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Honkai: Star Rail’s new event goes down the Pokémon rabbit hole

The developers went all in with the Pokémon references

An image of a little girl next to a robot she can use to fight in the Pokemon-like event for Honkai: Star Rail. Image: Hoyoverse via Polygon
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

Call me trashy, but I’ve always enjoyed the humor in Honkai: Star Rail.

The developers describe the game as a “space comedy” and as such, have never been afraid to lean into referential humor. Flavor text and quests often contain references to anything from the Rickroll meme, to other popular sci-fi media like The Matrix. Now, the developers are gunning for the Pokémon crowd with a new event called Aetherium Wars. The premise of its gameplay isn’t just wickedly similar, the writing is also stuffed to the brim with references and love for the beloved monster catching video games.

Honkai: Star Rail is a role-playing game with turn-based combat from Hoyoverse, the developers of Genshin Impact. In Star Rail, you play as a group known as the trailblazers, a group of explorers who travel from world to world on an intergalactic train. Generally speaking, the game doesn’t play anything like Pokémon. It does have turn-based combat, but it uses a different system where players build up skill points and you can interrupt the turns with an ultimate at any point. There wasn’t much all that felt like Pokémon, that is until the 1.4 patch dropped.

On Wednesday, the developers released an event called Aetherium Wars as part of the new patch. In it, the Trailblazer and March 7th play a video game where they take control of monsters and use them to fight. The combat works pretty much the same as the main game, except you fight as the monsters (instead of characters) and challenge other characters to battles. And while the combat isn’t quite like Pokémon, many details come across as direct references to Pokémon.

The man who runs the tournament in Star Rail is named Giovanni, which happens to be the name of the leader of Team Rocket. If an NPC sees you, they’ll start a battle and an exclamation point will appear above their head just like in Pokémon. Prior to starting the battles, the NPC will say the most inane one-liners that remind me of lines Pokémon trainers shout before battles. At the end of the first Victory Zone, you needs to challenge Serval and Pela to a fight and they reward you with an item that’s basically a gym badge. Also, I won’t spoil the ending of the event, but it contains an incredible nod to Red’s appearance in Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal.

It’s not the first time a Hoyoverse game has contained an event that fans compared to Pokémon. Genshin Impact ran an event where players could battle fungus. Still, all the references have prompted chatter on social media sites like TikTok and Reddit. One person even recreated the original anime intro with characters from Star Rail.

If you want a shot at becoming the very best, Honkai: Star Rail is available to play on mobile devices, Windows PC, and PlayStation 5.

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