Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Review: Return to Sinnoh

Although highly requested and competently made, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl prove the franchise is in serious need of a new vision. This faithful remake fails to interest or excite for a majority of the 40-hour campaign.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Review: Return to Sinnoh Cover

Pokemon is back again with Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, remakes of the popular original 2006 games. This time, developer ILCA developed the faithful adaptation of the 2006 games with 3D graphics. Ever since the release of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, fans have requested remakes for Gen 4 and although it took longer than expected, they’ve finally arrived. For the most part, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl do their job as faithful remakes. Unfortunately, this faithfulness and inability to fully commit to better graphics hinder the remakes in what they could potentially be.

Over the years, the repetitiveness of the Pokemon video game franchise has been the subject of many debates online. With the release of these new Pokemon games, this subject is most likely to pop up again. The games are competently made, absent of any noticeable issues, but it falls short in direction and brings up the question as to why they were even made.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are available now on Nintendo Switch.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl - Official Trailer

STORY: SAME OL POKEMON

You’re once again a brand new Pokemon trainer that sets off on an adventure to become the best in the region. You’ll collect 8 badges, challenge the Elite Four, and maybe save the world while you’re at it. Since Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are remakes, the story once again takes place in Sinnoh with the returning villainous organization, Team Galactic.

There isn’t much to distinguish these villains from villains in other Pokemon games. Their goal is to capture and utilize the power of Sinnoh’s legendary Pokemon to essentially reset the world. Of course, Team Galactic’s Leader will be in charge of this new world. As for his reasoning, it was rather vague and nonsensical as these villainous organizations tend to be.

Piplup is ready to go

Piplup is ready to go

If you’ve played any Pokemon game before, you know what you’re getting here. That might annoy some players that are looking for something more. Not having played the last couple of Pokemon entries, the story didn’t bother me as much, but it’s not like I was invested. What did bother me however was how dead and empty almost every NPC is. It’s sort of expected and is a problem with RPG games in general, but it feels worse here. The world is sprinkled with NPCs whose purpose feels like it’s to tell the player that the sun is shining bright today. It feels like the player is being talked down to and this translates to how players are treated in battles.

GAMEPLAY: WAY TOO EASY

The Pokemon formula hasn’t changed very much here. What is becoming a problem is how ridiculously easy Pokemon has become. There were times where I was almost double the level of several gym leaders. I had such a high level because of a new quality of life update in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. EXP Share has been turned on for every Pokemon in a player’s party since the start of the game. This means that every Pokemon will gain experience even if not participating in a battle. 

The underground offers more challenge than gym leaders

The underground offers more challenge than gym leaders

It seems like a minor thing, but because every Pokemon is constantly getting experience, players will end up having three level 20’s instead of one or five level 50’s instead of 2. Apart from the Elite Four, I only ever used potions maybe five times in total throughout the entire game. The Elite Four was challenging, but only because I rushed through Victory Road. I had two new Pokemon that were under-leveled, an unbalanced roster, and still managed to get through the Elite Four just fine. 

POKETCH

Another notable change is the way HMs are used in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Players no longer have to teach their Pokemon Surf, Cut, Rock Smash, or any other hidden move in order to progress. Instead, these HMs are part of the Poketch, sort of like a smartwatch the player carries around. This, unlike the other changes that aid players, is a well-needed and welcome change as it makes traversing easier and frees up a Pokemon space.

No sweat

No sweat

As for other apps, a player’s usage might vary depending on what they’re doing. I never ended up using the clock app or calculator app, for example. I mostly used an app to detect invisible items.

This isn’t the only change that made battles easier either. Players are able to bond with their Pokemon in the remakes. This is done by interacting with them at Amity Square, having them follow you around, or just having them at the start of your party. Pokemon that have better bonds with the players will perform better in battle.

They will perform more critical hits, have a chance of avoiding hits, and even have a chance of avoiding fainting. The idea of additional effects for bonding with Pokemon is a nice addition, but obviously doesn’t work here as it only further aids the player in a game that is already too easy.

Geodude, my arch nemesis

Geodude, my arch nemesis

LACKING ROSTER

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl also has an expanded underground. The regular underground still remains where players can dig for a variety of items to use in their secret base or trade for other things. Apart from excavating for items, players can also visit the various Pokemon hideaways. Essentially, there are several large open spaces where Pokemon roam around. Players can run into a Pokemon to battle them or go around to avoid them. This is fun at the start of the game because it introduces the player to a variety of Pokemon.

Unfortunately, after an hour, this only becomes interesting again in the post-game. Prior to post-game, the Pokemon hideaways only show the same Pokemon over and over. The player has to complete the Sinnoh Dex in order to get the National Dex to see more Pokemon from other Generations (this title only has Gen 1-4), which is only doable in the post-game. You basically have to put in 35-40 hours basically. This sucks a lot, as Sinnoh’s roster is awful. Out of 151 Pokemon, about 60 of them are from previous Gens, and many from Gen 4 are lacking in types or are just flat-out uninteresting.

Unfortunately, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl don’t include Pokemon beyond Gen 4. Other interesting Pokemon from previous Gens aren’t acquirable until later and this bogs down the game immensely. The number of times I saw Geodude or Bidoof was unlike any other encounter I’ve seen in other Pokemon games. I don’t know if the rates for them were way higher than they should be or if it was like this in the original 2006 games. Whichever the case, I grew bored quickly.

Chibiville

Chibiville

GRAPHICS AND AUDIO: CHIBI WITH A SIDE OF CATCHY TUNES

When the trailer for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl was initially released, it garnered a fair amount of criticism. Many fans didn’t enjoy the chibi art style. I was one of these fans. Although Pokemon Sword and Shield had some issues with some of the low-quality textures in the game, it still tried to go further with its visual presentation. These games feel like a step back. The overall art style makes the game feel smaller as a whole. Everything is scaled to look like the originals. It’s another baffling choice as remakes were requested so players could revisit the Sinnoh region with updated graphics. At least the Pokemon battles don’t use the chibi art style.

Audio, on the other hand, works quite well. I couldn’t tell how much the music has changed from the originals. I certainly noticed a ton of familiar Pokemon Diamond and Pearl music. That being said, there were some beats I don’t remember hearing before. Regardless, music did its job here, adding upbeat cheery melodies to each city while battles have serious tunes. Nothing is entirely new here. This Pokemon entry doesn’t reinvent the wheel for sure. Music is just one aspect of Pokemon games that always delivers.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

Summary
Long-time Pokemon fans that don't mind the repetitive nature of these games will have a lot to look forward to here. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is by no means a bad Pokemon game. It's competently developed, but some of the decisions made prevent this entry in the franchise from standing out. The lack of changes from the original titles further bogs down this otherwise solid addition.
Good
  • Quality of life improvements
  • Pokemon Hideaways
  • Soundtrack
Bad
  • Way too easy
  • A lacking roster
  • Bland story
  • Chibi art style
6.8
Fair

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Cathal

6.8 is generous.

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