Introducing: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Review
Let’s get it out of the way that I may be just the slightest bit biased on this one. I am someone who has never met a Pokémon game that they outright hated. Sure, there are some that I have a harder time going back to than others, but I’ve had a good time with just about every one that I’ve played. If you want the details of my stance so you can know how well your thoughts may line up with mine… My first game was Blue. My favorite is a tie between Heart Gold and Black. I think Sword and Shield were perfectly fine games with a lot of interesting ideas that weren’t quite followed through to their fullest. The Let’s Go games are a fun side remix of Kanto, but not something I need more of. Alright, are we on the same page? Great, let’s get into what we’re really here for, a review of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.
For clarity’s sake, I did play through Brilliant Diamond, though the differences between these two are negligible at a purely mechanical level. My first play through was also a challenge run, but I do not believe that this effected my experience of the game on the whole.
Gotta Catch ’em all!
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are the long anticipated remakes of the pair of games that kicked off the fourth generation of the Pokémon franchise all the way back in 2006. These games were something of a turning point for the series as they were the first on the Nintendo DS family of systems, and thus the first to introduce touchscreen elements and light amounts of 3D into the graphics. They’re games that people are really nostalgic for, especially when you take into consideration that for a lot of kids these may have been their first Pokémon games ever.
That being said, these are not the most groundbreaking games in the series when it comes to the plot. It’s the same as usual, travel around, catch Pokémon, complete the gym challenge, and maybe stop some bad guys along the way. It was always one of the more straightforward Pokémon plots, with Team Galactic having a fairly generic “take over the world” mission in the form of a plan to create a whole new dimension for their leader Cyrus to rule. While the third game of this set, Platinum, didn’t change this plot a lot, there were some small extra scenes and moments that really punched things up and those are missing from the game. That’s not to say that what we are given here is bad by any means, just that I have seen this story in a more polished state and it would have been nice to see those elements incorporated.
Just a little changed up
So, one of the big things that you may have seen people complaining about online is the fact that these games are lacking the content that was added in with the Platinum edition of this adventure. That’s true, little of that content made it in. Adding more would only have been to the game’s benefit, judging by what is here, there is still a lot to like.
The Grand Underground is one of the bigger selling points and it really is an upgrade from the underground of the original games. Instead of just endless hallways, there are now rooms where Pokémon can be caught and the beloved mining feature is back. The fact that players can work together online to collect up a whole bunch of diglett in order to trigger a short bonus period really makes playing online worth it, even if you can’t directly interact with other players in this area. This is going to be a lot of your post-game experience, mining up the supplies that you need to evolve Pokémon and fill out your Pokédex and collecting other supplies that you can use to unlock other goodies or the endgame legendries that can be found in the Ramanas Park area. The fact that the Pokémon underground scale with your level is wonderful as well. They’ll always be something that you can handle and is accessible to you so there is always reason to come back down over the course of your journey.
What I was pleased to see is that attention has been paid to the level curve of the game in order to accommodate the always on EXP Share. It was a valid worry that this would be a problem but from what I can tell, so long as you’re not spending hours grinding and are doing an average amount of battles along your journey, you should be fairly on pace with the stronger trainers in a given area. For example, the gym trainers may be a few levels under you, but the gym leader may be a few above you. There’s a fair bit of wiggle room for you to be on pace with the level curve, which accommodates different playstyles to an extent.
There’s also a decent amount of difficulty that some fans have bemoaned the lack of in recent games. It’s been a long long time since I have seen the game’s AI willingly retract and change Pokémon, for instance. Some of the trainers can really knock you down if you’re not prepared too. I think there are points where I would have struggled even if I wasn’t doing a challenge run. And Cynthia? Just as terrifying as you remember her being.
Respect the art
There was a lot of hubbub about the look of this game when it was first announced. The expectation had been that the game would come to us in a style similar to the Sword and Shield games, or at least like the Let’s Go duology. Instead, ILCA opted to go closer to the original than anyone expected with a mostly chibi style for the world and characters. I’m not as opposed to it as some. Removing my initial disappointment, I can’t deny that the design that they have gone for is cute and it is exactly what I would expect if you were to simply update the existing graphics of the old game into 3D. The characters have very limited movement, but unlike the Sun and Moon games, they were given a nice range of facial expressions so they can be pretty expressive when we get up close to them. I could have done with a few cutscenes that are in the non-chibi style of the models as I think that could have sold the more dramatic moments a little better, but the game is consistent if nothing else.
However, there seems to have been a little bit of a stumbling block when it came to the animation process for the Pokémon. When you are in battle, everything looks just as good as it always has. The problem comes in when it comes to the mechanic of the following Pokémon. The following is a little bit better than Sword and Shield’s was, but we haven’t quite gotten back to how things were in the Let’s Go games, which is really the shining standard for Pokémon following in 3D. There are some that just can’t keep up when your character runs, even when it feels like they should. The biggest issue, though, is that some Pokémon simply do not have a following animation and slide along the ground when following you. That’s nothing short of disappointing. I’d love to see this fixed in a patch of some sort, but it’s a bit of a blemish on an otherwise fine looking game.
The remixes that were done for the music are all wonderful. The general feeling and sound of the original tracks is still preserved, but the update makes things feel the slightest bit grander that I would want when coming out of the speakers of my TV rather than my DS. If you’re still craving the original sound, though, there is an item that you can get in the post-game that brings that sound back. I do wish that had been available earlier in the game, though, for the ability to indulge in nostalgia for the big story beats, which you cannot replay by the time you get the item.
Not quite polished…
I never ran into any big bugs of glitches while I was playing, but it doesn’t take much digging to be able to see the ones that other people are finding online. A lot of these are not game breaking, but more people finding little exploits that you can make use of, which will no doubt be a great boon to speedrunners when they start blasting through the game. That being said, I do recommend turning off the autosave. There are a few places where you can softlock yourself and end up trapped with no escape. There is a built in feature that lets you roll back two autosaves, but I find it to be a little safer to have the pure choice on when you save.
Is it worth it?
Overall, it’s not the perfect remake that we would have hoped it would be, and there is some content that I wish could have been added. All in all, though, it’s a plenty fun time and if you liked Diamond and Pearl back in the day, there’s no reason that you would not enjoy this upgraded version of them. If you have a copy of the original on hand, I don’t think that this is one that you really need, but it’s up to you if the upgrades found here are worth it. I, personally, was really happy to see these beloved games brought up into the modern era and had a lot of fun with them. Even if you’re considering getting your first ever Pokémon game, you couldn’t go wrong with these ones!
- Cute visual design
- All the enjoyment that the originals held
- Decently challenging
- Delightfully fun
- Some animations were overlooked
- Easy to exploit
- Missing content from Platinum edition
- “The Generation 4 remakes are not necessarily astonishing nor inventive. There were some neat ideas while others just seemed to disappear. That being said, I did lose plenty of sleep to the Grand Underground. Ultimately, these games were fine and scratched that Pokémon itch I had while waiting for Legends of Arceus to come out next month.” -Gregory Renner
- “I felt so under-stimulated with how little the remakes added, there’s less content than Platinum and it made me die inside to see people actively defend that fact. I want to proactively stop myself from buying anymore Pokémon games in the future because I know now that they won’t do more than the barest possible minimum.” – Solomael