Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Pokemon Zeta and Pokemon Omnicron: Don't you just love fan games?

Forward: I’ll be changing the format of this review slightly because I couldn’t phrase is any other way. This review is also very long, one of the longest I've written so far.

Ah fan games, a small portion of the gaming community that is more often than not shunned. Fan games are exactly what the term sounds like, their unofficial games based on franchises made by fans of said franchise. I’ve played a few fan games over the years, mostly Sonic games which have been, more often than not, quite good. However I haven’t had a lot of luck with Pokémon fan games. While I have played a few, the ones I remember are Pokémon Quartz version, which I barely got into, Pokémon Platnium for the Gameboy Advance, where I found a game breaking bug that meant I stopped playing it, a few rom hacks like Blaze Black (which I recommend if you want that harder challenge) and Snakewood (a rom hack of Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald where Hoenn is infested with zombies...not as good as it sounds, trust me) and recently, Pokémon Zeta (alternate version being Pokémon Unicron Omnicron), which as you know, is the subject of this review. I will openly say that I haven’t finished the game, and I do acknowledge that some of the points brought up in this review could be a result of the development software used, RPG Maker. The game itself is also in “Open Beta” so there is a strong chance these issues could be resolved in the future.  For the purpose of this review, I played the Open Beta 1.4.9 and I will be bringing up comparisons to the main series due to the nature of this game being a fan game.

I’ll start with the plot: In my review of Pokémon X & Y I stated that the plot for Pokémon games don’t change in the main series. You leave town, get 8 gym badges, take down an evil organization, defeat the Elite 4 and champion and watch the credits roll. Simple enough? So how does Zeta handle its story? The game starts with a pre recording of Professor Oak giving the standard lecture about the world of Pokémon, asks for your gender and name and you move on. Afterwards though, you’re in an escape tunnel fleeing from you home town because the villainous team has just blown it up. Your mother runs off to try and stop them, as she is the “strongest trainer” Professor Oak knows. Professor Oak gives you a starter Pokémon, in the form of Bellsprout, Magby or Horsea and you have to proceed to his lab. First of all, why Bellsprout, Magby or Horsea? Their useless as starter Pokémon and when you have to change how the Pokémon evolves (Seadra can evolve to Kingdra by the usual level up), you might as well pick a different Pokémon. I would have preferred a Fakemon (fake Pokémon, I’ll get back to those) over one of these three (the final decision for me was Horsea, which swiftly got replaced with a Mudkip as soon as I could).

Your introduced to your rival, Jake (because you can’t rename him) and before you leave the town YOU WILL WANT TO KILL HIM. In order to create some hatred towards him, the developers gave him “swag” and state in several “official websites” of theirs that there is a way to turn this off. “Question, HOW?” Every time I came up to a point where you have to fight him, I saved and searched for hours (accumulated) trying to find this mythical option. Why? Because when they say that the swag is to create a hatred for him, it’s not, ITS BECAUSE THAT’S HIS ONLY CHARACTER TRAIT HE HAS. He even makes, I kid you not, “Team Yoloswag” who have a evil plan that somehow involves the TM for Swagger. It gets so bad that you want to kill him, slowly and painfully, adding a extra hour to his torture for every time he, or one of his two Youngster grunts, so much as whispers the words Yolo or Swag. And Why? BECAUSE YOU CAN’T CONVEY SWAG WHEN YOU’RE A IMMOBILE SPRITE OF BLUE (/Green) FROM FIRE RED/ LEAF GREEN THAT USES TEXT TO TALK. There’s another reason why you will what this pathetic excuse for a joke to die, but I’ll get to that when I get to the Gym’s.

Team Asguard, where do I begin with these guys. You run into them in the city where the second Gym is and, while it might look like they’re a good villainous team at the start, actually showing a reason why you should be afraid of them, this quickly starts to disappear when you see what else they have planned. Odin (Spoiler alert, he’s apparently Gold/ Ethen) wants to take control of Shaymin, Jirachi/ Victini and the living version of Arceus’s “Divine Plate” Divaevus to take over the world.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering why? And to that I say... NO F&*#)(& CLUE. We have no idea why Gold wants to do this, nor do we have a valid reason why he has a army of grunts because the three commanders don’t have many excuses as to why they’re there. Thor is apparently dying, Loki joined because Gold said that he could heal Thor.

