The Pokémon series is no stranger to the remake treatment. From HeartGold and SoulSilver to more recent entries such as Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, the series makes regular attempts to bring older games to newer systems. The most recent titles to get this treatment is Diamond and Pearl, which has been released for the Nintendo Switch as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. The approach is slightly different with this remake, opting for a “no-frills” experience while still improving on a number of things. The result is one that, for the most part, works pretty well.
The game’s story is pretty much the same as any other game in the series. You play as a kid who leaves their home with the dream of becoming a Pokémon Master. You’ll get your very first Pokémon, take on the gym challenge and maybe even save the world. This premise has been used for the start of each mainline game, however, I will admit that it still made me excited to get started on my journey to be the very best, like no one ever was.
The core gameplay loop of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is the same as other mainline titles from the series. You collect Pokémon by catching them and then use them to battle other trainers and of course, gym leaders. Additionally, you’ll fight members of a villainous group called Team Galactic in order to foil any nefarious plans they might have. While the gameplay is the same, some quality of life improvements have been introduced to make the game more enjoyable.
For one, it employs a feature available in later games where you don’t have to teach Hidden Moves or HMs to one of the Pokémon in your party, using up a vital slot in their moveset. Instead, these are given to you as abilities and can be activated by either going into your Pokétch or facing the obstacle in question, be it a rock, tree or body of water. Funny enough, the Pokémon that’s summoned to perform the ability is a Bidoof, which, in the original game, was notorious for being kept in the party purely because of their HM compatibility. This fixes that and allows you to keep your moveset focused on battling.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are remakes that take a “no-frills” approach in that they don’t really add too many recent features into the game such as Mega Evolution or Dynamaxing. The battle system is quite faithful to the original game, but it’s nice that they’ve added in the feature that tells you how effective your Pokémon’s moves will be against an opponent if you’ve faced them before.
The Underground also makes a return in the remake, however, it’s been revamped and renamed to the Grand Underground. In the original games, the Underground allowed you to create your own secret base, decorate it and also mine for items. These are intact, except for the ability to decorate your base. Additionally, the Grand Underground introduces rooms called Pokémon Hideaways. These contain different Pokémon that you can battle and catch, and the best part is that some Pokémon can only be found in one of these rooms, which helps with completing your Pokédex.
Mining for items is still pretty much the same and tasks you with excavating all of the items before the wall collapses. However, statues found while mining can be placed in your secret base and can influence the type of Pokémon that will spawn in the Hideaways. It’s not a major change but it not only makes the Grand Underground essential for completing your Pokédex but also a fun distraction from the main game.
Not all of the changes in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are good ones though. In fact, some things haven’t changed at all. Technical Machines or TMs are great for teaching your Pokémon powerful moves without having to wait for them to learn it on their own. However, unlike more recent games in series, TMs don’t have unlimited uses and will instead break after being used. This is a bit disappointing since TMs having unlimited uses have become the standard and felt like a quality of life improvement when it was initially introduced. This feels like a step back from that, especially if you’re the kind of player who enjoys changing up their party now and then.
The EXP Share has seen a change, but possibly not the best one. Generally, this is most likely a feature that players have left on, but the option was always there to turn it off if need be. The EXP Share in the remakes is on by default with no way to toggle it off. Players who enjoy the grind of training their Pokémon individually will be disappointed by this since that isn’t even an option anymore. Additionally, if you want to put a new, lower level Pokémon in your team to level them up, the only way to avoid over levelling your current party is by storing them in the PC, which feels like a bit of a hassle.
Getting the remake treatment, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are presented in a new coat of paint. Specifically, the overworld features a 3D Chibi art style with a top-down perspective that is reminiscent of the older games. During battles, however, it has a more modern style and looks really good. It’s a good blend that delivers an experience that feels like a throwback to older titles while still retaining some of the visual enhancements of later games. The environment during battles also looks particularly great, especially when it comes to the gym leaders. The audio is great too. The game’s soundtrack has been remastered to make it sound a lot warmer while still maintaining the charm of the original tracks.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are great. It’s a remake that feels like it stays quite close to the source material while also introducing some much-needed quality of life improvements from later titles. However, it does stumble a bit in this regard thanks to some odd design choices with TMs and the EXP Share. The Grand Underground is a nice addition though. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl feels like a good throwback to Pokémon games of old, however, some longtime fans might find that it plays it a little safe in its execution, which, admittedly, is a little disappointing. Despite this, I did have a good time revisiting the Sinnoh region. If you’re a newcomer or just want to experience the game with updated visuals and some improvements, then this might be a good fit for you.
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