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ROM hacks

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ROM hacks, or hack ROMs, hack games or bootlegs depending on the circumstances, are video games that have been edited or altered. While many fans distribute hacks of Pokémon games for free over the internet, some people have been known to sell them in the guise of legitimate games. Some of these games are hacked onto the actual game cartridges and sold over the internet on sites such as eBay.

Due to their nature, there are an uncountable number of hacks available on the Internet, so this article will limit itself to only the most notable ones. It should also be noted that all current Chinese language Pokémon game cartridges are pirated as there have yet to be any official Chinese language Pokémon games.

Game Boy and Game Boy Color

Pokémon Adventure

Screenshot from "Pokémon Adventure"

Pokémon Adventure is a hack of an existing pirated game called Sonic Adventure 7 for the Game Boy Color. It has five levels, and the intro sequence consists of a few Japanese Pokédex screenshots from Gold and Silver. Other than the intro, title screen, and ending, the game has almost no relationship with Pokémon, with most of the enemies being from other pirates made by the same company, such as Rockman 8 and Super Mario Special 3. While the game is paused, one can move themselves away from enemies.

Pokémon Brown

Pokémon Brown's title screen

Pokémon Brown is a hack of Pokémon Red. This hack began production in mid 2002, as a sequel to Koolboyman's "Rated M" ROM hack "Fukémon", titled "Fukémon 2". Finally, on January 16th, 2004, the hack was released to the public. The hack had a complete change of all maps, minor script tweaks and almost all the Pokémon sprites have been changed. Pokémon Brown takes place in the Rijon region.

It should be noted that some of the cities in Brown have a close resemblance to the beta maps found in Pokémon Gold and Silver Versions. For example, Botan City slightly resembles the Azalea Town beta map, Jaeru City resembles the Blackthorn City beta map, and Castro Valley strongly resembles the Olivine City beta map.

The author of this hack released an updated version of Brown that was released in April 2009. The remake contains second and fourth generation Pokémon, new areas, several glitch repairs, new features and new additions to the storyline.

Pokémon Diamond and Jade

Title screen of "Pokémon Diamond"

Possibly the most well-known bootleg "Pokémon" games are the notorious Pokémon Diamond and Jade (not to be confused with the official Generation IV games Pokémon Diamond and Pearl). These games are knock-off versions of the Power and Speed Versions of Keitai Denjū Telefang, respectively, which were only released in Japan for the Game Boy Color on November 2000, a year after Pokémon Gold and Silver and a month prior to Pokémon Crystal.

Pokémon Jade is sometimes found on the same cartridge as a pirated Pokémon Crystal cartridge but could also be found as a standalone cartridge. It was also mentioned in the Poké mailbag in 2003 as "the bootleg and illegally produced Pokémon Jade".

These bootlegs had numerous glitches that the real games did not have, such as the inability to load a save file properly. The game also contains broken English, profanity, and swearing, which is absent from all official Pokémon games licensed by Nintendo, with the British Gaming Blog describing the additions as "a healthy dose of Engrish and plenty of swear words."[1]

The real Telefang games do share conceptual similarities with the real Pokémon games. Whereas in the core series Pokémon games, players take the role of a Pokémon Trainer who travels through a specific region of the Pokémon world to obtain or catch Pokémon in Poké Balls and send them out for battles, in the Telefang games, players take the role of a T-Fanger who travels through the Denjū World to befriend creatures called Denjū and have them battle each other using a device called the D-Shot. However, unlike Pokémon, Denjū themselves have a D-Shot and call each other to battle. Other similarities between the two game series can be seen in the mechanics of each: the creatures in both share common stats such as HP, Attack, Defense, and Speed; both series have moves or attacks in common, like どくばり (Pokémon, Telefang), とっしん (Pokémon, Telefang), かえんほうしゃ/カエンホウシャ (Pokémon, Telefang), or じしん (Pokémon, Telefang), and both series also have natures for their creatures (Pokémon, Telefang), though the effects of moves are not necessarily the same in every case, and natures work differently.

