Game Freak’s James Turner Draws Tembo The Badass Elephant In Latest Illustration Video

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James Turner, one of Game Freak’s art directors, revealed more about the development of Tembo the Badass Elephant in Game Freak’s latest illustration video, which has covered games such as HarmoKnight, Drill Dozer, Pulseman, and Quinty. Turner served as the art director for this curious little game that made it to every platform except for Nintendo’s, for once.


Here are the highlights:


  • Tembo was the second Gear Project idea proposed by Turner, after HarmoKnight. The concept of Tembo was “destroying things”. Turner had the idea of an elephant as the protagonist from the start, because it’s known for destroying things in rampages. He wanted to make a game with “elephant-like” gameplay.


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  • The developers feel that adding actions that Tembo could do with water added depth to the gameplay.


  • There was a bit of misunderstanding in Japan, because elephants in Japan are associated with bananas and apples, rather than peanuts.


  • Turner first joined Game Freak as a 3D background designer for Pokemon Black & White. In Game Freak, there are quite a few people who are talented in multiple areas.


  • Turner put a lot of focus on representing how Tembo looked in 2D art in his 3D model, but representing it faithfully is very hard. It took quite a few tries between him and Matsuzaki, who also spearheaded the art direction for Pokemon Quest. In fact, Tembo was a factor in promoting Matsuzaki to Art Director for Pokemon Quest.


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  • Everyone thinks of Dumbo when you think of elephants starring as a main character, and that was a story about an elephant gaining courage. However, Tembo was inspired by 80’s action movies like Rambo, and starts off as a strong character.


  • Turner’s favorite action movies include Predator and Last Action Hero.


  • With him always working on something, be it 3D models even at home, Turner gets in his entertainment and input through podcasts and movies that he watches and listens to while drawing.


  • Something director Ken Sugimori says is that “it’s better if you don’t start making video games right after playing video games.”


Here’s the full video below:


Tembo the Badass Elephant is available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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Image of Alistair Wong
Alistair Wong
Very avid gamer with writing tendencies. Fan of Rockman and Pokémon and lots more!