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Pokémon Pitch Meeting: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (one-shot)

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This was inspired by the Youtube channel Screen Rant's "Pitch Meeting" series. And when I say "inspired by", I mean it's a complete rip-off of their format. Be aware that this contains fairly major spoilers for Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Red/Blue Rescue Team.

Reference to death, suffering; mild sexual references

Pitch Meeting: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon

Scene: The offices of The Pokemon Company in Tokyo, 2003. A bespectacled, nerdy-looking Developer Guy has just entered the office of Producer Guy, who is sharply dressed but otherwise looks weirdly similar to Developer Guy.

Producer Guy: So, you have a new Pokemon spin-off game idea for me?

Developer Guy: Yes sir, I do! Previous spin-off games have covered the genres of pinball, photography simulators, pet simulators, tetris simulators, and I hear there’s a racing game in development as well. So the next logical step is a Pokemon roguelike!

PG: What’s a ‘roguelike’?

DG: Oh, it’s a super-popular genre, sir! Pretty much every other indie game tries to claim that it has ‘roguelike elements’ in it nowadays, and even some triple-A game studios are getting in on it!

PG: So why haven’t I heard of it before?

DG: Whoops, sorry, I was actually talking about my predictions for what the roguelike genre will be like in the late twenty-tens! Currently it’s a super-obscure genre pretty much only played by old grognards who play PC games exclusively, prefer challenging titles with intricate mechanics, and scorn elements of popular RPGs like random encounters or level grinding.

PG: I see. And does that demographic have any overlap with the audience for Pokemon, a casual, easy to understand console-exclusive RPG with random encounters and level grinding, enjoyed by young-skewing players?

DG: I mean, maybe it does, sir! You never know until you try!

PG: Hmm. Well, I assume you must have an idea that could only be possible as a roguelike, then, which makes use of the genre’s greatest strengths.

DG: Actually sir, I was planning on making a story-focused game, and story is notoriously one of the roguelike genre’s biggest weaknesses!

PG: And you’re doing this because…?

DG: Us roguelike players love making things unnecessarily difficult for ourselves, sir!

PG: Oh, making things unnecessarily hard is tight!

DG: It sure is, sir!

PG: So what’s this game about?

DG: Alright! So it’s set in this fantasy world inhabited only by sapient Pokemon, which can be accessed from the regular Pokemon world by mysterious and never clearly explained means.

PG: Huh, a Pokemon-only world sounds like it has potential for a ton of interesting worldbuilding! You’d have to consider how society would be different when you can’t assume that any given person will have the same body shape, lifespan, or nutritional requirements. Communication would be difficult given that many Pokemon don’t have the dexterity necessary for traditional writing, and some don’t even have mouths to speak with. Even body language wouldn’t necessarily carry across from a quadruped to a snake, for instance. Then you have to consider the problems that would arise for meat-eating Pokemon in a world where all their possible prey is also intelligent. Would they be exiled? Survive solely on scavenging? And what about Pokemon like Muk or Magmar which are dangerous simply to be around? Their society would have to-

DG: Actually sir, I was thinking that their culture would be pretty much exactly like ours is, except that everyone lives in houses that look like their heads!

PG: That also works!

DG: Of course, we still want to the protagonist to be relatable to the player, so I was thinking of having them be a human who mysteriously got turned into a Pokemon and woke up in the new world with no memories. You know, cash in on that whole isekai craze!

PG: Isekai craze?

DG: Oh, isekai is a super-popular genre, sir! Pretty much every other anime or light-novel is an isekai nowadays! Even all the shows making fun of isekai are also still themselves isekai!

PG: And I haven’t heard of it because-

DG: Whoa, sorry, I was talking about my predictions for the late twenty-tens again, sir! Currently, my ‘transformed-into-a-Pokemon-in-another-world’ premise would most likely be interpreted as being in the ‘furry wish-fulfillment’ genre, sir!

PG: It’s kind of weird that this is the second time this conversation you got confused about what decade we’re in.

DG: I’m just super ahead of my time, sir!

PG: ...right. So what will the protagonist of the game be doing in this Pokemon world?

DG: Immediately after waking up, the protagonist discovers that the world is being assailed by a large number of natural disasters, which are causing mysterious rifts in space-time to open up. Anyone who falls into one of these rifts – which happens with astonishing frequency – will slowly have their personality and sanity ground away, until they’re nothing more than brutal, feral beasts, mindlessly attacking everyone in sight. Throughout the game, the protagonist will be forced to enter these rifts again and again, slaughtering dozens of these formerly-innocent Pokemon each time, in the hopes of saving just one more Pokemon from this fate. Yet the player’s actions are ultimately proved futile, as they have no way of closing the rifts, which will only have increased in number by the end of the story.

PG: This is sounding kind of grim for a Pokemon game!

DG: Don’t worry, everyone will act really cheerful all the time, and I’ll use fun names for things. For example, the feral-slaughtering squads will be referred to as ‘Rescue Teams’, and the horrible mind-rending wounds in space and time will be called ‘Mystery Dungeons’!

PG: Oh, okay! ...wait, is ‘Mystery Dungeons’ even remotely plausible as a name Pokemon would’ve chosen for this phenomenon in-world? Do they even have regular dungeons where they imprison people?

DG: Not at all sir, but I’m afraid I’m completely married to the term, because I’ve already decided the game will be called ‘Pokemon Mystery Dungeon’!

PG: I don’t know, that name kind of just screams ‘generic dungeon crawler’. Is it possible to-

DG: I’ve put a ring on that name, driven it home in a car with cans tied to the bumper, and made love to it, sir!

PG: Okay, okay! So what’s the gameplay of this thing going to be like?

DG: It’ll be a top-down turn based dungeon crawler, where all the enemies and player characters are Pokemon. For ease of development, I was thinking of copying over as many mechanics from the mainline games as possible. Pokemon will still only have four move slots, with learnable movesets being about the same as they are in Ruby and Sapphire, and use all the same stats as the mainline games except for speed.

PG: Huh, sounds like it’ll be difficult to take mechanics designed for an abstract JRPG battle system and balance them for a game involving tactical movement and positioning!

DG: You’re right sir, which is why we’re not going to do that.

