While there’s lots of hype for the upcoming release of Pokémon X and Y, and rightfully so, that’s not the only impressive Pokémon project coming out in 2013. For those unfamiliar with Koolboyman, he’s a long time ROM hack enthusiast and indie game developer widely regarded as being the pioneer of Pokémon hacks. Pokémon Brown, a new Pokémon adventure created from the game engine for Pokémon Red, is believed to be the first ever completed Pokémon hack, and Pokémon Prism is the long awaited sequel, using Gold as its source this time.
Pokémon Prism rose to fame after being named the Hack of the Year for 2007 at popular Pokémon fansite PokéCommunity. The project wowed players with its complete overhaul of Gold, replacing maps, dialog, story, and events to create what Koolboyman believes is more fairly described as a new game loosely based off Pokémon rather than a hack. Prism launched three public betas from 2007 until 2010, but the project has been quiet for quite some time. Now, GenGAME’s got the scoop on what’s going on behind the scenes with Pokémon Prism, and when you can expect the final version of the game to release. Hit the jump for our exclusive interview with developer Koolboyman.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to play the early versions of Pokémon Prism, you’re missing out on a pretty unique experience. Unlike most simple hacks of Pokémon Gold, Prism feels like an entirely new game. Players assume the role of the son or daughter of Elite Four Champion Lance on a quest in the never-before-seen region of Naljo.
All of the features you know and love from Pokémon return, but with a host of fresh, new ideas added in. New Pokémon types and attacks, a quest for hidden Gold Tokens, a level-based skills system, side-scrolling areas, new mini-games, and sections where you play as and interact with Pokémon all spice up the gameplay. Of course, the best way to learn about Pokémon Prism is to here from the game’s creator.
Koolboyman: Basically a wide field of experimental game design for me to play around with. It uses a familiar game engine that several people grew up with but takes place in a new world with gameplay that helps give this hack it’s own identity when compared to the official games. Basically, a brand new Pokémon game for the Gameboy Color.
GG: Is there a reason you chose to base Prism off of the second generation of Pokémon games, as opposed to some of the newer incarnations of the franchise?
KBM: Gen II is my favorite generation of Pokémon and after finishing the Gen I hack Pokémon Brown it only made sense to make a Gen II as it’s successor.
GG: Speaking of Pokémon Brown, that game featured a small portion of the Johto region. Can we expect any locales from the official Pokémon games to make their way into Prism?
KBM: Yes you can. Not complete official regions, but parts of them.
GG: How about some familiar faces? References are made to Champion Lance early on in the game. Will we see other characters?
KBM: You will! In fact, a very important character in Gen I aside from Lance will have an important role later in the game.
GG: So there will be some correlations between the world of Brown and Prism and the canon Pokémon storyline? How would you say the story you’ve created fits in with the official one chronologically?
KBM: Brown takes 3 years after Gold and Prism takes five years after Brown.
GG: It’ll be interesting to see the story connections with other games, but how about the gameplay connections? Prism is based off of Gold, but you’ve done quite a lot to evolve that experience. Have you incorporated any ideas from Pokémon games released after Gold?
KBM: There’s a few ideas I incorporated into Prism from the later games. Even though Gen II is my favorite generation, the later games have done several things right. Some I consider even better than what Gen I and II has done.
GG: Care to share some of the updates you’ve made? And how do you go about deciding what new features you should or shouldn’t incorporate?
KBM: Sure. When deciding whether something should be implemented or not my first priority is how it would affect the entire game. For example, lemonade in the official games might seem like a trivial addition at first, but it heals more and costs less than Super Potions, which then makes Super Potions useless once somebody has figured that out.
So after figuring out if a feature is going to break something or not and then making the necessary alterations to make sure nothing is broken (if it can even be done), my second priority is to make sure that the feature is actually fun. I’ve made a couple of features that were left unused in Prism because simply, it wasn’t fun.
Sometimes my ideas aren’t fun because at times I try to create something entirely different to be introduced into a Pokémon game. However most of the time I feel my new ideas came out pretty well. Most of the ones in the current version of Prism I believe have gotten positive feedback too.
GG: Your early betas had some original features, like the level-based skills and the Golden Tokens, that haven’t been featured in any Pokémon games. What can we expect for unique features in the final version?
