Anymore it’s not uncommon for people to alter the games they enjoy playing and the people actually knowledgeable enough to do so has definitely grown over the years. Whether it’s to make the game better or easier to play or maybe to just create something entirely new the drive and inspiration to modify games has grown greater and greater with time and each passing advance in technology. We’ve seen Skyrim mods and Half Life mods and the list goes on and on, but I think one of the most modified series of games within any franchise would have to be the Pokemon games.
Yes, with a franchise that spans so many different mediums there’s almost no limit to the outlets provided for its fans. Or so you would think as one of those various mediums was an integral part of what went into the mod I’m looking at today. A game designed to emulate the experience of the first season of the Pokemon anime almost episode for episode. This modification of the GBA game Pokemon Fire Red is aptly named, “Ash’s Quest”.
Now you’re saying to yourself, “Hey, didn’t GameFreak already make a game of their own based on the anime?”. Well, in a way yes. Pokemon Yellow, or Pokemon Special Pikachu Edition as it’s officially named, was created in 1998 as a slightly redesigned version of Pokemon Red and Blue. The game was essentially a way to stall for time until Gen 2 was completed and so very little was actually done to the game to differentiate it from it’s predecessors. Of course that means that while several elements of the game were changed to somewhat reflect the anime it was overall a simple face-lift/re-release.
The game we have here, though, is a whole different beast entirely. Having been heavily altered to fit more so into the actual written plot of the anime this game manages to honestly outdo the official version. Not only graphically, obviously the two are from different generations of the franchise, but in terms of how extensive the alterations to the towns, routes, story and characters become. The game takes the time to introduce every episode into the game in some fashion, be it through a major event within the game or a minor shout out in specifically placed areas. A good example of the major change would be the S.S. Anne segment of the game which is greatly expanded on here and follows the plot of the episode as opposed to the plot of the original games. This portion of the mod takes you far off the beaten path of the normal games even going as far as to recreate certain parts of the anime from scratch. On the other side of things we have the heart breaking episode of “Bye, Bye Butterfree” being recreated in a smaller manner along route 7. A small area is provided to optionally release a Butterfree had you actually raised one.
In addition to altering the layout of the map Ash’s Quest also changes the areas in which Pokemon are found so as to better emulate the order in which Ash caught his Pokemon. While you can still capture whatever ones you want the game does allow you to follow Ash’s team almost to a T as all of his Pokemon are available in areas that mimic not only the places he caught them but also the order and the episodes in which he got them. Also yes, this does mean the inclusion of all three starter Pokemon as well as similar ways to obtain them as Ash had done. It even goes as far as to insert Pokemon like Pidgeotto into areas and at levels they shouldn’t normally be caught at. This really does go a long way towards the role playing experience that a game based on the anime should provide.
The game is not without its limitations as several factors within it force you to approach the game from the role of Ash, making a play through that doesn’t mimic his own journey a bit harder to do. This is evident in several ways such as the prices within the PokeMarts being amped up higher than in normal games so as to make catching a lot of Pokemon a harder task. In addition to this several Pokemon given out as gifts within the game are necessities as they posses the HMs required to make it through the game. This includes the three starters as well as a few others including a Vulpix picked up at a salon(hint, hint). While it’s interesting to see the earning of HMs put in different ways it can still result in an unfortunate game breaking situation as several of these Pokemon can easily be overlooked if you aren’t careful.
Which leads me to some of the more negative aspects of the game or at the very least those that would turn people off from trying it themselves. The game is difficult. It makes sure to do a good job at making you feel like Ash and given the character’s losing streak the increased difficulty is a bit of a given. That said, it is a nice challenge to those looking for one and results in a lot more strategy needing to be used to get around certain situations. The Sabrina Gym fight is a perfect example of this as she utilizes several Pokemon out of her typing as well as having them all at naturally higher levels than your own. It’s a difficult fight, but one that veteran player may find refreshing.
The biggest difficulty I found was simply understanding what to do within the game. While knowledge of the anime can get you so far in the game there are certain situations that require an out of the ordinary solution and may not always be evident while playing. There were several times in which I had to look at a fan made strategy guide in order to figure out where I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to do. Again, it’s another addition to the challenge that vets may enjoy, but can be more of a game breaker for some especially if the previously mentioned issue with the gift Pokemon occurs.
As with any modification of a game there is bound to be some glitches. While that is certainly true for this game it should be said that this particular mod is one of the most solid ones that I have played. Becoming stuck within certain objects and encountering invisible walls are usually the extent of the problems that you will face within the game and are rare ones at that. Over the course of my play through I only encountered one of these glitches and it didn’t really effect the outcome of my game. Most glitches have been fixed in the final patch of the game and are unlikely to be encountered depending on the version of the game you have downloaded.
So overall is “Ash’s Quest” a good game? Well, yes it really is. Having grown up with Red and Blue like so many others I’ve certainly played through them my fair share of times. “Ash’s Quest” however manages to breathe a bit of new life into the old games while still keeping another very nostalgic feeling within it. It’s the kind of mod that can really speak to a wide audience of players that genuinely enjoyed the early anime series and always sort of wished to see it emulated within the games properly. It does a spectacular job with its modifications with many of the edits being both interesting to explore and a bit seamless. Is it perfect? No, in many ways it isn’t and in many ways it’s still very apparently just a mod, but it is however very fun and very challenging and within a game I cannot think of much more important aspects. It helped reinvigorate an old game for me and managed to be entertaining in its own right. It is a wholehearted recommendation.
“Ash’s Quest” can be found in numerous places around the internet with PokeCommunity and Vizzed.com being two noticeable inclusions. Depending on some places that you acquire it you may need an emulator as well as an emulated copy of Fire Red. A video walkthrough of the game can be found at youtube.com/tandrone2 and I highly recommend having it on standby just in case. Have fun playing!