The remake of the 4th Gen Pokémon game is very conservative, but its new features are enough to change the original experience.
They are finally here, after so many years of fans' requests. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shinning Pearl are launching to the public on Friday, November 19, to warm up the final stretch of the year with a familiar brand and a great dose of nostalgia - an unbeatable mix. This time, under a surface that seems overly familiar, lie more changes than it seems, though.
Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are special. Instead of Game Freak, it's ILCA who is in charge of the development now. The quintessential Pokémon studio has delegated these games to the team responsible for taking on projects such as Dragon Quest XI S for Switch. A tricky gift - seemingly easy because of its nature as a remake that follows the adventures of the original Diamond and Pearl games for Nintendo DS (2006), but actually hard, because the fanbase has never been so involved.
The results are fine, but not outstanding. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remind us why the fourth generation is still one of the most loved, but they also expose the troubles and wrinkles that Sinnoh had, erased by our nostalgia.
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I'm not going to unravel the intricacies of Pokémon in this review. The core mechanics of fights and creature collection don't change in remakes. The same Team Galactic as the villain, the fights... Everything is here as it was, and even the teams ruled by the opponent trainers 15 years ago haven't changed, and the same thing happens with the wild creatures spread out around the map of the Sinnoh region.
This uncovers something that we may have forgotten about the games for the DS: how varied some Pokémon are and how often they show up can be nerve-wracking. I'm scared of opening the fridge to find a Bibarel, I hear Kricketot and Kricketune screaming in my nightmares, and I swear I won't take responsibility for my actions if I ever cross paths again with another Bidoof.
That's why we appreciate the new features like the Pokémon Hideaways of the Grand Underground more. They are scattered throughout the subterranean tunnels of Sinnoh, and that's the only place where you can find other generations' Pokémon freely roaming around. Sentret, Magby, Numel, Rhyhorn, Houndoom, and others that weren't in the original editions are here now to expand the Pokédex. This is a solution to the scarce variety of routes, but it brings another issue along: they are high level, and they give your team so much experience that it won't take you long to wipe out any opponent on the surface.
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The difficulty is quite absent from the main story. Throughout all the gyms we have overcome, we haven't come across any leaders that have made things difficult for us, apart from the odd little forgotten surprise. And what about the Pokémon League? We can't talk about it, or what may lie beyond it, but we have more reason than ever to be optimistic about it.
Still, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shinning Pearl don't just change the underground, rescuing its stone-chopping mini-game or modifying the secret base system to be of little interest (uncovered statues influence the types of Pokémon in the Lairs... and little else). It introduces several quality of life improvements that are already indispensable, such as being able to manage your Pokémon's boxes from anywhere, having your Pokémon companion following you at all times, or the Poketch, that now manages HM (as well as letting you rematch other trainers, counting your steps or even acting as a calculator, because who plays Pokémon without one).
There are other more controversial changes, such as the co-operative touch of Super Contest Shows, which adds to the charm but doesn't make the experience ground-breaking, or the mandatory Exp. Share. The latter has been one of the most controversial changes, and while it is understandable that its integration is making the game more accessible, we would welcome a "Disable" option. Diamond and Pearl were not intended for this mechanic, and it shows.
I understand why ILCA has stuck so closely to the original games. Sinnoh is a region with a progression more interesting than Galar, it forces you to retrace your steps, explore alternative routes and is rewarding for the curious players. There were times I had to stop and look at the menu clues to figure out which way to go. It's a traditional system with modern features added to it, and the whole ensemble works very well, even if the scale of the challenge becomes unbalanced in the end.
Also, the new versions of its soundtrack are absolutely great (there are a couple of killer songs) and it's beautiful to the bone. I wasn't particularly a fan of the art direction of the Diamond and Pearl remakes, but, as you navigate through meadows, caverns, seas, and even snow-capped peaks, the game sticks with you, and it is clear that it's aiming for something similar to what Link's Awakening did on Switch: a toy-like feel. It even uses the tilt-shift effect to give that impression of a world full of models, where everything is "Brilliant" and "Shinning" (perhaps a little overdone by an exaggerated 'bloom').
We've left out things such as online play and endgame content because we can't talk about them at the moment. However, with virtually the whole of Sinnoh behind us, what we can tell you is that Pokémon Diamond and Pearl remakes are decent and entirely faithful, but not as brilliant as the title implies. Their faithfulness becomes a burden, which is concealed, sometimes clumsily, by their new features. The Pokémon formula continues to deliver an RPG that is easy to understand, hard to master, and addictive to the core, and Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are here to prove it.
8 / 10
The game is streamlined and flexible thanks to the quality of life improvements. The core formula remains unchanged, and it still works. Sinnoh is diverse, full of things to do and to discover. The updated OST is amazing.
Lacks variety of wild Pokémon on many routes. NPC movements are particularly awkward. Rather low difficulty.