Despite the generally iterative nature of video games (you can find traces of 2001 smash hit Grand Theft Auto III in almost every modern game) there’s always been a curious lack of games trying to mimic the wildly popular Pokemon franchise.
And why is that so curious?
Because as Statista pointed out in 2021, the Pokemon franchise is literally the most valuable media franchise of all time, having brought in an estimated $100 billion in revenue across all of its media ventures (video games, movies, television shows, toys, merchandising, trading cards, et al.)
(And that figure came out before the franchise released its two most recent mainline entries in 2022, Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet, which sold 23 million combined units as of November, per Game Rant.)
The latest infrequent challenger to Pokemon’s dominance comes from relatively unknown developer/publisher Pocketpair, and is called Palworld.
But whereas Nexomon and Coromon generally presented themselves as iterations of Pokemon, Palworld is going for a decidedly different vibe as many have casually begun referring to Palworld as “Pokemon with guns.”
And based on the initial trailer put out by the game’s official X (the site formerly known as Twitter) account, it seems like an apt description.
Everything about the game largely seems like Pokemon — colorful creatures you can team up with and evolve, a bright and vibrant cartoon aesthetic — until the player character whips out a very real, very modern-looking gun.
You can see some gameplay for yourself below:
🚨Release date: Friday, January 19, 2024🚨
🎬The latest trailer featuring a large amount of Pals and field bosses has been released!
🧭Open world survival crafting game for up to 32 players!
🔫Gather your weapons and go on an adventure with over 100 types of pals! pic.twitter.com/M8dWGDxiLL
— Palworld (@Palworld_EN) January 9, 2024
(For the unaware, Pokemon proper does not feature any shooting.)
As far as the reception to this bold take on the monster-capturing subgenre goes, it’s been decidedly mixed.
Interestingly, social media users largely seemed excited and ready for a distinct departure from the tried-and-true Pokemon formula.
Some in the gaming media are a tad bit more hesitant to exude such enthusiasm.
PC Gamer lamented a number of the more bizarre features in Palworld (unlike in Pokemon, players can commit “crimes” in this game, and also kill and eat their monster companions), while also wondering aloud if this game would be sued by Nintendo’s notoriously litigious legal team.
“Is Palworld a clever, satirical takedown of Pokémon games? Or will, for all its edgy marketing, end up falling flat?” wondered Kotaku.
The gaming outlet added: “Will Palworld be good? Or just a weird novelty that people stop playing after a week? I’m not really sure yet.”
Given the almost rabid nature of some sects of Pokemon fandom, Palworld will certainly have its work cut out for it to seize some of that crucial mind share of the world’s most valuable media franchise.
Palworld is currently slated to release on Xbox and PC on Jan. 19, 2024.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.