This past week, indie developer Koolboyman released a trailer for their Pokémon fan game, a hacked version of Pokémon Crystal, titled Pokémon Prism that has been 8 years in the making. As you can see in the trailer, Pokémon Prism makes heavy use of existing assets from the Crystal version of the game as well as over 200 already existing Pokémon spanning the first 4 generations. However, Prism does add in new moves and types, original legendary Pokémon, remixed music, an original map with new towns, and customized player characters. You can check out all of the specifics here.
A Pokémon Prism marketing image
Now I know what you’re saying, because I’m saying it too, “Nintendo is NOT going to let this fly”. The workaround for that little speed bump that Koolboyman is using is that they are not supplying a copy of the game, just a hack for your existing version of the game. So however you obtain your copy of Pokémon Crystal is out of Koolboyman’s control, but they will supply the hack to change it into Pokémon Prism, essentially like a large-scale mod for Skyrim or Fallout. Koolboyman had released a similar hack, Pokémon Brown, 8 years ago, but whether or not this is a viable strategy in 2016 has yet to be seen.
A mock-up of a Pokémon Prism box for Game Boy Color
Earlier this year we were introduced to the labor of love that was Pokémon Uranium, an entirely new game built from the ground up that used the Pokémon branding, that was stopped by Nintendo almost immediately after it released. So the basis for Pokémon Prism‘s legality seems to be on some shaky ground already.
This leads me to the same conclusion about Pokémon Prism that I had about Pokémon Uranium. If you are going to invest that much time into making a fan game(making new sprites, monsters, types, attacks, etc.) why not just change a few more things and make it an original entity that doesn’t violate copyrights on the Pokémon brand? There’s no shame in being a game inspired by a cultural phenomenon such as Pokémon.
Pokémon Uranium launched earlier this year to massive praise
For example, the game Freedom Planet started life as a Sonic the Hedgehog fan game, but designer Stephen DiDuro lost interest in making a game that was derivative of an existing IP. So he recruited a few more artists and designers to reconfigure his Sonic fan game into his own IP. Since Freedom Planet‘s launch it has been extremely successful by raking in some fairly high review scores, going multiplatform, and having a sequel in the works. Essentially, Freedom Planet was such a great game on its own merits that it didn’t need to rely on the Sonic name to become a franchise.
Freedom Planet started life as an extension of Sonic
This is most definitely something that could have occurred with Pokémon Uranium or with Koolboyman’s Pokémon hack. Seeing that much time and effort go down the drain because of DMCAs is just heartbreaking for me. The developers of both of those fan games clearly have a lot of talent as their games have been met with a lot of praise and it would be amazing if they could just create something that is all theirs and not have to dodge legal teams.