massive attack that does huge damage. The animations for Sync Moves are the best.
Battle continues until one side’s Pokémon have all fainted. Early on in the game, the player’s party is almost guaranteed to be triumphant. The deeper into Pasio players go, however, the harder the fights get. Several hours and six chapters into the game, I find myself losing more often. Nothing to do but farm upgrade items or participate in special training missions to make my team stronger.
I love the way Pokémon Masters’ story unfolds. The game’s chapters are split into a series of segments. Some are battles, pitting the player’s party against groups of three or more enemy trainers. Others are story segments, little animated cutscenes featuring adorable heroes and abominable (but still adorable) villains. Famous trainers get a chance to show off their personalities in ways they don’t get to outside of the anime. It’s nice to get to know these folks better.
Each trainer also gets their own Sync Pair Stories, short narrative asides in which players get a peek at the relationship between trainers and their Pokémon partners. Getting to see new stories makes the idea of spending crystals on summoning new trainers much more enticing. Oh, I suppose that’s how they get you.
I’ve not encountered a lot of pressure to spend real money in Pokémon Masters so far. The game’s been pretty generous handing out currency, and I’ve yet to encounter a fight or event that suggested a Sync Pair of an element I did not possess. As the game goes live and special events start rolling out that could change, but so far I’ve not spent a single cent and I’m perfectly content.
I’ve just got to separate myself from the “gotta catch ‘em all” mentality, which isn’t so hard when I’m collecting people instead of adorable critters. I suppose in Pokémon Masters, the real pocket monsters are the friends you make along the way.
E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.
Pokémon fans eager to see the previous seven generations of pocket monsters popping up in Pokémon Sword and Shield received disappointing news yesterday when producer Junichi Masuda announced that only Pokémon present in the new Galar region Pokédex can be imported into the upcoming Switch games.
Pokémon Sword and Shield kicked off yesterday’s Nintendo Treehouse Live presentation at E3, with producer Junichi Masuda and game director Shigeru Ohmori exploring the game’s vast explorable overland and its array of free range Pokémon battles. The presentation ended with a breathtaking four-player battle against a gargantuan Steelix.
After the battle ended, Masuda delivered the bad news. While the recently-announced Pokémon Bank replacement, Pokémon Home, was built to be a service that collects all of players’ pocket monsters in one place, not every pocket monster players store in Pokémon Home will be able to be transferred into Pokémon Sword and Shield. Unlike previous entries in the long-running monster RPG series, which allowed Pokémon from multiple generations to be traded and imported, Pokémon Sword and Shield draws the line at Pokémon appearing in the Galar region Pokédex.
“In previous games that worked with the Pokémon Bank service, you were able to, for example in Sun and Moon, bring over any Pokémon even if they weren’t in the Alola Pokédex,” Masuda said via a translator during the presentation. “With the transition to the Nintendo Switch hardware, with it being much more powerful and allowing us to be much more expressive with each of the individual Pokémon, and now we’re well over 800 Pokémon species in the games.”
According to Masuda, developer Game Freak spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to move forward, taking into account battle balance and development time, and came up with a new direction—limiting Pokémon imports to those in Sword and Shield’s specific Pokédex.
It bears mentioning that we have no idea about the size of the Galar region Pokédex is at this point, or how inclusive it is. We’ve seen a handful of new Pokémon and a smattering of old favorites so far, but not enough to give any sense of scale. Game director Shigeru Ohmori followed up Masuda’s comments with assurances that completing the Galar region Pokédex will be no small feat.
“In the Galar region you’re going to find a lot of Pokémon, including a bunch of Pokémon that no one has discovered yet, so the games are definitely chock full of content,” Ohmori said via translator. You can watch the entire exchange in the video below (starting at 1:40:08).
Basically what Masuda is saying is that rather than update every single one of the more than 800 existing Pokémon with new expressions and animations to fit in the new games, Game Freak decided to limit the scope in order to reduce development time.
It makes a certain amount of sense, but that doesn’t mean fans have to be happy about it. They are not. The Pokémon Reddit is filled with threads and comments from upset players. Some are calling for the games to be delayed until all of the pocket monsters can be added. Others suspect the limited scope is due to greed, and the Pokemon available to transfer could increase through downloadable content or in later iterations of the game. My favorite Reddit thread so far is one by Redditor Saltypuddingmountain titled “Gotta Catch a limited variety for the purpose of a very sudden focus on game balance.” Exquisite.
While I will be perfectly happy with Scorbunny and friends, I understand why the prospect of leaving behind digital pocket monster friends that have been by players’ sides for decades can be upsetting. We’ve reached out to The Pokémon Company and Nintendo for comment on this new direction and will update the post should either reply.
At a press conference in Tokyo Tuesday, the Pokémon Company announced some unexpected Pokémon-related games and services, mostly on mobile devices. Pokémon Home is a cloud service that allows players to save and transfer their monsters. Great! There’s also a new Pokémon Go peripheral called the Pokémon Go Plus+. It is pronounced “plus plus.” Sure! These releases are a little perplexing, but the one I found most baffling was Pokémon Sleep.