I see you over there M Bison, you're not getting a second one of those in the same paragraph.

And Tharja’s a traitor. I understand Loki’s reasoning but Tharja in particular makes absolutely no sense. On top of that, Gold uses a item called the Time Caller to begin his plan, I’ll be getting to my opinions on this when I cover the HM’s, but as a hint, yes there is Time Travel in this game. For players who pick Unicron Omnicron, your villainous team is Team Olympus with Zeus as the boss, Apollo Justice, Athena Cykes and Artemis as the commanders and while I didn’t play Omnicron, one of the things that I would have done if I had was mod it so that the Objection themes for Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes (which you can find before the next paragraph) instead of their actual battle themes.

On the subject of the music in the game, while the audio might sound good at first, using what I believe to be original compositions and remixes (because I haven’t heard a track that I remember and can point out the game to which that exact song came from), the lack of tracks WILL mean that what might have sounded good before becomes something you never want to hear again very quickly (for me it was somewhere between 10-20 hours when I started muting the music and playing songs from the official soundtracks). There are 55 audio files in the games background music file, you want to know how many there were in Pokémon Black version 2 and Pokémon White version 2’s soundtrack? 301. 

So, how do you progress in this game (aside from the usual info). Well, poorly. There are several maps (in terms of programing, aka areas) in the game that are horribly made. There are several entrances and exits in the games routes/ dungeons that either should not physically exist because of the design of the map and/or disorient the player upon moving through them to the next map. In terms of not physically possible (and yes I'm talking about physics when there are Pokemon that have clouds for wings and still somehow fly), there are several places where the entrance/ exit of a map are in places where the design of the map means that they shouldn't be a exit. For example (and while this is a "late game map, the problem has appeared in several places) a "Hidden Grotto" in the Eternal Forrest in the Aroma Region (there are two regions in the game, Vessryl where the first part of the game takes place and Aroma). Aside from the Grotto being REALLY F&^$!(& obvious when comparing it to Pokemon Black and White 2 where they actually were HIDDEN, the grotto's design should mean that its physically impossible to exist. The entrance is in front of three rows of trees and the grotto itself is surrounded in the same tree texture, giving it a field feel. A field could not exist in that small of a spot, especially when, at the turn leading to the grotto, there's a much larger area filled with trees where a exit WOULD MAKE SENSE. I will admit that this isn't uncommon when considering the main Pokemon games, but I can live with those because building can actually be bigger on the inside. The sole reason why this drives me nuts is because they reused the same sprite for the trees which would imply that this is the exact size and not smaller, this is lazy design.

On the subject of lazy design, there are so many maps that are horrible to traverse because of poor design choices. The first case is the entrances to the first forest in the Vesryl, the Naragex Forest, in ANY OTHER RPG, if a player entered a dungeon going up, then they would continue going up to begin the dungeon. Not Zeta, this goes for the "realistic" choice of reorienting the player's perspective so that they always travel down. This is disorientating and makes me question what way is actually up at times along with making me question the legitimacy of the in game map of the region (which is also brought into question when a cave is marked as a city and you would logically think you could fly to is and when there's a sea route that doesn't exist separating Route 303 and Yangtze Town. The other big, idiotic decision they made was what they did with Route 309, the second of two dungeons I've ever been in any Pokemon game, official or not, where I've been stuck in for hours because I was genuinely lost, the other being the Eternal forest. "Why would you be get lost in a two floor dungeon?" Because of all the ladders everywhere in the map, most of them not specifying that they GO DOWN. I was stuck in the dungeon for hours because I had no idea what floor I was on, what ladders led to a dead end, what ladders helped me progress, which exit is the exit I want to take to move on with my f^%!#$@ life the game.

The other big issue with the design of the game is the way the game is balanced. While I'm fine with a balance for more competitive players in terms of harder AI (hell, I started with the generation with arguable the hardest AI to date) but there is a point where it becomes rediculous. I curve stomped the first 4 gyms because I could find enough pokemon prior to the gym that had the type advantage (hell I had a Staravia, Pigeotto, Hawlucha, Butterfree and Unown), but after the 5th gym, the game almost forces you to level grind so that you can still fight the trainers, with your first hint of this being the Odin/ Zeus fight at the top of Mt Press. The worst defender of this is the Skadar city Sigil Hall. Between the second and third Sigil Hall, there are "three routes" you have to go through, Maggiore Underwater, the Circle of Power and Route 324.

