Review written by Stephen Deck; review originally published 09/19/2018 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
When I recently bought an Everdrive GBA, the very first thing I did was start loading promising-sounding Pokemon ROM hacks, and of all the ones I downloaded, Pokemon Vega looked to be the most promising. One of the things I was looking for was a hack with well designed Fakemon, the community-given name for new Pokemon a hacker creates and puts into his or her ROM hack. From what I’d read, Vega was pretty much the best of the best as far as Fakemon go, so that’s where I began. Fortunately, there’s an English translation that’s readily available given that the hacker is Japanese.
It’s obvious from the first few minutes that Pokemon Vega is an exceptionally well-made fan hack that had an enormous amount of care and skill put into it. It’s an all-new region, about half of the Pokemon in the game are Fakemon, and something like a half or a third of the real Pokemon had to be added in by the hacker as they’re from DS and later generations (I think they’re all or mostly Gen IV). Not only that, but the game features a handful of entirely new moves. Despite all this, it feels completely natural; one could be forgiven for mistaking it for a legitimate Pokemon game made by Game Freak. No half-assed sprites, no only-somewhat-tweaked world map, no obviously self-insert characters. It all feels completely natural and organic. The best part, though, is undoubtedly the creation of the most glorious Pokemon past present, or a future, and the TRUE evolution of Pikachu – the almighty Electric/Fighting-type, Machu (pictured above from the intro sequence)!
Story-wise, Vega picks up where its predecessor, Pokemon Altair and Sirius, left off. As such, there are references to the protagonist’s exploits in Hoenn from Altair and Sirius, but there are never any tie-ins major enough to necessitate playing the previous game; I’ve never touched it, and I had no problem following what was going on aside from not knowing what the “Hoenn Catastrophe” referenced a few times was. I’ve also seen a lot of folks on Pokemon ROM hack forums suggest just skipping straight to Vega as it’s apparently a FAR superior game (which makes sense given that the hacker would have honed his skills a lot during the production of Altair and Sirius).
You start the game immediately encountering new Fakemon as your starter choices are all new. Your fire starter ends up Fire/Steel, your water starter ends up Water/Poison, and your grass starter ends up Grass/Flying. I won’t go into details of the story as it’s actually one of the more interesting ones I’ve seen in a Pokemon game (although not quite as interesting to me as Diamond/Pearl or Black/White), but be warned – this game is BALLS hard. Expect gym leaders to be 10 to 15 levels above you when you get to a new town while the surrounding Pokemon are going to be 10 to 15 levels below you, making grinding a pain in the ass. There also exists a fan hack of the fan hack called Vega Minus that is essentially exactly the same except that gym leader and Elite Four levels have been lowered so that they’re only 5 to 10 levels above you. That’s the version I played because I’m impatient when it comes to grinding, and even with the lower (read: less brutally high) difficulty of Minus, it’s still an extremely tough Pokemon game that took me about 68 hours to beat (and by beat, I mean clear the Elite Four and become the new Champion).
While Vega is extremely difficult, it’s absolutely worthwhile. It’s a hack of FireRed which I, personally, consider to be the best game in the Pokemon series (although it FireRed/LeafGreen and HeartGold/SoulSilver always swap for #1 every few weeks for me), so it’s already got that going for it. Even with those, though, I’d still say it’s a better Pokemon game than any of Game Freak’s Pokemon games after the GBA era (except for the aforementioned Gen II remakes). It’s not for the faint of heart or those unwilling to bash your heads against a brick wall grinding, but it’s absolutely worth the struggle if you have the patience. Everdrive, emulator, reproduction cartridge, whatever – however you do it, just play this game if you’re a Pokemon fan.