Pokémon Prism

Screenshot of Naljo, Pokémon Prism's Region

Pokémon Prism is a hack of Pokémon Gold made by Koolboyman, as another entry into his series of hacks, preceded by Pokémon Brown. This hack completely overhauls the original game, and also won Pokécommunity's Hack of the Year award in 2007.[2] It takes place in a new region called Naljo, with new music, Pokémon from the first four generations, new Pokémon types, and more. One feature is to replace the player's sprite with another at a special shop. The game also has crafting systems and the ability to send a Pokémon out of its Poké Ball outside of battle. There are also a few minigames included such as a Pachisi-type board game. Like many other hacks, Prism is still in progress, with periodic updates being released to the public. Its latest version was released in August 2010.

Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal

"Pocket Monsters Crystal Version" (popularly known as Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal) is a bootlegged version of Pokémon Crystal. Translated from Japanese to Chinese to English, the dialogue in the game (now Engrish) is often nonsensical and unintentionally humorous. All Pokémon, character and location names are similarly badly translated, often resembling romanizations of Chinese transliterations of the Japanese names. This particular hack was made popular by various "Let's Play" video series on YouTube, with the most notable one being by DeliciousCinnamon.

Game Boy Advance


386 Moemon

Moemon (short for "Moekko Monsters") is a hack of Pokémon FireRed that changes all Pokémon into gijinka. It is a simple change of FireRed, but with additions such as the ability to catch the three starters, Eevee, and a mix of both LeafGreen and FireRed Pokémon (thus making it simpler to obtain all Pokémon). The game still receives a fair amount of attention, as a patch was released solely for the FireRed hack that updated both the sprites of the Pokémon as well as their menu sprites, functioning like DLC would for any game.

A ROM hack of Emerald has been released as well. Like the FireRed hack, it's a simple change of Emerald, replacing all Pokémon with ginjika counterparts, however, a few aesthetic changes have been applied to both Route 101 and Littleroot Town, adding many puddles to the town, and the Oran Berry has, curiously, been renamed the "Weed Berry", possibly for comedic effect.

Moemon received a short burst of fame when gaming site Kotaku posted an article about it in late 2007.[3]

Pokémon Amber

Pokémon Amber is a hack of Pokémon Ruby which sports brand new Pokémon sprites, a brand new region (Sider), and new characters. It is made by the hacker 'Joy', and can be played in Spanish or English. There is a team much like Team Rocket, which is called Team Solaris. Pokémon Amber was released on as a beta, Beta 1 (Final). The overworld sprites have also been heavily edited, as has the script of the game. The playable characters are Xander or Ann. The maps have also been edited.

Pokémon AshGray

Pokémon AshGray is a modification of FireRed, and directly follows the anime. Major moments and aspects from the anime are present, like the player being stuck with Pikachu, being attacked by a group of Spearow, fighting Team Rocket at the Viridian City Pokémon Center, the meeting with Flint in Pewter City, the Butterfree-Raticate trade on the S.S. Anne, Charizard disobeying the player after evolution, and more. The nurses have been redesigned into Nurse Joys, the Pokémon Centers have redesigned exteriors, and the Nurse Joys all have Chansey. Pikachu, however, stays in its Poké Ball, and Brock and Misty do not travel with the player, though they will run into them from time to time. The game also features the opportunity to travel through the Orange Archipelago and play through the events of the first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back.

Pokémon ChaosBlack

Start screen from Pokémon ChaosBlack

Another infamous hack is Pokémon ChaosBlack, which is a modification of Pokémon FireRed that was released on the Game Boy Advance. This game contains many fake Pokémon, including Mewthree. Although it has a reputation as a bootleg cartridge sold illegally, the original creator of the hack released the patch for it onto the Internet. ChaosBlack is infamous for including numerous created Pokémon and harsh language.

The description on the back of some boxes can inform gamers that it is a bootleg, as there is a missing accent on the "e" in "Pokémon". Another large giveaway is the fact that Chaos from the Sonic the Hedgehog games exists on the front cover. Also the game is apparently developed by 'Mewthree Inc.' instead of Nintendo, meaning it couldn't have been endorsed by Nintendo, Pokémon's usual trademark. Despite these obvious flaws, the bootleggers still included a fake Nintendo Seal of Approval on the box and cartridge.

