Pokemon games are known for many things. They’re known for being extremely addictive, they’re known for being extremely dense, and they’re known for being some of the best-selling games of all time.
One thing that they’re not known for and the same goes for all of the best Pokemon ROM hacks, however, is any level of difficulty.
It’s to be understood that the best Pokemon games are designed primarily for a younger audience, and every Pokemon game is probably the first Pokemon game for somebody.
Still, if you grew up on these titles it can still feel like you’re being left behind by the franchise in terms of difficulty, and that’s where Pokemon ROM hacks come in to pick up the slack that Nintendo left behind.
One of the most famous Pokemon difficulty ROM hacks is Pokemon Radical Red, a hack that looks to completely overhaul the balance levels of the original Pokemon FireRed, while completely changing the battle engine and adding brand new moves and Pokemon to this classic region, but how does it hold up to scrutiny?
Radical Changes, Radical Difficulty
What Pokemon Radical Red is aiming to do is bridge the gap between young and older Pokemon fans.
It wants to amp up the difficulty to something that can be played by people who have been playing the series for years, but without ever sacrificing the whimsy and the wonder that the series has become known for.
It actually works surprisingly well, giving multiple difficulty options that are all still difficult, and always feel fair.
One of the big issues with trying to amp up the difficulty level of a game like this is that you can very easily make the game feel unfair, and you can very easily make it feel like things are happening that you can’t help, but your failures in Radical Red always feel explicitly like YOUR failures.
It’s always things that you can plan around or things you can fix by having another go at the battle. Maybe you just need to change your party, or maybe your moveset isn’t up to the battle that you’re currently in.
There are a lot of different changes to your moveset and Pokemon that you can do in this ROM hack, too, since Pokemon Radical Red has both Pokemon and moves going all the way up to Generation 8, which offers an incredible amount of variety.
If you’re struggling with a specific trainer battle, or with a specific gym, then you can just go out into the world and catch a new Pokemon, or easily level up your current Pokemon so that they can actually compete.
Later in the game you also get access to Mega Evolution stones so that you can Mega Evolve specific Pokemon, which is both really really cool and makes fights feel even more tense when you’re facing down a massive Mega Evolved opponent.
If you want to make it easier, you can also check out the best Pokemon Radical Red cheats which will give you a much needed hand during your gameplay.
Not Quite Perfect
There are no changes to the story here, so don’t come in expecting to be surprised too much. It’s the same story you remember from the original Pokemon FireRed, but with a few dialogue changes here and there to add flavor.
There’s no massive twist, there’s no massive changes, and there’s nothing here that will absolutely destroy your understanding of this world like a few other Pokemon ROM hacks out there.
Still, having a story that is the exact same as Pokemon FireRed means that it’s a lot easier to focus on the gameplay elements of the game, and allows the developer of the ROM hack to really focus on the entire reason Pokemon Radical Red exists.
There are a couple of issues in regard to the game, but they’re not massive. The main one is that despite the fact that you’re given multiple different difficulty options, they don’t really feel that different. It boils down to an overall difficulty level of ‘difficult’, with no higher (or indeed lower) options.
There are also several balancing issues that arise from having so many different Pokemon from eight different generations available alongside moves from eight different generations, but that’s something that likely couldn’t be avoided when some of those moves were designed with entirely different line-ups in mind.
Pokemon Radical Red is pretty great. The decision to implement the CFRU in place of the original Pokemon Fire Red combat system was an inspired one and lends itself to harder difficulty levels a lot more than sticking with that original slower system would have.
With Pokemon up to and including Generation 8 available, and moves from every Generation up until 8 learnable by your Pokemon, it really does feel like somebody made a modern version of a classic Pokemon game, and the sheer difficulty level never feels too overwhelming unless you really want it to, since you can choose between difficult levels.
If you really like older Pokemon titles, and miss how they felt to play but find them far too easy, then this is really the title for you.
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Ryan is a seasoned retro gaming features writer with bylines at Fanbyte, PCGamesN, Lost In Cult and more. When he’s not writing, you can find him playing retro video games.