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Sprites are a dying art, and it is truly a sad reality. The very game our community is based around is finally embracing the use of 3D models rather than the 2D sprites we know so well. Even before the announcement of XY, the signs were obvious: in the standard Pokémon forum during RSE, there were only a few good spriters and lots of bad sprites; now there are only a few spriters to begin with. So in early February, the Inside Scoop community of badgeholders began a discussion on the year's April Fools'. It was relatively clear that 2012 was an off-year for us all. Through this, I suggested one final tribute to the part of the Pokémon community I used to love so much: spriting every Pokémon and putting them in the current battle simulator of the day. With Zarel's blessing and requirements, the project got underway. All 649 Pokémon needed their own front and back sprite, then we added formes, genders, and Substitute. All up, there are 702 fronts and backs for a total of 1404 sprites over a seven week period. Let's take a moment to examine ten of the portfolios and styles of this project that were prolific, memorable, or just plain weird.
What started with a fairly standard looking Hoothoot seemed altogether normal and regular, and by the tone of his first post in the thread it would be his last. All of a sudden Gimmick drew with a fury rarely seen and found himself awake on the floor of his room with a pile of uploaded sprites to show the world. He discovered the true secret of making sprites in this format: you don't have to try. The paint pencil is his standard modus operandi and he used it effectively to convey shape. His backs and fronts share little continuity; one sprite holds an object while the other side does not. It hardly matters, either; rarely did a player see both sides in the twenty-four hours the sprites were up.
This man is to be feared among all artists; for every submission he made, I sat in terror and wondered of his next creation. His debut of Keldeo-Resolute raised the bar for all future sprites. Keldeo-R is a fantastic My Little Pony-styled sprite that, while appearing rough at points, is all part of Chou's master brushwork. With such huge expectations, could Chou's next entry be as artistically fantastic? No, of course not; that's why he made Mew as a pop-tart cat. I think he has something for rainbows... I ought to ask him. Chou makes good use of pre-existing sprites to add effect to the image. I originally did not want game sprites to be included, but he did this so masterfully it would have simply been a crime to not include them.
AKA Buttalo Wings, Buff Naked, and/or the Biff Buster. This man took the art of backsprites to a whole new level. At this point in the project, a backsprite was essentially the front spite flipped horizontally, maybe some new text and the changing on the arms. Buff does not believe in this practice; Buff is a proponent of nudity and embraces it fully in his pixel art. I suspect he spent hours placing every pixel in the exact butt formation necessary for perfect plumpness and maximum bounce.
There is a great degree of progress in Joim's finesse in sprites as the project developed. His Charizard started very blobby, similar to many of our drawings of the definitive Fire starter when we were children. His Genesect sprite was the follow-up, and there is a great deal of definitive shape with actual shading involved as well; you don't just find this anywhere, folks! The addition of the U-turn on the cannon no doubt played mind games against many players who saw this beast pop out of its Poké Ball.
A fellow high quality spriter, Wichu started a similar sprite project for every Pokémon as part of an RPG he was coding called Pokémon Amethyst. It's a fantastic project and I do suggest checking out the great sprites; I have one sprite in quality assurance for it at the moment. Amethyst has been going on for just about four years now and continues to push a level of high spriting quality in between activity; I meanwhile started a sprite project for April Fools' in early February and got everything done in seven weeks. I'm not going to suggest anything here, but my project is the one that was completed. Hey, Wichu, if you're reading this, I'm sure we could work out some sort of deal where you can borrow the sprites from here for your thing!
Anyways, onto Wichu's sprites from this project. They are all fantastic. Wichu's colors follow the exact guidelines of Amethyst, using the palette of the pre-existing sprite. It strikes a certain air of familiarity in Amethyst and it works great in here, except that things such as shading and outlines aren't the same quality as they are in the games. Even when he was doing Reshiram as a Blue-Eyes White Dragon he stuck to the same palette; what grace, what consistency. Truly the work of an artist.
It is amazing, the wonders that can result when you give a man a mouse, some Pokémon, and unlimited creative freedom within a 96 pixel square with absolutely no other restrictions. His notable sprites all contain a high degree of Verfremdungseffekt, or alienation effect. This term, brought into popularity by theatre artist Bertold Brecht, is about making the familiar strange and the strange familiar. There is no reason for a Dragonite to wear a suit, or for there to be three Ferroseed in one image. The true goal of course is for melvni's RandBats opponents to fall on the floor from simultaneous laughter and confusion. Someone needs to check how high his ladder score went on April Fools' Day. Also, those visual puns make me want to hurl.
A master of borrowing cultural icons and reinterpreting them as Pokémon, Limi enjoyed reinterpreting Exeggcute as stacking dolls and Slugma as some sort of ceiling slug. I'm honestly not sure still about that one. Many of Limi's sprites use backsprites that are not full-bodied and represent a simpler time, before the animated sprites of the fifth generation. Maybe Limi never realized there was a change? Nostalgia is a crazy mistress.
Limi really shines in the three pixel dolls that were made. The first one is Uxie and in many ways was a rough outline of what was to come, equal on both sides but still a rough line shape. Jolteon is the magnum opus, with every pixel perfectly placed and proper. Glaceon is the late re-examining of form with a tail on one side that ruins the illusion of equality, but maintains the cute pixel essence.
It was always amusing to see great and talented artists lower their standards to make some truly hilarious sprite work. I suppose I can also count Ritter among these ranks. Ritter is a master of the paint spray-can, which can be a fickle instrument at times when you hold down the mouse for too long. Using broad brush strokes, he excelled at filling an area with color much like any child could. In many ways Ritter is channeling the inner child that exists within all of us and is eager to bring forth caricature and deformed bodies.
I intended for all of these sprites to be awful abominations that made people laugh. But the original Smogon artist Arkeis would have none of this, and actively set out to ruin me with a wave of babies. During his spriting tenure he actively sought out fully evolved Pokémon that were high on the usage ladder to infect all of Pokemon Showdown with adorable waves of emotion. Having zoomed in on so many sprites over this project, it's clear Arkeis was drawing at the 96 by 96 pixel scale, which is not an easy thing to do. Downsizing too often would kill the quality of image, which would essentially make his sprites look too similar to the rest of ours.
(Featuring guest writer RitterCat)
Finally, we come to the star of the show, the mastermind Layell. Truly committed to his internet prank, he spent the months leading up to April without sunlight or human interaction, churning out literally hundreds of sprites. Armed only with Paint (actually Paint.net, multiple free online painting programs on Google Apps, etc.), his wit, and bad artistic ability, Layell produced such nightmare fuel as Meganium, Poliwhirl, and Shellos amid strokes of comedic genius such as the Arceus/Megaman crossover and the intense battle cry of "SWANNA? LOSE." Honing his skills through his many submissions, Layell made the creation of crappy sprites into an art, making sprites so abominable that no mere mortal could have produced them. With only his mouse and his imagination, Layell produced some of the worst sprites the Internet has ever seen, cementing his place in April Fools' history.
Watching the implementation of these sprites was certainly an experience to behold. The reactions from the public chat of Pokemon Showdown has been inspiring and hilarious. For everyone who contributed, see this page.
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