Maggiore Underwater: Level 66-68 Pokemon (Cloyster, Lanturn and Carracosta), 8 Trainers with 3 level 96-97 Pokemon each, one Item (Rare Candy)
Circle of Power: Level 66-68 Pokemon (Lapras and Jellicent), 4 Trainers (3 have 3 level 97-98 Pokemon, one is your rival with a team of six and two Legendaries), no items

Route 324:Level 66-68 Pokemon (Sharpedo and Alomomola), 5 trainers  each have 3 Pokemon ranging between Level 97-99 Pokemon), no items

This sounds fair right? Here's the trainers in the Gym: (I hope you like IV and EV training...). The basic issue here is the lack of level grinding potential. The trainers give you extra experience when you get to this part o the game, that's fine. But if your still underleveled, you can't use the trainers once you defeat them. You have to battle the wild Pokemon who don't give you a lot of necessary experience. In X & Y, the EXP All is overpowered due to the game itself not being optimized for the game. The EXP All would be great here because the game needs that level grinding, and you need to do a lot more then you would in any other main series game. The VS Seeker from Fire Red and Leaf Green would also help with this issue as it would allow the player to battle other trainers again. I'm fine with games being based on level grinding, you just have to give the players a decent way to level grind.

Another RPG trope that doesn't seem to be the case with these games is the lack of exploration insensitive. Every RPG I've played has had a reason to explore the world. Special monsters, hidden items ect. The further you go into the game, the less loot you'll be likely to find and replaced with mandatory trainer fights. I divert your attention to the Eternal Forest ( and Delta Temple ( These two dungeons are huge, with a lot of places to explore. So why is there only 3 items between the two of them and almost all the trainers in those two dungeons mandatory (no way to avoid them). While the Delta Temple isn't mandatory, the Eternal Forest is and as a result, it grinds the pacing to a complete halt.

And now to the "Fakemon", Shadow Pokemon and Delta Pokemon. I'll start with the Delta Pokemon as, for the most part, I think they were well implemented (I do actually have things I like about this game, I'm getting to them). If your familiar with the Trading Card Game, then you should know about Delta Pokemon. Delta Pokemon are similar to normal Pokemon but they have a different type then what they would normally have. For Example, Milotic is a water type by default, but Delta Milotic is a Fire type and sports new moves. While I'm not a fan of their sprites, when comparing the sprites with the original TCG cards, I'd rather have a Milotic with a red Aura around it then a Red Milotic. I have a similar issue with the Shadow Pokemon, which work almost the same way as they do in the GameCube Pokemon Games. The sprite work for the Shadow Pokemon isn't great as there are several Shadow Pokemon that become nightmare fuel as a result, as with Delta, I'd prefer a aura rather then re texture. One of the other issue with the Shadow Pokemon is the unusually high chance of Hyper Mode. As a quick tangent, percentages for chance based events (paralysis, hitting yourself in confusion, pokeball capture ect) seems to be off in this game. That could just be me and me having horrible luck in this play through and I don't have any definitive proof of this, it's just something I think is the case. My final issue with Shadow Pokemon is the fact that there isn't really a good reason to catch Shadow Pokemon. Most of them you can catch in the wild, they can't level up until they've been purified (as with the GC games) and seeing as you have to defeat a high level (for that point in the game) Gym leader before you can purify them.

The Fakemon on the other hand... most of them are cringe worthy. If you look here ( you can see why, and the problem with them is (and its similar for a lot of the Delta Pokemon) that most of them are unobtainable. Do you like the looks of RizeGreymon RizeFlygon, ShineGreymon ShineFlygon, Cyber Goomy, WarGreymon WarHaxorus, Hydreigod, and Megasparce (a image of its actual size you can find below), you can't catch them, at all.

The only three you can get (one of which isn't on the site) are Ausitto (unnecessary evolution for Ditto), Divaevus (which is a obtainable legendary) and a new form of Meloetta which acted as a connection between Zeta/ Omicron and Pokemon Evoas.
Divaevus looks awful but I love Meloetta's redesign because I can still recognize it as Meloetta.

