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Hack of the Year 2017 - Judging Round

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  #1    
Old January 1st, 2018 (11:12 AM). Edited February 23rd, 2018 by Mateo.
Hack of the Year Hack of the Year is offline
     
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    Hack of the Year 2017 - Judging Round


    Introduction


    This is the third and final round of 2017's Hack of the Year competition. Five judges will play and rate four hacks on a 10-point scale 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.

    Eligible Hacks


    Judges

      #2    
    Old January 1st, 2018 (9:52 PM). Edited January 1st, 2018 by Bela.
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    Bela Bela is offline
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      Hey everyone! We looked into the situation some more, and it seems I may have misjudged what happened. We were under the impression that the person caught manipulating votes was involved with Adventure Red, but as it turns out, they were just a really involved fan. As such, we have felt it was unfair to Adventure Red to disqualify it from this judging round, and will be including it in this round with the other three hacks. We feel it's better to err on giving Adventure Red the benefit of the doubt, and we apologize for any confusion we have caused.

      As such, there will be FOUR hacks judged in this round! In fairness to our participants, we are judging the top four vote-getting hacks!

      Sadly, Rose did not make it to this round, but I appreciate all 50 votes it received. Thank you all! <3
        #3    
      Old February 21st, 2018 (4:00 AM).
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      Avara Avara is offline
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        Pokémon Orange by Pia Carrot


        Graphics: 9/10
        All of this hack's graphics - from tiles and OWs to later generation Pokémon and new trainer sprites - looked great and blended with the Crystal style seamlessly. I honestly couldn't find anything to make even the smallest of nitpicks about regarding visual consistency, which is the most important thing for me graphics-wise.

        Story: 8/10
        As per the traditional games, the focus of this hack isn't on an intricate plot. Your goal is to take on the Orange Crew, become the Champion and fight off Team Rocket now and again i.e. the typical Pokémon journey, not that there's anything wrong with that. I noticed that NPCs offer useful and/or interesting information at every turn as opposed to just spouting random nonsense which I can definitely appreciate!

        Gameplay: 8/10
        Despite the fact that there's a range of Pokémon from different generations, none of them seem out-of-place within the tropical setting. Additions like the Running Shoes, BW2 Repel prompts, Fairy type, and the Physical/Special/Status split bring mechanics up-to-date without losing the Gen 2 feel of the game in its entirety. I loved being able to capture my very own Crystal Onix and turn my Lapras pink with properly functioning Pinkan Berries! Each island offers something interesting to see or do and many areas contain paths only accessible by using HMs, rewarding players for exploring.

        Gen Appeal: 9/10
        Orange almost feels like a real Pokémon game, it's just so professionally done. In my opinion it's the best ROM hack adaptation of the Orange Islands saga we've ever had here on PokéCommunity, and would even say it's one of the best Gen II hacks I've played to date.

        Total Score: 34/40

        Pokémon Mega Power by 1158


        Graphics: 5/10
        A lot of effort has gone into the graphical modification of this hack; although sadly I don't think all that effort has paid off. The battle backgrounds in particular lacked polish, as did some sprites for Pokémon from later generations, and some doors were missing animations. I liked that there were a ton of new trainer sprites, but some of these were of a noticably lower quality than others. Tiles, mugshots, sprites and OWs had varied styles across the board which meant there were distracting visual clashes everywhere.

        Story: 7/10
        You start out playing as a scientist working for a mysterious team, and there are a few twists and turns along the way! The setting and story of Mega Power is intriguing, but it's unfortunately let down by not being very well written. It seems that English isn't the author's first language, so it's understandable that there will be spelling or grammar errors now and again, but there were so many that it often made conversation and other NPC interactions confusing. I have to say I love the idea behind it though, it's great to play as a character with a profession that isn't just "kid who wants to beat all the Gym Leaders, take on the Elite Four and become the region's Champion".

        Gameplay: 6/10
        Despite some of the maps being a bit annoying to navigate and easy to get lost in, I enjoyed exploring the region 1158 created. It was sometimes difficult to understand what was happening or what to do - I found myself having to consult the walkthrough on more than one occasion, though this could be because of things getting lost in translation. None of that actually stopped me from being interested in what was going to happen next!

        General Appeal: 6/10
        I'm not a fan of "permanent" mega evolutions; since it came across as being for the sake of the hack's story I tried to set that personal opinion aside. Still, running into a trainer with a level 13 M-Charizard early in the game did feel pretty strange. I think Mega Power could have been absolutely brilliant if it had better overall execution, but it needs a lot of work.

        Total Score: 24/40

        Pokémon FireRed - Rocket Edition by colonelsalt


        Graphics: 7/10
        Original FireRed tiles always look good, and this hack stays faithful to them. Most graphics are unedited, apart from the addition of a few new trainer sprites from the later games and a new Rocket-themed design for the hero, but this doesn't take anything away from the experience! One thing I found quite jarring was the variety in overworld sprite styles - there's a mixture of FRLG, RSE and NDS style OW sprites in there. If only the creator had stuck with FR-styled OWs, visuals would have been consistent throughout the hack.