PG: Wait, so you aren’t going to use the mainline Pokemon mechanics?

DG: No, I mean we’re just not going to balance them. Like, at all.

PG: Fair enough! I guess you said the game would be more focused on the story anyways. Tell me more about that.

DG: Well, it starts with the protagonist forming a rescue team with the first Pokemon they see after waking up, which is canonically called ‘Team Pokepals’, because they’re two Pokemon who are pals with each other. They learn about the existence of other rescue teams, such as recurring antagonist Team Meanies, who are a bunch of meanies, and the elite Team A.C.T., short for Alakazam-Charizard-Tyranitar, which consists of an Alakazam, Charizard, and Tyranitar.

PG: I take back what I said about ‘Mystery Dungeons’ being an unrealistic term. It seems like it’s consistent with Pokemon in this world just being generally terrible at naming things.

DG: The protagonist does a lot of miscellaneous good deeds, and eventually decides to investigate the mystery of how they got transformed into a Pokemon. So they go to visit this Pokemon named Xatu, because he’s a Xatu. Since he stares into the sun all day, he has knowledge of the past and future.

PG: I don’t think staring into the sun does that.

DG: How else do you think I learned so much about what genres would be popular in the late twenty-tens?

PG: ...right. So what does the protagonist learn from this Xatu?

DG: Xatu tells them that the recent disasters that have been afflicting the world are ‘connected’ to the protagonist turning into a Pokemon, and also that the planet will be destroyed soon unless the world’s balance is restored.

PG: That all sounds kind of vague and easy to misinterpret.

DG: Well, obviously Xatu was just expecting that the protagonist would stare at the sun themselves if they wanted to figure out the details. Admittedly it’s kind of a major plot hole that nobody else in the world does any sun-staring.

PG: Somehow I don’t think anyone is going to notice that.

DG: Afterwards, Team Pokepals goes to see a Pokemon named Whiscash because he’s a Whiscash, who knows lots of things because he stares at a waterfall all day. He tells them of a legend about a human trainer in the regular Pokemon world who touched a Ninetales’ tail, and was therefore subjected to a horrible thousand-year curse. The trainer’s Gardevoir intercepted the curse for him somehow, but the human cowardly ran away. Then the Ninetales predicted that one day that human would be reborn as a Pokemon, after which the balance of the world would be disrupted.

PG: Being reincarnated as a powerful quasi-magical being in a fantasy world doesn’t actually seem like that bad of a curse!

DG: That’s actually something I predict will be a common misconception after the release of the game! Getting reborn as a Pokemon wasn’t the curse; the curse was that Gardevoir got trapped in the spirit world for a thousand years, completely alone in a dimension where the conventional laws of physics and logic have no meaning, unable to have any effect on the world except to occasionally contact the protagonist in dreams, but otherwise being a prisoner inside her own spirit-body, unable to scream or even have the mercy of death!

PG: Seems pretty extreme for just touching a tail. This Ninetales is an absolute monster!

DG: No, the human who ran away was the monster, because he abandoned Gardevoir to her fate.

PG: Did he have any means whatsoever of interacting with the spirit world to save Gardevoir?

DG: Not at all, sir! The most likely result of him staying behind to help would’ve been Ninetales giving him a horrible curse too. So as you can see, he’s a total monster!

PG: ...right.

DG: Anyhoo, it turns out that the human in that legend actually got reborn as Gengar, the leader of Team Meanies! Gengar overheard what Xatu said to Team Pokepals about the protagonist becoming a human being “connected” to the recent disasters, so he decides to start a rumor that the protagonist was the human in the Ninetales legend and is the one responsible for all the recent disasters and possible end of the world!

PG: Sounds like it’ll be pretty difficult for Gengar to convince anyone of that, given that the protagonist has just done a bunch of good deeds for everyone while he’s the leader of a team literally called “Team Meanies” because of how mean they are!

DG: Actually sir, it’ll be super-easy, barely an inconvenience! All he has to do is tell everyone about the Ninetales legend and what he heard from Xatu, and then everyone automatically believes him!

PG: Oh, really?

DG: Yeah yeah yeah! So then all the Pokemon in town decide to murder the protagonist in the hope that this will somehow make all the disasters go away, and Team Pokepals has to go into exile! There’ll be this really sad and beautiful music playing, and the whole thing will just be super emotional and touching!

PG: I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.

DG: So Team Pokepals has to fight through a really dark place, then a really hot place, then a really cold place, until finally Team A.C.T. catches up with them! They’re just about to murder the protagonist when Ninetales appears and explains that they aren’t the human from the legend, and in fact that it was only a coincidence that the appearance of that human in the Pokemon world occurred around the same time as the disasters. So then Team Pokepals goes home and tells everyone this, and everyone in town believes them without evidence!

PG: These town Pokemon seem awfully trusting.

DG: So then Xatu, annoyed at how no one else has done any sun-staring yet, decides to just contact everyone telepathically and tell people the real cause of all the natural disasters: There’s a big ol’ meteor headed for the planet!

PG: How does an approaching meteor cause natural disasters for months before it even hits?

DG: I don’t know sir, but I do know that stories about meteors about to impact the planet are super-popular right now! Pretty much every news story is about that nowadays, and even the ones that aren’t are about all the apocalypse cults forming in response! We’ve gotta cash in!

PG: Wait, what!? Why haven’t-

DG: Oops, sorry about that! I was actually talking about my predictions for the date of February seventeenth, twenty-twenty-two. Currently the planet slumbers in a state of blissful ignorance, heedless of the coming of the Great Firebringer and the Making Over of the world!

PG: ...right. So what does Team Pokepals decide to do about the meteor?

DG: Conveniently, there exists a Pokemon called Rayquaza who has the power to destroy meteors, but who apparently hasn’t done anything about it yet, so Xatu, Alakazam, and Gengar join their powers to create a teleport gem that can warp Team Pokepals to the mysterious sky tower where Rayquaza lives!

PG: Wait, Pokemon can just create ‘teleport gems’ now? Was this foreshadowed in any way, or does it have any justification in previously established Pokemon lore?

DG: Well sir, Alakazam and Xatu both know the move Teleport, and Gengar is a ghost-type, so naturally he can do, you know, sort of ghost-y, mystical stuff, like creating teleport gems.

PG: Works for me!

DG: But before they use the gem, the protagonist has a dream where Gardevoir contacts them and reveals that they got turned into a Pokemon because Gardevoir sought a hero who could save the world from the meteor, and the protagonist was that person! Gardevoir also reveals that the protagonist specifically chose to have their memory erased, so that they could prove themselves worthy of being the hero!

PG: Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the protagonist to retain their knowledge of the coming meteoric destruction so that they’d have a lot more time to prepare, instead of going for this last-minute teleport gem thing?

DG: Oh, whoops!

PG: Whoopsie!

DG: So anyways, Team Pokepals use the teleport gem and fight their way through the final dungeon to reach Rayquaza, but he attacks them before they can tell him about the meteor, because the game needs to have a final boss! After the fight, Rayquaza notices shock waves coming from the meteor, which is now directly overhead! So he shoots a Hyper Beam that blows up the meteor, and the world is saved!

PG: Wait, so was everything the protagonist did completely unnecessary, and Rayquaza would’ve just blown up the meteor anyways after they detected the shock waves?

DG: Probably! In fact, the protagonist’s trip to see Rayquaza actually made things worse, because now Team Pokepals is close enough to the meteor to be caught in the blast radius of its explosion!

PG: Oh no!

DG: Fortunately, Gengar shows up and drags all the members of Team Pokepals through the Dark World, which somehow causes them to appear back on the ground completely safe! And then Xatu announces that the natural disasters will go away soon! But to add a little bittersweetness to the ending, we also learn that the protagonist must leave the world of Pokemon, and return to being a human.

PG: Huh. Was this ‘Dark World’ thing foreshadowed in any way, or-

DG: Nope!

PG: Do the mystery dungeons induced by the natural disasters actually end up going away?

DG: Not at all! In fact, the entire post-game is completely consistent with the idea that everyone was mistaken about the meteor being the true cause of the disasters, which in retrospect was never that plausible to begin with!

PG: Does the protagonist actually go back to being a human?

DG: Ha-ha, definitely not! Or rather, they do, but only until the credits end. Then it’s right back to the status quo for the post-game content!

PG: Huh. So what happens to the protagonist’s original human family?

DG: I guess they all have to live with the fact that the protagonist preferred being a small marketable critter in a world filled with people they’d only known for a month or so over being with their own family!

PG: Fair enough!

DG: So, what do you think of the game?

PG: I’ll be honest, this one sounds like a long-shot. But we here at The Pokemon Company believe that everything needs to have a Pokemon version of it made, so, sure, why not a Pokemon roguelike?

DG: Yes! Thank you, sir! The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series is going to become a cult classic, I just know it!

PG: ‘Series’? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here…

A musical sting is heard as the image of a Kotaku article appears onscreen, dated February 16th, 2022. The headline: “Next Game In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Series Canceled After The Pokemon Company Faces Lawsuits From Parents Whose Children Blinded Themselves Staring Into The Sun”. A link to another article can be seen labeled “The ‘Coming Of The Great Firebringer’ Hoax, Explained”.
 
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DG: Oops, sorry about that! I was actually talking about my predictions for the date of February seventeenth, twenty-twenty-two. Currently the planet slumbers in a state of blissful ignorance, heedless of the coming of the Great Firebringer and the Making Over of the world!
I'll be expecting more information on my desk on February 16th at 6 AM, sharp.

I saw this listed in the recent fics and checked it out on a whim for the review blitz. And honestly? I’m glad I did, because this is exactly my brand of humor. It’s got everything: lampshading, gratuitous metatextual references, and pokemon. The moment that they brought up all the worldbuilding possibilities, only for it to be shut down with what boiled down to “nah they’re essentially just humans in furry animal bodies,” I knew I was in for a treat.

Something I kind of wish had been joked about in the mechanics discussion (even though it’s a relatively obscure thing) is how the movesets work in the original PMD games. See, you can full multiple slots with the same move. A genuine strategy in level reset dungeons in the original rescue team is making your moveset “attract” and “as many copies of frustration as you can find.”

The jokes about the entire fugitive arc also got a kick out of me. Yeah. The pokemon in RT are kiiinda gullible. But hey, it made me feel good in the end 8P

I’ll be honest, it actually never occurred to me how much Gengar gets demonized for screwing up over a thousand years ago (though, to be fair, his personality does nothing to win him any favors.)

Overall, I got a kick out of this, and I’m glad I took a little time out of my day to read it. Your stuff always seems to get a laugh out of me. Thanks for sharing!
 

slamdunkrai

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Hi! Blitz, and so on and so forth.

I think where the jokes land in this, they land well; the best ones are either the ones where you draw attention to the implications of the worldbuilding in Red and Blue Rescue Team and then have Developer Guy just wave it away like the games do (in particular, as Windskull mentions, the point that their culture is basically ours but "everyone lives in houses that look like their heads" is an extremely good joke — this is blatantly ridiculous and you have DG play into that basically the right amount), or the more absurd bits that you do. The other bits that got a little chuckle out of me are DG's inexplicable foresight powers that are never expanded upon, and the dubiously real but still very looming threat of the Great Firebringer. As a piece of slightly absurdist commentary on the original PMD games, which uses that absurdism as a strangely sincere (I say that affectionately) comment on why these flawed and kinda ridiculous games are still fairly popular nearly 20 years later, it does its job well!

At least from my experience, though, I think this is held back as a piece of comedy by two things. I think the way you adhere to the format so strictly is the main thing for me; I found the strict focus on "DG says goofy thing, PG verbally responds, repeat" basically removes the potential you have for any goofs you may wish to include that aren't verbal. Sticking so neatly to this format means that you really have to keep the dialogue interesting to keep up the momentum going, and I think there were moments where this faltered in that aspect. An example: you make the joke where PG responds to DG's ridiculousness by saying "...right" four times, and that sort of mild incredulity I feel you can really only get away with once or twice in something like this. The second thing is related to that; it didn't really read like PG had much of a consistent personality beyond responding to whatever DG says with either shock, acceptance, or mild doubt, cycling between the three depending on whatever the joke needs. Beyond a few one-off lines (e.g. "making things unnecessarily hard is tight!", him drawing attention to the curse not being that bad and then actually a little extreme), it felt like much of the humour here came from DG. Beyond the format, I think this could've been improved if you played into PG having his own personality — one that plays some more into, say, the "I'm very confused, but TPCi will publish a Pokémon version of anything, so why not" aspect of his character.

I'm definitely taking this goofy one-shot about an office meeting a little seriously, though. I think this works very well as a comment on the original PMD games being odd little things, albeit a comment that knows just when to be wacky and weird. I'm pretty sure this is the first thing I've read on yours, so I'll have to read some of your more prosaic works to really comment on your style, but despite my issues with this I do think your comic instincts shine through well enough. Also, you understand the Rescue Team games in the exact right ways to make jokes about them, and I laughed at least once. Cheers for writing this! :>
 

Pen

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I had a complete blast with this one! I read the first few lines out of curiosity and was completely hooked. You hit on so many ridiculous aspects of the PMD franchise in ways that left me cackling. I found the format of the Producer Guy pointing out all the complex worldbuilding issues and fridge horror that arise from the PMD set-up, only for the Developer Guy to blithely propose something that doesn't address any of the problems to be hugely effective. The Red/Blue specific aspects were great as well--that was the first PMD game I played, and while young-me was shocked ad horrified when the village turned on me and my partner (chasing us about a block before leaving us alone) it's a plot-line that only feels more silly with time, and you did a great job unpacking the logic of it. I particularly liked their discussion of the meteorite actually being unrelated to the mystery dungeons, oops. Other stand-out moments included the dubbing of 'Rescue Teams' as 'feral-slaughtering squads' because honestly, where is the lie. The beat where PG speculates all about the complexities of depicting how a multi-species pokemon society would live and act, only for the DG to say 'or they could act just like humans!' had me laughing really hard.

This was an excellent parody all the way through without any slow moments for me. As someone who likes to explore the inconsistencies and unintended horror of PMD through a more serious lens, it was a lot of fun to read a lighter take on the same issues.
 

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My god, I adore this story.

I think there's a really fine line to tread in script format for something that's supposed to be jumping the line between spoken and written medium--since I've consumed a lot of Pitch Meeting already, I think I was able to compensate for some of the visual "boringness" perhaps by knowing the intonation/dryness with which a line is about to be said. Or it was just a naturally hilarious work throughout; who knows! I think you nailed the SR format of poking lightly at the worldbuilding/conceit flaws for a little bit before going into the plot. In general the format of trying to pick things apart by having one person blithely saying the quiet parts out loud while another person agrees straight-up isn't an easy format to couch this kind of parody in, which makes it all the more impressive that this lands so well.

The general gags that I wanted from a Pitch Meeting were all there ("HE SAID THE THING! THE THING!") but I liked your own little twist on it as well with the meta-humor/decade-hopping and our Great Firebringer overlord. Feels distinctly you in a format that's trying to emulate another. Loved the gags about the silliness of their non-unique society, everyone shitting on Gengar for more or less no reason, how badly they suck at naming things, the elite feral-killing squads that are known as Rescue Teams--it feels like a very loving way to poke fun at a world that, truly, when you look deeper is pretty silly. But they're cute and they have scarves so it's all okay.

(I was waiting for a gag where they talk about how Alakazam/Charizard/Tyranitar should all be named their names because not all pokemon look the same, cut to PG and DG staring at each other, but I think that works solely in a visual medium lol).

This is amazing lmao. Thank you.
 
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Is everyone in this one shot Ryan George or a walrein? Or both? Ryan George with tusks and a beard?

Alright, alright. I’ll get all the way off your back about what they look like.

I really liked this. To be honest I’ve forgotten a lot of PMD 1’s plot and wow it’s a lot less logical than I remembered. Really hits home how much better explorers is with a plotline that tracks all the way through and a really great fight to the tower sequence. I was cackling when you pointed out that the protagonist literally didn’t even need to be there for this story. The outcome would’ve been the same either way.

Also didn’t know much about the rogue like genre since I don’t game. Could to know what things might hypothetically be like in the late 2010s.

All I remember about the first PMD tbh is the Ninetales stuff and the stupid mankey. I remember that quest took me forever when I was seven.

No reference to the kecleons? Even in the Pokémon world you can’t escape capitalism. Really can’t escape capitalism. Oh gods please don’t even try. But then if you do survive and get back to town the kecleon will just forget everything.

I was also expecting something along the lines of…

PG: So you have a new Pokémon spin-off games for me?

SG: Well, I have a game.

PG: Games.

SG: What?

PG: Well, I figure that if we can sell people the same game twice in the mainline series we can also do that for the spin-offs.

SG: Works for me. I don’t have to actually change anything of substance between the versions, right?

PG: I’d prefer you didn’t.

SG: Great.

PG: So tell me about these spin-off games.
 
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Heya. I'd heard some pretty decent word-of-mouth for this one-shot, and I recently had the pleasure of reading through one of your works for a contest and found it fairly entertaining. So eh, why not, I'm a bit tight on energy for bigger fare tonight, so let's give this a go:

Scene: The offices of The Pokemon Company in Tokyo, 2003. A bespectacled, nerdy-looking Developer Guy has just entered the office of Producer Guy, who is sharply dressed but otherwise looks weirdly similar to Developer Guy.

Producer Guy: So, you have a new Pokemon spin-off game idea for me?

Developer Guy: Yes sir, I do! Previous spin-off games have covered the genres of pinball, photography simulators, pet simulators, tetris simulators, and I hear there’s a racing game in development as well. So the next logical step is a Pokemon roguelike!

The best part is, that Roguelikes were already extremely niche at this time for video gaming, so Mr. Chunsoft there is making a pretty bold statement there about Roguelikes being a logical step.

PG: "Really now. Since I just had a guy from Koei pitch me on Pokémon Musou. So why should I give your pitch attention and not his when people buy that stuff in droves as long as there's popular anime characters in it?"

DG: "Uh... ours will be more likely to skate by with a CERO All rating? That's a priority of yours for games, right?"
701630550720512120.png


PG: What’s a ‘roguelike’?

DG: Oh, it’s a super-popular genre, sir! Pretty much every other indie game tries to claim that it has ‘roguelike elements’ in it nowadays, and even some triple-A game studios are getting in on it!

