Pokemon has long had a twentysomething audience. Consisting of millennials who grew up playing the games, watching the cartoons, collecting the cards, and enjoying the vast, inescapable sea of other merchandise, the beloved monster-fighting franchise defined the youths of a generation. Millions celebrated the 20th anniversary of Pokemon earlier this year, and the Gameboy games boast a sizable mature fanbase.
Now, Pokemon Apex is a fan-made game that’s specifically targeted at the adult fans of Pokemon. While Apex may not have changes in the art or much of the gameplay mechanics or have enough violence and grit in it to please, say, fans of George R.R. Martin, it’s certainly not in the safe-for-all-ages category of the original Pokemon games. Pokemon Apex is a refreshing and mature take on the Pokemon universe, filled with real-world characters with real-world problems.
“Pokémon Apex is developed with an adult Pokémon fan in mind. The game contains some adult dialogue (some swearing) and themes (death, abandonment), and some minor horror elements. Furthermore, the game is intended to be somewhat difficult, meaning that you will need to think about your strategies and make conscientious choices about your team in order to progress. Playing through the game haphazardly will get you into trouble.”
The main story of Apex reflects both its connection to the Pokemon universe and its grounding in reality: The player starts as a high school kid living in the metropolitan Nascene City, who manages to get through the day by playing video games and spending time with friends. One day, you’re magically transported to another world inhabited by powerful demons known as “Pokemon.” Soon, you encounter a fanatical cult who are trying to destroy both worlds and, for reasons unknown, keep targeting the player. Who they are, what they want, and the true relation between the Pokemon world and your own unfold in the course of the main story.
In addition to new storylines, new themes, and custom art, the gameplay has been overhauled as well, according to Kotaku.
“There is still monster battling, but the structure has been altered: starters don’t adhere to current types, progression is based on unlocking new areas, there are no gyms, there are multiple storylines and ‘many sidequests’ as well.”
According to developer Nate, Apex aims to refine the Pokemon universe by fixing some of the problems with the original games, which he lists on the “About” page of the blog. For starters, the relatively low difficulty of the original games due its young target audience has been replaced with a much steeper difficulty level that, while not “brutally difficult,” will force players to make important choices regarding what Pokemon team they carry around.
Another issue that Apex addresses was the poor balance in the originals, where some Pokemon were clearly much better than others. To solve this problem, stat totals of all fully evolved Pokemon will be boosted to at least 400, and new movesets for each Pokemon to optimally compliment its stats and skillset are planned as well. Apex also sought to deepen and enrich the personalities of some of the characters of the original games, including creating a protagonist with their own voice and personality. The goal was to make all the characters in Apex seem like real people instead of walking character archetypes.
Finally, Pokemon Apex seeks to break from the formulaic structure of previous games, as Nate describes on the development page.
“Start in a small town, meet a tree-themed professor, get a fire/water/grass starter, get a PokéDex, defeat the eight gyms, defeat the bad guys, defeat the Elite Four, etc. You’ve done all this before. The same tired game structure is used in every core Pokémon game. I intend to solve this issue by introducing starters that do not fit the standard type wheel.”
In Pokemon Apex, there are no gyms or Elite Four. Progression through the game is based on opening new areas and doing quests. Instead of a single storyline, there will be many secret storylines and side quests that players can discover. Apex notably includes all basic Pokemon gameplay that long-time fans will be familiar with, but it boasts custom tiles, sprites, tilesets, and audio, as well as unique dialogue.
The project has been ongoing since December 2014, and the alpha of Pokemon Apex is available to play now.
[Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures]