'Palworld' Asks: What If Pikachu Worked in an AR-15 Factory?

There is a darkness at the edges of the Pokémon universe. It is a franchise about capturing monsters in small orbs and making them fight each other, all while everyone wears a cheery anime grin. The subtext and horror undergirding the Pokémon universe has been explored in a million blog posts, YouTube videos, and Tumbler posts but no game has had the gall to make that subtext explicit. Enter Palworld, a new game about enslaving Pokémon-style monsters and putting them to work in factories manufacturing AR-15s. I am here for it.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/jg8gmx/palworld-asks-what-if-pikachu-worked-in-an-ar-15-factory
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I’ll be the asshole: I think this sucks. I don’t appreciate the joke. I don’t think the satire is particularly good or useful (or even fresh), and I hate this game. Somebody took one snarky, shitty view of Pokemon and made a horrible game around it.

I didn’t get involved in the twitter reaction/outrage around this reveal in the weekend because I didn’t want to give it any oxygen.

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Also, I’d question if this is the first time this has been addressed in a video game: I remember one of the Shin Megami Tensei games (maybe Nocturne?) has a scene which does something very like a pokemon battle, but with the two kids summoning demons, and does it for the horror that would result. It feels a lot like a dig at the other franchise.

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More than anything, I think it’s just really tired and annoying. This kind of Banksy-like “commentary” has all the bite of a high school kid trying too hard to make it clear that they’re special for not liking a popular thing that you like.

Like, congratulations, yes, you’re very cool.

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So, is there a narrative hook here, or nah? Because apart from the inherent comedy of a bright haired anime preteen just whipping out an assault rifle that looks lifted directly from an asset store, I’m not seeing a reason I would occupy this world for even a minute. “Harvest Moon in an ABSOLUTELY TWISTED version of the Pokemon universe” seems like it would get old exceptionally fast.

Wasn’t there already a mainline Pokemon game that interrogated the whole “wait, isn’t this a little fucked up” aspects of the setting? Maybe not quite to the degree that it should be interrogated, but also it’s not clear to me that assault rifles were the missing ingredient to that critique.

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What if Pokemon but fucked up?
What if early 2000s Newgrounds games but slightly higher budget?
What if Nessa but white?
What if that company that put out the mediocre, buggy Breath of the Wild With Crafting but a new game for you to buy?

I dunno, might skip this one.

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This style of thing is so played out that I can’t even think of an original joke to make about it

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Oh, the character who looks like a white Nessa is red flag city. I remember when Pokémon SW/SH came out there was some drama on Twitter (? maybe Tumblr?) after an artist got called out for whitewashing her and a lot of edgy artists decided to either draw white Nessa or an aggressively racist caricature Nessa.

Not that the game doesn’t already seem insufferable, but that Nessa-like might be enough on its own for me to pass on it.

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While I’m definitely not gonna buy the game, I am not above laughing my ass off at the trailer, which is sincerely really funny in that it just keeps upping the ante.

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The thing that makes me roll my eyes when someone says something like the opening to this article (not aiming this at Gault to be clear, more at the subject that he’s trying to set up) —

“There is a darkness at the edges of the Pokémon universe. It is a franchise about capturing monsters in small orbs and making them fight each other, all while everyone wears a cheery anime grin.”

— is that like, while sure, true, that is perhaps the most existentially boring “darkness” you can pull from these games. There are so many weirder, far more interesting things you could draw from them as subject matter for some kind of response. Like the ghost pokemon that explicitly, canonically, were once human. Or the games implying that Blue’s Raticate died between battles because he didn’t get him medical attention quickly enough. Or just, generally, the sheer lawlessness of this universe. The free healthcare compared with pricy basic beverages. These games are so goddamn weird in ways that Game Freak also refuses to explore, and for me “pokemon with guns” just feels like a missed opportunity to actually make something interesting.

Black/White is probably what you’re thinking of, where the “evil” team was essentially Pokemon PETA. Though in the end it kiiiiinda sidestepped that question and ended up being a surprisingly good story about abuse and found family. (That generation, 5, has an unironically good narrative to it.)

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This game’s absolutely just doing edgy pokemon for clicks but uh I’ll be damned if “pokemon with guns” isn’t absolutely hilarious to me, and the part of my brain that loves Earth Defense Force

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This was one of those trailers that made me rethink my game development career and wonder why i’m not making stuff like this instead of whtever-the-hell i’m already doing. this looks great, i’m for it 100%.

Also i don’t see what’s weird about it at all it ain’t got nothin’ on half the weird stuff in fortnite we’re supposed to just accept. i don’t even see what’s supposed to be super dark about it, it looks pretty standard for video game stuff.

this entire game is like if somebody who doesn’t play games was asked to come up with a parody of games

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This whole thing reminds me of flash games I played in middle school, one in particular that was a satirical interpretation of running a fast food restaurant. You had to get a supply chain running and as productive as possible by injecting cows with chemicals and dumping toxic waste on farmland to boost their yield. You had to fund the marketing department which was just a bunch of babies in suits smoking cigarettes. It’s funny and seems like cutting commentary! on the surface but… that’s it. At its core, just an idle game with a layer of paint that’s supposed to make you laugh.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about this game as well. The core gameplay of it is nothing new, but the grenades you throw and wildlife you carve for resources are fluffy. The shock is purely because its using the same visual language as Pokemon. I don’t think there will be any deep commentary about the fact you’re forcing the cute animals to cry while they mine for your resources, just the initial shock.

Sorry for the pointless long post but this shit just makes me sad lol. I hope I’m wrong and this is one of the most subversive games of the generation, but the CEO of this studio created a Cryptocurrency exchange service in 2014 & worked at JP Morgan… I’m not too hopeful about the perspective they bring to the table

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This has to have been the premise of a Robot Chicken short more than a decade ago

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