>implying any of this is true in 2003 >:V

PG: So why haven’t I heard of it before?

DG: Whoops, sorry, I was actually talking about my predictions for what the roguelike genre will be like in the late twenty-tens! Currently it’s a super-obscure genre pretty much only played by old grognards who play PC games exclusively, prefer challenging titles with intricate mechanics, and scorn elements of popular RPGs like random encounters or level grinding.

Yeah, that sounds about right to me.

PG: I see. And does that demographic have any overlap with the audience for Pokemon, a casual, easy to understand console-exclusive RPG with random encounters and level grinding, enjoyed by young-skewing players?

DG: I mean, maybe it does, sir! You never know until you try!

I mean, aside from "level grinding", Roguelikes tend to not be that far removed from the grind of a more conventional JRPG. The item management and hunger analogue is definitely an extra wrinkle, though.

PG: Hmm. Well, I assume you must have an idea that could only be possible as a roguelike, then, which makes use of the genre’s greatest strengths.

DG: Actually sir, I was planning on making a story-focused game, and story is notoriously one of the roguelike genre’s biggest weaknesses!

PG: And you’re doing this because…?

DG: Us roguelike players love making things unnecessarily difficult for ourselves, sir!

822923369149890622.png


PG: Oh, making things unnecessarily hard is tight!

DG: It sure is, sir!

Could've fooled me with Pokémon's overall design ethos towards difficulty post B2W2, but eh. It's 2003, I'll let it slide.

PG: So what’s this game about?

DG: Alright! So it’s set in this fantasy world inhabited only by sapient Pokemon, which can be accessed from the regular Pokemon world by mysterious and never clearly explained means.

PG: Huh, a Pokemon-only world sounds like it has potential for a ton of interesting worldbuilding! You’d have to consider how society would be different when you can’t assume that any given person will have the same body shape, lifespan, or nutritional requirements. Communication would be difficult given that many Pokemon don’t have the dexterity necessary for traditional writing, and some don’t even have mouths to speak with. Even body language wouldn’t necessarily carry across from a quadruped to a snake, for instance. Then you have to consider the problems that would arise for meat-eating Pokemon in a world where all their possible prey is also intelligent. Would they be exiled? Survive solely on scavenging? And what about Pokemon like Muk or Magmar which are dangerous simply to be around? Their society would have to-

DG: "... Pretty sure that TPCI won't let us get away with that even if we wanted to, sir. They need to sell merchandise to kids."

PG: "... Right, so what exactly is the alternative you're proposing, then?"

DG: Actually sir, I was thinking that their culture would be pretty much exactly like ours is, except that everyone lives in houses that look like their heads!

PG: That also works!

Yeah, alas. I strongly suspect that part of this is that (Spike) Chunsoft is on a significantly tighter leash as a third party than the internal teams. But hey, it gives writers like me room to write stuff for an audience. :V

DG: "Also, we'd like to slip in cameos of some of our characters. We heard that there was a character design floating around the anime team that looked like it was getting popular, so we were thinking we could make it into a legendary explorer called 'Shiren' and give him a sidekick named 'Koppa' that's-"

PG: "No. Absolutely not. No names outside the player party!" >:|

DG: "... Or we could just have all the NPCs refer to each other by species name. That could work too."

DG: Of course, we still want to the protagonist to be relatable to the player, so I was thinking of having them be a human who mysteriously got turned into a Pokemon and woke up in the new world with no memories. You know, cash in on that whole isekai craze!

PG: Isekai craze?

DG: Oh, isekai is a super-popular genre, sir! Pretty much every other anime or light-novel is an isekai nowadays! Even all the shows making fun of isekai are also still themselves isekai!

Pretty sure that wasn't the case in-

PG: And I haven’t heard of it because-

DG: Whoa, sorry, I was talking about my predictions for the late twenty-tens again, sir! Currently, my ‘transformed-into-a-Pokemon-in-another-world’ premise would most likely be interpreted as being in the ‘furry wish-fulfillment’ genre, sir!

Yeah, that again.

PG: It’s kind of weird that this is the second time this conversation you got confused about what decade we’re in.

DG: I’m just super ahead of my time, sir!

Is that why you're pitching a game that's a simplified version of a 10-year old premise by that point? >:V

PG: ...right. So what will the protagonist of the game be doing in this Pokemon world?

DG: Immediately after waking up, the protagonist discovers that the world is being assailed by a large number of natural disasters, which are causing mysterious rifts in space-time to open up. Anyone who falls into one of these rifts – which happens with astonishing frequency – will slowly have their personality and sanity ground away, until they’re nothing more than brutal, feral beasts, mindlessly attacking everyone in sight. Throughout the game, the protagonist will be forced to enter these rifts again and again, slaughtering dozens of these formerly-innocent Pokemon each time, in the hopes of saving just one more Pokemon from this fate. Yet the player’s actions are ultimately proved futile, as they have no way of closing the rifts, which will only have increased in number by the end of the story.

PG: This is sounding kind of grim for a Pokemon game!

DG: Don’t worry, everyone will act really cheerful all the time, and I’ll use fun names for things. For example, the feral-slaughtering squads will be referred to as ‘Rescue Teams’, and the horrible mind-rending wounds in space and time will be called ‘Mystery Dungeons’!

PG: "Er... yeah, this is kinda a collectathon franchise. How are the players supposed to be able to collect all the Pokémon if every Pokémon they encounter outside their party and the NPCs are feral beasts?"

DG: "Uh... We'll just ignore all those implications and give the player a random chance to recruit one of those Pokémon in the dungeon onto their team! Simple workaround, right?"

PG: "... Didn't you just specifically pitch this as the protagonists being up against feral beasts? How on earth would recruiting even work?"

DG: "... The recruits got better?"
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PG: Oh, okay! ...wait, is ‘Mystery Dungeons’ even remotely plausible as a name Pokemon would’ve chosen for this phenomenon in-world? Do they even have regular dungeons where they imprison people?

DG: Not at all sir, but I’m afraid I’m completely married to the term, because I’ve already decided the game will be called ‘Pokemon Mystery Dungeon’!

