Nintendo showed us Sinnoh’s new look and so far so good.
A lot can be said about each individual’s personal preferences about different generations of Pokemon, but regardless of ranking, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl hold a special place in my video game heart. When I debuted in 2007, my purchase of Pokemon Pearl on DS marked the first time I’d been in a mainline Pokémon game at launch since the originals. Of course the timing could have been better for my school career. They went on sale in North America in April, and I bought them the week they came out, when I was about to take my college term exams. I don’t have strong memories of the work that I wrote or that I didn’t study hard enough, but I get a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings when I think of my Pokemon trip with my Chimchar during this spring and summer.
14 years later, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl get remake treatment on Nintendo Switch with Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. I got the chance to watch a gameplay demo and was excited to be going back to Sinnoh, mostly because the new games seem to do well the signature aspects of this generation, balancing them with modern subtleties. It is most evident in the graphics, which may not look as flashy as Pokemon Legends, but are pleasant replicas of the 2D spriteworks of the originals. When you see parts of Route 208 with cloudy visual effects and nice looking water, the layout of the old DS games just takes a modern look. Another noticeable aspect of the graphics is the fact that your player character can be customized with different outfits and, most importantly, different skin tones. Non-playable characters (NPCs) also have more variety in their skin tones, which is nice to see for a series that had no options in the past.
In addition to the graphics, there are plenty of gameplay improvements. Most importantly, her HM skills mean that you no longer have to carry a Bidoof to the endgame. Instead, just use the Poketch – your fancy monochrome Pokemon watch – to summon a wild Pokemon to smash rocks, surf, or fly for you. The Poketch is a holdover from the original Diamond and Pearl, and I love that it’s the same janky-looking digital watch that looks like it could be part of the Game & Watch line. It has a clock, calculator, and pedometer, because why not. While the clock and calculator seem charmingly useless, the built-in notepad can actually be drawn using the touchscreen, which makes some sense.
Probably the most notable additions to Sinnoh are Pokemon Hideaways and the Grand Underground. If you remember the originals, the subway was a series of tunnels under Sinnoh where you could use a number of DS functions to dig for treasure. The spirit of it returns with the new grand underground. The map is brand new, and you can still use sledgehammers and pickaxes to dig for fossils and more. You can also find statues to decorate your own secret base. This is where Pokemon Hideaways come in.
Depending on how you decorate your secret base, different types of Pokémon will appear in hideaways. This can include Pokémon that are not found anywhere else in Sinnoh. In addition, all wild Pokémon appear on the overworld in Hideaways, which was included in Let’s Go and Sword and Shield but was otherwise absent in this remake. It remains to be seen how many Pokémon will be added to the game through hideaways, but this should at least add some type variety that was missing in the original versions. We hope that there are now more than three types of fire.
As with the last games in the series, the Box Anywhere feature returns so you can seamlessly switch creatures in and out of your party no matter where you are on the map. This won’t be accessible right from the start, but apparently it shows up early. Additionally, the Exp Stake is back, and while I personally enjoy seeing all of my Party Pokémon gain some experience in every fight, the Exp Stake can’t be toggled on and off in this remake. However, an auto-save feature can be toggled on and off, which will hopefully prevent rare savers from losing their progress.
As for the battles, they offer a nice cinematic presentation – an improvement over the DS visuals of the originals. Again, like in previous games, if you select them, you can see the effectiveness of attacks, and you can also access Pokeballs without digging deep into your items. I’ve enjoyed this long list of quality of life upgrades to Pokemon games over the past few years and it’s good to see they are largely kept for this remake.
In the Pokedex you can view animated 3D models of each Pokémon. You can also compare the size and weight of Pokemon with your player character. This serves no purpose other than amusing, but it is definitely amusing. Walking with your Pokemon is similarly adorable, and you can do it with any Pokemon in the overworld. You can also play with “cute” Pokémon in Amity Square. The cuteness comes even further in Super Contests, where you can feed your favorite Pokémon poffins and the like to make them the heck cute and win rhythm game performance battles against other cute Pokemon. I’ll be honest: I’ve never really touched this before, but it’s cool that you play it with four people here. More online functionality should be everywhere, especially in the Grand Underground, which used to be local.
I’ll admit that the original Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl trailer didn’t look all that interesting to me, but the more I see of this remake, the more interested I am in getting back to Sinnoh on Switch. It’s not quite Pokemon Let’s Go, but neither is it like the typical remakes we’ve seen in the past. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are breaking new ground by staying true to the originals without maintaining the exact appearance of the latest generation of Pokémon. The new pair of Pokemon games will be out soon on November 19th and while I won’t be playing these during the college finals like I did with the originals, I will certainly be spending my holiday season with Chimchar or Piplup. I’m sorry, Turtwig. It’s not personal.