        Story: 6/10
        The storyline is, as advertised, "FireRed from a Rocket grunt's point of view". Instead of challenging Gym Leaders and setting your sights on the Indigo Plateau, your aim is to rise through the ranks of Team Rocket, carrying out their orders instead of trying to stop them in their tracks. A lot of the default NPC text has been left alone; I'm assuming this was done intentionally to further add to the idea that this is FR from Team Rocket's perspective, but the sheer amount of things that were left unchanged made this come across as a bit lazy.

        Gameplay: 7/10
        Being able to steal Pokémon from the trainers you defeat every now and then is a nice addition and allows you to put together a party of various types early on, useful for some of the more interesting battles later! I was looking forward to seeing colonelsalt's implementation of a morality system, but all it appeared to be was that you'd receive different rewards from either your Rocket associates for stealing Pokémon or the police for not stealing Pokémon, as if "bad" only meant doing your job and "good" meant, well, not doing your job.

        General Appeal: 7/10
        FR: Rocket Edition seemed to have a lot of decent ideas, but ultimately didn't carry them out well enough to reach their full potential. This hack is bound to appeal to people who want to play on the evil team's side, although there's not a lot that makes it stand out from other Team Rocket themed hacks in my opinion.

        Total Score: 27/40

        Pokémon Adventure - Red Chapter by Aethestode


        Graphics: 8/10
        There's so much attention to detail in all visual aspects of this hack, almost everything has been edited and improved - there's even a brand new Pokémon summary screen and updated type icons! Some of the maps felt a bit empty and there was the odd tile error or irregularity, but having played previous releases, there's still a huge improvement from before. The character mugshots were an especially nice addition, various expressions for the main characters really helped bring conversations to life.

        Story: 7/10
        I’ve never read any of the manga, so I can't say how faithful Aethestode's adaptation is in comparison. One thing I loved about Adventure Red was the character development, watching how relationships grow between the main cast and feeling like you're properly getting to know them. Exploring Kanto through Red's eyes was fun, it's just a shame that the story's somewhat let down by poor writing in other places, e.g. weird or repetitive NPC text.

        Gameplay: 8/10
        The chapter-based gameplay was really engaging, it was as if there was never a dull moment with plenty of well done cutscenes and mini-quests. Frequent events kept everything moving at a fast pace, so I never felt bored or as if I was doing the same thing over and over again. There was just something about it that made me not want to put it down! That being said, it's not without issues. The frequent use of fadescreen commands made the screen appear to "flicker" during a lot of scenes which was quite distracting and I feel the implementation of "following" NPCs would have been better left out than implemented in the buggy state it's currently in.

        General Appeal: 7/10
        A Pokémon game based on Red Chapter is guaranteed to attract a lot of manga fans! I personally dislike "breaking the fourth wall" because I want to be totally immersed in a game's world, and having constant references to real-life things or other out of place dialogue broke that immersion for me at times and made everything seem less professional. I still had a great time playing this hack and look forward to future releases!

        Total Score: 30/40
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          #4    
        Old February 21st, 2018 (1:43 PM).
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        Pokemon Mega Power

        Graphics - 2/10

        Of the four contestants for this competition, Mega Power is far and away the least aesthetically pleasing. Immediately upon startup, the player is met with a pixellated mess of poorly devamped Sugimori art of various Mewtwo formes and silhouettes in the title screen. Unfortunately, it only gets worse from there.

        The female player character's design is almost pornographic in its ridiculous design, which clashes tonally with the rest of the game (she is, after all, supposedly a respected scientist, not a stripper). The male player character is a more cohesive design, if a little generic.

        The overworld tiles are slightly better, but again fail to be consistent, with the interior tiles retaining Emerald's art style while the outdoors are a far more saturated, colourful alternative. While this is not inherently bad, it is let down by an unchanged tall grass animation and incredibly peculiar choices for colours. The terrain grass is a fluorescent turquoise, while trees are a far more subdued and unsaturated green, which makes much of the region look awkward. Other signs of the unpolished art style can be found in the broken palette for the player's reflection in pond water and the omission of any animation whatsoever for the new door tiles.

        In battle, it is not much better. The battle backgrounds suffer from the same compression issues as the title screen, with the added flaw of being unsuited for the "sliding in" animation that occurs at the start of battles by default in Emerald. This results in the backgrounds being awkwardly sliced in half. On top of this, the sprites for Pokémon in battle are a mess: Pokémon from generations one through three retain their Emerald defaults, while generations four to six use what are presumably public devamps from the DS-style resource. This is not a huge issue, but again shows the creator's lack of an eye for consistency. The true crime, however, are the "sprites" for the generation seven Pokémon, in that they are not actually sprites at all but lazily compressed single frames from ripped .gifs of their models. They look horrible and almost comical at times (Yungoos' was especially hilarious).

        The two points scored in this category are simply because there was at least some effort to create a unique art style, even if the end result is very difficult to look at.

        Story - 2.5/10

        Sadly, the story of Mega Power does not have much to offer, either. It is worth noting that I stopped playing once I reached the third Gym, the bare minimum required for this judging process, but even still I felt confused and apathetic towards the entire plot throughout. I have also seen snippets from friends' playthroughs which get further than I did, and frankly it only seems to deteriorate in quality as it goes along.

        The player character talks, which I have always hated in Pokémon games. That is more of a personal qualm, but unfortunately even if I liked that style of storytelling, Mega Power fails to use it effectively. The entire plot oozes with edginess, which at best just clashes with the tone of what Pokémon as a franchise really is, and at its worst is embarrassing and makes the entire game unintentionally funny.

        The prologue sees you scaling an entire mountain in what would usually be enough gameplay to constitute at least one, if not two, badges in a normal Pokémon game. The motivation for doing so, to rescue your underling scientists from an attacking Abomasnow, is flimsy at best, and the entire prologue is resolved by being met by a generic ninja character telling you "... ..." before disappearing.

        The main character's decision making is also extremely confusing. Why do I decide to change my mind once Kasper has what he wants, why did Kasper give me money ($1000 is a laughably small amount of money in the Pokémon world by the way, and the game does not even adjust the Poké Marts to make that fact seem less ridiculous) if he knew I was going to betray him, why did I wait until after scaling that entire mountain before chanigng my mind, and why is Tyra so loyal to me? None of these questions are ever really answered other than the author wanted to have plot twists and a pseudo-morality system where your choices affect the story.

        The reasoning behind challenging the region's Gyms is also pretty weak. This is relatively excusable, but disappointing nonetheless. I would have preferred if the author took a more bold approach and continued with the different tone set by you playing as a scientist for the evil team instead of as a kid and dumped the Gym concept entirely, or simply made them optional challenges. It is not a huge issue, though, especially given the blaring issues elsewhere in Mega Power's story.

        The story and dialogue of Mega Power is not completely irredeemable, however. Among the comically edgy character designs like Eliza and Kasper are the genuinely charming and interesting gambler Gym Leader and the dude in Magician Cave.

        However, Mega Power is still plagued by spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (I can accept the creator not being natively English, but I am sure plenty of people would volunteer to proofread the game's dialogue were he to propose the offer).

        Gameplay - 3/10

        Pokémon battles constitute the core of gameplay for most Pokémon games, and Mega Power is no exception, despite its difference in the player character's motivations from your typical Pokémon game. It is a shame, then, that this core is so rotten.

        Beginning with the eclectic, seemingly random selection of starters (the elemental monkeys, Espurr and Mincinno), the creator completely failed to make them balanced as starter Pokémon. I chose Panpour, based on a random number generator which made the decision for me. Its moveset was horrible, getting its first STAB damaging move at level 15. This made the first stretch of the game a chore, made all the more worse by the seemingly arbitrary distribution of Pokémon in the wild and on enemy trainers' teams. Aron, Barbaracle, Absol and Mega Charizard X are some notable examples of Pokémon that appeared all before level 20, with the former being on the team of an unskippable trainer that resulted in my having to grind some six levels to get a STAB move for Drilbur to kill.

        Mega Power is incredibly punishing in its difficulty curve, with spikes at random points: there will be random trainers in routes that, if you have an unluckily disadvantaged team, can completely stonewall you and force you to grind to overcome. At the same time, the Gyms can at times be pushovers. The first Gym is emblematic of this issue, being a breeze that makes the routes which precede it seem masochistic in their challenge.

        A lot of the battles are also broken and glitchy. Move animations appear with corrupted textures and, in one instance, the enemy Mewtwo used its Hard Stone to cure its paralysis (despite not being paralysed at all).

        For a game which is wholly centred on Mega Evolution, the game also fails to do this properly. It instead falls back on regular evolution as a substitute for the actual mechanic, which is a shame. The introduction of the Mega Pokémon is done with a remarkable lack of awe or fanfare, too, which undermines their importance and makes them seem like an afterthought.

        In terms of non-battle related gameplay, there were quite a few instances where I was left with no idea where I had to go. This was not helped by the unfinished Town Map which fails to correctly list its routes and cities, and which was in fact obscured by the default HOENN textbox (which was also unedited).

        There are a lot of extremely long, meandering routes in the region, chock full of mandatory trainer battles, and with arbitrary and excessive tall grass everywhere. In spite of this, the game remains stingy in its distribution of revives and repels, making traversing the oftentimes directionless map designs very annoying.

        The biggest positive for Mega Power's gameplay would have to be its Gym designs, which are at worst bland but at best interesting and creative. Fescue City's Gym particularly stood out as a very interesting Gym with a relatively good execution.

        General Appeal - 2/10

        The only thing going for Mega Power, in my opinion, is its amount of progress. It is a very long game, so if you can see past its ugly graphics, cringeworthy story, run-on and poorly formatted textboxes, unfair battles, embarrassing character designs, crass map design and painstaking gameplay, you will at the very least have something to play for a while.

