This is the third and final round of 2014's Hack of the Year competition. Five judges will play and rate all three hacks out of 10 in four categories, Graphics, Story, Gameplay and General Appeal. The hack with the best overall ratings wins the Hack of the Year award. This thread will remain closed, and only judges will post their ratings and comments on the hacks here.
Thank goodness I’m not blind because I would be really sad if I was… Also I would not be able to see Glazed’s magnificent visuals. Just about everything that could be changed aesthetically, has been changed. The sheer variety of its locations, environments and events has cemented Glazed status as a fan favourite and one of the most popular hacks on PokéCommunity in the past few years. Beyond its impressive length and graphics, Glazed is also a decent game in terms of its story. I can’t say that I found the story to be completely novel or engrossing, but it still has a few interesting characters and is proficient enough to make it worth keeping tabs on.
I found Glazed’s gameplay to be its weakest aspect, but it is far from poor. There is a real hump in gameplay around the second gym as first stage pseudo-legendaries become available and ordinary trainers step up their game significantly, to say nothing of gym leaders. On the other hand, the Johto League adventure poses little challenge as by the time this segment begins, the player will have a team of fully-fleshed out Pokémon which have significant EV investment. But that minor shortcoming has not dampened any enjoyment I derived from Glazed. There’s a reason why a lot of players love its length and content as its many strengths help to elevate it above many other hacks that have come out in the past few years. For me, this is the best and most complete hack in 2014’s Hack of the Year.
I’m the first to admit that I’ve barely read any of the Pokémon Special manga so the whole scenario being portrayed is somewhat foreign to me. While the story may not be made from scratch by Aethestode, he has certainly represented it well within Adventure Red. Of particular note are the numerous side quests which hold a surprising amount of depth and help to make it a living, breathing, representation of Kanto outside of the main story. Sadly, constant spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and jokes that don't always hit the mark have dulled what is otherwise a good showing from a narrative point of view. Unfortunately, Adventure Red’s graphics don’t live up to the scale of its story. Beyond new Pokémon sprites and a few overworlds, the altered graphics do not always mesh well with GameFreak’s own offerings, unlike Gaia’s which compliments what is already on the ROM or Glazed which overhauls everything.
Adventure Red is in a somewhat peculiar position when it comes to gameplay as a lot of its major fights are dictated by the manga, making balancing difficult at times. I recognise that following the source material is of paramount importance to this hack, it is sad that there are balancing issues that have to be carried over as well. Adventure Red is in a unique position for a finished hack where most people play it for its story rather than shiny graphics, new Pokémon or a multitude of other potential additions. Thankfully, this is also Adventure Red’s strongest feature and serves to keep its player engaged and enjoying what there is to offer.
Gaia truly feels like a snippet of a legitimate mainstream GameFreak game and that is no small feat. Its constant high production values and friendly atmosphere ensures its current status as a minor gem that is starting to expand and become well known. While its graphics have been spiced up a bit with some custom tiles and new sprites it still borrows heavily from Fire Red as a base. It is far too early to actually tell what its story will be like but from has been presented so far it seems to be solid. Gaia’s strongest suit is definitely its gameplay as it does a really good job of balancing its available Pokémon, enemy trainers/ Gym Leaders and has some excellent map design to go along with it all.
Gaia is a really well put together game with solid foundations. But unfortunately that’s all it is at the moment: a foundation. It is extremely difficult to compare Gaia to either Glazed or Adventure Red due to their significant differences in length. Glazed and Adventure Red are comprehensive hacks with completed stories and significant post-game content, whereas Gaia is only two gyms long. In my eyes, this has hurt Gaia’s overall appeal as it just simply has less to experience in comparison to its competitors. You can only review what you can experience. However, as time goes on and more content is added, I firmly believe that Gaia will continue to grow and become a favourite for anybody interested in Pokémon hacks. 2015 looks to be extremely bright for Gaia and I will be watching it every step of the way.
I rather liked the graphics used in Pokémon Glazed. Especially the tilesets. redriders180 has put a lot of work into changing the graphics in Glazed, and it shows. Pretty much all of the graphics used in the game look nice together, and sheer variety alone kept me interested in exploring new areas. The only complaints I really have are the mixture of OW styles (please just use one type!) and the off-colored footprints (why white?), but otherwise great. A bit of polishing, and this could really be one of the best.
I have to admit that the story is quite creative. Multiple dimensions? You don’t see that everyday. But that’s sort of where it ends for me. The rather generic story of traveling to all the gyms was expected, so no complaints there.
A lot of the gameplay is rather creative, but not completely outside the realm of the usual Pokémon games. One of the coolest things, to me, was the poison ivy that actually poisoned your Pokémon. Now, while these novel experiences are nice, Glazed really killed me with the level curve. A level 18 Jolteon for the first gym? Really? And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous jump in levels following after that first gym. I feel like I spent more time grinding my team on weak Pokémon than I did actual gameplay.
General Appeal: 7/10
I can definitely see why Glazed has garnered such a fan following the past few years. It was amazing graphics, creative events, and a lot of people seemingly like hacks with hard level curves. Apart from fixing the level curve, I’d really like to see redriders180 fixing the random grammar errors that can be found in events, and then also perhaps change up some of the events (like the Mudkip event) which seemingly have no relevance to the story.
Pokémon Adventure - Red Chapter
Ahhh, another manga hack…
The graphics of Pokémon Adventure - Red Chapter are somewhat of a mess. The only thing I really enjoyed about them was the hero’s overworld. Otherwise, a lot of the graphics were somewhat painful to see. In particular, the tilesets chosen clash horribly, and were not exactly pleasing to stare at. I especially did not like the glaring green tones used by the trees/grass. And if you mix the D/N system with the tilesets’ colors, it was quite annoying at some points.
I’ve actually read the Red chapter of the manga, so I knew a bit of what to expect going in to Adventure - Red Chapter. I can’t really complain about the story, considering I liked it in the manga. I think really what I have to complain about was the implementation of the story, which I’ll talk about under gameplay.
Like I said before, I knew a bit of what to expect story-wise going into this hack… But that didn’t really help. The events are supposed to follow the manga’s, and this ends up unbalancing much of the encounters in the game, but that’s somewhat unavoidable. What really threw me, however, was the way the events/chapters played out. Like I said, knowing the events of the manga did not help very much, because the game itself made no effort to guide the player beyond the obvious, and ended up being very confusing at points.
Apart from the story, the horrible grammar and snarky NPCs that abound throughout Adventure - Red Chapter really killed my enjoyment of the game. The abundant grammar errors (that can be found in nearly every event) really make the game seem like a rushed job, and it’s hard for me to look past that.
General Appeal: 5/10
If you ignore what I’ve said above, I’d say that as a whole the idea of playing a manga-based Pokémon game is quite appealing. But even with that factor, a number of different factors (which I detailed before) really detract from the overall appeal of the game, and make it seem a lot less impressive than it appears in concept or on the surface.
I’m a sucker for FRLG-style graphics, so I was quite happy with the graphics of this game. The fact that Spherical Ice can not only find new graphics that actually fit, but also make new ones himself just makes it better. I especially liked the variety of new tiles used in the caves. Apart from that, the custom OWs used in the game are also quite nice, and the gym leaders actually look like unique characters. What I’d really like to see, though, is a new OW for the player character. But really, even the current one works because it at least fits the style of the game.
It’s really too early in this game’s development for me to actually rate its story, but I like what I’ve seen so far. Spherical Ice has created a world with a seemingly rich history, and an actual mystery for the player to solve make me excited to see more.
Of all the three games, I liked Gaia’s gameplay the most. What Gaia does really well with is guiding the player. Every event is very specific with what it wants you to do by the end of it (go here, go there), then leaves it up to you to fill in the rest. If the rest of the game follows like this, it will be quite easy for players of all types to enjoy the game, because nobody will get lost in the gameplay.
Other than that, Gaia honestly made me feel like I was playing an actual GameFreak produced Pokémon game. It was just that professional.
The only complaint I really have about the gameplay is the sheer number of trainers! I liked that I didn’t need to grind my team to play the game, but what I didn’t like was the seemingly endless stream of trainer battles covering each route. You couldn’t go 6 tiles in this game without encountering a new trainer.
General Appeal: 5/10
At this point, Gaia is simply too short of a game to hold any major appeal. The events in the game are all scripted perfectly, and the number of new generation features are great, but until more content is added, there really isn’t much to say beyond “it will be great one day.”
I must say, I am very jealous of Glazed's graphics. The presentation is very beautiful, with many personal touches and details thrown in. Graphical overhauls take a lot more work than using the vanilla tiles, and it's much appreciated when somebody takes the time to create an entirely new style. There were some tile errors, but they were at a minimum. This has almost certainly been said before somewhere, but the hero protagonist looks like Naruto--and that is what I named him.
The story is somewhat novel, but overall rather familiar. I know some people may want more from a Pokémon game, but I actually rather enjoy the traditional badge quest. Alternate dimensions are something Pokémon hasn't really touched on much, so this is an interesting innovation for a story.
This game was pretty tough to play through, but strangely it felt kinda rewarding when I managed to take down Trainers who were several levels above me. Making Spore and Leaf Blade as tutors for literally ANY Pokémon was a strange idea, but an interesting one. I think a variation on this theme could have some potential. I was actually caught by surprise when I first walked over the poison ivy tile--that was definitely an interesting touch! I found Leech Seed/Spore/Mega Drain was enough to take out the most troublesome Pokémon I came across, but I would rather not have to resort to such a passive strategy to play through this.
General Appeal: 8/10
This game is very visually appealing. The game certainly poses a challenge without being completely unmanageable. With the amount of content and polish this hack has, it's almost as if it's a real Pokémon game. It's only when you're being smashed by things like a Level 18 Jolteon in the first gym that you're reminded it's a fanmade hack.
Pokémon Adventure - Red Chapter by Aethestode
When it comes to hacks which feature Kanto, it's often as an easy excuse to do little or no mapping with a FireRed base. It's refreshing to see a remodeled Kanto in this hack, but ultimately the tiles and mapping choices leave much to be desired.
As I've read the Adventures manga, I had some expectations of what would happen in this hack. While I think the game rather faithfully adapts the manga's more important events, it's the quality of the dialogue and additonal content thrown in which really detract from the overall experience.
This hack demonstrates that what works well in one medium doesn't necessarily work in another. As this follows the manga story, your starter is a Poliwhirl at Level 5 (...), something which hardly makes sense in any other context. Even if you read the manga and know what's supposed to happen, it doesn't help you figure out what you have to do to trigger events in this hack. I like the idea of this hack, but it really is in need of some polish.
General Appeal: 6/10
Overall, Adventure Red is a passable hack. It places a premium on its story, which I admire in a hack, but it leaves much to be desired in its other departments. If this hack were a little more well-rounded, I'd give it a higher score.
Pokémon Gaia by Spherical Ice
Gaia's graphics are mostly vanilla FireRed, which includes the (unedited) player, rival, and Professor overworlds. What tiles Spherical Ice actually made for this hack blend nicely with the vanilla tiles. They almost look like they were in FireRed all along.
The story is very tantalizing; it almost delights in being so. Much of the story revealed in this beta puts a lot of stock into areas which are not accessible (or even mapped yet) as of playing, which makes me wish there was more story going on in the areas you can visit. Some suspense is nice for a story; ALL suspense is just being a tease with the story.
The core gameplay is very much like a normal Pokémon game, with features like capture experience being implemented. The game showcases a lot of variety for Pokémon, which includes newly inserted Pokémon--and with their actual cries! This variety can be seen both in the wild Pokémon available as well as those used by Trainers. The level curse was also fairly reasonable. Spherical Ice did a good job in this regard.
General Appeal: 4/10
What there was to offer was great, but I have to say this doesn't really come close to the other two in being a complete game experience. This is an enjoyable, but incomplete, project.
Honestly, I don't think Gaia should have been eligible for this competition. For a hack to be Hack of the Year, it should be one whose total game experience--Graphics, Story, and Gameplay--is on the scale of previous winners, such as Liquid Crystal or Light Platinum. Gaia, in its current state, just doesn't stand up as something I can call Hack of the Year. Maybe next year!
From a first look, Glazed is every ROM hack player's dream. It's almost complete, with its own new regions and including Johto. It has beautiful visuals, and it looks different enough from its Emerald ROM base to feel like a completely different game. There are cases where the graphics could do with some improvement, but seeing as everything's been completely changed, I'm not complaining. I enjoyed the different styles of each town/city, and the every person I talked actually had something interesting to say, something quite rare in hacks, at least from what I've played. As soon as you start off you're introduced to the parallel dimension side of the story, which could be made quite interesting, but instead, not much is really explained or introduced, and the second time you visit this dimension all you do is chase a Mudkip. Elements like the poison ivy were a nice touch, though a bit too early in the game, having your only Pokémon poisoned very early in the game is never a good thing, but it made for an interesting challenge. The level curve, however, took out a lot of the enjoyment. After the first gym, everything suddenly jumps to a much higher level, and my only option was mindless space button grinding, and my Shroomish with Leech Seed. After this part it's not as bad, and the great amount of content afterwards makes up for it. The amount of areas and Pokémon/legendaries makes for an enjoyable "catch them all" adventure.
Graphics: 7/10 Story: 6/10 Gameplay: 5/10 General Appeal: 7/10
Pokémon Adventure - Red Chapter
Adventure Red starts off well, with the maps looking lively and colourful, though some of the graphics don't really go well together. I've only read the first chapters of the manga, but the story seems to go along well, though I found myself stuck and not knowing what I'm supposed to do quite often. There were enough of typos and grammar errors in the dialogue to make it annoying to read sometimes, and the things NPCs had to say were either too plain, or just bad. The level curve was actually decent, even as it followed events of the manga, with a few exceptions such as Magnemite at level 100 and trainers whose Pokémon only know the move Explosion. There's a lot of content and side quests, but overall it feels very rushed. The mapping and the scripting are far from perfect, and even though the story and the fact that there's always something going on can get you to keep wanting to play more, these, along with the dialogue, have put me off instead.
Graphics: 5/10 Story: 7/10 Gameplay: 5/10 General Appeal: 4/10
Gaia uses a mix of the default Fire Red graphics along with a few new tiles, and it's looking great. The maps are beautiful, and likely the best I've seen in any hack I've played so far. There are things to look around for in every single map, with many obstacles that require Hidden Machines or other items to access, which I find great and it makes revisiting maps worthwhile. The overall feel of the region of Orbtus is very adventurous and mysterious, which goes really well with the story. Not much of its story is playable, however, but it seems to be unfolding quite interestingly, though not much is explained at all. I enjoyed playing Gaia the most out of all three. Encountering wild Pokémon never gets boring as there are different varieties of them in each route, and the level curve is decent, I haven't had the need for any grinding. There are however too many trainers in between towns, and even though NPCs offer to heal your Pokémon in-between, perhaps reducing the number of trainers or making some of them optional would be a better approach, even though I prefer it over an unbalanced level curve, it gives you reason to actually train more different Pokémon (I usually play through hacks with one or two Pokémon). Even though Gaia doesn't have as much content as the other two, its overall quality, and the fact that it doesn't feel rushed at any point in the game, makes it the most appealing out of all three.
Graphics: 8/10 Story: 6/10 Gameplay: 7/10 General Appeal: 8/10