The Secret base system, for the most part, was also handled rather well. I like the idea of purchasable upgrades for the base and the upgrades themselves are also pretty good (for the most part). My only complaint with them is that I wish they could have done more with them. I wish there was a way of picking a spot to make your base (like in Gen III and IV) instead of a NPC saying "Take this cave". As a fan of the Mystery Dungeon games, I wish the "Mystery Dungeon" under the cave was more like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (either the Rescue Team games or Explorers games), I think a mouse input for the mining minigame would have made it better because there are people who like using the hammer. 

On that matter, as a tangent, this is more of a issue with Pokemon Essentials as several fan games have similar issues, WHO CAME UP WITH THE CONTROL SCHEME? or better yet, WHO THOUGHT THESE CONTROLS WERE A GOOD IDEA? The control scheme for this is horrible. Aside from a lack of mouse input for a game that USED A TOUCH SCREEN ORIGINALLY, some of the button inputs and UI's are horrible. While I like Q, W and E being used for key items and some of the toggleable options match what they're trying to do (S for example is running, though I can't tell you off the top of my head what the others are because I never used them (including autosave, but thats just down to main series habbits), the biggest issue for me personally is what's mapped to X, pause and cancel. If your like me and you prefer skipping large walls of text, then you mash cancel to get you out of the dialogue as fast as possible, but in this at least (not sure about other games that use this control scheme yet) after you leave the dialogue, having the pause menu open and close rapidly just gets infuriating, especially when you can expect your players to have a full keyboard and a mouse, SO WHY AREN'T THEY BEING USED, WHY CAN'T I MAP PAUSE TO ENTER AND HAVE X BE CANCEL? MY RIGHT HAND IS ON THE DIRECTIONAL KEYS ANYWAY. Going back to the secret bases, I've seen screenshots of a new Secret base system in the developers new game, which has more customization options so...

The last point I want to bring up is the dialogue. You head me go on about Jake, but he's just a example, there's more. Before I explain my point, have a read of these.

  • “Welcome to victory road, where dreams go to die”
  • “I study dying dreams” 
  • “I sail the sea of broken dreams” 
  • “I’m going to steal your dreams” 
  • “Prepare to have your dreams broken” 
  • “My family abandoned me here as a child. I learned to survive off Pokémon and broken dreams. Feed me” 
  • “After 50 years of my life, I’ve learned the best way to crush dreams. Allow me to crush yours, if you don’t mind” 
  • "Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day. I've got a wonderful feeling... that I'm going to crush your dreams" 
  • "I used to be a adventurer like you! Then I stopped." "It was my dream to be a adventurer"
 All of these came from Victory Road, and all of these are directly quoted. If what your thinking is (this dialogue is getting really repetitive) then to you I say "its like this throughout the entire game", maybe not so much about broken dreams but the point still stands. The Delta Temple is, once again, the worst offender for this because all those mandatory trainer fights begin with them saying some different interpretation of "Praise Delta", "Be one with Delta". If I never have to read the word Delta in a Pokemon game again, it will be to soon. There are also several cases in the games where their attempts at humor fall flat as they try to break the 4th wall. That first quote, “Welcome to victory road, where dreams go to die”, was spoken by Hiker Honey Boo Boo. Let that sink in for a moment. Theirs also the following images

 And then of course you have the dialogue errors (which actually made me believe Omnicron was first and not Zeta)

(You mean Jirachi, the Wish Pokemon?)
Time to make Gen III fan's cry...Are you sure your not working for Team Magma?

I'm not going to go into graphics and aesthetics, like most Pokemon fan games they reuse assets from Generation III (Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Fire Red and Leaf Green) and I'd rather look at the aesthetics when I review Generation III. As for the game as a whole, would I recommend it? In its current state, no. The game's difficulty balance, lack of key audio effects, poor dungeon design and several minor bugs that I didn't mention here does mean that I wouldn't recommend it. If your looking for a challenge, there are Rom hacks that do the job better. That being said though, the game does have potential as it has several concepts that I'd like to see expanded with the developers upcoming fan game. I do intend to do other fan games from other franchises so if you want to recommend one (or material for any review for that matter), feel free to let me know. I have a announcement to make on Friday concerning a chance that's going to happen to Blaster's Reviews and Blaster's Projects but after that, the next review will be The Lego Movie.

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