Pokemon is one of those franchises that just won’t stay down. New games come out every year or two like clockwork, delighting fans basically every time, and you could probably mark important events in my life by whatever Pokémon iteration I was playing at the time. I love these games, what can I say? We’re never gonna catch ’em all and I’m totally fine with that.
It should come to no surprise, then, that I was pretty eager to get my hands on Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, remakes of the fourth generation of Pokémon games, Diamond and Pearl, originally released on the Nintendo DS way back in 2006 and now available on Switch.
We follow a young Pokemon trainer as they journey through the northern Sinnoh region, a unique area of the Pokemon world filled with unique landmarks, powerful opponents and, of course, plenty of wild Pokémon to catch. Becoming the very best like no one ever was isn’t all they need to do, though, they’ll also need to deal with the villainous Team Galactic and save the whole world while they’re at it. Life’s never dull for a Pokemon trainer.
When I say “remakes” I mean it, by the way. Unlike other recent Pokémon remakes like FireRed/LeafGreen and HeartGold/SoulSilver, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remain very faithful to their original counterparts. If you’ve played those games recently you’re not going to be surprised by much, though modern Pokémon quirks like the Fairy type remain present. Likewise, the plot, gameplay and experience overall are just about the same as what you’d get previously.
In fact, these games even eschew many of the changes offered in Diamond and Pearl’s later sequel Pokémon Platinum. I wouldn’t say any of this is bad, necessarily, but interested players should be ready for a lot of what they might have already seen.
So what actually is new, then? There’s a lot of little gameplay and quality of life changes; Pokémon all gain experience regardless of whether or not they take part in combat, for instance, as if the Exp. Share item was available and enabled from the start, while Pokemon also gain significant buffs from friendship with their trainer. There’s a new endgame area, Ramanas Park, that’s basically a way of loading up on Legendary Pokémon from other regions as well.
More substantially, the Underground activity from the original games, which was something of a sideshow, has been significantly upgraded into the Grand Underground. This is a huge area that’s nearly the size of the entire world map in and of itself, packed with Pokémon that would have been unavailable in previous versions of Diamond and Pearl. You can play online with others, create a secret base, decorate it as you’d like, dig around for fossils…it’s great, and I don’t know that I’d complain about a more fully-fleshed Pokémon game that took place in an underground world like this. It’s a long shot, but hey. Along
Of course, not every change is great. Online trading is present but lacks any perks, interaction with the current main-line games, Pokémon Sword and Shield, is nonexistent, and even the fan-favorite Wonder Trade feature has been delayed until some point in 2022. You might want to consider this a largely solo or local experience, in other words, and that’s unfortunate given how Sword and Shield benefited from online play. Additionally, the permanent Exp. Share and affection buffs might bother players looking for a more challenging experience.
Speaking of changes, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl turn away from Sword and Shield’s more realistic presentation to pay homage to their original DS predecessors. It’s a simpler, top-down chibi style that’ll appeal to fans of the classic Pokémon games, but newcomers might be taken aback with how they’re taken back. At least combat still looks fantastic, with fully-rendered 3D Pokemon engaging in classic turn-based battles.
They aren’t remakes on par with HeartGold/SoulSilver or Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, but Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are solid entries in the series that offer a great monster-taming experience. It’s clear these games are still works in progress, so expect to see some updates in the future that might expand on points like the online experience. Even as they stand, though, these games are worth checking out for Pokémon fans and newcomers alike…but those same players might want to check out Sword and Shield first if they haven’t.