As both a massive fan and unrepentant critic of the Pokémon games, I have a soft spot for indie titles that put their own spin on the formula. After all, there’s a lot that Game Freak’s juggernaut could improve. Recently, I took a look at Moonstone Island, a charming little title that looks to meld Stardew Valley with creature collecting, but my short time with the game didn’t quite scratch that Pokémon itch. However, enter the demo for Beehive Studios’ LumenTale: Memories of Trey, an ambitious take on capturing, battling, and adventuring with little critters called Animon, which satisfied my Pokécravings for the two hours I spent playing in preview.
When giving impressions of a game, I try my best not to over-compare with other titles, but with LumenTale, this is quite difficult — and not only because it draws so much from Pokémon. The opening cinematic, which explained a divide between two factions in the world of Taldea, reminded me of the opening to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Sparsely colored ancient hieroglyphics regaled a tale of humanity’s first interactions with Animon before the divide occurred. After this cinematic, I woke up in a brightly colored and well-finished house as a two-dimensional pixel boy named Ales in a three-dimensional world that simultaneously brought to mind the Octopath Traveler and Paper Mario aesthetics. Likewise, the demo’s finale reminded me of the calls to adventure I’ve experienced in numerous JRPGs.
I say none of this as a detraction. I quite enjoyed these similarities, whether intentional or unintentional, as if I were bumping into old friend after old friend as Ales’ uncle asked him to fetch some ingredients from the market of an idyllic town called Iris Hamlet. Ales, unable to find the requested berries, braved the Animon-filled Scarlet Woods in search of some. There, he was attacked by some aggressive critters and ran away – only to find a half robotic man passed out in the forest.
This is where LumenTale began in earnest. Waking up in control of that technology-infused young man, I soon gained a Holoken – a yo-yo-like device used to catch Animon – a starter, (I chose Mewaii, a plant-like critter that brings joy.) and a new name: Trey. Trey, you see, has remarkable talent as an Animon battler and catcher, but no memories of how he ended up face down in the Scarlet Woods. In fact, he has no memories at all. Trey and Ales set out to learn more about his amnesia by exploring Iris Hamlet and the neighboring Scarlet Woods where I could catch and battle Animon to my heart’s content.
I’m glossing over the narrative a little bit because, honestly, the excessive dialogue irked me, and while I realize the game is still early in development, it needs some better English localization and pacing for its opening act. However, Trey, with his inherent skills, and Ales, with his knowledge of Taldea but fear of Animon, make for an intriguing duo.
LumenTale resembles Pokémon Legends: Arceus – the best of the recent Pokémon titles – when catching Animon. By throwing out my Holoken, I could quickly add a multitude of Scarlet Wood’s inhabitants to my team. I grew quite fond of the icy rabbit Almyuna and a fiery monkey wonderfully named Bonkey that, yes, I would die for. Much of battling was familiar as different types were weak or strong against others, but LumenTale changes things up with attack order and how many creatures participate in any given battle. Depending on the move I selected, my Almyuna might be able to attack twice, or the spidery Melotica I battled might be able to hit me multiple times before I could act. Double battles against wild Animon also occurred, and the two boss fights in the demo let me use three and four Animon against some wicked-looking creatures, respectively.
I didn’t get a strong feel for the nuances of this system during the short demo, but I came away intrigued with its potential for legitimate difficulty – something I believe the recent Pokémon games lack – and impressed by the Animon designs. The music, too, was quite good throughout, capturing that high-tempo, adrenaline-pumping feel of a creature battle.
These opening moments show a lot of promise. While much of the demo preview was spent skipping through excessive dialogue, the climactic fight and subsequent call to adventure had me looking forward to seeing more of LumenTale: Memories of Trey. Will there be more similarities from some of my favorite games? How will Trey and Ales’ relationship continue to grow? What’s up with Trey being half robotic, and how’d he lose his memories? And most importantly, can Beehive Studios put together a battle system to keep me invested in a lengthy, Pokémon-like adventure?
The fact that I can’t wait to get answers to these questions bodes well for this nostalgic creature collector. LumenTale: Memories of Trey will arrive on PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox at some point in the future.