I remember the day Pokémon came out – the first two, red and blue, for the Gameboy. I was very young, but it was all my friends could talk about. They brought it to school, and we’d sit in the hallway during lunch, scarf down our food and play. One of us even bought that silly link cable that would let you trade Pokémon with each other before Bluetooth or any other wireless tech existed in games. I was so into it that I caught every single one.
Then the other Pokémon games came out, and they were the same or so similar that I stopped paying attention. I had already beaten the first game, and story was never really Pokémon’s strong suit, so what was the point of grinding the extra content? The game that had so captured my childhood didn’t grow up with me; it was always the same. I guess that’s fine as a commercial strategy because there’s always the next generation of kids that’ll want to play the new Pokémon. But I always hoped that Nintendo would eventually do something interesting with the series. Mostly because it has a great deal of potential as an MMO, and I can’t fathom why they didn’t go down that route. I get that they want to sell hardware – Nintendo consoles and Game boys, but a cross-platform Pokémon MMO was something I always wanted. They dipped their toes in those waters with Pokémon Go, but Go wasn’t the feature complete Pokémon game that I wanted. And as successful as Pokemon Go was, I feel that Nintendo has missed this gem of possibility that lay unexplored for one of their most popular franchises. It now seems that another company has stepped in to dig out that monolith and explore a Pokémon MMO.
TemTem is a Pokémon inspired massively multiplayer game for the PC that recently released into early access. TemTem is a game clone in the ugliest sense of the word. By that, I mean, if someone had followed some of my writing so closely in their works, I would be very annoyed. I always have an uneasy feeling when I play something that borrows so much from a previous franchise. As an artist, I could simply be sensitive to this type of borrowing. I don’t think it’s illegal, otherwise Nintendo would’ve already dropped that hammer. Unethical would be the word that I would most strongly associate with the whole affair. The game is akin to reading an essay where the student has taken another’s work and changed the words around.
TemTem starts in exactly the same manner as Pokémon – and I mean that almost literally. You start in a house, and when you head downstairs, you’re sent to talk to a professor who hands you and your rival a monster. From there, you’re expected to head to the next town’s gym to conquer that, precisely as you would in Pokémon. When you wander through tall grass, you hit the same kind of random monster encounters, but instead of throwing Poke balls to catch them, you throw cards that digitize the monsters. There’s a team rocket spinoff, your very own Pokédex, and even the healing functions similar to Pokémon’s nurse Joy.
I am having fun with the game. It’s Pokémon clone that you can play with your friends on a PC, which is something I’ve always craved. The only thing TemTem seems to do worse than Pokémon is the synergies. It’s not as easy to tell at first glance what monster type is another’s weakness. For example, Fire is strong against Crystal. Another weird one is that Crystal is strong against Mental, but Mental is strong against Neutral. These type synergies are not obvious to me in the least. The battle system tells you if a skill is effective against a TemTem that you’ve caught before, but if you haven’t caught that particular monster, it doesn’t tell you anything about the synergies while you’re fighting.
TemTem is also a much more difficult game than Pokémon. The trainers that you encounter as you move from one area to the next are much tougher than those found in the Pokémon games. They often wear my party out to the point that I have to trudge back to town to heal before I can push into new territory. Some of the more difficult areas took me several trips back to the healer before I reached the next nursing station. The difficulty, coupled with the later content that requires cooperation with other players to complete, and the general social nature of the game, seem like what should have been the natural evolution of the Pokémon series. But it seems that Nintendo has been willing to coast on prior success and the name recognition of the series. TemTem will hopefully be a wake-up call to Nintendo because Pokémon is still the bigger franchise and can easily drive sales in the MMO genre. The desire to tie the franchise down to their own platform to drive hardware sales has held the Pokémon series back from realizing the massive profit potential that MMO games can accrue from subscription costs alone. If you also consider the sale of Pokémon cosmetics, character customization, and player housing customization, the profit potential for a Pokémon franchise MMO is staggering.
TemTem represents serious competition for Nintendo in the pocket monster RPG space. It is a capable Pokémon clone with a bright future. Assuming the developers continue to offer features that differentiate the gameplay from Nintendo’s franchise, the game will no doubt thrive. TemTem is currently in early access for a cost of $35 on Steam. Check it out if you are a fan of the genre, as it is quite a fun game.