Pokémon CrystalDust

CrystalDust is another Crystal remake, but instead of FireRed being the base, it uses Emerald as a base and is created by diegoisawesome. It is a complete recreation of almost everything imaginable; sprites, sound, maps, events, and text all are almost perfect copies of their GBC counterparts, only upgraded. While the game uses Emerald as a base, it takes some sprites from FireRed, as well as music track since FireRed's data is already in Emerald.

The game is currently in its second Beta stage, with most of Johto and some of Kanto's quests completed. The third beta will have the rest of Kanto completed.

Pokémon Dark Rising

Pokémon Dark Rising is a hack of Pokémon FireRed created by DarkRisingGirl. It takes place in a region called Core Region. Pokémon from the first five generations appear in this game. The objective of the game is to rescue the player's father & rescue Arceus who has been trapped by a dark entity named Darugis. The players has to travel through the Core region and defeat the villainous teams which are being controlled by Darugis. The starter Pokemon are Dratini, Bagon and Gible.

Pokémon Dark Rising 2

Pokémon Dark Rising 2 is the sequel to Dark Rising. The story continues as the player continues their search for their father and Arceus. It takes place in a new region called the Omni Region. The starter Pokémon are Dragonite, Salamence, and Garchomp. It contains Gen VI Pokémon also, hence, it is popular between players.

Pokémon Diamond 2 and Jade 2

Title screen of "Pokémon Jade 2"

Similar to the first fake Diamond and Jade games, Diamond 2 and Jade 2 were hacked from Keitai Denjū Telefang 2. Also, like Diamond and Jade, the Power Version of Telefang 2 became Pokémon Diamond 2, and the Speed Version became Pokémon Jade 2. They are in Chinese, and their title screens have been altered to poorly drawn Pokémon characters along with the character Dragon from the film Shrek (possibly due to her superficial similarity to a Charizard). The similarities between the title screens of this and the original Diamond and Jade (as well as the fact that they have Pokémon names in the first place) suggest that these may be made by the same pirates. Diamond 2 crashes after the title screen, making it unplayable without a save state, and Jade 2 has graphical glitches. There is also a poorly translated English version of the Power Version of Telefang 2 called "Pokémon Ruby," which has no relation to the real one.

Pokémon Flora Sky

Pokémon Flora Sky is a Swedish hack of Emerald Version which takes place in a heavily modified region, still called the Hoenn region. It features a heavily modified version of Emerald's storyline along with features from the 4th generation and 5th generation games including honey trees and a digging mini game, as well as 4th and 5th generation Pokémon and characters. The game also has a sizeable post-game storyline and then a series of sidequests, mostly involving legendary Pokémon. Two versions of this game were released, the original version and the Complement Dex Version which contains different Pokémon.

Pokémon Liquid Crystal

Pokémon Liquid Crystal is a total conversion for FireRed and is remake of Pokémon Crystal, created by LinkandZelda. The storyline is generally that of the original Crystal, but with new features. The game is centered around Johto, Kanto, as well as the Orange Archipelago. Along with Team Rocket, a new team known as Team Saturn has been added and their goal is to capture the Legendary Pokémon to take over the world. The game offers new tilesets, music that has been remade for the regions, a Gameboy Player item that will play the music in 8-bit, but unlike the HGSS Gameboy Player, the music is in true 8-bit chiptune using the GBA's audio hardware, and other features that weren't in the original Crystal, as well as the other Generation II remake, Shiny Gold.

The game is currently running on a Live Beta, so the game is updated periodically with fixes, but the game is mostly complete as players are able to complete the Johto and Kanto quests, as well as most of the Orange Archipelago.

Pokémon Naranja/Orange

Pokémon Naranja is a Spanish hack of Pokémon Ruby in which the player plays as either Ash or Misty and travels around the Orange Archipelago. Naranja is a Spanish word which means Orange. Celebi appears on the box art and title screen.

This game is based on the Orange Saga in the anime. The game starts after the player had won the Indigo League. Despite this fact, the player starts with only a Lv. 5 Pikachu. Many characters, plots and events in the Orange Saga are included in the game, such as the GS Ball, Ash's Lapras, the Orange Crew, the Crystal Onix, the Golduck from Bye Bye Psyduck, and Ash's Snorlax.

This game also includes a special feature: the player's character actually speaks during some of the story sequences, which has never been implemented in any official Pokémon game.

