In the Pokémon community, there is a special group called “Pokemon Rom Hacker”. They are not literally “Pokémon hackers”. However, the work of this group of “Rom Hackers” is closer to a group of fanatics. They basically modify classic works and such works are also called “revised games”. These versions for Pokémon fans are better. They have more freedom and more out-of-the-box themes. It is easier to listen to players’ feedback, which makes up for it to a certain extent. These developers transfer classic versions of the past to modern devices. They also add more functions to optimize the experience. However, these developers always have to face potential copyright strikes from Nintendo’s legal department. This makes the group a very controversial one.
Pokémon hackers – how they work
Pokémon hackers “Rom Hacking” has many different forms. They range from simple text, pictures, and sound effect modifications to complex character changes. This effect is similar to Mods in PC games. They are all means of modifying game files to achieve some unofficial function. The job of Pokémon hackers is simply to solve the shortcomings of the game. The motivation of Pokémon hackers is also to improve the game and provide a better experience for some players. The main reason for the modifications is “pictorial integrity”.
Each generation and version of the game has a special Pokémon. If you buy a single version without an online exchange, you can’t access all illustrations in the game. However, by adjusting the game files, Pokémon hackers add more Pokémon data. Thus, players can get a collection of illustrations in a single game. This is also one of the most common functions in the Pokémon game “Rom Hacking” today.
In China, “Emerald 386” is a folk revision game with a high reputation in the early days. It features the realization of a “full illustrated book collection”. The number “386” in the version name refers to the total number of Pokémon in the game at that time. “Emerald 386” also incorporates some original stories. But due to material and technical limitations, it is still impossible to design exclusive plots and scenes for each special Pokémon.
Crystal Clear – a remake of Pokémon: Crystal
After meeting the basic needs of “pictorial collection”, many folk developers began to add some more “trends”. These additions upgrade the game from its 20-year-old looks. For example, the game “Crystal Clear” was released in the player community in 2019. It is a revised work based on the official version of “Pokémon: Crystal”. The original game is 22 years old and unattractive. However, the remake adds some current trends to make it attractive.
“Crystal Clear” allows you to go to any area of the map at the beginning and freely choose the challenge gym. It also adds the “character customization” function. This can modify the appearance skin of the character at any time. While maintaining most of the original plot, the game adds many new features.
“Crystal Clear” can even directly interact with the official game. According to the developer’s introduction, this work can communicate with the official original game. For this reason, Crystal Clear is quite popular. Even much more popular than the original version.
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Rocket Edition – a remake of “Pokémon Fire Red/Leaf Green”
Another very well-known magic-modified Pokémon game “Rocket Edition” has made subversive changes in gameplay. In the game, the player changed to play a member of the classic villain “Team Rocket”. It improves his strength by robbing other trainers’ Pokémon. This is a new plot that surpasses the original game.
Different from “Crystal Clear”, this Rocket Edition game is based on the modification of “Pokémon Fire Red/Leaf Green” released on the GBA platform in 2004. Thus, the picture effect is better than the older works. In addition to the change in the game’s perspective and platform, a “moral value” system that has never appeared in Pokémon has also been added. Although players play the villain, they can still choose to do good deeds. They can accumulate moral values, so as to move towards a different direction.
Special editions like “Team Rocket” are not only popular among players. However, they are excellent material for streamers and video writers due to the different branching plots and the inherent dramatic effect of “playing the bad guy”.
Naturally, many of these games would have been long obsolete. However, the presence of these revised games is making them remain relevant. Although, they are relevant in different forms and in other aspects.
Pokémon hackers mostly do not make money from the modifications
Interestingly, most of these remakes are not done to make a profit. They are done for free. For copyright reasons, all developers cannot get paid for such modifications. According to them, making such works is pure “out of love”. For ordinary players, such non-finance-driven content has its advantages. Most of the developers do it for their bragging right – I can do what Nintendo doesn’t do.
Drayano is a developer who has participated in many Pokémon hackers project. His original intention of making the revised game is to include all the Pokémon that have appeared in the game. However, this is not the case for the Pokémon which currently has more than 1,000 illustrated books. For the series, it is obviously a relatively difficult task. Nevertheless, compared to official development work, developers like Drayano are also very aware of their advantages. There is no development time limit and corresponding review standards. As long as conditions permit, you can add any content and gameplay to the game.
This has also earned them a very loyal following. However, Drayano believes that the modification is a small project relative to the official series. He says… “I understand that people naturally support the weaker side, but they also ignore the improvement of the official game.”
ROM Hackers face several legal issues
In all of these, the real problem that Pokémon hackers face is more of a legal one. Although most developers do not add paid content to their works, nor do they intend to make profits, as long as Nintendo officially believes that such a form involves “infringement” and other legal issues, developers are still forced to remove their works from the shelves. In 2016, Nintendo intervened and stopped a game called “Pokemen Prism”. This work also has high-quality original plots and maps. Of course, it was very popular and had a good reputation.
For developers who are still insisting, the legal issue is still a hurdle that cannot be bypassed. Drayano once said: “Although the official decision can be rationally understood, as a party that does not charge any fees, I still think it is a bit too much.”