Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are finally here and nearly 15 years later, arrive for a new generation of fans to catch ‘em all. What stands out this time is that these are remakes of the Nintendo DS titles, games that utilized dual screens for gameplay. Back then, the pair of games Generation IV titles were received well, and at the time were some of the highest-rated games in the series at that point. Now, with the pair getting a facelift on the Switch with developer ILCA at the helm, the games include quality of life upgrades and modernizations that are sure to make revisiting these games a lot better as both games arrive during the 2021 holiday season.
By and large, this is the same that launched in 2006. However, by mixing nostalgia with modernization the game feels as relevant as ever, even if it never bucks the existing formula. The camera floats overhead as it always has, the characters this time are chibi-sized and much cuter but the world remains the same, if not much more vivid and colourful. I’m still torn on who these remakes are marketed towards — those who grew up with Pokémon or those who are growing up with Pokémon. Either way, Nintendo seemingly marketing this to both age groups and it’s always one of the most diverse franchises out there with people of all ages coming back each time a new game launches.
As for the new art style introduced, the chibified characters grow on you. It is a bit jarring having these cute, shrunken models shift into their fully-realized counterparts when switching between the overworld and into battle. If anything, it’s a bold recreation of the original idea that began in Red and Blue.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond And Shining Pearl are thoughtful remakes
After learning of a red Gyarados, your character heads out with your bestie Barry to find this rare monster. It’s here where Professor Rowan and his assistant Lucas or Dawn (depending on who you pick) mistakenly leave behind a briefcase with three Pokémon in it — Turtwig, Chimchar, and Piplup. You’ll choose your partner and save the pair from a wild Pokémon. Not long after, Professor Rowan will task you with filling out your Pokédex and you’ll set out into the Sinnoh region to complete your task.
I wasn’t sure how to feel going into these remakes. On one hand, The Pokémon Company pushed the series forward with Sword and Shield. The latest blasts from the pasts bring us back to simpler times in the series when compared to the newest games and it feels comforting returning to these familiar stomping grounds.
A blast from the past
Originally introduced in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl was the Underground, a special area where players could mine for items and collect decorations for their base by using the Explorer Kit. While some aspects haven’t changed in the remake, it was been enhanced as The Grand Underground in the remake. It’s a huge underground maze that runs under Sinnoh where you can play the mining game. Using a mallet, you tap on glowing spots to earn items, trying to get as many items before the wall collapses in. Items range from evolution stones to recovery items, fossils and statues. These statues can be added to your base but now the statues include bonuses like access to Pokémon Hideaways and depending on the statues you place in your base, will impact what monsters appear.
Similar to the wild areas in Pokémon Sword and Shield, Hideaways are usually biomes filled with wild monsters you can battle and capture. Instead of random encounters, these Pokémon walk around and the player can choose to initiate battle if they choose so. It is within the Pokémon Hideaways some monsters will only be found in, so you’ll have to make sure to visit every area.
Journey to the Grand Underground
Another change that I’m glad was added is battles feel and play out much faster. Catching Pokémon takes its shortcut from the Sword and Shield games, streamlining the process. Even years ago, battles felt sluggish and one of my biggest complaints was how slow dwindling an enemy healthy bar was. In battle, you can see which of your partner’s moves are effective against the enemy and you can swap your Pokémon between mailboxes. It’s also great seeing the full-sized models and camera give players a more dynamic sense of battles. In my head, the way encounters unfold resemble how I pictured them as a kid, and while we have had this for some time, it’s always nice seeing things happen on screen in detail.
Also, your entire party uses EXP share and without any way of being able to turn it off, in a puzzling decision I’m not sure everyone playing wants. I didn’t necessarily mind the inclusion but the lack of choice is bothersome. Hidden Moves are no longer tied to your party and you can now select from the menu and have a wild Pokémon complete the move instead of worrying about having a party member solely dedicated to using HMs.
Further setting itself apart from its counterpart, Pokémon Contests return as Super Contests and include changes. Your goal is to earn Hype Points and work together to build Hype to win. Divided into five categories: Coolness, Beauty, Toughness, and Cleverness, and are broken into three rounds — Visual, Dance, and Acting. These are minigames where you and match the beat closely to the music happening onscreen or perform moves for the judges to earn points. Ultimately, I enjoyed my time exploring the possibilities but never felt like this was catered to my tastes. It can be enjoyable if you’re looking for a new way to bond with your partner, though.
The Poketch gadget players will receive that features several apps for you to use including the Dowsing Machine, the ability to call on wild Pokémon and let them use HMs like Chop to cut down obstacles or Rock Climb to scale cliffs. Furthermore, it is no longer stuck to the screen and at the press of a button, can be called to use.
And Amity Square in Hearthome City returns, a place where Trainers can hang out with their partners. You can walk with upwards of six Pokémon but will need to be permitted entry first. You can speak to your Pokémon and check in on how they are feeling. It’s a fun system for those looking to really get to know their partners, I spent some time here interacting with my team.
Lastly, Poffins are shown and when given to your Pokémon, can raise conditions such as Coolness or Cuteness. These conditions when raised allow you to earn higher scores during Visual Evaluation when entering Super Contest Shows. I can’t say I was too invested in exploring this mode but it’s certainly something people want.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl bring us back to the Sinnoh region in a wonderful pair of remakes packed with nostalgia. We’re not just getting improved graphics; the quality of life improvements give two classic games the attention they deserve without all bloat from the Nintendo DS games. Battles are snappier, and the Grand Underground are wonderous compared to their counterparts and the nostalgic return to the Sinnoh region will bring a smile to your face.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]