        Total score - 9.5/40



        Pokémon FireRed: Rocket Edition

        Graphics - 4/10

        Graphically, there is not much to say about FireRed: Rocket Edition. It is almost entirely unchanged from the default ROM, save for a few new characters (the most notable of which being the Team Rocket admin characters introduced in HG/SS, which have perfectly well-devamped overworld and battle sprites to match).

        The title screen is original, and looks great. Its use of the Team Rocket colour scheme of red and black is effective and it sets the tone for the rest of the hack effectively. Unfortunately, it begins with a few frames of glitched tiles, which is a shame.

        Other than that, the only notable issues with FireRed: Rocket Edition's graphics are the sprites for the new, original items unique to the hack. Item sprites for items such as the Cell Phone and Flashlight do not look good, and do not fit the established style of the other, default item sprites from FireRed found in the hack. This is a shame, but at the very least they succeed in communicating what they are supposed to be.

        However, in terms of originality, FireRed: Rocket Edition does not offer much at all because of how unchanged it is from the base ROM. For that reason, I only awarded it four points.

        Story - 7/10

        As alluded to in the first category, FireRed: Rocket Edition's region is the exact same as FireRed's. The maps, the Pokémon and trainers in said maps, and indeed the basic plotline, all remain the same. The key difference, however, is the perspective from which that plot is told. You play as a Team Rocket grunt, and frankly this is so classic a concept it is hard not to like it.

        FireRed: Rocket Edition couples this timeless idea with, at times, very charming character moments and well-written dialogue. Each (new, as unfortunately a lot of the dialogue has not been changed) character interaction is memorable and communicates to the player the plot, what to do and what might happen next effectively, and does so without coming across as generic or robotic.

        Unfortunately, it ruins it all by throwing in cringeworthy swear words every five seconds. I am of the opinion that swearing absolutely never belongs in Pokémon, and completely clashes with the tone of the games, and unfortunately FireRed: Rocket Edition is not distinct enough for it to not feel weird and immature. Add onto this the handful of toilet jokes, instances of homophobic jokes, overtly sexual jokes and embarrassing turns of phrase like "Jesus Arceus Christ" and "Holy mother of Mew," and it becomes extremely hard not to hate the game's dialogue at the same time as enjoying its better moments.

        That being said, in terms of keeping the player engaged, FireRed: Rocket Edition is the best of the four hacks in this competition. The hack uses a lot of interesting storytelling devices: for example, the news report was a very intriguing way to tell the story, and was scripted flawlessly. The justification behind the SS Anne captain being sick (as a result of Proton (I think?)'s Koffing using Poison Gas to steal something the captain was in possession of) had me smiling as it happened.

        On the flipside, the hack does not shy away from indulging in the more silly and tonally mismatched fan theories that surround the Kanto games. Aspects like Blue's dead Raticate and Ditto being a failed Mew clone evoked the same embarrassment that the cursing brought about for me, especially Blue's hilariously pseudo-deep speech at Pokémon Tower. That being said, the use of flashbacks to tell these stories, with black and white overlays and letterboxing, was a charming use of the scripting engine by FireRed: Rocket Edition's author to tell his story, which I enjoyed.

        Sadly, a consequence of FireRed: Rocket Edition's use of the Kanto region was that it occasionally became confusing as to where to go, in part because the fallback of "just go to the new route you have not explored yet" was not an option because of the new starting town of Celadon City. In that regard, I think colonelsalt made a mistake giving the player Fly so early on and expecting them to use it to get around. I would have much preferred a more linear, clear path that began at Mt. Moon and instead utilised more roadblocks to railroad the player than the constant back-and-forth to the base under the Game Corner that the game has you take after each mission. It is not a huge issue, but it was disappointing.

        Gameplay - 6/10

        As mentioned in the above paragraph, FireRed: Rocket Edition struggles to reconcile the different route through Kanto that the story necessitates from this point of view, which can lead to confusion in where to go. This issue also pervades the level curve, unfortunately. It is unclear at times which trainers the game would like you to battle, and it is here that the more lazy aspects of FireRed: Rocket Edition become evident: a lot of the scripts are unchanged in this ROM hack, from trainer battles to the items you find. A key example where this skews the game's level curve is the Psychic TM you get incredibly early on, which made my Slowpoke extremely powerful from that point onwards.

        The only other notable change from the vanilla game's gameplay is the introduction of Pokémon theft, and the accompanying bounty system. I personally think this was a stroke of genius by colonelsalt and completely transforms the gameplay experience of planning a team to a refreshing and new one. To begin with, as a mere grunt, you can only steal from little children and the elderly. As the game progresses, you receive promotions which allow you to steal from an increasing pool of targets. This is a hilariously in-character way to limit the players' access to strong Pokémon and give a sense of progression while using the same few maps for multiple missions.

        I do wish, however, that the hack went the extra mile in a few aspects, the first of which being the complete removal of access to Poké Balls. That would really force the player to think about how much they want to balance their bounty versus their team's strength, and would further emphasise the new dimension of the game this system introduces. Furthermore, I wish that it was made more explicit somehow which trainers you are able to steal from before battling them (perhaps some heads-up display indicator?), as I would often "waste" potentially great Pokémon by battling their trainers before realising that I cannot steal from them yet.

