Konami has been full of surprises lately. While there’s plenty to raise your eyebrows about going on with the once-legendary company, it’s neat to see so much movement happening. As Konami has understandably eased its way back into games with familiar IP, it was hard to see this latest move coming. Konami is kicking off the new year with a brand new title in a space that’s almost risky in modern gaming. In what seems like an uncharacteristically bold move, Konami is taking on the likes of Pokemon and Yokai Watch with Solomon Program, a monster-collecting and battling RPG for the Nintendo Switch. While it’s still too early to know for sure if I should care or not, I am one hundred-percent intrigued.
Solomon Program, which is a tentative title for now, was announced via CoroCoro in January 2020. If you don’t know what CoroCoro is, that probably means you don’t spend much time hanging out in the Pokemon community. CoroCoro is a major childrens’ manga magazine, a sort of first step before the likes of Shonen Jump. This is often where Pokemon news makes its first stop.So already, Konami is firmly planting its foot down and declaring Solomon Program a competitor.
What’s interesting about Solomon Program so far, besides the whole new IP from a conservative-ass Konami thing, is its ostensible mashup theme. Just looking at the advertisement in CoroCoro, it seems like Solomon Program doesn’t have a hardcore house style in the way many other monster battlers do. Part of the pitch is that Konami is taking artistic inspiration from Digimon, Pokemon, and even its own Yu-Gi-Oh for the game’s art style. And yeah, the art assets so far look like someone tossed all of the above and Yokai Watch into a blender and left it on overnight.
Aside from the style, there’s a little hint of what to expect from Solomon Program’s gameplay. Apparently the monsters will be collected and battled through some sort of device, and that the gameplay will be turn-based, but more in a tactical way. According to Gematsu, the magazine noted the combat will be “strategic-RPG-esque.” This part stands out, because despite all the progress series like Fire Emblem have made towards making the more tactical side of RPGs mainstream, there’s still a long way to go. While franchises like Digimon have experimented and continue to do so, the biggest and most successful RPGs are action-oriented or very traditional.
Just based on this very early information, it seems like Konami is casting a very oddly-shaped net here. Solomon Program looks like almost a homage to this genre’s history, utilizing tropes in a way that’s part of the brand, smashing them all together using the familiar to try to feel unique. That barely makes sense, but it’s the vibe I’m getting so far. Meanwhile, Pokemon has been doing its thing in a very calculated, self-referential manner that has paid off in decades of dominance. Pokemon has been challenged multiple times, and no success has been as big as intended. Yokai Watch may have come the closest, but it’s already scrambling to find new ways to stand out.
Considering where Konami has been, with its weird new Contra game, its various retro collections, and whatever is going on with PES and Metal Gear, Solomon Program is a hell of an announcement. It’s a brand new IP in a space that has already seen its most competitive days, poised to come out swinging. It has a bizarre sense of style and looks to be fishing for standout gameplay hooks, and already has a manga tie-in lined up. I love monster collecting games (except for Monster Rancher), so if Solomon Program does get localized, I’ll definitely try it. The Konami baggage alone makes it worth paying attention to, and who knows, maybe we’ll end up with a cool game at the end of the day.