Pokémon: The Unique Experience of Fan-Made Games
With the announcement of Nintendo’s Pokémon Go, many pokémon fans are excited by the opportunities presented in this mobile game. Pokémon has evolved and captured the hearts of many gamers because of its immersive world and endless playability. Players can either strive to beat the Elite Four, complete the pokédex, battle online against other trainers, create the perfect team, etc. But as much as Nintendo continues to surprise us with installations of their franchise, what about the fans that take the time to create their own games?
Some fans, with their artistic or programming abilities, have created fan-made games and uploaded them as ROMs on the Internet. This creates a unique gaming experience, as fans have created either new pokémon (called fakemon) or added features to make the game interesting for players. Although there are many fan-made games (a comprehensive list can be found here), this article will focus on a select few that are unique in their concepts.
Pokémon Ethereal Gates
A popular design choice for fan-made games is to create a new region with either fakemon, pokémon, or both, in hopes to replicate the memorability of the current regions in the Pokémon World. An example of a game that contributes to this notion is Pokémon Ethereal Gates designed by Perihelion Productions. In Pokémon Ethereal Gates, the player is transported into the world of Leneka, as the player plays Cooper or Sophie (their default names) to explore the region. Pokémon Ethereal Gates was created for both PC and Mac and uses the keyboard’s functions.
The game starts off differently, as the protagonist volunteers to collect data for the professor along with their friends. However, what makes this game unique is the fact that not only do the players get to explore a new region, but they also have 200 fakemon to collect – all designed by Perihelion Productions. ‘Fakemon’ is a combination of two words, fake and pokémon, and are non-canonical Pokémon characters created by fans of the franchise. It originated in the mid to late ’90s from a website called ‘Mewthree and Frogglet’s Pokémon Factory’ and has since spread onto websites like DeviantArt, forums or blogs. 1
Fans are unable to research which fakemon to catch, so Pokémon Ethereal Gates provides the players a fresh experience while diving into a new world of Pokémon. The game is also unique because of its interactive community, as Perihelion Productions updates players on their social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. Fans do not need to refer to a guidebook or watch a ‘Let’s Play’ for advice – they can communicate with other players in the forums, which reignites excitement for the beloved franchise.
Currently, only the demo has been released. Watch the video below to see the trailer.
One of the downfalls of the Pokémon franchise is that it gives players few opportunities to explore other occupations. Breeding and pokémon coordinating are added as accents to the game, but the primary focus is to capture pokémon and become the strongest trainer in the region. However, what if the player does not want to be a trainer? Pokémon Godra provides a solution by giving the player multiple options at the start of the game. As the region is divided between East and West, players can travel to one of these regions and pick from various occupations. This allows for playability, as the game can be replayed to try different roles.
Unlike most pokémon games, the player does not have to choose between fire, grass, or water pokémon as their starter. Instead, the professor asks a series of questions, and depending on the player’s choices, four pokémon will be selected for the player. (Click here for the list.) The player then gets to decide whether they want to travel to the West or East region, with each region providing different opportunities for story. For example, because West Godra is militarized, players have the option to either join the military or private security forces. In East Godra, players can be safari wardens, pokémon professors, nurses, join the trainer coalition, etc.
These RPG factors make Pokémon Godra unique, as the game relies heavily on the player’s decisions. The pokémon vary depending on the region the players select, and each job has their own set of quests to complete. Pokémon Godra is playable for PC and is expected to make a 1.1 version of the final game.
Remember when Bill accidentally fused himself with a pokémon? What if he fixed his machine and was able to complete the practice of fusing two pokémon together? This is the premise of Pokémon Fusion, as the player battles and uses fusion pokémon throughout their journey. Fusion pokémon has always intrigued fans, as they wondered what two pokémon would look like if they were combined. Alex Onsager created a website called ‘Pokémon Fusion’ to satisfy this curiosity, which led fans to draw fan art dedicated to fusion pokémon.
The game brings a unique aspect to the Pokémon franchise because players must strategize which pokémon they should fuse. Should they combine Ivysaur and Eevee to make Eeveesaur? Or combine their Pikachu and Eevee to make Pikavee? The game also deals with ethics, as the player witnesses Lt. Surge demand a fusion pokémon from Bill. He states, “You little punk! You gave all the gym leaders fusion pokémon! I came all the way here to get mine and you expect me to leave empty-handed?” This makes us wonder how far one will go to obtain power, as Bill’s fusion pokémon has also captured the attention of Team Aqua and Magma, who join forces to steal Bill’s house and his fusion machine.
