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Why Haven't Indie Mongames Caught On?

by Yaw about a month ago in nintendo
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Musings on Mongames

Indie games have often been an outlet for retro video game genres. Of course, what is considered nostalgic for the developer depends on the games they grew up playing. In the past, side-scrolling platformers were the genre of choice, but now it's mongames. A mongame is a game that revolves around collecting and raising creatures, the progenitor of the genre being Pokémon. Recent years have seen a resurgence of mongames, with games like Temtem, Monster Crown, and Nexomon: Extinction all releasing last year. However, most of these indie mongames have failed to resonate with many Pokémon fans. While there is demand for mongames, the indie games that belong to this genre have missed the mark in three significant ways.

Too Derivative

Taking inspiration from Pokémon isn't an issue, but taking too much influence from one source can lead to a derivative game. Pokémon itself is an amalgamation of influences ranging from games like Dragon Quest to television shows like Ultraman. Unoriginality isn't always a bad thing as spiritual successors to beloved franchises like Bloodstained and Bug Fables have been celebrated by fans. The difference for games derivative of Pokémon is that it isn't a defunct series and is still very much beloved. For example, the inspiration Disc Creatures and Nexomon take from Pokémon permeate every aspect of both games, from the art style to the setting to the game mechanics. As a fan of Pokémon, this familiarity can take away from the mystery and discovery of a mongame. Mongames released in the wake of Pokémania like Robopon were labeled rip-offs for this very reason. For a mongame to gain acceptance as its own thing, it needs features that distinguish it from its contemporaries.

Standing Out

Medabots 2

Having a unique selling point is crucial for any video game but even more so for a saturated genre like mongames. Most mongame series created in the late 90s and early aughts didn't survive the test of time, but the ones that did usually had a unique gimmick. For example, Monster Rancher has a CD-reading system that generates a monster based on the CD inserted into the PlayStation, making it a distinct mongame. Another way for a mongame to stand out is to replace the monsters you collect with something else. Mongames like Medabots and Metal Walker opted for robots while, in Command Master and Zok Zok Heroes, you collect heroes instead. The change in collectibles can inspire the creation of game mechanics to complement them, which further distinguishes a mongame from Pokémon. That doesn't mean a mongame needs to get rid of monsters to stand out. Digimon separates itself from other mongames with its virtual pet game mechanics and monster designs.

Monster Designs

Digimon

Monsters are the main selling point of any mongame, so the creature designs are pivotal to their success. One goal for monster designs should be to become immediately recognizable. An iconic roster of monsters usually has shared characteristics that give all the monsters a distinct aesthetic. Digimon's monsters having defined musculature, sharp teeth, and ferocious claws make it difficult to mistake them for creatures from any other mongame franchise. Digimon lead designer Kenji Watanabe influenced by the harder edge of 90s American comics, created monsters with a more imposing look, in contrast to Pokémon. Another goal for monster designs should be a broad appeal, with every creature potentially being somebody's favorite. During the development of Pokémon, art director Ken Sugimori asked monster designer Atsuko Nishida to design cute monsters to add more variety to the already tough-looking roster. While Digimon's monsters typically have bubbly eyes that balance out their more edgy designs.

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Yaw

imposter syndrome

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