Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl - The most interesting additions and improvements
The precious stones have been polished and shined, but can Diamond/Pearl still impress 15 years after their original release?
From the expected (merchandise and trading cards) to the truly bizarre (a Katy Perry music video and a Post Malone concert), The Pokémon Company has been busy celebrating the 25th anniversary of the franchise all year long. Now it is finally time for some actual games with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl releasing next month and Pokémon Legends: Arceus following early next year.
With the usual developer Game Freak busy working on Pokémon Legends: Arceus, development of the generation four remakes is instead handled by ILCA, making it the first time development of a main-line entry is not led by the original creator. Obviously, that has led many fans to be curious, and perhaps a little worried, so we were glad when we got the chance to learn more about the game in a recent presentation.
Here are the most important things you need to know before the game's launch on Nintendo Switch on November 19.
The visuals are a mixed bag
When Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl was announced back in February, the graphical style got a mixed reception. Instead of using the same (relatively) detailed style of the latest chapters, the developer has opted for a so-called chibi style with charming, but also smaller and less detailed character models. The most obvious comparison is probably the Zelda: Link's Awakening remake, and just like in that game, the originals topography has been carefully recreated, which means blocky textures placed along a grid.
The cute art style will probably not appeal to everyone. But after having seen more gameplay and a new batch of screenshots, we're a little bit more convinced. Realistic lighting effects and reflections lends the blocky world some much-needed life, and, upon further inspection, the textures have a decent amount of detail. Different weather effects also bring the environments to life; unfortunately, the developer had no comments when asked whether these were dynamic, which probably means they aren't.
At first glance, combat look more impressive. When battling trainers and Pokémon the models are much more detailed and in line with the newer entries. The visual contrast between exploration and battle is refreshing and is in the vein of the original games or even classics such as Final Fantasy VII. Unfortunately, the actual action isn't that intense. With more than 450 Pokémon included, it would probably have been very time consuming to create unique animations for each one. Still, it's high time we got something else than the sad morning exercises that passes for attacks.
The most interesting additions are hidden underground
With a similar graphical style and an identical story (which wasn't that memorable to begin with), Shining Pearl/Brilliant Diamond doesn't do much to distinguish itself from the original games. But beneath the surface surprises lie in wait. A huge network of subterranean tunnels called The Grand Underground offers a variety of activities such as a digging mini-game and the opportunity to customise your own secret hideout.
These features were also present in the original game, but the most exciting content is brand new. Pokémon Hideaways are large, open caverns, each with a unique ecosystem. Here you can explore dense jungles, deserts, volcanic grottos and much more in the hunt for unique Pokémon you can't catch anywhere else. These biomes are set apart from the main game by being not laid out orderly on a grid; instead, rocks, trees, and other elements are placed naturally. As Pokémon also wander around freely instead of hiding in the tall grass, it reminds us a lot of the open areas that were introduced in Pokémon Sword/Shield, and we can't wait to explore them.
You can finally explore with your friends
Not surprisingly, the online features have been expanded and streamlined compared to the original Pokémon Diamond/Pearl, which were the first games in the series to introduce online play. The Union Room, which serves as the central hub, lets you choose between a local lobby (Bluetooth), enabling you to battle your friends just like with the link cable in the good old days, or a global room (Wi-Fi) where you can duel and trade with trainers from all over the world. The local room is a particularly welcome feature as not a lot of Switch games take advantage of the console's Bluetooth capabilities.
If you grew up watching the anime, you have probably dreamt of going on a Pokémon journey together with your friends. Pokémon Shining Pearl/Brilliant Diamond finally makes that dream come true, although in a somewhat limited way. Co-op is only accessible in the underground tunnels, there are no unique activities designed for multiplayer, and it does look a tad comical seeing several nearly identical trainers on the screen at once. Still, it's a very interesting step for the series, and hopefully something that will be expanded on in later entries.
Battles aren't everything
In the world of Pokémon not everything revolves around battles and exploration, though some of the earlier game certainly makes it seem so. When Pokémon Diamond/Pearl was released additional side activities were added to make the world feel more alive, and these have been expanded upon in the upcoming remake. For example, you can choose to take up to six of your Pokémon on a stroll through the cozy Amity Square where neither dog leash nor Poké Balls are required.
A more substantial side activity consists of beauty contest. Here the most adorable Pokémon show of their moves during three rounds where they are scored based on their apparel, attacks and dance - the latter even function as a simple rhythm game. While the gameplay hasn't been changed much compared to the similar contests in the originals, visually it's in a different league entirely with lots of colourful effects and livelier animations. As a nice little bonus, you can now decorate your own Poké Ball with different stickers which leads to different effects when the small creatures are released.
There are many small adjustments
A lot has happened in the 15 years since the release of the original games, and ILLC have kept up with the times by including a number of quality-of-life improvements. First off, HM abilities such as Cut and Surf, which let you overcome obstacles and navigate the world, are easily assessed, and they no longer permanently occupy one of your Pokémon's precious move slots. Instead, they are stored in the Pokétch - a multifunctional digital watch which back in the days could be accessed trough the DS touchscreen. Now you simply display it with a push of a button. It's a true nostalgic delight to see the Pokétch return in the era of smartphones, even though the illusion of an LCD-display is party ruined by some detailed sprites. Speaking of tiny details exp-share is now enabled by default and can't be turned off. Also, TM's are once again single-use items, which might be an annoyance for some.
As a cosmetic, but nonetheless welcome addition, it is now possible to have a single Pokémon follow you around. The liberated Pokémon even moves in a realistic manner lagging a bit behind and catching up when you are standing still. Some content has also been removed. The Game Corner, that back in the day let you play slots for prizes, has been bulldozed - probably to comply with the newest PEGI regulations that rewards any representation of gambling with an 18+ age rating.
Finally, if you have been hoping for content from the upgraded Pokémon Platinum, you are probably out of luck. When asked about it, the ILCA-representative reiterated: ""This is a remake of Diamond/Pearl."