Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: ILCA
Publisher: The Pokémon Company, Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl – Review

Site Score
8.5
Good: Sticks close to what made the classic Pokémon formula so good
Bad: Outdated Pokémon cries and no voice acting
User Score
7.5
(4 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 7.5/10 (4 votes cast)

The Switch has had a fantastic 2021, with titles like Metroid Dread and Skyward Sword HD, but arguably the biggest titles arriving this year on Nintendo’s hybrid console are Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. A bit surprisingly, these remakes of the 2007 DS titles Diamond and Pearl were not developed by Game Freak but by ILCA. What isn’t surprising is the timing of the release: it wouldn’t feel like the final stretch of the year without some new mainline Pokémon content. Last year might have bridged the gap with DLC, but this year it’s time for full new releases. So grab your Pokéballs and backpack, as we head to the Sinnoh Region to take a look at Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl!

Story

If you’ve ever played a mainline Pokémon title, you already know the drill, as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl follow the same basic plot that was first introduced in Pokémon Red and Blue on the Game Boy. Players take on the role of a budding Pokémon trainer and aim to earn the title of Pokémon Master. To do so, they go on a journey exploring every nook and cranny of their respective region, in this case, Sinnoh. They must defeat the eight gym leaders to earn badges and gain access to the Pokémon League where they need to take on the Elite Four and Cynthia, the current champion. Accompanying the player on this journey is one of three starter Pokémon: Chimchar, Piplup, or Turtwig. This Pokémon was a gift from professor Rowan, the region’s resident Pokémon researcher, whom the player also aids in completing the Pokédex, a catalog dedicated to the various critters that inhabit the Sinnoh Region. Finally, the nefarious Team Galactic pops up from time to time and it is up to the player to foil the plans of Cyrus, the leader of these dastardly villains.

Graphics

When the first trailer for Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl was revealed, the overworld visuals were divisive, to say the least. The graphics of the Pokémon series have slowly evolved over the past decades, with the overworld visuals becoming more realistically proportioned as time went by. In this regard, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl can be considered a step backwards, as ILCA decided to adopt the more chibi-esque style of the original DS games rendered in a much higher fashion. The result looks very toy-like and although the game’s aesthetics are jarring compared to Pokémon Sword and Shield at first, they look fantastic once you get used to them. Battles tend to show trainer avatars looking far more akin to the visuals of the modern games, in particular those of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee. If you can get over the chibi aesthetics, these are some of the best-looking Pokémon games yet, though not up to the level of New Pokémon Snap.

Sound

When it comes to music, Pokémon games typically knock it out of the park within the limits of the hardware that they run on. We’ve come a long way since the DS, and so Junichi Masuda’s familiar tunes of the originals have received a fantastic upgrade here, sounding better than ever. The melodies remain the same of course, from the quaint music playing in Twinleaf Town to the unforgettable champion battle theme. Unfortunately, this is where the good parts of the soundscape end: unlike the natural-sounding cries introduced in New Pokémon Snap, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl still make use of the same Pokémon sounds introduced back in the Game Boy era. We admire the dedication to these sound effects, but they have long gone past their expiry date. Voice acting is still absent as well, leaving the redemption of the soundscape completely up to the music.

Gameplay

Remakes of classic Pokémon games have been a thing since the Game Boy Advance era, and Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are the latest additions to this sub-series of the core franchise. The paired games are mostly identical, only differing in a handful of story events and the selection of monsters at your disposal, though you can always trade with other players. The games offer the classic monster catching and training mechanics the franchise became known for. Unlike the previous remakes, which added a whole bunch of new features, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl stick very close to the original releases. There are a handful of new additions and some QoL changes but these games are roughly 90% the same as the originals. Perhaps somewhat surprising, this return to the roots of the fourth generation highlights just how much the Pokémon series has evolved -and not necessarily for the better. While the game still forces you to go through the motions in the first hour or so, explaining how to catch a Pokémon and teaching you the basics of battle, there is a lot less hand-holding here than in recent entries. It’s actually refreshing to not have the game force a lengthy cutscene on you every 10 minutes or so. These games have aged fantastically and feel like the much-needed return to the core gameplay of Pokémon compared to some of the more recent entries in the series.

Of course, returning players might be wondering what’s new here and whether it’s worth upgrading -especially if you still have a (3)DS and your original game copies. Arguably the biggest change here comes in the form of a new area that allows you to battle and catch Legendary Pokémon that were absent from the original games, such as Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres. Then there’s the revised Underground area, which retains the functionality of interacting with other players and digging for fossils and other rare items, but is massively expanded upon, adding Pokémon that weren’t available in the original games. Hidden Moves have been replaced by a brand-new Pokétch app. For the uninitiated, the Pokémon Watch (or Pokétch for short) was a feature that made use of the DS’ bottom screen and offered a series of micro-apps. While the game is now played on a single screen, you can simply open the Pokétch by pressing the R-button, accessing all the functionality the watch has to offer. From a battling perspective, the biggest change is the inclusion of the Fairy type, which wasn’t introduced until the sixth generation. Many Pokémon from older generations, such as Clefairy and Mawile, were retroactively assigned this type when it was introduced, so they retain it even in the remakes.

This brings us to the inevitable question: which critters were cut from the roster. Even if you’re not a diehard Pokémon fan, you’ve probably heard of Sword and Shield’s Dexit controversy, which saw hundreds of Pokémon cut from the games’ roster. A significant part of missing mons saw their triumphant return through the game’s expansion pass but a large amount of the ever-expanding range of Pokémon are still relegated to simply take up space in Pokémon Home. Like the previous games, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl do not include the full roster of Pokémon. However, before you light your torches and dust off your pitchforks, we should point out that the monster selection in these games actually makes sense.

The game includes the full roster of 493 Pokémon that were available at the time that the games were originally released. While this means that some fan-favorite critters didn’t make the cut and that some evolution families are incomplete, (looking at you, Sylveon) we’re at least happy that the games aren’t limited to just the regional Sinnoh dex. At the time of release, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl don’t support Pokémon Home yet, but when they do in a few months, you’ll be able to transfer your collection of gen 1-4 mons to these new games -including Pokémon you caught back on the original DS games.

We’re not sure what The Pokémon Company’s aim is when it comes to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl’s longevity though. The competitive battling scene is sticking with Sword and Shield, and with Pokémon Legends: Arceus already looming on the horizon, the question remains whether the Pokémon Company is banking on these remakes to be a major part of the franchise for the foreseeable future. Given that the Pokémon Company has moved on to annually releasing a mainline title near the end of the year (if we count the Sword and Shield Season Pass), then it’s possible that we might get a DLC with Platinum content in a year. For now, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are perfect for scratching your Pokémon itch, especially if you’ve grown tired of Sword and Shield. Just don’t expect them to be future-proof in terms of Mystery Gifts and updates.

Conclusion

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl may be by-the-numbers Pokémon remakes, but there is a reason why the classic formula has enjoyed enduring popularity. Unlike some other remasters that we recently reviewed, these are in fact the definitive editions of much-beloved games from the nillies. The only real improvement we could see for these titles is the addition of Platinum-related content down the line -because a new soundscape isn’t likely to ever happen. As it stands though, these are the perfect Pokémon titles to tide you over until Legends: Arceus releases early next year.

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Rating: 7.5/10 (4 votes cast)
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Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl - Review, 7.5 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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