Pokémon Sleep is described as a game that “aims to turn sleeping into entertainment by having a player’s time spent sleeping, and the time they wake up, effect the gameplay.” Sounds a little dystopian, but go off, Pokémon Company! It’s essentially a sleep tracker that connects to Pokémon Go and the Pokémon Go Plus+, and the three combined do something unclear but probably beneficial for your Pokémon. It’s slated to come to mobile in 2020. I already use a sleep tracker because I sleep like shit, so sure, why not make it Pokémon themed?
Luckily for my sleep-deprived ass, the internet clowned on this vague, strange-sounding game almost immediately.
As much as I love these jokes, I’m not sure I need my absurdly powerful Pocket Monsters to know when I’m sleeping. I’m gonna go grab my third cup of coffee and stare into the middle distance for a while.
In Pokémon Rumble Rush, players travel from island to island, gathering a small army of Pokémon as they go. The game begins by giving players control of a single Rattata. As the rodent moves automatically along a dirt lane, groups of Bulbasaur appear, barring his path. The player taps on the screen to hit the Bulbasaurs with Rattata’s special move, Quick Attack, dispatching them handily. At the end of the level, the Rattata faces off against a small horde of Bulbasaur surrounding a very large Charmander, who acts as the level boss.
Once the level boss is defeated, the player is rewarded coins, some automatically captured Pokémon and, if they’re lucky, Ore. Ore is Pokémon Rumble Rush’s equivalent to timed treasure chests. These are bits of stone that, once refined, give the player upgrades to enhance their Pokémons’ stats or increase their combat power (CP). Players might always find a summon stone, a special item that can be equipped to a Pokémon; this item will periodically summon a pocket monster friend into battle.
Each island in the game consists of a series of big boss Pokémon who must be taken down one after another. Each big boss has a series of requirements that players must meet in order to take them on. For example, players might need to have a certain Pokémon in their collection, or a Pokémon of a certain power level.
The basic gameplay flow goes like this. Players search islands (tapping on the map) for adventure stages, which are basic levels that involve tap battling a series of Pokémon before reaching the level boss. Once they meet the requirements for the current big boss battle by collecting or upgrading Pokémon, they engage in a short boss battle against what is essentially a level boss with more hit points. Then the next big boss appears with a new set of requirements, and the cycle begins anew.
I captured the first nine minutes or so of the game from my Android phone, to give you folks a general idea.
Pretty simple, right? According to the Google Play listing, a new selection of islands will appear every two weeks, with new Pokémon to battle and collect, which seems like a good reason to play on a regular basis. There are challenges to complete for in-game currency and boss battle tournaments to participate in for prizes. And there is currency to purchase with real cash money. Note that the prices in the screen below are in Australian dollars, which are almost exactly like U.S. dollars except upside-down.
Pokémon Rumble Rush isn’t a super exciting game. It’s a simplified version ofPokémon Rumble, which wasn’t all that complicated to begin with. It is, however, a fresh new way to tap Pokémon on phones and tablets, and that almost never gets old. Almost.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu hit theaters this weekend and contains many CGI recreations of famous Pokemon creatures. Creating these digital animals was challenging and in a Time Magazine story, released earlier this week, the visual effects team behind the film talked about the work involved in creating some of these creatures.
Also, The Pokemon Company doesn’t actually know what Mr.Mime is and hated that Lickitung scene.
Erik Nordby, the visual effects supervisor on the film, explained that to create the scene where Lickitung uses its giant tongue to lick the main character of the film, they created a giant latex tongue and covered it in fake saliva. Interestingly, according to Nordby, The Pokemon Company wasn’t a big fan of this scene. “ That’s one where we got right up to the edge of what they would be comfortable with.”
Disturbingly, when the director of the film asked The Pokemon Company about Mr. Mime and what he is, they didn’t have much info to give, saying “We don’t know.” In fact, the company actually tried to convince the creators of the film to not use Mr. Mime. They weren’t sure he would work on screen.
For Loudred, a Pokemon with a speaker like ears and giant mouth, the VFX team had trouble finding a place for his guts. As Nordby explained, “When he opens his mouth it’s a vacuous hole: There’s little room for a brain or anything else.”
The Pokemon universe is a nightmare. At least we have the adorable Detective Pikachu and his hat.
Based on the Nintendo 3DS game by the same name, Pokémon Detective Pikachu is the first live-action Pocket Monster adaptation. Hollywood has an abysmal track record with video game movies, but this time, it seems to have pulled off the impossible: Making an enjoyable live-action Pokémon movie that will delight fans and non-fans alike.
This piece was first published on May 3, 2019. We’re bumping it today for the movie’s release.
Set mostly in Ryme City, where Pocket Monsters live alongside humans, the movie follows the game’s basic plot. While trying to find his missing father, a young man named Tim Goodman discovers he can talk to a crime-solving Pikachu. The central mystery isn’t only what happened to Tim’s father, but also, who is making the drug called “R” that makes Pokémon go berserk. Detective Pikachu follows a rather formulaic detective film plot but so does the original game.