PG: I don’t know, that name kind of just screams ‘generic dungeon crawler’. Is it possible to-

DG: I’ve put a ring on that name, driven it home in a car with cans tied to the bumper, and made love to it, sir!

PG: "I could've sworn that your first Mystery Dungeon game was called 'Torneko's Great Adventure', though."
:what:


DG: "Technically, it was 'Torneko's Great Adventure: Mystery Dungeon' in this market. It's kind of a tradition of ours to put 'Mystery Dungeon' somewhere in the title of one of our Roguelikes, and Squaresoft let us get away with Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon, so..."

PG: "Hrmph, I suppose it's better than the backup pitch that guy from Koei gave us for 'Pokémon + Nobunaga's Ambition'. Just imagine ever publishing something with a mouthful of a name like that."

PG: Okay, okay! So what’s the gameplay of this thing going to be like?

DG: It’ll be a top-down turn based dungeon crawler, where all the enemies and player characters are Pokemon. For ease of development, I was thinking of copying over as many mechanics from the mainline games as possible. Pokemon will still only have four move slots, with learnable movesets being about the same as they are in Ruby and Sapphire, and use all the same stats as the mainline games except for speed.

PG: Huh, sounds like it’ll be difficult to take mechanics designed for an abstract JRPG battle system and balance them for a game involving tactical movement and positioning!

DG: You’re right sir, which is why we’re not going to do that.

PG: Wait, so you aren’t going to use the mainline Pokemon mechanics?

DG: No, I mean we’re just not going to balance them. Like, at all.

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On the plus side, that also works in the player's favor commonly since deleting Monster Houses with Orbs is definitely something that wouldn't be viable if TPCI was anal about PMD actually being balanced.

PG: Fair enough! I guess you said the game would be more focused on the story anyways. Tell me more about that.

DG: Well, it starts with the protagonist forming a rescue team with the first Pokemon they see after waking up, which is canonically called ‘Team Pokepals’, because they’re two Pokemon who are pals with each other. They learn about the existence of other rescue teams, such as recurring antagonist Team Meanies, who are a bunch of meanies, and the elite Team A.C.T., short for Alakazam-Charizard-Tyranitar, which consists of an Alakazam, Charizard, and Tyranitar.

PG: "... Pretty sure you mean 'Team F.L.B.' there. You know, Foodin, Lizardon, Bangiras..."

DG: "Translation convention for the readers! Also ACT makes a clever acronym while that other one kinda sucks, might be something for your localization offices to consider."

PG: "I'll pass word along to the European offices. Since I really doubt the German team's really going to find 'Team SGD' marketable."

PG: I take back what I said about ‘Mystery Dungeons’ being an unrealistic term. It seems like it’s consistent with Pokemon in this world just being generally terrible at naming things.

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DG: The protagonist does a lot of miscellaneous good deeds, and eventually decides to investigate the mystery of how they got transformed into a Pokemon. So they go to visit this Pokemon named Xatu, because he’s a Xatu. Since he stares into the sun all day, he has knowledge of the past and future.

PG: I don’t think staring into the sun does that.

DG: How else do you think I learned so much about what genres would be popular in the late twenty-tens?

To be fair, losing your vision might force you to develop psychic powers, so...
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PG: ...right. So what does the protagonist learn from this Xatu?

DG: Xatu tells them that the recent disasters that have been afflicting the world are ‘connected’ to the protagonist turning into a Pokemon, and also that the planet will be destroyed soon unless the world’s balance is restored.

PG: That all sounds kind of vague and easy to misinterpret.

DG: Well, obviously Xatu was just expecting that the protagonist would stare at the sun themselves if they wanted to figure out the details. Admittedly it’s kind of a major plot hole that nobody else in the world does any sun-staring.

Something, something, it's different when you're a creepy bird with a dead inside stare and psychic powers. Maybe.

PG: Somehow I don’t think anyone is going to notice that.

Given that people are still playing those games a decade and a half later and writing stories about them on the internet... yeah, I'm taking Mr. TPCI's side here.

DG: Afterwards, Team Pokepals goes to see a Pokemon named Whiscash because he’s a Whiscash, who knows lots of things because he stares at a waterfall all day. He tells them of a legend about a human trainer in the regular Pokemon world who touched a Ninetales’ tail, and was therefore subjected to a horrible thousand-year curse. The trainer’s Gardevoir intercepted the curse for him somehow, but the human cowardly ran away. Then the Ninetales predicted that one day that human would be reborn as a Pokemon, after which the balance of the world would be disrupted.

PG: Being reincarnated as a powerful quasi-magical being in a fantasy world doesn’t actually seem like that bad of a curse!

DG: That’s actually something I predict will be a common misconception after the release of the game! Getting reborn as a Pokemon wasn’t the curse; the curse was that Gardevoir got trapped in the spirit world for a thousand years, completely alone in a dimension where the conventional laws of physics and logic have no meaning, unable to have any effect on the world except to occasionally contact the protagonist in dreams, but otherwise being a prisoner inside her own spirit-body, unable to scream or even have the mercy of death!

PG: Seems pretty extreme for just touching a tail. This Ninetales is an absolute monster!

Yeaaaaah, canon Ninetales is kinda a dick. Not that it's inconsistent with some of the earlier 'dex entries in mainline.

DG: No, the human who ran away was the monster, because he abandoned Gardevoir to her fate.

PG: Did he have any means whatsoever of interacting with the spirit world to save Gardevoir?

DG: Not at all, sir! The most likely result of him staying behind to help would’ve been Ninetales giving him a horrible curse too. So as you can see, he’s a total monster!

PG: ...right.

To be fair, the human who ran away was also a giant dick and tried to get me lynched by angry villagers out of some combination of saving his own hide and for giggles, so... yeah, he's still a monster.

DG: Anyhoo, it turns out that the human in that legend actually got reborn as Gengar, the leader of Team Meanies! Gengar overheard what Xatu said to Team Pokepals about the protagonist becoming a human being “connected” to the recent disasters, so he decides to start a rumor that the protagonist was the human in the Ninetales legend and is the one responsible for all the recent disasters and possible end of the world!

PG: Sounds like it’ll be pretty difficult for Gengar to convince anyone of that, given that the protagonist has just done a bunch of good deeds for everyone while he’s the leader of a team literally called “Team Meanies” because of how mean they are!