The game maker originally planned to release a third beta version before Christmas in 2005; however, the creator canceled this for an unknown reason. Therefore, the game is currently incomplete.

Naranja has, much like Chaos Black and ShinyGold, also been published in cartridge form and sold as a bootleg game by pirates. This is the only known Pokémon game to ever feature the Orange Islands that was sold.

Pokémon Quartz

The title screen of Pokémon Quartz

Another hack of Pokémon Ruby, released by the author as a patch file intended to be played by VBA users who already owned the Ruby cartridge and had a copy of its ROM image. The game has a great number of spelling and grammatical errors, which result from the hack being translated from Spanish, although the grammar improves throughout the game. The game also contains profanity and adult themes, which are absent from all official Pokémon games. Pokémon Quartz replaced all names and graphics of traditional Pokémon with new, made-up Pokémon, although some of the changes were only cosmetic and did not change learnsets or types. The game takes place in a region known as "Corna", a heavily edited version of Hoenn, and requires the player to navigate a very different series of paths during gameplay. It also been published in cartridge form and sold as a bootleg game.

While the best-known bootleg cartridge as played on the actual GBA contains serious glitches and errors, the current patch file release works well with VBA when the patch is applied to a clean image of an actual Ruby cartridge.

A sequel to the game, Pokémon Marble, is in its beta release. This version is a hack of FireRed and has vastly improved grammar and spelling.

Pokémon Marble

A battle from Marble version between Caterpie and Doduo's replacements

Pokémon Marble was made as a sequel to Pokémon Quartz, and uses Pokémon FireRed as a base. It has a new Rival, new maps and graphics, a brand new plot and more than 250 fake Pokémon. It takes place 20 years after Quartz, and starts this time in Lowheaven. Professor Baro reappears and participates in the storyline much more than in Quartz.

Pokémon RijonAdventures

Pokémon RijonAdventures is a hack of FireRed Version which is a remake/sequel of Brown version. Set once again in the Rijon region it takes place 20 years after Brown and 15 years after Prism and features the children of the protagonist and rival from Brown on a new adventure, not just in Rijon but also in a new region called South Rijon.

Pokémon ShinyGold

The player at his house, in New Bark Town
Title Screen of Pokémon ShinyGold

Pokémon ShinyGold is a total conversion of Pokémon FireRed that turns the game into a Gold and Silver remake, much like how FireRed is a remake of Pokémon Red. As well as illegally releasing the game to ROM communities as a patch, some pirates have copied the hack (as with many others) to Game Boy Advance cartridges to illegally sell the game and trick gamers who genuinely think that it is an official Pokémon game. In response to this, the game's creator, Zel, placed a note at the beginning of the game saying that the game should be returned if the player paid for it. The game features some changes to the storyline, like the fact that a new Trainer, named Carlos, is introduced, a Trainer with which the player keeps fighting during the gameplay. It has also introduced features that allow Pokémon that normally evolve via time-based events or trade to evolve by other methods that are more easily available to the player. For example, Scyther evolves into Scizor with a Moon Stone rather than by its normal method, trading while holding a Metal Coat. The game also features many events which were not available in the original game, as well as many Generation III Pokémon being found in some areas.

A battle against Carlos

Touhou Puppet Play or Touhoumon

Touhoumon is a combination of the Japanese shoot'em up series Touhou Project and the Pokémon games. The (official) hack is for FireRed while there is a fan derivative that extends to Emerald. There are both English and Japanese versions. The Japanese versions tend to be further ahead in terms of development.

Almost every Pokémon has been replaced with Touhou characters. The music has also been remixed between the original Pokémon themes with Touhou character boss and stage themes. Certain fan derivative versions of the game uses the physical-special split from Generation IV. In the newest official Japanese version, 1.8, the types and evolution styles have been changed as well.