        That being said, these are relatively small nitpicks of a very well implemented, very unique and very interesting gameplay mechanic that frankly is one of the only reasons why FireRed: Rocket Edition is worth playing past the initial story gimmick.

        General Appeal - 6/10

        FireRed: Rocket Edition is well scripted and, for the most part, well written. Its use of applymovement is unique and gives character to the NPCs in ways that sometimes exceed even that of Game Freak's, especially for a generation three game.

        Small issues like the consistent incorrect use of the opening speech mark (you want to use ["] in XSE for the opening speech mark and just " for the closing one) and the occasional clipping error (in Celadon City Ronnie can walk through a lady NPC after you steal your first Pokémon) bring down its polish a notch. The bad parts of its dialogue and story are a major turn-off for me, but that is more of a matter of opinion than objective quality.

        With all of that considered, I think FireRed: Rocket Edition is well worth your time, flaws and all, if only to scratch the timeless itch everyone has to play through Kanto as Team Rocket.

        Total score - 23/40



        Pokémon Orange

        Graphics - 8.5/10

        The fact that Pokémon Orange has the worst graphical capabilities of any of the entries in this competition and yet has the best graphics of them all speaks volumes to its quality. Visually, Orange ranges from just pretty to bafflingly good looking for a GBC game.

        From its calming title screen, which sets the tropical and whimsical tone of the game perfectly, to the expertly devamped battle sprites for new Pokémon like Rockruff, Orange manages to capture the nostalgic memory of what the Gameboy Pokémon games felt like they should look like while skipping over the disappointing ugliness that you get confronted with when you actually do go back to play the originals.

        There really is not much at all to say about Orange's graphics that would not at this point just sound like mindless gushing: it looks very pretty and has the perfect graphics to complement its tropical setting. Well, except for the desert map at nighttime. That looks horrible.

        Story - 6.5/10

        While some may take issue with Orange's story for not being particularly ambitious or exciting, I would argue that the familiar plot of Orange actually services its setting, and helps to contribute to the laid-back, islander vibe that makes Orange such a joy to pick up and play. Orange understands that Pokémon games do not need overly dramatic crises and philosophical contemplation to be enjoyable: it knows what it is and uses that fact to its advantage. For example, there is never an overly long exposition dump in the game, something which all of the other hacks in this competition succumb to at one point or another.

        In spite of that fact, it would be unfair to not acknowledge that Orange's story is both derivative and generic. It does a great job of adapting the Orange Islands arc from the anime while not trying to be a one-to-one copy of the steps that Ash Ketchum takes in the show, and in turn feels like what could have been a legitimate counterpart to the anime had Game Freak invested the time back in the early 2000s to make it. Ultimately, however, there is not much of a story to critique, and what is there is not very original, and so it would feel wrong for it to score any higher.

        Gameplay - 8/10

        Overall, Orange's gameplay is not noticeably bad, but also somewhat unpolished, and, at times, annoying. Things like very high encounter rates on routes, a lot of compulsory, consecutive trainers on routes, the abundance of Water-types, and the inexplicable abundance of Sleep Powder all made Orange, at times, a genuine chore to play.

        One of the worst offenders was around where you first encounter and battle Snorlax, after getting the second badge. I lost that battle, in part due to my unwillingness to trek back to the last Pokémon Center, but instead of respawning where expected, I was sent all the way back to Valencia Island. While this is undoubtedly a bug, it is an example of a lack of polish leading to me resenting the game for quite a long time on my way back. Thankfully, the ability to re-explore the old maps with the new HMs I had acquired alleviated this annoyance somewhat, which is a testament to their great placement. I just wish I had gone back to explore of my own accord, instead of being forced to by faulty programming.

        That being said, Orange also has a lot of positives in its gameplay, especially when its disadvantaged base of Crystal is considered. Additions and pleasantries like having running shoes right from the beginning, the prompt to reuse repels, and experience upon the capture of wild Pokémon were all welcome improvements on the base game.

        Furthermore, the pace of Pokémon Orange is incredibly well done: every time I found myself wishing for a Pokémon Center, there would be one just around the corner. The boss battles are a challenge, but never feel unfair (except for when they rely on Sleep Powder spam, which, again, is a weirdly common thing is the game). Unfortunately, the pace and distribution of TMs buck this trend: there are hardly any good TMs anywhere, which is especially insulting given that they remain one-use items. As an aside, the inexplicable over-nerfing of Rock Blast was annoying and made my Rockruff's moveset worse than it needed to be prior to getting Accelerock.

        Ultimately, Orange is a game where I was having fun more often than not, and so it deserves a high score for gameplay, despite its flaws.

        General Appeal - 9/10

        Pokémon Orange has well-written dialogue, beautiful graphics, well-devamped music (although I disagree with the use of the Pokéathlon music for the trainer battles - I do not think it works) and a general degree of polish that puts it far and away above the other hacks in this competition.

