Pokemon. Love it or hate it it’s still one of the best selling game series in the world. If you have ever listened to the Glitch free Game Podcast. You know that I will always have a game of Pokemon running on something, be it on my DS, my phone or PC via a ROM.
ROMs, or to be more specific game ROMs, are generally copies of older games which were designed either for cabinet arcades or for older consoles and handhelds. The video game ROM stores the information that normally resides within the system’s read only memory, hence the term ROM’s. These are played on emulators of the console that they were originally intended for, so in this case DS or GBA.
So lets say that like me, you have played most of the Pokemon games and you know how they work by now. They have very little story other than: beat bad guys, do the league and gyms and find the legendaries. What if someone out there was making Pokemon games with new stories in them? Or putting Pokemon from every generation on to the one game card? If that idea excites you then you’re in luck! There are a lot of people who thought the same thing and they have done something about it. ROM hacks are what you are looking for.
ROM hacks, are ROMs that have been changed and reprogrammed to have a new story, or new Pokemon added into the game that weren’t originally there. For the rest of this article I’m going to highlight two of the best user made ROM’s on the net
Pokemon Ash Gray
Lets start with the one I am still playing right now, and that is Pokemon Ash Gray. The base ROM for this game is Pokemon Fire Red, so you will notice a lot of the towns and places are the same. Pokemon Ash Gray is a game based entirely, and quite accurately, on the first series of the anime. This means you get to play the game as Ash Ketchum. Your starter is Pikachu and the story plays out almost identically to what happens episode by episode in the show.
I love that you don’t have to catch the same Pokemon Ash did, but if you do it unlocks more story and events. I personally have been going along catching Ash’s team, and doing this you get to see the events with the Squirtle Squad, Charmander and Bulbasaur. You also see the most heartbreaking event where you let your Butterfree go free to find love.
Another great feature is that there are no HMs, or at least you don’t need them. You can swim on your own, you can cut with an axe, smash rocks with a pickaxe and so on. I found this made the game more open and it added more exploration between gyms. All in all, I think this is possibly one of the best Pokemon games I’ve ever played and can’t think why there is no official game based on the show (I know the show’s based on the game). It’s fun to relive things I was watching when I was around ten or eleven on a game now, and I would highly suggest it to anyone who likes Pokemon in any form.
Get Ash Gray here
Pokemon Flora Sky
The second user created ROM I want to highlight is Pokemon Flora Sky. It was the first one that I ever played and showed me the true potential of what a good ROM could be.
Flora Sky is based on Pokemon Emerald, but with Heart Gold style graphics and sprites. This could be one of the best stories I’ve played in a Pokemon game. It is far more in-depth than any of the official games. The game makes use of Team Magma and Aqua but using a new story arc for them. You still have the standard eight gyms to beat as well as the Elite Four, but after all of this is done the game actually comes alive with a lengthy post game. The post-game has its own story and feels like the rest of the game was just a warm-up for this part. The game also add Pokemon from other generations, adding Pokemon from Gen four and five to the already long list of Gen one and two Pokemon in the game bringing the total Pokemon in the game to three hundred and six. With a very simple emulator setup there are sixty-plus hours on just the new story alone to keep you going.
Flora Sky is here
So there you have it, two of the best Pokemon ROM hacks around. Having played both and watched Lets Plays on many others, it’s safe to say that the community of programmers, spriters, story designers and teams behind hacked ROMs is strong. I would put it to you that the games they make, while being remakes/modified version of older games, are in fact better than the originals. If you find yourself looking for a Pokemon game to keep you going until X & Y are available, I would recommend picking up a ROM and giving it a go. I can almost guarantee you will find something you will enjoy and I hope to bring you more in the near future!