Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl Review – A Memorable Trip Through Sinnoh
Yes, the Pokemon Diamond and Pearl remakes are excellent, but now it’s time to talk “Why” in this review. What’s interesting about this remake, for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, is that Game Freak did not make it. Now, they were probably keeping an eye on things, but the development was done by ILCA. It’s my genuine hope they cover all Pokemon remakes in the future. There was a lot of fearmongering going on about this release. We were hearing rumors of a bad soundtrack, poor graphics, all kinds of things. It turns out, none of these were true. The Chibi art style in the game has definitely grown on me. While some of the remixes aren’t as good as others, by and large, the soundtrack is class. Now, for full disclosure, I own both Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, but my review was conducted on Shining Pearl.
It’s time to return to the Sinnoh region, for the Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl review!
It Begins With a Choice
Like with all Pokemon games, it begins with a single choice. It defines your entire adventure, and it’s an important one. Which starter do you take? Well technically, there’s a choice before that, and it kind of surprised me. You pick “Boy or Girl”, but more important than that, there’s a bit of character customization. There are a variety of skin tones to pick from, and I was genuinely delighted to see that. After that, you are led towards your ultimate choice: Which starter? Turtwig, Chimchar, and Piplup. This leads me to one of the things I sincerely like about the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl remakes that I cover in this review.
As of Pokemon Sword & Shield, there are 900 some Pokemon lurking to complete the Pokedex. Having 150 Pokemon to catch in the Pokedex, then the National Dex (which should come to around 493), that’s far more manageable. Sure, a lot of the newer Pokemon are cool, but not messing with Diamond & Pearl’s formula was very nice to see. Ultimately, this is an adventure where we are just children running around, capturing and collecting monsters to help a grouchy scientist out. If you’ve played a Pokemon game before, this is all going to feel very rote, very formulaic.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Catching them all, battling Gym Leaders, defeat what can only be called a cult in Team Galactic, and conquer the Elite Four. Most of this game is untouched. As far as the story and the game beats? It’s the same, and it’s brilliant. We’ve got the main story, and then all of othe post-game content. None of it is behind a paywall. In the post-game, you can catch a set of awesome classic legendaries, head to an island for new encounters, rematch some of your old rivals, and so much more. All the stuff you remember is here, for better or worse – Super Contests, Underground, all of it. However, fishing is still absolute garbage and is wildly frustrating. The Safari Zone still feels like a letdown, as it did originally. So it feels very much like the original.
It’s all done very faithfully. You still have exclusive Pokemon for each version, and that’s been a sticking point to many over the years. I can see the argument that this is done to make more money, but I’m not so sure I agree. One of the best things about Pokemon is making friends. In every Pokemon game, I’ve ever bought, I buy the opposite cart to my best friend. That way, we can cover all the bases, and trade the exclusives that we’re after. It’s kind of cool to be able to do that with your friends.
There have been changes made though. They’re changes for the better, even if some people don’t necessarily agree. They aren’t all perfect, but let’s go over them.
Changes Out of Necessity
The biggest change is how EXP works. EXP Share is on by default, and you can’t remove it ever. Now, I do think you should have the option to turn it off. That said, it’s really helped me level weaker Pokemon, without having to swap them out of the front of my party every battle. I wish they had done that differently, but it hasn’t changed my gameplay in the least. Speaking of Pokemon, early on you can access your Pokemon Boxes anywhere in the world.
This is probably one of the most important changes. Not having to go all the way back to a Pokemon Center just to change your team out sincerely helps. But the most helpful change goes to HMs. Now, you don’t need to keep a Bidoof in your party the entire game. HMs are a part of your Poketch now, and you can activate them from there anytime you have unlocked them. You also receive a TM version to use on your Pokemon – that means you can still spam Surf.
This leads to another awesome change – Trainers, Citizens, and Gym Leaders that give you TMs give you several. They aren’t permanent like they are in later games, but at least you get 3 or 5 of them at a time. I absolutely adore this change, so now I don’t feel like I have to hoard my TMs for the entire game, stressing out if I wasted giving Gengar Shadow Claw for example.
You can also see what moves of yours are effective (and which are not) in battle if you’ve fought that Pokemon once already. Some people might disagree, but not everyone memorizes what every match-up requires. That’s perfectly fine. This helps casual players so much – and inclusivity is important. Your Pause menu also tells you where to go next, which is great if you forget what’s going on.
Fairy Moves and Fairy-Type Pokemon were also put into the game! So the most recent Pokemon type is here. It doesn’t add new Fairy Pokemon, but the ones from this gen that were adjusted for this type are appropriately typed. If you don’t like Fairy type to start with, you may not like this. I’m largely indifferent. It’s a neat type and can feel very powerful.
Another final change is to the Underground. In addition to all the fun stuff that goes on underground, you also have enclosed areas to enter. Here, you’ll see appropriate Pokemon for that genome, and they scale up with you. You can find some rare, and incredible Pokemon this way. I found a Rhyhorn early in the game this way, and a level 36 Croagunk about halfway through the game.
I love these changes, and they took a classic game and made it so much more fun to play. Before I move on, one complaint though – The Poketch. This cool little watch is called up by pressing the R button or holding it. I really detest the cursor being used like a mouse or a fingertip on these. It’s probably fantastic in the handheld mode, but when I’m using a controller? Absolutely loathe this. It’s so tedious.
How Faithful Is It?
Incredibly, almost to a fault. The maps and songs are the same, just with new graphics and remixes. However, like the original Diamond & Pearl, I am so so tired of seeing Geodudes. This game has a far more restricted cast of Pokemon, compared to newer games. I don’t think this is a negative. This is exactly how the original played. As a result, you have to work harder to pick a balanced team to deal with the threats that you face.
Newer games have far more Pokemon, so it’s simple to build a team. But if you want a Fire Type? Hope you know where to get a Ponyta or a Vulpix because that’s probably all you’re going to see without Chimchar. As I started with Piplup, I didn’t get a Ponyta until a quarter way through the game. You can get some of the Pokemon Platinum Pokemon from the Underground, but it’s going to take time. They’re fairly rare. This gives the game more challenge than Sword & Shield.
Sure, you have permanent EXP Share, but it doesn’t make you always overleveled all the time. It takes effort and patience to build a proper Pokemon team in Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, and at the end of this review, I still don’t mind. I appreciate the challenge that Diamond & Pearl brought me. I would have liked the Pokemon Platinum features and Pokemon in the game, but this is Pokemon Diamond & Pearl, not Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. I can see why people would want those features though.
A Solid Return to Sinnoh: 8/10:
As with all Pokemon games, it’s incredibly divisive. Some people adore it, some people loathe that it exists. No, it’s not the hardest game I’ve ever played, not by half. It’s not even as difficult as the original was. I don’t truly think that’s a bad thing. Who is this for? Sure, it’s for people that have nostalgia for Gen 4 (like myself). I think it’s also very much for the newcomers to Pokemon, who may have never played the original Diamond & Pearl. This is not a perfect remake, but I think it’s a quality one anyway. For better or worse, this is Pokemon Diamond & Pearl. The flaws of the original still exist here.
There are little things I love about it. I love the opponent trainers showing up, striking the pose they made in the original game, then resuming being animated. I appreciate the quality-of-life changes as well. The more I think about it, the more I’m disappointed it doesn’t have the Platinum changes in the base game. However, if you feel the game lacks a challenge, just wait until you hit the post-game. There’s plenty of challenging content and rematches for you to take on. I was sincerely happy to return to Sinnoh for the review of Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl.
Are they perfect? No, of course not. But is it a fun trip back through time? It absolutely is.