Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Versions are the long-awaited remakes of the 2006 Nintendo DS classics Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. These games hold the unique distinction of being the first main series Pokémon games to be made by a developer other than Game Freak with ILCA taking the wheel. These games stand as a faithful remake of Diamond and Pearl with some quality of life updates and modernization along with a few new features. This look at the games will help to paint a picture of just where these games fall in the storied franchise.

Story and Plot

The story from Diamond and Pearl is retold in its entity. This continues the now series staple of larger-than-life story lines that started in Ruby and Sapphire. In this story the player starts as a kid in Twinleaf Town who together with their friend and rival aspire to become Pokémon trainers. The pair decide to visit their local lake which is rumored to home a mysterious Pokémon and from there they end up encountering their starter Pokémon and embarking on a grand adventure.

The story is the standard Pokémon quest with the journey to defeat the 8 Gym Leaders and challenge the Pokémon League and become champion. Team Galactic will will encounter the player at several points throughout the adventure, this evil team is set on using the power of the legendary Pokémon to recreate the world. Since this is a remake those that have played the original will know all the story beats in and out, but it is a good story filled with fun and memorable characters so it is worth revisiting.

Game Play

The game play is a return to classic form with the battles being random encounters. Battles are streamlined and the game is much faster than the originals which were infamous for the slow game play. The battles are modernized and have all of the updates expected of modern Pokémon games, there is no Dynamaxing so the game is a marked return to a time before the super modes of Mega Evolution, Z-Moves and Dynamaxing. Those that miss the classic game play will be right at home with this experience. Quality of life improvements have been added to the game such as HM moves becoming a Pokétch app so it is no longer required to have a Pokémon that has learned the move in your party. The character moves freely and isn’t locked into grid-based movement. This being a remake of a classic Pokémon game the difficulty curve is greater than in modern games and unprepared players can find themselves getting wiped by boss characters like the Gym leaders early on. The experience share is permanent and always on which mitigates this difficulty curve a bit. This is an issue for the players that enjoy the challenge and it is a lingering question why this feature can’t be toggled on and off rather than being always on.

The Underground has been revamped into the Grand Underground which has enclaves called Pokémon Hideaways where players can encounter different Pokémon that wander around the over-world map, like they do in Sword and Shield, including many that are not in the Sinnoh Dex. This opens up a variety of Pokémon to players and helps to mitigate some of the issues like there being so few Fire-type Pokémon options available to catch during the story mode. The digging minigame is a perfect recreation of the original, and now players can find Pokémon statues that they can place in their secret base to influence the spawn rates of Pokémon. Secret bases have been entirely revamped and are no longer strictly decorative. Now secret bases impact the game via the Pokémon statues that players place inside their secret base. The main story will last about 40-60 hours, and there is near unlimited replay value with competitive breeding and battling, and completing the Pokédex.

The online features are standard. The games are missing the Global Trade Station (GTS) which was one of the major online features in the originals. In the modern series GTS has been removed from the games and is only available in Pokémon Home. It is disappointing to see this feature doesn’t return in the remakes of the games were the GTS originated. The games also have no ranked matches, and because of this aren’t being used as the games for the next season of the Pokémon Video Game Championships (VGC) official competitive format.

The post-game story content is limited but staples like the Battle Tower and Gym Leader rematches are present and provide at least some post-game content. Previous remakes in the series have had sizable post-game content including the acclaimed Delta Episode in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Compared to previous remakes Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are somewhat lacking in post-game story content. Now that the franchise has fully entered the era of DLC there is a possibility that more content could be added via DLC.

Graphics

The art style for the over-world is a chibi style meant to imitate the pixel art of the original game. In battles the art transitions to full-sized models similar to those seen in Sword and Shield. The 3D renders of the characters are perfect reflections of their 2D sprites. The animations for the Pokémon and their attacks are vivid and smooth. The trainer animations during battle are somewhat static however. The backgrounds during the battle scenes are varied and impressive there are no empty void spaces for battles like would happen so often in Sword and Shield. The over-world environments are crisp and accurate recreations that capture the spirit of the originals. The menu sprites for Pokémon and items have been replaced with vector art. The vector art for the Pokémon in menus lacks some of the charm of sprite art, but it is a decent substitute.

Sound

The soundtrack is a faithful recreation of the Diamond and Pearl soundtrack. Memorable songs from one of the most acclaimed soundtracks in the franchise are vibrantly recreated in a way that invokes the nostalgia of these tunes while presenting them in a new way. There is an option that gets unlocked in the game that lets players listen to the original version of the soundtrack so players can switch to the classic soundtrack if they want to experience the full classic soundtrack in action. Because this is a remake there is little room for original compositions so players that have played the originals shouldn’t don’t go into this game expecting to hear music they’ve never heard before. The sound effects are crisp and clear, the Pokémon cries sound as good as ever. Of course Chatot’s ability that let players record a sound for Chatot to cry has been removed It’s a solid and rich sound experience.

Final Verdict

This game is a quality update over the classics with quality of life features and modernization. The decision to go with a faithful remake with minimal changes from the original was a bold decision that pays off in how faithful this remake is in story and plot setting. ILCA does a decent job as the first Non-Game Freak developers to work on a new main series game. The game is somewhat hindered by the lack of ranked matches and loss of features like the GTS, and the game has some bugs and glitches on release that are being patched. Its worth picking up if you are a fan of the franchise, especially if you like the originals, or just enjoy fun JRPGs.

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