I was really, really tempted to give this game a rating of five stars. I think it is a perfect ROM hack: it is polished, nuanced, and you forget very quickly that it is a ROM hack at all. There is zero jank (especially compared with Pokemon Prism ↗, a hack that I had a good enough time with but was very aggressively “a pokemon hack”, and featured moments and additions that were distinctly off-brand for the series), and the fact that this is the output of a small team is ridiculously impressive.
This is not meant to damn with faint praise, either — it is not a preamble to "despite all of that, I hated this and had a terrible time." I had a great time playing this game: more fun than Pokemon Sword and certainly more fun than Pokemon Legends: Arceus ↗. It felt like exactly what I wanted out of it — an update to the FireRed formula & engine which I love so much, with a new region and harsher (but not unreasonable) difficulties. The story was perfectly simple-but-not-idiotic. The writing nailed it; quippy one-liners but mostly staying out of the way.
If you like — or even liked — Pokémon games, I would play this one. It's a lot of fun.
The things I didn't like about the game — the things that took it slightly away from perfect — were reasonable design choices that I disagreed with. Two big ones:
Those are nits, and perhaps they're too nitpicky because I have a lot of long-term feeling for this series. But all of this is to say — this game is both a huge accomplishment and a huge joy.
Something metagame-y would have gone a long way here. ↩