When I first saw the art style for the upcoming Pokémon games, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, I was warm to it. But since then, the artistic direction hasn’t been sitting well with me.
If you’re wondering what I mean, check out the character model in this picture:
I think that would look awesome on a keychain (Etsy artists, you’re probably well ahead of me). But for a core Pokémon title released in the year 2021? It kinda seems like the Nintendo Switch isn’t being pushed to its limits.
I know that GameFreak could do better. But this time, it wasn’t them. The company has delegated work on the D&P remakes to ILCA, which is short for I Love Computer Art.
Among their accomplishments include Metal Gear Rising: Revengence:
Dragon Quest XI:
Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown:
And now Pokémon: Brilliant Chibi and Shining Smol:
They may “love computer art”, but it’s plain to see when they’re not putting their hearts into it. Unless you can look at this battle scene and really think this is current gen:
So, who gets the blame: GameFreak or ILCA?
The answer is both. Whether it’s GameFreak for delegating work on their most beloved IP or ILCA for not taking it seriously, both are at fault for apparently not caring much, in spite of the fact that the games in question are ones that gamers have wanted to see for years.
Looking at the art for the D&P remakes, it’s obvious what little more could be done to make the games presentable: outlines and cel shading. And Pokémon fans are well ahead of the game in providing examples:
Just the outlines alone would do it. But check out what cel shading could do for, you know, an anime-style game:
And as if that weren’t enough, here’s more simple outlining at work:
Oh, hold on… That screen was from a Pokémon game released back in 2013. My mistake.
Still, they’re excellent examples of what you can do when you actually love computer art.
On top of the lazy look, there’s the fact that the remakes are made out to be faithful to the originals. Depending on how true that is, there might not be much point to them. After all, we already have the original Diamond and Pearl games. Other Pokémon remakes justified their existences with the presence of additional content, and it would be sensible if the D&P remakes did the same.
Comparisons have already been made between the D&P remakes and the recent Link’s Awakening remake for Switch. While a nostalgia trip could potentially justify that game’s purchase, the original is already available to play on 3DS. There didn’t seem like there was much new to it to justify the $60 tag when money was tight, so I didn’t purchase it.
That brings up a question that’s likely making more than a few Pokémon hardcores a bit uncomfortable: “Do I really need either of the upcoming Diamond or Pearl remakes as part of the core experience?”
This isn’t just a spin-off we’re talking about here, it’s a core installment for the single highest-grossing intellectual property of all time. If GameFreak wanted to, they could produce a polygon-pusher of immense scale. It’s hard to imagine that budget would be a limiting factor, especially considering that they work with Nintendo, a company that’s so rich that they could finance their own projects without turning to a lender.
But instead, they outsource their big game to a different company, and accept their half-baked effort to present to the world as part of their big presentation. Those don’t seem like the actions of a company that strongly cares.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about Pokémon Legends: Arceus. That’s evidence that GameFreak is capable of making a great-looking game. It’s obvious that that’s the one that GameFreak was more passionate about.
Whether it’s GameFreak or ILCA, it’s obvious that they can do better.