Released on: 19 November 2021
Available Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Price: $79.99 CAD ($59.99 US)
With each new iteration of Pokemon, people seem to be more vocal over either their support or their displeasure of the series. Who knew a game series marketed at younger players would get so many people riled up? I acknowledge that the series has enough appeal to please older gamers (hence why I keep playing them). Both sides provide good talking points, but the louder and more unsavory voices tend to overshadow those looking to present valid arguments. The latest subject in this regard is the remake of Pokemon’s fourth generation: Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.
From the onset, people complained about the game’s artistic choice. That is a valid point to bring up, but it isn’t one that I agree with. I found myself on the opposite end of that spectrum. I thought the overworld characters looked adorable and that the in-battle visuals had potential. As such, I was looking forward to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl while also keeping my expectations reasonable. Do Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl shine as a remake?
Our story begins with the player and their rival wandering in the tall grass after finding a bag left behind by Professor Rowan and his assistant. Suddenly, the player and their rival get ambushed by a group of wild Pokemon. The player must choose a Pokemon from the bag to defend themselves. That Pokemon becomes the player’s first and arguably most important partner. From then on, the player sets out on their quest to become champion of the Sinnoh region.
Those who’ve played any Pokemon game before this one will know how this goes. There is no deviation from the Pokemon norm here. The player gets a Pokemon, travels to each region to earn eight gym badges, beats the miscreant team of the region, then the Elite Four, then the champion. A lot of these characters have their fair share of fans. In my case, none of them left an impression on me, save maybe for the champion.
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl’s visuals were a point of contention since its reveal. Many people hated the look of the overworld characters as they looked childlike and cutesy. I found the graphics appealing. Colorful and joyous-looking games tend to attract me more than realistic visuals. While it doesn’t break new ground on a technical level, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is a step up when it comes to mainline Pokemon games.
Those who’ve played Pokemon Sword and Shield know what the gameplay of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is like. In fact, it is identical. Mainline Pokemon games never deviate far from the formula set by their predecessors. I would highly recommend reading my review of Sword and Shield for more information on the gameplay, but the short of it is: The player roams the world to capture Pokemon. They fight other Pokemon in turn-based battles. When a Pokemon’s HP reaches zero, they faint. Whoever has no remaining Pokemon left loses the match.
The biggest compliment I can give to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl would be its faithfulness to its source material. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl came out in 2006 on the Nintendo DS. As far as remakes go, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is almost a one-to-one remake of the originals. Everything from the Pokemon selection to the events, and even the Poketch, an in-universe smartwatch, return from the original games. They even adapted the game’s controls to compensate for the lack of a touch screen which looks like a challenging task.
I would never consider Pokemon games to be complicated. The last time a Pokemon game gave me any genuine grief would be in Black and White. It seems that the main story of Pokemon games got easier over time. To make things more interesting, I tend to impose challenges on myself. In Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl’s case, I tried beating the game with only one Pokemon, my first one. Sadly, this did nothing to improve the game’s challenge since I could still barrel through the game like it was nothing.
Pokemon games are designed with a younger, more casual demographic in mind. That said, I think Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are a walk in the park (literally in some cases). Even with the challenge of only using one Pokemon looming over my head, at no point did I ever feel like I had to plan my next move carefully. Once I had my Pokemon’s moveset decided, everything became trivial. It isn’t bad for more casual players, but it could be dull for more seasoned players.
While Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl’s faithfulness to its original is its biggest strength, it brought some baffling design choices with it. Sword and Shield brought many quality-of-life improvements to Pokemon, almost none of which are in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Raising competitive Pokemon is like it was back in 2006: tedious and ambiguous. There are no hidden abilities, no hyper training, no way to change a Pokemon’s ability, and the arbitrary maximum for feeding your Pokemon vitamins is back. What’s worse, the features they did decide to keep are things like the mandatory EXP Share. The inclusion of the Exp Share is not a bad thing, but its mandate is where I have a problem.
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are perfect for those who’ve never played the DS Pokemon games or wanted to revisit those old games. They are, in my opinion, the best way to experience Diamond and Pearl. That said, it regresses in many ways compared to Sword and Shield, and it offers very little in the form of a meaningful challenge. I can easily recommend Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl to young kids and casual gamers.