I’ve avoided creating content about video games for this long (ironically) because I love them so much. I feared that allowing my work to involve gaming would take the spice out of it, and that my thinking would become oversaturated by it, driving me away. I fear losing the things I love, and there are few things I love more than gaming as an art form. Then I stopped writing entirely for a month or two, and at this point, I just want to write, so let’s talk romhacks.
It’s well-documented that I deeply love randomizers. Some of my favorite gameplay elements are using the tools available to me to solve puzzles and finding my way from point to point—literally the navigation element. Randomizers take the skills that I cultivate in playing a game the intended way and test them on a new level, breathing new life into games I’d thought were played out. That being said, I cover romhacks of this type extensively on Twitch and YouTube, so I’d rather take a look at hacks of games I’ve tried but haven’t publicized.
Most recently, I’ve been relatively enamored with a Pokemon Emerald entrance randomizer. I’ve given other Pokemon randos a chance, but I find they don’t hold my attention much more than vanilla Pokemon does (that is, a medium amount: I’m interested but have trouble maintaining my enthusiasm). It’s the pacing, I think. There inevitably comes a point when my team need a couple levels each, and six is a high number to be multiplying, even by a number as low as two. So I set the game down and start a file in something else. The Emerald entrance rando, however, changed the fabric of the game more than I expected it to.
For starters, I managed to catch a level 27 Vulpix with naught but an ultra ball and a lv5 Treecko to my name, which boosted my morale considerably (do note that I wasn’t despairing just yet). Thus, starting my adventure with a powerful fire-type which knew Confuse Ray and Will-o’-the-Wisp made catching more Pokemon very easy, and I was off. Leaving items in their vanilla locations helps to keep the game’s pace up, as Bulbapedia information remains useful, though learning that there are NO convenient fire stones in Emerald was kind of a bummer (alas, Ninetales will have to wait…).
The other interesting thing about entrance rando in a Pokemon game is the fact that story flags work like progression items in other randomizers. In my active Emerald file, I don’t have the PokeNav yet, because even though I’ve met the Devon employee in the forest, I haven’t found the Devon Corp office interior (sorry if you haven’t played the game…). Other aspects are similar: I can’t leave Petalburg by walking west because an NPC wants me to go into the Petalburg Gym, but that door takes me to the Cave of Origin. There is a story flag for talking to Norm in the Gym, but as I’ve not found that interior yet, I can’t get by. It’s a fun take on progress in Pokemon, and I hope to see other games in the series get similar mods.
However, it’s still trying my (extremely limited) patience. I’ve found Flash, but not the Dewford Gym (I need to beat Brawly, the leader there, to use Flash outside battle), and I’m fairly certain I need to navigate dark areas to find anywhere new at this point. I like Pokemon games to function like snacky little app games I can play casually in between things, and wandering around random-encounter-laden darkness isn’t super fun.
As I write this, though, I realize it sounds a bit lame. It hasn’t taken much grit to navigate the darkness I have made it through, and progression in a hack like this is particularly satisfying, so perhaps I shouldn’t move on to the next thing just yet…
I know what the next thing is, though. A Reddit post suggested for me today was about an open world hack of Fire Red, and it piqued my interest, partially because they included an algorithm for scaling enemy Pokemon levels based on number of badges acquired. I’m interested to see how it works in practice, and it gets the ol’ gears turning on some ideas of my own.
There’s a strong chance I’ll start posting romhack design ideas here, as combining some of the features in hacks I’ve played to create new experiences happens on its own in my head. I actively avoid suggesting we make randomizers for every game I play, but a few I’ve picked up recently are better candidates than I expected them to be. I don’t wish to spill the beans on those ideas just yet, though, so tune in next week! I’ll try to drop a teaser for what I’ll be talking about once I codify it a bit better. In the meantime, what are some of your favorite mods/hacks to play? Are there any you’d recommend I try out? What’s your favorite Pokemon? I’d love to hear down in the comments!