The interesting thing about Pokémon's world-famous "Gotta Catch 'em All!" slogan is that it can be applied to Pokémon appearances in genres outside of their main games. Pokémon have taken center stage in card games, roguelike RPGs, and even a strategy game outlining the history of Japan's unification. Pokémon are adventurous and flexible little critters that just have to dip their paws into everything.
Seems our Poké-pals are taking another break from candy-colored cockfighting to engage in something a bit more cerebral. Pokémon Co-master, a digital board game, is coming to Japanese mobile devices this spring. There's a short, frantic trailer available, though it might be a bit of a mystery for English-speaking audiences.
According to a Japanese press release (thanks to Polygon for the translation) Pokémon Co-master is a strategy game along the lines of shogi or go. Both games are highly popular in Asian countries and enjoy the same reverence as chess in the West.
In fact, Pokémon Co-master is being developed with the help of Heroz Inc, a company that specializes in game AI. Its software has beaten professional shogi players, and its games include Shogi Wars and Chess Heroz.
But the AI in Pokémon Co-master isn't just an antagonistic opponent. It also helps players formulate battle strategies. The dual-natured AI is a assumedly a good programming exercise for Heroz Inc, plus it's a way to help out younger players while attracting older Pokémon fans who might already be familiar with go or shogi.
Now, the big question: Will Pokémon Co-master come to the West?
If I had to stake money on an answer, I'd go with "no." As mentioned earlier, shogi and go aren't popular pastimes in the West, so The Pokémon Company and Heroz Inc might not want to bother with the necessary localization (and / or insertion of tutorials).
Even though I still think it's unlikely we'll see Pokémon Co-master over here, it doesn't mean I don't want to see it. I love playing Pokémon games that set Pokémon to wander outside their natural habitat. And while I've never been good at games of strategy like chess, I'm still always willing to give them a try.
In fact, I've always wanted to learn how to play shogi and / or go. Maybe I'd finally find the time and patience if Pikachu walked me through the rules. Heck, kids may generally become more interested in intellectual pastimes if friendly Pokémon dole out the instructions.
And, hey -- Pokémon Co-master might wind up being the game that causes The Pokémon Company to tell us, "You know what? It's time for you Westerners to learn how to play shogi, damn it." After all, Nintendo kept feeding us Picross until we finally got interested in it.
Let's just hope Pokémon Co-master doesn't screw us over with shady free-to-play mechanics if it does make its way Stateside.