There is no explanation on how the fusion process works, although players can unlock a dark secret once they have access to Bill’s basement. As an Easter egg, players can find cages of failed experiments, as Bill explains that not all of his experiments were a success. Unfortunately, Nintendo demanded a cease and desist from the creators of Pokémon Fusion, which led the game to be deleted from the Internet. (Although if you search hard enough, you just might find it.) There are still ‘Let’s Plays’ uploaded on YouTube, but this brings us to the ultimate question…
Is this legal?
Short answer: it’s complicated.
Similar to fanfiction and fan art, fan-made games fall into a gray zone. If creators do not claim to be part of the franchise or earn any income from their game, then companies will not come after fans for violating their copyright. Nintendo is notorious for protecting their copyright, and has shut down other fan-made works such as the online battler, Pokénet, and the Zelda film, The Hero of Time. 2
Alex Tutty, a digital IP expert based in London, explains that it is difficult for creators of fan-made games to protect themselves if a game company sues them. Tutty states, “Games are protected by copyright in the source code and in the representations on the screen as artistic works. [If the] fan game copies the original exactly then there is obviously a huge issue here.” 3 Just like books, paintings, and photos, games are also considered intellectual properties and should be respected by fans. However, fan-made games are not created to anger companies, but are made to pay homage to the franchise. Thus, it is best to take precautions when making a game, so Gama Sutra has an article on how to deal with the legal issues.
Pokémon is a beloved franchise, and has inspired fans to create their own games. These games can be considered exciting, as they stimulate creativity and implement brand new features that are not available in the original games. However, fan-made games are also susceptible to copyright, and must be created carefully to ensure that no companies are displeased by the outcome. If there is disgruntlement, a cease and desist letter will be sent to the production company and years of hard work will go down the drain.
Despite hearing about these failures, fans are still creating their own games, proving that when a company creates an immersive world, it inspires others to the same in order to emulate the same experience.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Although “it’s complicated” in regards to fans making games illegally I hope companies at least appreciate the dedication and passion for their franchise those fans put into their creations, and it sure does keep things fresh for other fans starting to get bored with the old games. Fan made variations at the very least benefit franchises by keeping others interested.
Ahh this brings me back, I have played or tried to play a fair amount of these some years ago. There are some very interesting roms out there.
Wow, these look pretty good. I contributed to a fan-made Pokemon game, but it wasn’t a ROM hack so the quality was rather mixed. It got a lot of plays, but for some reason, the player isn’t loading the game anymore.
Thanks for exposing me to this stuff! Psyched to play through them!
While I think emulators are great for games that are no longer available or viable in the marketplace this “ROM stuff” isn’t exactly legal. Well, emulators are legal but the distribution of works protected by copyright, including derivative works like these games, is not.
Also, while the existence of these games is likely good for both Pokemon fans and the Pokemon company in the real world, in the world of IP these games make use of trademarked assets in a way that could easily be considered to dilute the value of various Pokemon trademarks.
Which is why the fans should make it clear… Ahem… that these games just make them so gosh darn excited about Pokemon that they just cannot help but buy any new Pokemon game that comes out and all the officially license merch they can get their hands on!
There’s hundreds of Nintendo fangames and just a ridiculous amount of Pokemon hack games out there. I can’t recall any that Nintendo has shut down. They just don’t care about it.
The creators/producers of Pokemon have been really smart in adapting the characters and game play for so many different versions and mediums. It’s impressive how Pokemon has been popular with many different age groups for such a long time.
Very interesting. I like how you touch on the IP of the whole thing. I know that there are issues with intellectual property when fans create things as well as when design and programming students create games. It is a difficult area of both art and law.
“It’s complicated” is a very short and sweet response to the question posed. The explination followed the trend, and reflected the struggle of artistic and intellectual property very well. Good job.
You know what? I am always waiting for pokemon (the main series) to come out every year, and for some reason I won’t replay them even through the next one is almost the same. Now I see some of the hacked main series like games and I think, OMG why have I never thought to play these, THEY LOOK AWESOME! Now I finally have something to do!
Playing insurgence and solar light/lunar dark right now, both are so great.
My favorite Pokémon fan game was Pokémon purple where you play as team rocket
Can someone tell me what they think the weirdest Pokemon fan game is? I want to have a weird, funny, and strange Nuzlocke experience.
Pokemon Etika Version
One of the weirder ones I’ve seen was Pokemon Quartz, which was a port of Ruby that had all-original (and generally pretty weird) Pokemon designs and was really poorly translated into English with a lot of unnecessary profanity and sexual comments for no apparent reason. It had a redesigned map and characters and words cannot do it justice.
