In 2006, Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl were released for the Nintendo DS, ushering in the fourth generation of titles in the ever-so-popular video game franchise. As the latest entries to receive the remake treatment, 2021 saw the release of the games’ revivals: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl for the Nintendo Switch.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, developed by ILCA Inc., caused immediate excitement upon reveal, as many fans were eager to revisit the Sinnoh region once more.
In Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, fans tour the Sinnoh region, a land deep within Pokemon myth and history. Given one of three starter Pokemon: the Grass-type Turtwig, the Water-type Piplup or the Fire-type Chimchar, the player’s objective is to catch all the Pokemon they can in the region while thwarting the plans of the mysterious Team Galactic. It’s the basic plot structure that most Pokemon entries follow, though the story was never as important as the journey itself.
Despite the controversy, the games’ visuals in Sinnoh have never looked better. The visual style draws inspiration from the classic games’ “chibi” look, only now brought to life in 3D. In the overworld, everything is small and cute, as the art style emulates the simplistic looks that the DS games had. However, upon entering battle, everyone’s true proportions come to life, mimicking the “realistic” style modern Pokemon games adopt. Like other components of the game, it’s a delicate balance between old and new.
The battles largely remain unchanged, though they’re still as exhilarating as ever. There’s nothing like seeing two goliath Pokemon going head-to-head in fast-paced battles, complete with backgrounds to match either the scene or the character. Team Galactic’s new starry ambiance is rather cool, and Gym Battles actually feel like players are in the gym. The movement of the Pokemon feels more lifelike as well, as the monsters are more expressive and dynamic.
Like the old games, these remakes mostly remain chock-full of features, which are great for veterans returning to Sinnoh. Super Contests are back with a twist, and the fan-favorite Poffin making is still as chaotic as ever, just like old times. However, no feature’s return saw a greater overhaul than the Grand Underground, now an online hub for players to meet, mine and encounter rare Pokemon together. Of course, it can be played solo, though playing online with others is something that greatly enhances the experience.
The music is also surprisingly done well, as the soundtrack from the classic DS titles was remade for Sinnoh’s return. Some tracks may seem lackluster compared to their retro counterparts, but the essential themes of this game were recomposed well. From the crescendo of strings to the gentle xylophone tapping away the game’s theme song upon the final credit, players are sure to vibe during their entire tour of Sinnoh.
As well as the remake executed in its various aspects, the lack of difficulty of the titles is especially jarring. In the original games, Pokemon grew more steadily, as opposed to the rapid growth players’ monsters will undergo. Trainers in the game served as obstacles the player overcame during their journey, with gym leaders and major characters being milestones that indicated progress. In these two titles, they felt rather easy to overcome, as the player’s Pokemon could often be a few levels ahead of the enemy’s mightiest foe.
Of course, this was a change in favor of mainstreaming the game to cater to newcomer fans, which was a major effort by ILCA. Difficulty options would’ve been nice here, but this drawback ultimately fails to impact the game negatively.
All in all, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl are both phenomenal games. For those interested in picking up a copy of either Diamond or Pearl, keep in mind that there are differences in both versions in terms of the Pokemon that can be encountered, especially with the mascot legendaries. Some research is necessary in order to ensure that players get a version with the Pokemon they like.
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are now available to purchase exclusively on the Nintendo Switch, individually or included in a double pack.