Is Pokémon Prism Worth Playing?

Pokémon Prism, the fan game that wrought a C&D by Nintendo, was leaked around Christmas last year and I managed to play it. This fan game is a hack of Pokémon Crystal featuring around 252 Pokémon from Gens 1-4 along with Sylveon from Gen 6. It also incorporates elements from post Gen 2 games such as abilities, items and the special split.

Like many Pokémon games, the story is simple. While in an unknown region, the son/daughter of Champion Lance ends up in the region of Naljo due to an earthquake that splits the trainer up from his/her mother. You then head off the collect the eight badges to challenge the Pokémon League. While this premise is standard and familiar, the journey puts a new spin on the formula. Prism allows you to do something you typically never could do in the mainline Pokémon games: play as the Pokémon themselves. In the first segment of the game you come across your starter a Rock/Ground Larvitar and navigate a cave as it until you eventually keep it permanently. There a few more parts of this game where you get to play as Pokémon. You’ll battle wild Pokémon, talk to other Pokémon and solve puzzles. They offer a nice change of pace from entering towns, fighting the gym leader and fighting trainers on routes, but there is one part that involves Magikarp in which I found frustrating. Some of the pathways of the streams are blocked off from your vision so your progress is based off a guess a lot and it frustrated to no end so I just ended up looking up a video on YouTube to get past it.

As a hack of Pokémon Crystal, considerable changes have been made. Aside from the obvious map layout, as mentioned in the introduction, mechanics and Pokémon have been added from later generations. One of the notable ones is character customization introduced in Pokémon X & Y. When starting the game you get to choose your gender, skin tone and hairstyle. The color of the hair and clothes can be changed, but are linked together. They look funny in the sprites, but there are more skin tone options in Prism than in Pokémon Sun & Moon. There’s one town in the game where you can pay a fee to change your clothes and hair, but unfortunately you can’t change the skin tone you chose in the beginning.

As far as gameplay and level design, this game excels in it. The Fairy type is also included, but unfortunately and as far as I can tell there are no Gen VII fairies added other than Sylveon which I could never figure out how to get for myself even with the patch. Two new types are also added: Sound and Gas. You may have heard of Sound if you have been following the Pokémon fanbase for a while. In this hack Sound is weak to Normal, resists Rock and is super effective against Fairy and Steel types. Gas is weak to Fire and Grass while super effective against Fairy and Grass types. Both of these new types have new attacks made for them and I personally wish Laughing Gas was an official attack as it inflicts damage and lowers the enemy’s ATK and Special ATK. Honestly, though, the inclusion of these new types are unneeded and pointless. Some Pokémon have been given these new types, but the amount is minimal. Sound gets the Whismur line, the Jigglypuff line and Chatot. Gas just gets Koffing, Weezing, the Gastly line and Torkoal. There are two gyms dedicated to the lines and both use a lot of Pokemon that don’t fall in line with the type obviously because there is a lack of Pokémon within the types.

As far as level design goes for these gyms, they are among the most creative I’ve seen. All of them don’t just consist of walking into the gym, fighting trainers and then the leader of the gym, instead offering something more fulfilling that keeps you surprised. You may have to travel to another region and go on another quest in order to face the gym leader, find a specific Pokémon or navigate a puzzle. Maybe you can just walk right in and fight the gym leader, no trainers at all. The gym leaders get progressively harder as they should and in general the battles are more difficult than you’d find in an official game. Trainers come prepared with coverage attacks and have abilities with the potential to sweep your whole team. I can’t recall how often items were used, but I think she showed up from time to time. And speaking of items…

Item usage in Prism is disappointing. They are given far too sporadically and crucial items that help reduce grinding like Lucky Eggs and Exp Shares are added too late in the game and are rewards for discovering Golden Tokens, invisible hidden items in the world. I ended up just using the debug menu to get those items. They also offer the Pokéballs introduced in Gen 2 and 4, but you won’t see most of them until the post game and that’s a little too late.

Prism also offers side activities to conduct to get game items that you would normally find or buy. Mining simply requires buying or finding a mining pick and pressing the confirm button when near a rock or wall in a cave. The item you get is dependent on the dungeon, but there’s also a random factor as well. You can also smelt items in lava pits as well which grant different items, and there’s a jewelry system, but I didn’t partake in these as much because it was hard for me to remember which towns had these points of interests. A cool addition, in my opinion is the orphanage which allows you to donate Pokémon for points and you can use those points to adopt a Pokémon that you can’t get in the wild. This is great for those who want to complete the Pokédex or who just catch a lot of Pokémon. There’s a lot of Pokémon I don’t end up using so I might as well donate them to get something in return.

You can explore three other regions after the main adventure, but it is kind of deceiving. While you do actually go to these regions the only one other than the starting one you can explore fully is Rijon. Kanto is relegated to Saffron City, Johto to two locations, and the third to one city as well. It’s also unclear how to get to a couple of these regions in the game. There are almost no hints given to you how to get past these parts and are given under the assumption that you remember a blocked off path from the beginning of the game when you’re likely forty hours in. Just a little message telling me the whereabouts would have been nice. After collecting all twenty badges you can go to a Battle Arcade on an island which you fight AI through a PC game in a survival mode to collect tokens. Once you have enough you can challenge the Mystery League which features the strongest of trainers. I haven’t managed to tackle it yet as I found the Battle Arcade to be extremely challenging.

Overall Pokémon Prism is a good game, but some parts need to be worked out (and I didn’t even mention some evolutions not working as they should). Regardless, it’s worth a play.