I’ve been enjoying the wonders of Pokemon decomp ROM hacking for a couple of years now, and some of my favourite works are those who effort into bringing Quality-Of-Life and novel features into old games. (I wouldn’t call them old as I played them when I was a kid, but alas, time passes and the Game Boy Advance is considered vintage now). Honorable mentions in this front include ShockSlayer’s Crystal Clear and the most recent Pokemon Crystal Legacy, both for Gen2 and aiming for compatibility with vanilla games such as Stadium/Stadium 2. For Gen 3 (Ruby/Sapphire, Emerald, and FireRed/LeafGreen, a.k.a. the best generation), Project Heliodor is doing a bit of the same by maximising completionism while allowing the generation of legal mons using complex and elegant RNG and PID handling. All of this, again, while keeping the whole experience mostly untouched and allowing for game save compatibility.
But Heliodor will at some point depart a bit from this and start including other features that would preclude game save compatibility, and in this regard I have thought of leaving here the core set of ideas that, in my opinion, would give Gen3 the ultimate experience and make it enjoyable for many more years to come. For practicality, I will focus on Emerald as it was the last one to be released. Suffice to say that these ideas are mostly shaped/inspired/taken by Heliodor and Emerald cross as I have played these games and I am a bit familiar with their features. I’ve tried to mention these everywhere I grabbed ideas from these projects in order to credit the original people.
The name for this shapeless blob of ideas would be “Pokemon Advance Legacy”, or “(Pokemon) Ultimate Advance Legacy”. Below follows a manifesto of what my dream legacy Gen3 ROM would be like, mostly taken from what’s already out there in projects like Heliodor but also bits and pieces of my own.
Starting with the basics
The main game experience would not be altered so that all major events still take place as they originally did, rendering the experience virtually unchanged from that of the original story as devised in the original games.
The clear aim of this project would be to provide the ultimate, most complete Gen3 experience in terms of gameplay, world building, storyline, and overall themes of this generation while at the same time ensuring Trade, Communication, and Save compatibility with the rest of the games until that point in time.
After Elite Four, the original Emerald post-game includes the battle frontier and a couple of new areas to explore (the Safari Zone receives a new area and Ditto can be found in a cave). This time however, species from the Kanto and Johto regions would appear in the routes and areas alongside the original roster of wild Hoenn species. These mons would be generated in the same way it has been done in Heliodor, to ensure legality and compatibility. In addition, more than one roamer would be available and around. This is also similar to Heliodor.
When becoming the champion one gains access to the Battle Frontier. I would like to think that the player will gain access to a number of other locations, too, either just after becoming the champion or after meeting some extra requirements. See below for what I mean.
Tickets for event places such as southern island, navel rock, birth island, and faraway island would be made available. This would not be made just being available in shops or given away by NPCs etc. But rather unlockable as “mystery gifts” after certain criteria are met. (i.e. catching all the Kanto mons would trigger the old sea map mystery gift/event gift). Legendaries such as the Kanto birds and the Johto dogs would appear as roamers, Celebi could be offered using a Gen2 JP Crystal Celebi event RNG generation (hence the gimmick of “travelling in time”), and Mewtwo could appear in Mirage Island as a static encounter. This is part of the big thing from Heliodor already.
It would be neat to have event mons from documented events distributed or given over by NPCs.
Any e-reader content might be also implemented one way or another. For example, all e-reader berries could be programmed and able to be grown, and trainers from e-reader cards would swap in and out in the mossdeep city house.
Battles, Battles, more Battles
I would add a “blind switch” battle mode, where every time a mon faints you/the opposing trainer are asked to change mons without letting the trainer know what the other will be sending. This transforms the battles in a sport-style game.
After the first league and maybe getting your first meetup with a Frontier Brain, the Elite Four would have rematch teams. Likewise the player should go and defend the title of champion from a roster of random contestants: Wallace, Steven, Red, Leaf, Blue/Green, the rival, Wally, and even the frontier brains. To me this would tie into the implicit lore of keeping on training to become even better.
The world gets bigger
RSE had big shoes to fill in after GSC, with all the changes and the expansion of the world originally conceived in the first titles of the franchise. And for the most part they did thanks to a solid worldbuilding and a feeling o cohesion in the region. However there is broad agreement that the day/night and week system were missed a lot from these games. That is why a Advance Legacy would bring this back (which has already been done plenty of times), with a number of overworld palette swaps for early morning, mid-day, late afternoon, evening, and night time.
There would be also palette swaps for outdoor battle scenarios, similar to here:
This Day/Night system would also bring different mons at different times of the day, a different day/night songs for wild battles, and different kind of events. Similarly, there would be different things happening during different days of the week, like NPCs giving away things, or perhaps even adding counters for certain RNG-based events to occur such as the sales in the Lilycove mart. The Hoenn would be richer than ever.
But not only Hoenn. In order to encapsulate the whole Gen3 experience, Kanto might be able to be visited and Kanto gym leaders might be able to be fought. Ever since I played Ruby Destiny I am very fond/keen of travelling to coastal cities which would include Vermillion, Cinnabar, Pallet Town, Fuchsia maybe, New Bark, Cherrygrove, Olivine, Cianwood, and the Sevii Islands. It would not be so bad to keep it just to these places, somehow.
And, in order to further encapsulate this, maybe an additional place to visit would be a Colosseum where the main battles of Pokemon Colosseum / XD can be fought in order to earn the same goodies and to be able to catch the Shadow Pokemon. Plus Mt. Battle for Ho-Oh completion.
The main problem that I see with this, however, would be game save compatibility. Maybe something like an external tool can be devised to convert from and to original emerald save files.
QoL / aesthetic features
Following mon: just for aesthetics. Nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe a bit of flavour text to indicate friendship level/pickup event without having to enter the menus. This has been implemented in Emerald Cross.
