Developed by Yogur Comics, a visual artist creating Pokémon, Marvel and Star Trek content, Pokémon Reboot boldly takes a stab at redesigning the iconic original under a modern lense. Aiming to replace not just the original 151 creatures but the beloved characters and items as well, this latest rom hack is a brave new take at our childhood.
Inspired by redesigns from the pkmnreboot Instagram account, Pokémon Reboot is completely free to download. You’ll need a Gameboy Advance emulator to get the ROM working, as the reboot is based on the GBA version of the original Pokemon, Fire Red and Leaf Green.
A bit like déjà vu
Right from the off, Pokémon Reboot is like the Mandela Effect of the beloved Nintendo RPG. The familiar Fire Red title screen is replaced with a tweaked version of my favourite Pokémon: Charizard. This redesign immediately told me I was in for a unique experience; the altered sprite takes on a much more dragon-like appearance than the original.
Pokémon Reboot plays exactly as you would expect it. Major art and sprite redesigns take precedence over the gameplay itself, which remains as accessible and addictive as it was 17 years ago. You listen to a slightly different, slightly balder, incarnation of professor Oak explain the world of Pokémon to you. And just as you did some twenty years ago, you name your trainer before setting off into the world.
Reboot is a fantastic way to experience the game if you’ve not played Pokémon in a long time. The new art design invoked that familiar feeling of wanting to find and capture each Pokémon all over again. It instilled a reinvigorated sense of discovery I hadn’t experienced in Pokémon for a long time.
However, there are some elements of the reboot I don’t like. I think it comes down to personal preference, but I didn’t like some of the individual Pokémon redesigns. I also didn’t care for Professor Oak’s menacing new look. While the original Professor had an approachable grandad look, Reboot’s has the look of a mad scientist. Swings and roundabouts, though, I guess.
Behind the art
I briefly spoke with the individual behind the project Yogur Comics. We discussed the inspirations for Reboot, their plans for the future and any worries concerning Nintendo.
Yogur’s inspiration came from an unlikely source, Instagram: “The idea of reboot originated from an Instagram account called pkmnreboot. I saw the designs the team were working on and just thought ‘how difficult would it be to turn those designs into sprites?’ With the blessing of the team, I got to work on creating Pokémon Reboot.”
Working alone on the project, Yogur underestimated just how much work the project would involve: “Initially, I planned to just create 300 sprites (each Pokémon requires front and rear sprites) and maybe change a few other things. Before I knew it, I ended up changing every trainer sprite, redesigning the gym leaders and elite four and I even altered the design of the pokeball.
“I started the project in June 2019, but it ended up taking a lot longer than I envisioned. The project finished completion in January of this year.”
As with any fan-made Nintendo project, the inevitable question crops up - how long will it last? Nintendo is known for fiercely defending its intellectual property rights. It has a well-documented history of shutting down small-scale fan projects.
When pressed about the looming worry of Nintendo shutting down the project, Yogur was surprisingly calm about it: “No, I really don't see it ever happening. For me, Pokémon Reboot isn't big enough to warrant Nintendo’s attention.”
Hot off the back of the release and with a vast library of content to pull from, I assumed Yogur would work on Johto edition of the reboot: “Unfortunately, there won’t be another reboot title like this from me. I’m a visual artist and I don’t consider myself a programmer, so Pokemon Reboot was really a labour of love for me.
“I’m now focusing on a MARVELIAN region pokedex. It’s a Pokémon region inspired by heroes from the Marvel comic books. I also spend my time redesigning classic Spider-Man comic covers with a visual style based on the 90s animated series.”
There has always been a divide in the Pokémon community between which designs are better. Many love the detailed, high-quality sprites in the new details, but others prefer the character in those original sprites - character brought on by our brain’s ability to fill in the gaps.
I asked Yogur how they felt about the new generation: “I think the new Pokémon designs are better because the design industry has grown and improved a little with each passing year.
“The beauty of Pokémon is that there’s enough there for everyone to love. I think liking new-generation and original designs is completely valid.”
The creativity and passion shown by the Pokémon fan and modding community will never be anything short of impressive. There are thousands of people across the world all creating their own vision of Pokémon, all fuelled on passion. Should Nintendo ever decide to bring the series to an end, I think fans will forever keep it alive.