ROM Hacks. They're an excellent platform for experimentation, and in my opinion, there is no better series of games to try this on than the Pokemon Games. The many different features and functions of the games can be utilised to beautiful effect. However, there was one hack that was definitely thought provoking. One that made me ask:
What would happen if the Pokemon Region's equilibrium was altered?
It was about 2 months ago when this remarkable event happened. I was browsing some random game forum, looking for interesting ROM Hacks to try out. After finding those often billed as among the best, such as Pokemon Flora Sky and Pokemon Ash Grey, I happened upon a topic simply titled:
Thinking of it being little more than some kid’s tinkering with a GBA Game, I decided to click on the link, expecting the hack to be little more than Professor Birch being chased by a fat man, faintly humorous, and a good time waster. I was apparently mistaken. The topic contained only two lines of text, the first in Roman Latin:
Tempestatem trio ruit. Iam nunc alterius sequitur actus.
The second line was a download link. I will not include the link, for the website providing the hack has long since been terminated by the government for copyright reasons. So, without a moment’s haste, I clicked on the link, and downloaded the ROM. It was quite a small file, but regardless, I was still intrigued to see what the user had done to alter the game.
After carrying out all the necessary patches (The hack was for Emerald, mind you), and opening the ROM in my emulator, The game began. Well, I say began, since there was no title screen, the game just cut to the menu.
Interestingly enough, there was already a file there. Thinking nothing of it, I selected new game, only to be presented with ‘You don’t want to miss what is about to unfold. DON’T START AFRESH.
“Huh.” I uttered, watching over my bright laptop screen. “That’s odd.” The screen flashed brightly, so much so that it caused me to recoil back and shield my eyes with a nearby book. Cautiously replacing the book on a side table, I looked to the screen.
I had started in Sootopolis City, and appeared to be the sprite of what looked like a Fisherman. I wandered around, talking to citizens, and then it came to me. I wanted to know what Pokemon I had in my party. So, I opened up my team. I only had one Pokemon, a level 36 male Lanturn. I was prompted to name my Pokemon, and so I did, naming him as ‘Thames’, after the famous River that passes just by my house.
Thames knew the move surf, which I somehow knew would be useful. After exiting the menu, I was met with a female Ace Trainer NPC, who communicated with my character. “There’s much talk down at the Gym! Would you please come over?” My character then responded, something which was a little unusual for the Pokemon Series.
“Aye, I’ll be there right away!” My character retorted. I went to the water, and surfed across to the Gym’s exterior, where a great commotion was. It seemed that almost the entire population of the city was there; even Juan came out to see what was going on. A young kid was the first to speak.
“Listen, Listen everyone! Someone’s found and caught Rayquaza- He was soon interrupted by the same Ace Trainer I had encountered before. This is where things begin to seem…off.
“Listen, you dummy. No-one has ever caught that beast, and I doubt anyone can!” The other people, including my character laughed hysterically, emitting a realistic sound, full of malice and sarcasm through my speakers.
Uneasy, I continued on. The kid backed away, then disappeared off screen while the ‘battle fled’ tone played. Then, the entire screen shook violently. A text box appeared. ‘Something is raging beneath the ground…’
The camera then panned over to the water near where you would need to dive. The sound of an explosion played at an extremely high volume, and Jets of lava flew into the air. I sat, dumbfounded by what I saw. After the lava subsided, an overworld sprite of Groudon appeared.
The camera then panned around Sootopolis, and I swear to god, I almost vomited. Several of the people crowded around the gym were lying face down in a stream of lava that diverged around the little island. You could actually see blood flowing out, followed by it boiling away, creating small air bubbles in the burning current.
The remaining people, including my player, were all trembling out of shock. Juan, on the other hand, was trying desperately to put out the liquid fire with his Pokemon, but it was no use. His Kingdra, strong as it was, was instantly engulfed in flames, collapsed from its injuries into the lava, and burned into oblivion.
Another text box then appeared, this time once more in Roman Latin. As full with malaise as I was, I loaded a translator and started it up to read it:
Tempestatem trio ruit. Iam nunc alterius sequitur actus.
I instantly recognised this as the same phrase that had been posted in the forum. After Translating this phrase, I got this line of text: The Weather Trio is ruined. Now face the consequences of another’s actions.
Panic rushed through my head. ‘What have I done to deserve this horror? I haven’t had any part in this! And, why is the Trio ruined?’ I shouted out loud. I didn’t care if I were to be grounded, just anything so someone would be able to witness this situation, even to comfort me with negative emotion.
I was shaken violently from my fearful trance by what sounded like the move Earthquake, but increased in volume. Great, heavy stomping noises could be heard as I peered into my Laptop’s screen again. The sprite of Groudon had now crossed the water, or what was left of it, to face the sprite of my character, and an overworld sprite of the Fisherman’s Lanturn.
Another Text box appeared.
‘Thames has forgotten everything!’
‘Groudon is enraged.’
Then, I was engaged in battle with Groudon. The Pokemon’s appearance astounded me.
Groudon’s colours were restricted to a dark grey, with some of the Legendary’s patterns illuminated in a reddish colour that matched its eyes. Although inanimate, the sprite of Groudon seemed to somewhat resemble the sprite it has in the Generation V Games. Unlike the normal text that would display at the beginning of a battle, I was faced with this dialogue:
‘Thames is quaking in fear.’
‘Thames knows that he can’t win.’
‘Groudon is thrashing about!’
I pressed ‘FIGHT’. Thames had no definable moves, not even Struggle was available. Instead, there was a single option: ‘PLEAD’. Knowing I had no other options, I selected it.
‘Thames is pleading for Groudon to stop!’
‘Groudon didn’t listen…’
‘Groudon used Supervolcano!’
“Supervolcano?!” I thought. “That’s not even a move!” But, as I should have determined by now, all logic had fallen free from this game.
A jet of what looked like Lava shot out of Groudon’s sprite, and was about to hit the Lanturn when suddenly, it stopped.
“Groudon was distracted by what was behind it!”
The battle then ended. Adrenaline and cortisol flowed through my blood in an endless torrent. I breathed heavily, firstly out of fear, then out of relief for my Pokemon.
Groudon had retired to the centre of what was the little lake south of the Gym. Some of the water was slowly restoring itself to the otherwise obsidian-rich platform. Without warning, a tidal wave swamped part of the ruined town, dousing it in water. It was a wonder how my character was even alive at this point.
Kyogre had arrived. His sprite closely resembled that of Groudon, once again appearing black with those peculiar red patterns. It uttered its cry as it crossed the screen.
Kyogre stormed over to Groudon, and the two started throwing attacks at each other. Groudon was smashing Kyogre with repeated Heavy punches, while Kyogre recoiled and frantically shot jets of water at his opponent.
As each blow was taken, the city, or what was left of it, became increasingly decayed. Masonry had collapsed from the buildings, forming greyish rocks and boulders similar to those found in the many caves across Hoenn.
My character was kneeling on the floor, and when I tried to move the poor Fisherman, he limped along, moving at about half the normal walking speed. I was met with the sprite of the Male main character, and engaged in conversation.
“Oh, it’s you! Please, tell me you can fix this mess!” My character said.
“If you don’t bring Rayquaza to this wretched place, we’ll all die! THE WHOLE OF HOENN WILL BE DESTROYED!”
…No reply was given by the trainer ahead. My character’s tirade continued.
“WHY WON’T YOU JUST….”
The Fisherman’s arms went limp. Even though this is just a Pixelated game, I could clearly see the fatigue and pain he was enduring. Perhaps it was just a foolhardy prediction on my part, but I knew it wouldn’t be long until he perished, either from some terrible injury, or his own tiredness. I watched on with tears in my eyes. “…listen to me.”
Now, only after my character had used up most of his energy, did the unmoving, silent trainer speak. Yet another text box appeared.
“You fool. You thought that I would help you? After all the injustices you and the rest of Hoenn have given to me? I have claimed Rayquaza as my own. This is my Pokemon now!”
A sprite of Rayquaza appeared beside him, and let out its cry. “NOW RAYQUAZA, ISSUE FORTH, AND CLAIM THY MEAL!”
And with that, the textbox closed. Tears had stopped flowing from my eyes now, and the previous sadness that had plagued my mind was now all but replaced with feelings of anger. Brendan, the supposed saviour of Hoenn, had turned upon the very land he lived on, and unleashed terror by refusing the natural balance the weather Trio had formed. Now, without the mediation of Rayquaza, the two other members of the Trio could fight endlessly, and destroy the once-peaceful land for good.
I was sent into battle with Brendan and his captured Legendary. The trainer looked absolutely awful. He had a large gash on his face, and deep, dark orbits, completely vacant apart from a pair of small, cold and white pixels, one of which adorned each socket.
Rayquaza moved ahead of the Trainer, and once again, called out its cry. The legendary once again, was produced in shades of red and black, much like its partners. I sent out Thames, as was expected, except Thames’ moves had changed. Instead of PLEAD, he had the move ‘Destiny Bond’. I had no other choices, so I used it. “Thames is trying to take Rayquaza down with it!”
“Rayquaza used Devour!”
Lanturn’s cry played at an incredibly low pitch, almost a rumbling sound, and splattering noises could be heard over it.
“Thames was consumed!”
“Rayquaza was killed by Destiny Bond.”
The screen then turned black, and a further text box appeared, with auto-scrolling text.
“Although the battle between Thames and Rayquaza was successful, both Pokemon perished. The loss of Rayquaza to the Weather Trio now meant there was nothing to stop the endless warfare between Groudon and Kyogre. The two fought until eventually, the whole of Hoenn was overtaken by fire and water. Nothing was left.”
And with that, the emulator closed, following by my computer Blue-screening due to a Driver Error. I sat there for about 10 minutes, just thinking about what I had just seen. I checked my files afterwards, and there was no trace of the Hack, which made sense, since I had needed to run a system restore to get the machine working again.
To this day, I still love the Pokemon Series – nothing can change that. But, as for my standing on ROMs and their hacking, I make sure to only stick to the popular, the underrated, and the serene.
I have always wondered though… What would happen if the balance of Space and Time changed...?