I have mixed feelings about implementing the physical/special split because this is a Gen 4 addition that massively changed how battles are balanced. Maybe it could be a toggle on/off option?
A variety of QoL features such as a pokevial, remote PC connection for boxes and Item storage, renewable repels, balls, consumable held items restored after battle (except berries), running indoors, and a number of things that are mundane for today’s standards. Also some that would be custom such as: the pickup ability would notify and send items to the bag, egg cycles would be reduced by 75%, move reminder will not ask for more heart scales if given three in less than 24h. I’ve thought of even adding more field effects to the original abilities, maybe in order to replace the need for HMs (or simply being able to use HMs without teaching them) and/or to enhance the catching experience.
TMs will not be infinitely reusable to prevent games from breaking, but a TM market would exist in the Battle Frontier / Colosseum / Kanto where all TMs can be bought an infinite amount of times. This way we can also create a gameplay loop over battling to earn money to buy stuff. This is kind of the concept in Heliodor.
Move tutors would be expanded to include moves learned in gens 1 and 2, and for mons to include event moves. Perhaps Battle Frontier moves could have their BP prices lowered.
The game would receive a graphical overhaul in the same style as FRLG, which had a much, much better Art Direction than RSE. I feel many UIs such as the bag, the Status Screen etc., might be a blend between the UI of FRLG and the colouring/palettes of Emerald, because they feel like an intended, more cohesive artistic departure from the other games. This renewal would include outdoor tiles, sprites for the Kanto mons (the RSE are hideous with a few exceptions), battle scenarios, text font, text boxes, etc.
One of the few elements that I would explicitly borrow from later games would be the Pokemon icons from Gen VI, and the HGSS ones for following/overworld pokemon. I would still try to accomodate these to the light gradient, non-black outline of the sprite artstyle from this platform. Sprites with the B/W harsh outline look a bit out of place in the GBA for my own taste. Both the overworld and the sprites re-design has been already in the works for Heliodor and FRLGDX, and also Emerald Cross.
The graphics of some moves would be slightly affected. For example I would give Hyper Beam an additional charge animation (similar to the one of Solar Beam’s first turn). Perhaps I would fine-tune the animation backgrounds of a number of moves such as ghost, dark, and psychic. One could maybe even think of using a specific animation background for strong fire type moves such as fire blast, overheat, and Eruption.
Perhaps I would scale down the font a little bit to make more room for stuff in the different interfaces (see below), most of the times nowadays people play in bigger screens anyways. One good example would be Radical Red’s UI fonts.
In addition to all of this, I’d think of having a ligt/dark theme of the UI that goes along the time of the day, or on-demand. This would encompass the light text boxes, overall colour theme of the status screen (see above), and different menus.
I guess I’d pick a similar, but different color from that of Emerald. Maybe a pleasant light green/teal, like that of Pokemon Home, that merges with Klein blue. I like the green-ish UI of emerald for the most part, so I tried an HCL-friendly palette that resembles it for the mockup
The Sound Department
All currently available songs/themes would be used at some point in the game. This includes both the Kanto OST from FRLG and the unused Johto themes present in Ruby/Saphire. Maybe these all could be reworked in a similar style to the soundtrack of FRLG, provided it was technically developed after the RSE one.
Some moves such as hyper beam, hydro pump, and psychic, would get their original GB sound effects.
Compatibility to the next level, but also to the previous level
With recent advancements in allowing trading with Gen 2/Gen 1 games, I believe it would be great to implement trading with RBY/GSC so that Gen 3 can become an actual hub where to keep your mons. This would be done at the software level in a very similar manner to that of the video: either one is not allowed to bring Gen3 mons/moves to the trade, or these would all become dittos holding berries. Likewise, a Bank/HOME-like transformation of the PID+EXP gain into IVs would be done to mons coming from Gen 2, and any gen2-exclusive item would be transformed into an equivalent (such as gen 2 berries) or directly turned into random unique items/removed entirely.
I thought at some point to include a DS-mode where the game would detect it is running on a Nintendo DS (or NDS emulator), and have some extra functionality only when detected. Like, for example, discounts or some random events being forced out (the lilycove sales, Mirage island, etc.).
Catching them all, once again fun
A fully-fledged functional PokeDex with actual useful information about the mon, besides the flavour text and the area. This would include moveset, egg groups, base stats, EV yield, stats comparison to other species, sprite viewer, shiny viewer, etc.
The status screen would be expanded to show more relevant information, such as IVs, EVs, hidden power type, and more.
Maybe more encounter types could be added such as headbutt, ponds, and Safari-like pokeblock lures. Fishing and other elaborated gimmicks could be tied to a mon’s prowess: the better IVs/rarity/higher level, the more shaking of the rod; the better pokeblocks, the more likely to attract a better mon, …
About Contests and other gen3 gimmicks
After watching a YT video on the matter, the PokeBlock mechanics would be overhauled to be more streamlined and follow linear relationships when combining multiple berries. Additionally, maybe after winning one of the highest contests an NPC starts offering a service to blend them for you with perfect pokeblock stats.
I would aim at making secret bases a bit more permisive with item decoration, to not count the wooden slabs as items to the total amount of items, and perhaps to allow putting dolls on the floor. But maybe this would be constrained externally for other non-ROMhack players to enjoy your secret base too.
And more… maybe later
I’d like to keep this post updated from time to time to add more ideas. It would be lovely to try and implement them in a ROM hack, and even more feasible than ever thanks to the decomp projects. But I am waaay to busy to do any of this. It took me 1.5 years to just swap the sprites for the FRLG ones lmao.
Special thanks to Citrus Bolt, Shiny Dragon Hunter, and Jaizu, for the ideas and help in the Discord server.