Pokemon Clone Hits App Store, Mobile Gaming's Biggest Problem Remains

Pokemon Clone Hits App Store, Mobile Gaming's Biggest Problem Remains

Blatant clones stunt mobile gaming's reputation, and damages gaming in general.

"We prefer 'homage'."

A monster-fighting game called Pocket Master Saga recently hit the App Store. Pocket Master Saga should by no means be confused with Pokémon, nor should the studio behind the game -- "DNA" -- be confused with DeNA, the mobile game company Nintendo partnered with for its own upcoming mobile efforts.

Of course, confusion is inevitable. "DNA" is doubtlessly counting on it.

The continued existence of Pocket Master Saga raises big questions about the Apple, the App Store, and mobile gaming in general. App Store applicants must have their programs and games approved by Apple before they can go up on the Store. But when a game like Pocket Master Saga slips under the radar like a greased Goomy, it's fair to wonder why Apple even bothers gatekeeping.

Pocket Master Saga isn't simply a game that's like Pokémon. Pokémon clones are plentiful on the App Store, and heck, some of them are pretty good!

But whereas these clones generally wrap their own narrative and bestiary around Pokémon's monster-battling core, Pocket Master Saga literally has Pokémon running around. Charmander. Haunter. Bulbasaur. Sandshrew. The gang's all here, and they are so lost and confused.

Even characters from the games / anime show up, albeit with tiny and hilarious alterations to their person. Professor Oak has an "evil parallel universe"-style mustache and it looks like someone hastily ran a comb through Brock's hair. A+ effort.

It's surprising Nintendo hasn't yet put down Pocket Master Saga like a Ponyta with a broken femur. Maybe it hasn't yet noticed the game thanks to the generic rodent mascot that serves as the game's icon art. Also, the App Store description shies away from any direct references to Pokémon, though the game itself doesn't.

Or maybe it's because Pocket Master Saga is a simple MMOG that'd be utterly unremarkable if not for the fact its monsters are running around wearing hijacked Pokémon skins

Either way, Pocket Master Saga is a supreme rip-off and cash grab, and it's one major reason why we're probably not going to see any unity between mobile game players and more traditional game players any time soon. Mobile is a legitimate gaming platform, but as long as Apple looks the other way and digs through its ear while the likes of Pocket Master Saga slips through, nobody has reason to believe it.

And, as always, we must think of the children. Today's younglings face far bigger crises than problematic video games, but it's hard to dismiss the feeling that being a young game lover must be very confusing in this day and age.

We live in a weird world where a six-year-old can fall in love with a Pokémon game on their sibling's Nintendo 3DS, but when they search for "Pokémon" on their parents' phone -- since they're too young to really grok the ideas of intellectual property and system exclusives -- they risk running head-first into Pocket Master Saga and its ilk. What's their impression of Pokémon like after that journey?

A little extra effort on Apple's part could go a long way into improving the mobile game scene -- which would improve the public's impression of gaming in general.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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