Five fan projects that should be on your radar

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Real fans make patches

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Unfortunately, the customer isn’t always right when it comes to video games. Projects get cancelled, games only see a release in certain regions, and obviously brilliant ideas never come to fruition. Luckily for the rest of us, some fans have endless reserves of energy and just a dash of masochism, leading them embarking on sprawling projects to enhance their favourite games.

The video game landscape wouldn’t be quite the same were it not for the results of these passion projects. Here are a few highly important, or at the very least interesting, independent projects that have built on a pre-established series or modified a particular game.

1. Mother 3 fan translation (2008 – today)

The Mother series is a strange addition to the RPG genre. On the one hand, it features the ghouls, distorted monsters, and magic that wouldn’t be out of place in Final Fantasy or Phantasy Star. On the other hand, you also play as a 13-year-old boy wandering around his hometown with friends, facing off against old ladies and teenage biker gangs. While its latest installment, Mother 3, was released on the Game Boy Advance in Japan in 2006, it never saw the light of day in the NTSC-US or PAL regions.

That is, until Tomato got involved. A group of hobbyist developers, led by Clyde “Tomato” Mandelin, created an English-language patch for the game, so that those of us who haven’t got to grips with kanji can still enjoy the game. It is widely regarded as a faithful and accurate adaptation, and has allowed a huge amount of people to experience Mother 3’s upgraded battle mechanics and tear-jerking story. Nintendo has shown very little desire to pick up the mantle and release the game officially outside of Japan, but Tomato’s team are supportive of the project being shelved, should Nintendo ever change their mind. 

2. Policenauts unofficial patches (2007 – today)

An excursion into the mind of the young Hideo Kojima promises to be both fascinating and disturbing. A recent tweet from 2064: ROM composer Matthew Hopkins brought it to my attention that Kojima’s fascination with breasts isn’t something that started with the Metal Gear Solid series. While anyone with a bit of cash and effort can dive face-first into Kojima history by playing Metal Gear or Snatcher, Policenauts was elusive for a little while, since it was (and still is) a Japan-only release on every platform.

So, fans came to the rescue once again, creating an English language patch. This patch goes above and beyond, for several reasons. Not only did they translate all of the subtitles, but the menus were also reworked to fit the English language and graphical glitches were fixed. The FAQ on their website details the thought that has gone into making the game work with physical hardware and two different types of PS1 emulator, which is admirable. The icing on the cake? In 2016, they released a patch for the Sega Saturn version. Yes, the Saturn. That’s dedication.

No sign of a PC Engine or 3DO patch, but would you honestly blame them for calling it a day?

3. A Resident Evil double-whammy

The Resident Evil series is associated with powerful pairings – Jill and Barry, Chris and Rebecca…erm…Leon and Ashley (hiding in dumpsters is helping, okay?). The Resident Evil fanbase is so infested with enthusiasm that I can’t narrow it down: I need to include a duo of RE third-party projects. And this time, neither of them are translation patches!

a) The resurrection of the Resident Evil Outbreak servers (2014 – today)

It’s always a disappointment when the servers for your favourite game go offline, even if it’s long overdue (Final Fantasy XI managed to hold on for 14 years, well after the PlayStation 2 was put out to pasture). So, while the Resident Evil Outbreak series merely attained cult status, it was still a problem for some fans when the US servers were taken down by Capcom four years after Outbreak File #1’s release and two years after Outbreak File #2’s release.

Though the servers being taken offline were met with apathy by some journalists.

By 2014, Capcom was consistently dropping the ball when it came to multiplayer Resident Evil. Naturally, this led to an enterprising zombie slayer called Fulci creating new servers for the Japanese versions of Outbreak File #1 and File #2. This spawned a forum and brought together a niche branch of the fandom, who abide by some pretty stringent rules to ensure the server retains some sense of orderliness (such as isolating mods to specific test areas).

Sadly, this is a workaround that requires a fair amount of investment for even the average PlayStation enthusiast, since it requires a Japanese copy of the game at the very least, and modded/Japanese hardware if you don’t want to play on an emulator. Still, if you want to witness the downfall of Raccoon City through six fresh pairs of eyes, then it might be worth looking into.

b) A Resident Evil adventure game…for the Genesis?! (2017)

It’s a fact: horror games make good adventure games. Take Lucius Demake, which came out last year. Trying to kill servants and family members as Satan’s offspring can be a whole lotta fun if you make it pixelated.

When it comes to Resident Evil, the original game was heavily laden with puzzles, and even finding the keys to unlock certain doors was a challenge. So, reworking the game to focus on problem-solving is a no-brainer if you also want to go retro. Excited for a whole new take on exploring the Spencer mansion? A group of Russian game developers have you covered.

It’s very much a work in progress (don’t even get me started with playing as Claire Redfield). Yet I’m eager to see more, once I’ve dragged myself through REmake Remastered. Bloody Crimson Heads.

5. Build your own Pokédex! (2014)

And now for something completely different: a fan project you can replicate for yourself. Raspberry Pi developer Adrian Rosebrock has published a six-part guide to program the software for your very own Pokédex. All you need is a Raspberry Pi, plenty of patience and a decent grasp of Python. OK, this is hardly a casual side-project, but it’s a cool way to recycle any Pi emulators you have lying around.

There is also a Linux version of the Pokédex that can be downloaded and used straight away. But the Pi version is just one step away from a fully-working pocketbook Pokédex. All in all, it’s not that useful, but it’s a nice novelty for any fan who had this battery-powered Pokédex in the 1990s.

Honourable mention:

What’s your favourite video game fan project? Do you think there would be less of these projects if developers listened to the fans more? Share your opinions in the comments down below!

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Charlotte Cutts
Likes games, loves speedrunning. Ships herself with the PlayStation Vita.