Haha, it sounds like Pokemon Vietnamese Crystal. Known for its odd translation.
You should try Generation 0!
I personally really like Pokemon Island, it’s legit the only Pokemon fan made game I’ve played that stands by the motto “Gotta Catch Them All” and it has all generations of Pokemon too. It’s a lot of grinding but I personally like that.
Very cool article. As a kid I remember playing so many Pokémon games. Haven’t played anything in years.
I am not gonna lie the Fan games that people have made over the years are overwhelming and slowly improving. I remember playing pokemon shiny gold it was my first rom hack and i enjoyed it and i am looking forward to see more future rom hacks that fans can make with their own creativity.
Those games look like fun!
i would recommend pokemon sweet, snakewood, ethereal gates, insurgence and solar light+lunar dark
Whatever happened to that 3D fan game where you actually controlled the pokemon in battle? that looked promising.
fan games always have the worst subtitles
Ah, that pokemon fusion game brings so many memories…
I really loved the pokemon fusion site. It really allowed pokemon fans to get creative with the fusions and bring them to life via their own art styles. It was something that brought the community forward.
played liquid crystal it a okay hack game but discovery is the best hack game of all time.
I like the sound of a pokemon game that isn’t “You’re a youth who’s about to go on a grand adventure”.
It’d be neat to have a game where your character was former Team-Badguy, had his own pokemon stolen (or repo’d by team badguy), and sort of starts from scratch with a vehement “Lets crush team badguy”.
Of course, for that to work, they’d also need to break the silent protagonist role, too. which is a /lolyearight
I remember Nintendo released a game for GameCube called Pokemon Colosseum. You play an ex-Snagem member (the bad guys in this game) who stole his first two pokemon as well as the machine that helps you steal other trainer’s pokemon. You can only steal ‘shadow’ pokemon though, because your goal is to restore them back to normal.
Another fan game worth checking out is Insurgence.
I personally don’t play fan-made games, let along Pokemon in the past two generations or so, but I do think it should be acknowledged that these games are made out of respect for the original material as an expansion and creative twists on the original work. Great article!
I’ve always wanted a game that’s modeled after Skyrim but occupied and filled with the world of Pokemon. Nintendo has always been good at making big worlds but why not one a little bigger? Ok… a lot bigger, but I think the result would be explosive.
One thing this article definitely nailed on the head is that no matter what happens, legally or illegally, people will continue to make fan-made creations. Good read!
I wonder if Nintendo has taken any cues from these fan-made games about how their audience has changed over the years. Certainly not everyone wants to start out as someone going on a mission to be the best Pokemon Trainer.
Nintendo does make spin off games like the Mystery Dungeon series, but it would be nice to have options in the main games – similar to what Pokemon Godra does.
I don’t really like or play pokemon any more but these look interesting.
Pokemon Games are the real source of joy and fun. my younger daughter love to have some fun with great Pokemon. i also like Pokemon fun.
Pokemon AshGray is my favorite fan game.
Aw, no love for Pokemon Sage?
I remember reading on the internet at the library about a Pokemon green version and how some people thought it was a rom hack. Good times.
I am totally going to play through all of these
go play Pokemon Ultra Violet, the best fire red hack (IMO). Why? cuz fan service, nuff said!
These all look fantastic.
Seems well made – surprised I never heard of these before.
This was such an awesome article and gave me tons of nostalgia! When I was in Primary School (10 years ago now) there was a Diamond version out (NOT the same Diamond version today). It had lots of fakemon and was available on the Game Boy Color – crazy. These games sound really exciting! In fact I think I will take a look at Pokemon Godra. Good job on explaining the complex issues of Copyright as well.
I remember playing that game! Apparently it was a bootleg version of another Japanese game called Keitai Denjuu Telefang.
I’m not a pokeman player–had a student talk about breeding in a presentation. It didn’t make much sense to me since I really don’t know how the game is played, nor do I know why new characters need creation. Tough sugar, eh? Must be my problem!
As an avid Pokemon fan 16 years in the running, I enjoy how fans make these, and I love the fakemon concept art all over the internet. However, I’m super judgemental when it comes to them. Since real pokemon can be cool or not cool, I hold high expectations when looking at the fakemon. It would be cool to create some fakemon for one of the MODs oneday.
Good article. I’ve been a fan of Pokemon for many years and have lately thought that the official games were too repetitive, with the same exact plot over and over again. What I like about fangames is that it allows their creators to explore new stories within the Pokemon world.