DG: Actually sir, it’ll be super-easy, barely an inconvenience! All he has to do is tell everyone about the Ninetales legend and what he heard from Xatu, and then everyone automatically believes him!

PG: Oh, really?

DG: Yeah yeah yeah! So then all the Pokemon in town decide to murder the protagonist in the hope that this will somehow make all the disasters go away, and Team Pokepals has to go into exile! There’ll be this really sad and beautiful music playing, and the whole thing will just be super emotional and touching!

PG: I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.

Yeah. I'm still mad at those villagers for taking Gengar's side over mine. Not that suddenly going full Mr. Mime after being asked to defend yourself because of plot reasons really helped.

DG: So Team Pokepals has to fight through a really dark place, then a really hot place, then a really cold place, until finally Team A.C.T. catches up with them! They’re just about to murder the protagonist when Ninetales appears and explains that they aren’t the human from the legend, and in fact that it was only a coincidence that the appearance of that human in the Pokemon world occurred around the same time as the disasters. So then Team Pokepals goes home and tells everyone this, and everyone in town believes them without evidence!

PG: These town Pokemon seem awfully trusting.

DG: "... Maybe a little. But hey, it's Pokémon. You guys have blocked off routes with lines of dancing NPCs before. So these sorts of plot holes should be old hat to your audience-"

PG: "Wait a minute, since when did we do that?"

DG: "... Right, wrong decade again."

DG: So then Xatu, annoyed at how no one else has done any sun-staring yet, decides to just contact everyone telepathically and tell people the real cause of all the natural disasters: There’s a big ol’ meteor headed for the planet!

PG: How does an approaching meteor cause natural disasters for months before it even hits?

DG: I don’t know sir, but I do know that stories about meteors about to impact the planet are super-popular right now! Pretty much every news story is about that nowadays, and even the ones that aren’t are about all the apocalypse cults forming in response! We’ve gotta cash in!

PG: Wait, what!? Why haven’t-

DG: Oops, sorry about that! I was actually talking about my predictions for the date of February seventeenth, twenty-twenty-two. Currently the planet slumbers in a state of blissful ignorance, heedless of the coming of the Great Firebringer and the Making Over of the world!

I dunno if that's actually a thing or not right now, but I admittedly have stopped caring about much-ballyhooed predictions of the apocalypse since they basically exist to sell schlocky movies for like a year and then get collectively forgotten.

PG: ...right. So what does Team Pokepals decide to do about the meteor?

DG: Conveniently, there exists a Pokemon called Rayquaza who has the power to destroy meteors, but who apparently hasn’t done anything about it yet, so Xatu, Alakazam, and Gengar join their powers to create a teleport gem that can warp Team Pokepals to the mysterious sky tower where Rayquaza lives!

PG: "... I'm sorry, and why would Rayquaza do this again?"

DG: "Isn't he canonically kinda a dick in the anime anyways? I don't think the players will bat an eye."
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PG: "... Point, though about those 'teleport gems'..."

PG: Wait, Pokemon can just create ‘teleport gems’ now? Was this foreshadowed in any way, or does it have any justification in previously established Pokemon lore?

DG: Well sir, Alakazam and Xatu both know the move Teleport, and Gengar is a ghost-type, so naturally he can do, you know, sort of ghost-y, mystical stuff, like creating teleport gems.

PG: Works for me!

I mean, considering some of the stuff that gets handwaved in mainline with "woo, supernatural powers", Teleport Gems aren't all that bad beyond them coming out of left field at a very narratively convenient time.

DG: But before they use the gem, the protagonist has a dream where Gardevoir contacts them and reveals that they got turned into a Pokemon because Gardevoir sought a hero who could save the world from the meteor, and the protagonist was that person! Gardevoir also reveals that the protagonist specifically chose to have their memory erased, so that they could prove themselves worthy of being the hero!

PG: Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the protagonist to retain their knowledge of the coming meteoric destruction so that they’d have a lot more time to prepare, instead of going for this last-minute teleport gem thing?

DG: Oh, whoops!

PG: Whoopsie!

I... actually don't recall whether or not the game script mentions that you were specifically told about that meteor or just that you were needed to save the world. Either way, the memory wipe was ill-advised if it wasn't unavoidable.

DG: So anyways, Team Pokepals use the teleport gem and fight their way through the final dungeon to reach Rayquaza, but he attacks them before they can tell him about the meteor, because the game needs to have a final boss! After the fight, Rayquaza notices shock waves coming from the meteor, which is now directly overhead! So he shoots a Hyper Beam that blows up the meteor, and the world is saved!

PG: Wait, so was everything the protagonist did completely unnecessary, and Rayquaza would’ve just blown up the meteor anyways after they detected the shock waves?

DG: "Also, again. Rayquaza in the game is just kind of a dick."

PG: "Okay, fair enough. Though as you were saying?"

DG: Probably! In fact, the protagonist’s trip to see Rayquaza actually made things worse, because now Team Pokepals is close enough to the meteor to be caught in the blast radius of its explosion!

PG: Oh no!

DG: Fortunately, Gengar shows up and drags all the members of Team Pokepals through the Dark World, which somehow causes them to appear back on the ground completely safe! And then Xatu announces that the natural disasters will go away soon! But to add a little bittersweetness to the ending, we also learn that the protagonist must leave the world of Pokemon, and return to being a human.

PG: Huh. Was this ‘Dark World’ thing foreshadowed in any way, or-

DG: Nope!

Yeeeeeah, that's a thing. In their defense, Spike Chunsoft got quite a bit better at avoiding obvious plot holes from the Explorers games on.

PG: Do the mystery dungeons induced by the natural disasters actually end up going away?

DG: Not at all! In fact, the entire post-game is completely consistent with the idea that everyone was mistaken about the meteor being the true cause of the disasters, which in retrospect was never that plausible to begin with!

PG: Does the protagonist actually go back to being a human?

DG: Ha-ha, definitely not! Or rather, they do, but only until the credits end. Then it’s right back to the status quo for the post-game content!

