The latest PUBG Mobile event melds the handheld battle royale with anime masterpiece Neon Genesis Evangelion. Among other things, this means we get to see series mascot Eva Unit-01 perform silly dances, which is both delightful in an irony-poisoned sort of way and a serious indictment of the crossover trend’s culturally destructive rampage through gaming.
“[P]layers will be able to grab a number of new exclusive Evangelion collaboration items, from the iconic character plugsuits to themed armor and parachutes to backpacks,” PUBG Mobile developer and Tencent subsidiary Lightspeed and Quantum Studios announced when the event kicked off on May 14. “A special buddy will also be landing in the game for players to partner with.”
In addition to cosmetics, which include outfits modeled after Neon Genesis Evangelion’s distinctively hued mecha and the children who pilot them, the PUBG Mobile crossover will unlock a whole new game mode on May 19. “Core Circle,” as the mode is called, tasks players with assisting Eva Unit-01 in destroying an Angel, one of the mysterious entities that serve as the franchise’s most prominent antagonists.
PUBG Mobile is a port of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the game that kickstarted the battle royale craze what feels like a million years ago. It’s the same concept, just on a smaller screen: You parachute onto a deserted island, scavenge for weapons and equipment, and then do your best to kill dozens of fellow players to be the last person standing.
It’s unsurprising that PUBG Mobile is also overwhelmingly lucrative and, as such, this isn’t its first crossover. But while it’s not so weird to imagine characters like Jujutsu Kaisen’s Yuji Itadori and League of Legends’ Jinx getting down in their free time, Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t that kind of story. I feel like an elitist party pooper just writing that, but it’s true.
For example—and this is a massive spoiler, but it’s been almost 30 years since Neon Genesis Evangelion first debuted so you can deal with it—the purple robot popping and locking in the GIF at the top of this blog is literally the main character’s mom, whose immortal soul powers the gigantic construct after an experiment gone horribly wrong. Not exactly a cause for celebration!
I don’t know how much I can say about the scourge of crossovers that I haven’t already said before. I understand why they happen, of course. The financial incentive of bringing fans of other properties into the fold and selling them loot boxes for the chance of playing as their favorite characters is likely too profitable to ignore. The strategy just always results in the same lame, cookie-cutter product.
It’s a sad reality that, outside of Super Smash Bros., collabs don’t honor the spirit of the source material, opting for Mad Libs-style proper noun plug-ins that result in tragic figures krumping on advertisement-laden main menus. I may just be an old man yelling at clouds, unable to let people enjoy things, but I think there’s still a comfortable middle ground to discover between boorish cash-grab and respectful homage.
And if any game has enough money to explore that uncharted wilderness, it’s certainly PUBG Mobile.