In an industry filled with fan-made mods, it sure can be difficult to stand out from the crowds. More people than ever are taking it upon themselves to get involved with the games they love. And why shouldn’t they? There’s no better way to pay respects to a game you love than by creating something new through inspiration. Pokémon is one of the best examples of this. However, for all the excellent mods there are, there are a few that really change up what the formula is. Pokémon Heads & Tails is one of those.
Pokémon Heads & Tails is the answer to the question - what if Game Freak set Pokémon in a world of super heroes? It’s an interesting concept. One that until now, I would've never considered. However, now that I’ve seen it in action, I can honestly see how well the two mix together. The world of Pokémon is already a fairly whimsical one; extending your disbelief to include superheroes doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch.
Many people hear the word superhero and assume there must be powers involved. Laser eyes, the power of flight, being able to shoot arrows really good (we’re just joking Hawkeye, you’re okay really) are all powers associated with superheroes. In Pokémon Heads & Tails, your mastery of Pokémon is what makes you the superhero. Once players beat the traditional Pokémon challenge, the second half of the game begins. When you and your team of Pokémon become the champion of Metropia, it’s your responsibility to save the region from numerous villains.
End-game content has arguably always been fairly poor in the Pokémon games. Outside of a handful of rare Pokémon to collect and items to gather, there’s often very little to do - unless you dive into multiplayer of course. In Pokémon Heads & Tails it's up to you to take down numerous villains once the credits roll. Using your newfound fame as champion to help, it adds extra weight to the journey it took to reach that milestone.
We spent some time with the game, checking out its earlier stages. Right from the off, Pokémon Heads & Tails has a distinctive tone compared to the mainline series. Everything has a feeling of drama to it, almost as if you are playing a Pokémon game set within an anime world. This isn’t surprising; creator Lgarabato has been clear on the game's heavy inspiration from superhero shonen series My Hero Academia.
The fan game players with three original starters never before seen in a Pokémon game. Hiteon the Chameleon Pokémon, Blazebi the Flame Moose and Childrop the Drop Fish Pokémon. We went with Blazebi because picking anything other than fire starter is absolute blasphemy. You are also introduced to your rival in these early stages, alongside a new addition in Trevor. Both journey with you in tandem throughout the world.
Pokémon Heads & Tails feels familiar, but unique. Lgarabato reuses assets from the mainline series - which is understandable as a one-person development team - so each new addition feels like an extension of the established Pokémon franchise. Even the new starter Pokémon don’t feel out of place amongst the cast of 600+ Pokémon. Heads & Tails embellishes the Pokémon brand, adding engaging elements and a much-needed reason to continue on past the credits.
An interview with Lgarabato
We spoke to the developer behind Pokémon Heads & Tails about the game, their inspirations, and why they translated it to English. Inspired by the comics from the 90s, Lgarabato, used this as a starting point.
“I've always loved the superhero genre. I read a lot of DC and Marvel comics as a child.," Lgarabato told us. "This inspired me to start developing Heads & Tails while studying game design in college. I viewed it as a self-imposed exercise to learn the basics of programming (switches and variables). However, I also wanted to give the game a theme that I hadn't seen elsewhere at that time.
“I had read a lot of the My Hero Academia manga around that time and decided to make the game feel similar to that property. I realised I didn’t know of any fan game that had focused on a superhero theme, so I decided to do that, a Pokémon story about superheroes.”
Original release and Translation
Lgarabato originally released Pokémon Heads & Tails in 2018. The original release contained only Spanish text, but earlier this year the developer decided to translate the game into English. We asked the developer about the original Spanish release and why they decided to go through the process.
“Originally, I didn’t have any plans to release Heads & Tails to the community. I was only ever going to show it to family and friends. Fortunately, those close to me were very passionate about how fun it was, leading me to release the game. The original release did receive some attention through YouTube, but many of the Spanish YouTubers were more focused on mods based on more up-to-date graphics.”
“The graphics were never my main focus. Having a limited time-frame between academic months meant I spent more time focusing on the story and character design. It was through watching an English-speaking YouTuber that I realised there was a community of players who were passionate about third-generation graphics. Realising there was a potential demand for Head & Tails, I started the process of porting the game to English.”
The process of translating the game’s narrative was no easy task. Lgarabato used Pokémon Essentials to create Heads & Tails. Created for RPG Maker, this free tool is the foundation for many Pokémon fan games. Fortunately, the engine contains a system which makes translation a little easier. However, it was still a tedious undertaking.
“Translating Heads & Tails was simple, but excruciatingly tedious. Pokémon Essentials allows you to extract every sentence in the game. It pulls each line of text into a single file with each sentence written twice. The translation process consists of translating only the second sentence of each pair and then recompiling them again in the game.
“The entire process took me around two months to complete. I dedicated an hour every day to translation. Even after releasing the game, I’ve had to correct translation errors spotted by fans.”
One of the more unique elements of Heads & Tails is a fight club mini game, where trainers can battle against martial artists using their Pokémon. It’s a neat idea. Considering the outward arrogance shown by many UFC fighters and Boxers, it isn’t that far-fetched to imagine someone likes Connor McGregor thinking they can take on a Pokémon.
“Essentials... already has the system in place for Pokémon vs NPC duels. There were already a number of well established martial artists within the Pokémon lore, such as Crasher Wake or Brycen, so it felt natural to include such a system in Heads & Tails. I thought, ‘Why not have the Pokémon face martial artists?’ Which led to the creation of the Fight Club minigame.”
With over 600+ Pokémon in the game from each one of the seven generations, Pokémon Heads & Tails feels like an ode to the series at large. Taking the best of each generation and placing them throughout the world of Metropia. Deciding which Pokémon to pick likely wasn’t easy.
“Honestly? I picked my favourite Pokémon. With the entire Pokédex at my disposal, I just kept adding them as I created more routes and teams for enemy trainers. I managed to get 600 Pokémon in, even though the region isn't quite as large as some other fan games. The majority of the Pokémon missing from the game are in generation seven.”
Reception and future plans
Having invested so much personal time in the project, there was no doubt that Heads & Tails’ reception was important to Lgarabato. Unfortunately, the initial Spanish launch seemingly fell short of their expectations. However, the English port is already on track to perform much better.
“To my surprise, the game has actually been better received in the English community than in the Spanish one. According to the hosting website, it accumulated almost half the downloads the Spanish version received since launch almost three years ago in just one month. Several English YouTubers have also posted gameplay footage and commentary, so mission accomplished.
“Moving forward, I think I will just focus on fixing errors reported by the community. I don’t have plans for other Pokémon projects at the moment. I intend to focus on original projects (I already have two). As a game designer, my dream is to sell a successful game.”
“My advice to any other hopeful designers looking to create a Pokémon game is to build something fun. Great visuals are a bonus, but you want to create a gameplay experience that leaves players wanting more. Build something unique, imaginative and ultimately, something that makes you happy.”
Want to find out more about Pokémon Heads & Tails? Click here to download the game now.