PG: "And you're doing this over a more conventional, touching ending like a JRPG why? You said you did work for Squaresoft in the past. You do realize their games almost always have definitive endings, right?"
:what:


DG: "Because A: We're Roguelike developers, B: open-ended games are a tradition for your franchise and the players would get mad to not have an opportunity to get all the Pokémon in the game?"
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PG: "... Alright, fair enough. Keep going."

PG: Huh. So what happens to the protagonist’s original human family?

DG: I guess they all have to live with the fact that the protagonist preferred being a small marketable critter in a world filled with people they’d only known for a month or so over being with their own family!

PG: Fair enough!

Yeeeeeeah. The games never going the 'E.T.' route to some capacity always bugged me a bit. But hey, that's what fanfiction is for. :V

DG: So, what do you think of the game?

PG: I’ll be honest, this one sounds like a long-shot. But we here at The Pokemon Company believe that everything needs to have a Pokemon version of it made, so, sure, why not a Pokemon roguelike?

DG: Yes! Thank you, sir! The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series is going to become a cult classic, I just know it!

PG: ‘Series’? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here…

DG: "I mean, we've only put out 7 installments of our signature franchise with Shiren on a shoestring budget. Trust us, I think we can make this work."

PG: "... You've published 4 games under that franchise. And two of them were Game Boy games that could've literally been developed in a garage."
:what:


DG: "... Okay, can you just put up the current year on a calendar somewhere? It'd make it easier to keep track of things chronologically. But eventually, we'll make 7 games in our signature franchise."

A musical sting is heard as the image of a Kotaku article appears onscreen, dated February 16th, 2022. The headline: “Next Game In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Series Canceled After The Pokemon Company Faces Lawsuits From Parents Whose Children Blinded Themselves Staring Into The Sun”. A link to another article can be seen labeled “The ‘Coming Of The Great Firebringer’ Hoax, Explained”.

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I-I still believe...

Well that was certainly a fun read, and it put a smile on my face, especially stuff like the recurring "wrong decade" running gag. There's not too much to say about format since you were going for something very specific if unconventional, and it didn't get in the way of your delivery.

Something I will say is that I felt you left some potentially funny jokes and jabs on the table, such as the "two versions of the same game" one that a prior reviewer left behind. But eh. It's a balancing act for jokes, since the more esoteric they are, the less likely the audience will be to pick up on them.

Nice work, @The Walrein , and hope you have a happy and productive Review Blitz!
 
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Negrek

Event Horizon
Staff
A fun story as always! It's been ages since I've played one of the Rescue Team games, so the plot parodies were a bit lost on me--lots of, "Wait, is that really what happened?" on my end, lol. Although the villagers chasing you off on flimsy evidence, then accepting you back on equally flimsy evidence, and then everything going back to normal afterwards, is one bit that's stuck with me. That little story arc involves recruiting a cool absol, though, so I'm willing to forgive.

Probably the funniest exchange, to me, was the "it sure would be difficult to rebalance this battle system designed for an entirely different type of game"/"well, yes, that's why we aren't going to do that" bit. I do pity anyone who has to adapt all zillion pokémon moves from one game context to a completely different one (that was me, once...), but the original Rescue Team games are nonetheless delightful in some of their adaptational choices. I also enjoyed the bit about completely failing to address how wildly disparate creatures could live together in any kind of society, since that's always been one of my big gripes. At least the houses are cute!

This felt a little less off-the-wall than many of your stories, and I missed that a bit, but you did sneak a bit in sideways there with the staring at the sun and DG's visions of the future. A fun mashup of the satiric and the absurd. Glad to have the chance to catch up on this and some of your other recent work!
 

ShiniGojira

Multiversal Extraordinaire
Location
Stranded In The Gaps between Multiverses
Pronouns
He/him/they/her
Partners
  1. custom/zorua-gojira
Hello hello, Walrein! Hope you're having a great day! I saw this some time and kept this on the back burner since this sounded like it'd be a fun little read.

Now that I've read through it, it was exactly how I thought it would be and it was great!

The script format worked wonderfully for this fic and it added a lovely charm to it. It felt like I was reading an actual script for a joke video or something.

Anyway, the jokes were great. I loved the way the producer guy questioned so many aspects of Rescue Team yet the developer guy wave it off with his future vision. (Has he been staring into the sun too much?)

Also loved the bit with the world building potential, and how they just waved it off and went with animals as humans.

Their back and forth, and blatant uncaring feeling about so many potentially interesting mechanics, and the disregard for the story's plot holes were amazing. They were all fun.

Here's some line-by-line thoughts:

PG: Huh, a Pokemon-only world sounds like it has potential for a ton of interesting worldbuilding! You’d have to consider how society would be different when you can’t assume that any given person will have the same body shape, lifespan, or nutritional requirements. Communication would be difficult given that many Pokemon don’t have the dexterity necessary for traditional writing, and some don’t even have mouths to speak with. Even body language wouldn’t necessarily carry across from a quadruped to a snake, for instance. Then you have to consider the problems that would arise for meat-eating Pokemon in a world where all their possible prey is also intelligent. Would they be exiled? Survive solely on scavenging? And what about Pokemon like Muk or Magmar which are dangerous simply to be around? Their society would have to-

DG: Actually sir, I was thinking that their culture would be pretty much exactly like ours is, except that everyone lives in houses that look like their heads!
This... this is amazing. Man, now I wished there was a world where the Mystery Dungeon's lore, culture and world building were fully utilized and interesting rather than just being vague and everyone's basically a furry human.
PG: It’s kind of weird that this is the second time this conversation you got confused about what decade we’re in.

DG: I’m just super ahead of my time, sir!
Very ahead, I see.
PG: I don’t think staring into the sun does that.

DG: How else do you think I learned so much about what genres would be popular in the late twenty-tens?
So he had been staring into the sun. (Now let's see if staring into the moon could do the reverse)
A musical sting is heard as the image of a Kotaku article appears onscreen, dated February 16th, 2022. The headline: “Next Game In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Series Canceled After The Pokemon Company Faces Lawsuits From Parents Whose Children Blinded Themselves Staring Into The Sun”. A link to another article can be seen labeled “The ‘Coming Of The Great Firebringer’ Hoax, Explained”.
Hah! Amazing. This ending bit was great!

This fic was a great hilarious idea and it's good to see it being written so well. Take care, Walrein! Hope you're having the best day you can!
 
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