This week the Pokemon Company debuted Pokken Tournament, a Pokemon fighting game developed in conjunction with Bandai Namco’s Tekken team. This announcement was teased a few weeks ago with claims that a ‘shocking’ new Pokemon project was coming and boy, they weren’t joking. It makes sense after the fact, I mean, these games are all about Pokemon fighting anyway, now you’re just controlling it directly but anyone that says they expected this is a liar. Thing is though, that’s my favorite part. This news was completely unexpected.
You’ll remember that at E3 Nintendo announced the similarly out of left-field Hyrule Warriors, a mashup of the Zelda universe and the gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors franchise. Prior to this, Zelda has been a big sacred cow for Nintendo, it’s a franchise more famous for how often it doesn’t change and try new things as opposed to how often it does. The precedent these two announcements set is hugely exciting to me.
Nintendo specifically have experimented in this area before, particularly with their Mario franchise. There’s been Mario sports games, Mario RPGs and of course the wildly successful Mario Kart series. Pokemon is no stranger to odd mashups either. Remember Pokemon Snap? The game where you traverse through levels on a set track and take pictures of various Pokemon? And there’s the Pokemon Mystery series which throws those adorable little creatures into a roguelike-dungeon crawler of all things.
And of course, how could I fail to mention the Super Smash Bros. franchise? Smash is the ultimate in fan-pleasing creations, a universe-bending comic crossover in video game form. The ultimate realization of that playground argument about who would in a fight between your favorite Nintendo mascots. Could Ganondorf take on Bowser? Well why not find out for yourselves!
Sometimes the most interesting examples of these fusions also come from unexpected places, namely: the fans themselves. I remember a few years ago stumbling upon Portal: The Flash Version, a fan-made remake of Valve’s popular Portal series that re-envisions it as a 2D platformer. On the surface it sounds like removing the 3D aspect of the portal-based puzzle solving would leave a big hole in the game. In reality though it creates a different kind of experience, combining the challenge of managing the Portal physics with also having to be accurate with your platforming.
There’s also the similar concept of game de-makes. Re-imagining modern games as if they released on a platform of yesteryear. For example, former VP of Microsoft Ed Fries created the unofficial Halo 2600which turns the iconic FPS into a top-down shooter from some sort of alternate dimension where Halo was released as a launch title for the Atari 2600. He ever went as far as to print up 500 copies of the game on actual 2600 cartridges.
Ultimately, I hope the end result of all this experimentation is an industry that is less afraid to do things that would be considered ‘blasphemous’ with their big name franchises. I love Zelda, I’ll play the next entry in the main series and I’ll probably enjoy it. But at the end of the day I’m way more interested in Hyrule Warriors than I am the next ordinary Zelda game. It’s not because I’m some big Dynasty Warriors guy or something, I just love that we’re getting games built on concepts that would’ve seemed crazy 10 years ago.
When Hyrule Warriors was announced it was simultaneously met with great enthusiasm and cries of “what the hell is this?” And to me, that means they hit on something special. Like they say, if you’re not pissing someone off, you probably aren’t doing anything important.