        The implementation of Pinkan Berries is one of my favourite additions to the game and epitomises Orange's skill in being an effective adaptation, instead of mere copy-paste, of its source material. The Pinkan Berries also serve as one justification for why Orange is actually better off being a hack of Crystal instead of being on a more modern base ROM.

        In my opinion, Orange far and away is the best hack of the year, and deserves the highest score.

        Total score - 32/40



        Pokémon Adventure - Red Chapter

        Graphics - 7/10

        Graphically, Adventure - Red Chapter takes inspiration from HG/SS, which I think was a wise decision given the similarities between those remakes and this game in that they both revamp and remix the Kanto region. The author also took the extra effort to include the interior maps in the renovation process, which is rare for hacks to do.

        That being said, a massive hindrance on what makes Adventure - Red Chapter pleasing on the eyes is the crude day and night system, which led to most of my time playing the game being through an ugly orange or dark blue filter. At one point I simply modified my computer's time to compensate, and doing so made it far more enjoyable to look at.

        There are also small nitpicks I can make for Adventure - Red Chapter's general aesthetic. There are no proper running frames for the player character, which consequently makes the player look like he's doing an awkward jig when using the running shoes. There is a slight graphical error on the enemy's health bar when affected by a status like paralysis, and the yellow text colour that (whom I presume to be Yellow) some characters speak with is extremely hard to read.

        On the other hand, Aethestode gave menus like the bag and Pokémon status screens overhauls which look beautiful, and are a testament to his eye for good graphics. Furthermore, the mugshots which appear beside the text boxes which feature the speaking character, facial expressions and all, are very charming and help elevate both the graphical and storytelling fidelity of Adventure - Red Chapter. It is just a shame that there was not a greater degree of attention given across the board to the hack's art.

        Story - 4/10

        Much like Orange and FireRed: Rocket Edition, Adventure - Red Chapter taps into a classic desire in the Pokémon fan community. I personally have never read any of the Pokémon manga, but adapting them into a game seems like an obvious idea that can be immediately popular. Unfortunately, where Orange is elegant in its adaptation of other canons of Pokémon to game form, Adventure - Red Chapter is much less graceful.

        The most immediate issue I have, which, as I stated in Mega Power's review, is more of a personal gripe, is the fact that the player character talks. Arguably, this is an unavoidable consequence of how closely Aethestode has attempted to follow the manga, but I feel that this obsession with accuracy is ill founded, and undermined by the new, original fan content added in alongside. That being said, as stated in the graphics category, the mugshots look great, and complement the dialogue incredibly well.

        Following the manga one-to-one also leads to some inconsistencies when transitioning to and from battles and cutscenes: Red can say "Go Pikachu!" and send out Pikachu in the overworld, only for him to send out Bulbasaur when actually in battle. I do not think it would be a shame if you were to ignore these inconsistencies and simply let the battles be initiated as they are in normal Pokémon games: that is, in the battle itself. Additionally, the sheer amount of cutscenes where it is claimed the player lost the battle despite actually winning the real battle beforehand gets a little annoying, and takes away credit from the player's ability. This makes it feel like you are not actually being rewarded for playing well, which can be a hindrance on your enjoyment of the game.

        One benefit gained from following the manga closely, however, are the multiple perspective bonus chapters, where we are given the opportunity to play from different characters' points of view. This is an interesting and unique feature that is done relatively well; unfortunately, aspects like menus, the bag, and your party are unchanged from the player character's. This is a shame, as it means these bonus chapters are devoid of any actual battling, which somewhat undermines their quality.

        It can occasionally be hard to know where to go, especially if one plays without some form of a walkthrough. However, the separation of the game into chapters at all is an interesting way of storytelling and can be a rewarding way to signpost the player's progress. The chapters are also well paced, and bonus chapters mean that there is always interesting things to do.

        With all this said, it is time to address what, for many (myself included), is the elephant in the room with regard to this ROM hack: the childish dialogue. The hack is overrun with jabs at users here on PokéCommunity that Aethestode has fallen out with, jokes ranging from pedophilia to necrophilia to the dropping of a pubescent boy's balls, and instances where the player character is unnecessarily mean or just outright cruel to NPCs. It makes playing the hack a chore, and glosses over the genuinely good moments of storytelling to be found in the hack with a sheen of unprofessionalism and childishness.

        Gameplay - 5/10

        Adventure - Red Chapter's gameplay is a strange case. By all accounts, it should be criticised for its lack of balance: you get ridiculously strong moves like Thunderbolt, Petal Tempes (may I suggest Petal Storm as an alternative name that fits the character limit, by the way) and Earth Power for your team extremely early on. This is very broken, and makes a lot of the battles a walk in the park. At the same time, it does appeal to the primal instinct deep down of just completely curbstomping everyone in your way. It is by no means balanced, but, as wrong as it might sound, it is really fun.

        That being said, outside of battles there are a host of issues that make playing the game annoying at times. For one, the lack of a town map or Fly is a curious omission that I suspect is the result of the map interface being bugged out. The band-aid in the form of the teleporter is adequate, but can be annoying for those moments where you are not sure where to go next while not in a city or town but in a route or dungeon. Similarly, the lack of the bicycle (which conveniently breaks after the relevant chapter where you race and then suddenly appears again when you meet Erika for no reason) is inexplicable, and can be annoying at times where it would simply just make life easier.

