The Curious Charm of Bootleg Pokémon Games

I love Pokémon. I also love cheap, terrible bootleg games. What happens when you combine the two?

Something magical.

2003 Pocket Monster Carbuncle

Legit Pokémon games may be thin on story, but they’re charming and infinitely quotable. 2003 Pocket Monster Carbuncle (for Game Boy Color), on the other hand, was translated with Babelfish. The story takes place on Magic Baby’s world, which has been in a state of chaos ever since the Rocket Brigade got their hands on the Improbity Badge.

The game plays like a strategy RPG, which is a lot less awesome than it sounds. Your team is overpowered, which means they’ll steamroll anything in their path, but gameplay is painfully slow, which means it’ll take forever for them to do it.

Thankfully, the awful translation means fights aren’t completely boring. When you fight, you can enjoy the names of your Pokémon, which include “BoBo,” “littlecrocodile,” and my personal favorite, “Qutstanding nuntortoise.” For some reason, Pikachu’s name remains intact.

2003 Pocket Monster Carbuncle

There are only about 20 Pokémon in 2003 Pocket Monster Carbuncle, which puts a serious damper on the whole “Gotta catch ‘em all!” thing. Luckily, the game is so awful that you’ll want to stop playing long before you’ve seen all it has to offer.

Monster Go! Go! Go!! is far more entertaining than Carbuncle, but that’s only because it’s a hack of The Smurfs 3 for Game Boy that uses Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” as intro text.

Pocket Monsters GO! GO!

A colorized version of The Smurfs 3 was officially released as The Smurfs’ Nightmare for Game Boy Color. The Smurfs’ Nightmare was hacked, and a new version of Monster Go! Go! Go!! was created under the title Kǒudài Guàishòu Dòngzuò Piān (Pokémon Action Chapter in English). Most of the original game (The Smurfs’ Nightmare) is left intact, which means you get to watch Pikachu fight Gargamel while the Smurfs theme plays.

Pocket Monsters GO! GO!

I’d like to show off the game’s story, but even that was left untouched. The hackers stuck a few Pokémon where Smurfs used to be, crossed their fingers, and hoped it would be enough.

But no bootleg Pokémon game can compare to Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal for Game Boy Color. Made famous thanks to numerous Let’s Plays, the game is an obvious Pokémon Crystal knockoff. The magic comes from its spectacular new translation.

Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal

Seriously, this game is a laugh riot:

Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal

Best of all, because it’s a Crystal ripoff, the game is actually good. There’s the occasional bug, but the hilarious script more than makes up for it.

If you’re going to play a bootleg Pokémon game, you should probably go with Pokémon Vietnamese Crystal. Still, there’s a curious charm to all these titles. Pokémon is amazing, and even crappy knockoffs can’t take away from that.

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