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Game Freak’s Project Bloom: A New Direction for the Studio?
Did you know that Game Freak doesn’t just do Pokémon? Recently, the famous studio Japanese announced a collaboration with the publisher Private Division: Project Bloom, an action-adventure game slated for 2026 on PS5 and Xbox Series. For now, we only have a concept art where one can see a samurai alone in the middle of a gigantic forest. An image that contrasts greatly with what one knows about the aesthetics of Pokemon. In a , Kota Furushima, director of Game Freak, said he was “delighted” with the project:
After SEGA, this is the second time the team has teamed up with another entity. Private Division is a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive (GTA), which has until now published small to medium-sized indie titles. They have notably worked on Kerbal Space Program and The Outer Worlds.
A very first attempt
This isn’t the first time Game Freak has sought to lead the way and get away from Pokemon series that the studio has been developing since 1989 (about thirty admissions to total). The first attempt was in 2005 with Drill Dozer, on Game Boy Advance. Quite a platformer unique since he bet on a vibration system within its cartridge. Unfortunately, with only one release in Japan and North America, without going through Europe or Australia, the success is not there (500,000 sales according to VGChartz). At the time, the Nintendo DS had already been released for 2 years and the team was unable to port the new one. console portable.
A first attempt that comes after the release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, the third generation of pocket monsters. The timing is interesting: originally, the license had not been thought of as a series but simply as a first episode and a sequel (Gold and Silver to bring a point final). Ken Sugimori, one of the founders of Game Freak, accused at the time of a lack of inspiration regarding the designs of the famous creatures. The Pokémon universe had 251 species, compared to more than 1000 today.
The birth of the Gear Project
After the sometimes complicated reception of Pokémon Black and White in 2010 – Game Freak had tried everything to change the formula – Junichi Masuda, one of the founders of the studio and composer of the series, will launch the crazy idea of Gear Project. A project aimed at create a license even stronger than Pokémon and which would belong only to the Japanese team. Every employee had the right to come up with ideas and develop prototypes.
It was in 2012 on 3DS that the first born of the Gear Project was born: HarmoKnight. A title oscillating between the platormer and the rhythm game, which will not meet the expected success. After this failed attempt, Game Freak will work twice as hard, even to the detriment of Pokémon (in 2015, the famous series will not have the right to son annual episode, the team preferring to work on the Gear Project). Internally, there are two teams: one on Pokémon, and another much larger on in-house projects. Pocket monsters are no longer a priority for Game Freak.
After that, the company will chain chess: Pocket Card Jockey in 2013, a horse racing game coupled with solitaire; Tembo The Badass Elephant two years later, platformer developed alongside SEGA. It was only in 2017 with Giga Wrecker that Game Freak achieved some success: a spiritual sequel to Drill Dozer with a direction artistic very different from usual.
Foot and fist related to Pokémon
Despite everything, the results of the title are light years away from those of Pokémon, and in no way a viable alternative. Little Town Hero, arriving in 2019, will not change anything. Following the failure of this last project, Junichi Masuda will take the decision to leaving Game Freak to become “creative head” at The Pokemon Company (company that manages the brand, production, publishing and marketing of the franchise). The man will have the opportunity to speak about these past setbacks. He will explain that Game Freak can make video games, but they can’t communicate: Nintendo has always taken care of this aspect for Pokémon. At the time of son departure, he:
After more than 30 years, Game Freak wants to move away from Nintendo and The Pokemon Company. Project Bloom demonstrates that the team has neither buried the Gear Project nor lost the desire to create different things – which is understandable given the state of the latest Pokemon games. Titles often created in a hurry, in a year, with more than 1000 3D creatures now in an open world. With this new action-adventure software, supposed to be released in three years, Game Freak is no doubt hoping for a much more serene development.
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