I love Pokemon. I’ve been a fan ever since I received a copy of Pokemon Yellow and a Gameboy Colour for Christmas back in the late 90s; struggling through the lengthy dialogue because I wasn’t the fastest reader back then (and admittedly still aren’t). In 2007, I, alongside my entire family, received a Nintendo DS for Christmas. We all also received Pokemon Diamond, and boy, did we play it to death. I have a strong memory of challenging them to a race around the region; seeing who could traverse the mountainous landscape the fastest; only using bikes when certain routes required it. It quickly became my favourite title in the franchise and has remained in that spot ever since, but unfortunately, the newly released remakes – Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl don’t knock it off the perch.
“It’s a tried and tested plot that isn’t groundbreaking if you’ve played a Pokemon game before.”
Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are set in the snowy region of Sinnoh, based on the real-life island of Hokkaido in northern Japan. Like most other Pokemon games before it, you start in a small town and play as a trainer, destined to be a Pokemon champion. Tasked with completing the Pokedex by the local professor, Professor Rowan, your character traverses the region catching Pokemon, battling trainers and competing against gym leaders. All the while, you’re also fighting against Team Galactic and trying to stop their evil plans from coming to fruition. It’s a tried and tested plot that isn’t groundbreaking if you’ve played a Pokemon game before. However, is still very fun.
When I first watched the announcement for Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, I was excited. But the excitement was more for the fact that I’d get to visit Sinnoh again, rather than what was shown. The development studio, ILCA — a third party studio outsourced by The Pokemon Company that also worked on the Pokemon Home app — decided to go down the chibi route for graphics, earning the game the nickname Pokemon Nendoroid in my household.
This style mirrors the pixel graphics from the original games, featuring big heads and small everything else, but in a 3D space. While it’s charming to see the original pixelated style, it looks a bit unusual with the added detail the Switch provides. This seemed like an odd choice, especially when you look at the graphics of Pokemon Sword and Shield.
“Another welcome feature in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is the objective marker.”
The original Pokemon Diamond and Pearl games had an amazing soundtrack. They were the first games to feature different tracks for locations during the day and night, and I have a special place in my heart for this generation’s version of the Pokemon Centre day theme. Some other standouts are Route 206 and Route 209 that really make you feel like you’re on an adventure. The Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl soundtrack seems to suffer the same fate as the graphics though; faithful recreations of the originals but nothing that pushes the envelope or is particularly spectacular. This is especially noticeable when you see the many fan remixes of classic tracks on YouTube that do the job better.
While the plot and standard gameplay are identical to the original source material, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl stand out due to their quality of life features. HMs – which are Pokemon moves required outside of battle to progress in the storyline – previously had to be taught to Pokemon in your party. In recent titles, you now call on a random Pokemon to use the move for you so you don’t have to waste that slot on a potentially useless in-battle move. Considering how faithful the rest of the game is to the originals, I’m glad this was something that was carried over.
Another welcome feature is the objective marker. Previously you had to read the dialogue and hope you remembered where to go, but now, the start menu provides a handy little text box and flag marker to let you know what to do next.
“It would have been great if there was the option to turn off the EXP share.”
The EXP share also returns, distributing experience points from battles across the entire party. This makes the game less about EXP grinding, and more about progressing through the story. However, it does make the game incredibly easy. By the fourth gym, I found myself to be at a higher level than all the trainers and wild Pokemon. I would have loved this feature as a kid as I often just used one Pokemon to beat the entire game. Although, as an adult, it removes the challenge from the game. It would have been great if there was the option to turn off the EXP share, but that was strangely absent.
Something unique to the Diamond and Pearl experience was the underground, a series of tunnels underneath Sinnoh that your player character could run around and explore. You were able to dig into the walls and create secret bases to decorate and invite your friends to check it out. This feature returns in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl but is much more accurately titled the Grand Underground.
The Grand Underground has been expanded on and includes a feature called Pokemon Hideaways. This contains all sorts of different pokemon, many of which are exclusive to the hideaways. The Underground was a great feature in the original and I’m glad to see it return in the remakes. Furthermore, the Battle Tower also returns but lacks the extra features included in Pokemon Platinum’s Battle Frontier.
“Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are a great nostalgia kick.”
For those of you not as well versed in Pokemon, there was a third title released after Diamond and Pearl called Platinum. The storyline varies slightly from Diamond and Pearl and the added features make it widely regarded as the definitive way to play the Sinnoh-based games. Due to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl being exact remakes, there is a great lack of any Platinum content or even references in the game. Hopefully, this is intentional on ILCA’s part and a Platinum remake is in the works. But if not, it’s disappointing to not have any inclusions.
Pokemon Diamond and Pearl are wonderful games and due to the near-identical nature of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, they are also really good fun. Due to ILCA not pushing any boundaries they lack an identity of their own and seem to miss the soul that is present in most other Pokemon games.
In comparison to other remakes such as Heart Gold/Soul Silver and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire which both did wonderful jobs of expanding on their source material, it just fades into the background. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are a great nostalgia kick and a good way for younger players to enter into the franchise, but not the definitive way to experience the Sinnoh region.