KBM: There will be quite a bit. I don’t want to spoil everything, but I’ll tell you a few. There will be more time based events, such as NPC’s giving out Rare Candies on Halloween or certain Pokémon you can only catch on certan days of the year. There’s even some goodies for the meta gamers in Rijon. I’m also hoping to continue to make the quests in the game a lot more dynamic than the usual Pokémon game. Kind of like what you saw with the Pokémon only area in the current version (which was very difficult to implement by the way!)
GG: Have you borrowed elements from games outside of the Pokémon franchise? Pokémon tends not to stray too far from the beaten path, as it clearly has a formula for success, but some people would like to see more change in the series. Do you intend to shake up the traditional Pokémon formula with Prism?
KBM: I admit I’ve used some ideas from other RPGs, but I would only put them in if I felt they would properly fit into the game. As far as the tradional Pokémon formula in Prism, there will be changes to the battle system. Nothing way too drastic, but some ideas that should make people think a bit differently about the Prism battles. I’ve already included five new types, ported over the Attack/Special attack mechanics that originated in Gen IV. I also have a few other ideas that I’d like to incorporate that would also be brand new to the Pokémon battle mechanics.
GG: Let’s talk a little about the plot of Prism. Recent Pokémon games have put a little more focus on the plot and various evil teams, but the games are still primarily focused on the traditional quest of getting the badges and beating the Elite Four. What’s Prism’s plot like?
KBM: I tried to make Prism a darker story but still true to the Pokémon world. While I didn’t attempt to be edgy at certain spots I can now see how people would interpret parts as “cool and edgy”. My main reason for this was to help the hack establish it’s own identity outside of the Pokémon games while still being able to co-exist with them. But anyway, the story is about a character who has a vague past (aside that the father is Lance) and wanders through the region of Naljo. The hero slowly learns about the region and the people who live there. A lot of the different stories of the people you meet appear unrelated at first, but the final version of Prism should connect the dots so everything makes a lot more sense.
GG: So would you say it’s a little more plot-focused than Gold itself?
KBM: Yeah, I tried to make Naljo be a very unique region from the other regions in the Pokémon world. The main idea that motivated me to work on the region in Brown was to make it simply an extension of Pokémon Red. While that wasn’t a bad idea, the Rijon region really didn’t hold it’s own unique identity from Kanto. In my opinion, it was shown as just a generic region that existed in the Pokémon World (In Brown anyway).
However for Naljo in Prism I wanted the game to be different than any other region could possibly be in current and future Pokémon games while still being very entertaining to explore and learn about it.
KBM: The second quest will take place in Rijon (which at this point I hope I helped make its personality grow from its state in Brown) and parts of other official regions. I don’t want to give too much away, but the second quest will have that returning character from Gen I I mentioned earlier in it.
GG: Prism has been in the works for quite a while now. How much time do you think you’ve sunk into this game?
KBM: Well I’ve taken several breaks throughout it’s development history. Whether its to work on some other game projects or focus on other higher priorities of my life. I wish I had more time to work on it but the reality is that I consider Prism to be just a small side project compared to everything else I have to do. However I really appreciate that people have stuck around for this long for Prism and I hope they’ll feel like all that waiting was worth it when I release the final version.
GG: And when can your fans expect the final product?
KBM: Sometime this year. I don’t have a month in mind, but I will do everything in my power to make sure this is done in 2013. People have waited long enough after all!
GG: So when you say you have other game projects in the works, are they ROM hacks like Brown and Prism, or do you have some completely original content in the works? Could we see Koolboyman getting involved in the indie gaming scene?
KBM: I have some original content in the works. I’m currently employed at an indie video game studio actually. I can’t talk much about the game, but it’s a high paced action online game with RPG elements and we’re doing all we can to get it to a state where we can show people a preview. I’m very thankful to be in this position, where I’m working with some extremely talented people who previously worked on some big budget titles in the past.
I’ve also been working on a prototype for my own indie game for about a month and a half and I think it’s getting somewhere. If production continues throughout this year I think I can start talking about it in 2014. For now all I can say it’s an MMORPG with a giant twist which has the goal of providing endless replay value. As far as I know this has never been done before, but there’s so many games out there that I’ve probably never heard of. So you never know, haha!
I also have some ideas for future ROM hacks for fun. It wouldn’t be Pokémon though.
GG: Sounds great! We’ll keep our eyes peeled. So in closing, to gamers who have never played any of the betas, why should people be excited for Pokémon Prism?
KBM: It might be a bit bold on my part to say this, but at this point I consider this a brand new game for Gameboy Color just running off of a tweaked Pokémon Gold engine, and I hope everyone else sees it that way too! I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the game!