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Pokémon Brilliant Diamond And Shining Pearl Review – Refurbished Gems

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Originally released in 2006, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl have ushered in a new generation of Pokémon games for the Nintendo DS. With themes of evolution and creation woven throughout the story, improved designs of new Pokémon found throughout the Sinnoh region, as well as newly discovered evolutionary lines of fan-favorite monsters, these games seemed be a notable step forward for the franchise. By remaking these classics, new Pokémon developer ILCA is proving it can handle the recreation of the franchise’s crucial tenants.

For the most part, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are “faithful remakes” – as The Pokémon Company likes to call them – of their namesake DS games. The Skeleton is there, with the same monster towns, routes, trainers, and Pokédexes found throughout the adventure. You always start with humble beginnings in Twinleaf Town, where Star-Eyed Trainers are given a Pokédex from Professor Rowan and their choice of starting Pokémon. From there, you meet your friends and rivals, Dawn and Barry, and conquer eight Arenas and become the region’s champion. You’ll also learn about Team Galactic’s plans to harness the energy of evolution and the legendary creative duo of Dialga or Palkia. Nothing in the story is new or surprising, but I found it acceptable – and preferable – after being away from Sinnoh for over a decade.

ILCA has chosen to recreate the chibi characters of the DS games in 3D and keep the top-down perspective of the world, which accentuates the feeling that these remakes stay true to the source material. This is a departure from how previous remakes modernized their graphic styles and feature sets. That’s not to say the visuals look dated. The new graphics improvements to lighting, shadows, and water look great. The abundance of reflections on surfaces across the world and especially during Pokémon battles is also impressive. Unlike the overworld characters, battles use life-size Pokémon and trainer models with unique environments determined by your location in the world. These scenes look great and are mostly free from the frame rate drops or slowdowns that plague other 3D inputs in the series.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl deviate from the mechanical model, with varying degrees of success. Newer innovations such as auto-save or the ability to view the strength and weaknesses of movements in combat are great additions, which I always love to see. Pokémon also no longer need to teach HMs to use moves like Rock Smash or Cut to navigate puzzles or obstacles in the world, which would have occupied movement slots in the original titles. EXP Share is, at first glance, a great way to cut down on unnecessary grinding to ensure your less used Pokémon are ready for battle. However, the developers haven’t taken any action to balance this feature, and there’s no way to turn EXP Share off. As a result, my teams felt over-leveled as the game progressed, making the big games against Team Galactic or one of the Gym’s leaders easy and meaningless. I rolled through the challengers on the surface of Sinnoh and had to find more formidable enemies elsewhere.

My favorite place to explore was the Grand Underground, a huge underground cave system located below the surface of Sinnoh. I really think so, this place is huge and spans roughly the size of the main map. Here you dig for countless gems, fossils and statues in the walls and refuges. These Hideaways are larger areas found in the Grand Underground, with biomes and higher level Pokémon that you normally won’t find above ground, many of which aren’t part of the standard Sinnoh Pokédex. I found the challenge I was looking for above ground in these shelters as I captured new exotic creatures to diversify my team. Players can create secret bases by digging customizable rooms into the cave wall. Placing special Pokémon statues inside these rooms altered the monsters I found in the Hideaways. Those looking to catch them all should be spending a lot of time in the Grand Underground, digging up valuable items and tweaking statues combinations to fill the Pokédex.

Other activities include Pokémon contests called Super Contest Shows, which I liked more than I thought. You’ll wow the judges with a simple rhythm game and unleash a pre-chosen attack at the perfect time to score points. I also loved personalizing my Pokéballs with the Ball Capsule system. With an extensive system of Diamond and Pearl, you can stick various stickers on the capsules to create unique animations and earn extra points when you cast a Pokémon in these Super Contest Shows. The stickers add cold flames, bubbles, sparks or musical notes to give a little more sparkle and flourish, providing a level of customization absent from DS games. Best of all, your Ball Capsule animations appear in combat, but won’t affect the flow of combat in any way.

While Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl aren’t moving the needle when it comes to how Pokémon games look and play in the future, they mostly hit home by being true to the originals. I really enjoyed my time re-exploring Sinnoh, despite my qualms about the lack of difficulty on the critical path. It’s a welcome throwback to a simpler time when I felt that completing a Pokédex was a somewhat realistic task to undertake. Veteran coaches will find plenty to get rid of a nostalgic itch here, and new coaches who missed the first time have a solid adventure to take.

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