I can understand how a developer may feel conflicted when fans of a franchise ask for a game that is both a faithful remake to fuel nostalgia and be a fresh, modern experience. It’s a tough balance. ILCA, the developer of Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, attempted to find this balance, but ultimately ended up playing on the safe side.
The games are a faithful remake, for better or for worse. If you cried “Sinnoh confirmed!” all these years wanting a true remake with a fresh coat of paint and quality of life improvements, you got your wish.
If you were hoping that ILCA would have greater ambition when developing a Pokemon game than Game Freak has had in the past few generations, I’m sorry to say that Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl don’t quite reach those heights.
I don’t mean to sound overly negative here: these remakes fix some of the issues that the original games suffered from while staying true to the source material. Diamond and Pearl already had a lot going for them: an engaging story with some surprisingly dark moments, memorable characters, fun side content, and some of the best music in the series.
Those who played the originals probably remember how slow-paced the games felt. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl improve on this tremendously, almost to a detrimental extent.
Forced Experience Share meant that my team was at least 10 levels over all of the other trainers for the majority of the game. Due to the fact that I was able to one-shot nearly every Pokemon, I never had to spend time grinding or even use all of my teammates. I definitely prefer this instead of slogging through the game, don’t get me wrong, but at times it felt like the game was excessively simplified.
I would rather have had ILCA focus on diversifying wild Pokemon encounters and trainer teams. Yes, it would have strayed from the originals, but it got so tiring running into a Geodude or Psyduck on nearly every route, and there are only so many times in a row I can battle a Galactic Grunt with a combination of the same 3-4 Pokemon.
Nevertheless, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are a throwback to “the good old days” of Pokemon with much-needed quality of life improvements.
The annoying HM system has been reworked so you don’t need to carry a Bidoof around with you the whole game just to smash some rocks and climb some waterfalls. The introduction of Amity Square allows us to have our Pokemon follow behind us in the overworld, which is a totally meaningless but thoroughly adored feature.
Simple customization lets us give our trainers a bit of a personal touch. The Grand Underground and Contest Hall are fun ways to break up the monotony of battles. Online battling and trading are straightforward.
I just wish that a Pokemon game would have a bit more ambition considering the fact that it’s the highest-grossing media franchise in the world with 25 years of experience behind it.
At this point, there’s no excuse for so many battle scenes to have blank textured backgrounds. There’s no excuse for Pokemon Platinum content to be missing from these remakes. There’s no excuse for the glitches I encountered to cheese my way through a gym puzzle because it was easier to do that than solve it the intended way.
For as long as fans have been begging for Diamond and Pearl remakes, it’s a bit sad to me that these games didn’t get the amount of love we saw in Heart Gold, Soul Silver, Omega Ruby, and Alpha Sapphire. Generation IV deserved better, and I’m sorry for the fans who loved this generation the most.
But I sigh as I say this because I’m well aware that the games are still enjoyable enough that these issues here aren’t a dealbreaker. Maybe that’s part of the problem.
I recognize all of the issues that Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have, but I still smile stupidly when my Floatzel runs around behind me, when I take down Barry, my reckless rival, in battle, and when I manage to catch the legendary Pokemon Dialga after several difficult attempts.
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have their flaws and are not particularly ambitious remakes, but they’re somehow still fun. I don’t regret the 25 hours I spent with the main story of Brilliant Diamond, and there is enough post-game content to keep me interested for a while longer.
I just can’t help but wish that these gems shined just a little bit more brilliantly.
- Engaging story with surprisingly dark moments
- Good quality of life improvements
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Faithful to original releases
- Not as ambitious as it deserves
- Bad pacing leads to over-leveling
- Feels extremely monotonous and repetitive at times
- A little TOO faithful to original releases
November 19, 2021