A new game called Let's Go Pokemon Mobile has Pokemon fans buzzing with excitement online. There's only one problem: It has nothing to do with Nintendo.
Though this knockoff game was developed in China and has been available to download since last December, it wasn't widely known in its country of origin. Chinese gamers only took note when Western Pokemon fans recently discovered it.
Commenters online have been quick to praise the knockoff for having lush animations in its fight scenes. This appears to be a sore point with Pokemon fans right now, as they've been highly critical of the upcoming official Pokemon Sword and Shield games. Previews of the next official games in the franchise have been criticized over their animation and missing features like the Pokedex, a database of available Pokemon.
The games also reduce the number of Pokemon available, which developer Game Freak said was so it could focus on delivering "much higher fidelity with higher quality animations" in Pokemon battles. In addition to flying in the face of the classic Pokemon mantra "gotta catch 'em all," fans apparently didn't think that plan worked out well for the animation, either.
Hence the praise for the knockoff. As one gamer commented on the Resetera forum, "Pokemon gotta animate 'em all!"
It's rare for knockoffs to be praised for their quality, but it looks like the Chinese game developers were able to find their inspiration in something not so widely criticized as Sword and Shield. Some eagle-eyed gamers quickly realized that the fancy animations in Let's Go Pokemon Mobile appear to be copied from the official Pokemon game Pokken Tournament, which was released in 2015.
This didn't stop gamers from using Let's Go Pokemon Mobile to shame Sword and Shield, though.
Many Chinese netizens appear to have been caught by surprise by the high praise for the Pokemon knockoff coming from Western gamers.
"All of a sudden, I don't know if I should curse out this game or commend it," one Chinese gamer wrote.
"This is shameful," another popular comment said. "But it's still impressive."
Some gamers seemed to take no issue with the rampant copyright infringement in China, even suggesting that future knockoffs should learn from Let's Go Pokemon Mobile. "Not only should you copy, you have to make it better," another gamer commented.
Nintendo has a loyal fan base in China, making their properties hot targets for infringement. But Let's Go Pokemon Mobile is still unusual. The game is a case of blatant copyright infringement, having taken the Pokemon brand without licensing it. Other developers seeking to copy a competitor are usually more subtle, settling for reskinning existing hits while retaining much of their gameplay.
Take miHoYo's new game Genshin Impact. The game looks like a complete knockoff of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which sparked outrage in China.
Even Tencent, China's largest gaming company, has taken part in the practice. Earlier this year, Tencent launched Let's Hunt Monster, an AR outdoor game that copies just about everything imaginable from Niantic's Pokemon Go.
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