Pokémon Ruby Destiny series

The Pokémon Ruby Destiny is a series of hacks for Pokémon Ruby, created by destinedJagold. The first Ruby Destiny game is titled Reign of Legends, which was created on August 22nd, 2007, and is set in the new region known as Gento. The game offers an updated tileset for maps, new cities and towns, Gym Leaders and Trainers, as well as the game's two villainous teams, Royal Darkness and Luminous Cenaries, who both vision a world of darkness and light respectively. The game also has some 4th Generation Pokémon implemented in, though the sprites for them are of poor quailty as this was DJG's first step in ROM Hacking, the game features a sidestory regarding Lugia, being Shadow Lugia and being a major part of the story. The player will also be able to visit a small portion of the Kanto region after completing the game. Despite the changes, this game's story is very similar to Ruby's.

The second game in the series is titled Rescue Rangers, which was created March 13th, 2008, and mimics the style of the Mystery Dungeon games, but keep the feel of the main games. It centers around the player, who lives in the real world, going to a birthday party while in a Pikachu costume, but is then sent, along with the player's friends, to the region known as Hevah in the Pokémon world. There he/she is transformed into a Pikachu and is joined up with a Torchic and Chikorita and form a rescue team known as Team Go-Getters. Soon the three find the player's friends, also transformed into a Pokémon, as they journey across the region to carry out missions, similar to the first two Mystery Dungeon games. The game offers a new take on playing the MD games while sticking to the roots of the traditional main series games, with new tilesets, sprites, maps, and ability to rescue other Pokémon. The player's team is unable to evolve however and because of obvious reasons, there is no way to catch other Pokémon.

The third game in the series titled Life of Guardians, which was created near the end of 2008 on December 16th, and takes place in an alternate Hevah due to the actions of Team Go-Getters in the previous game. The game centers around a boy/girl who has dreams to become what is called a Guardian Trainer, despite having no knowledge of what a Guardian Trainer is or does. The game offers an extensive original story, new region to explore, Gym Leaders are known as Elemental Masters and give out Symbols rather than badges, two new organizations known as the Dark Organization, who causes havoc across Hevah, and Team Earth, who plans on removing mankind for the sake of the Pokémon. The game offers three stories depending on the player's actions: The Hero story, the normal story, and the Evil story. The game features new music from other RPG titles, namely from the Kingdom Hearts series, a few new Fakémon and 4th and 5th generation Pokémon that are original to the region. The game also features numerous side quests to do, as well as a way to see the game's true ending. Life of Guardian has been praised by players for being an excellent ROM hack, being named Hack of the Year in the Pokecommunity forums, and having a high replay value.

The fourth game in the series is in development, titled Broken Timeline, which creation began November 30th, 2013. The story centers around the events after Life of Guardians, in which Chaomega is about to merge the two timelines together, since the Dragon Gods of Hevah disappeared since there are no Guardian Trainer to use as a vessel to keep them alive. The main protagonist, a Latios or Latias depending on the gender selected and in human form, are tasked to search for Lugia and Ho-Oh in Kanto and Johto to see if they are prepared for the merge but are nowhere to be found, as are Mewtwo and Celebi. Despite this, Chaomega merges the timelines together, only for Arceus to appear, upset with Chaomega's actions and the player is forced into a battle against Arceus in which they lose. The player then wakes up as a new Trainer getting ready to begin their journey.

The game is unique than the other three titles as the player is able to choose which region they can start in. They start in either Kanto, Johto, Gento, Hevah, and the Crest region. The game also features other elements from newer titles, such as Physical/Special split from Generation IV, new attacks that don't replace existing ones, a few Fakemon from the previous game, new music with some from the previous title, and Pokémon from Generations IV, V, and VI, along with the Fairy-type and the new Chaos-type.

The game is currently in its first Beta, which was released September 17th 2014, allowing up to 2 or 3 Gyms to be battled, depending on which region the player chose.

DJG decided to go back and try to fix some of the bugs in the first three games, while still allowing other hackers to modify the game they see fit, stating he will try to fix some bugs that were game breaking and were difficult to fix at the time, such as replacing the old sprites in Reign of Legends with the newer DS-style Pokémon sprites that were put together thanks to Chaos-Rush, and fixing the region map has it has been an issue since the hack was completed in 2007.

Pokémon Light Platinum

Pokémon Light Platinum is a rom hack of the Pokémon Ruby Version created by WesleyFG. It is the winner of the 2012 hack of the year award for best gameplay by Pokécommunity. The player explores a new region called the Zhery region, and the graphics and storyline have been heavily altered from the Ruby Version game. It is quite a challenging hack overall and the story is very in-depth as well. The player chooses from the Gen I starters, Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle at the beginning, and throughout the game Pokémon from Gen I to Gen IV are obtainable.