But Detective Pikachu doesn’t share the same burden that weighs down so many adaptations, whether that’s video game or anime. For example, one thing that continually plagues made-in-Japan anime and manga adaptations is how many fans want the live-action version to simply be that: the anime and manga brought to life, as is, with humans. This means that character costumes and attributes, which might look cool when drawn, get directly translated to live-action, often with awkward or off-putting results that do not look realistic but instead appear downright goofy. The other extreme is something like the Attack on Titan cinematic movies which completely disregard the character’s original designs for a localized version. Detective Pikachu takes a different approach.
The smartest thing Legendary Pictures did with Detective Pikachu was to not adapt Red & Blue — or any mainline Pokémon game or the long-running anime. The expectations would be too high and inevitably end in tears. Instead, by starting with a spin-off, the filmmakers were able to adeptly sidestep those expectations for how characters should talk, look and dress, giving room for the actors to bring them to life. (The Resident Evil movies, the most successful video game cinematic franchise, previously took a similar approach: Don’t redo the games, but instead, create a cinematic universe based on the in-game one. Detective Pikachu, however, has a far better understanding of its source material.)
The character of Tim Goodman from the game isn’t beloved like Ash from the anime. In both the game and the movie, he’s a former wanna-be trainer turned insurance salesman with a rotten relationship with his father; in the movie, Tim is actually far more interesting and well-drawn than the in-game original. Since the other lead character Lucy Stevens doesn’t appear in the game, there aren’t the same expectations placed on a, say, a live-action version of Misty. Lucy is an intern at a news network, sick of writing listicles and hungry to break a big story.
The makers of Detective Pikachu certainly appear eager to please, but it’s not through cheap visceral thrills. Instead, so much of the movie appears to be set on getting the world of Pokémon as right as a big-budget movie can.
In what must be a cinematic first, the movie adaptation is more fully realized than the game in scope and breadth. The 3DS vision of Ryme City is rather bland, especially compared to the movie’s incarnation, which looks like Neo-Tokyo meets Pokémon. The urban cityscape is filled with layered with Pokémon cameos and layered with Easter Eggs, advertising shops like Charizard’s BBQ and the quite-clever Snap Camera Shop. In comparison, the game’s Ryme City is bland, and interestingly, smacks of the movie’s first ho-hum location, the town of Leaventown.
Early in the picture, when Justice Smith as Tim Goodman is riding the train from Leaventown to Ryme City, a Lickitung sticks out its tongue and then proceeds to lick the side of his face, covering it in globs of salvia. It’s gross but played for laughs, which perfectly sums up what meeting Lickitung would actually be like. This also helps establish that these Pocket Monsters are living, breathing creatures. Some are creepy, others are cuddly, and a couple of them are truly menacing, but they’re all real.
Pokémon are well conceived and fascinating creatures, so the fact that the filmmakers have recognized that and are not content to simply rely on appearances, but have a deeper understanding of what the Pokémon can do, is why this adaptation works so well compared to Hollywood’s other superficial attempts. Detective Pikachu understands Pokémon. It’s why the film works.
Often with movie adaptations, only the barest superficial elements from the source material are referenced on-screen. Characters kind of look how they do in the games or share the same barebones modus operandi, and that’s it. In Detective Pikachu, joke after joke centers around Pokémon, and major plot points hinge on the abilities of certain Pokémon, instead of only a series of hollow spot-them-if-you-can cameos, showing how much thought has gone into the production. The movie is acutely aware that it has two audiences: Pokémon fans and non-fans. Early on, there’s a quick and painless explanation of how catching Pokémon works. Even this is laced with smart quips that fans can appreciate. It’s clearly evident the filmmakers did their homework and are enjoying themselves. The world of Pokémon is fertile, and instead of simply scratching its surface, Detective Pikachu delights in going deeper.
Once Ryan Reynolds does make his entrance as the titular detective, the joke ratio does spike suddenly, with nearly every other line a zinger. Reynolds has proven himself one of the most enjoyable and likable actors of his generation, thanks to his ability to not only craft excellent jokes but to deliver them. This is a kid’s movie, so he’s not working blue like in Deadpool, fart and pee-pee jokes aside. The Ted for kids comparison is apt.
Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures brought in some of the best visual effects artists in the business. Director Rob Letterman cut his teeth on CG animation with films like Shark Tale and Monsters vs. Aliens. The filmmakers had the added plus of The Pokémon Company’s involvement, providing notes on the CG character designs. All of these parts came together in the final film and resulted in Pocket Monsters that didn’t feel like live-action translations, but instead, live-action versions.
The movie does take liberties with the game, introducing several huge set pieces, totally different motivations for the antagonist, a new ability for a truly powerful Pokémon, and a completely different ending. The original game has an unsatisfying, unresolved conclusion, whereas the movie adaptation attempts to wrap everything up. I found it awkward and unbelievable, but the rest of the movie was so much fun that this wasn’t a dealbreaker. The big reveal at the end did make me wonder how they’ll pull off the inevitable sequel. However they do, here’s hoping it packs the same fun.