Pokemon Diamond and Pearl was a significant entry for me, though not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s where I drifted away from the series, only to revisit once Pokémon Y rolled around, so I’d been waiting for this inevitable remake. Like the previous three generations, Nintendo’s slowly remaking these classic adventures and this time, we’re heading back to Sinnoh, home to Pokémon’s fourth generation.
However, for the first time in a main entry, Game Freak’s not at the helm. Whilst they’re busy handling Pokémon Legends: Arceus, they’ve passed development duties to ILCA, who’ve utilising a 3D Chibi art style reminiscent of the Link’s Awakening remake. Though Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl often plays it safe, there’s still plenty to love.
Adventures With Space and Time
For fans of the DS editions – which I revisited during this review – you’ll likely be pleased to know Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remain familiar. Like before, we’ll be travelling across this region earning 8 gym badges, and defeating the Elite Four to become the Pokémon Champion. All whilst stopping Team Galactic’s plan to summon Dialga and Palkia, two legendary Pokémon representing Space and Time respectively. It’s a busy life being a young trainer.
Travelling between towns alongside your latest rival, Barry, you’ll once again be catching Pokémon for Sinnoh’s latest professor, Rowan. Thanks to a generous EXP share across your entire party, they’ll level up quickly. If you’re hoping to turn this off to make Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl a more challenging experience, then I’ve got bad news. That can’t be disabled and Pokémon only avoid earning EXP if they’re in storage or KO’d.
Exploration between towns sees the return of wild grass, which triggers random turn-based encounters when walked through. After Sword & Shield had Pokémon visibly running across the overworld to signify who you’d fight, that feels like a step back. That’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, but when we’re back to finding particular Pokémon by chance, it feels regressive.
For better or worse, ILCA's brought us faithful remakes that often follow the DS originals to the letter. You can’t fault them on that front and accordingly, these exploration gripes were expected. It's a safe remake, which isn’t inherently a bad thing, but taking this particular route lacks any real innovation.
Misses The Platinum Standard
Sadly, I can’t shake the feeling that Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are a missed opportunity, as they’re also missing Platinum’s extra content. The Distortion World is gone and though Sinnoh’s third mascot legendary, Giratina, can still be found, it’ss disappointing that the games are missing Platinum’s most interesting feature. Looker, an International Police officer who works alongside you to stop Team Galactic in Pokemon Platinum, is also missing.
That said, there are several changes fans will appreciate. HM moves are handled by a sole Bidoof which sits outside your party, negating the need for a “HM Mule.” You can customise your trainer’s appearance too, adding a necessary personal touch. Granted, the new visuals won’t please everyone, but they’re backed up by smooth performance and a solid soundtrack.
Finally, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl introduces an overhauled Grand Underground, which remains split into six distinctive areas. Secret bases are back, which can be decorated with statues that affect which Pokémon appear in hideaways. Unlike on the surface, they’ll roam across the overworld, so there’s no random battles. Digging allows players to excavate fossils, evolution stones and more, and you can also explore with friends. It’s great fun and I spent considerable time exploring this section.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond – Is It Worth It?
Remakes often struggle with walking a fine line. Stray too far from the beaten path, and you’ll alienate existing fans. However, sticking closely to the original script plays it safe, which can become boring. While ILCA’s successfully captured the feel of the DS originals, they’ve not really innovated upon it either, and excluding Platinum’s content is rather unfortunate.
If you’re a newcomer or existing Gen 4 fan, you’ll still have plenty of fun with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. There's noticeable quality-of-life improvements, the Grand Underground is enjoyable, battling against friends is always a joy and there remains an entertaining story. Personally, I just think there’s room for improvement.
Review copy provided by publisher.