Pokemon Shining Pearl Review

The annual release of new video games in the Pokémon series is already a long-standing tradition, which is not afraid of even a difficult world situation.

Pokemon Shining Pearl Review
Pokemon Shining Pearl: It used to be better - a review of a computer game for Nintendo Switch.

This time, the turn came to the remake of the very first parts of the fourth generation of pocket monsters. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is a reinterpretation of the classic Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, released on the Nintendo DS in 2006. The main action takes place in the snow-covered Shinno region, which is an allusion to one of the largest islands of Japan - Hokkaido.

Unlike most other reissues of the classic line, the creation of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl was not the responsibility of the authors of the original Pokémon Diamond & Pearl from Game Freak, but a third-party studio ILCA. It is not known what caused the change of the lead developer, but the place of the chief executive still remained for Junichi Masuda (増田 順一). Most likely, the main forces were thrown at Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which will be released in early 2022.

ILCA itself is a secondary studio that usually assists large companies in creating computer graphics and animations for movies and video games. The company started working directly with games relatively recently, but has already had a hand in creating such major projects as Nier: Automata, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age and Code Vein.

The very fact that the remake of the fourth generation of pocket monsters games will not come from the pen of Game Freak has sufficiently alerted long-time fans of the series. Among the community of fans of the Nintendo DS era games are still considered the pinnacle of the franchise's development - a kind of "golden era", after which a slow stagnation began. Huge hopes were pinned on the reissue of Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, but against the background of frankly mediocre Pokémon Sword & Shield, there were also concerns.

The fact that Pokémon Diamond & Pearl were the weakest representatives of the main line on the Nintendo DS did not give confidence in a potential hit. Although the fourth generation of Pokemon is listed in different lists of the best parts, the merit is mainly due to the third version of the game - Pokémon Platinum, in which a huge amount of work was done on bugs and a huge amount of new content was added, without which it is difficult to imagine the Sinno region today.

From the point of view of the plot narrative, the fourth generation frankly lacks stars from the sky. Game Freak will conduct the first successful experiments with storytelling only a few years after the release of the original Pokémon Diamond & Pearl in Pokémon Black & White, starting to slowly move away from the standard formula "collect them all and defeat the villainous organization on the way". Nevertheless, it is the scarcity of local dialogues and cutscenes that allows the player to focus on his own gaming adventure without being distracted by lengthy and useless conversations like in Pokémon Sun & Moon and Pokémon Sword & Shield.

The main gameplay remained true to itself. The player tries on the role of a novice Pokemon trainer and embarks on a journey for the title of the strongest master of pocket monsters. Before participating in the Sinno league, it is necessary to select 8 badges from the leaders of thematic gyms, simultaneously catching and growing a team of experienced fighters. In turn, the Pokemon themselves differ not only in appearance, but also in type, parameters, a set of studied attacks and other attributes familiar to the genre.

The battles take place in a step-by-step mode. Opponents exchange blows in turn, and the sequence of the move is determined by the characteristics of the monsters. The outcome of the battle depends on the knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the participants in the battle and the competent choice of attacks. Attacking techniques, like the Pokemon themselves, are divided into types and intertwined into an intricate table of vulnerabilities and resistances.

After the primitively structured locations of Pokémon Sun & Moon and Pokémon Sword & Shield, the branched and variable zones of the Sinno region immediately catch the eye. Each road has several passing options, some of which require the player to have a bicycle or a special attack that allows, for example, to break stones or trees blocking the way. Such skills, by the way, can be used immediately from the menu, and not purposefully teach your monsters the necessary techniques as in the original versions of the game.

Pokémon Diamond & Pearl is a great foundation for a good remake, but what exactly was added to Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl? The developers assured the public that the new project would be as "true" to its roots as possible, and it really is.

There are exactly 493 unique creations in the remake. There was no place for new monsters from later projects in the series. At the same time, Fairy was introduced into the game, a type of creature that debuted in the sixth generation of the franchise, along with a couple of new attacking moves.

To the disappointment of some fans, Mega-evolutions are still confidently ignored, and the rumors about adding them to Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl turned out to be a duck. The Dynamax system, which debuted in Pokémon Sword & Shield, is also not presented in any form.

Unfortunately, the developers completely ignored the changes to Pokémon Platinum, including Battle Frontier, the distorted world of Giratina, the rebalance of Pokemon from ordinary coaches and stadium leaders, and much, much more.

Current trends have not bypassed the overall level of difficulty of the game. The experience awarded for defeating trainers and wild monsters is distributed throughout the player's active party. It is worth mentioning right away that this option cannot be disabled, as, for example, in Pokémon Sun & Moon. And everything would be fine, but the Pokemon levels in the story battles remained exactly the same as they were in Pokémon Diamond & Pearl. The balance of the original difficulty was completely lost, which is why the player's Pokemon will surpass the opponent's monsters by 5, 10, or even 15 levels, which finally deprives the gameplay of any interest.

A pleasant innovation was the updated Underground, which is a kind of dungeon with its own ecosystem, where you can find rare Pokemon and items. Among these corridors, the player can install a secret base for himself, but now it will have to be equipped exclusively with statues of monsters, and not with various furniture and devices, as it was in the original.

The developers have added the ability to capture all the legendary Pokemon within two games, without resorting to transferring rare creatures from other projects, and also strengthened the teams of unique trainers, which can be challenged after passing the main plot narrative.

Graphically, the project looks pretty good. Unity allowed the authors to create a colorful picture with pleasant and rich colors. Moreover, the overall performance of the game is head and shoulders above all previous releases of the series created on the internal Game Freak engine. The frame rate is stable, the backgrounds in the battle scenes are striking in detail, and Pokemon attacks have acquired additional visual effects.

But this whole environment design collapses about the stylization of humanoid characters. The protagonist and other coaches look too inconspicuous, breaking out of the overall harmonious picture. In places it seems that landscapes and characters were put together from two completely different projects. The style of ”chibi" looks passable while moving around the world map, but when the camera comes close to the hero during the cutscenes, all the magic disappears somewhere, and only a couple of angular dummies remain on the screen.

As expected, the change of the internal engine led to unpleasant consequences. Small and large errors and flaws are found here and there - from harmless problems with a collision to serious holes that allow you to skip plot checkpoints. There were so many problems that the patch size of the first day exceeded 3 gigabytes. To date, some major shortcomings have not yet been fixed.

Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is hardly a remake, since the amount of new content is so small that it is difficult to notice it with the naked eye. And therein lies the main problem. The gameplay is so different from the original versions that it becomes boring. We've seen it dozens of times, we've done it dozens of times, and we're being asked to do the same thing again. The main line of the franchise has long been experiencing an acute shortage of new ideas and trends, and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl does not try to fix the situation in any way, acting simply as a plug before the release of Pokémon Legends: Arceus.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is a very lazy reissue of a good game, which is inferior in everything to Pokémon Platinum, released 10 years ago. The fourth generation of pocket monsters received the most sluggish and boring remake in the history of the franchise, and this is especially sad against the background of the cult status of the Sinno region. The modern graphics of familiar landscapes will definitely touch nostalgic notes in the hearts of loyal fans, but this is where all the positive aspects of this project end.