        This issue is exacerbated by the map design of Adventure - Red Chapter, which at times feels like a downgrade from the base maps it supposedly is enhancing. Celadon City is one such map where the original seems to be an improvement on what is in this hack. The city is so spread out with needlessly giant roads, and it is a pain to traverse (this is made worse by the lack of proper sideways stairs -- an actual implementation for these exists!). The route maps also seem to have too much tall grass at points, and can feel directionless at times due to how much of the screen is taken up by empty spaces.

        Furthermore, the stock of items in the Poké Marts leaves a lot to be desired. My Pokémon were in the level 30s, and yet the Marts were still only stocking Potions as the only healing item available. Were it not for my overpowered move sets, it would have been an even bigger issue, but it is still inexcusable at such a late stage for not even Super Potions to be purchasable: I personally recommend a scaling stock system similar to that in the modern Pokémon games, but based on chapter progress instead of badge progress.

        That being said, there are some moments in the overworld where Adventure - Red Chapter excels. One interesting example of this is the use of poison-inducing tiles in Pokémon Tower, left by Koga's Arbok. It is worth nothing, however, that they poisoned my Egg. Not a huge issue, but it might be worth adding a check in there to make sure that does not happen.

        Overall, Adventure - Red Chapter's gameplay is flawed and for the most part frustrating, but also shines in the mindless fun that it encourages in its ridiculous distribution of moves.

        General Appeal - 5/10

        Adventure - Red Chapter will likely appeal far more to fans of the manga than to those who have never read them. However, there are many places where a greater degree of polish would improve it greatly. For example, simply getting the game to work is a chore. There is no reason why you should have to apply three, separate patches to get the game to work at all.

        The text boxes could be made easier to read (and reduce how much one has to press A) by trying to reword dialogue to fit into two or three lines each, and by separating new sentences to new lines or new boxes. The arbitrary cutting out of the background music can lead to a weird sense of immersion-breaking when it happens. Making the player press A at random points in cutscenes can also be distracting. I am also personally not a fan of Blue's theme at all: I think the music is poorly composed, and has several, conflicting tempos which makes it annoying to listen to.

        However, Adventure - Red Chapter does have its moments where it is enjoyable to play, and, at times, excels in telling its story. It is close to being great, but ultimately falls short. Its childish dialogue is a massive hindrance to its general appeal, and is by far the worst aspect of this hack. It is therefore a shame that such childishness is in such abundance.

        Total score - 21/40

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          #5    
        Old February 21st, 2018 (4:31 PM).
        Bela's Avatar
        Bela Bela is offline
        Pokémon Rose Creator
           
          Join Date: Apr 2009
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          MEGA POWER by 1158



          Graphics - 3/10
          One thing which really bothers me about hacks with custom sprites: inconsistent OW style. The player uses some cross between gen 3 and 4, and every other character is strictly gen 3 style. Another thing which really bothers me: tile palettes. If you're going to use custom graphics, it's really incumbent on you to make them look nice. The rock tiles aren't shaded properly, and the cave mouth isn't using a dark color; it appears as though you walk into some gaping maw of tan. Yet another thing which bothers me: Pokemon sprites. The Pokemon from gen 6 and up are using what appear to be screengrabs of XY/SM models, decolorized to a 16-color palette. This is especially maddening, when there exist custom sprites for these Pokemon.

          Story - 6/10
          I like hacks that tell a new story, and Mega Power certainly does that. However, I find the story was really odd in some points, and needed to do better at telling that story. Included in this score is the use of text boxes, the grammatical and spelling errors, which sort of took me out of the story.

          Gameplay 4/10
          Some more pet peeves: Grinding. It happens from the very beginning, and all so you can overcome the wildly scaling level curve. I don't find this fun. Next, if you try to buy items in the Marts, you can't buy Poke Balls or Great Balls--only Ultra Balls, and you have only so much money in the early game. This basically means you only get to catch a few extra Pokemon and that's it. And these are rather curious choices for Pokemon in the early game: Absol, Furfrou on early teams can easily overpower your weak little grassland captures. And finally, I think it's odd that you can run indoors in some locations, but not in others. I feel like somebody fully implement the running indoors hack.

          General Appeal 5/10
          It appears this hack committed the classic Emerald mistake of overwriting some of the instruments - you can hear throughout the game that some of the instruments have become corrupted. That's unfortunate, because I like playing Pokemon games with the volume on. In Mega Power, you simply can't. Cries were not replaced; the intro's Houndoom still has Lotad's cry. All new Pokemon are merely replaced with existing slots. Text cutoff is very visible and irritating in message boxes. This is especially the case for me, since I spend so much time agonizing over the text cutoff in my own hack's messages. Also, there are gratuitous spelling and grammar errors present throughout, which I think is significant enough to lower the score.

          Overall, it's a DIFFERENT hack but alas, different does not always mean good.


