Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Developer: ILCA
Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Rating: Everyone
Platform:
 Nintendo Switch

“Old fans would not want us to mess with their good memories… but there is no point in just redoing the same thing, right?”

GameFreak President, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver

It’s plain to see what approach was taken this time around. Because as it is, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (hereafter BDSP) may be the most predictable game I’ve ever played. At this point, the Pokémon franchise has pretty much cornered the market on those who like their games completely non-surprising.

Let’s go, Brandon!

This review almost saddens me to write, because I had some fond memories of the original Diamond and Pearl. It seems I’m far from the only one, as gamers have been calling for Sinnoh remakes since the well-received Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. While nostalgia is a selling point for Pokémon remakes, the previous remakes cultivated an expectation of an upgraded experience, not simply a retread. Up until the Let’s Go games, the remakes were usually done in a style similar to the most recent core Pokémon games at that point, and they usually included tweaks to the gameplay, and elements that weren’t in the originals. Considering this, it should be understandable that the Sinnoh remakes would have the same approach. But it wasn’t the case for BDSP.

Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were really early to the whole smart watch dealie.

I often start reviews with a brief, non-spoilery synopsis of the game’s plot, but in this case, it’s easy enough to guess the story direction for BDSP. A trainer starts out in a small town, and after picking from among three starter pokémon, the trainer embarks on a quest to obtain 8 gym badges, with intermittent interruptions from a team of bad guys, culminating in a showdown with the Elite Four, then the Champion. The story is the same as it was for the originals, so if you’ve played Diamond or Pearl before, then BDSP will have pretty much no surprises for you.

When it comes down to it, BDSP are almost straight ports of Diamond and Pearl, with some elements from Pokémon Platinum, but some upgrades to the production values.

But not by much.

For some reason, ILCA decided to go with a chibi graphical style for the overworld models that are reminiscent of Nendoroids.

Believe it or not, this was already a thing.

I was initially skeptical but open-minded about this, but in execution, these chibi Nendoroid models leave much to be desired, especially when the games do a dramatic zoom-in, which happens often.

Watch out, here comes Team Galactic to teach you some respect!

When these extreme close-ups happen, the jaggies and aliasing on these character models becomes really apparent, and the result is so cringy that I’ve found myself wishing that ILCA didn’t bother with them.

Interestingly, ILCA is short for ”I Love Computer Art”.

She’s not the only one.

The music tracks are on point, and while that’s normally a great thing, that brings up the question of why two different aspects of production so starkly differ in quality. This dissonance becomes more apparent when you see that the in-battle scenes look current-gen, complete with proportionate anime-style character models. Why couldn’t they have done the whole game with these models?

This is not Sword or Shield.

I’m going to come right out and say it: BDSP seem incomplete. To the point that I actually closed the game to check to see that I was playing with the day one update, which I was (1.1.1). It’s hard to believe that this was a full-price professional product, let alone the latest core installment to the single highest-grossing intellectual property of all time.

Smol Gyarados.

Yes, that following Gyarados is undersize, and that seems intentional. But for some reason, it spawned on that thin log. Who else is looking forward to what the glitch hunters are going to find?

As far as gameplay goes, BDSP is pretty much a classic-style turn-based RPG. There was less call for that to be messed with than anything else, so maybe it’s not bad that ILCA didn’t do much to tamper with it. Each turn, attacks are selected, then the pokémon take turns executing their attacks, with the ones with higher speed getting priority. There are many complex gameplay elements that can alter the flow of battle, and many players formulate their strategies based on these. Usually, a player that can exploit an opponents type weaknesses will have a significant advantage, but different offensive and defensive stats introduce an element of complexity that sometimes makes the best play unclear. As is the case in most installments in this series, the flow of battle can change drastically due to a variety of buffs and debuffs.

But hey, you may have already known how to play Pokémon already, especially if you’re in this game’s target audience. Even if you don’t, getting though most of the game will be pretty simple, especially now that the EXP system rewards all pokémon in the party, not just the one that did the battling. Yes, like just about any other RPG.

If you’re great at competitive Pokemon, college may not present you with much of a challenge.

I know that I’m not being greedy when I say that I wish that ILCA did more to mess with the experience that I remember. The Hoenn remakes did include soaring, which wasn’t in the original, and the Let’s Go games had mega evolution. Would the addition of a similar mechanic to a Sinnoh remake have been too much to ask?

I enjoyed the Sinnoh Underground in the originals, and I’m happy with the experience this time around. I’m okay with how relatively little they’ve messed with the experience of digging up treasures. What’s more, there are mini-biomes in the underground which, upon their discovery, increases the variety of pokémon available to the player. If players find, catch, and use pokémon that weren’t part of the typical walkthrough of the originals, that counts as a somewhat changed experience, right?

I suspect that the nurse was the one that polished the floor.

It’s really hard to imagine who I’d recommend this game to. If someone is already a Pokémon fan, then they’ll likely have already played Diamond, Pearl, or their original remake, Platinum. If someone is one of the people left who haven’t, BDSP isn’t likely to impress them. If someone is such a Pokémon fanatic that they’re determined to buy them anyway, they’re not likely to change their minds based on anyone’s recommendations.

So, who is this game for? It’s really hard to say, which factors well into Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl’s score of 6 out of 10.

Remastered music, updated graphics, and some gimmicks that don’t do much to the core experience. There’s your TL;DR.

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