Pokémon Glazed

This is a rom hack of Pokémon Emerald Version made by Lucbui (Redriders180), which is the winner of the 2013 hack of the year award for best gameplay by Pokécommunity. It has some Gen VI mechanics, such as the Fairy-type along with Pokémon stats implemented. The player explores a new region, the Tunod region (which is spelled backwards as 'donut' for humor), as well as the Johto region and another new region, the Rankor region. There are five starter Pokémon to choose from instead of the usual three, including the three Gen IV starters, along with Shinx and Riolu. Most Pokémon from Gen I to Gen V are obtainable, and the starters of gen VI are obtainable as well. Moreover, all legendary Pokémon (except Gen VI) are obtainable in the game, which is a very appealing feature to gamers. The game is almost finished and it has released up to beta 6 version so far.

Nintendo DS

Pokémon Blaze Black and Volt White

Pokémon Blaze Black and Volt White Versions are hacks of Pokémon Black and White made by Drayano, first released in late March 2011. The concept of the games is generally the same, with no changes to the story or mechanics. The main changes made by these games is that it is possible to obtain all 649 Pokémon in the National Pokédex without connecting to another game. All the legendary Pokémon that do not appear normally in the original now have a small chance of appearing in certain locations (for example, Zapdos has a 1% chance of showing up on the lowest level of Chargestone Cave). In addition, many evolution methods were changed, mainly ones that involved trading as a requirement (the Magmarizer and Electirizer are now usable items that evolve Magmar and Electabuzz respectively, in the same manner evolutionary stones do). The hacks also implement a level curve to make the game more challenging, and certain Pokémon have had minor type, learnset, and ability changes to fit the increased difficulty (Serperior was given the Dragon type in addition to its normal Grass type). Most Pokémon, upon being obtained, have a chance of having their Dream World abilities. Finally, some moves have undergone type, power, and accuracy changes, again to fit the increased difficulty.

Pokémon Blaze Black 2 and Volt White 2

In October 2012, Drayano continued his project into the sequels of Blaze Black and Volt White, making Pokémon Blaze Black 2 and Volt White 2. The overall concept of the game stays the same, with a few minor improvements. Rather than the normally unobtainable legendaries appearing in the wild, they now appear as interactive encounters after meeting certain requirements (for example, Zapdos now appears outside the entrance to Chargestone Cave after speaking to a male Veteran inside Humilau City's Pokémon Center). These games also take advantage of the Key System by giving the player the Easy Mode and Challenge Mode keys before even choosing a starter Pokémon, so the whole game can be played in Challenge or Easy Mode from the start, no matter which version is being played. Also, the player is given both the Iceberg Key and the Iron Key immediately after defeating/catching Regirock. In addition, new features are added, such as a house in Nacrene City in which the player can have rematches with any of the Unova Gym Leaders, the ability to battle Gym Leaders from Hoenn in the overworld, and a battle against Hilbert or Hilda in the Nature Preserve.


Pokémon 4-in-1

Pokémon 4-in-1 is a pirated NES game which included four mini-games: "PicaClick", "PicaSlot", "PicaDance" (called "PiraDance" in game), and "Pacman". "Pika" is notably misspelled. PicaClick is a Collapse clone featuring Pikachu. Pacman is a Pac-Man clone where Pac-Man is replaced with a Pikachu face and the ghosts with Vileplume. PicaSlot is a slot machine mini-game including Pikachu, Marill, Clefable, Psyduck, Chikorita, (7), and apple (with worm) icons. PiraDance involves the player stopping Marill and Cleffa on spinning Poké Balls, to the beat of one of three songs, "butterfly", "Babylon", or "sunrise". It used the animated sprite of the title screen Pikachu from Pokémon Yellow in the background.

External links


  1. British Gaming Blog » Bizarre Bootlegs - The Lighter Side of Piracy (archived copy)
  2. Pokécommunity - [Hack of the Year 2007 Pokémon Prism [Summer 2010 Beta - Download now available!]]
  3. Kotaku - Pokemon Dressed Up in Moe

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