I would like to make one correction though: in the article you describe fangames as analogous to ROM hacks. Actually, many fangames — such as Ethereal Gates — are original creations made using programs such as RPG Maker. It is a common misconception that all fan games are ROM hacks, but that is not the case.
Also, since the article didn’t mention several fan games that I have personally played and found to be enjoyable, here are some others that I can recommend:
– Pokemon Insurgence: No fakemon, but has “Delta” Pokemon that are old Pokemon with a new element, as well as new Mega Evolutions
– Pokemon Reborn: A challenging game with a darker story and setting and Pokemon from all 6 generations
– Pokemon Uranium: Like Ethereal Gates, this game has a new generation of “Fakemon” and introduces a new type, the Nuclear type. This game includes ways to trade and battle online with other players.
– Pokemon Fusion Generation: Similar to Pokemon Fusion above, this currently-in-progress game allows any Pokemon to be fused with any other Pokemon. The story is the same as Firered/Leafgreen.
All of these games are for the PC and are free to play.
Thank you for clearing up that misconception and for your recommendations! I’m sure people who are interested in fan-made games will want to take a look at them. 🙂
These games sound cool. Why can’t they just youknow.. not use the names. A cute madeup character can be pokemonish…but not really be pokemon. I want to make a real app where you can use GPS to go to locations and “catch” “pokemon”. If only I were smarter…
I think if the fans of Pokemon should make their own games but they should ask permission before so that the company knows and if they make their own art of it they should share it with them so they can put it in the game
This article is informative, but it’s basically just a shopping list for me now. I’m going to go download some of this stuff. I hope that was the intention? To get people to play these?
Yep, I wanted to give some of these games exposure so that other people would check them out or look at more fan-made games! Happy playing!
The fakemon in these fan-made games seem to run the gambit from “Oh god kill it with fire/water/whatever it’s elemental weakness is!” to “Why hasn’t Gamefreak made this an actual pokemon?!”, and sadly they seem to never be in the middle; they either are ugly as sin or deserving of an honorary spot on an upcoming roster.
Someone, fan or company, needs to make a Pokémon game that allows travel between all regions with all Pokémon accessible. Only then will I be happy.
Nintendo has often failed to see how passionate fans tend to benefit them in the long run. I really hope Nintendo becomes a bit more open-minded in their approach to copyright in the future.
I’ve personally never played the fan games, but I understand it is a great undertaking reprogramming everything.
A friend of mine played Pokemon Snakewood–which was a game based in a world set after a nuclear disaster and all of the Pokemon had gone feral and murderous. Fallout meets Pokemon.
I found this article extremely helpful.
I had no idea so many fan-made pokemon games existed! These look to be interesting and well-made. Many pokemon fans are very creative with their projects.
I have played many ROM of Pokemon and I find that fan made games are (for the most part) a joy to play. Excellent article!
I think a lot of these fan-made games, especially the ones I have played, toy with a darker tone and more meaningful storytelling not found in the mainstream titles.
I wonder where modded versions of Pokemon games come into this. For example, ‘Blaze Black’ a modded version of the game ‘Pokemon Black’ which uses the original game but ups the difficulty and players often play it incorporating new (self-governed) ‘rules’. An example of these new rules is: you are only allowed to catch the first Pokemon you encounter in each new area. If you fail to catch it, you’re not allowed to catch another Pokemon from that area. Also, if one of your Pokemon faints you cannot use it anymore and it must be released.
In my view provided I have bought the game shouldn’t I be able to enjoy it anyway I see fit even if it is a modded version?
I am really surprised there have been fans who have gone so far as to create their own versions of Pokemon. Thank you so much for this very revealing article! Quite well-written.
It’s great how people have made their own pokemon games. I’ve always thought that the newer games would benefit from having richer narratives. Seeing how Nintendo and Gamefreak seem unwilling to change the current formula though, fan-made games look to be an excellent way to achieve this.
Just some corrections: Pokémon Go isn’t one of “Nintendo’s” games, it was made by Niantic. The main series Pokémon games aren’t made by Nintendo either, they’re made by Game Freak.
Nintendo just publishes them and has a partial stake in The Pokémon Company (Game Freak, Creatures Inc., and Nintendo); they’re not the developer for this franchise.
Also,”Pokémon” and “Pokédex” are always supposed to be capitalized (it’s odd that they’re lowercase when the author took the time to accent the é).
This does highlight some of the difficulties of fanart/ concepts of borderline copyright legality.