          Overall Score: 18/40



          FR ROCKET ED. by colonelsalt



          Graphics - 6/10
          Rocket Edition's not the strongest in the graphics department. It's all vanilla FireRed, the same tiles we're all used to seeing. There's also a weird mixing of HGSS Rocket admin sprites with vanilla FRLG OWs, which I just got done torching Mega Power for. I think colonelsalt should've picked one of the two styles and gone with that, but not both.

          Also, for no discernible reason, the Rocket bases all have random spin tiles that don't really do anything. I wish he could have come up with something interesting for them.

          Story 8/10
          The story, on the other hand, is rather interesting. You're a Rocket grunt who has just joined Team Rocket. And in just a short while, you become a highly valued, trusted member of Team Rocket. I really liked how this hack took most of the events of FRLG and re-contextualized them for a Rocket grunt. It really drew me in. I wanted to see how each event in FRLG was spun into a Rocket plot. However, I took some points off here because of some aspects of this story. Some of the dialogue was a bit over the top, and not what I think of as fitting for Pokemon.

          Gameplay - 8/10
          The gameplay is really solid. Giving you the option to nab a Pokemon from (most) Trainers you beat is a really nice feature, and makes team-building a lot faster and less painful process than a normal Pokemon game. Need some water coverage? Just beat a Lass and steal her Psyduck. It's a really nice idea, and I think it works well in this hack.

          The "reputation" feature is an interesting concept, but I don't think it really made any kind of impact. It was more or less a score for how many Pokemon you stole. I think that could have been explored more.

          General Appeal - 8/10
          Honestly, this hack got a lot of attention from me. I really like how this game was made, and wasn't expecting it to be as good as it turned out! It really pulled in me in, and it was hard to put down!


          Overall Score: 30/40



          ADVENTURE RED by Aethestode



          Graphics - 9/10
          Clearly, a lot of work has gone into the graphics! The overworlds, the maps, the battle scene, all of it--it's clear Aethestode has poured his heart into his hack. I only took off a point here because there are still some graphic issues, in particular: when you switch to a custom outfit, the graphic palette in battles used for throwing a ball will glitch out.

          Story - 8/10
          I feel the Adventures story has been really well portrayed here--Aethestode even includes small details, like Red taking notice of the Viridian Gym's statues, which was a very significant early tease in the manga.

          It's also nice how Aethestode portrayed events like Green's backstory, which was not clear in even the manga itself until later.

          Gameplay - 7/10
          I liked the nice little touches throughout the game, like resident wild Pokemon appearing in the overworld. I may actually do something like this for my own hack now! I feel as though the gameplay suffered from a lot of backtracking, which could be annoying at times.

          General Appeal - 8/10
          Being a fan of the Adventures manga, I was pleased by how much of it was faithfully adapted in this version of Adventure Red. I took off some points here because of a few technical bugs and issues that I felt may slightly take away from the experience--this is surely not the last iteration of Adventure Red we'll see.

          But overall, I was very impressed with Adventure Red this time, and think it has improved tremendously since I last judged it. Good job, Aethestode!


          Overall Score: 32/40



          PKMN ORANGE by Pia Carrot



          Graphics - 9/10
          I love Gen 2 graphics, and Orange's are all eye candy! The trees give the Orange Islands a nice, tropical feel. You can tell there's attention to detail, as even basic things like the water and grass palettes are changed. Custom overworlds, custom tiles, new sprites for pokemon forms (!!!) in this game are a very nice, welcome touch!

          Story - 8/10
          I've seen other Orange Islands-based hacks before, but I think this one is the best effort I've seen. It incorporates most of the memorable landmarks from the anime, it has plenty of characters from, really, all canons (given the presence of Cross, Tracey, and Samson Oak--that's three different canons mixing!) While I usually would bristle at canon mixing, this hack is able to make it feel seamless--each character feels natural being in the story.

          Otherwise, the story is very conventional, but sometimes a tried and true formula is exactly what a game needs.

          Gameplay - 9/10
          I absolutely adore all the custom music. The Trainer battle is choice, and instantly catchy.

          You know that moment in a game where you unlock something that opens up the game? In this hack, that is called Surf and it's absolutely amazing the second you get it. There's so much to explore in this hack! Also of note: the speed of Surf is greatly improved--even in battle, which is ANOTHER nice touch!

          This hack has catch experience, reusable repels, and running shoes from the beginning, which are all absolutely great to have! Quality-of-life features like these are great to see in hacks, and are not something you'd expect to see in a Gen 2 hack.

          Have I mentioned the custom Pokemon forms? That's an amazing inclusion, and one I'm personally really in favor of. I'm not even talking about the Alolan forms present in the hack. I'm talking about the Pinkan, Crystal, and Orange Island variants of Pokemon! From the moment I saw the Orange Island coloring of Butterfree in the intro, I knew this hack had some real potential.

          General Appeal - 10/10
          Overall, Pia's Orange is quite impressive. It's very clean and polished, much like an official game.

          I think it has well earned itself the right to be named Hack of the Year! Congratulations, Pia!


          Overall Score: 36/40
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